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.