Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Pennsylvania Bound

This post is so beyond overdue it's not even funny, but in the whirlwind of life, I'm not surprised it's taken me so long to write it!

In my last post on February 8, I was headed to Penn State for my final interview for their MFA in Directing for the Musical Stage.  I was terrified and excited and was going to have the opportunity to sit down to dinner with one of my heroes, Susan Schulman.  I was able to talk myself out of my nerves and just be myself (a new thing for me, now that I'm two years into my 30s), and I left with my head held high feeling like I'd done solid work. In fact, I learned so much in that 36 hour period that I felt like the trip had been absolutely worth it, no matter the outcome, and that I was at peace with whatever their decision was.

So, imagine my shock and surprise when Susan called me four days later and made me an offer for one of the two slots that open up every other year.  It was a Friday morning, and I was literally fifteen minutes away from walking into my first school of the day to teach several preschool dance classes.  Susan told me to take the weekend to talk it over with Jason and to call her on Monday morning with my answer.

No pressure.

I felt like I'd been punched in the stomach - excited and nervous butterflies having a grand battle in my belly.  I tried to call Jason on his cell, couldn't get him, and so I called his office and asked to be put through to him (something I NEVER do) so I could tell him the news.  Then, I called my parents.  Then, I somehow had to get it together and actually teach those crazy preschool classes.  Let me tell you, there is NOTHING that will bring you back down to Earth faster than a class full of adorable and snotty two year olds.

We spent the weekend talking about it. It's an incredibly special opportunity, but because they give you so many more opportunities than any other school, they ask for so much more of your life than any other program.  Jason and I needed to be sure that we were BOTH in for the three year long haul, because truthfully, it will impact him far more than I.  I followed up with another MFA program that I was highly in the running for, and by the end of the weekend we were convinced that Penn State was clearly the place where we needed to be.  To be honest, this is the program that started this whole MFA hunt for me, and it's totally fitting that that's where I ended up.

So, we are moving to State College, PA this August for me to begin my three year MFA program.

And let me tell you - this program is one of a kind.  It's an MFA in Directing for the Musical Stage (the only one of it's kind that I'm aware of), headed by Broadway Director (LITTLE WOMEN, THE SECRET GARDEN, SWEENEY TODD, etc…., etc…, etc…) and SDC President (that's the Stage Director's and Choreographers Union if you don't know) Susan Schulman.  I've accepted a full ride and paid assistantship (basically they are paying me to get my degree there), and will be mentored by Ms. Schulman and the rest of the incredible Penn State faculty.  I have three international study trips that the University pays for - one summer to England, the next Eastern Europe, and then finally Italy (my fav).  The program also comes with an Assistantship on a production at a major Regional Theatre or On/Off Broadway.  The alums of this program are working like crazy as professionals and professors. It is TRULY the most incredible professional opportunity I've ever been handed, and I am so excited to get to work.

Last weekend, I was able to spend about four days in State College and hunt for a place to live, as now is the time.  I stayed with one of the current MFA candidates (thanks, Emmy!), saw some great places, and then miracle of all miracles, a realtor showed me a house that was for rent.  I didn't even know it was available, but it ticked literally EVERY box we had come up with.  A big yard for Indy.  Check. A garage. Check. (and this is a TWO CAR garage!) Basement.  Check.  Existing Woodshop in said basement. Check.  Lots of character.  Check.  Wood floors.  Check. Two bedrooms, two bathrooms. Check. Fireplace. Check. An office Space.  Check.  An actual dining room.  Check.  Man Cave in the Basement. Check. And all in our budget!  Want to talk about answers to prayers?  Anyhow, we were able to rent the house, and are so excited about it.  It's older and funky, with lots of personality - absolutely perfect for us, and only a few minutes from the school.  There was still snow on the ground, and nothing has grown back yet, so here's the listing photo of the house, like it will be when we get there this summer:

Our future State College Home.

