Friday, April 29, 2011

Take Your Sour Grapes and Make Some Whine

Or, Why I Got Up to Watch the Royal Wedding

Sometimes I wonder if some of you will ever be happy. I can't believe how many facebook posts there have been about being relieved the wedding "nonsense" is over. You know how annoyed you are hearing about the wedding? That's how annoyed I am hearing you whine about the wedding.

Here's the deal. I don't know William and Kate. I'm fairly certain I'll never meet them. I'm not British. I'm not so very into the Royal Family. I don't work in fashion. I'm not a wedding planner.


I don't watch the news. I turn it off. It's so sensationalized. So depressing. It's too much for me

And this week, media all around the world focused on two people falling in love and getting married.

I'm sorry- why are we complaining about that?

People all over the world were celebrating something positive. Something happy. Something lovely.

Pour me some coffee, I'm in.

And that is all I have to say about that.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Oh No, They Can't Take That Away From Me

Or, Why in the World I Would Write a Blog Series about Debt...

I’ve been crying really hard for about two hours. I know there are people who would rather I not share that, as my blogs tend to be more positive and hopeful.

But last week during a rare therapy session, I was discussing how I understand who I am. And I am a person who shares. I write to make myself understand, and I write to share my story with others in hopes that they will see they’re not alone. And so.

I’ve been crying really hard for about two hours.

It started with a phone call from South Carolina. I am not expecting any phone calls from South Carolina, so I didn’t pick up. But who knows? It could be a South Carolina transplant who now lives in New York. So I listened to the message. As expected, it was a debt collector.

She didn’t say that on the message, of course. “Hi Mindy! This is Jennifer (inaudible last name). Could you give me a call when you get a chance?” The fact that she called me Mindy was extremely disconcerting, as anything official says Melinda.

But I was feeling strong today. So you know what? Fine. Let’s talk.

The conversation wasn’t so terrible for a while. And it turns out she wasn’t calling about my debt, it was Ryan’s. I told her we knew, it bothered us, we were working on it, we didn’t have it. She offered me a reduction in the overall price if we paid it in full. You know the drill. But after a while, we were just talking in circles.

Me: Yeah. I know. That would be great. But we don’t have it. We’re trying.

Her: But it will save you money.

Me: It doesn’t matter. We don’t have it.

Her: Why do you get a loan to pay this off? (Yes. Seriously. That was her suggestion.)

Me: I’m not going in to further debt to pay off a debt. Can we please just talk about a payment plan?

Her: But this will save you money.

Me: It doesn’t matter. We don’t have it.

Her: Could you ask your family?

Me: No. How about a payment plan? I called you, remember? We want to pay it off, but can’t pay it in full.

Her: But this will save you money.

You get the idea.

But some of the things she was saying were, to be honest, truly hurtful. She asked why we had gone into default in the first place. While this was kind of hilarious to me, as if the possible explanation was that we just decided one day to stop paying for things, it also hurt. And it really hurt when she told me over and over that we just weren’t willing to do anything about it. Didn’t I call her? Didn’t I tell her we could make payments? I just wasn’t willing to do it her way.

Soon, I was crying. Naturally. I finally got her to say “OK, I’m gonna let you go for today.” (Yep. I got a debt collector to hang up first.) But when we got off of the phone, I just cried even harder.

I hate being in debt. Ryan and I both do. Everyone does. And today was my breaking point.

I know that our debt isn’t much different than the debt of many of our friends. It’s about student loans, and bad decisions, and changes in financial situations. And we all feel guilty. And we all lose sleep. And we all want to do something about it. And the truth is, there isn’t a ton we can do about it. We’re barely hanging on as it is.

But. There are some things we could do. And we’re not doing them. It feels too big. It feels like if we can’t fix it all, why bother?

I called Ryan and told him how upset I was. And I sent Jackie a text and told her how upset I was. And they both fulfilled their respective duties. Jackie told me how stupid the woman on the phone was, and that she was wrong. And Ryan told me we would fix it.

This weekend, we’re looking at what we owe, and to whom, and we’re coming up with a plan. We can’t fix it. But we’re not going to ignore it anymore.

