RSS Feed

Tag Archives: family

There is Something That I Have to Tell You

It is something that I don’t like to talk about.

If you know me in person you know I prefer fun, happy topics. I love irony. I like to make you laugh. I’m a musical comedian, for goodness sakes. We’re calling Dog Opera a “comedy” by Constance Congdon because it is very, very funny, but there is also a touch of drama and some very heartbreaking, poignant moments. It’s a dramedy, if you will. There is, however, something else you should know.

Aside from telling the story of a gay male and his straight best friend and their separate failed dating lives in NYC, Dog Opera also tackles the AIDS epidemic. ‘Congdon wrote this play to reflect the time when AIDS was considered the plague, a death sentence, an utterly terrifying shock to our world. We have come a long way, but spreading awareness and educating people is still a top priority, right here in our country. I still find Dog Opera’s message to be strong, relevant, and timely.

Personally, it hits close to home for me…and this is what I have to tell you. This is one of the (secret?) reasons I am pouring my blood sweat and tears into Producing and Starring in this production. Why keep secrets, though? You know I am nothing but honest in this blog, so here goes.

I lost my Uncle Kurt to AIDS on July 7th, 1987. Right smack dab in the middle of the crisis, when there was no treatment. He was my Mothers’ youngest brother and he passed at the ripe age of 21. I was just a small, blonde-ish 7 year old girl, happy and full of energy and he was cool and fun and loved me, so, so much. He was also incredibly handsome, see?

He looks a LOT like my Grandmother, and she was (and perhaps never really got over being) devastated.  No one really knew what to say to my brother and I to explain what he passed from, we were so young, it was still so new and everything was confusing. My Grandmother could barely speak the words herself. The family told us it was cancer, later on when I hit my “wise” pre-teen years my Mother explained to us that it was AIDS. I had began to learn what cancer was and wanted to know what kind he had, wanted to know specifics, like teens do. It was a difficult topic of conversation in my family, to say the least. I remember her sitting my brother and I on the couch in the living room and having this conversation. I remember the sun coming through the windows. I remember all of this so clearly, a bright picture in my mind. I’ve never told my Mother how much I appreciated her telling me the truth. My Mother has always been a crafty person and loved her brother with all her heart. She has one of the original squares in the AIDS Quilt. Here is a photo of her square for my Uncle Kurt:

Do you see the “We Love You?” The music notes are there because he was a masterful pianist. I wish I had a clip of his music to share with you here. It was so beautiful. I am sure there is not a day that goes by that my Mother or Grandparents don’t think of him. My last memories of him are oddly vivid. I hope it’s OK if I share them with you. This is harder than I thought it would be. Bear with me.

In his remaining days, my Grandparents chose to care for my Uncle at home. He rested in a room they made “his room” in the downstairs of their house, because he could not go up the stairs. I imagine he was home because there is nothing the hospitals could do anyway, and they wanted to be close to him. The last time I saw him, my Mother took me over to the door to his room because he wanted to see me and I wanted to see my Uncle. We opened the door slowly and I poked my little blonde-ish head in. He was laying flat on his back, and he was incredibly thin and fraile. He lifted his head a bit and smiled at me, told me it was OK to come in. I painfully remember the skin lesions all over his body. I don’t know if you’ve ever seen those, but you don’t forget them. The way he looked was so shockingly different from how he looked when he was healthy that it scared my 7 year old self. I went to him but I was too afraid to hug him.

Many years later, I laid awake in bed one night thinking about him and could not sleep. I ran down the stairs and bawled my eyes out to my parents about how I “never got to say good bye” and feeling bad that I didn’t hug him when I had the chance. They told me that it was OK, that he always knew I loved him and I was just a little girl. That night, he came to me in a dream. He was smiling, healthy, happy. We embraced. Message delivered.

Now my 30-something self is doing a play that also deals with the topic of AIDS, and that is obviously no accident. I’ve told everyone how I wanted to produce and star in this play because it is funny, the role is so right for me, the characters are so great, I love the playwright…etc, etc. But the truth that you now know is that it’s much more than that. This play is a journey for me, in a very special way.

We have a very limited run November 1st – 4th at The Little Times Square Theatre in NYC. I hope you’ll support this production and come see it, now that you know everything…the last step is to join in on the experience with me, my co-producer/co-star Jason and our dazzling cast & crew. I hope you will.

Click Here for Tickets or Call (212) 868-4444 and press 1 to purchase by phone.

For AIDS info, awareness days, and more click here.

Comments welcome.

Advertisements

8 Things That Are Just Fine With Me

I am giving myself permission to live the life I want to live. Take a look at my list of things that are just fine in my not-a-guru humble opinion, and feel free to add to it in the comments below.

1 – It’s just fine if you don’t leave the house or even get dressed on your day off. Order chicken tikka masala for dinner and watch The Amanda’s on the Style Network. (Ya know, or something like that…*clears throat*) It’s just fine that you won’t see or talk to anyone… except maybe baby-speak to your cat.

