Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Sometimes I Feel Like a Motherless Child

October 30, 2013 
This month, my mother celebrated her 50th birthday.

I didn’t get to see her on her special day, because I live halfway across the country, and don’t have the resources or the time off work to be able to go home to Arizona this calendar year.  My sister wants to plan something big to celebrate my mom’s birthday later on, perhaps next summer, when we can all be together.
My mother lives at home with our youngest sister, who is 9.  Sometimes I wonder if my mother gets lonely.  She tells me stories of how my little sister says, “When I grow up, Mommy, I will never leave you.”

That makes me feel guilty sometimes.  I have been away from home for 7 years now, and three years ago when I graduated from college, my mother was ready for me to move back.

I, however, was not.

Most people are in a hurry to move back home; they sense a piece of themselves is always missing until they are back in the familiarity of their hometown.  I did not turn out that way.  I have actually found myself by moving away, and the staying away part was never a question, really.  I never had any desire to move back home.

Part of that had to do with the not-so-fuzzy relationship I had/have with my mother.  My mother is a very complicated, broken person.  Over the years she has manipulated, emotionally abused, and done her best to try to break me as well.  A couple of times she has really succeeded.

But, today isn’t to write about the brokenness; I will save that for another time.

Today is to celebrate the beauty within the brokenness.

You see, I’ve been learning a lot about gratitude and abundance over the past year.  I have been learning how to give thanks for the ugly, the seemingly mundane, and the broken.

So I’ve challenged myself to think through the broken pieces of my relationship with my mother, and to identify glimpses of hope within them.

Even though my mother may not have been the best example to me or the best friend I ever had, and even though I still resent that sometimes, I know there are a few things she taught me that are apparent in my character today.  Most seem like small, trivial things, but they make me smile, and they make me thankful, and that's the whole point.

1) My handwriting.  I always get compliments on my handwriting and how neat it is.  This always takes me back to my schoolgirl days when my mother would compare my handwriting to hers (and almost admire mine).  She would spend lots of time practicing cursive with me, back in the day.
2) My driving.  My mother was the one who played Teacher in most of my lessons. Or, she was in the passenger's seat while I was behind the wheel.  During the time that I was learning to drive, she was pregnant with my youngest sister, and the baby doctor she went to was in California, an hour away.  I drove her to many of those appointments, and although she was very critical and overly explanatory of each detail that she felt I needed to learn, I know that my driving skills are results of listening to those details and the hours of practice she gave me.  I also really, strangely, LOVE to drive long distances.  Tell me I get to drive for 6 hours and I jump with excitement.  In college, it was never a question of who would be the designated driver--whether there was alcohol involved or not--because everyone knew my obsession with driving.  The long-distance driving thing comes from my mom; she basically learned to drive by following my dad on the freeway between Yuma, AZ and Salinas, CA every season for work.
3)Doing Laundry.  Now, I know this one sounds sillier than the rest.  But from my mother I learned how to wash whites in order to get them radiant!Also, given a choice, I would rather hang clothes on a clothesline outside than use a dryer--another little quirk from my mother.
4)Housecleaning.  My mother is a BEAST when it comes to housecleaning.  She hates clutter, and takes pride in how well she can clean.  We're talking scrubbing tubs and toilets and mopping floors. And ripping blinds down and sticking them in the tub to clean with a broom and soap and water. Not only am I now good at it all, I LOVE to do it.  I've got to say, this one definitely comes in handy.

Even though they are small things, and as I look through them, seem almost like little obsessive quirks or complexes, they are my memories and my traits.  Perhaps I created these habits in myself, because I was so desperate to have something in common with my mother, to feel like she had taught me or nurtured me in some way, that I convinced myself to develop them.  That is a topic for further personal exploration.

For now, I see them as gems of humorous wisdom from my mother's 50 years of life.

Maybe in the next 50 years, I will find more.

*also, the title of this post is in reference to an old song title*

Friday, October 11, 2013

Aluminum Cans

I saw him walk up with his bike and lean it against the wall.  I wondered what he was doing, hoping his bike wouldn’t get stolen while he went into the grocery store.  I was on my way out of the grocery store parking lot.

