Tuesday, December 24, 2013

An Open Letter: When you take out the "Unity" in "Community"....

...You're left with "Comm" and that doesn't make sense. 
But unfortunately, someone took the "unity" out of community, and it's left me upset, hurt, and fearful. This post could get me into trouble, but to be honest, if I don't write it, I could say these things out loud and it would be far worse. So this is my open letter. (Disclaimer: Please don't consider this a direct call-out. Consider it an observation from the most observational person you know.) 

Dear...well, everyone,
Happy Tuesday and Merry Christmas! I hope your shopping is "wrapping" up and you're getting ready to spend time with family! The last week has been a good one for me. I got to see someone I love portray a very hard role onstage! My boyfriend was cast as George Bailey in "It's A Wonderful Life" and it was so amazing to see him in his first lead! We all know he's talented but this brought it to a whole new level. I'm so proud of him, and the rest of the cast was also really good. But to be fair, I'm a little biased.

What also impressed me about this production was the lack of people who I know love my boyfriend who weren't at the show. I know I shouldn't take it personally, but I'm taking it personally. Guilt trip: You missed a fantastic show, and I sincerely hope you're sad about that. In my clearly non-professional opinion, nothing about this show was unbalanced, or lacking, which is highly impressive.

A Few Questions: #1-Did you not see the show because you HATE feel-good plays? If yes, then you're excused. I don't understand it, but you're excused just the same. #2-Did you not see the show because someone did you dirty? If your answer is yes keep reading. If it's no, I'm giving you the chance to jump ship now.

Over the last few months, I've noticed a considerable amount of tension between adults. I'm just a kid, but nothing gets by kids very easily. There's been disrespect among people in the same profession who claim to be working towards the same goal: bringing people together in the name of theatre. Which, I personally think is an AMAZING thing. Now, I know there are a lot of things I don't know, or won't understand, and frankly, I don't care to know them or understand them. But I do care about people, and that's something that, to me, is far more valuable then ticket sales.
Theatre can't exist without people. But people won't come to the theatre if their expectations aren't met and superseded pre-production, during production, and as the cast is giving their final bow. I know of people who have quit theatre altogether because someone who was in a position of power said something that rubbed them the wrong way. As someone who wants to make a career out of theatre, I say, not cool, man. Not cool.

There's nothing more discouraging to me, a petite kid with big dreams, than hearing and seeing that there is no support or respect for fellow theatre practitioners.
I'm not suggesting that we all have to sit around a campfire, hold hands and sing "You'll Never Walk Alone," but as much as I LOATHE that song, I think the reminder in there is vital. We are never alone, and in theatre, there should be a whole different realm of support. If you love theatre, and truly want to bring it to the masses, causing dissonance within your company should NEVER be an option.

I honestly don't want to live or work in a world of theatre where I will someday have to tell my children that I ended my career because sometimes people don't play nice with others. I want to lead a life that my kids can look at and say, "Wow..she used everything for God's glory, and didn't have to sell out to be happy."
I want to promote the performing arts for all kids of younger generations, and I have a hard time doing that if I know deep down that there are issues that make me uncomfortable.

So this year, my Christmas prayer is that all issues get sorted out in a professional and friendly manner in this new year. I want my friends and I to feel free to travel between venues and companies without feeling like we're betraying one another. I pray that we can all put the "unity" back into "Community Theatre."

God Bless, and Merry Christmas!

Friday, October 18, 2013

Year 25: What I've learned so far.

The first few days of being 25 were kind of eventful! I made a new friend in the coffee shop that I go to every morning before work. She complimented me on my scarf, and then I saw she had been reading a Bible, so I stopped her and we chatted, introduced ourselves, and discovered we live on the same street! Her name is Sarah and she's a church planter. Unfortunately, I've been swamped with "Spamalot" (more on that later), so we haven't been able to hang out. Hopefully soon; I'm really encouraged that God put us on each others' pathways!

