Thursday, August 27, 2009

this. just. messed. me. up.

This girl is 20 years old.

At the Lord's leading she moved herself to Uganda.

She has since adopted 13 children who simply had no one taking care of them.

And I much as I talk...

would I ever actually have the courage to do it.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Glinda the Good Witch

For those of you who are still excited to read about The Wizard of Oz (Sarah and Sue Dub) here's little bitty Chloe...
This tiny little sprig of a thing was our Glinda. The kid came to auditions and did a fabulous job reading. She's 62 years old and stuck in an 8 year old body. We had her read for Glinda in the auditions and for some reason, every time she read Glinda, she read it with a British accent. She has this huge mass of curly hair on top of her head and looked and sounded just like Hermione. During auditions I said, "Chloe do you like Harry Potter?" She said yes and I said, "Oh, that's why you sound like Hermione." I must have hurt her feelings because she looked at the floor and wouldn't lift her head up. I said, "That's a good thing kiddo. Most kids your age can't talk with an accent like that." She smiled, but the look on her face made it abundantly clear that she had no idea what I was talking about. So I asked her to read it without an accent. She couldn't do it. For some reason, in her mind, that is what Glinda sounded like, and nothing was going to be able to get her to say those lines any differently. That being said, it fit the part incredibly well and we didn't even question whether or not to give it to her.
The day we passed out parts, she looked incredibly dejected. I was shocked, thinking that most little girls would want the princess role, getting to be all dolled up in a big pink dress. But Chloe was clearly not content. I went over and talked to her and told her about how she had a lot of lines and even a solo and she looked at me and said very seriously, "Oh. I've never sung by myself on stage before." With her extremely matter of fact tone of voice she might as well have closed the script, handed it back to me and walked out of the theatre. I realized that she was already convinced that once she told me that, she wouldn't have the part anymore. So I explained to her that there's a first time for everything and she should be excited that this would be her first solo. To which she said, "But there's going to be people here." I pretty much just laughed and walked away. She continued to look disgruntled though and as we were doing the script read thru we finally were approaching her first line. I said, "Chloe get ready. Your part is coming up." When it was her turn to read her first line she raised her hand and said, "I just need to say something...I really wanted to be a munchkin." We did our best to explain to her that she would probably like this better, but truth be told, at the end of the day I don't think it really mattered to her whether she was a munchkin or the good witch.

Chloe was one of those kids that would get the giggles. I mean out of control, unstoppable, contagious giggles. Most of the time, it was pretty funny. She always had a question and you always had to pay attention to where she was because she'd become a munchkin in a hot second if you didn't keep your eye on her and remind her that she had a pretty important lead role and she needed to play it.
One day I was trying to block one of the munchkin scenes and I had placed every kid exactly where I needed them to be and said, "DON'T MOVE AT ALL." I turned my back for just a couple of minutes to work with Dorothy and by the time I turned back around, munchkins were everywhere and they were all bent crooked, swinging one knee back and forth and Chloe said, "Look Miss Jen...we're doin' the Stanky Leg." If you don't know what that is, youtube it. To look around and see Glinda spearheading a munchkinland rendition of the Stanky Leg was, well...pretty hilarious.

For such a tiny little thing, the girl knew how to make a point. She was tougher than you would have ever guessed and when one of the boys had an issue staying out of the girls' dressing room, Chloe took it upon herself to handle the situation. And I'll just say this...he never went within ten feet of it after that. She was also one of the more dramatic in the group. In her bio in the program she wrote that she "loved camp because it gave her the opportunity to experience the pain and drama of millions."

No better place in the world for that girl to be than on a stage.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Monday's Fabulous Moment

In a nutshell:

Finding out that my car's emergency brake doesn't really work as well as it should.

The End

Friday, August 21, 2009

I love cellos.

I don't know what it is about them...but I just love that sound.

One of these days I'll get back...

Lately, it seems like a lot of my mind's attention has been on NYC. With friends coming and going and me all wrapped up in my theatre bubble the way I used to be I haven't been able to help but to think of all the fun memories I have there.