Then I saw him lift the lid on the trash can.  Then I saw the small plastic grocery bag in his hand, already full of aluminum cans. 

Immediately, my heart moved with compassion.  I thought to myself, “Here I go home, with my 8-dollar salad, and this man is collecting a day’s worth of cans to scrap together some change.”

I made the left turn I was waiting for and headed out of the parking lot.  Then I remembered it: the giant Hefty trash bag full of aluminum cans, sitting in my backseat, in my peripheral vision, placed strategically so I wouldn’t forget to take them to the recycling center tomorrow morning.

And I felt it, that familiar, still, small voice, in the back of my head yet oh, so clear:

“Give them to him.”

How quick my brain was to make excuses!  “But I have such a big bag of them, I wonder if he could even manage it on his bicycle.” 

“There’s plastic bottles mixed in with the cans; he won’t want those.”

In about 3 seconds, I found the solution: pull into that empty gravel parking lot, pop the trunk of my car, fish the plastic bottles out, and leave only the cans in the bag.  In the next 2 seconds, I was doing it.

I pictured him putting his small plastic sack inside this big, strong, heavy duty trash bag, half-filled with cans….money. 

I placed the white bag up front with me, and drove back to the grocery store parking lot, expecting to still find him at the same trash can.  He wasn’t there, so I drove in a circle to find him.  I tried to think logically about which direction he may have gone in.  I couldn’t see him, so I stopped and asked the Knights of Columbus representative, who was standing outside the grocery store door collecting change for his cause, if he had seen which way the man had gone. 

“Sorry, no, I didn’t.”

I jumped back in my car and continued to drive slowly the length of the parking lot, and then I saw him through the cars! He was at the end of the parking lot, turning north, heading to the two large dumpsters sitting behind the back doors to a bunch of stores in the little shopping plaza. 

The street and the area behind those stores were completely empty.  No cars, no people.  Only open space and two dumpsters.

I pulled my car into those empty parking spaces and turned South to walk to him.  He was poking his head into the first of the dumpsters when I got to him.


He turned around.

“I want you to have these.”

“Oh, are these from that liquor store over there?”  (Thinking I was an employee handing him our throwaways, I assume)

“No, I had them in my car.”

“Oh, and you just passed me? Thank you…”

“I was just going to recycle them, but I want you to have them.”

(Laughs, a chuckling laugh, like Santa Claus)

“Well, that’s mighty nice of you, thank you!”

It was like he’d won the lottery.

I walked back to my car, got in, and smiled to myself.  I gave thanks for my open eyes, and for my open heart.  I thought how divinely arranged it all was: the fact that my cat ran out of food just this morning, forcing me to stop at this very grocery store on my way home from work; the fact that I had gathered these cans at F’s house in Ellsworth this week, and he had them all sorted and ready for me to take today; the fact that the recycling center in Ellsworth was already closed, forcing me to bring them to Salina to recycle; the fact that I took a brand-new trash bag from F to bring them in, something I normally wouldn’t have done. 

All for that Santa Claus laugh. 

Monday, October 7, 2013

Road to Orlando: Workshops 1 and 2

Sunday, October 6, 2013


I wanted to write a little bit about my Orlando workshops thus far.  In preparing for Orlando, we have monthly workshops.  These workshops are meant to help us prepare the material we will perform in Orlando.  As Ms. Kim told us at auditions, nothing is done in Orlando that is not prepared ahead of time.

So, August 17th was my Orientation.  We spent lots of time reviewing the Contestant Manual, and practicing appropriate runway walking and “model stance”.  We also went through TV commercials and received our assignments for the next months’ workshop.  We took measurements, and tried to sort through which categories everyone would be in.  There were more people than I expected at Orientation.  The Kansas City location serves as regional center for Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, and Nebraska contestants.  Altogether, though, there were probably about 40 actual contestants there, and then parents/spouses. 

It was an exciting, full day; I packed my car with my lunch and learning materials, and drove to Kansas City at about 4:30 am.  I definitely stopped for coffee. 