So, now, we are getting ready for the eventual move - thinking about going through everything that's been in boxes since we left California in March, 2011. Giving some things away, filling in with new.  Looking for work for Jason. Mentally and emotionally preparing ourselves for this next life change. Getting ready to re-enter student-dom.  Working with my doctors to manage my autoimmune diseases even better. Buying student tickets for the football season. Having as much quality time together as possible.  A million little things to do before everything changes again.

Please keep us in your prayers as we move forward into this next phase of life.  I am excited, terrified, nervous, over-the-moon about this incredible opportunity, and I can promise you I won't waste it.

A Florida Gator and a Michigan Wolverine move to Nittany Lion territory… Sounds like a bad joke.  But we are confident that the next three years are meant to be spent in Pennsylvania, and if each of our last stops has been any indication, it's going to be AWESOME.

Sunday, February 8, 2015


A week from right now - 6:30am on Sunday - I will be on a plane (alone) to State College, Pennsylvania. In February. Brrrrrr.

It's the final step in my application process to Penn State, and I think, my final MFA interview of the year.

After that, we wait - for one offer, multiple offers, or no offers at all. And based on those offers (or lack thereof), we will make a decision on what we need to do moving forward. For Jason, this will be based on places that he has not seen. He is trusting my gut instinct, which is well honed, but still - the pressure!

Are we leaving Florida for my graduate degree? Are we staying so I can continue to teach at Florida Southern and figure out how to get my MFA part time? Or is there something else entirely different on the horizon?

It's an exciting time - full of possibility and uncertainty.

You see, I don't believe in accidents or coincidences. I believe that things have a purpose, and if you keep your eyes and ears open and are willing to walk down the next path, that adventure is waiting. But if you hide from change, or close your eyes and stick your fingers in your ears, you will stagnate. And stagnation is, to my mind, a huge waste of the gift that is life.

We are in a holding period right now, closing in on the end of the "what if's..." We've been in this place for months now, waiting for the answer of what's next - so we can make the right plans and move forward.  The blessing of this time has been the opportunity to imagine the possibilities. The unfortunate part is that because we are preparing, we are being frugal - saving money for the big change that's coming (and grateful to be able to do so) - but all the "saving" has made us feel a little stuck. Like we work all week for the weekend and then don't do anything big with that weekend because we are planning ahead.

I'm so grateful, though, to be in this waiting space with a partner who is so patient with me. I'm constantly rehashing the "what-if's", and he never complains or tells me I'm repeating myself or asks me to stop. Instead he plans to build furniture to replace what we gave away when we moved across the country, spending days preparing reclaimed wood boards so I can have one of a kind pieces. He listens to me talk about this essay I have to write, or this scene I have to prepare to direct for the millionth time, or how much I love teaching college (again) and goes right on loving me.

He agrees with my crazy plan to squeeze in as many vacations as we can in the next few months (another reason we are being so frugal), and he forgives me for getting stuck in my head so often, sometimes unable to listen when he really needs it. I am so incredibly thankful for the grace my husband shows me every single day.

So - this is really a letter to my partner, my better half, the love of my life, for going on the journey with me. For stepping on the same path. For seeing me, flaws and insecurities and all, with such incredible grace. For loving me unconditionally.  For adventuring together. For creating beautiful art. For being my best friend. For building a strong partnership. For expanding my horizons. For believing that I am good enough. For standing bravely beside me through my health issues. For loving my loved ones. For reasoning with my crazy. For staring change in the face. For trusting my gut on a huge decision. For letting me love you so ferociously.

I love you, Jason. I appreciate you, Jason. Thank you for the man you are. Happy Valentines Day.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

"Writing in Pencil"

I'm supposed to be working on one of my last grad school application essays this morning, and I will get there, I promise I will.  But I just read something, and I need to share and unpack it in a way.

