Thursday, November 28, 2013

Santa Claus and the month of November

This fall has been so tough.  When I think about it I feel a little sick to my stomach.  I am busy--pressed to make as much money as possible, as my husband lost his job about 2 weeks ago.  They did everything cruelly--filled a file with false charges, treated him like an outcast, sent him home for 4 days without pay before officially firing him.  He deserved none of that.  I suspect it just had to do with money, but it's hard to tell.  And then the last slap on the face--a check with no vacation pay in it today.

Others are suing.  We have heard countless stories of the incredibly unethical treatment of my husband, many things we didn't even know about.  And all I can think is THANK GOD he's not there anymore.  I mean, for the first time in 2 years, no one is witch-hunting my husband, lying to him, lying to us, and making him work on all holidays and his days off.  In fact, they re-posted his job with half the work, probably creating two positions out of his one.  All of this for probably....$8 thousand more a year than a few of the others doing his job?  THe punishment for his experience and his fairly decent contract (far less decent than like...a manager at Target, but still better than the people the news knows they can get to work for nothing) has been severe.  And we have all paid it.

His dog died.  This morning, on Thanksgiving, his grandfather died.  The pain seems so unfair.  But the bottom line is this is the first Thanksgiving I've had with him in 5 years.  And yesterday I caught him quoting funny lines to himself in the mirror.  We are hugging all the time, we are united, we are having so much blessed time as a family, and we may never have this again.  Jobs suck.  Even the good ones, because they keep you from spending time doing things you love without even thinking of money!  This will be a tough holiday season, and giving presents is so important to hubby, but I keep grabbing him by the face and saying to him clearly, 'You being here is better than gifts.'  We are still buying some, but a small fraction of past holidays....we don't have extra.  We will pay bills, we will get the mortgage in and keep the medical bills at bay, but we won't have enough for the perfect present.  We won't.

I have never been a fan of Santa Claus.  For the first time this year, with my daughter excitedly talking about the fictional fat man, I have started to get a sense of the appeal.  Santa--is the magic without the work.  He's the fun, the sparkle, the idea that the things you want don't cost anything.  I know, we are supposed to teach our children gratitude for all the very hard work that goes into everything, and a sense that not every kid gets that much, and blah blah, that's what builds their character.  But damn I miss a Christmas 34 years ago when I didn't know anything cost anything and all that mattered was candy and stuff wrapped in shiny paper.

I told my daughter a story (foolishly) of my getting a puppy for Christmas when I was 12.  I named it Angel.  Of course, in the story, Santa miraculously brings me a puppy.  In reality, my single mom, a year after her divorce, struggling with depression, was sometimes bringing us whatever the change in her purse could buy for dinner, because she had nothing else.  She would pray for something to put on the table (starting my love affair with Taco Bell I'm sure) and I had written some foolish innocent note saying that if I didn't get a puppy I didn't want anything for Christmas.  My mother prayed with friends, where could she find one that she could afford?  She probably worried about how we would take care of it, about so many things with a new puppy.  A few days before Christmas she found one she could afford, helped out by someone who'd prayed with her.  All for me to have the joy of a dog.

My daughter keeps mentioning the story.  In it, there is no cost of a dog.  There is no prayer, no single moms, no heartbreak, no worrying about dinner.  There is only Santa, the great whitewash of Christmas.  And when I think of it, I'm jealous of her.  So then I think, I probably owe her a few years of thinking something comes from nothing.  I owe her maybe a few years of magical Santa....where we are unemployed, and I am piecing together mortgage, and teaching until my fingers cramp up because an extra $20 is another Christmas present is nothing for her to know or think about.  Just pretty things, pretty boxes, candy with no calories, puppies that practically fall from the sky.

Santa, can we please have a great new job too?

Saturday, November 9, 2013


Last night I sat in bed with my 4 year old and insisted we watch Sondheim's "Company" (broadcast on public television, with a great cast).  I'd never seen it, and I needed a break from kidTV, so it seemed like a good idea.

My daughter spent the first 2 minutes crying that it wasn't Disney Jr.

Then after a bit, she was lying on the bed, face in her hands, mesmerized.  She looked up at me and said, "mom, I want to do this."  I wasn't sure what she meant, and she gestured toward the tv.  "You want to be in a show?"  She nodded yes, and said, "just like this.  Like this stage one."  And I smiled, and marveled that this desire could come so young, and then felt suddenly terrified that she might want a life like mine has been...running after a dream that is still as real and passionate as day one.  Though I work on setting it aside, like the desire to eat cake.  You can put it off for a day or two days, or as long as it takes to make sure you get to live life otherwise.