My assignments for next workshop were to bring 3-5 monologues I could present, along with 3-5 songs I could present; the singing and the monologues need to be approved before they’ll let us do them in Orlando.  I also needed to memorize my TV commercial for next time.

Our next workshop was on September 22nd.  We spent the morning reviewing the Contestant Manual, and practicing our introductions for the Photography Competition (for this category, we walk the runway and introduce ourselves into a microphone, while our pictures are shown on a big screen behind us).  We also practiced TV commercials.

After lunch, we presented monologues and songs, and I was approved for both categories.  I was so nervous to sing in front of our Fashion Man.  He is a little intimidating, but I know that in this business, if you don’t tell your charges how it is, they won’t work.  He definitely tells us how it is. 

So now, my current assignments are: prepare 6 outfits for my photoshoot coming up on October 20th; continue to practice my commercial and monologue daily; and to find someone who will help me find the correct key for me to sing my song in, and then find someone who will do a piano recording of my song. 

Our next and final workshop will be two days long: November 9th and 10th. 

Showtime is December 18th-22nd!  It will be a full week for me, but the exposure I will receive will be so worth it.  I’ve already got my room reserved at the resort, and am booking my flight this week. 

Trying to keep myself balanced and sane throughout this process is interesting.  It’s tiring.  I’ve noticed I am taking more interest in my appearance on a daily basis.  I also notice I crave more sleep.
I'll keep you posted!

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

The Orlando Audition: A New Adventure

Monday, September 30, 2013

Well, more than two months later, I thought I should sit down and actually write down the Orlando Story. 

If you haven’t heard or read, I am traveling to Orlando, Florida, this December to participate in a national talent showcase. 

This is how it started.

Back in July, I heard an ad on a local radio station:  “Calling all singers, actors, models, and dancers: come to this audition! It’s not like auditions you may have experienced before!”  Or something to that effect.

Well, the first time I heard the ad, if I’m being honest, I half-heard it.  It was during a workday, as I rushed about town, so I didn’t pay too much attention.  I heard it again about 2 days later, and again about a week later.  I actually tried to call the phone number that time: 1-800-STAR-102.  It rang and rang with no answer.  I figured it was not legit, so I dismissed the thought.  A couple days later, I heard the ad and phone number again, “Auditions will be Friday, July 19th.”

I called again, this time on Monday, July 15th.  I got an answer, and said, “Yes, I’m calling about auditions in Salina, Kansas this Friday.”

“Yes, we will be in Salina this Friday…the auditions start at 7:00pm, and I’m going to give you a website that you can go to, that will give you more information about your audition.”

My thoughts were, “That’s it? Really?  I just show up?”  I had been expecting to be given a 20 minute time slot, sometime during the day, that I was going to have to jump through hoops to be able to make.

She gave me the website,  I forgot about it until the next day, Tuesday.  On the website, I found out that there would be a presentation before the audition process: “We want you to know who you’re auditioning for.” 

I also found out that I could prepare a 60-second song and a 60-second monologue.  “Okay, cool,” I thought.  Also, I was to bring a picture of myself, no larger than 5x7, that could be kept with my file.

The REALLY COOL part was that, about a month prior to this, I had been watching my favorite show, Gilmore Girls, in my living room, like I always do.  I came across a really strong rant by Lorelai, the main character, and I stopped everything I was doing, rewound it, and watched it again.  And again.  “Wow, that was a really good monologue,” I thought.

So, a month later, upon seeing “prepare a 60-second monologue”, guess which one came to mind?  It was like the monologue had been divinely given to me for precisely this audition.

On Thursday, I thought to myself, “Oh, that audition is tomorrow; wasn’t I supposed to print an audition form off the website?  Oh, I also need to pick which picture I’m going to print off.”  So back to the website I went.  This time I printed the form and made sure I was clear on the expectations and “rules” for the audition.  “Everything is G-rated; no drama allowed!” (I’m paraphrasing, but basically, the company is family-friendly and oriented---not your typical slang/gang/all-the-rage Hollywood).