"Everything is interim. Everything is a path or a preparation for the next thing, and we never know what the next thing is.  Life is like that, of course, twisty and surprising.  But life with God is like that exponentially. We can dig in, make plans, write in stone, pretend we're not listening, but the voice of God has a way of being heard... it moves us to different countries and different emotional territories and different ways of living.  It keeps us moving and dancing and watching and never lets us drop down into a life set on cruise control or a life ruled by remote control.... full of flashes and last-minute exits and generally all the things we've said we'll never do." -Shauna Niequist, COLD TANGERINES "Writing in Pencil"

I HATE change. I truly do. For someone who hates change and uprooting and packing and unpacking as much as I have, I've moved a TON in my adult life, and they haven't been moves across the city.  First to Michigan, then back home, then around the country on several regional theatre gigs, then home again, then to Wyoming, then to Florida, and now to ______?  We're going, we think, but we don't know where.  Jason is planning to leave his very good job so I can get the MFA that we believe I'm supposed to have, and we still don't know where.  We have some idea, but the "where" isn't confirmed yet.  We don't know what Jason is going to do when we get there.  But we believe it's time to go, that the doors are opening, and that just as He did when we moved to Wyoming and Florida, God will provide.  As long as we have continued to go, God has continued to bless us.  That's absolutely a fact.  Each of these places has seemed temporary, an interim time, and the next one will be interim as well, I think.  Now that we've been at it a while, I'm coping better with the flexible nature of our journey.  But it still kind of sucks.  Then I remember the true remarkable uniqueness of each place we've been, and the incredible people that have come into our lives in these places, and I wouldn't change any of it for the world. Nor would I change the people and places that are to come, because I think that each stage (in some way) defines a piece of our character and our heart.

I gave up planning my life in indelible ink a while ago - everything that I "planned" has been marvelously, beautifully different.  Now, I plan in pencil, trusting that when the plan goes off the rails and I have to erase, that it will be so much better than I ever imagined.

So, here's to a good eraser, a spirit of adventure, and never getting too comfortable.  Bring it on.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Turning 32 - Big, Deep Breath

Tomorrow is my 32nd birthday.

I've always felt that my New Year starts on my birthday, so it's important to take a look at my 31st year before my 32nd starts tomorrow.

31 has been a mixed bag.

Professionally, it's been an absolutely magnificent year. I've booked a lot of acting work this year, and accomplished one of my big goals - booking my first SAG national commercial and becoming SAG eligible - a PERFECT position to be in when you live in a "Right-to-Work" state like Florida.  I've also made a huge professional decision, but more on that in a minute.

Personally, it's been a mixed bag.  I fall more in love with my husband every day.  We just celebrated our fourth wedding anniversary in one of our favorite places, Florence.  We did as much vacationing as we could.  In those respects it was a great year.

My health issues are a different story altogether.  If you don't remember, I've been in and out of the rheumatologists office since a weird rash showed up on my legs in May. My general practitioner is so sharp, she took one look at it and knew exactly what it was - a skin rash related to Lupus (which I had other symptoms for as well).  I was eventually diagnosed with "Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease", which means I test positive for a family of diseases (Lupus, Scleroderma, Rheumatoid Arthritis), but don't have enough symptoms of one of them to be officially diagnosed.  At the end of August, my blood work came back really bad, and the Doctor said he believed I had progressed to Lupus, and that he was afraid that many more symptoms were about to show up.  He said he would wait for another blood test in three weeks before he made the official diagnosis. They added another medication - a disease modifying drug - to help. Armed with lots of prayer, new meds and more education about what I needed to be eating to reduce the fires of inflammation burning in my body, I had a GREAT check up three weeks later.  I've been downgraded again to Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease, and I don't have to go back until just before Christmas - which is a DEFINITE improvement.

What I've noticed in my body is that I'm experiencing more fatigue (which the doctor says they can't treat) and more joint pain - tough when everything you do all day demands the full use of your body.  Some days I come to the end of it with absolutely nothing left.  I'm so exhausted that I regularly fall asleep by 8pm and sleep ten hours - like last night, for example. I have a long way to go to adjust to dealing with my disease.

Just before we went to Europe I was offered a theatre contract out of the blue.  It was a great project, with backing from the National Endowment for the Arts, a great cast attached and a production team that I adore.  Never in a million years would I have turned that down before, but my reality right now is that I don't have the stamina to add a rehearsal process to my schedule and am not selfish enough to try.  My health is the primary focus right now, and until we get it fully squared away, performing in anything more than a commercial is really off the table.

