Tuesday, April 14, 2015


We just came back from a week of vacation with my family - my parents, my sister and brother-in-law, and our niece.  The next three years are going to be nuts, and I won’t get to see very much of them, so I am thankful we had this time together where everyone was on vacation.

As you probably know if you follow my blog, the last year has been a massive one for me - major health issues, teaching college for the first time, getting accepted to grad school.  Lots of change in a very short amount of time.

On the last morning of our trip, my mom said something to me.  This is not verbatim, but you get the gist, “I’ve been thinking about what I would have done in your shoes.  To be honest, I think I would have taken the safe road, continuing to teach at Florida Southern, and working on getting my Master’s somewhere local.  But you never take the easy way, you always take the hard way.”  She was telling me she was proud of me, that I was being brave, stepping into the unknown.

I’ve always stepped cautiously in my life choices.  When it come down to it, though, I’ve always taken the tough route, the one with the greater payoff, the one that gives me the chance to reach for that infamous Brass Ring.  I hate change, but I’m not afraid to take a giant leap of faith, knowing that if it doesn’t work out as I planned, it will still be worthwhile and I can adapt and make the best of it.

That’s what I do - I adapt.  I’m good at it.  I’m not a chameleon. I don’t change who I am in any fundamental way, but I adapt quickly and well to the circumstances surrounding me.  So, I know that I will always find a way to be okay.  Makes it easier to leap when the right opportunity comes along.

Maybe it’s all the years of auditioning.  Actors are some of the bravest people out there, truly.  We put ourselves on the line every day, facing rejection time and time again, usually for a reason that has nothing to do with our talent.  We get rejected because of our face, our hair, our skin, our bodies - too thin, too fat, too kind, too pretty, not pretty enough.  And somehow, we dust ourselves off and put ourselves back out there the next day and the day after that, knowing that it’s a game of numbers and eventually we will hit the jackpot if we keep training, keep showing up, keep persevering.  What that does to you is eliminate the fear of rejection - you either keep getting up and showing up, or you get out of the business.  When you’re not afraid of how you’ll handle the outcome, it makes it easier to take a risk.  Actors are conditioned to handle rejection and take risks, everyday.

On top of that, I’m not willing to waste a day of my life - there is so much to do, see, experience in this incredible world we are living in. I cannot and will not miss out on it, especially because of fear.  (Though some fears are useful - for example, I have no intention of placing myself in a war zone just to say I’ve been there.) I refuse to sit back and let me life pass me by - our days are finite.  We all will die someday, and whenever that day comes for me, I want to pass from this life knowing I lived it well.

I am not afraid. I’m willing to dream and then act on those dreams.

As mom so aptly puts it, “You are daring to do something different with your life.”

I guess that makes me brave.

Friday, April 3, 2015

Doctor Update

Okay, friends. I try to be very open about my health journey - not because I'm looking for sympathy, but because I hope that maybe I can help or encourage someone who might be struggling with a scary diagnosis, and because it helps me when I write about it. So here goes...

Last week, I had my three month checkup with the rheumatologist (we are on three month maintenance now instead of one or two - woooo!) and the very next day my annual physical with my general practitioner. I did this back to back appointment thing very deliberately because I wanted all that information to be fresh in my brain when I went from one doc to the next.

I’ll start with the rheumatologist.  My blood work came back GREAT, he said it looks like I’m leveling out and that maybe “we’ve seen the worst of it”.  Hallelujah, time to celebrate!  This means that the medications (Hydroxychloroquine as a disease modifying drug to mask my symptoms and amlodipine for the Raynaud’s) are working, that my anti-inflammatory, mostly paleo diet is putting out the fires of inflammation in my body, and I’m getting sufficient exercise and rest.  Big thumbs up. He also said I was lucky I didn’t flare from my photosensitivity after all my sun exposure during our Caribbean vacation a few weeks back even though I was SUPER careful - sunscreen all the time and fully covered, even in the water. Tsk tsk. We made a plan for the transfer of my care to a new rheumatologist in State College after the move at the beginning of August, and I will see him one more time at the end of June.  I was feeling pretty good after that visit, but I always forget about the long-term consequences of my disease, even when it’s managed, because we are focused on the immediate and the near future as it relates to my blood work.

The next day I went in for my annual physical with my general practitioner.  I haven’t seen her since that terrible day last May when I showed up with a strange UV burn on my legs and she sent me to the rheumatologist with what she believed was lupus.  She is SO sharp, and I am beyond thankful that she read my symptoms so well - the fact that she caught my connective tissue disease that early has made all the difference in their ability to manage it without steroids.  Most doctors wouldn’t have caught it for another several years, when I would have been living with full blown Lupus.

One of the things I love most about my GP is that she plays straight with me - she doesn’t gloss over anything and everything is up for questions and discussion.  So here’s what was new this time - she believes that I have the start of arthritis in my hands. I had no idea that it wasn’t normal to have joints in my hand that are always sore - it’s been that way as long as I can remember! Rheumatoid arthritis also happens to be a connective tissue disease and is best friends with lupus. They are so close that they actually use the same exact blood test for both diseases (and Scleroderma, too) and then diagnose which disease you have based on your symptoms. Often, you can have symptoms from all three diseases that fall under the umbrella of "Connective Tissue Disease". She chastised me for not getting my eyes checked yet, because the hydroxychloroquine that I’m taking to suppress my symptoms is notorious for damaging the eyes.  She followed that, however, by saying it’s still the best medication option as it’s the least toxic of all the disease modifying drugs.  (!) I am now seeing the optometrist at the end of this month, promise.