I also picked my picture off my Facebook albums.  Luckily, I had a slew of semi-professional photographs to choose from, as this modeling thing is not completely new to me.  J

On Friday, the day of the audition, I had a full morning of work appointments.  My job is not a typical office job; I drive all over town all day to different homes and schools.  I tried to get up super early to do my 55-minute Turbo Fire workout that was scheduled for the day; I failed, so I had to fit it into my after-work-before-audition schedule. 

I also had to figure out when I was going to hit up Walgreens to print out my 5x7 picture. 

I figured out that I had a window of time between the end of my 1pm appointment and the beginning of my 3pm appointment.  I thought I was going to have to drive this kid all the way back out to the country to his house, though, so I didn’t know just how much time I would end up having.

Well, as divinely set up as it could get, the kid’s grandmother had me drop the kid off to them at the grocery store, just across the street from the Walgreen’s where I needed to print my picture.  Score. (And thank you, Jesus)

Oh, and by the way, I didn’t have any idea what song I would be singing until about 12:45pm that afternoon, on my way to pick up my 1pm appointment. 

I was driving out to the country, to pick him up, and I was wondering, “WHAT am I going to sing?”

Not 10 seconds later, the song pops into my head and I sang it out loud: a Garth Brooks song I remembered singing in high school with my show choir.

“You know a dream is like a river/ever changing as it flows/ and the dreamer’s just a vessel/ that must follow where it goes/trying to learn from what’s behind you/never knowing what’s in store/makes each day a constant battle/just to stay between the shores/and I will sail my vessel/til the river runs dry/blah blah blah blah blah blah blah/these waters are my sky/I’ll never reach my destination/if I never try/so I will sail my vessel/til the river runs dry”

It gave me chills. 

But, darn, what are the actual words behind those “blah’s”?

Inside my head: “Okay, figure out the rest of the lyrics later; gotta pick up this kid; but this is the song I’m singing.  Cool!”

Right.  So back to the Walgreens intervention.  I dropped off the kid, then ran across the street and dropped off my picture for printing.  My plan was to go see my next two kids (3-4pm; 4pm-5pm) and then pick up my picture.

I picked up my picture at 5pm.  Then, I called my friend Jeff.

“Jeff?  Okay, I need a favor.  I can’t explain now.  I’ll explain everything later.”

(Jeff) “Okayyyy…”

“Okay, I need the lyrics to the first verse and chorus of a song.  I don’t know what the song is called.  It’s something about a river.  It’s a Garth Brooks song.  Are you ready for me to recite the first line?  That should be enough for you to put into Google and get the rest of the lyrics.”

So, 2 minutes later, Jeff called me back with the title of the song, the lyrics to the first verse, and the lyrics to the chorus, clarifying my mystery “blahs”.

“Like a bird upon the wind/these waters are my sky.”

Okay, cool.  Thanks, Jeff.  J

So THEN I went home and rushed through my 55-minute workout, which I finished at around 6pm.  Then I took a 1-minute shower (rinse-off with warm water, just to get the sweat off), and sat on my couch drying off while I frantically scribbled my monologue onto the back of an envelope.


I let my hair down and added more powder to my shiny face.  I curled my eyelashes, added tinted lip balm, and a little eyeliner.  I picked clothes to wear (pink top, jeans, black flats). 

I was out the door at 6:27 pm. 

I pulled up to the hotel, parked, and got out of the car.  I walked to the door, then realized that I didn’t have my picture with me.  I panicked for a minute, thinking I left it at home.  Thankfully, I had left it in the car when I pulled up in my driveway to do my workout.

I went back to the car and got my picture.  I walked into the lobby.  I checked in at the table.  I sat down to fill out my form (which I had not managed to fill out previously).  Then they told us it was time to start the presentation.

I went in and found a seat in the front row.  I listened while Ms. Kim Myers introduced herself, her company, and what they were all about.  She told us how she works and what she is auditioning us for.  She told us she travels around the country to find talent for her “human buffet” that she puts on her big Broadway stage in Orlando, in front of Disney, Sony, Tyler Perry Studios, and others.  She told us that she believes everyone needs a chance to pursue their talent.  She told us that everything we do in Orlando is prepared ahead of time.  She told us that she doesn’t put anything on her stage in Orlando that is not good.  She told us, “This is my show.”  She told us that if we got a callback, we would get an email late tonight, inviting us to an informational session where we would receive more details about the program.