Which has led to my decision (well, OUR decision, as Jason is a major player in this) that I would finally apply to graduate school for my MFA in Directing.  I don't know how much longer my body can hold up under teaching as many dance classes as I do, no matter how much I love it.  Getting my MFA would mean a transition to a less physical side of the industry, and open doors for directing professionally and teaching full time at the collegiate level. It's a well prayed over decision, and Jason and I truly believe it's the right one.  It also means another big move for us if I do get in, as I'm not applying to any schools in the State of Florida. The exciting news is that of the three applications that I've already completed, I have made it through the first cut at one and now have to write a "show-pitch" for them, and have been invited for an interview next month at another.  These are both programs that offer a full tuition waiver and paid teaching assistantship to cover our costs of living, and were my top two choices from the beginning.  I will continue following through with my plan to pursue my MFA, and my prayer is that God will either open or close the doors.  That there will be no question of what we're supposed to do and where we are supposed to go.  If you'd be willing to keep us in your prayers, please also pray that God would be preparing a job position for Jason wherever we ultimately land.  God has been so faithful to us in our first four years of marriage, and we know that His journey is better than anything we have planned - we are living proof of it!

I'm celebrating my 31st year today - the good, the bad, the ugly.  Preparing myself for big changes in year 32. Ready to journey onward wherever our path takes us. Thanks for celebrating with me.

Look how far we've come, Mom!

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

The Girl Who Gets Put on Hold

Since I first landed home in LA in December of 2006 (after spending the first six months after graduation from Michigan working in regional theatres), I have been after that first, elusive SAG National Contract.

I just have to tell you this story.  I'd been home only a few months, and I went out on a Cingular spot - do you even remember Cingular?  I think that by the end of 2007 they'd merged with AT&T to create the massive wireless company that AT&T is today.

Anyhow, they were running some HILARIOUS dropped call spots that AT&T ended up adopting for a while after the merger.

I remember going to the preliminary audition and feeling that I rocked it.  It was one of those rare occasions that the client was on site for the preliminary audition, and I remember that they pulled the casting director and the client out of the room where they were watching me on tape to watch me live.  Seriously.  The next day my agent called to say that I was "on hold", and to clear my schedule for a WHOLE FREAKING WEEK.

I was still super new to this, so I got REALLY excited, told everyone I knew, planned how I was going to spend the serious money I was going to make from the spot, and then sat and STARED at the phone for basically a week, willing it to ring. Finally it did ring, to let me know I had been released from my hold.  They didn't want to get fined by SAG for Taft-Hartley-ing me because I was non-union, so they hired the girl who was already SAG.  I was DEVASTATED.

Obviously, I was a little new to this whole deal.

A few weeks later the spot started airing, and every time I saw it it was like a little knife in my side, with a nagging voice in my head saying, "That should have been you.  You could be paying off your student loans..."

Here's the final spot they shot:

And the girl they hired is GREAT. I can admit that now.  And she was probably STOKED to have booked it.

What followed that booking was seven years (well, five if you take out the years we were in Wyoming) of me continually getting put on Hold or First Refusal.  I'm the girl that they always really like, but never book. The girl who gets put on Hold, and then released.

Until two weeks ago.

I got called back for, and then put on hold for a REALLY big spot.  I tried not to think about it, and only shared it with a handful of people because all those holds for all those years have made me superstitious.  I tried not to think about it for FIVE days.  FIVE DAYS, FOLKS.  Five days of waiting to find out if I would finally book my first principal role in a SAG National Spot.

Two weeks ago today - on a Tuesday morning - I popped onto my Facebook to see what was happening, and saw that a wonderful actress I know (who was also called back for the job) had BOOKED IT.  AN HOUR BEFORE.

So, I told my husband, my mom, my sister, and some friends that I hadn't booked it and would get a call in a bit to say I'd been released from my hold - again.

