Lessons from a displaced butterfly.

By | 2018-04-07T23:19:12-04:00 August 13th, 2017|accessories, animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, cars, civil rights, earth, gratitude, hate crime, immigration, inspiration, Liberty, Life, mental health, musical theater, parenthood, parenting, racism, sadness, strangers, stress relief, teenager, teenagers, teens, victim|

I must confess that it has been difficult to write in the last couple months because of the instability, unrest, fear, ugliness, uncertainty and more, that has been plaguing our great nation. Some might say “that’s the perfect time to write”, while others will say “I totally get it.” I simply continued to remind myself, that I tend to write when the story comes to me, and thankfully today it has. It’s not the story I intended to write about, but sometimes those are the ones that need telling.

I had pulled up to the dorm at Carnegie Mellon University, where my oldest son had just finished a Pre-college Drama program. Everyone had to be packed and out by 2pm, because the incoming students would be arriving shortly. I’m blissful in my “mommy-van” because my baby is coming home. There are lots of happy parents and families milling about, weepy teenagers sad to be leaving their newly made friends and surely sad to be giving up some newly found independence while they are whisked back in to the bosom of their family. A car pulls up behind me on the steep driveway of the dorm, it’s a mom and daughter, picking up a family member, too. I hop out to make sure there’s enough clearance for the trunk to open, and I immediately notice what looks like a big butterfly accessory pinned to the grill of this woman’s car. My first reaction is “Oh wow, another person who loves butterflies, and so much so that she didn’t hesitate pinning one to the front of her vehicle, right near the not-quite-peace-sign looking emblem announcing the make of her car!”

butterfly

Displaced butterfly

I quickly realized it wasn’t an accessory, but an actual butterfly that had gotten caught on the grill at some point during her drive. I walked over to the woman behind the wheel and motioned for her to open her window. With a smile, I told her that the most beautiful butterfly had gotten caught on the front of her car and that I wanted to take a picture of it before I tried to move it. I wasn’t asking permission, but just wanted to make sure she knew what I was doing, but also because I wanted to share my wonder of this creature. At this point, it occurred to me that this was not in fact another butterfly lover, this was a person who could care less about the beauty and delicate nature of such a creature pinned to her fancy schmancy car. You know how I know this? If someone came up to my car window and told me there was a butterfly stuck to my vehicle, I would have jumped out to see it and to see if I could help the butterfly. This woman seemed more annoyed than anything.  I proceeded to take the picture of the butterfly and promptly walked right back to her window and made her look at it, then I told her I was going to try and remove it. Her reaction was formulaic with a “how sad” kind of awwww, and then a tacit approval of my wanting to save the insect.

I wasn’t sure if the butterfly was still alive frankly, but even if it wasn’t, this person didn’t deserve to have such beauty on her vehicle. I gently managed to pry the insect off the car, and moved it to some foliage nearby.

butterfly

Butterfly found

I waited. I watched. At first I thought it was the breeze causing the butterfly’s wings to flutter, but after a moment, it was clear this butterfly was still alive and now safe.

So many different morals I could pull from this event, that lasted all of five minutes mind you, but will surely stay with me for a long time to come. I guess the supremely important lesson, and yes, I use supremely intentionally, is that it is up to us to keep watch for those who are oppressed, and in need of protection and care, and not only must we stand up for those creatures and stand with them, we must make sure that their oppressors are forced to look and see the object of their hate and ignorance. It may not impact their hateful views, but it will at least let them know that we are not afraid and we will not back down.

Hug your loved ones today, and hey, maybe even a stranger (ask permission first, of course.)

Stay well.

 

Theater of the absurd.

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:54-04:00 November 18th, 2015|animals, anxiety, anxiety disorder, anxiety relief, artists, broadway, broadway musical, brotherhood, brothers, childhood, children, creativity, family, Life, lions, mental health, motherhood, musical theater, nyc, parenthood, parenting, stress, stress relief, Uncategorized|

