City Love

There was something about looking out the window to this view for five days…

New York City and me, we were on a break for a few years.  It had been so long (nearly seven years) that I began to think we’d never kiss and make-up.  We did.  Thanks to my best friend and the best Christmas gift I’ve ever been given in my life.  My Person has always been big on giving me the people I love most for holidays and birthdays and sometimes for no reason at all.  This reunion with the City that I love was filled with so many souls I hold close – I think I am more in love with New York now than I ever was before.

Those people above are just a handful of people who came to spend some time with me. (And a couple TONY winners  who don’t suck at their jobs or as human beings.)  I didn’t get photos with everyone, but that’s the thing, being in NYC is all about time.  Time. The thing that is most important to me when I’m with ANYONE is to be present.  Nothing bothers me more than when I am with someone and they don’t look up from some technical device.  I left my computer in LA.  In five days away, I only looked at my phone when someone was supposed to meet up with me.  When I’m with you, I want to be WITH you.  I want your time and I VALUE your time.  Everyone seems to just get that there.  It fills me up beyond anything just to see the people I love smile and laugh and cry happy tears when we are together.  Shouldn’t that be most important every day?  I try to live my life that way, anyway.

We went to see some shows, because theatre is how I connect spiritually.  When I see the beauty of art coming alive before my eyes and transporting me to another place, it just instills in what I’ve always known… there is something bigger than all of us out there guiding us to make the world a better place.  This trip?  All of the shows brought a kind of joy in some form or another.  (Yes, even the lynching, in a way I wasn’t expecting.)

Honeymoon in Vegas is the first Jason Robert Brown show I’ve seen on Broadway. This show is so much fun and so funny,  Also, if you get lucky, you’ll get lei’d!  That’s right, this show comes with props.  It was a most excellent way to spend an afternoon at the theatre.  Any show with a tap dancing Tony Danza is a good time in my book.

We then saw Jessie Mueller in her TONY winning turn in Beautiful: The Carole King Musical.  This woman deserved that TONY.  This show was just that… beautiful.  It reminded me of every last reason why I love theatre so much.  It made me emotional.  I cried through a good portion of it. I feel so grateful that I got the opportunity to see it.  And then I met Jessie and she was just a down-to-earth, humble, spectacular human being.

Next up was the revival of On The 20th Century with my Kristin.  Where do I even begin with this show?  I am that person whose favorite shows are the old school classic shows and anything that has that sort of feel to it.  On The 20th Century was right up my alley.  I LOVED every last second of this show, and not just because my girl was fabulous in it.  When the promos and reviews are all calling it “a madcap musical comedy” that is no joke.  I snort-laughed at this show.  I laughed until I cried at this show. I laughed so hard my side hurt and had to shift in my chair. …And that was just by intermission.  That ensemble is INSANE.  Peter Gallagher can sing me all of the things all the time now.  Andy Karl and Kristin are the perfect pair.  I’m so proud of my sweet friend.  She’s working so hard and she was born to play this role.  I am so grateful I got to see her play one of her dream roles.  I am grateful that I got to shower her with the love she so deserves afterwards as well.

Ah, the final show on the itinerary… the Parade concert at Lincoln Center.  Parade was the first Jason Robert Brown show I ever saw on stage. I saw the production in Los Angeles a few years ago with T.R. Knight in the role of Leo Frank.  That production was fantastic, but this? This production of Parade was absolutely the most amazing thing I’ve seen on stage in my entire life. I am completely serious.  A full orchestra, a 200+ person choir, JRB conducting, Jeremy Jordan, Laura Benanti and the most incredible ensemble and musicians… It’s been a little over a month and I am still at a loss as to how to describe how it made me feel.  I’ve never left so inspired by a piece of art.  I do know that I walked out reaffirming that experiences like that are the reason I come to New York,  Something so stunning couldn’t have happened on that scale anywhere else.  Unbelievable.

It also has to be said that The Last Five Years movie was perfect.  Every frame.  Every moment.  Every note.  Perfect.  (Though selfishly I did miss the original “I hate these fucking shoes” line.)  Thank you to everyone involved with bringing something loved by so many to a different medium so we could keep it forever. It’s incredible.

So, that was basically my adventure.  There were people.  There was theatre.  There was food.  There was A LOT of laughter and A LOT of hugging.  All of it together revived my soul, as New York always does.  But this time it was like it took extra care, to make up for such a long absence.  That absence will never happen again.  Ever.  I need it way too much to ever stay away.

Thank you to all of you who gave me YOUR time.  I value your time and treasure you.  Every last one of you.  I love you.  And Janice, My Person, I don’t even have words for you.  Thank you for being the one who gets me.  Thank you for knowing what I need and just wanting me to feel all of the joy and love all the time.  No amount of saying “thank you” will ever express the gratitude I feel for all you do for me in life and in our friendship.  I love you.

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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.)

Mental illness, suicide and living for the life in the light

When I was a kid and my mother would do something stupid, my dad would put on one of Robin Williams’ films to make me laugh or to give me a sense of comfort.  Like so much of the world, he was like the father I always wanted and somehow my dad knew he wasn’t capable of being that at the same time.  It’s a strange thing.  It’s been over a week and I’m still coping with this, which somehow feels wrong, but I know it’s not.  I don’t think I’ve been affected by a celebrity death in this way before, honestly. 

The loss of Robin Williams has the whole world shaken up.  However, in loss it has created a much needed dialogue on mental illness, suicide and addiction.  A dialogue that should have been a lot more prominent long ago, but alas here we are now.  It took me a little over a week to articulate my thoughts, but I have some things to say and will hopefully bring in some light as well.