Some of you may think "25 is just a number, you're not old yet, Star!" But I assure you, I feel old already. I was very sick for a week before my birthday, and by some miracle I was fully recovered for the day itself. I hadn't been eating because I was having extreme abdominal pain and back spasms. I slept for about three days straight. MedExpress was unhelpful, and my parents and sister even came up to be with me. I also had a really bad cold while all of this was happening. There were some dark moments during that week; but I'm so glad that even though my parents were able to come to my aid, Lando was also there by my side. I guess having a tv in the room where I was sleeping was good...he watched football all day and I was able to rest knowing he was there in case I needed something. But that was when I was still 24. 

Everyone asked how 25 felt, and i joked about when my first Quarter-Life Crisis would hit, but I had no idea the impending storm that was headed my way. 

I returned to "Spamalot" rehearsals as the trusty Assistant Stage Manager. I was bummed to not actually be in the show, so assuming a role on the production staff was hard. It's amazing how slowly rehearsals go when you're sitting at a table just following along in a script. It's weird, actually. I would compulsively check my phone only to see that ten minutes had gone by. 

The thing about this show is that the cast is amazingly talented. I had goosebumps just watching them rehearse. And now that we've opened the show, my goosebumps haven't subsided. But what happened during tech week solidified my calling and choice to be onstage. 
I missed our first tech rehearsal. It was homecoming weekend at Penn Sate and I worked from 10-6 on Saturday. Someone was able to cover for me in tech, and take notes, but once I received them, I freaked out. The next day, I called the stage manager and we talked for an hour about the notes and the backstage choreography. She was a whole state away for a wedding, and then I was late for rehearsal. Cue downward spiral. 
Long story short, there was a lot of crying. Also a panic attack. Those are scary, by the way. Especially when you're in front of people who are mostly strangers who don't know a thing about you other than the fact that you've been at rehearsals for this show. I left the building. I caused a halt in rehearsal. Finally, I calmed down long enough to breathe but I still couldn't stop crying. I was shaking and trying to fix everything all at once. (That's my tragic flaw: I'm a fixer.) Kat, the choreographer, who is also a mom, came backstage and talked me down. She reminded me that I just had to do one thing at a time. I apologized profusely to everyone, and ended the day mostly embarrassed. 

I made huge mistakes along the way. Don't get the wrong idea when you read this, but I generally don't make huge mistakes in the theatre. I'm not perfect by any stretch of the imagination, but never in my entire performing arts career (since I was 4), have I ever caused a rehearsal to stop functioning. Not even when my best friend and I fought while she stage managed my senior show. We barely spoke during rehearsals, but we always plowed through. To not actually be in a show, and then hold up the actors is a big deal to me, and I've realized that it's because I'm an actor first, kind of a director second, and never, ever a crew member. I would have been mortified if I had been in their place and saw that the ASM was having a nervous breakdown. Like, "who is this chick, and why is she dying right now??" I purposely didn't make it a big deal that I had never been an ASM before until that day. It was apparent that I had no idea what was going on, so I just owned up to that fact. I'm not sure if that caused more sympathy for me, or more strange looks. Either way, it was the truth. And I told myself that I shouldn't be ashamed about it. But I quickly learned that I shouldn't expect to be perfect right out of the gate, and that it's ok to ask for help. Especially in the theatre. Especially when you want to make a career out of it. 

We opened last night, and I'm very happy to say that things went smoothly. There were a few moments where I was just praying that we would get some stuff in place on time. At one point I almost crossed myself (seriously, I do that in moments where I can't find the words to thank God out rightly), and I looked up and saw my crew guy Tony crossing himself abut the same situation. It's nice to have someone backstage who gets me when it comes to Jesus and matters of faith. Especially in theatre. Especially when you feel like you're drowning in the theatre.
The night before, Tony reminded me that God was in control and that was all I needed to hear. There was nothing I else I could do last night during the curtain speech except get on my knees on that dirty stage floor and pray the prayer I always say right before going on. (Or in this instance, cuing the curtain.) "It's out of my hands God. I hand the theatre, the audience and the actors over to you." And, as usual, He followed through. My few moments of panic were replaced with a calm of "do everything slowly." I'm not sure how I got through the show without physically hurting myself, but somehow, I escaped unscathed. (This is rare considering I've hurt myself on the props or set during every dress rehearsal we had for this show.) 