2 – It’s just fine if you send everyone to voicemail on your cell phone. You’re awkward on the phone. You never know how to hang up. You get butterflies in your stomach and pace back and forth in your apartment the whole time you’re on a call. It’s just fine. Don’t do this for obvious emergencies, your boss, or when your Grandfather calls though, those are rare and important occasions where it might not be fine.

3 – It’s just fine to be selfish if you admit it and learn from it. “I’m not hanging out with you because I’m all about myself right now. I will be a better person when this phase is over.” Deal. Fine with me! Text me when you’re coming back to brunch.

4 – It’s just fine not to commit to things that make you feel nervous or unhappy. You hate horror movies but everyone is going Friday night? You hate doing shots but the bartender gave you two free ones? Everyone is taking their kid to the new Mommy & Me Bikram class and you’d rather shave your head? Just say no, it’s fine. There is only so much time in life and you don’t have to spend it doing things you don’t like.

5 – It’s just fine to try new things and fail after telling everyone all about them. I’M GOING TO PAINT MURALS! I’M TAKING UP FLAMENCO DANCING! I’M MAKING MY OWN TOOTHPASTE NOW! Whatever it is, try it and share it with your groupies. It’s OK to be excited about something even if it doesn’t work out. If anyone gives you a hard time about it, first, question whether or not they’re truly a good friend, and second, remind them that you try new things and that makes you an adventurous person. “Top that!” – Teen Witch, 1989

6 – It’s just fine to care a lot about your money and be thrifty and careful with it. I’m a little bit cheap too, I admit that. However, I’m currently really proud of myself for getting close to paying off some long-standing large debts, little by little. I think it’s just fine if I check my bank accounts constantly to remind myself of my progress. Go me!

7 – It’s just fine if you are sometimes not the…uh…nicest person. Snarky Facebook comment? Bitchy comment to your unsuspecting partner/soul mate/one-night-stand over morning coffee? It happens. Just apologize and move on.  Pretending you weren’t mean or rude is…well, not as fine.

8 – It’s just fine if you grow up and realize you have some forgiving to do. Either for yourself, your family or friends and people in your past. You can do it. It’s never too late to let go of the thoughts and memories that no longer serve you on your path to awesome. “Relax, relate, release!” – A Different World

Now tell me, what is just fine according to YOU? Comment below!

The Year is Ending, Let’s (Not) Panic!

2011 is coming to an end and the holiday season is in full swing. I have a very “get with it, get into it or get over it” mentality this time of year and I’ve put together a list of things where I plan to do just that…little by little, one day at a time. Pick and choose your favorites and let’s do this. We’re all in this together…

Get With It: 

  • Getting older. I’m in my 30’s, and I’m actually quite relieved about it. People have started to expect me to be smart and thoughtful, rather than snarky and dramatic. This is good for me, because I am smart and thoughtful and I’m glad I’ve reached an age where this is in vogue. Dependable is the new black. I’ve also grown into my fierce eyebrows, finally.
  • Exercise. Don’t groan or sigh at me on this one. I love shaking my ass and I sleep like a baby after sweating in zumba class like underpaid Santa’s sweat in crowded shopping malls. I have to make this a higher priority, or at least place it above “catch up on the DVR” on my to-do list.
  • Sleep. Yep, in my 30’s. My bed is now my baby daddy and I’ll only cheat on him with pillow-top king beds in Mexican resorts. My under-eye dark circles were never a good look, anyway.
  • Eating healthier. This basically means I will try my hardest not to poison myself with fast food or other things that I know actually make me sick, despite what they also do to my waist line.

Get Into It:

  • Organization. I can barely find a pair of matching socks in the morning, let alone the check book once a month for rent. I’m lucky my husband is a moving-talking-live-person, or I’d lose him in this apartment. Oddly, my office space is pristine. I guess that means I like to keep my crazy private, but it’s time for a change.
  • Hobbies. I need more things to do with my free time (when I’m not running around town being famous) other than eating or happy hours. It’s going to be cold for another few months, so I am thinking: reading, more zumba, and possibly baking or some sort of craft that does not involve yarn. Suggestions welcome.
  • Happiness. My smile is way prettier than my frown. Period. End of sentence.

Get Over It: 

  • Holiday pressure. The pressure to: entertain, attend a million parties, bake, clean, visit every family member ever and shop, shop, shop. Just stop. If any of those things make you unhappy or you can’t afford them/don’t have the time this year, choose another option. I am choosing: a few thoughtful gifts that I can afford for my family, donating gifts to toy drives for lil’ ones, paying off debt and paving a less stressful 2012 when it comes to money with my husband and I’m not going to set foot in anyone’s house or any store that I’m not excited about.
  • Attention seeking. I will not make everything about me. I will not create drama. I will gossip less. You can all stop looking at me now. Repeat.
  • #1 Daughter, Wife, Sister & Friend syndrome. My family and friendships are so important to me that I let them stress me out. I want to be there for everyone in every moment and that’s just not possible. I’m a better daughter/wife/sister/friend if I take care of myself first and therefore, require less from the people that love me. I have a big ol’ open heart and I’m not ashamed to admit it. I will also not be ashamed to admit when I need some time to myself.