When we lost Robin Williams, social media was immediately flooded with helpline numbers for suicide and depression — words on the screen screaming GET HELP at anyone who scrolled down their feeds.  Here’s the thing, there’s an unspoken truth to suffering with a mental illness or addiction — the sufferer has to WANT to get help.  We know the help is there, but we need to be in a place where we feel safe enough to accept the help.  The other unspoken truth is, it’s an internal battle.  When you’re on that precipice in that dark place, no amount of screaming GET HELP at someone is going to save them.  We get to that place because life is so lonely we feel like we have nothing and no one to live for, and living for ourselves has become too exhausting.  So when that voice tells us to just give up, the end looks inviting.  As human beings, we all go through some sort of mental illness in our lifetime.  We are fragile.  Be careful how you push someone who is struggling.  The effect the struggle has on each person is different, so what has helped you will most likely NOT be the same thing that helps someone else.  Always keep that in mind.

I have severe depression, anxiety and PTSD.  My life has been one trauma after another since I was a child.  Often I feel like I’ve never had a break.  I can feel everything around me and I am easily triggered.  I’m so sensitive I cant even watch or read the news anymore, it sends me into a downward spiral. I’ve been in that dark suicidal place several times in my life.  A weird thing that happens when I’m in that place is, I flashback to this one specific time it happened when I was in eighth grade.  My brother’s best friend went through our house and removed every sharp or harmful object he could find. He just gathered it all up and walked out the front door. Someone who didn’t even really know me, did everything he could to save me.  I think of that day and somehow my unconditional belief in something bigger than you and me pulls me back.  My faith is the reason I could never end my life.  I was not given life to give up on it, no matter how hard it gets.  I’m not in charge of my time to say goodbye and I know that.  Basically what I’ve learned is, if you are still breathing, there is a reason for it.  That doesn’t mean that sometimes I don’t want to call out a day on life because the struggle is too much.  There have been many times my illness has made me want to cancel plans and tell someone I just can’t give them my time because the struggle is overpowering me that day.  I try not to do that.

In 2006 when I was given my family, it was like there was a crack in the sky, the light came in and the whole universe opened up.  I could breathe.  It was made clear to me almost instantly, that my illness is most significantly triggered by my surroundings.  When I’m stuck at home for weeks or months at a time, it’s bad,  but if I have a reason to be out, I’m just fine.  I’ve had people want me to promise them I’ll get help, or promise them I’ll go get medication, but the thing is I don’t want the medication.  I know that once I’m physically in a different place I’ll be fine.  And that’s why I’m doing everything I can to work on that.  The bad days are already starting to become few and far between.  I’m blessed.  I’m blessed because I’ve seen the life outside of the darkness and I’m going after it.  I’m blessed because even if I have a bad day, I know I have someone I could call to spend time with me away or at the very least someone to get on Skype or FaceTime to keep me company.  If you ask me, Skype and FaceTime in a world of long distance interaction is one of the only blessings of technology. Those moments of companionship, no matter how they come about are why I am here.  A quote I like, from The Hours, is:

“That is what people do; they stay alive for each other.”

So, I thought I’d end this post by balancing it out with just a small list of the things I live for.  If you are struggling, I encourage you to give this a try.

In no particular order, I live for:

  • Happiness.
  • Laughter.
  • Love
  • Knowing I can feel.
  • Knowing I’ve come this far and that’s not for nothing.
  • Music.
  • Art.
  • My heart family.
  • Watching my nieces and nephews grow up.
  • The strong women in my life who empower me.
  • Loving all the people I’ve had the opportunity to love in my life, even if they’ve left me.
  • Growing in strength, faith and spirit.
  • Opportunities to learn new things.
  • Seeing the world through different perspectives.
  • Traveling.
  • Being able to help other people.
  • My Disneyland adventures.
  • Getting creative and crafty.
  • Forming a connection with someone else.
  • The way that I feel when seeing live theatre and concerts.
  • Peace and relaxation.
  • Genuine understanding.
  • Being able to use my imagination.
  • Having the ability to express myself.
  • Sunshine.

The list is longer, but I’ll stop there.  Have you ever really thought about what you live for? Do it. Make a list. Put it up somewhere where you can see it.  When you feel like there’s no way out and no reason to be here, read it repeatedly.  This conversation is so much bigger than me, but I am here.  I can’t fix it, but I can make the best of it.

Rest in peace, Robin Williams.  Grateful you made me laugh — in darkness you were always a part of all the good for as long as I can remember.  Thank you for that.

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.

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.

What is this freedom you speak of?

So, remember in my last post when I said I had an interview for an accessible apartment?  Well, I got accepted and picked out a unit.  Here’s a tour:

 

This whole moving thing is happening SO fast.  I am scheduled to move in on Thursday.  I have an assessment so I can hire a staff on Wednesday.  I don’t have anything done because my debit card has been stolen twice this month and I’m seriously stressing out.  I know it’s going to be okay, but I really don’t know how people do this.

Anyway, people have been asking how they can help.  I have some options:

I’m at least trying to get things together that I need because I don’t have anything but a bed and a TV.  A dear friend of mine has offered to take me shopping at Bed Bath and Beyond and is going to buy me $300 worth of stuff.  I am grateful for such an incredible kindness and still a little speechless, to be honest.  She suggested I get my friends to sign up on BedBathandBeyond.com, because apparently they send you coupons and things and it would make her budget go even farther if we were those people that use a bajillion offers. So, if you wouldn’t mind signing up and then sending me your coupons so we can use them, that would be wonderful.

Or my friend Stephanie made me a gofundme page (because I am only allowed to have a certain amount of money in my bank account) and anything donated there will go to things I need as well.  The link to that page can be found here, or in the sidebar on my blog.

Lastly, you can always find my Amazon wish list here.

Thank you everyone for your help, love and support.  It means the world.

This is it.  It’s almost over.