March 27, 2020

Uncharted Waters

Roughly twelve and a half years ago, I placed myself under my very own ‘stay at home’ order. I was a new mom of the most precious little in the city that never sleeps. A city that never seemed scarier to me than it did the day the hospital released us to go home. 

Home!? In a new house, in a new neighborhood where I literally knew not one.single.person. I trusted no one. Not only was I new to the mom-gig...but I was new to the germaphob-gig. Not that I was a t-totaller...but I definitely preferred every surface, every bottle, every everything to be completely Being the daughter of the daycare-lady...the state guidelines for health and human services regarding birth to three years olds was ingrained in my brain. #mustfollowguidelines

Grocery stores? Carts? The absolute horror. I walked through the stores holding my tiny bundle of fragility, picking up one item at a time...that is, if she joined me. (Shopping took hours.) 
I was given the responsibility to keep this amazing little person safe, healthy, and germ-free…#holyshit 

Sidenote: Not many people in NYC make eye contact...ever. So when anyone did lock eyes with me- I was pretty sure they were a child predator- wanting to steal my baby. #totallynormalmomthought

Eventually, my germ-fears faded- somewhere around her first cold...but my preference of spending time with her versus literally any other activity did not. She was (and let's be clear, still is) my favorite human in the universe. Meet a friend for coffee or sit on the floor and watch Baby Einstein for the ten-thousandth time? Which episode? Because the one on the whales is really catchy. #babybaluga

Now here we are, truly under a real-life ‘stay at home’ order due to COVID-19...and I can’t help but feel a bit like I did the day I left the hospital 12.5 years ago. It is a scary world we live in today, folks. We are back to living in a world where we can trust no one and it is heartbreaking. Our little county is filled with locals and some non-residents all ordered to ‘stay at home’...and some are doing as such, but many are not. Many locals are ranting on social media about out of town license plates and families on vacation during a pandemic. I can’t say I haven’t thought similar thoughts- but I have chosen to keep those thoughts to myself because...let's be real with each other- posting on social media solves no one's problems.

In our household, things are different. Little Miss is learning how to maneuver an online-schooling platform. The hubs and I are learning how to juggle everyone home for lunch. And the dogs? They’re thrilled to have their little person with them all day. (Cats on the other hand- they’re pissed. Too much human interaction. They’ve filed formal complaints about nap/sunning interruptions.)

Aside from the stress of the unknown and obsessively watching the news, I have to admit- we’ve made some incredible family memories so far. When life gets tough- the simple things become the big things that keep us strong. The dog walks together- the giggles over silly things- mucking stalls- the hour of TV before we all fall asleep...those are the things that we will look back on and say “that...that got us through it.” #ihope

In a world of uncertainties- one thing has never been clearer to me. Our family bond is strong...and nothing tests that and makes us stronger like uncharted waters. There is a saying said often on our little island- A calm sea doesn’t make a skilled sailor. In this unknown sea that we are crossing together, I am so thankful for those on the boat with me. 

Hug your know, the ones you live with. And wash your hands. Stay healthy, friends.

January 11, 2020

That Time We Took a Bus to a bunch of theater gypsies.

A few months ago, two theater moms and a Bub devised a plan to surprise their theater girls with a fun-filled, action-packed trip to NYC...on a budget.

Being fortunate enough to have family in NYC willing to take in 5 (!) gals for the weekend, definitely helped our plan along. Before we knew it, our bus tickets were purchased...Broadway shows were booked and it was the day before our arrival in the Big Apple. 

As I began to make our itinerary of places to visit and things to see, I got a bit nostalgic. Thirteen years ago, several of the items on our list were on a bucket-list to accomplish before a baby arrived...the baby who is now accompanying us on this trip. I remember telling Mom how much fun it would be to go into the city for an afternoon- eat in a little cafe and see a Broadway show with her...but Little Miss had other plans. She arrived less than 24 hours after Mom and Daddy arrived in NYC. 

Our car ride from NC to VA to catch our bus north included mostly caffeine with a side of Chick Fil A and showtunes. Adults all agreed we were thankful our travels north were soon to be via bus, where said theater-kiddos would have no choice but to settle down.

Then we arrived at the ‘bus station’ those local to the Outer Banks, was the size of the Little Ceasar’s at West 3rd St...and equally as dicey. 

