Hind Sight, Blind Side, and Looking back

Ho la la, it has been a long time since I have posted a blog post on here. Since the last post, I moved to Montreal, stopped writing everyday (or at least fiction, as I have been writing research(?!)), got a puppy, started and am in the middle of my masters, and the worst one of them all, changed into someone I am not sure I wanna be.

This major change started as an experiment to see if I too, an artsy fartsy person could actually swing it in the world of science and academia. Well, it turns out I kinda could, but I don’t know if I really like it here, if I want to stay here, or if the life of an academic is really for me. (Yikes!)

Whenever I get in these “I don’t know what I wanna be when I grow up” stages, I ask myself, okay, so you don’t know what you want, but maybe you know what you DON’T want? So lets start there (and I share this because it may inspire others on their journey to the next chapter of themselves and their passion).

I know I don’t want:

1. To be bored.

2. To be stuck inside at a computer all day.

3. To have to deal with competitive and passive aggressively competitive people who give me unsolicited advice AND remarks.

4. To spend more time doing things I have to do and less time doing things I want to do.

and here are the big deep ones that I think I can actually control…

5. To be defensive about my time.

6. To be longing.

7. To be scared or lost at what the further holds

8. To not be joyful.

9. To not be creative all the time.

10. To care about what other people think or say.

So- I know what I DON’T want! That’s progress.

It is tough to look back at your choices and see regret. It is one of the most isolating feelings in the world, because you cannot change the past, and thinking about that regret removes you from the present. See, my days used to be filled with creative choices, and this is what seems to be missing from my heart. The time and space to make creative choices and simply BE creative. I don’t mean pulling out some paper and paltering it with crayolas, though that sounds like fun. I mean putzing around. I mean having the time to sew those pants and write a blog post. I mean having a moment to read a play and love it all over again. I mean being inspired by the frost on the window and sitting down to write a story both chilling and warm and invigorating. There will always be change, and as long as the next creative choice is the one I take, the one that sings, is “buzzy”, or lets your heart flippity flip from the idea of it, then there can never be any regrets.

Okay, Okay, I know that you have been thinking about it ever since I said the word pup/ puppy, so here is one choice, sometimes challenging, but one I will never regret.

IMG_0143

Those Are Some Serious Roots…

I think anyone who grew up watching Married With Children also remembers their first perm. (Hopefully it was their last…) My main focus age 12-14 was: Must. Get. Volume. Into. Hair. So, I got a perm. It lasted for two whole weeks. When that didn’t work, I bought the ole box of highlights and attempted to pull small tufts of hair through a cap with what looked like a crochet needle. Besides looking like Hell-raiser in that cap, the highlights didn’t  make a peep. Nothing. No blonde. No color, nothing. No “highlights” in my life, especially the fact that I STILL had dirty blonde hair and I’d just spent 8$ of my allowance on hair dye that didn’t work.

It was high school. I’m sure if you asked any high school young adult right now, they would say the same thing we did. “No, I don’t care what other people think…omg, look at her hair. She should just cut it off and start over.” (and I wasn’t even a mean girl!) We tried to be something we weren’t just to fit in… not too far off from adults either, huh?

The times I remember being most myself, or at least being “shown” who I was, were the times I spent in the garden. Getting back to the real roots.

Papa would be out in the garden when I would go over their house. Being out amongst his plants was his favorite place to be. Green thumb? If there were a green sparkly version of Michael Jackson’s glove, Papa would have two. His garden always looked beautiful, fruitful, and nurtured. I would grab one of those knee rest thingies that Grandma made out of some random cloth and bean bags, and kneel next to him as he planted and preened. (I didn’t really need the thing, I was 13, but I had to be a REAL gardener just like Papa.)

My other grandparents also had a garden, albeit a more urban plot. Nonno would plant basil and tomatoes, figs and peppers, and basically anything one would find in a Naples backyard. After spending time picking all those beautiful veggies and herbs, we would come into our little Brooklyn kitchen and begin creating all kinds of Italian food. There was something about planting your own garden and eating the fruits of your labor. Fresh and delicious, those flavors reminded me about who I really was and where I really came from.

Now, my garden is bringing me the same joy. Those roots will never leave me, pulling me back to the truth every time. Some serious roots. Roots of love, nurturing, and patience.

I think Papa would be proud…

photo-68

 

Basil

photo-66

Our fresh Basil and Mint Pesto

photo-70

 

Little first tomato

photo-71

 

First Eggplant

photo-67

Home made mint lemonade (mint from our garden)

photo-69

 

Mint Ice Cubes (yummy in our water!)

photo-72

 

Our little Urban Garden.

