Dear Friend: A Note On SHE LOVES ME

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My life is a mess. Changes are happening faster than I can keep up with them. Most of these changes have and continue to be extremely difficult for me. I’ve had to detach from the majority of social media to be with myself, to meditate and pray through every turn life seems to be taking.

For now I’m going to put aside my messy life and the added devastation over the state of the world, to talk about something that brought with it more joy than I ever imagined possible.

Last year for my birthday, my Gramma handed me a check and told me to “go have an adventure with it.” I was completely shocked. My Gramma has never done anything like that. In true “me” fashion, I got on a plane to NYC as fast as I possibly could to be with my heart family. This trip was truly the most magical I’ve ever had in that city. Maybe one day I’ll write about it in more detail here, but right now I need to discuss the power of theatre.

On May 1, I went to see SHE LOVES ME at Studio 54 with three of my sisters. Let’s be real here, I went to this show in the first place because number one, seeing Laura Benanti on my NYC trips has kind of become the thing that My Person and I do together. Number two, the accessible seats are in the front row and I desperately wanted to hear Laura Benanti sing “Vanilla Ice Cream” right in my face. This is a thing that actually DID happen, but I was not prepared for the experience I was going to have in the theatre that day. I wasn’t prepared at all.

Leading up to this day, this particular trip had been pretty hard on my body physically. The flight was harder than usual. Once I was there, I was in a constant state of adjusting to what felt like a million different kinds of pain. Never once did I complain, because I was with my family, in my city, I was taken care of and loved. Real love means someone sits with you through pain and breaks out funny Benanti videos to make you laugh through your tears and get you pumped for the next day’s joy. (Thanks Diana. Love you.)

And joy was had that day, indeed.

From the moment we got to our seats, the excitement was shooting out of my face. I was smiling all the way up to my eyeballs and I don’t think that smile left my face for at least a week afterwards. I held My Person’s hand and as soon as the show started it was like I left the theatre and was taken to another place. There are many kinds of transcendent theatre experiences and SHE LOVES ME is transcendent joy. (Well, aside from the part of the end of Act One that depresses you right before intermission. Thank goodness for a later happy ending. It is a “romantic-ish musical comedy” after all.) There was a moment in Act Two when Zachary Levi sang part of “She Loves Me” on the steps of the stage right to me and Janice and I melted into my chair. I was pretty sure I’d never come back from that. It was the most perfect moment.

That said, this cast is wonderful. Laura went above and beyond for me when she did not have to.  My heart will remember her small act of kindness, that was much bigger than she’ll ever know, forever. Then we were escorted to the stage door where Nick Barasch was adorable, Jane Krakowski and Zachary Levi were both equally kind.

There was tangible magic in the air as my sisters and me walked away from 54th Street. We were goofing off and singing our conversations to the tune of “Vanilla Ice Cream” and practically skipping in the rain. If real life were a musical, this has been my favorite scene in mine without question.

It was hardest it’s ever been to say goodbye when I left the city this go-round. I got home to LA and was doing everything I could to try to get back to my family and this show before it closed in July. At the time, I didn’t know that it was just a “see you later.”

On June 30, SHE LOVES ME was live streamed on BroadwayHD all across the world. History was made that night as it was the first show to ever do this. I am so grateful for this and I will never understand how it was THIS production that got to make this feat. All I wanted was to see it one more time. Instead for the last week and a half, I’ve gotten to watch it as much as I want to. (Don’t ask me how many times I’ve watched, the number is high, but the joy… The joy will never leave me.) On the night of the live stream, my sister Diana sent me this text:

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I am so thankful I experienced this show with human beings who understand the power of live theatre.

To the cast of SHE LOVES ME: Thank you. The time I spent in that place with you changed me. I can’t imagine another theatre experience being as special as this. The world is so dark and broken right now and you have been a light that has shone through the darkness. You all made the world better with the gift you gave to us through your hearts and passion every night.

To the Roundabout Theatre Company and everyone at Studio 54: Thank you for this show. Thank you for every single helpful, accommodating and kind human being who worked to make that one day extra special for me and my friends without being asked. I will never forget it.