An eclectic group of folks turned as the stereotypical group of moms approached check-in with our extra bag of Chick Fil A for the road, and Starbucks Peppermint Mochas in tow. We were given a number, literally, and told to sit still until the bus arrived. I obliged- sitting perfectly still with all the luggage I could hold on my lap. We shared nervous looks back and forth, mouthing ‘maybe we should just drive?’ up until a booming voice came over the speakers.
“Attention...when the bus arrives, do not get in line...and do not board the bus. I have to inspect my unit before any and all boarding.”

I bit my lip and glanced over at my fellow stereotypical-counterparts. They give me the ‘yes, he said that...and no, apparently it's not okay to laugh’ look. I held it together. I.did.not.even.grin.

Then he said it again. #comeonman

I giggled like a 12 year old boy watching the change of life video at school. #couldnothelpmyself

In between the announcement  and boarding I notably said “It’ll be fine...this is going to be great!” at least ten times in a row. I evaluated every person and their luggage as they passed me one seemed to have packed snacks- in what world is that normal?! I did note a pungent aroma of what I can only describe as the type of ‘cologne’ Snoop Dogg wears, and said a silent prayer that maybe, just maybe the contact-cologne would calm my nerves? 

“ will be a short, straight, nonstop trip to NYC this evening. Bathrooms are in the back...LIQUIDS ONLY. Absolutely NO shitting on the bus. Ain’t nobody want to smell that for 6 hours. Thank you.”

No shit. Got it. For some reason, this made me feel more comfortable...or was that the cologne?

We all drifted in between slumber and reality on the bus ride. Before we knew it, the announcement boomed over the loudspeaker that we would be arriving in the city in just a few minutes. 

Almost an hour early...homeboy was booking it. #nostoptilbrooklyn

We were all so excited. I had the same feeling I did on my first visit to NYC...the excitement of the lights- the fast pace- the city that never sleeps. Ah New York- you’re and I have an abusive relationship...and this morning, we are in the honeymoon phase of entrigue. 

We got off the bus...and realized it was 5am and we had nowhere to be until 7am. I decided it may be a decent time to give everyone (namely the two tiny folks with no filters) a brief peptalk.

“Okay...we will see things in the city that we don’t see at home. Homeless people...different looking people...and we don’t ever want to point- or say what we might think. We are not in Kansas anymore, Toto.”

Thirty seconds later.

“Do you think we will get mugged!?!?!”

Apparently I wasn’t quite specific enough. #theaterkidshavenofilter #theyalsocantwhisper

We walk up the block as I try to get my New York bearings. We all had to use the facilities and desperately needed to brush our teeth. Starbucks? Closed until 6. 7-11? Open, no bathroom...and a rude clerk. (Oh NYC, I took that first slap like a champ.) Port Authority? Port Authority! 

“Perfect, it’s open...they have big bathrooms and lots of police!” I said, to a small audience of deer, appearing to look directly into headlights.

We freshened up with New York’s finest (and several homeless folks) and hiked off to the Today Show! The girls were excited to see just about everything that everyone else who was standing outside 30 Rockefellar Plaza couldn’t give two hoots about. Production, stage hands, management, all the workers that put in time to make the show guys, when asked if they wanted to be on TV, they shrugged. They soaked up every bit of information they could, like they were studying for finals. 
Little Miss is well-versed in city life...or perhaps moreso, tech-life. I suppose most young-folks are more tech-savvy than the fossils they call parents. Following our visit at The Today Show, we planned to head to Brooklyn to visit Bobbie and drop off our luggage. (Bobbie - AKA: Little Miss’s grandmother; our host for the weekend; my Jewish Mama; Bub’s counterpart)

“Mom...we can just get an Uber,” Little Miss says, with such duh in her voice that my nostrils flared and ears pinned like the stubborn mare I am.

I handed her my phone and asked her to speak Uber to it because I was certainly not understanding this gibberish she was speaking. A few seconds later, the phone dinged that our Uber had arrived! Before we knew it...we were off to Brooklyn and our driver was telling me/us his life story- and I shared bits of ours. He took us on the Brooklyn bridge so the girls could see the skyline behind us, pointed out the Lady Liberty across the Hudson, and graciously joined us for a photo upon delivery to Brooklyn. 