 

 

 

This is, like, super totally HARD…

Every time I went through a big challenge in Junior High and High School, it was the most intense, awful, hard thing ever on the planet.

I was a dancer since I could walk. Seriously, since the age of one and a half! And, to top it off, I was competing at the age of six. SIX!

Image

(yes, those are sequined leg warmers.)

Then, suddenly, after being introduced to the elite status of my High School Drama Dept., I was at a crossroads. Do I quit dance, my first love and risk all my dreams to begin performing in a new way? Yes, I would be able to dance in acting, (hello, musical theatre!) but, that didn’t make the decisions easier.

Acting? Dance? Acting? Dance?

Do I jump into the unknown world of no glory? The big pond with all of these older, more talented kids at school? Or, do I continue on the successful journey of dance with the safety net of all my friends around me. Dance friends are deep friends. You go into the trenches. Even more than acting friends.

And now I am faced with a similar change. Moving away from the city I have known my whole life and taking a risk a big leap into the next. The grand jettee (spelling en francais??), if you will. The leap across the floor with feet pointed, arms open wide, and fingers flared, bounding into the air. Sometimes in the in between time before the big leap and after the take off, there exists a small space of expectation and fear, a silent space where every emotion can exist at once. Glancing in one direction, you see where you have come from. Looking ahead, you see where you are going and yet, not knowing how to get there.

There is a reason why they say that moving is one of the biggest stresses in life. It’s not the actual “moving”, it’s the shedding, the letting go of what was, the throwing away of everything that is not needed, and the walking into a dark room of “not knowing”.

In the end, I chose to jump, to act. To join the big pond.

photo-64

And that has made all the difference.

Moving and other Catastrophes

Image

 

Yup, that’s a picture of part of the catastrophe. 

I have not posted in a while. I have not posted in a while, because if I were to put one more thing on my plate, I might just have to invite some Native Americans and some Pilgrims and call it a Thanksgiving feast. It’s full. Real full. So, in an attempt to not ditch my super-awesome-fun blog, I am making this short, sweet and adding pictures to catalogue the insanity of my moving. Where am I moving, you ask? Montreal. Canada. To do what, you ask? Live with my boyfriend and begin a Masters! Ooo la la, as they say in Quebec.

Image

 

(Me freaking out)

Much like when I moved across the country (USA) from NYC to Houston at the age of 12, I know my life is about to change. Big time. 

THEN:

I was ready to be the coolest girl in the world. Like Molly Ringwald in any movie circa 1983-1987. 

 

NOW: 

I just wanna make it through customs with the least amount of crap, a smile, and by August 31st. (before school starts!)

 

THEN:

I wanted to be liked. To fit in. I would have done anything to do so. 

 

NOW:

Like I said above, I just wanna get through customs with …… yeah you read it already.

 

It’s been four years of long distance for me and my love. Montreal. New York. Montreal. New York. Montreal. New York. Montreal. New York. Is it annoying to read that? Imagine actually making the back and forth trip. For FOUR YEARS! So when this opportunity came up to study and teach, I jumped. We jumped. And now, by the grace of God, Goddess, Divine Force, the Universe, whatever you call him/her/they, we are going to live together. And God and Goddess help us if we want to run away 🙂 

 

I cannot wait to begin the next chapter of my life in a new country, new language, new home, new friends, new school. And more blog posts that are on-time and full of something super meaningful. (I promise.)

Here is to the city up the Hudson… Montreal.

Image

Panoramic View from The Mount Royal 

from left to right Olivier, my boyfriend, and his brother Phil

 

 

Never Ever Ever Ever Ever Give Up.

“To be an artist means not to compute or count; it means to ripen as a tree, which does not force its sap, but stands unshaken in the storms of spring with no fear that summer might not follow.”

— Rainer Maria Rilke

I walked into the writer’s conference hall early friday morning with confidence and hope. My only goal for the weekend was to get feedback from a professional that yes indeed I am a good writer albeit at the beginning of my journey, but with potential to become something possibly anything someday somehow. I wanted to know if I had some talent. (keep reading…)

When I was entering high school, I followed a friend into the drama department’s summer audition of The Importance of Being Earnest. I was just there to check it out, accompany my friend, and see what high school theatre was all about. I was a little scared to be honest. If anyone reading this went to my high school, you would know why and agree…

I was handed the famous “Bred in a Handbag…Immaterial Mr. Worthing, blah blah blah, something brilliant and very Maggie Smith.” monologue of Lady Bracknell and told to do a British Accent. Now, I was only thirteen or maybe just turned fourteen, and would never, under any normal theatrical circumstances play Lady Bracknell, but that’s what high school theatre is all about, eh?