I look at my kids and I want for them exactly what Tina Fey writes to her daughter:
Lord, "Lead [them] away from Acting but not all the way to Finance. Something where [they] can make her own hours but still feel intellectually fulfilled and get outside sometimes. And not have to wear high heels. What would that be, Lord? Architecture? Midwifery? Golf course design? I’m asking You, because if I knew, I’d be doing it."

At the same time, I am touched and proud that I have a daughter who can be completely immersed in musical theater and ballet.  I am touched that she asks about the meaning of song lyrics, and I know that with a mom like are you going to avoid it?  How am I going to talk her into being "less creative" when her weekends are filled with art projects that I adore putting together, because at the end of the day, that's what I want to do?  I just walked into her bedroom to find the tv off and her, peacefully making a "book"....a project I taught her to do on a desperate rainy day, which involves gluing together pieces of colorful paper and drawing pictures on each page, just like a book.  I was so enchanted and proud of her work, and yet some part of me thinks...."not tooo artistic...not tooo ambitious...."

I never know whether to be utterly thankful that I am an artist, that I have had already a lifetime of rich experiences creating and interpreting, or to wish that at the end of the day, I'd wanted to do something a little less turbulent, and maybe take more island vacations. 

The same thing runs through my head while teaching voice.  I feel that their lives are being blessed by each lesson, because you can feel the change in can see the power of what singing does to people, and I'm not sure I could even describe it here.  But I carry with me bitterness, as much as I try to avoid it, for the starry-eyed me, who wanted big theaters full of audiences and often found cold audition rooms with people who had 1000 other singers to choose from and didn't care that it was my best day.

Hard to wish for any of that for my daughter, because all I want for her is the happiest life possible. 

But also, as I know well, it will be impossible for me not to kind of love every minute of my children learning the joy of being an artist.

Sunday, November 3, 2013

November, New Hope, and a Time Change

October was hard.  I didn't write too much on the blog, I was just dealing with the blows of life.

But October is over, and November is here.  It started off rough again, but I'm going to assume it's just the dust of October and we will all be fine again.

I call the baby my "Everything's going to be fine" baby.  He was born in such stress!  Difficult pregnancy, sick all the time, in pain, scary and expensive.  Difficult birth, with pretty much the same description, except adding the waiting for him in NICU, the sadness of that.  But now- he's the opposite.  He smiles, even when he's sick.  He laughs by himself and holds his toes and rolls around, and he is a breath of fresh air.  When I look at him, I think, "Everything's Going to be Fine" and amazingly, it has been.  While I don't advocate going out and getting pregnant just to feel better about stuff, sometimes babies have a healing power that I can't possibly describe to you.  He is just pure magic.

I wonder if I can still sing professionally.  Is off the table?  Are those cards gone?  I am still losing weight.  My whole body looks better every day, and thinking about it the other day, I now weigh about 72 pounds less than the day my baby was born.  72!!!  That's amazing.  I am about 10 pounds less than when I got pregnant, and it just comes off, steadily every week.  Since starting Kickboxing, I have lost 28 pounds.  And my whole life people said, "Do this it will help your metabolism" so many times I have completely lost faith that anything could help my dead metabolism, but this has helped it!  I whole body is functioning differently.

So here's the tie-in with the professional thing.  I know I'm not 20, but when I used to go in to auditions, I unfortunately carried with me this baggage that I might be great, but I was still fat. I couldn't shake giving them (the people listening) a reason not to pick me.  But now, I might have the opportunity to sing an audition someday without that baggage.  I'll be 40.  But 40 is the new fit, right?  (I just laughed out loud).  See, hope?  Hope. 

Wanna hear the power of hope?  My husband is subject to a ridiculous "witch hunt" at work.  A small handful of people want him fired.  They are going to get what they want, I believe.  He's been spoken to by the new boss, who knows nothing of my husband except a list, which might as well be written in his blood, of things that are bad about him, presented by our new enemy, the recent college graduate who was appointed his supervisor last year.  All of that is stress, drama, argument-causing crap.  And all I can think of is that him being fired could be the best thing that's happened to us in a while.  He needs out.  I want a new job.  We both need a new city, I think.  We want a church, we want people who love us and invite us to eat at their houses.  We want weekends together. I am clear on what I want.  And it does not involve teaching so many students to make ends meet that I don't even know how well I could sing, as I end every day talk-sore.

40 is 3 months away.  Maybe it's the new free!  Maybe it's the new faith, the new fit, the new future.  And tomorrow when I wake up for kickboxing it will feel like it's an hour later.  Thank God for little hopes.