And finally, to Laura Benanti: When I got back home, I wrote you a letter. I never do that, so I’m not sure if you received it, but in case you didn’t… Thank you. There’s nothing I can say to you that will ever be enough. You didn’t know me, but you gave me your time and that is precious to me. You made me feel appreciated for supporting you. I have a very sensitive heart and soul. I am big on human connection. I believe we are all here to uplift and celebrate each other in this life. What connected in my heart that day, opened the sky for me. You made me feel like I am worthy of something wonderful. You made me embrace my own humanity when I wasn’t really feeling it at the time. Thank you for being so real, so kind and so human. You’ve forever changed me. Your place in my heart has grown beyond a capacity I never saw coming. Just… Thank you. Please continue to take care of yourself and do your own thing. You make the world brighter just as you are.

She Loves Me ended its run today. My heart doesn’t even have room to break because the joy and memories are holding it strong. And yet, this isn’t goodbye. In November for my birthday, I’ll get to see the show again in a movie theater. I don’t know how things like this keep happening with this show, but I’ve learned not to question it at this point. My Person calls it a connected invisible thread. Nothing can break it. I know, I just know, it’s God telling me it will always be here and be a reason to believe in something better.

I love you, you beautiful, joyful little sweet show. Thank you for bringing out my joy face.

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Summer Stuff

It seems I can’t go an entire summer these last few years without losing my hearing at least once. My doctor looked at my ears two weeks ago after I told her of this issue and everything looked good. My ears are just that damn sensitive and now here I am on Labor Day weekend not able to hear anything. Doctor’s appointment on Tuesday cannot get here soon enough. So let’s do some writing about the summer, shall we? BECAUSE I CAN STILL WRITE. I’m all about being grateful for what I CAN do.

I spent December of last year all the way through the entire month of July fighting my medical insurance and ultimately I won. So this was both an uneventful summer, but it has also been a summer of getting stuff done. I have a new social worker, a new doctor, and a physical therapist now. Currently working on getting an optometrist and a dentist. My doctor has given me medication for things every other doctor I’ve ever had would not. Thanks to that, I am already feeling much better. This doctor is not messing around. I like her.

I had my physical therapy evaluation last week. I have two exercises I do at home for now and my first regular appointment is next Friday. To be honest, I am a little (ok, more than a little) afraid for my therapist to work with me. I had PT until I was three years old and my parents stopped taking me because my old therapist tore the Achilles tendon in my left foot. I may have been very small at the time, but I remember that day and that pain like it just happened yesterday. I’ve made the new therapist aware that happened so I’m going to be spending this week telling myself I’ll be safe with this person and it’s her job to help me. I’m sure it will be just fine. I am so grateful to even have this help. I’ve wanted PT my entire life and I’m so on top of it. Even though my ears are causing me to feel not so great at the moment, I’ve been doing my exercises every day. I’m so excited about all of it. And yes everyone who has said “take it slow” — I promise I’ll never overdo it. I’ve never been that person.

On the summer fun side of things, here’s a list…

 – I took a social media break and spent an entire month just writing. And reading. Mostly writing.
– If you’re a creative type, listen to Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Magic Lessons” podcast on iTunes. Trust me. Just do it.
– I’m obsessed with Inside Out because sometimes I am a child. Well done, Disney/Pixar.
– Bianca and I took the train to LA to see my Kristin get a star on the Walk of Fame. It was worth the longest, hottest day if only to hug KC on her birthday, truly. Also, Carol Burnett was one of the guest speakers and that really doesn’t suck either.
– There is now a couch in my living room. My Person is good to me and I am grateful.
– Speaking of My Person, Janice was back in LA for the month of August. We took the nieces out to play. We had our favorite tacos. We went to our favorite vegan restaurant. I was introduced to shaved ice. Basically, when Janice is home, we eat.
– My Jessica from Orlando booked her flight to come visit me for a week in November. Happy Birthday to me!
– I randomly won free tickets to see Kristian Bush and Rita Wilson in LA last week. That man’s music is soul-changing. And Rita Wilson is pretty classy too. Her new album is going to be fantastic. (Side note, B is now kicking herself for not telling Tom Hanks when we saw him that she played Woody at Disney World. I am just amused over it.)
– I am now mourning the loss of the mango black tea lemonade at Starbucks. Damn you, pumpkin spice latte… It’s barely September!
– I have the best cat on the face of the planet. Just a reminder.
– Playing House is the funniest show on television.