I guess I’m auditioning, I thought. So I got up in front of complete strangers and without thinking, began having fun. I did my best high british accent and “hoity toity” impression. I made people laugh. I made people perk up. I entertained. Now, I don’t know if I was brilliant or incredible or talented or amazing! I just knew I loved it. I had fun. I was telling stories.

F A S T   F O R W A R D to the NJSCBWI (Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators) conference last weekend…

Well, okay not exactly the conference but present-ish day. For the past two years I have been writing stories as well as acting in them. I’m new at it. Writing. Relatively. And, believe me, there are LOTS of people who can’t wait to tell you that. It makes them feel better. We’ll let them have that one.

Just like in my early acting days, I wanted validation. Am I good? Do I have potential? Should I keep going? OR am I one of those people on American Idol or The Voice where you want to reach through the TV and say, “Listen, Stop! If you can do anything else, if you ENJOY anything else, please do that and save us all the agony!” So, I had the audacity to ask one of the agents there, and this is what he said:

(okay I’m not going to quote him exactly because, really it’s all an emotional mishmosh..)

You’re not the first person to ask this, and you won’t be the last. You have talent. That is clear. The question isn’t should you keep going. The question is, do you want to? You have to ask yourself. Do I love doing this? Do I enjoy this? And if you do, then keep going. You will only get better and better and better. This is marathon, not a sprint, an ever changing craft. If you do something everyday, you will get better, no doubt. So keep going.

I wanted to be perfect right out of the gate like Lady Bracknell, but the truth is, anything worthwhile in this life takes work. Even after Lady Bracknell, my acting roles and work and “getting out of my own way” got harder. That is craft. That is learning a craft. Like J.D. Salinger said,

“Somewhere along the line — in one damn incarnation or another, if you like — you not only had a hankering to be an actor or an actress but to be a good one. You’re stuck with it now. You can’t just walk out on the results of your own hankerings…The only thing you can do now, the only religious thing you can do is act. Act for God, if you want to — be God’s actress, if you want to. What could be prettier? You can at least try to, if you want to — there’s nothing wrong with trying…An artist’s only concern is to shoot for some kind of perfection, and on his own terms, not anyone else’s. You have no right to think about those things.”

I found this note at the end of my critique. Not that I  r e a l l y  needed it, I’d already decided I would, but it was nice to know I wasn’t the only one who thought so…

photo-35

Progress Not Perfection

Have you ever read an exciting, tantalizing, mouth-watering YA novel about a main character that was perfect in every way? Ya know, did everything perfectly, looked perfect, smelled perfect, said just the right thing at the right time, was the prize student, friend, and child?

Ummm…. probably not… Because it’s BORING!!

So, why do we as teens AND as adults feel the need to attain that?

When I was a teenager, (ya know, not that long ago…in my mind anyway) I would actually stand in front of the mirror and pull back parts of myself to imagine them skinnier, smaller, more perfect. I know I am not the first and only kid or adult woman to do this. I used to dance, so looking at myself in a scrutinizing way for three hours a day in tights and a leotard could only obviously lend itself to body issue disorders.

At the age of 13, roughly freshman year of high school, I participated in the Junior Miss Dance of Texas dance competition. It was sort of a pageant-y dance competition. Think, So You Think You Can Dance meets Toddlers and Tiaras. (eek just that thought in my head makes me gag). There was a leotard competition section in lieu of a bathing suit competition. I had already lost ten pounds and felt pretty good. Now, the fact that a thirteen year old dancer who danced since the age of 2 and everyday at that even THOUGHT she had to lose ten pounds, was a little crazy, but nonetheless, I lost the weight. I thought losing weight would make me more p e r f e c t.

I came in third runner up. Which loosely translates to 4th place, and no trophy. At lunch that day, with a nice sandwich in front of me that I had waited all week to enjoy, and rightfully earned I believe, my dance teacher turned to me, handing me the sheet of results and said, “I think it was your weight.” Her squint-y eyes and sugary – not so sweet smile helped push my already sunken heart, all the way down, till kerplunk, it hit the floor. And, of course, I couldn’t eat my sandwich. I was not good enough.

The other day, in the midst of oh, getting ready for grad school in another country, organizing my visa, doing my VO auditions, teaching accents and running my own company, planning a birthday, critiquing three MS’s, and getting ready for the NJSCBWI Conference this weekend, I stopped and saw that it had been more than a week since my last blog post and I started to crumble. All the spinning plates I had to precisely balanced for the past few months began tumbling around me with a mocking crash. They started teasing with phrases like:

“See, you can’t do everything right!”