Then she asked for anyone who would be singing to line up, as we were to go first.  The line was long.  I was cowardly.  I got in line wayyyyy in the back.  I tried not to be nervous.  I watched little kids sing, teenagers sing, boys, girls…then it was my turn.  There were a total of probably about 50 people in the room.

I stood in front of the judges’ table (and the whole room of families and children behind them), introduced myself, and watched as Ms. Kim sprang into action: “So what kind of heritage do you have going on here?  Do you speak Spanish?  Your last name makes it look like you should speak Spanish, but you know, so often it looks that way, and then the person doesn’t speak Spanish.  You know, this means two languages, two commercials, two paychecks, right?”


“Okay, what are you going to sing?”

“I have ‘The River’ by Garth Brooks.”

And I sang.

She liked it, talked to me some more, then told me that she wanted to hear me read a commercial from the prepared scripts they had for us. 

“Actually, I have a 50-second monologue I prepared.  It’s not all the way memorized, but I have it here, written down.”

“Go for it.”

So I went.

“Look at you!”

She looked over my audition form, over my goals and aspirations, and said, “There’s a passion there when you perform; it’s a hunger, I think.  You know, a lot of times, in this business, you find yourself trying to motivate people to do more, to challenge themselves.  I look at your form here, and I see myself trying to keep up with you; you don’t get that a lot.  Nicely done.”


I couldn’t believe how genuine the whole process was; how calm and confident I was while I sang (I used all my breath support and everything!), how encouraging Ms. Kim was. 

I felt truly good about it.

I left the audition thinking, “That was the best audition experience I’ve ever had.  I don’t even care what comes of it.”

I called Fred and gave him the play-the-play, then just went home.  I knew I had to work the next morning, as it was my assigned Saturday for the month.  I don’t have internet, so my plan was to check my email at work the next morning. 

Well, 10:00 am Saturday morning rolled around, and I checked my email, on the slowest computer and internet connection known to man.  But I managed to read: “Callback from the ARTS” in the subject line.

I had a callback.  Yay!

The information session was the next day, Sunday.  Ooh.

In Kansas City.  Yikes.

Kansas City is a 3 hour drive from Salina. 

I called F and gave him the “yay”, the “ooh”, and the “yikes”. 

I calmly told him I wanted to go, and that I would go by myself, but felt like it would be really beneficial if he went with me, especially because I didn’t want to have to come back and try to explain the whole thing to him.  He is a very detail-oriented person, and I knew that there would be no way I could explain it to his liking.

He had to go to work, and so did I, so we agreed to talk after his shift, at 8:30 pm that night.  When we talked again, it was decided: we would go to 9:00 am service at church the next morning, and then we would drive to Kansas City for the info session.

The info session started at 4pm, and we listened to all the details, including cost of the program (it’s a very honest, no-hidden-costs thing; definitely not a “quick rise to stardom” or “get-rich-quick” scheme).  We learned that I had til the following Monday, July 29th, to decide whether or not I would be attending the showcase in December, and to put down my initial deposit.

I knew I wanted to go, and I would say my final decision was made by about Wednesday the 24th.  But the area between the info session and my final decision was agonizing.  It was stressful, worrisome, and lots of prayer was involved.  I didn’t know how I was going to afford it, mostly.

But we scrounged together my deposit, and on Monday, July 29th, I called it in and secured my spot on the biggest stage of my life: The Applause Rising Talent Showcase in Orlando, Florida. 

I felt like everything had been lined up and put in place and dropped in my lap for me to have this audition.  I felt blessed to have the callback, and privileged yet COMPLETELY OVERWHELMED to be able to spend time trying to make a decision about the showcase.  There was an overwhelming feeling of a cloud of providence surrounding this ordeal for me. 

Thus began my journey.