And I’m going to share it here.

There are a lot of details I’m going to leave out- exact amounts, names of debtors, etc- both for privacy and security. And I have no idea what I’m doing. We’re not financial advisors. We’re pretty terrible about this kind of thing, really. But I know that sharing my experiences has helped me in the past.

When that woman told me I wasn’t trying and wasn’t willing to do anything. When she accused me of being irresponsible. I felt like I wanted to hide. I was ashamed. And I didn’t want anyone to know what was happening. Even though I know- I know- that most of my readers are in the same position.

I felt like I should ignore the one aspect of myself of which I am most certain- my voice.

And I will not let debt take that away from me.

Saturday, April 23, 2011

The Artist Looks at Forty

“I’m afraid of growing older. Well, growing older might be fine. Shrinking older. That’s a major fear of mine.” -John Bucchino

I have often said that John Bucchino gets the lyrics for most of his work by sitting outside my therapy sessions and taking notes. Nearly every song I hear, I just sit and nod. “Yep. That’s me.” While the opening to his revue “It’s Only Life” is no exception, I never particularly identified with the title. “The Artist Looks at Forty.” I’d never looked at forty. I’d never even considered it.

Until about two weeks ago.

I had a nightmare that I was turning forty.

This is absurd for several reasons:

1. I’m only thirty-six.
2. I am told fairly often that I don’t look anywhere near my age.
3. I am quite happy with where I am in my life- what I’ve accomplished, who I’ve become, and where I’m headed.
4. I have plenty of people in my life who are over forty, and by no means do I think of them as “old.”

But I couldn’t shake this nightmare. It haunted me for a week. I started examining and stressing over my wrinkles. (They're there. Don't argue with me.) I started hallucinating gray hairs. (They're probably not there.) I told Ryan about it the other day. “That seriously bothers me that it would bother you,” he said. He tried to convince me I was being ridiculous. But I already knew I was being ridiculous. Academically, anyway. And yet. As my birthday approached, I grew more and more anxious.

And now, on my second day of being thirty-six, the anxiety is gone. It could be because I got to meet with my therapist (the real one. Not the ones I tried to have replace him. Fail.) for the first time in over two years. But I think it has more to do with the celebration of my birthday itself.

It started on Saturday night. Ryan and I went to Ford’s Theater to see our friend in a show. It’s a little surreal to watch a fellow Momentum Rep “Assassin” perform in the very theatre where one of those assassinations took place. But even more surreal was seeing the words “Momentum Rep’s Assassins” in his bio. After the show, we went for drinks with our Assassin friend and his girlfriend. And when I ordered a pomegranate martini, I was carded.


(In fact, I literally said that out-loud. “Score.”)

Thirty-six was looking a little less scary.

We talked about the show. And what it’s like to be home all day with someone who is learning to talk. And why “Animal Farm” was the perfect choice for the school where I just played. And we compared Worst Show Ever stories. (I won.) And all the while, my friend kept checking the clock on his phone. I knew he was waiting for midnight, even though he was exhausted from performing so many times this week. And I really, really appreciated the gesture. The clock ran down, the three of them sang, and we headed back to the hotel.

Saturday morning, after enjoying our free hotel breakfast, we explored the sites of downtown Washington DC. We saw the White House, and the Washington Monument, and the Lincoln Memorial. And everywhere we went, Lily was the center of attention. She oo’ed and ah’ed appropriately as far as we could tell, although it was just as likely to be over a squirrel as it was a monument. And we got all the obligatory family photos. And when we got back to the hotel, she grabbed her bottle and her blanket, climbed into her pack-and-play by herself, and went to sleep, allowing Ryan and I to take a nap. It was a birthday miracle.

Once we were all well-rested, we drove out to the Virginia wine country to visit Chris- a college friend who runs Breaux Vineyards with his wife. And while I stood at the bar sampling nearly every wine they offer, I talked with Chris about mission statements. And how wineries are like theatre. And I discussed the state of education with the girl serving me my wine. She, too, had earned her Masters Degree in Education before deciding teaching in public schools was not for her. And she’d seen “Waiting for Superman.” And she had as many opinions about it as I did. I was in nerd heaven.

