My Life with Beauty and the Beast

I have tried to write this post several times.  I always feeling like I’m going to do the experience a disservice but I also feel like enough time has passed since I was a part of this show that I can no look on it with pleasant memories and less stress.

My first show with TBR was the summer before. It took me 10 very long years to be cast in a show there.  I never gave up trying and I wasn’t discouraged when the answer was no.  For some reason though when the answer was no for the first show I auditioned for after the one I was cast in I went into full fledged panic mode.  Was I too old?  Was I too fat?  Was the first time a total fluke?  Would I ever be in a show again?

When the time came for auditions for the summer musical I was very unsure.  Unsure if I should audition.  Unsure that I would be good enough.  Unsure that I deserved it.  Well I tried my best and worked hard to choose a song to highlight my voice at vocal auditions. I smiled and used my rusty ballet skills to show my grace in the dance auditions.  By some miracle I got callback for the wardrobe and Mrs. Potts.    I knew I didn’t really have a chance with either but I was still excited to try.  Apparently I did relatively well because I was cast in the show.  I had made ensemble which was just perfect for me.

When we started working on the show my feelings of being inferior crept in again.  I am always concerned when it comes to music rehearsals.  I can carry a tune but I can’t read music.  The summer before I had my section buddies who helped me carry my parts.  This time I felt alone in trying to figure my parts out.  Luckily a former student was in my alto section and thank goodness helped me find my note on several occasions.

My fears of musical inadequacy turned into anger when we moved to dance rehearsals.  Not only did I feel concerned over my weight it felt as though other people among me couldn’t stop seeing it either.  I found myself swaying on stairs and smiling in the back row.  I am more confident in my dancing abilities than my singing or acting.  So when the very large ensemble all got to be in the Be Our Guest kick line and 6 of us were left to stand and move our hands up slowly I couldn’t help but feel worthless.  I felt fire rise in my cheeks every time I looked down our back row line and noticed that the ones there were with me were the only ones who had a few pounds on them in the ensemble.  There were very few dance rehearsals that I didn’t come home completely and utterly hating myself and my situation.

I know I’m fat.  I’m not even going to try to use flowery language to cover that up.  I am.  I suffer from no less than 4 endocrine issues that make it easy to gain and very hard to lose.  My office job with long hours and my sheer exhaustion from it don’t help my case either.  I don’t make eating or exercise a priority.  I often go a whole day before I realize I haven’t drank or eaten anything other than my daily pills.  To have that be the reason why I couldn’t enjoy the one thing that brings me the most joy…it was hard.

I pressed on.  The day came when we tried on costumes and I was a vase.  A straight up giant-flowers-on-my-head vase.  My friends were spoons and forks and napkins.  They twirled in beautiful circles and danced with canes and I was a vase.  My the time it came to opening I was ready to get the show on the road.  If I was going to be dressed as in inanimate object it might as well be now.  A show or two in I realized how silly I was being.  So many people auditioned for this show.  People I had seen audition like me consistently and not get any parts either.  They would have killed to be a vase.

It was at that point that I decided to be positive about it.  I was going to enjoy sharing a dressing table with Chip and Mrs Potts.  I was going to enjoy helping the Wardrobe get dressed into a human every night.  I was going to cherish the time spent with my old ladies.  And that back row group, they are some of the best people I’ve ever known and I’m proud to have stood and moved my hands up slowly alongside them.

Its still too soon for me to genuinely enjoy the music from this Disney classic.  I let myself get annoyed or roll my eyes.  I catch myself and change the station.  One day I won’t feel like that.  One day I will look back at this production and remember nothing but the good things.  There was a lot of good.  And it certainly outweighed the bad.  It was a certainly an experience I will never forget.

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My Current Top Jams

I am not usually very up to date on new music.  I don’t listen to the radio too much anymore and I don’t really watch cable TV anymore either.  I do however have Spotify so I can find all of the music I already know and love.  There is one specific artist that has been on my rotation pretty heavily.  The also amazing Ms Dolly Parton!!!

I recently watched the Netflix movie Dumplin.  While that fantastic piece of work deserves its own post I will say there was a whooooole lot of Dolly in it and it had me wanting more.  Image result for dolly partonThere were some songs that were classics.  Some I’d never heard before.  Some I couldn’t help but sing along with.  Since then the Dumplin soundtrack has made its way onto my computer at least once a day.  She was my companion while last minute Christmas shopping.  She has also helped me to successfully annoy my husband with incessant renditions of 9 to 5.  Among my other favorites are Two Doors Down, Why’d You Come In Here Looking Like That and a Christmas classic Hard Candy Christmas.

