bravery

bravery

“Bravery is living life wide awake.  Bravery is feeling what you need to feel.  Bravery is dancing with your fear instead of avoiding it.”

-Dr. Rebecca Ray

I’m back to blogging in hopes of reigniting the self-reflective and open relationship I have with myself.  This past week, my world was inflated with many emotions — namely the cautious, blind, brave tip-toe towards embracing the unknown. Bravery to take a step in an uncomfortable direction will be an obstacle we continuously face at various moments in our lives; and most times we won’t know that the fear we feel is merely a fraction of the courage we have.

“It takes courage to come undone; there is so much vulnerability in the process of unraveling.  So much freedom, too.

I don’t know you, but I know there’s something you must do.  Maybe it’s to finally walk away from the person who isn’t your person anymore, even though you so badly want them to be.  Maybe it’s starting the blog that’s been weighing on your heart for years.  Maybe it’s going back to school when you’re afraid of being a beginner again, of standing out and looking awkward and feeling misplaced.  Maybe it’s leaving the job, or joining the gym, or making the phone call.”

A dear friend recently sent me Dr. Rebecca Ray’s Soul Sparks Newsletter entitled “10 Things That Happen When You Get Brave”; and I firmly believe that whether we’re feeling high or low, at some point, we’ll need a small nudge or hard shove towards the tough choices in our lives.  These words validated my emotions and gave me permission to commiserate with the unnerving reality that comes with the aftermath of a brave choice.  The most relieving realization is the reassurance that your feelings are normal.

Your breakthrough will feel exhilarating.  What happens next won’t.  
That initial rush proves that it’s all worth it…You needed this awakening…And after that first HELL YES moment, just be aware that you’re going to come down a bit and that’s okay, that’s normal…You’re going to have to get used to being uncomfortable for a bit.  Feeling off or sad or scared doesn’t mean you made the wrong choice, it means you made a new choice.”

It’s so easy to feel like the choices we make are wrong when they don’t quite feel right.  Uncomfortably staring out into an abyss can be both terrifying and exhilarating at the same time. But trusting that all feelings – both high and low – are temporary is also trusting that when the comfortability settles in, the reason for the abyss starts to become clear.  When feelings are constantly in flux, practicing patience with those emotions can be the biggest obstacle to conquer.

“You thought making the leap was the hard part.  Nope.  You’ve just shifted your reality and changed your expectations.  People who once fit perfectly into your world, back when you questioned your worthiness, no longer do…And so you’ll be asked to let go.  Letting go is a continuous choice, not this dramatic, one time only event where you officially release what’s been weighing you down.  No, you’ll have to choose to let go again and again and again until eventually love is your baseline.”

It’s amazing to me that we put this expectation on ourselves to immediately adjust to the new choices we’ve made – specifically the ones we know may take time to reveal their purpose.  Exuding confidence the moment we make a tough choice takes much more than feeling it the day we decide to step forward.  We are allowed to feel sad, we are allowed to feel lost, we are allowed to grieve over the parts of our lives that we once loved but are no longer serving a positive purpose.  But we must continue to re-choose ourselves each day until its practice becomes such an integral part of our lives that it’s no longer a choice but second nature.

“You’ve given the universe a green light to send you what you want…When you raise your vibration, you are magnetic.  This means new opportunities, new relationships, new attention, new everything…By accepting and allowing the good things coming into your life, you are showing others how it’s done.  You’re raising the bar.”

Bravery comes in all forms.  It can be large, small, unnerving, liberating, and most of all, questionable.  Most of the time, we don’t recognize how brave we are until we need it enough to make choices that will eventually pave the paths in our world.  I am a huge believer in trusting the universe to guide us towards where we need to go, but not unless we are willing to embrace that those jolts of directional change won’t always make sense right away.  Let’s be magnetic, let’s raise the bar, let’s allow the universe to show us why we needed to be pulled from our comfort zone.  Without bravery, we will forever be walking in circles, hoping that something will change for us rather than fearlessly moving through uncomfortable moments towards a world where the choices we make for ourselves will inevitably come to fruition and bring a life we deserve.

showering the bride

showering the bride

I know what I’m about to say will shock you, but weddings are stressful.  I’m not even getting married and it’s overwhelming!

il_570xN.1134975840_clh9

I’m the Maid of Honor in my best friend’s wedding this upcoming October, which is a much more complicated job than meets the eye.  Don’t get me wrong, I am thrilled to be such a special part of her day, but I’ve learned that the MOH title comes with many more responsibilities than simply holding the bride’s bouquet and planning a wild weekend in Vegas.