All is well. I need a nap.

The Pink Blanket

A nomadic sort of life makes me not so much a “stuff” person.  I don’t have an over-abundance of belongings.  I’ve never been a “stuff” person.  The life that I’ve had is cause for material things and even memories in things like photographs to be lost.  I am okay with this because life has never been what I own to me, it’s always been about who has stayed with me on this journey.

However, I want to tell the story of my pink blanket.

It was Christmas 2006; my first Christmas with my heart family. My Kristin was in NYC doing a revival of The Apple Tree and that Christmas, my Fancy Nancy had gotten me a winter outfit and accessories along with a pink blanket and the poster from Kristin’s production of The Apple Tree.  After opening all of the gifts, she surprised me and told me she had gotten me front row tickets to see The Apple Tree in February.  I had never seen Kristin in a show before, let alone sat in the front row, I was beside myself with love and gratitude.  How I’d been blessed with people who just like to see me happy, is still a concept I adjust to.

In the month and a half between that Christmas and the trip, I broke in that pink blanket and grew quite fond of it.  When I was a baby, my grandma crocheted me a blanket and over the span of my life, someone in my biological family stole it and I never saw it again.  So to now have a blanket that came from someone else who truly loved me, it meant the world to me.  The blanket traveled with me to NYC.  The trip itself was like something out of a storybook, because NYC feels so much like home, being there never feels like real life.  When I came back to LA from this trip, every time I used that blanket, it felt like I was wrapping myself in the magic and the memories created at the time.

Nine years later, my Fancy Nancy isn’t with us any longer. In that time and consistent instability that is my life, I’ve also lost all the things she got me for that trip, including the pink blanket.  The things are fine, because like I said, I have the memories, but something about losing that blanket gets to me whenever I think about it.  Maybe it’s a protection thing, I’ll never know. And that NYC trip is probably the only one I can tell you every last detail of if you asked me, that’s all that matters.

Christmas 2014; my first Christmas on my own. One day in December, My Person who now lives in NYC full time, called me on FaceTime to tell me she was going to fly me to NYC in February so we could see The Last Five Years movie together.  I started bawling my eyes out right there on FaceTime.  When your best friend moves across the country, getting on a plane for something as simple as going to see a movie together is extremely important when you miss them as much as I miss Janie.  We are also going to see some Broadway shows and I get to see my east coast heart family who I haven’t seen in six years.  It also happened that Kristin’s newest Broadway endeavor, On The 20th Century, begins previews the night I land back in that city with the people I love, so we’ll be seeing her at some point while I’m in town as well.  All of this was so overwhelming for me, I couldn’t stop crying. With the way my year had been going, just knowing that the person who gets me, who I love so much I can’t ever explain it in words, wanted to do this to be with me, to let me be somewhere that felt like home, to see me so happy, was a lot for me to handle. The gratitude I feel is off the charts.

From the second I was given this news, I’ve been in a constant state of preparation.  I haven’t been to NYC in the cold in eight years.  My body is completely different than it was all those years ago.  I want everything to go smoothly so I get the most out of my time.  I don’t want my body to struggle in that pending kind of cold. The goal is to keep as warm as I possibly can.  So a couple of weeks ago when My Person emailed me and said: “Bring a blanket for your chair, to sit on and cover up with when we go out.”  I knew exactly how to remedy this.  The pink blanket would get replaced.