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Cue lights. A hush falls over the audience. The first actor takes position on the stage and the first note is heard, crashing like a wave over all of us: “Ahhhhh-segon-ya babba-di sebabba” or whatever it is Rafiki calls out in the dramatic opening of The Lion King on Broadway. No matter, it’s beautiful, and the african jungle comes to life before your eyes in the middle of Times Square. The opening of the show still chokes me up because it’s so exquisite and masterful, and not many shows have an elephant move so gracefully through a theater. I’ve given you the show setting, now picture me sitting with my three boys, who, living in NYC, are lucky enough to experience the theater on a regular basis. My three boys understand that the actors spend hour upon hour rehearsing, and then hours putting their makeup on, that the least they can do is wear clean socks to a show! (I do try for the occasional collared shirt, too.) My kids have been going to theater since they were fairly young, and respect for the actors on stage was something instilled from their very first show. My two older ones have seen The Lion King before, and they were super excited for their younger brother to experience the magic. Back in the theater, gazelles are prancing across the stage, birds flying above, the elephant makes its way through the house, and it starts, “Where Simba?” “Is that Simba?” “Mommy! Mommy! Mommy! Where Simba?” These are not the sounds of animal calls deep in the african jungle, these are the sounds of the unrestrained 3 year old in row L, orchestra left. I took a deep breath and thought, he’s just excited, he can’t wait to see his pal Simba, he’ll calm down once the dialogue starts. Right? WRONG! When the little boy wasn’t talking, even trying to be quiet with what I will refer to as “whisper-screaming”, he was bouncing in his seat. That meant bouncing on the not one booster seat, but two booster seats that propped him up right in front of my kid (my boys switched seats so my youngest could see.) I am incredibly tolerant, and generally very patient, and I tried very hard to remind myself that theater, especially family theater, is a wonderful blessing to enjoy. I realized that getting angry and complaining wouldn’t help, because we were surrounded. There were chatty little kids everywhere!!!! Even the website for the show has an FAQ that reads:

Does my child need a ticket? Is there a minimum age requirement to attend the show?

All guests require a ticket, regardless of age. We recommend that children be at least six years old to attend a performance of THE LION KING.

For younger children, consider one of these exciting Disney touring productions: Disney On Ice or Disney Live.

Which is why I decided I would take to the internet with this simple theater primer for families.

  1. Do NOT bring children under 6 years old (probably even under 8 years old) to a Broadway show where other patrons have spent well in to the hundreds to escape into some other world, and not to be assaulted with your child’s pleas of “pee-pee”  and “soda”, “Now, MOMMY!”
  2. If you do bring a child, make sure that they are prepared to sit for an hour and a half at a clip without making any noise, other than the appreciative clapping after every number. Maybe even a respectful hoot and holler.
  3. If your child normally goes to bed at 7pm, for goodness sakes, DON’T bring them to an 8pm show and expect them to behave!
  4. Consider buying a less expensive seat, perhaps in the mezzanine, so that if your child is struggling to sit still (and it’s a struggle for most under 8), you won’t feel terrible having to leave midway through the show, out of respect for everyone else in the theater!
  5. Start with shorter theater experiences. New Victory Theater has great children’s programming and is perfect introduction to the wonder of acting.
  6. Be respectful of others around you, and hey, even apologize for what you know is distracting and detracting from the experience.

I could go on and on with rules and such, but I won’t. I will add the suggestion that family shows should consider offering those with youngsters a special section, so that other theater goers can choose their seats accordingly. FAR, FAR, AWAY! Hey, aren’t matinees tailor-made for the family set?

Stay well.

It's International Overdose Awareness Day….

By | 2018-04-07T23:21:58-04:00 August 31st, 2015|acting, addiction, death, Life, musical theater, overdose, overdose prevention|

This is a hard day of course, but not so different than any other day when I think about my brother’s drug overdose, or his girlfriend’s a year later, or the thousands of others who have died. Not so different than when I see the posts about Naloxone, the life-saving overdose reversal drug that my stepfather helped create years ago, saving lives every day. What’s different about this day is the purpose behind it, educating the world about overdose prevention, talking about Good Samaritan Laws that have been created to protect drug users and those that try to save them. To learn more about International Overdose Awareness Day, visit the site http://www.overdoseday.com for resources, and stay to read some of the heartbreaking stories from the families left to grieve for those who have died. I’ve written a lot about this topic and if you want to know more about my story feel free to click on any of these links:

https://totemtamers.wordpress.com/2013/11/21/would-you-know-what-to-do-if-someone-was-experiencing-an-overdose/

https://totemtamers.wordpress.com/2014/10/26/of-love-and-loss/

https://totemtamers.wordpress.com/2013/12/09/how-do-i-say-goodbye-to-a-man-who-not-only-changed-my-world-but-the-whole-world/

https://totemtamers.wordpress.com/2013/07/17/a-very-personal-warrior-wednesday/

That’s certainly more than enough for you to chew on, but I will also gladly use this awesome image that’s been circulating the internet today, about just how easy it can be to save someone from an overdose.

