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.

Friday, May 9, 2014

Red Carpet Anxiety

A few weeks back, I was privileged to attend the Orlando premiere of a feature film that I shot last June.  It's a locally produced project with pretty decent buzz being built around it - it will receive it's New York premiere this June, and after that will premiere in Atlanta, Los Angeles, Miami, and ever onward.  Because of the way the story is told, I feature prominently in the opening of all the trailers, and in the film itself.  I'm finally in a project that might receive some distribution, some recognition, some publicity.  Things that I can use to open more doors.

It's terrifying.  Well - not the possibilities of the project - the red carpet of it.  The schmoozing, the self marketing, all of it.

I'm an artist - I love to show up and do the work. I love the challenge of it, and in film, the particular challenge of doing it again and again and again. Finding ways to make it honest and truthful and powerful when you've already shot the same scene 20 times from three different angles.

But the reality of walking the red carpet? Terrifying.  That fear of being found wanting?  That maybe people will realize you're a fraud who just likes to play dress-up?  Borderline debilitating.  Being asked to make small talk with strangers? Scary.  For someone who calls herself an actor and prides herself on being able to transform into literally ANYTHING or ANYONE, I am a terrible faker in my personal life.  I hate it.

Nothing in my "training" has prepared me to dress myself and walk the red carpet and self promote and network.  Oh - the anxiety.  Maybe I'm the odd duck, but I didn't become an actor to be famous. I became an actor because I love to tell stories, and take people on a journey. Part of the job is to promote projects that you're in, though, and I just need to get on board.

I really had to work myself up to show up and walk the red carpet that night. I was terrified that I would stick out like a sore thumb, be overdressed or underdressed. Thank God I had Jason and Joyce with me to keep me steady.  With their support, I survived it.  I overcame my personal neuroses, and made it through.  No one called me out as a "faker".  Mark one for me on my personal scoreboard!

Next time it will be easier.

Man... I would kill for a stylist....

The Breaking Point Official Trailer from james on Vimeo.

Thursday, May 1, 2014

Journey On

The blog has been quiet again - too quiet.

All I can say is that I'm trying to figure some things out.  Plan. Adjust. Move forward.  And it's left precious little time for reflection. If there's anything I need to do to maintain my empathy and humanity, it's reflection.

I'm a goer.  A doer.  Or I was.

And then we spent a year and a half on a ranch in Wyoming and everything changed.

I learned that I don't want to spend my life going Mach 10 with my hair on fire anymore.  These days time seems to be flying by on its own so fast that I'm afraid to wake up tomorrow because I might be 90 and have missed it.

It. That elusive "it".  Life? The journey?

I had a great conversation with an old college friend last week, he was in town performing with a National Tour, and I managed to snag him for a long overdue breakfast, eight years after graduation.  We were both "doers" in our class - there was no way we were going to get sidetracked, we were going to make it and get shit done. (Excuse my French).  We both graduated and worked our butts off.  He went to grad school, and I eventually landed back home in LA, where I worked and struggled until suddenly I met Jason, got married and moved to Wyoming.

Looking back on the last eight years, our time in Wyoming (and the winter in between our seasons there), is the absolute best of my memories.  Even though I worked harder than I ever have in my life.  Even though sometimes I was unbearably lonely and felt a bit lost.  The isolation up there - just me and Jason against it all - provided me with a lot of time for reflection.  And it was in that time that I had the lightbulb - I am NOT what I DO.  It is a part of me, but not the whole package, and I am selling myself short by trading only on what I do.

So yes - I am an actor, I am a teacher.  But I am also a bleeding heart, compassionate to a fault. I want to see and experience the entire world, to make each day count for something.  Now that I'm back in the rat race, it's easy to get swept back up in the "go, go, go".

Believe me - I consider myself fortunate that I am currently able to make my entire living in the arts that I love.  Even when some days suck.

So, back to that breakfast conversation...

This friend of mine is in a position that most actor friends I know would envy - he is on the Equity National Tour of a VERY famous and popular musical.  He knows that there are a million actors out there who would trade places with him in a heartbeat.  He only works 3 hours a day, or 6 on two show days, and the rest of the time he gets to explore the cities they find themselves in, or go to the gym, or sleep, or whatever his little heart wants.  Of course, this being my "doer" friend, he has in fingers in a million different projects to keep busy.

But the tradeoff is that he is not creatively fulfilled in any way. He does the show exactly as the actor before him and the one before that did it, with no freedom to create for himself. His creative fulfillment only comes from the side projects he has going.

To him, our life in Wyoming, and all the adventures that it allowed and have followed it sounds pretty awesome.

To me, his life on tour sounds pretty awesome.

The grass is always greener, right?

Which is why it's so important to have satisfying work in your life.  To value yourself for who you are and not what you do.

It's important to me to give back.  It's important that I have a creative outlet.  It's important that I take pride in what I do, but at the end of the day my value is not wrapped up in it.

Trying to divorce the vocation from the avocation is so tough.

We are a society that lives to work.  We work ourselves to the bone every day - for what?  For status?  Nice clothes, nice house, fancy car  - all things that are fleeting and do not contribute in any way to our true self value.  You can't take it with you.

So what CAN I take with me?  The satisfaction of a life well lived.  Of positively impacting as many lives as possible in whatever time I am given here.  Joy. Memories.

Too often moments of joy take back seat to the guilt that I should have done this, should have done that, I never accomplished this, I said I was going to become this.

