You Are My Starfish–A Camino Story

Photo via Unsplash

Photo via Unsplash

Despite the past several days throwing us some curve balls (I fell down the steps this morning–no broken bones but some pretty impressive cuts and bruises), I woke up feeling generally okay. Sure, the heat in our apartment still doesn’t work because our boiler almost blew us up last week. And sure, every day, the news reminds us that the country is crumbling.  And yet, as I tried to express in last week’s post, good things are still happening.  Maybe that’s why I can handle wiping out on my back steps, spitting toothpaste all over the room and nearly breaking my elbow.  I can take that.  Because on the bright side, I still don’t have to live through another November 8th, 2016.

After that terrible week, I felt paralyzed.  I felt that no matter what I did, nothing could fight this national disaster.  But as the days passed, and our clouds of fear slowly parted, many of us started finding very small, very subtle ways of trying to improve the days of those around us.  A coworker approached me about a Secret Santa for local low-income seniors, another friend arranged us to volunteer at a homeless shelter.  While I was there, I bumped into another friend, totally unrelated to the first arrangement, who had come just to volunteer with her husband.  Because she knew she had to do something.  Because of these, and some other random opportunities for acts of kindness, this was one of the most fulfilling holiday seasons I’ve ever experienced.

The country has seen this too.  A record-breaking donation season, a huge increase of women running for local offices, people stepping up to defend strangers, just to name a few.

But I’m not here to pat myself on the back.  I’m actually here to talk about a Camino story (surprise!).

The Camino of Animals

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Ben and I were chatting about this phenomenon last night–people’s call to action after the election.  It’s easy to feel that small acts are too insubstantial when the headlines tell you that no matter what you do, an unstoppable sentiment of hate and intolerance has been reawakened in our country.  It’s hard to feel that leaving a larger tip on someone’s bill, or going out of your way to say something friendly to a stranger really matters at all.  Why donate one place, when there are so many groups that need our attention?

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Day 30: The Day We Decided to Get Married

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30-day challenge is to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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The morning and afternoon leading up to Ben’s proposal was one of the worst days as a temp to date.  At the time, I was assisting a married couple’s computer business in a small office on 18th street.  For several weeks, I was greeted each morning by passive-aggressive comments about how my days as their assistant might be numbered, and that we should explore different online personality tests to figure out if we were really compatible–so you know, healthy work environment.

Somewhat contradictory to their mistrust in my abilities, they decided to leave me in charge of the business for the first time (note that this is two weeks after I started).  On this day, I believe the phone rang approximately 100 times.  This is not, be any means, an exaggeration.  By noon it had become a joke.  Today was the day whenever every wealthy person’s computer decided to die, explode, fall off their desks, mysteriously self-destruct.  Interspersed with the panicked, entitled-rich-person phone calls came the, “Hiiiiii, I just wanted to have a nice slow chat about what your company does.  Are you the owner?”

By lunch time–or lack of lunch time–I had spent no more than five minutes looking at my email, which was now overflowing with emotional meltdowns.  Now, I swear to you, though most days were busy, they were never like this by any stretch of the imagination.  By the time my bosses called to check in, I had scheduled 9 new clients, set up over 15 meeting for fixing computers, and personally put out several fires by just looking up computer-y things on Google.  For once, thank the Lord, they were impressed with me.  Unfortunately for them, this madness put the nail in the coffin of whether I would ever accept this as a permanent position.

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Day 18: The Day I Freed the Horses

For the final 30 days of my twenties, I am writing one personal narrative a day that has impacted my life until now.  To read more about my challenge, feel free to check out the first post.  

Also, this 30 Day challenge is also to support a wonderful charity, Zara Aina.  Please check out my fundraiser here and if you’re able, please consider throwing a few dollars toward this amazing cause.  It would mean the world!

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I have to begin this story by telling you that I am eating one of the best breakfast wraps of my life.  A deli in Upper Montclair has gluten-free wraps, and so my painful hiatus away from savory, cheesy, Jersey-worthy breakfast combinations can finally come to a close.  The other reason it’s so delicious is because I’m in a pretty good mood today.  At several times in my life, I’ve found that after a long stretch of bad luck or extreme battles with anxiety, I emerge into a period of great gratitude and peace.  It’s like that feeling when you are so exhausted but can’t sleep for days, and then you finally take an amazing unexpected nap and wake up with a new lease on life.  Because of this, my chorizo, egg white, spinach, and cheese wrap is one of my favorite meals so far this month.