{Walking into Bobbie’s building sent me into time-travel- it was November 1, 2006 and I was walking into those doors carrying a carseat with a two-day-old Little Miss...the buzzer rang and I was immediately embraced and brought back into reality.}

The amount of food set out for us would’ve easily fed an army. We ate, visited, and then were back off to the city to meet with friends/family from The Lost Colony. Something I’ve learned while being a bit of a theater-hanger-on is once you’ve performed with someone for several months- in the middle of the hottest part of the summer, dodging everything from mosquitos to lightening are family and I’m so thankful for that. Once again, laughs and memories were shared while we toured Madame Tussaud’s, Bryant Park, and again...every Starbuck’s in between right up until the big moment…

Mean Girls

Little Miss has talked about seeing this show for years...and it was finally showtime. Watching the look on the girls’ faces was absolutely priceless. The show was have no words to describe how freaking amazing this show was- that kind of incredible. We were able to meet most of the cast after the show- which again, was priceless.

On our second (and last) day in the city, we hit Chinatown, Little Italy, the Friends apartment...and most memorable, the 9/11 memorial. 

When I lived in NYC, the WTC area was still rubble...and was only described as Ground Zero. It was a very emotional hour spent walking around the memorial, reading the names of those who lost their lives that September morning, and observing others doing the same. I watched as a small child clutched an American flag, while standing in front of the ‘Survivor Tree’ as tears ran down my face. The entire area was almost completely silent in a city of sirens and horns. 

Waitress was next up on our Broadway list...and it did not disappoint. Once again, a fellow Colony member had ties to Waitress, as Andy Griffith portrayed the diner’s owner in the movie. Post-show, we stood outside in the sideways rain to meet the cast...and again, it was priceless.

The next day we were up early to catch our southbound bus home. We reflected on our trip the entire way back- along with a sprinkle of gossip here and there. We met those seated around us and shared laughs when they heard of our red-eye trip north. It was truly one of the most memorable trips...with the most special people. (Seriously, it takes a special bond to be able to travel together, ladies. We freaking rocked it.)

I would do it again...the exact same a New York minute.

August 24, 2019

The Lost Colony - One More Time

There is a bit of sacred ground on the north end of Roanoke Island…where, each summer for the last five years, we gather to share the story of The Lost Colony. 

Our first summer, Little Miss portrayed the roll of a child in the audience, chosen by the narrator to hear the story of the New World, and all that entailed. She walked with him each evening, looking on intently as he talked of Indian battles and the birth of the first English child. That year, Daddy took her to the theater often. On the evenings he would drop her off, I could count on my phone ringing shortly before showtime.

“Hey Bud…I’m gonna stay. I’ve just got to watch it one more time,” he would say.

I hear those words ring over and over today- one more time- when I think of all the things I should be doing at home- the ever-growing pile of laundry, the stalls that need to be cleaned, dinner that has been frozen or fast-food for too many nights in a row. But no…one more time, I remind myself- and I stay at Waterside Theater.

Rehearsal season #2 began just a few days after Daddy’s passing. We were all still numb. The words of sympathy and hugs were appreciated but I don’t know if they were truly absorbed. Little Miss was given the role of a young colonist, with lines. Mom and I shared a silent look- Daddy told every nurse in the hospital that his granddaughter was going to be returning for her second season, and would have lines- something we had no way of knowing at the time. (The scene was later cut and I never forgave that year’s production manager, who is likely being haunted by an angry farmer.)

Throughout that season and every season since, I have felt Daddy's presence so strong on the sound side, leaning against an old Oak tree, watching…one more time.

An interesting fact about, well, any theater production really- however it seems to ring truer in this particular show- is that you will never see the same show twice. The family of actors changes- some new, some returning…some returning in different roles. New Old Tom says this line quirkier than the last, this Eleanor Dare shoots a gun, this Queen is local, blond, and rides horses in her spare time…wait, what? (One can only wish.)

I’m a firm believer that God places people in our paths for specific reasons- to teach us, nurture us, learn from us, etc. In five seasons, I have watched Little Miss make some of her best friends in the sand at Waterside Theater. Unconventional, fly-across-the-country, strong, amazing friendships. From these actors, she has learned as many life-lessons as stage-lessons. She’s learned that life throws curves at us- you may start out in one role, and end up in another! She’s learned the importance of showing up. (And surprise-visits!) The talent and confidence she’s absorbed from her peers is invaluable. 