One of the biggest undertakings as Maid of Honor has been the planning of the Bridal Shower.  It’s always easier when you have help from your fellow bridesmaids.  But as a person who loves solitary planning and executing, I have spent months preparing and researching the best, and most cost effective, ways to go about popping my bridal-shower-planning cherry.

Before I dive into this, I just have to offer the best general advice I can to any first time MOH planning a shower:  It’s going to be what it’s going to be.  Planning a shower is a huge undertaking, so don’t put too much pressure on yourself – you’re only human!  You can plan every single detail down to a tee, but no matter what goes right or wrong, your bride will leave feeling showered with love simply by surrounding her with the people who love her (and maybe a cocktail).

I N V I T A T I O N S 

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 4.19.45 PM

I ended up going with VistaPrint for my invitations.  I got the best bank for my buck there, and the shower invitation options were endless.  However, I did shop around before settling on the invitation manufacturer.

Wedding Paper Divas was high on the list.  For just $1, they sent me a sample of the shower invitation I was considering so I could get a tangible idea of what exactly I was spending my time and money on.  While they tend to be a bit pricey, if WPD is running a great sale, it’s just about as much as VistaPrint.  Zazzle also had some beautiful options, and are also worth ordering from with a great sale.

Screen Shot 2017-06-30 at 4.19.57 PM

Enclosed with each invitation, I decided to put these sweet recipe cards I ordered from Paper Sushi on Etsy (I did price them out on Vista Print, but with the difference of only a few dollars, I opted to go with these guys.  They were prettier and I would rather give my business to a small shop that sells handmade items like this one!).  I asked our guests to fill out this recipe card and bring it to the shower instead of a card.  This way, our bride can put these to good use rather than feeling obligated to keep a bunch of cards that will sit in a box until the end of time.

 

D E C O R A T I O N S

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

Okay, this is a big one.  The aesthetic of your shower is key.  It’s the first thing people see when they walk in and ultimately sets the tone for the day.  I am the very first to admit that I used Pinterest to storyboard my ideas (who doesn’t?).  Pinterest really helped me to bring those visions rolling around in my brain to fruition.

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

I found this cute “Bride To Be” sign at TJMaxx for $4 and paired it with an ivory chair cover I purchased at The Christmas Tree Shops for $2.  By simply tacking the ends of this banner to the chair cover, I turned a simple folding chair into the head-of-the-table for our Bride-To-Be.

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

The centerpieces were my biggest undertaking, and totally worth it because people made a huge fuss over them.  I got the glass vases from Goodwill during a super sticker sale for only $1 each and filled them with a ton of dollar store glass pebbles (Dollar Tree will truly only charge you $1 per bag).  I got the hydrangeas from Michaels by scouring the clearance/sale section for two months leading up to the big day.  Michaels will also provide a 40% Off coupon every day on their website for one regular price item, so that also saved me a good chunk of change.

The tables were lined with lace-detail plastic tablecloths I got at Michaels on clearance for $2/each, and I covered each food/beverage table with plastic table skirts to keep it all looking clean and organized (secret’s out — there were a ton of extra bags and thing we found we didn’t need hidden beautifully under those tables).