Overdose Awareness

Overdose Awareness

I had wanted to write earlier today, but my mind wouldn’t let me get to it, although I knew I wanted to write, had to write. It took having a moment with my older son today, to help me sit down and get it done. The moment has nothing to do with overdose, but it sadly has to do with someone dying at a very young age, while his potential was just being discovered by the world. Kyle Jean-Baptiste, a 21 year old taking Broadway by storm as he starred in Les Miserables as Jean Valjean. He was the youngest to ever have the role, and the first African American to ever play the role. Jean-Baptiste died this past weekend in a freak accident at his home, a memorial service was held in Central Park this afternoon. He attended the same high school my son attends now, and I just knew that my son needed to come with me to see a community come together to grieve and sing for the life of someone they knew and loved. A community, that as an actor, he is a part of, and as a voice actor and theater lover, I am a part of, as well.

Too young, too soon.

Too young, too soon.

The community of those touched by overdose is exactly the same. We grieve, and we sing, and we cry, and we share, and we hold each other up in the sadness. The biggest difference is that the overdose community isn’t one people choose to join, sadly you just get forced into it.  Then you look around and realize how blessed you are to be in contact with some truly remarkable human beings. People who travel the country, if not the world, to share the stories in the hopes that even one life can be saved. People who hand out clean needles, and train people how to use Naloxone. People who accept you no matter how you ended up a part of the community.

Totem reflection...

Totem reflection…

A single flower left by a mourner this afternoon, representing the solitude that grief can sometimes bring. The reflection of the fountain in the water however, reminds me that along with the image of sadness, the mirror image is happiness, and the blessing that I am still here to experience both.

Stay well.

Sometimes the scars we can't see, are the ones that hurt the most.

By | 2018-04-07T23:22:39-04:00 April 19th, 2015|anxiety, broadway, broadway musical, Life, musical theater, stress, sutton foster|

My little one got a haircut yesterday, and this time got his wish of wanting to buzz the sides and the back very closely to his head. I’m not one to argue about personal style, so I let him own his choice. As the stylist was buzzing away, a “bald” patch appeared on the back of his head. At first I thought he had clipped a little too closely, but then realized it was in fact a scar. It was an injury from a couple years ago that we didn’t think needed stitches, but looking at the scar now, maybe we should have.

Oops!

Oops!

Either way, it got me to thinking about the scars we can’t see. We all have experiences that have left their marks on us either physical or emotionally. Some manage to have both qualities, like my c-section scars, for example. I can see them and they elicit an incredible emotional response because it’s evidence of my three beautiful children. Other scars I carry, are ones that aren’t visible, but certainly hold with them pain and wounding that impact the person I am today. Usually in a positive way, or at least that’s what I hope! There was a Broadway show last season called “Violet”. It starred the amazing Sutton Foster, along with other incredible singers and actors, and was in short, a story of a woman whose face had been scarred in a terrible accident when she was a child. We watch as the character, Violet, makes her journey away from home for the first time to find a preacher who might heal her and remove her scar. As she passes through various bus stops, people react to her scar as though she were hideous and disfigured. What was so remarkable, was that Sutton Foster was not layered with makeup or props to simulate a scar, her face was her typical, flawless beauty.

Sutton Foster as "Violet" Photo courtesy broadwaybox.com

Sutton Foster as “Violet” Photo courtesy broadwaybox.com

However, by the second act, that scar is as real on Violet’s face as the pain in her voice when she sings about the accident that made her that way. Don’t worry, there is a happy ending, and we watch as Violet falls in love with someone who sees her as a person, not just a walking wound. I was certainly a mess of tears by the end. There’s a line in the show (several for sure) that resonated with me, so much that I’m taking it and making it my own. It’s the preacher character, who is giving a sermon and repeats several times “Are you IN the way? Or are you ON the way?” It seemed to be a question of healing and moving forward with one’s life. I came up with an answer for myself and hope somehow it resonates with you, too. “Are you IN the way? Or are you ON the way? If you don’t know, then GET OUT of the way!” For me, it means, stop trying to understand why, or blame how come certain things don’t happen, but rather get out of your own way so that new experiences can present themselves. Some of us have matching scars and we find each other and give each other comfort and solace, but we must take care to make sure our scars don’t define us and prevent us from truly living. That’s ultimately what a scar is, whether physical or emotional, it’s a reminder that we are alive and that we are blessed to keep finding opportunities to create memories even if some of them end up hurting.

Stay well.

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