This season, she was cast (among other roles) as a dead body. She was delighted to add something new to her resume- a stage fall. Each night, she was painted green during intermission and placed behind a curtain where- when she hears her cue- she throws herself out onto the wooden stage. Once there, she has to lay perfectly still…because you know, she’s dead. (Mosquitos feasting…rain falling…perfectly still.)

“Mama, I think it makes sense for me to be in prologue…since I’m a dead body,” she told me, a few rehearsals in. (During prologue, spirits of the lost colonist appear behind the narrator.)

“That’s a great idea! Why don’t you mention it?” I encouraged.

Before I knew it, Little Miss’s twelve-year-old-self had shared her vision with her director- Ira David Wood, III. (Who is extremely-talented, and thankfully, humble.) He approved her request to be the first child-addition in the prologue.

A blink of an eye and some 70+ shows later, the cast of the 82nd season walked its final march. (The actual final show was cancelled due to a lightning storm that seemed to hover directly over the theater.) All the sweat and exhaustion of the summer faded in the moments we heard the announcement…one more time.

Little Miss hugged her cast-mates and shared tears. I watched as the adults were equally as sad as she, to say goodbye. 

As we walked in the rain to the parking lot, we were joined by our favorite narrator. He is one of those friends who is now family- one of those friends who just shows up, sharing encouragement, advice, and sarcasm. (And on Little Miss’s first ever audition, joined her onstage because she had an unexpected moment of stage-fright.) As the path ended, we said our good-byes, which since we all live here, was not as dreary as the weather.

“Love you!!” Little Miss said to him.

I started to cry. Little Miss only says those words if she feels it in her heart and equally, feels it from the other party.

We got in the truck and I tried my best to get my shit together. Little Miss was oblivious to the rain shower flying out of my eyeballs.

“He doesn’t look like Grandad…or sound like him. But…he is always proud of me…and it makes me want to make him proud, like grandad,” she said, looking out the window, almost talking to herself.

As we drove away from our 5th season…I thanked God for the paths he crossed with ours, for popcorn dinners that allowed me to watch one more time and for an unconventional closing night that gave us a few extra moments with our people

Thank you, The Lost Colony…you will be remembered. 

July 13, 2019

I'm Right Where I Need to Be

Life is made up of many seasons. When your little, the seasons consist of the beginning of school, Christmas break, winter-time, and summer-time. When you get older, you look back on significant moments and judge the season by where you worked, how old your child was, or by what relatives were beside you. 

A few months ago, several things changed in my life and while some were a little nerve-wrecking, today I am thankful for the season we are finding ourselves in.

To start- I decided to return to East Carolina University to complete my degree in communication. (Remember back when I decided to move to NYC and have a baby roughly 12 years ago? Although I only lacked a few Pirate-credit hours, they’re pretty insistent that I actually complete those. Technicality.) I’m very excited to complete something I began many moons ago- while also feeling a bit like a nerdy dinosaur. College, Take-2 is off to a marvelous start! (Who knew if we took away the alcohol, and sprinkled on some ‘focus’ I could literally bring my A game!)

Near the time of my college-revelation, changes were swirling about at my legal-assiting gig. We were about to be on the move again...but this time my potential new office would involve a longer drive and a new position. It was a wonderful opportunity that I’m incredibly grateful for, but the more I thought about the changes and the distance from home- the more my stomach hurt. To put it in prospective, I worried over taking/passing on said position as if I had been up all night with a colicing horse. #shitwasreal 

Each evening I came home from the office, sat on our John Deere with my husband...and evaluated the situation- over...and over…and over again. (God bless him, he listened to whatever side of the fence I was on and supported me and my decision.) Was I being ungrateful for not even giving the new gig a shot? Was I being irrational by even thinking I was being ungrateful...duh, you’re a can’t be further away from home. 

I did the only thing I knew to do...I prayed really hard about it. I prayed for a sign that this opportunity was actually for me...I prayed for a position closer to home...I prayed for God to just tell me what the hell to do…#GodandItalklikethat

Then it happened...over lunch with my sweet-friend- she shared she was leaving her position at Bayliss Boatworks and moving closer to her family. I instantly got a lump in my throat. I saw God’s billboard sign, flashing with big neon letters. (The flashing neon said “I can’t get you any closer to home...what more of a sign to you need, kid?!”)

Shortly thereafter, the third anniversary of Daddy’s death left me a sobbing mess. I wasn’t prepared to be such a baby on year three...but I was. I just wanted his advice on everything...was it a good idea to even interview for a job with my spouse? Should I just try the original position further north? Will either position be a position that will make you proud?