Chris and I shared parenting war stories while Ryan chased Lily around the room, we all took a tour of the winery, and we said goodbye with a bottle of their ice wine in hand. Back at the hotel, we ordered Chinese food, enjoyed our wine, watched “Undercover Boss,” and were asleep by 10:30. Lily slept all night.

And then this morning. After another free breakfast, I showered, took the time to blow-out my expensive haircut, and got on the Metro to visit with my therapist, feeling uncharacteristically happy about the way I looked. While waiting at a nearby Starbucks, a young girl (a college student, I know this for sure because I overheard her discussing her research paper) gushed about my nails. And I met with “Dr. Matthews.” And I realized how very, very far I’ve come.

I thought that was it. In fact, I started writing this blog, already happy with my birthday, and turning thirty-six, and life in general. But we made one final stop on our way out of DC. We needed coffee, and Lily needed milk, and I remembered a bookstore near a hotel where I had once stayed. I had written part of my book in the café downstairs, and if my memory served me, which it usually does, it was coming up on our right.

We pulled in front of the locally-owned bookstore and I ran in while Ryan changed Lily’s diaper in the car. I felt like things were coming full-circle, spending time in this bookstore now that my book was finished. I was waiting for the restroom when I overheard three older women talking. “I just got an email about ‘Urinetown.’ But I don’t know if I want to see something called ‘Urinetown.’”

Yep. That conversation really happened.

So I apologized for eavesdropping, and begged them to go. They were avid theatre fans, and the title was the only thing that had kept them from seeing the show before. I promised them that this very fact was addressed within the first few lines, and that they would love it. They asked me what I did, I told them a little bit about Momentum Rep, and they made me feel like a total rock star.

Then, I heard Lily cry. “I’m so sorry,” I said, “I recognize that cry. I better go see if my daughter is OK.”

“You don’t have a baby! You can’t! You’re seventeen!”

I got in the car feeling pretty good about myself.

This weekend I was reminded that I am a woman who does not look her age. And that I have young friends who will talk to me about theatre and ask what it’s like to be a parent and sing to me at midnight. And I have other friends who know exactly what it’s like to be a parent. And who care about mission statements and wine. And I have a family that understands the value of a good nap.

I know a lot about theatre and education. And I helped start a company that has provided a lot of opportunities for a lot of people. And I have the confidence to wear flowers on my fingernails. And I wrote a book. And I get to stay home with my daughter, who loves to dance.

And I get to share all of this with a man who has been with me for nearly fifteen years.

And the one thing that was absolutely required for all of this to be true was the passage of time. I have spent the past thirty-six years gaining experiences and building relationships and learning about who I am.

And that makes me excited to see what my life will be like at thirty-seven.

Or forty, for that matter.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Another Potty Success!

Fully dressed in a long-sleeved shirt, jeans, and- naturally- a diaper, Lily sat on the potty. "More?" she asked, wanting candy for her act. I sighed, and told her I would give her the candy, but only if she sat on the potty with no pants. I really didn't feel like going through the whole process today-constantly wondering where she'll pee next. But I did want to reward her for sitting there. So off came the jeans. Off came the diaper. I handed her the candy. And she walked away.

That seems about right.

I tried to put her diaper back on. "NOOOOOOO!" she screamed. Fine. We'll be playing the Pee On The Floor game. She returned to the potty a few times for a few seconds at a time. Then she curled up on the couch with me for a while. I was picturing what it would take to clean the pee off of the couch when she bolted up, jumped on to my lap, and threw her arms around my neck.

And then.

She ran over to the potty. And peed. A lot. No accidents, no dribbling along the way. We celebrated. And over the next three hours, she did it again. And again. And again. Four potties. No accidents.

When Ryan got home, he told her how proud of her he was and held out his arms for a hug. She reached out and shook his hand.

Who taught my baby girl to shake hands? And when did she learn to potty? And how is she almost 2?