A few months ago, one of my angel girls sent me a few gift cards as a housewarming present so I could get some things I needed.  One of them was for Pottery Barn, and I took someone’s suggestion to use that one sporadically whenever I discovered I needed something while trying to live this new life. Little by little, I’ve been using this card, but yes, I did use it to get a blanket for this trip since I don’t have extra blankets yet.  And yes, as you can see in the photo above, it had to be pink because it wouldn’t have felt right traveling to NYC in the winter with anything other than a pink blanket.  It’s just an added bonus that it came from one of my favorite humans on the face of the planet.  I’ll break it in now, as I did the one before, and it’ll be like she’s with me.  We’ll go on an adventure together, my blanket and me, and I’ll come back to reality with the reminder of memories yet to be created every time it is wrapped around me once again.  The best part is, the new pink blanket has a home and is in no danger of ever being left behind.  I realize this whole story makes me seem to be a little bit like Linus van Pelt with such fierce attachment to a blanket.  I know it’ll sound crazy to most who read this and that’s okay.  At least I have a Sally Brown in my life who loves the Linus in me, so that’s comforting.

Sometimes the simplest things have the deepest meaning in the world.  I am grateful for the past, for the now and for what’s to come. Blessed to have the ability to let the smallest things fill my heart.  Something gives me the feeling this adventure is going to be one for the record books. Soon, away I’ll fly.

(…Also pictured: The headphones I got for the plane for my super sensitive ears.  They feel like clouds and the sound that escapes them feels like it crawls its way into my brain,  This must be what music is like in Heaven.)

Almost home

It’s no secret to anyone that I’m really struggling right now. This morning I had a ton of apartment drama that will remain unresolved for what could be awhile. Instead of having a complete meltdown (that waited until I got back to my mother’s house) I walked in my living room, put Pushing Daisies in the Blu Ray player, and decorated my walls a little bit.

As I was doing this, I started to feel this warmth come over me like someone was wrapping me in a giant hug. In that exact moment, Olive Snook was singing “I know you’re lost and drifting, but the clouds are lifting…” from Candle on the Water on my TV. So, if you’ve ever needed any indication why Kristin Chenoweth is my earth angel, this is the kind of unexplainable thing that happens to me. All the time.

I started to think about how today is her birthday. I looked around my apartment and noticed that she is, in some capacity, in every room of my apartment. (Except the bathroom, that’s just weird.) From the daisies in the Pushing Daisies flower pot mug on my dining table, to the parade of desserts photo held up on my fridge by my Hollywood Bowl magnet, to the giant 30×30 poster of my heart family that Annie made me that’s waiting for a frame in my bedroom closet…

She’s there. My family is there. No wonder it feels like a warm hug when I walk through the door. This is it, this is the feeling of home I’ve always wanted.

I went back to my mother’s house and the negative energy consumed me, no matter how hard I tried to keep it away. Pending meltdown occurred. I couldn’t stop crying. I couldn’t function. Then three things happened:

1. My person called me and talked me through it. And though I am apparently an embarrassment to peppy people, I was listening and she always has a way of soothing me in a way I don’t know how to do for myself.

2. My baby Canadian niece called me on FaceTime because she wanted to say goodnight. Then she sang me “Let It Go” from Frozen. She’s only a year old.

3. I got to have Skype time with my Jillian, who recently moved to the other side of the country. Jilly’s happy sunshine personality is always such great comfort and relief for my heart.

I would have none of these people and none of these things and so much more if Kristin Chenoweth didn’t exist on this planet. I am grateful. This woman changed my life, saved my life and then gave me a life and the strength to find the courage to build it into something beautiful. She is my most precious blessing. And I’m lucky that she gave me the people who understand just how important that is.

Happy Birthday, my angel. I love you to the moon and back and beyond the stars. Thank you for your friendship and shared heart.

Surprises and Joy

There’s a thing that happens when you become so self-aware, you watch yourself grow in mind, body and spirit in a way you never could before.

On June 21st, it was Opening Night at the Hollywood Bowl and my Kristin was being inducted into the Hollywood Bowl Hall of Fame along with The Go-Go’s and Pink Martini.  When something like this happens for her, it makes me so proud and it meant so much that it was happening in a place that has become so special in the time we have known each other.