I'm over it.  Done with it.  The career will come. That laundry can wait.  Let's go make a memory.

If I achieve those career dreams along the way, great! But at the end of it all, I won't beat myself up if it doesn't turn out the way I planned, because it was really all about the journey. I plan to keep living a damn good journey.

We're going to the Keys this weekend because we are young and alive and we CAN. Journey on.

Friday, February 7, 2014

What Makes Me Happy - Musical edition

We've been fighting off a weird funky stomach thing around here - I blame my dirty preschoolers for sharing too much.  As soon as I start to feel better, this bug just comes back to knock me back down again!  As such, we've had a lot of quiet time this week - lots of lying in bed and reading or watching TV and Movies - trying to get well. I've had three auditions in the last week, and another one tomorrow, so it looks like the busy season might arrive early.  I'm also working on a truly awesome Business Course for Actors, I'm taking it online and learning a ton that I'm getting ready to put into play in my actor business.

But it's been slow, which is great considering how we're feeling.  Since I don't have any great stories to regale you with, I thought I'd share some videos that make me happy - things that put a spring in my step, a smile on my face and joy in my heart.

Enjoy! Let me know which one is your favorite!

Singin' In The Rain

Gene Kelly and Jerry Mouse in Anchors Aweigh

Moses Supposes

The Penguin Dance

The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing

Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly

Tap Greats Honor Sammy Davis Jr.

The Carol Burnett Show - "Cinderella Gets it On" featuring the Pointer Sisters and Harvey as the Godmother:

Monday, January 13, 2014

Getting Personal

Feeling introspective today, so I wanted to finish putting out my goals for my 31st year, but this time I have my personal ones. Sometimes my personals goals get all wrapped up in my professional ones, or I forget to have personal goals because I'm so busy chasing my professional ones. So here they are - my personal goals for my 31st year, things I'm recommitting myself to making possible.

- Keep business hours for my acting business, and then keep my personal hours for myself and my husband. Meaning keep them separate. Unless I have an audition or a booked job, I will not be working on weekends. Period. Or in the evening when Jason gets home from work.

-Keep getting my booty to the gym. I have a very physical day job, there are days when I teach 4-5 dance classes and sometimes it wipes me out. Regardless, I need to keep my gym dates 3-4 days a week. I am getting older, and I need to keep my body healthy and fit. As they say, "If you don't use it, you lose it." It's really not all vanity, either. I feel better, my moods are better, my... EVERYTHING is better when I am doing regular strength training.

-To reach out to the important people in my life more often. I'm a bad phone caller. Terrible. Just ask my best friend. I recognize that this is a problem, and I am trying to fix it. And doing a bad job at that too. So I'm going to fix it one call at a time.

-Keep sleep and lots of water every day a priority. This goes along with the gym bit, really, but I want to continue trying to get 8-9 quality hours of sleep per night and drinking plenty of water every day.

-Get more sunshine. I work during daylight hours, and with the shorter winter days I don't see much of the sun. Vitamin D keeps me happy, so I need to try to get out in it at least fifteen minutes a day. Fortunately, we live in Florida, and at this time of year we have GREAT weather! For example, I am outside writing this right now. And it's gorgeous.

-Breathe deeply more often.

-Keep our commitment to get away one weekend a month. I feel like we really only relax when we get away and limit our phone use and just try to be together.

-Take Indy for more walks or play ball more often.

-See more of the state where I live. Take advantage of being here and be more active outside - riding bikes, kayaking, swimming, etc...

-Find something new that I'm excited to learn or do. I have no idea what that is yet, but it would be fun to do something different and out of the box.

That's what I'm working with right now. How about you?

Thursday, January 2, 2014

WHY? And then HOW?

I'm taking this really awesome marketing course (slash life course!) called Build Your Own Buzz to start off 2014.  I'm still in the first module and all I can say is... wow.

I was challenged to remember why I started acting in the first place.  That's tough - I started acting because it was where the things I loved to do - dance and sing - met.  I chose to pursue acting because I love to entertain, to make people happy, to take them on a journey away from their lives for a little while.  My original love for acting was born in the musical theatre, but is no longer limited to that format.

I do it because I love to make people smile, to laugh, to feel like getting up and joining in. And to be honest - when I'm doing that, it's EASY. And I am filled with so much JOY.

So, the next part of that is to connect that ease and joy with the work that I have been hired for in the last year or so.  It's about 50/50: 50% broad comedy - whether commercial or theatrical - and about 50% very heavy drama, often involving me dying in some gruesome way.

But what I LOVE is the comedy, so I'm going to move forward with that as my focus this year, though there is not much comedy work to be found here in Orlando.  It's almost all drama/horror/thriller from an independent movie standpoint.  And that's valid - you have to work with the filmmakers around you - to support their work and help them achieve their creative vision. Fortunately, I have the skills to contribute in that vein, and I am HAPPY to continue to do so.  But is it what I passionately believe I was meant to do?  No.  When I am really letting it roll, making people laugh, THEN I am exactly where I should be. My ease and joy in that process are indicators.

So now I have to chase that kind of work - to find the filmmakers who are creating comedy in my market - to build authentic, symbiotic relationships with them.

At least I have a target, right?  Then I can sharpen my focus.

So I ask you, today - are you doing what you love?  What DO you love to do?  When do you feel exactly right in this world? Why?  And how can you take a small step towards doing what you love, and bringing your specific gifts to the world?  What's your game plan for 2013?  How can I help YOU to do your life's work?