The fall weather this morning, and this general feeling of serenity, reminds me of a very odd time during my teenage years when my family’s struggles from my childhood began to truly set in.  We had only been living in Vernon for a few years, and the threatening presence of our past life in Plainfield still left a trail of destruction in our daily lives.  But I was finally getting to an age where I was mature enough to realize how close we came to never moving at all, and how lucky I was to be standing in the beautiful countryside of Sussex county–safe, with friends, with a clear head.  Unfortunately, gratitude for making it through a different experience is often not enough to erase the physical and psychological aftermath that inevitably follows.  And in a way, during high school, I knew that a storm was not far off, that at some point soon I would have to begin working through the stress it caused all of us.

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Day 16: Fundraiser THANK YOU and Silly Student Quotes

First of all, I have to send a huge thank you to Jessie and Dan Blum Gabriel for donating to my fundraiser for Zara Aina.  In the past year, they have become a huge part of our Montclair community of lovely people.  They are both generous and loving–and have two beautiful boys!!  Because of you, we are now at 64%!!

Us at Thanksgiving last year with the whole gang! (photo via Lindsey Weisman)

Us at Thanksgiving last year with the whole gang–Jess and Dan on the far right! (photo via Lindsey Weisman)

 

Second of all,  I need to keep my story short today because I have a crazy-busy afternoon.  And so I have compiled the following list, gathered from my five years as a teaching artist and summer arts teacher in NYC.  These were almost all from students between the ages of 4 and 10.  I will add more throughout the day as more come to me.

The Most Adorable Moments of Innocence/Fabulous Quotes from my Former Students

During a Q and A with 1st graders in Florida in 2009:

Student: “Miss, are you married?”

Me: “Nope!”

Student: (with a concerned face) “Oh no, it’s too late for you then!”

 

After seeing one of my brightest students sitting confused by her arts supplies during a “build your house” project with recyclable materials:

Student: “I just don’t understand yet.”

Me: “Can you explain to me which part is confusing you?”

Student: “How will we fit inside the building if we make it out of milk cartons?”

 

After I entered a room of all boys for a workshop:

Student: “You’re really lucky, you know.  Teaching all boys is much easier than teaching girls.”

Me:  “Interesting.  Any why do you feel that way?”

Student: “Because our teacher said so.”

Me: “….”

 

While we were making light-up name buttons in a shape that represented our personality:

Kindergartner: “I made a Jewish Star because I love being Jewish!  Can I make them for anyone Jewish in the class?”

*I turn around to see four students proudly wearing stick-on, yellow Jewish stars on their shirts*

Me: “Ah!”

 

After a stressful trip to a Brooklyn playground because of the heat:

Me: “And sometimes, we overcome difficult things because we are brave.  Can we think of another time we overcame something and then felt brave?”

Student, while standing up exuberantly, arms up in the air: “Yes! LIKE THAT TIME I HAD LIIIIIIICE!”

 

Overheard in the hallway between two 2nd graders:

One girl to another: “Well we’ve been engaged since Kindergarten, so one day I’m just gonna remind him that we have to get  married.”

The other girl in reply, “That’s really smart.”

 

Overheard in the hallway

“Wait, it’s ‘paddle from other side! No ‘Hello.’  It’s a song about Adele in a boat!”

 

While performing in a playwriting assembly for elementary school students (in an audience-run improv):

Suggestion from audience:  “You’re Britney Spears!”

Castmate: “And what is her conflict?”

Suggestion from audience: “She’s slowly turning into a tree that’s catching on fire!”

Castmate: “Okay–and go!”

 

Zara Aina Update

Well, it’s only been nine days, and we’re already at 44% of my birthday goal for Zara Aina!!!  I met with several members of the organization last night, as well as a bunch of other new prospective volunteers, and learned even more about this incredible group.  First off, I had to remind myself that they have accomplished an immense amount of educational work both in Madagascar and America in only about five years.  I’m so happy that this writing challenge and my birthday plan lined up with learning more about this inspiring group of people.