This is where it gets hard: we talked about the possibility of Jason and I having a baby in the future.  My rheumatologist had said it was a possibility down the line, but would need some serious planning, it was not recommended anytime in the near future, and when the time came we could talk about it.  My ob-gyn told me it was possible but I would now have to be treated by a specialist for High-Risk pregnancies.  But, my GP, honest and straightforward as always, recommended that Jason and I speak with a high risk pregnancy doctor before we make any decisions about having a child of our own. She said that I would have to come off of the hydroxychloroquine (toxic to the child), and would likely be on prednisone for the entire first two trimesters of my pregnancy.  (I can’t sleep when I take steroids...) I could not remain on it for the third trimester, and would likely deliver very early.  It is indeed possible to have a baby, but she recommended that if we were going to do it that I be pregnant for the end of my graduate program, and plan to deliver that summer or early in fall, as I would be 35, almost 36 at that time.

I truly appreciate having that information because it will help Jason and I make a more informed decision going forward. We are going to wait and see how I do with the stress of my first year of graduate school, and then see the high risk specialist at that time and make some decisions.  But dang, it is so hard to hear that.

Some days I feel so broken - like my body has betrayed me.  I’m not going to lie, it just sucks.  Eternal optimist that I am, though, hope for healing always wells up in me.  And, honestly, if I know how to do anything, it’s adapt - I’m great at it, so at the moment I’m working on adapting to the lifestyle I need to survive graduate school.

Speaking of, my GP had some words for me on that as well.  She reiterated what Jason and I already knew - that my health and well-being has to come first.  I absolutely cannot shirk on my exercise, yoga, meditation, sleep, or diet because the first thing that will go is my health.  If I want to graduate from my program, I have to put myself first, and if something isn’t finished, then it isn’t finished. Period.  She told me to do what I have to in order to eliminate any unnecessary stressors - like paying someone to clean the house, doing all my meal planning/prep on Sundays, etc... and to remember that school is my ONLY job while I’m doing it.  If I can do those things, I will make it through.

She must recognize my type - I have always been willing to go the extra mile and put the stress on myself to keep others from being uncomfortable. That has always come at the expense of my health. Even after that conversation with my GP, I found myself this weekend (literally three days later) making a crazy plan to keep everyone (but me) happy, one that would likely have been detrimental to my physical well being because of the stress.  My mother-in-law immediately said, “Didn’t you JUST have this conversation with your Doctor? You cannot physically do that!”  And she was absolutely right, I can’t.   Learning that is going to take some time, as I’ve been putting my health after everyone else's comfort since I was fifteen.

Please continue to keep me in your prayers. I will continue trying to make the right choices for the benefit of my body, and put into regular practice all these things that will keep me healthy.

So, for you guys out there: Please take care of your body because you only get one, and there are NO guarantees.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Life Lessons with Bruce and Marilyn

I’m really trying to keep my eyes open for great interactions right now - slowing down and being aware of what and (more importantly) who is around me.  Stopping to smell the roses, really.

This morning, while dropping off the new ottoman Jason built to have the top upholstered, I met Bruce and his lovely wife Marilyn.  They are 81 years old, and so magnificently vibrant.  They could have retired years ago, but they choose to keep working part time because it makes them feel alive.  It’s just the two of them in this little section of a big warehouse, lovingly refinishing people’s treasures, both large and small. 

They’ve been at it forever, and don’t lack in clientele.  In fact, they do the upholstery for some major sports figures and actors who have retired here in Orlando, and their resulting stories from so many years of the business are just magnificent.  Bruce had me in tears of laughter telling me about playing golf with Mickey Rooney, and Marilyn, well, her childhood dream was to be a Rockette (she was too short, like me) so of course we bonded on the spot.

Our business was done within thirty minutes of my arrival, and I spent the next thirty minutes smiling so hard my cheeks hurt as I stood and chatted with Bruce and Marilyn. The only reason I left was because they had another customer, otherwise I’d still be there chatting with them.

In that short time they dropped some serious knowledge on me, all because I took the time to stop and really listen. So, here’s today’s Life Lessons, from the mouths of Bruce and Marilyn:

1. Work hard at whatever you do, always, and take pride in your work.  It has value.
2. The way you treat people counts. Everyone is important to someone, and they deserve to be treated with grace and kindness.
3. On the flip side of everyone having value, don’t over value someone just because they are powerful and famous.  People are just people - and at some basic level, we all have the same challenges and stresses, joys and pains.
4. Also, in the same vein of 2 and 3 - no one is REALLY a stranger.  The things that make us human bring us together, so rediscover the lost art of conversation, and really meet the people around you.
5. Don’t be afraid to swing for the fences. You may miss, but at least you can say you tried.
6. You have to have SOMETHING to do - even when you retire.  People need a purpose or they will curl up and die.  What is your purpose today?
7. Share your stories. Someone, somewhere, will value them.  Specifically, write about your life - the big stuff and the little stuff - because none of it is meaningless, and every second of your life has worth.
8.  Even when things don't end up the way you initially hoped, everything will work out - maybe even better than you originally planned.
9. Value your partner not just for their financial contributions, or their work ethic, but for who they are. Remember why you married them. And when they tell the same story for the umpteenth time, laugh all over again.

I really, really want to be like Bruce and Marilyn when I grow up - believing that age is just a number, and that it’s all about how old you FEEL.  I wonder if they’d let me come back and hang out with them for group therapy every week?

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!