I have come to find though I have a new favorite Dolly song that I have never heard of before.  Holdin’ On To You!  I love the original and the version on the Dumplin soundtrack.  Take a listen!

 

How Pokemon Go Helped My Relationship

Once you have been married for a while relationships usually move into a more comfortable phase.  There aren’t as many date nights.  There aren’t as many kissy faced googly eyed moments.  In actuality with the advancement of technology there are days where we often spend more time on phones, laptops or gaming systems then we do with each other.

On top of this my husband works shift work.  This means there are full days where I don’t see him at all.  There are days when he is asleep when I get home or hes just going to sleep when I’m leaving for work.  We found that there is some technology that actually was helpful to our relationship.  That happens to be Pokemon Go.  Yep you heard me right.  The phone app Pokemon Go was a game changer.

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Pokemon Go was launched in 2016.  When it first came out there was so much buzz around it.  Everyone around me was playing it.  From the kids at school to my friends at the theater.  They were battling gyms and catching everything they could find.  I didn’t really see the appeal but when my husband wanted to try it I said why not.  We played for a few weeks and joined our teams.  We caught all kinds of things and learned  the ins and outs of the game.  As the popularity of app decreased so did my interest.  It was still ok but I wasn’t going to miss it. That was until a few weeks later.

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One night when I got home from the theater late and my husband was off he asked if I wanted to take a ride to play Pokemon.  I thought I don’t really want to but I haven’t seen him in a while so I’ll do it.  What I thought would be a silly night ended up being a wonderful evening.  I drove while my husband picked music and caught different Pokemon.  We got snacks, sang along to the songs, and talked.  The talking was the best. We never get to just sit around and talk anymore.

Since then we have taken may of these late night Poke-trips.  We’ve got a route around town that we follow.  We have a longer route a little farther out.  We’ve played on vacation.  We’ve played on long car rides.  We’ve competed to see who could be better.  This was a game changer though.  It sounds silly and simplistic but taking the time to actually talk makes all the difference.

While Pokemon Go may not be the thing that helps your relationship, try to find something that you both enjoy and give you time to not just be together but enjoy each other.  Never stop communicating.  Never stop learning about each other.

Life is a Cabaret

Since I started blogging several years ago I always find myself doing really well with posting and getting ahead on topics until a few months in.  I think I went a little too hard last time with doing posts 2 to 3 times a week.  Eventually that caught up to me and its been 2 months since I’ve done a post.  I should have realized that my busy time in the fall was going to make it nearly impossible to continue along with any free time.  So now that I’ve slowed down a little after the holidays I’ve decided to pick it back up again.

To get me back into the posting I decided to go with something simple.  Here are some shots from Theatre Baton Rouge’s production of Cabaret last spring.  This is one of my favorite shows and it was a pleasure to capture the magic of the show.

 

Show Choir Throw Back

 

If you can’t tell by some of my post I really miss working with my show choir kids.  Its been several years since I was able to do anything with them and there are days where I dream of walking back into that choir room and planning a show.  I am also very aware that it was my time to go.  There is no way I could do the things I did then.  My job, while still the same, has become more demanding. I’m also in school and spending a lot of my free time with the theater.  While I am fulfilled in my creative outlets, nothing will compare to the feeling of collaborating with my kiddos.

For this throw back I want to share what was possibly one of my favorite numbers.  The theme for the end of year show was Stage and Screen.  That year I tried to utilize my kids talent.  I had some really creative kids who could act, some that were amazing singers and some that were talented dancers.  Instead of trying to make them fit into a mold I wanted to embrace their differences.

I chose to do a number from Tim Burton’s version of Alice in Wonderland.  The tune would showcase their musical abilities.  I could also use it to play out a tea party.  That summer I was inspired by a piece of work on So You Think You Can Dance.  It was a garden party set to David Bowie’s Fame.  In my brain I could see dancing with teacups and red queens calling for heads.

The kids worked very hard.  They were so excited to see who was cast as each character.  The high school art class created tea cups for us.  Everyone was excited working on moves and creating costumes.  I enjoyed this dance and this show so much.  Again I would like to remember Anabelle who is no longer with us.  She was a feisty red queen and she is certainly missed.

The View from the Wings

While I have come to find that I really enjoy photographing babies I still have a deep love for shooting performing arts.  I spent so many years learning all of the tricks from my boss about how to shoot dancers.  I do really enjoy the dancers but I have found that actors are even better to shoot.  There is so much about a live theater that I love.  I love watching the different expressions of the actors.  I love watching my friends turn in to the characters they are portraying.  I also love seeing people who are so often behind the scenes getting their time in the spotlight.

I worked as dresser on A Few Good Men at Theatre Baton Rouge in the spring of 2017.  I spent the majority of my time watching from the wings and marveling at the talent on the stage.  I knew I needed to capture this show so I spent one night with my camera.  Below is the amazing work of the actors who brought this show to life.

My Special Angel

 

Today may be Halloween but it is also the last day of October.  That means its the last day of the month of October and the last day I could put off writing this post.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.  This was something as a woman that you always think about but it usually stays at the back of your mind unless you or your family is touched by it.  Unfortunately my family will forever be touched by this illness and we lost one of the most important people.  Dale Marie Babin.

I don’t remember the date but I remember the day that she came to my house to tell me something was wrong.  She always suffered with health issues especially her asthma but nothing seemed life threatening.  My cousin Randi is a special needs child and within the last few years we discovered she has a diseased that could be cured with treatments.  She was having those treatments at the Arkansas Children’s Hospital and it was a returning trip home that started all of this for us.  My Nanie called and said to meet her outside in the driveway.  This was not uncommon.  She often stopped to tell me a story, drop off some food or just say hello when she was passing.  I walked out and she rolled down the window and said a few weeks ago my mammogram came back with some abnormalities and they did a biopsy and they called while we were on the trip to tell me there is cancer in my breast.  She said it so matter of fact.  There is some cancer in my breast.  When I started to tear up she said not to worry.  They caught it as quickly as they could and that she would going to the doctor the next week to discuss treatment option.

 

She ended up having a mastectomy.  She stayed in high spirits about it though telling me how much nicer her back was going to feel to get that weight off her chest and how cool her tattooed nipple would be when she got her implant.  Well the time went along and it was time for another pet scan. Still cancer.  It was at this time that she told me what type it was.  HER2-Positive.  Being the crazy person I am I started contacting a friend who is well versed in medical knowledge to tell me everything.  I made her be as brutally honest with me as she could.  And she was…it just didn’t sink in at the time.  This couldn’t kill her.  People will breast cancer are fine all of the time.  I am now aware and should have accepted at the time this this is probably the worst form of breast cancer anyone can get.  This is one of the most aggressive forms of breast cancer.

She started chemo and she did well.  She hated losing her hair but she got a fancy Raquel Welch wig an she worked it. She joked about her missing boob and she never ever let anyone know if she was down or hurting.  When the chemo was done and the scans came back the cancer had mutated.  Worst of all the cancer mutated to her lungs.  Her lungs were already so weak from her asthma.  She had spent a half dozen times in the hospital on CPAP machines, on oxygen and constantly doing treatments.  At this time her doctor here in town was very honest.  He wanted her to have the best care but he didn’t want her to be his experiment.  His suggestion was that she take her case to MD Anderson in Texas where the best of the best were.

 

She, along with my Uncle and cousin, made the pilgrimage to Texas regularly.  Always different doctors, blood work, creating a team.  She was set to do experimental drug trials, radiation and chemo pills. She did not complain one time.  She did not say she was going to die in front of me EVER.  Her spirit is what kept us going.  Her will to live is what kept us pushing to keep her treatment going.  She was the reason we got her for longer that we should have.

In December she was struggling with fluid around her lungs.  She was on oxygen and constantly short of breathe.  She had a tube inserted and was having a home health nurse over regularly to drain the fluid.  One day while waiting for the nurse to come she went to walk up her porch stairs and she fell.  She fell hard.  She had a black eye, she her hurt foot, she was sore everywhere.  Luckily the nurse came soon after and called 911.  At the hospital they did another scan.  The worst fear of ours was true.  The cancer had spread not only to her lungs but now to her brain.  She again visited MD Anderson and did radiation on her brain.  It was just too strong for her.

She made it to Christmas and New Years.  She made it to my nephews 1st birthday party where she was completely delighted with herself because he liked her present best.  She was there to see my sisters get engaged.  But in the end it was too much for her.  In February I went to Disney with work while she was in the hospital.  I was hesitate to go but she assured me she was fine and she would see me when she got back.  I came home on Tuesday and visited her on Ash Wednesday the next day.  I still didn’t get it.  I didn’t know what was about to happen.  I didn’t realize it had gotten so far.

On Thursday I got a call from my sister after visiting that morning that my uncle was calling in hospice.  How?  I just saw her. She wasn’t great but she couldn’t be that close could she?  I left work immediately and spent the entire day there.  My sister tried on her wedding dress and she smiled and said how pretty she was.  The next morning my other sister snapped a selfie with her and her pose was duck lips.  This could not be someone who was dying.  I went over early to visit and took some pictures with her myself.  It had been a long few days and my sisters and I were going home to grab food and rest before coming back.  It wouldn’t be long before we got the call that it was happening.  She was going to pass that day.  How can you possibly know that?  My nanie can’t die?  Not now?  She is going to miss so much?  Morgan has to get married.  I have to adopt a kid.  Marlyn has to elope and surprise us with another baby.  We have to go to Disney together.  We haven’t gone to mountains for Thanksgiving like she always wanted.  This just can’t be true!  But it was.  And it was in her living room while she was surrounding by her family that she peacefully left this world.  My family was devastated.  She was a core part of our being.  8 months later we still feel her lose.  I don’t think that will ever go away.

 

My nanie was fearless, fiercely loyal and honest to a fault.  She loved her babies.  She loved her friends.  She knew everyone and everyone loved her.  She was something special.  She was a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, an aunt and so much more.  I selfishly wish she were still with us every single day.  But  I know the pain has stopped.

Breast Cancer effects 1 in 8 women in the USA every year.  95% of those women are 40 and older.  Yearly screenings and monthly checks for breast cancer has reduced the risk of death by 30-40% since 1990.  Each year over 220,000 women will be diagnosed with breast cancer and 40,000 will die.

Do not let yourself or your loved ones become a statistic.  Get yourself checked and educate yourselves on the risk.  You are someone special to a lot of people.  My Nanie was someone special to me.  Now she is my special angel

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Why am I in college???

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When I graduated in 2005 I had high hopes.  I was going to LSU and going to experience that college life.  To say my first years of school were not what I expected is a definite understatement.  2 weeks into the semester hurricane Katrina hit.  Luckily my home took no damage and my family fared well.  School was closed for a week and when I returned my once small classes now were 3 times the size.

I thought I understood what I wanted in life.  Like most 18 year olds you are certain what occupation you want to be in.  It only takes a few weeks of college to realize you are an idiot and what in the world were you thinking! I quickly learned that my honor roll intelligence was not going to cut it.  High School came easy to me.  I barely studied and only struggled in math.  I didn’t know how to study.  So needless to say when I started my freshmen year pre-med I was in over my head.  My first semester was difficult.  I barely got out of biology with D and I failed Chemistry.  This wasn’t exactly the start I needed to become the anesthesiologist of my dreams. I became very aware a few weeks into my second semester that med school was not going to be the place for me.  I didn’t have the time or drive to study like you needed to.  I didn’t want it bad enough.  So I changed my major to elementary education and tried to go about my business.  But that was also the time I found out that I had social anxiety.
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I took a 5 day a week latin class at 8am.  It was in this class that I realized something was wrong.  I would wake up and think to myself I’m not good enough so I wouldn’t go to class. So the next day I would wake up and think every one in the class knows I missed yesterday I can’t go today.  The next day would come and I would think they all know I’ve missed and we have a quiz today.  I’ll never pass it so why even try.  These thoughts clouded my entire second semester.  It wasn’t just latin I was missing.  It was theater and bio and anything else on the schedule.  I convinced myself that work was more important.  And after a semester of denial I ended up with a GPA in the trash, failing a 5 hour class on my transcript and I lost TOPS.

At this point I realized I needed to make a decision.  Was I going to take out student loans and try to get through school or was I going to get a real job.  By the grace of God my Nanie had a friend on campus who needed someone to work for them.  I started my job as a temp in 2007.  I did go back to school for a summer and fall semester.  At this point I had taken out $24,000 in student loans with high interest rates and I was struggling.  I was also in a relationship wit my husband and we were getting pretty serious.  It was at this time that I decided school was not for me and I would be looking for a real job.  Luckily my boss was amazing and I worked really hard so they decided to keep me.

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Ironically my big girl real job is for the University that I couldn’t seem to pass.  As a permanent employee of said University you get certain benefits.  One benefit of the job is tuition exemption.  Once you have worked for the University for a year you can apply for tuition exemption that allows you to take 2 classes in the fall and spring and 1 in the summer.  I have been a permanent employee for almost 11 years and it wasn’t until last summer that I decided to use this.

30 hit me hard.  I felt like I had accomplished very little in my life.  While I can look on the bright side (I have a successful marriage, I have a job, I own a home, I have food to eat) there are also a lot of things I don’t have (a savings account with actual money in it, a retirement plan for my husband, a fancy car, or a baby).  Since I didn’t want to sit around feeling sorry for myself forever I decided I would look into finishing my degree.  I had some hours to carry over and I didn’t want to waste the effort I had put in.

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I had changed my major 3 times originally and I still didn’t know what I wanted.  I decided to go with the interdisciplinary route instead.  This option let me choose 3 majors, all of which have nothing to do with each other, to make my own degree.  This was the best option for me.  I can do things I love and things that will help with my career at the same time.

While this has not been an easy experience I am trying every single day to stay positive about it.  I have learned that even though I work hard and study its ok to not be a straight A student.  Its ok to pass a class with a C if you worked hard.  It took me a very very long time to dig GPA out of the hole it fell into but I can finally say I am not on academic probation and I’m doing pretty ok considering I work a 40+ hour a week job on top of my class.

Now I am human.  I do get down on myself about this.  I constantly have to remind myself that it is worth it. Its hard to be in the middle of the work day and have to walk clear across campus to take a one hour class and come back sweating with your daily routine messed up.  Its hard to stay up late at night deciphering notes and reading textbooks with the lamps on so not to wake up your husband.

So why am I in college?  Because I deserve it.  Because I deserve to take advantage of what gifts have been given to me by my job. Because I owe it to my husband to make myself better. Because I owe it to myself to make me better.

If you have an opportunity in front of you and you think you aren’t worthy.  Think again.  You are strong.  You are smart.  You are fierce.  You deserve it.  Now work hard and get you some!

Maternity Photo Shoot

When my sister was pregnant with my amazing wonderful nephew she asked me to do some maternity pictures for her.  She is my first and only maternity shoot currently but I had fun with her and her fiance.  The photos were taken at the BREC Arboretum.  This small place is off  the map and was the perfect place for an outdoor shoot.  Most of these are completely raw unedited photos from the day.  The more I shoot babies and pregnant ladies the more I think that they will be my specialty if I ever finish my photography minor and actually retire at some point.

My Life With American Idiot

Next up on my theater journey story telling is American Idiot.  I actually went out of order because I was a part of this one before Evangeline but this one just feels like a blur in my mind.

During Little Mermaid I was asked to be the rehearsal stage manager for this show.  At the end of the summer I joined the cast in the studio theater.  We spent a few weeks in rehearsal and then the Great Flood of 2016 hit.  While the damage was minor the flood affected the theater itself.  It also devastated the home of our stage manager.  Both this show and Evangeline were in rehearsal at the same time and there were several members of the cast or productions teams of the two that were affected as well.  It was a wonderful sight to see the theater family rally together to help each other.  There were groups that help demo houses, there were people who brought food, people who washed clothes, people who opened their homes.  While this was tragic it made me even more thankful to be a part of theater family.

There was never really a normal with this show.  The director and choreographer were a married couple with very different leadership styles.  I often sat in the audience feeling sorry for the cast as they worked on their choreo.  Most of the time it felt like they were doing parkour or intense workouts with tons of burpees and running.  God bless them because I have no idea how they continued to sing through all of that.

Once the show started I worked backstage with props and assisting as a dresser/deck crew.   I genuinely love to perform but I think I thrive backstage.  I like to organize props.  I like to get people dressed and back on stage in 30 seconds.  Plus the pressure is off.  You are a part of the show but you don’t have to face the audience.

The cast of this show was genuinely amazing.  They were young and spirited and made you want to join in the singing.  It was a really awesome way to enter into the community theater world.