What are YOU getting with, getting into, or getting over? Please share your thoughts below and share this post with other folks who may be panicking right up until the ball drops. Happiest of Holidays to you!

The Meta Picture

photo credit: themetapicture.com

This Idea Changed My Life

It’s been a while since I’ve written. Now that I’ve acknowledged that, let’s move forward. I’ve had this blog post in my brain for months and was waiting for the right time to assemble the words into a post.

We all go through…a lot. Recently, my home of NYC has seen tremors from an earthquake, faced the threat of a hurricane, 9/11 anniversary terror threats, and (of course) more. Not to mention, personally, some of my family and friends are experiencing difficult, painful, life events. I am sure that some of your friends and family are too. Maybe you know someone who is currently in a lot of physical or emotional pain. It’s possible that even you are, while reading this right now.

Years ago, in my training to become a certified rape crisis counselor in NYC hospital emergency rooms, I learned something that changed my life. It seems almost simple to me now, but at the time, I had never before even considered it. Here it is:

No one person’s pain is any larger or smaller than anyone else’s. You cannot compare your pain to someone else’s. If someone hurts, they hurt. It is not your job to tell them how much they should hurt, or for how long. 

In counseling we were taught this so that we would never compare. To tell a scared, confused, recently assaulted patient something along the lines of, “Oh yea? Well, you should have seen my case last week. She was in much worse shape than you are” to make them “feel better” is really one of the worst things anyone can do. That might seem completely obvious, but you’d be surprised how very common it is to have that reaction, especially if you feel like you can relate to what someone is going through. We were taught not to minimize anyone else’s experience or try to make them see that other people have gone through “worse.” That information isn’t always true, first of all, because you don’t always know someone’s complete history. Something you might find trivial because of your life experience might seem like the literal “end of the world” to someone else. Secondly, we all experience and process things differently. I can’t measure or predict how badly you might feel when you believe your world is falling apart. I can, however, sympathize.

This idea really changed my life. I stopped my very human reaction to convince someone they would be ok, or that things aren’t nearly as bad as they feel they are. I stopped telling stories about how things could be much worse. I’m not always perfect in this, but I think it has strengthened a lot of my relationships and it certainly was a vital thing to remember in the ER in the middle of the night.

Personally, I find the level of tolerance my family and friends have for pain and emergencies to be remarkably high. But that is just my opinion. I feel like I know a lot of strong individuals, whether they realize it or not. You might feel this way about the people in your life, or not. We’ve all thought once or twice that someone needed to “buck up” or “pull it together.” That’s ok, too. It’s so easy to want everyone to see that things will eventually be ok, when you really believe they will. Everybody hurts, right? Right. Just sometimes, in very different ways.

Thoughts? Leave ’em below.

“I am really, really scared right now!”

That is what my smart, beautiful, and down-right wonderful niece said to me this past weekend as we stood in line for her first adult roller coaster. She is 10 years old. She just barely made the height requirement for the larger coasters and the ones with loops and corkscrews. That is a good or bad thing depending on how you look at it, but I knew she would be safe with me as I flashed a pleading look toward the obviously bored ride attendants as they measured her. She was terrified, rightfully so, but she still got on.

I told her that if she felt like crying, just to scream instead because screaming on rides was 100% OK and that way she could let it all out faster. I promised that (even though would stand in line forever) before we knew it the ride would be over. Who can turn down permission to scream your head off? Turns out, she was a pro. She even worked up to keeping her eyes open and loved hanging upside down for the brief loops while going somewhere around 85mph. Having been a lover of roller coasters and frequent Six Flags Great Adventure ticket-holder in my youth, I was ridiculously proud.

In line for an even scarier ride there was a young girl pleading with her older sisters in front of us, “I don’t feel well! Don’t make me do this! I don’t want to go on this ride!” and they were mocking her in return, “Too late, you’re already this far in line, you’re just SCARED! Don’t be SCARED! Why are you so SCARED?!”  We were both watching this, and I leaned down to my niece and whispered in her ear:

“Ya know what I think? I think that it’s OK to be scared. Some things in life are scary. But if you’re scared now, it means you are about to do something really brave…and there is nothing better than being brave!”

As the words were coming out of my mouth, I realized that I also needed to hear them. I have big dreams. I don’t dream small. If I want to make my own dreams come true I am certainly going to have to be brave. The thing is, I think sometimes we’re hard on ourselves for feeling fear. Note: If fear is causing you to stay in bed all day watching DVR’d HGTV shows and eating Tostitos with lime until your tongue goes raw, you should re-visit the idea of anti-anxiety meds before proceeding. However, if you have the kind of fear I do, the kind that exists simply to show you just how much you really want something, than you’re likely about to do something fabulously brave. And really, what’s better than being brave?

You may wait forever, but before you know it...the ride is over. So, buckle up and let's go.

%d bloggers like this: