I don’t know why I tend to start blogs like they are letters, but it just seems a bit more personal than my just jumping in with what I want to say. Or maybe it is just a quirk of me.
Within the past month, a friend that I had gotten to know and love lost his parents within a week of one another. I felt horrible because the first thought I had when I heard his mother had passed was, “But what about his Health Kwest.” See, Steve was the local “Khantestant” for the Genghis Grill Health Kwest, and to say that he was kicking some serious ass would be an understatement. So pairing the sadness of him losing that motivation in his weight loss goals with the fact that I could not begin to imagine what he was feeling, having lost both his parents in a week, and not being able to give him a hug (about the only thing I could do, as I did not have the right words), I couldn’t think of what I could do to show that I was there for him.
Enter a group of friends who formed the “We ❤ Steve” Surprise Party committee. These people had the same feelings I had and came together with the idea to show him our love, but also show our support in his fitness efforts. I really wanted to contribute in some way, but cooking is not a strong point, so bringing a dish to pass was out, and I am in a bit of a financial mess right now due to an argument with my insurance company, so money was not an issue. But the one thing I knew I could do was put together a video. A photo montage video. And after mentioning it to a couple of people on the committee, and explaining how it would be different from the video they had already planned, they agreed.
Thus began a 2 week period (maybe 3), of asking everyone I could who knew Steve to please mail me a photo of the two of them. And then, this past Sunday started the process of putting it all together. Then discovering I had more photos than song. Thankfully, a friend did some music editing for me creating an extended version of the song, allowing me to put in as wide a variety of photos as I received. Working an 8 hour day and then coming home and putting 2-3 more hours in editing this project and trying to make it perfect.
Now, a friend pointed out that there is a website that could have assembled all the photos into a montage for me and included some special effects. But I could not do that for 2 reasons. The first was prideful: I learned how to edit in college on a non-linear system (reel-to-reel) and wanted to play with iMovie and figure out some basic non-linear. The second had to do with love. Sure, something thrown together in a random order by an algorithmic program is quick and easy. By taking the time to look at each photo and place it to specific beats and lyrics in the music, I was putting my love into the project and making it personal, something I hoped that people would feel when watching the finished project.
Then the raves started coming in. For the OTHER video. The original video. I kept seeing comments by the organizing committee on how brilliant it was. I shared mine in the thread, but no one said anything. And my confidence went out the window. Two of my friends were life savers and confidence boosters during this time, telling me how great mine was in a different way. Finally, the night before the party, I shared my finished project with the committee, so they knew what they had to work with and determine where in the program it would go. And one of them sent me a response that meant more than he will ever know. “Magical.”
Friday, 12 April was the night of the party. There were some travel difficulties (stupid Chicago rush hour traffic) and of course I did not save the files in the proper format for the computer the projector was connected to. Thankfully, I had my handy dandy laptop with me and could export the files in the proper format. WHEW!
And when my two videos played, I still wanted to leave the room. I felt embarrassed when called out for making them. I tried to brush off any praise because it made me feel uncomfortable.
But, I gave the best gift that I knew I could give. I made it with all the love and friendship that I have. And it touched the heart of the person I wanted it to touch. Who could ask for anything more?
I know, in the post I said videos, a plural. But I only talked about one. On Wednesday night, I realized that we did not have anything relating to Steve’s Health Kwest put together. We had something with his onstage work and something to give him a visualization of his circle of friends, but nothing on his workouts. I asked a friend with more video editing experience if he knew of a way I could pull videos off of YouTube, as the websites I had tried were absolute disasters, and he helped me out. Thursday night found me editing “Edge of Glory” by Lady GaGa to just the chorus, then putting together a short video using clips Steve created for the social media challenges he had during his Health Kwest. It was about a 5 hour project, and I think it turned out pretty ok.
Hi! How is everyone doing out there?? How is life? How has your summer been? Mine has been pretty interesting and pretty low key. It’s a very interesting mix. I feel like I should pick up where I left off with the Disney/Universal trip, but that has been so long ago, that I don’t really remember where I left off except that Disney Onstage = Awesome for Glutards, Disney Backstage = Not So Much and that Universal was a blast, but a total food wash.
So, what have I been up to?? Well, near Memorial Day the studio where I was taking Burlesque classes
had a Graduation Recital and I got to perform with a group of my fellow Beginning/Intermediate students in that while the gradates prepped after their individual numbers for their finale. I only went down to a bra and my second pair of panties (the routine had us removing the outer pantie), but it was exhilarating. I felt strong, sexy, and confident, three words that I do not feel that often and rarely at the same time.
Not too long after that, actually ON I went up to Northern Wisconsin for a friends weekend. It was a fun weekend with friends and I got to see her marry the love of her life. How can that NOT make you happy??
I think not long after that, I did a 20th anniversary show for a friend’s theatre company. It was not everything that was promised when I showed up to the first meeting, but in the end, I had a lot of fun with some talented people and got to share the stage with some friends. And I hope, beyond all hope, that the next time I ever sing “Seasons of Love” is because I am in a production of RENT. Can I please call for a ban of that song in any and every musical revue show? It is honestly the entire reason I never saw RENT until about the time the movie came out.
The big highlight of July was cheering on a friend in her international beauty pagent here in the Chicago area. She rocked out, won “Most Photogenic” and was an amazing advocate for her platform, Celiac Awareness. I met her at the Gluten Free Cooking Expo that I have been volunteering at for YEARS and I love my “cupcake monsters.”
August started with a bang. Almost quite literally if you consider the gun that was fired in show. Anyway, I had been asked by a director I have auditioned for several times to take place in a musical revue that he was putting together as a fundraiser for a local theatre company. Of course I jumped at the chance to work with him. Then I saw who else he asked. EVERY other person in that cast has, at one point in their life or another, played a lead or a main supporting character with solos in a show. Some of these performers I had seen on stage and just wanted to learn as much as I could from them. And then there was me. The tall chorus girl in the back. But in this show, I wasn’t going to be a chorus girl. Every single person in the show was featured in at least 2 numbers. What did that mean for me? I was going to be singing Magenta in “The Time Warp” from ROCKY HORROR SHOW, and Mazeppa in “Gotta Get a Gimmick” from GYPSY. Plus ensemble in 4 other numbers. **GULP** Nervous. Scared. Floored. Honored. Determined. Terrified. What if I got there and I was the weakest person in the show? What if I got there and the director realized he made a mistake? Well, I got the sheet music about a month early and did everything I could to start working on my parts so that when the time came for rehearsals to start, I could be (somewhat) professional and at least know my music. I knew it would be tweaked as I worked with the director and knew what he wanted, but I could know words and pitches.
11 Rehearsals. 22 people put on a 2 hour show in 11 rehearsals. We sold out 97% of the house over the run of the show. I came into the rehearsal process determined to be friendly, but to keep my head down, work hard, learn by observing others, and not let all of my crazy energy out. And for the most part, I think I succeeded. I don’t know how my performances went. I know they felt great, and each night they felt stronger and stronger. I don’t know how well I succeeded in everything else I wanted to accomplish, or even hope to accomplish. But I know this. I came out of it with a bunch of new friends and the knowledge that I got to play with the big boys and I held my own.
I don’t know about you, but I am pretty hard on myself. For the longest time, I thought I could not sing because someone told me, “we don’t sing well.” I think believing that helped to form some of the mental blocks about myself and the roadblocks I put in my own path.
When I was a little girl (yes, I was little), I used to LOVE to sing. Did it all the time. My Opa would give me a penny every time I saw him if I sang “Jesus Loves Me.” I sang it a LOT! But eventually, the music in church that I couldn’t follow the melody if they gave me a 20 foot roadmap, and someone saying “we don’t sing” every Sunday, led me to believe I could NOT sing.
When I finally got a car, I sang in it ALL the time! I just belted along with the songs hoping I did not sound like a total tool. Worrying about what other people think is another issue of mine…even when there was no one in the car with me. One day, I was chillaxing in my parents basement with Teenie, singing along to Queen videos (she got to hear me sing, I gave her rides and I ALWAYS sang in my car. Still do), when she turned to me and told me “You can sing!” When I didn’t believe her she told me that I hit a really hard note. That was also a bass note. Hi, female, but still, kinda cool that my range went that low.
Talk about the confidence boost! I still did not believe I could really sing, but her encouragement got me to find a voice teacher one summer when I was between colleges and interning at a theatre. While I did not like how I was singing with her, looking back I see that what she was doing was trying to get me to place my voice properly. Best response was when I was singing at a Christmas service (in the pews), and my mom turned to me and stated, “you have a really nice voice.”
And then, I did nothing with it. Not a thing. Just kept singing along in my car. No voice lessons, no nothing. Until about a year after I moved to Chicago. I moved here wanting to act and do the things that I let fear stop me from doing. And I got a job hosting karaoke on the weekends at a local theme park. So I signed up for group voice lessons at Old Town School of Folk Music. Hated my teacher, but between her and the encouragement from the folks in the park, I signed up for private lessons. And I also started auditioning for musicals.
I was with my first teacher for almost 2 years, before she left for new adventures, and during that time I started to be cast fairly regularly in ensembles of various community theatres. It is amazing how much you can learn, when you are open to it and go in with an open mine. After that, I moved to an instructor who has really worked with me on standing correctly, speaking correctly (did you know you can talk wrong?), and placing my voice in the proper spot when singing. Currently, we are taking a small break while she rehearses for a show.
So, while I do not think my voice has grown into what it can be, it has grown. I still sing karaoke, but at bars, and I am back on the audition circuit. To continue growing my voice is a challenge, but I have learned that I CAN sing. And it is one fear that I have broken free from.