The first time I went I was 8 years old. My grandma took my cousin and me and we stayed with the family of a friend of hers. Getting to do New York the way people who live there do was pretty amazing although I don't remember as much of it as I wish I did. It's funny the little things you remember though. I remember being at the top of the World Trade Center towers. It was 1993 and one of the buildings had just been bombed. I remember looking from the one we were standing in, into the hole of the one next to it. Les Miserables must have been on Broadway because I remember seeing the famous face of that little girl on buildings everywhere and my grandma pointing to it and saying she wanted to take us to see that show. I don't remember having any knowledge of Broadway or real theatre. And I know I told her I didn't want to see it. That sad face scared me. How much I wish I hadn't said that... I remember my grandma taking us both to the Gap and buying us each a new outfit for school and feeling so excited to wear that on the first day.

The next time I went was my junior year of high school and it was without a doubt one of the most fun weeks of my life. My friend Rob and I ran all over the city, usually without a chaperone. I'll never forget heading down some back alley as it started pouring down rain, completely starving, and walking into a random deli. I swear it was full of Mafia members and the minute we stepped through the door every head of every huge man in the place turned and stared at us. We were scared to stay, but more scared to leave. So we bought a brownie, ate it quickly and scurried out, checking behind us every few steps to make sure we weren't being followed. That trip was where all of my Broadway experiences started. I slept through Music Man, was completely taken with Kiss Me Kate and cried through The Lion King. I still cry every time I hear Endless Night.

After that trip I had trips with my mom and trips with my dad. For awhile there I was going multiple times a year. I spent hours in Central Park. I was there the May before Sept. 11th and the June after. I saw The Producers, 42nd Street, Hairspray, Little Shop of Horrors, Movin' Out, Cabaret...and who knows what all else. I won front row tickets to Wicked with Kristin Chenoweth, Eden Espinosa, Joel Grey and Norbert Leo Butz. I made it to FAO Schwartz a couple of times and remember walking up to the door on my last trip, so excited, only to read a sign on the door that said it had gone bankrupt. I've eaten so much greasy pizza that I've probably put forced myself into an early grave with it. I road tripped it with some of the best women in my life.

I've been there with some of my favorite people in the world and there's just something about the experience that makes your relationships stronger. Something about the bigness, the busyness that connects you with the person you're there with, isolates you as you realize that without them you'd just feel really lonely in a big, beautiful city full of life.

Anyway, as boredom drew me into blogging, that's what was on my mind. It won't be anytime soon, but maybe one of these days, I'll get back...

Thursday, August 20, 2009

I'm just a big, messy closet...

"The heart is hopelessly dark and deceitful,
a puzzle that no one can figure out.
But, I, God, search the heart
and examine the mind.
I get to the heart of the human.
I get to the root of things.
I treat them as they really are,
not as they pretend to be."

Jeremiah 17:9-10 (The Message)

God...searching our heart. Our hopelessly dark and deceitful heart. Our Lord and Father...examining our mind. The One who created everything thing we see and everything we don't see...not allowing us to pretend any longer, but calling things what they are. Treating them for what they are.

It's painful.

Left to our own devices, we are all dark. Without hope. We are all deceitful.

When I started my journey to truly understanding this, to seeking Truth, not truth, I thought that the decision to start that journey would be the hardest part. Subconsciously, somewhere I believed that once I stepped out into faith to make that decision God would just be there to cradle me through the process, changing my heart quickly and painlessly. It seems crazy, but it must be what I believed, because it's how I responded. If you ever wonder what you truly believe, look at your response when something defies your expectations.

But God gave me this picture...

A closet. A big, messy closet.

And it helped me to understand.