Then I gave myself ten minutes to feel bad about it, to cry it out for coming so close AGAIN.  I did a lot of praying during those moments, praying for wisdom and guidance and that God would continue to reveal His special plan for my life to me.  Reminding myself that HIS plan is bigger than MINE. After those ten minutes, I told myself to put on my big girl pants and smile and get on with my day because I have students that count on me and a family who loves me and a day job that I truly love.  Not booking a commercial doesn't change my value.

IMMEDIATELY, my phone rang.  It was my agent.  I picked it up, knowing that he was calling to release me from my hold, ready to accept that this wasn't the right timing.

And he told me I had BOOKED IT.  I screamed.  Then I cried.  Blubbered.  I'm sure I sounded like a total maniac on the phone.

Then I got to call my husband, and my mom, and my sister and share the news. They all thought I was calling to commiserate, and were ready to cheer me up when they picked up. Best day of my life.  (Well, not really, but ONE of the best days of my life).

My mom reminded me that God was working on me that morning, that what He really wanted was an obedient and open heart.

How cool is that?

I cannot wait to share the spot with you - it's a very special one. And I get to knock one of my major goals off the list.

Now onto the next goal. And maybe another SAG National spot after that. ;)

Sunday, August 10, 2014

Walking Auto-Immune Disease

The blog's been quiet again. Since my last posts in May, I've been diagnosed with yet another Auto-Immune Disease. That's why the blog has been so quiet - I've been working on getting my health issues managed.

Blessing of all blessings, my wonderful general practitioner (who says I am a "walking auto-immune disease") caught it early and sent me to an excellent Rheumatologist, so instead of being diagnosed with Lupus, I have the diagnosis of Undifferentiated Connective Tissue Disease (UCTD). What that means is that I have tested positive for Lupus, but am missing several key symptoms. The good news is that less than 20% of patients diagnosed with UCTD ever progress to Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis or Scleroderma. Catching it early really counts!

What that has meant for me is more changes to my diet and lifestyle. Because of my severe gluten sensitivity I've already been living Gluten Free since August of 2009. I am now following an autoimmune protocol laid out by Dr. Terry Wahls - 9 cups of raw vegetables and fruit every day, totally Grain Free (well, mostly...), grass fed/free range/wild caught proteins, probiotic rich foods, increased emphasis on exercise and rest, and general detoxification. As a result, I feel great! It is a lot of work, though, and I've been blessed to have a slow summer of teaching to figure it all out. This week is my last week of summer, though, and after that my schedule kicks into overdrive, so I need to figure out how to streamline my process to get all of the nutrients I need in a fraction of the prep time. Still working that part out. Wish me luck!

All that to say - I am still here, and I intend to be posting more often this Fall as I have some very exciting things happening that I want to share.

And if you're interested in Dr. Terry Wahls and the Wahls Protocol, I encourage you to check out her TEDx talk from 2011. I've included the link below!


Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Back in the Saddle

Last week I did something I haven't done since the Fall of 2010 - I sat on the Production side of the stage for tech week.  One of my schools that I bring classes into recruited me to fix, finish and clean the choreography for their production of MY SON PINOCCHIO, JR. The original choreographer lives in Chicago and set most of the choreo in two days, meaning they needed someone on hand to finish and fix it all.  And there was a LOT of fixing to be done.

You see, just a few years back I was a maniac bouncing from project to project, and I went through MASSIVE burnout.  I took a break, got married, and then we made the surprise move to Wyoming.  Even though I had been teaching and performing since then, I had yet to end my direction/choreography hiatus.

It was interesting how, after taking a 3 1/2 year break, that I looked at the stressors differently.  It's like I could see what would be stressful and why, and managed to avoid owning any of that personally.  I used to dive in and take everything on my own shoulders.  Not healthy.  But it was kind of fun, and exactly the right situation for me to ease myself back in.

Not that I'm taking on a direction or choreography contract any time soon.

It's nice to know that I did indeed miss it, though.  And great to remember that I was indeed GOOD at it.

So, thanks for getting gulped down by that big whale, Pinocchio. It was fun to put on my old, worn out choreographer hat again for a little bit.