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

 

 

G A M E S  &  A C T I V I T I E S

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

What ended up simultaneously serving as a stellar backdrop for our Bride-To-Be to open her gifts was also a Photo Booth area.  I found a giant gold and white sheer curtain at Goodwill for $6 and tacked it to the wall (I picked a spot that already had a hanging photo to hide any tack holes from being seen once we cleaned up).  I then taped a few gold and white tissue pom-poms I had purchased at various places (BIG mistake I made: I first purchased these from Michaels and Amazon thinking I wouldn’t find them anywhere else and spent way too much money on them.  The best prices were at The Christmas Tree Shops and Dollar Tree…for $1 each).  But the tissue pom-poms ended up hiding the top of the curtain beautifully.  The banner was a Marshalls find in their paper good and stationary section for $7.99.  I also provided a few Photo Booth Props so people could take pictures with their phones.

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

So, I cannot tell a lie — given everything I had already planned, I wasn’t into the idea of playing any tacky bridal shower games.  Sure, they’re a great ice breaker, but I didn’t want to go through the ordeal of buying prizes as incentives for the winners.  But the Bride-To-Be had her heart set on playing some games.  So at the 11th hour (and I do mean the 11th hour…I’m talking midnight the night before), I cut up some extra banner letters, recycled some blank envelopes and pulled a Jeopardy game out of my tush.

And I must admit, it was a really fun time.  I’m so glad we had this game to keep the energy of the party alive.  The guests got really into it and I even stumped them with a few questions (toss toss).  In addition to Jeopardy, we also played Bridal Shower Bingo and How Many Kisses?.

Processed with VSCO with c6 preset

 

F O O D,  B E V E R A G E S,  &  D E S S E R T

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

Because I had planned a Sunday-Early-Afternoon-Shower, one word came to mind: brunch (duh).  So I wanted there to be as many brunch options as possible while still keeping people full for the day.

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

There were two waffle irons going for DIY waffles accompanied by Nutella, whipped cream, butter and various syrup options.  Tons of bagels from Bagleman (best bagels in Connecticut) with spread options sat at the opposite end of the table.  And in the middle, there were three different quiche options for guests to enjoy.  I figured quiche satisfied the egg-breakfast craving without having to make trays of scrambled eggs.

Processed with VSCO with c7 preset

What’s a Bridal Shower Brunch without a little bubbly?  The following table held the Mimosa Bar and Fruit Platter for people to enjoy.  This giant stainless steel bucket that held the Prosecco over ice was found on clearance at Walgreens.  Both the carafes holding the OJ and the plastic champagne glasses were a steal from Dollar Tree.

Processed with VSCO with c8 preset

The adjacent table to the food held other beverages like coffee, tea, water, iced tea, lemonade, and most of the desserts.  One of the bridesmaids made these amazing “eat me” cookies to accompany our Plastic Tea Cups that had little DIY tags reading “drink me” (our Bride-To-Be has always had a soft spot for Alice in Wonderland).

Processed with VSCO with c7 presetProcessed with VSCO with c7 preset

Other desserts included a variety of cookies, cupcakes, chocolate walnut banana bread, another fruit platter, and watermelon slices.  Needless to say, we sent a lot of food home with our guests.

Processed with VSCO with c9 preset

Weddings are stressful.  Showers can be equally as stressful if you don’t plan accordingly (and sometimes even if you do).  But it doesn’t have to cost you your first born child to put something beautiful together.  You just have to know what you’re looking for, set a budget, and ask for help from your fellow bridesmaids.

I will reiterate my best advice for any and all MOH’s getting themselves tangled up in bridal shower planning:  Don’t take yourself too seriously.  Get a good night’s sleep the night before, trust the work you’ve done, and let it be what it’s going to be.  Your bride will love what you do because she loves you and your friendship, which is why you were chosen to be her Maid of Honor.

Oh, and put on some good music.  People love a party with good music.

seriously?

seriously?

I had a very rapid epiphany while drifting to sleep in an upstate hotel near Saratoga Springs earlier this week —

I need to stop taking myself so seriously.

I don't know how or why this thought sprung from from crevices of my mind, but I'm glad that it did. I am constantly wrapping myself up in the little things – from the comparison of my surroundings, to where I'm going to be in six months when my show closes, all the way down to that thing I said to a coworker the other day that may have been funnier in my mind than it was out loud. And I slowly started to laugh to myself because, at the end of the day, I have very little control over the timing of my life. God, the universe – whoever or whatever you believe in – has a finite plan that rarely lines up with when exactly we want things to go our way. So why am I putting so much pressure on myself at twenty-five to be the best at everything, or be at the height of my career, or have myself completely figured out?

Our twenties are about discovery. Hell, life at any age is about discovery. My interests, my beliefs, my expectations, and my world are all slowly evolving as I grow and learn each day. I need to start consistently practicing the philosophy I preach. I need to stop wondering and start wandering. I need to bring my ideas to fruition. I need to embrace new intrigue now, while I'm young and vivacious and living in the atmosphere of a wild city that is filled to the brim with possibility.

I will thank myself later.

tj maxx, you should go

tj maxx, you should go

So anyone who knows me is well-aware — I am undoubtedly a Maxxinista. Most of my wardrobe, from my dresses, to my shoes, down to my underwear, is from one of the TJX stores.

Well, last week, I had the most outrageous experience with a $10 shirt that I purchased from the 57th Street TJMaxx in Manhattan earlier last month. It was a simple, pink, cotton shirt that was stylish without breaking the bank (as most items at TJMaxx are) manufactured by a brand named Lavender Field.

By the time I reached work at noon on Saturday, this shirt had stained everything I was wearing including my bra, my new purse, my Levi jeans and even my skin.


It was WILD. So I did what any millennial would, and I tweeted about it — pictures and all.

I was met in the days following with flawless customer service. Theresa, Andre, and Kevin were so incredibly helpful, kind, and generous with my situation. Since, of course, every item that was damaged came from their store, I was able to go in to the 57th street location in Manhattan and get store credit for, not just the culprit shirt itself, but every single item that it dyed (except my skin, cause they don’t sell that there).

I just had to write about this. The TJX corporation has always been one of my faves and it was so comforting to know how highly they prioritize customer satisfaction. They will forever have my business because their customer service is MAGICAL.

green bean salad

green bean salad

So I have to be honest, I am extremely picky about my salads; mostly because 9 out of 10 times, restaurants will give you half a pound of lettuce, sprinkle it sparingly with toppings, and call it a salad.  It turns people off from the healthy alternative, and you’re left paying an arm and a leg for a bed of lettuce will never actually satisfy you nor fill you up.

Instead, I would much rather build my salads from the ground up with substance.  On a sweltering hot day such as today, all I could think about eating was cold, fresh fruits and veggies.

So I bought a bunch of raw fruits and veggies that I love and dreamt up a lettuce-less salad to make at home.

IMG_7949

My base was green beans – which I know sounds weird, but I love raw green beans.  They’re crunchy, delicious and a alternative green base to your salad.

Processed with VSCO with 6 preset

I topped it with chopped baby carrots, raw sweet corn, avocado, red peppers, cucumbers, scallions and sliced cherry tomatoes.  To keep it as clean as possible, I made some guacamole as a “dressing.”  A little lime and black pepper and voila!

escaping reality

escaping reality

Manhattan is undoubtedly momumental; a concrete jungle filled to the brim with basically anything you could want at a moments notice.  It is yes and no all at the same time.  You can feel like you have everything and nothing in New York.  You can feel so suffocated yet so lonely in New York.  You can feel so much freedom yet so much restriction in New York.  New York City contains endless possibilities yet endless obstacles.

I have had many heart-to-hearts with a kindred spirit of mine, Hailei Moriah Call, who endlessly commiserates with me on many levels; but more recently the struggle of living in Manhattan while yearning for the escape to places outside of our itty-bitty city.  After a fourteen-show stretch at CATS, we all needed a breath of fresh air.  My breath of fresh air typically lies in the small town of Brookfield, Connecticut where I have spent the majority of my life learning and blooming into the person I am today.