Mid-ugly cry on my way home, somewhere on the beach-road...I yelled to no one.

Why. WHY!? I just want to hear his voice...or see some kind of sign that shows me I am not f*cking up.

A few hours phone dinged. Look outside towards the shop.

I walked outside on the porch to see a huge, gorgeous rainbow...that landed on top of Bayliss Boatworks.

Thanks, Daddy.

A few days later, I accepted my current position as the new construction coordinator...and my commute takes roughly 35 seconds, if there is traffic. (Oh and on that evening, another double rainbow appeared. Between God and Daddy, I think they’re making damn sure I get the signs.)

In this season of life, I’m going to complete my degree...and learn how to speak boat. After all- life can change without our permission- and even the most strong-willed cowgirls cannot control that...but we can control our attitudes and that is what determines the ride. 

April 28, 2019

Chris & George

March 30, 2019 was a day I will never, as long as I live, forget. I think my husband would agree- it is right up there with our wedding day. On this fateful day, we got to see Chris Stapleton and George Strait perform live in Atlanta.

We woke up at 4am and were out the door by 4:30. My sweet husband drove the entire way to Atlanta while I serenaded him with everything from Eric Church to Eminem. #luckyhusband We arrived at our hotel just in time to change and haul ass to the stadium. We still arrived hours before Chris or George were set to take the stage, but I couldn’t settle down until we got to our seats. I just wanted to know we were where we needed to be- together- drinking $10 beers with 80,000 rednecks. #everycowgirlsdream

Chris Janson opened for Chris Stapleton, and another gal did too, but we missed her set because we couldn’t figure out how to get into the parking lot. #bigcityproblems Chris ran onstage and within about 30 seconds, I felt like we were the only people in a tiny honky-tonk bar. The man sang He talked about his ‘bonus children’ the way we talk about our girls, and maybe it was the lack of sleep, the high elevation, or just me missing our girls…but eyes filled up to the brim.

“Step kid just sounds like they aren’t as special,” he said to the crowd.

In a world of selfies and made up languages (I’m talking to you, Cardi-B) it was refreshing to hear a man stand on stage in front of thousands of people talk about his family…his bonus children…and his wife. That is real life.

While I dried my eyes, the seats around us filled with cowboy boots and plaid shirts...and cellphones. Literally every person in front of us was either taking selfies or videoing every moment of the evening on SnapChat.

Pardon me while I step onto my soapbox for a moment…

I took one selfie and one video...why? I wanted something to remember the evening- which is why we take photos, correct? A photo allows us to travel in time back to that moment and remember the feelings, the smells, the laughter, the tears...the memories attached to the photo is what makes the photo special. HOWfreakingEVER, filming every second of the evening removes the emotion completely. It takes away from the excitement of seeing George Strait dance onto the stage with his guitar...a two-step that continued for over two hours. There were times that I felt it was only George and his guitar...the band members faded into the shadows, the screaming fans disappeared...and it was just George and his dance partner- his acoustic guitar.

How can you feel that if your version of living in the moment is living through a snapchat filter?

Shoutout to the lady-beside-me- your constant filming made me sing louder, knowing that my tone-deaf vocals would be the memory saved in your iphone. #yourewelcome

Our generation and those younger do not know how to enjoy a single moment without documenting it. (The irony here is that I’m writing about this experience on my blog...which will be posted on social media for all ten of you to read. Hi, Bailey!) Whether a concert or a dinner plate, each and every moment is documented, filtered, and shared for hundreds of their closest friends to judge, like, and comment on.

Is this really what our generation will be remembered for? An addiction to filtered memories?

Allow me to climb down off the soapbox.

I wouldn’t change a thing about our evening with Chris x 2 and George. There is not one single song I had hoped to hear that they didn’t perform...and perform so well that I still hear it playing in my mind. George sang several Merle Haggard tunes. The soundtrack of my parents love story includes many Merle-melodies, which made the performance even more emotional for me. I often feel my father’s presence but during that particular moment...I could see his grin smiling back at me.

If you ever get the chance to see any of the three mentioned performers, do whatever you have to do to get in sick, sell your favorite pair of boots, whatever you have to give up- I promise you, it will be worth it.

And for the love of God, put your cellphone down and listen once you get there. ;-)