If you want to be even more blown away, go ahead and watch their video about Mirana, a student that has been with them since the beginning.  To hear more about their plans for the future, watch to the end of the film where they mention their goal to build a permanent space in Madagascar and to continue growing their outreach across the country.  And please consider either sharing the campaign or sending a few dollars the way of the fundraiser.  Thanks again all!  Love love love!

Check out my birthday fundraiser here!

Speranza Theatre Support and Blog Promo Opportunity!

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Speranza Theatre Company’s Piece of My Heart

Happy Friday!  I have a very special theatre company to tell you about, one that I have worked with for the past year and a half and cannot recommend enough.   Speranza Theatre Company in Jersey City is a rapidly growing professional theatre group that promotes the works of female playwrights, plays supporting women’s issues, and projects with strong female characters.  It is also a huge part of Jersey City’s expanding arts scene.

This past year, we received our first grant, which is amazing in itself.  In addition, the grant will match any donations made within our current campaign.  This November 5th, we open Janey Miller’s World Tour, a new hilarious romantic comedy by John Cassel.

Also, we will soon be announcing an amazing project currently in development to support Women Rising, a domestic abuse shelter in Jersey City.

I’ve found that the Wordpress world is a rare supportive online community that I cherish not only for the writing support it has provided to me over the past five years, but also for the constant talent I come across in all of your blogs.  And so, I reach out with another great care of mine in case you are in the position to either help us reach our financial goal, or to spread the world of our exciting company and campaign.

To celebrate any support you are willing to provide, I am happy to promote your writing in an upcoming “thank you” post!  Though I am always excited to promote wonderful writers I come across, and hope to make it more of a regular practice, this is another wonderful excuse to do so.  Please feel free to message me through my contact page for any questions about the company, campaign, or how to get involved if you are an actor/playwright/general theatre lover.

Thank you so much for reading and have a fabulous weekend!

Click here to support or share Speranza Theatre Company’s Fall Fundraiser!

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Adorable Little Lions

First of all: I’m excited to say I finally have another blog post in the works.  Often when I get an idea like this, it’s important to let it brew for a while.  But I want to wait until it develops into a post that I myself would want to read, otherwise, why ask you to read it??  So please stay tuned!  Another post is in the works!

New blog post soon?!  Hooray!

New blog post soon?! Hooray!

In the meantime…

I was inspired by an incredible Humans of New York post this week that raised, or as I’m writing this HAS raised over $530k for a struggling school in Brownsville, New York.  If you don’t know about Humans of New York or this incredible fundraiser, check it out, and feel all the wonderful feelings about society: https://life.indiegogo.com/fundraisers/let-s-send-kids-to-harvard.

Little Lions Need Our Love!

Over the past several years, I have had the joy of working in fundraising, and I am always reminded of the power of a community to support one another: with their time, their money, their enthusiasm.  This HONY post was a reminder that a community of “strangers” is just as powerful.  As cheesy as it sounds, we crazy group of internet strangers ARE one another’s community.  We read each other’s posts, like each other’s cat pictures, and sometimes, raise hundreds of thousands of dollars so kids can have a summer program and a trip to Harvard.  Go us!!

In the spirit of this belief in our incredible internet world, I am sharing the story of a group of Boston Public Middle Schoolers who are currently rehearsing, and completely self-funding, a production of The Lion King.  A dear friend of mind is their teacher.  She was once my director as well, and I know she’s something special to these children.  They have held community fundraisers as well, but as all of you theatre people out there know, theatre is EXPENSIVE and they are doing all they can on a dime.  I would love to tell them that we are their community too!

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Let’s Support The Lion King!

http://www.youcaring.com/nonprofits/the-lion-king-and-beyond-/286629#.VKoZMpA8QNs.facebook

And what does that really do?  It sends the message to students (or whoever the fundraiser is for) that human beings are out there are thinking of you.   It is a reminder that we notice what you are doing, and you matter.  Donating or sharing a link may not seem like anything against the world’s many problems.  But a teacher can go back to group of adorable children learning “The Circle of Life” in a Boston Public School and announce that the world sees what they are working towards and they applaud you.

So if donating money isn’t an option (I get it, I am very often counting my pennies), and sharing the link is also not really your jam, please send them good thoughts and happy warm-fuzzy wishes for a good show.

Thank you for reading, and happy Saturday!

Now let’s feel super happy about our morning by watching a bunch of Australian actors sing The Lion King on an airplane because it is FABULOUS.