Because here's the thing, if our heart is like our closet, just big and messy and full of stuff, most of us all go through the same process to clean it out. We pull almost everything out. And when you pull all that junk out and it's laying on the floor outside the door, you realize you've got a far bigger mess than you even thought. Sometimes, in the beginning, you're still feeling on top of the world and ready to take on the mess. But as you start putting little things away, back where they belong, you realize that there are things you never knew were there in the first place and things you had put there so long ago and then just forgot about. The longer you stare at it, it seems that somehow things are getting messier rather than cleaner. At least before it was contained, but now it's all out in the open...and something has to be done with it.

There are 3 options:

Toss it all back in. It won't go back in the same place it was before, but it will be a mess just the same. And you'll be a little more aware of all the things that are in there that you need to get rid of, but decide to just deal with that later. Hiding it...a dangerous place to find yourself.

Or, you could leave it all out, exactly where it is. A mess, for anyone and everyone to see. A mess for you to constantly be reminded of. A mess that if not attended to will get pushed and shoved around because it's in the way of everything else in your space. can just keep going through the process. Piece by piece until everything is cleaned back up and back where it belongs.

It's what God does with our hearts when we allow Him into that mess. He helps us sort through, decide what to keep and what needs to be thrown out. What needs to be given away. What needs a little TLC before being put back in its place. Where we need to put things when we put them back in so that everything can be seen, and everything has its place.

He will not bail out on the process. And we shouldn't either. It's going to feel a lot messier before it feels cleaner, but the polishing will happen and your heart will shine again.

" out your salvation with fear and trembling; for it is God who is at work in you, both to will and to work for His good pleasure."
Philipians 2:12-13 (NASB)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The High Cost of Friendship

Read it. Ingest it.

Monday's Fabulous Moment

So, someone to give me a little razzing about my lack of blogging is apparently all it takes these days.

Here it is. I didn't find, or seek out, or create a Monday's Fabulous Moment yesterday. I But cut me some slack. I'm coming back from an MFM hiatus. Instead, I know it's not the same, but I had a Sunday's Fabulous Moment and a Tuesday's Fabulous Moment. That should more than make up for it.

Sunday I was having lunch at Jason's Deli with a dear friend. For those of you who have ever been to Jason's, you know the check out process is kinda whack. It stresses me out a little. Not gonna lie. But the cash register guy is wearing his nametag on the sleeve of his shirt and it says, "Ninja Dave." I watch him as he checks out the two people in front of me and he's moving at a ridiculous pace. He is completely owning the number pad on the cash register and seems to have made it his own personal goal to never have anyone waiting on anything so while one hand is ringing up the total for the second customer, his other hand is swiping the first customer's credit card. Once the receipt prints he tears that off for the first customer while simultaneously swiping the credit card for the other person. I'm trying really hard not to laugh by the time it's my turn and I walk up to the register and say, " they call you Ninja Dave because you move at the speed of light?" He doesn't even look up but just keeps punching buttons. But then, in a very Napolean Dynamite tone of voice says, "Yeah, I guess so."

A few seconds go by before he finishes with, "That...and other reasons."

Sunday's Fabulous Moment. Done.

Tuesday's Fabulous Moment:

I'm sitting here at the front desk at the Carver and a tall, scrawny, middle-aged, really scrappy white guy just came in and said he just wanted to look around. I told him that wasn't a problem and as he walked off, his phone started blaring, "Chim Chim Cheree."


Thursday, August 13, 2009

Maybe it's in the story we choose...

A few weekends ago I was blessed enough to be able to go home and celebrate my grandmother's 70th birthday. It was awesome and I couldn't help but realize how lucky I am that in 25 years of life, I still have all four of my grandparents and have gotten to watch all of them celebrate their 70th birthdays and both sets celebrate 50 years of marriage. Pretty amazing. But story for another day.

Point being, in getting together with my family, and getting to spend time with my grandfather and his sisters, I realized that I come from a line of amazing storytellers. No matter what mundane, everyday scenario they're telling, it's always intriguing and usually hilarious. I find myself never wanting to open my mouth when I'm around them because I never want to cause them to stop talking. These are people who live in tiny farm towns in Iowa and somehow, every time I hear about the relatively slow lives that they live, I get sucked into it like a Harry Potter book. They talk about things like the farmer down the road or the lengths they went to to get Rosie the hummingbird to drink Aunt Shirley's sweet syrupy concoction. It's not that they're overly expressive or animated it's just the things that they choose to tell. It's the details they include and the details they leave out. It's the way they notice the quirky little pieces that make the story different than every other story, that make today different than every other routine day.

For most of my life I thought I wanted to be a writer. When I was a child, I wrote stories all the time. I went to school to do journalism. I wanted to write for a magazine for awhile. I was a writing coach in college. I thought that I adored writing. But as time goes on I realize more and more that it's not writing, but storytelling, that I love. And now I know that it's in my blood and although there are days where I think I'm crazy for the things that I pay attention to, I'm now fully confident that crazy or not, it's in my genes. There are times when people talk about my ability to write or my gift of writing and it almost makes me uncomfortable. While I so appreciate the thought, I'm ultimately not a great writer. I punctuate where my thoughts end, could care less about grammar, and start a ton of sentences with "and" or "but" because I usually write exactly what I think. But as I read back on some of my posts, I realize that much like my aunts, I think what gets people is the story I choose to tell.

I'm not going to tell you how beautiful Dorothy's little voice was. I couldn't actually describe that if I wanted to and it's kind of a given. She was Dorothy. Obviously she can sing. But my hope in telling you that this little girl needed a nap right before the show and told me that she wanted me to be there when she woke up hopefully spoke a lot more to the kind of person I was dealing with. Hopefully it spoke about the fact that she was the perfect Dorothy because in real life she was just this sweet little affectionate girl who adored the people around her. I can tell you that I feel like I live a "These Things Don't Happen to Normal People" life, but it's in telling you that I punctured my Wendy's cup with an earring and diet coke sprayed all over my car that it makes a little more sense.

I think I've probably been given a gift for it. But what am I really doing with it? What other stories am I telling? Am I telling people that Jesus died on a cross to save them from their sins? Not usually. Which is convicting enough. But would that
be the story I need to tell anyway? Because for me, and the way that I think, that would be like saying that the girl who played Dorothy could sing really well. How about this story...

That after being unemployed for 6 months and feeling desperately lost, my knees quite literally hit the ground and I said, "God, please...anything. I don't care if you give me a job, just show me where you want me to be. Just give me a part of the country to look in so that I feel like I have some sense of direction." And about 12 hours later I discovered a job posting for my dream job in Austin, TX...24 hours later I had an interview with them...and 3 months later I made the 14 hour drive with all of my belongings.

And if I feel the need to be funny, why aren't I telling this story...

That one Sunday afternoon in Austin, TX, not long after I moved here, I was feeling incredibly lonely. I was sitting outside at a restaurant and I prayed and said, "God, I don't know where you are. I don't know where anybody is. I just feel so alone." Minutes later a little green gecko literally appeared on the umbrella in the middle of my table. I watched him as he slowly and carefully walked down the stand and made his way onto the table in front of me. For the longest time, he just stayed there with me. Looking at me, looking at my food, wandering around, but never leaving. Even when I would move. For those of you that know how skiddish little lizards can be, you'll understand why this didn't make a whole world of sense. But I felt peace in that 20 or so minutes he was with me. I remember laughing and saying, "God really? A lizard?" But it worked. I was laughing rather than crying. I was feeling peace rather than anxiety. I was feeling companionship rather than loneliness.

On days when I feel overwhelmed with the thought about sharing the Gospel, I need to think about what story I'm going to tell. It's something I know how to do. It's in finding those funny, silly, quirky moments with Jesus that will make Him come alive. It's in the weight of a time of desperation that God swooped and rescued me that make Him compassionate, because simply saying that we were made by a compassionate and loving God seems like a distant and vague idea to most, even Christians. It's in not leaving out the details of God just because I'm scared of the reaction. Because if I choose to tell any of these little stories and leave God out of them, then maybe I'm telling the wrong story.

Maybe, just maybe, it's all in the story I choose.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Here's one for you...

After realizing that I have like .7 of a mile left before I run out of gas, freaking out, praying and hitting a station to fill up, I head to Wendy's for lunch. They hand me my diet coke in a paper cup and I set it in my cup holder, just like I always would. I put the straw in, start to drive off and pick it up to take a drink. I notice one of my earrings dangling off the bottom of the cup. Hmm...that's weird, must have set them in the cup holder. Never once considering HOW the earring is attached to the cup I yank it off. For those of you who have never seen what happens when large amounts of liquid is trying to get through a pin size hole, it doesn't merely drip, but sprays. I am now trying to drive my stick shift and figure out what to do with the projectile stream of diet coke that is coming out of the bottom of my cup and spraying horizontally all over my car. I quickly reach for a napkin put it at the bottom and set the cup back in the other cup holder. At which point the diet coke sprays up and out like a fountain and lands nicely on my knee.

These things don't happen to normal people.

Monday, August 10, 2009

A pretty sweet Scarecrow

Sarah, your blogging begging has not been in vain.

Here we go...back to the Wizard of Oz and Miss Carina... Carina came into auditions wanting to be the scarecrow and like Sam, completely nailed the audition. I quickly realized that Carina is one of, if not the most naturally gifted kid I've ever worked with. Her instincts on stage are almost unbelievable and her expressions are well...
...priceless. As I looked through picture after picture of the show, I couldn't stop laughing because there wasn't a moment on stage that she wasn't completely animated and in character. She has such a laid back personality that when things went wrong, she was the kid I could count on to fix it. She was the kid that was going to laugh if something fell apart, not get stressed out. She was the kid who was going to recover a line that got dropped. She was the kid who would just sing her song, loud, clear and on key, and do the dance with it and rarely miss a step.

And she and I connected quickly. When we had a discussion about whether or not she'd ever done theatre before, which she hadn't, and she told me that she wouldn't do theatre very often because she loves soccer too much, I just smiled.
This is the only picture I have of her with her hat on. It wasn't ready for her on opening night.

Carina is one of the smartest, most mature kids I've ever met. I know there isn't a thing in the world she's found that she isn't capable of doing and doing well. But she still had that sweet silliness that kids have. She was my reminder to laugh when things were funny. She's the one who when I was getting frustrated because of the giggling fit all the kids were having said, "Miss Jen...laughter is contagious you know," and then kept right on laughing.

One of the best things that I'll remember about this show is the friendship that she and Dorothy formed. Off stage, they became those characters. Just two people who had known each other for such a short time, but had a friendship that appeared to have been decades old. When Carina would leave for the day it wouldn't take Alexis 5 minutes before she'd say, "I miss my friend. I wish she'd come back." And they were just always happy being together. One day when Alexis got overwhelmed and started crying saying she wasn't sure she wanted to be Dorothy anymore, Carina was right there. She didn't say much (at first) but was just there with her. When I said, "Alexis honey, you've got to go be Dorothy because so many people are looking forward to seeing you. And people are looking forward to seeing Carina. If you don't go on stage, Carina won't get to either and people want to see how talented you girls are." which Carina said, "I love me! I'm awesome at this!" And we all just laughed.
Carina's is one of the personalities I miss the most on a day to day basis. No matter what she could always make me smile. I knew that if I walked in the theatre, without fail, she would smile really big, run up to me and give me a huge hug. She was always ready to work. When we had our Juneteenth celebration and the kids got to play at that all day she came up to me at 5:00 and said, "Miss Jen can we start rehearsal now?" She always wanted to do Act 1, Scene 8...her main scene, even though we never needed to rehearse her because the minute you told her how to do something she had it down.
When her mom told me on the last day that Carina had said, "Mom, I really want to come to this camp next year, " I'm pretty sure that I didn't do a very good job of containing my excitement. I can only hope we're that lucky.