Stephanie had gotten us pretty spectacular seats, and I couldn’t wait to be there with her, drinking boxed sangria and enjoying the music like the classy broads we are.  It doesn’t get better than a summer night at the Hollywood Bowl.  My only wish was that the rest of our family could have been there to share in such a special night.  And then this is a thing that actually happened:

My Person surprised the hell out of me, and she brought Annie and Anne with her.  The moment that happened the rest of the night went out the window.  I couldn’t concentrate on what was happening on the stage.  I couldn’t stop crying.  I could only laugh and hold onto the handful of precious family sitting right next to me completely baffled that they were there. Six weeks of secrets, lies and decoy social media posts came down to these moments.  Moments of real, tangible love.

We had a sleepover, watched an unhealthy amount of television, ate junk food, gathered around the fire pit and then Anne and Annie spent the whole week here.  These moments are why I understand when Janie says she wants someone to write the story of our family, and I swear one day I’ll be the one to do that if it’s the last thing I do. The week was truly like magic.

There was also an unexpected balance to the week –  people telling me I needed to be doing other things and not spending time with my family.  People telling me my happiness upsets them.  People disrespecting my angel girls to my face.  This all happened with several people and then the self-awareness kicked in and I realized that none of these people could take my joy from me.  My life has been one giant stress ball as of late and I was allowed a week away from it to recharge.  I needed it.

I emailed one of my angel girls last night and said the following:

[As all this negativity was happening around me], I watched as I stepped outside of the situation and told myself it was ok to hang onto this happiness and I didn’t need someone else’s darkness to steal my light. I watched my own growth happen. To realize that light is so precious and rare in my life and I have every right to own my joy. It’s mine and nobody else’s.

Last night My Person said to me, “Own your joy.”  And you know what?  That’s what I’m doing.  I’ve fought my entire life for happiness.  I’ve fought my entire life to be able to say “I love you” to other human beings and truly know what that meant.  I’m not going to apologize or feel bad because my happiness can sometimes be an inconvenience to someone else.  In my current situation, there is absolutely nothing I can do right now, it’s a lot of waiting.  Waiting and stress.  So when joy and love stopped by for a visit, I had every right to hold on as tightly as I could without having to justify it.

Life is too short to be unkind and bring people down.  Find something to smile about.  Go out of your way to do something kind for a stranger.  Be grateful to the people who love you.  Be happy for those you love when something beautiful happens to them.  There’s no room in the light for darkness, and the light is warmer anyway.

Own YOUR joy.  You’ll make the world a better place.  Thank you to my family for being the people you are. You are everything I wished on stars for as a child.  I love you.

The Mother’s Day Balancing Act

I woke up today and my mother felt entitled to be showered in gifts for being the best mother in the world.  What do you do when she hasn’t been?

Mother’s Day.  One of my least favorite days of the year.  My mother is still with me of course, but she’s been “not here” for as long as I can remember.  Last year, I had a lot of thoughts about those of us whose mothers are still with us, but have either hurt and damaged us in a way a mother never should, or are just completely inaccessible due to their own selfishness.  How do you learn and grow as a woman, when your mother didn’t love you?

A couple years ago, my Arizona Mommy told me to be grateful for my mother because then I wouldn’t be around so everyone else could love me.  I’ve tried to learn to think that way.  I just don’t take the bullshit seriously and laugh at things most people wouldn’t.  I AM grateful to my mother for being half the reason I am here.  I wouldn’t have the life I do if it wasn’t for that.  So, thanks mother.  I will never be you, but thanks for showing me I need to be who I am and that will be enough for me and the people that do love me.  I always feel the void a little deeper on Mother’s Day, maybe it’s because social media turns into a parade of good mothers and I wish I had that.  The same thing happens on Father’s Day and it’s not any easier.  It’s an unexpected thing you have to grow to cope with.