Having two homes is simple and difficult all at the same time.  When I’m in one for too long, I crave the other.  And as I sit here in a Starbucks that lives on the corner of Route 3 in Rocky Hill, Connecticut rather than the average Manhattan street corner, I can’t help but wonder if my heart will ever feel settled somewhere.

love my life in New York.  I wake up in my sunny Manhattan studio apartment each morning feeling undeniably grateful (and a little hungover on most weekends).  But as we ripen through our twenties to approach an age bracket where we should be “settling down,” are we settling for where we settle?  Do we even have to settle?  Or can we break the glass ceiling and choose to put roots down in multiple places that set our souls on fire when we need them to?

My father said to me today that New York is not a part of me.  My heart almost exploded as I instantly went on the defense, because New York is a part of me.  Three and a half years of mistakes, adventures, tears, and triumphs become a part of you and they will continue to as long as I allow New York to be a part of me.  But the Statue of Liberty holding a chuck of my heart in her hands will never yank my roots out of the Connecticut soil, nor will it step on the roots I create anywhere else in my life.  For I would not be the person I am today if I did not ground myself into various places of this world.

tony

tony

The Tony Awards have held a special place in my heart since I started watching them in my adolescence, and it has been my dream to attend one day in some capacity.  This past year, when I was asked to join the company of CATS as a dresser, I truly thought that I would have the opportunity to be involved with the 71st Annual Tony Awards.

When the revivals started popping up like weeds in the Spring, I surely thought our show could never be passed over.  I mean, come on, we’re CATS.  Reviving this show was huge for the theatrical community.  And when we did not receive a nomination, for anything, I was admittedly surprised, but took solace in the fact that we were not alone.  Many shows got snubbed – namely a fellow ALW revival, Sunset Boulevard.

Despite being disappointed, I quickly reached a place of acceptance – we were walking into a ten-day work week leading up to the Tony Awards and on top of our fourteen consecutive shows, had to put in four new actors before Monday.  A Tony performance would have annihilated us.  It was a blessing in disguise.

But as I watched tonight’s Tony Awards Broadcast, I realized that, despite zero recognition from the American Theatre Wing, CATS is one of the most resilient and hardest-working companies on Broadway today.  We put forth one of the most physically demanding shows, on a raked stage, on one of the most difficult schedules, every single week.  And we don’t need a nod from anyone to tell us that.

Congratulations to my friend Philip Heckmana fellow dresser at CATS who had the honor of dressing Mr. Kevin Spacey tonight as he brilliantly hosted these awards.  A huge shout out to Daniel Gaymon, our Macavity in CATS and one of the kindest and most enjoyable colleagues I have at the pleasure of working with each night at the Neil Simon who was one of those delicious men in the opening number.  Kudos to Andy Blankenbuehler, who probably couldn’t pick me out of a line-up, but still says hello to me every time he visits our theatre.  Who brought us boxes on boxes of incredible doughnuts yesterday with a message reminding us that we deserved to be performing on the Tony’s tonight.  Who revamped this iconic show and made it possible for me to have a job, and who won the Best Choreography Award for Bandstand, where in my old colleague Drew McVety performed while my buddy Zak Jacobs cheered in the wings as Assistant Company Manager to this new musical.  A huge congratulations to my girl Kate Baldwin, who I dressed in Songbird, and was nominated for Best Actress in a Supporting Role in a Musical for Hello, Dolly! which I absolutely cannot wait to see.  I was tickled to see Gavin Creel win for Supporting Actor in Hello, Dolly!, a genuinely brilliant man who educated me in an hour-long masterclass about acting through song and cheered me on as he steered my performance in a productive direction back in 2012, which I will never forget.  To see Kristolyn Lloyd performing alongside the cast of Dear Evan Hansen after dressing her years ago in Heathers and knowing her warm spirit was such a proud mama moment.  And Zach Prince making the goofiest face next to his man on-screen during the line-up for Best Supporting Actor in a Musical, was nothing short of typical and fabulous.  It has been an honor to work with all of you in some capacity throughout my time in Manhattan and even more exciting to see your success on screen tonight.

 

Congratulations to everyone who has poured their soul into these productions, both on and off the stage.  The nominations and winners were beyond well-deserved, and I am so grateful to be a part of the theatrical community as the small fraction that I am.