“See, you are not perfect!”

“See, you set out to blog every week and you FAILED! Nah, nah, nah, nah, nah!”

I collapsed into my chair and started to cry. And then, proceeded to watch a House Hunters 3 hour marathon. I needed to escape into a different world other than my own. Hey, we all have our vices… still. Even after Sevent-mmmfnffnfmn years after high school.

So, I dried my eyes. The crappy feeling didn’t go away, but at least I had dry eyes and I could see. I took pen and paper and made a list. 37 things later. I am finally getting to this blog, albeit a week late.

I heard somewhere (probably a 12 step meeting- wink wink) “Progress not Perfection” was the key. There is no perfect. It just doesn’t exist. The skinny girl who won first place has issues I will never understand, and to her, my life may look perfect, big thighs and all. Heck, some people LOVE big thighs, especially if they are attached to the person they love.

Like a good relationship, we have to give attention to ourselves and love ourselves everyday. Little by little. Step by step. Crossed off thing on the list by crossed off thing on the list.

SO, blog post done! CHECK!

Image

~ The Beautiful Thighs in Mexico 🙂

Fish Oudda Wawwduh

A new identity. A new adventure. A chance to reinvent myself without any worry of preconceived notions or opinions. A Junior High Dream come true.

I was eleven and a half and ready to shed my Catholic school uniform of Brooklyn, NY for the air conditioned public school wear anything you want-ness of Junior high in San Diego, California. 3000 miles from home. 1989. I was gonna be a California Girl. I needed a new wardrobe. Anything Esprit and pink.

I was even let in on the house hunting process. An old Spanish style villa on a hill with New World charm, whatever that meant. All I knew was, I would get to pick out my room. It was done, all set. I was moving to CALIFORNIA! I would be a professional Dancer in LA! I would be like Molly Ringwald in every 80’s high school movie. I was a cool New Yorker moving to Cali. It didn’t get much better than that. I could feel the jelly bracelets climbing my arms.

And then the call came.

Job in San Diego cancelled. New office opening in Houston. Change of plans; we are moving to Texas.

Texas?

“Will we have to learn a new language?” my little sister squeaked from the back seat of our Dodge Caravan.

“Are there tumbleweeds? Like in Little House?” (On the Prairie, of course) I chimed in. “Do we go to school in log cabins?”

“No,” my mom laughed turning around to face us from the passenger’s seat. “In fact I think we might even have cable.” As in MTV!

I could not contain the excitement. It was the first day of school. The first day of sixth grade. The first day of the rest of my life. I put on the Eva Goia pink and purple plaid outfit and fluffed my hair into a side pony tail.

We pulled up to the round about at the middle school parking lot and I watched as clusters of kids in normal clothes, not uniforms, clutched their trapper keeper binders and skipped together into school. One thing I also noticed that swept over me like an eerie fog, everyone was white. Growing up in Brooklyn, my friends came in all shapes, sizes, and colors. Puerto Rican, African American, Dominican, Italian, Irish, Jewish…everything. Here, everyone seemed the same. A small jolt of nervousness ran through my stomach, but I pressed on. I hopped out of the Caravan and into sixth grade.

At lunch, I recognized my next door neighbor and she waved me over to sit with her and her friends.

“Suzayunn’s fruhm Neyw Yahwerk,” she said, introducing me to her bestie.

“Yeah I just moved heeeuh. From Brooklyn.” I said, biting into my PB&J.

“Oh my gosh, suhy Dahwuhg,” her best friend demanded.

Anxious to fit in and a bit confused why she would ask that, I answered. “Umm, Dawwwg.”

Giggles surrounded me.

“Ohmagosh, say MAHLL.”

“MAWWWL.”

More giggles.

“Okuhy, okuhy, suhy, uuum, Super Mahhrio Bruhthuhrs!”

“Supuh Mario, not MAHHHrio.”

And there it was. I was not cool. I was different. It took two weeks, but I changed my accent. I started mimicking all those girls at the lunch table, and by the third week of sixth grade, I was almost Texan. Almost.

One of the most common story-lines is the fish out of water, and the struggle the hero faces to fit in.

I think if I moved anywhere else in the 48 continual, I would have been cool, but Texas, nah. I was a Yankee.

There is an old saying, “You can take the girl out of Brooklyn, but you can’t take the Brooklyn out of the girl.” In my case it was Canarsie. And I think I’ll have it forever.

Image