However, after an entire lifetime of feeling like no one understood, I have this new — friend — who knows exactly what I went through and how I feel on days like today.  She has helped me create and nurture what she calls “a mother within” as a way to help in healing.  It’s a peaceful kind of thing to share with someone, and with myself.  It’s an interesting shift in perspective from where I was last year on this subject.  Now I’m working on accepting everything I am and loving the things about myself that other people love about me. It’s a process and it’s new, but it makes living at the very end of my fight so much easier.  I’m not alone anymore and during the parade of good mamas,  that’s something I have to remember and hold close.  My mother within is growing as I grow, and all I can do with that is to love.  Love how I wasn’t loved.  I know how to do that, because I know what I always wanted.  I have to give it and make it for myself.  I hope that with the practice of letting go and impending freedom, this will be the last year of my life the pain cuts this deep.

There are so many women in my life that give me the tools to shift my heart and love.  I know they are who they are because they had amazing mothers themselves.  So I hope you cherish yours today and I thank them for bringing you into this world.  Thank you to all of the brave, strong and selfless women in my life who love their sons and daughters beyond measure.  Thank you for showing the world that love is all that matters.  You are everything every woman should be.  Thank you for teaching me, even if you don’t realize you’re doing it.  I love you.  And I celebrate you today, to the ends of the earth.  You are angels and blessings among the stars.

Happy Birthday, Kimmie.

Today is my first birthday.

My sister Jamie has dubbed May 8th my birthday.  Why?  One year ago today, I walked into a social worker’s office and I asked for help.  I’ve done this before, but this time it took the stripping away of my dignity and someone telling me they just wanted me to be comfortable to push me over the edge.  I deserved to be comfortable.  I deserved so much more than what I had.

I was terrified.

It’s been exactly one year.  I am still terrified.

However, this is a completely different kind of terrified.  One year ago I was terrified to ask for help because I thought someone would hurt me.  And though the weeks following that first meeting were some of the most difficult I’ve had to endure, I’m still here.  One year later and tomorrow, May 9th, I am signing the lease on my very first (accessible!) apartment on my own.

The difference now?  I’m terrified AND excited.

I’ve had a lot of deep and meaningful conversations about this journey with my heart sisters.  I’ve thought about all of the things that have happened to get me here, and all of the people who have pulled me through it.  Jamie and I were talking specifically about my earth angels the other day (because we were discussing how Cady McClain and her memoir swooped in there right at the end) and she said something that is true.  She said: “Kristin gave you strength.  Susan gave you wisdom.  And Cady has given you peace.”

She’s right… But you know what?  I did this.  I did all of this and I did it by myself.  Though I am always told that I am a survivor and I am strong, I’ve never really realized how strong I actually am until this point.  Maybe it’s because I have just become so self-aware of my surroundings to the point where I can acknowledge what’s not okay and what is.  I’ve finally learned that I deserve everything I never grew up with as a child and everything I should already know as an adult.  I’m sure all of this isn’t going to hit me full-force until I am sitting alone in my living room, or cooking in my kitchen, but I am going to take every second and be grateful that I survived.  I survived for this.

I haven’t stopped smiling since I got the news the apartment was mine.

I have so much more I need to do in this world.  I guess it’s true that “nobody but me is gonna change my story” as Matilda would say… and I definitely showed everyone how big my brave is.  Thanks, Sara Bareilles for that anthem that got me through every single second for the last year.

And then there’s my friends — who are my family — you render me speechless.  You’ve been the biggest blessings ever given to me in this life.  Whether you listened when I needed a shoulder to cry on when it got hard, or took me out to have fun because you know how much I need positive companionship, or sent me things so my apartment isn’t completely empty or donated to my gofundme page  among other things… You’re incredible.  I would not be here without you.  I cherish each and every one of you and will never forget what you’ve done for me.  Thank you.  I love you.

In the photo above, I was one month old.  I look at that precious preemie baby girl before she was shattered and damaged by the people who were supposed to love her most on the planet and I just want to tell her now that she is not broken beyond repair.  I want to tell her that it may take decades, but there is something worth fighting for, and people who will love her, protect, empower and uplift her are waiting in the light.  The light at the end of the tunnel is here.  It’s over.  You’re safe, sweet baby girl.  And you’ve given yourself that gift.  You should be proud of yourself.  They can’t hurt you anymore.

Happy Birthday, Kimmie.  Make a wish on a glittery blue star.