I also want to give a shout out to one of my best friends, Lauren, who is on crew for "Assassins" at Ephrata Performing Arts Center right now. She's also an actress doing crew for the first time, and we've been texting about our experiences. I'm glad for the opportunity to bond with her over this whole situation. Everyone go see "Assassins!" 

I know what you're all wondering: "So, Star, would you ever do it again?" 
Short answer: no. 
Long answer: I'm so grateful to Amber for having extreme and crazy faith in me that I could do this, and I'm so glad that Year 25 started so far out of my comfort zone that I couldn't even see it. But this is not what I'm called to do. There is a certain personality type that is perfect for the position of ASM, and I'm not that type. The biggest lesson I've learned through al of this is that everyone has their talents, and just because you're a "theatre person" doesn't mean you can assume that everything you do will be 100% right away when you're in that atmosphere.

I've never been the type of actress to snub crew people (most of my friends have a tech emphasis and an acting emphasis), but this experience has given me a new respect for the curtain pullers, and backstage staff. But I'm ready to change out of my all black clothes, and assume a more colorful role. It's been too long, and I have a feeling that after this, my life and positions in the theatre has no where to go but up! 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

A Year of Living Dangerously (Different)

I'm turning 25 next week. 

I'm feeling a lot of mixed emotions about this, but more immediately, I need your help.

As Year Twenty-Five approaches, I've decided to do "A Year of Living Dangerously (Different)." Everyday from October 3, 2013 until October 3, 2014, I will try something new or different, and then write a short blog response about it. I'm not planning anything crazy like jumping out of an airplane, but I'd love to travel, try new food, and be kinder to strangers.

So, I'm looking for your suggestions. 365 things is a large list, and as much as I'd love to come up with all of them on my own...I can't. Comment here, on my Facebook, or my Twitter, or in person. If you think of anything, at any time, just shoot me a message!

Shine Bright!

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Guest Post: Top Ten Reasons Why I Am in Love with Pretty Little Liars and Not Ashamed to Admit It

Today's post is from my friend Abby. She just acquired her B.A. in English Literature, and likes mashed potato sandwiches. I admire Abby's ability to love and accept no matter where people are in life. When presented with the offer to guest post, she was stumped for awhile, but I am so proud of what she shares! Read on, and enjoy! Comments are always welcome! 
My thirteen-year-old cousin introduced me to ABC Family’s Pretty Little Liars two months ago, and two full seasons later I am hooked. When I tell people I love PLL, they usually give me either an understanding “guilty pleasure” laugh or they nod and raise their eyebrows, automatically reassessing their impression of me. I admit – when people told me they love the show before I’d actually seen it, I offered the exact same responses. I stand before you as a reformed believer with a list of why, despite those negative reactions, I love this show and you should too.
1.  It’s a murder mystery. Something weird is happening every episode. People break bones or die left and right. They’re trying to find out who killed their friend while being mercilessly followed and threatened by an anonymous person named “A.” Hello, need I say more?
2.  The four main characters are women. This is actually super rare. Think of how many TV shows feature primarily women. Now think about most of those shows’ reputations. Yeah. Not only does PLL have a heavily female cast, but Spencer, Aria, Hanna, and Emily – as well as almost every other female character – are multi-dimensional. You’d be amazed how rarely we see female characters that aren’t all good or all bad. We still don’t often see women who have flaws but are still good people with full personalities. In other words, women who are fully human. The girls, as well as their peers and mothers, make mistakes and even hurt people intentionally, yet they also sacrifice themselves to protect others. What a relief it is to see women with both strengths and weaknesses, who are not wholly perfect or wholly imperfect.
3. They’re not only women – these four characters are teenage girls. One of the most hated demographics in America. Everything teen girls like, the rest of the country hates – Justin Bieber, Twilight, even Uggs and leggings. The fact that teen girls are the main characters without also being the butt of a national joke about the way they talk, act, dress, and spend their time is huge in and of itself. But PLL also gives these teens so much power. Completely deserved, I might argue. Think about it – how many people do you know that hate Twilight passionately? A lot? Doesn’t matter. Teenage girls helped the films alone make more than five billion dollars. And if it weren’t for teenage girls, Justin Bieber would still be some nobody freezing his butt off while making YouTube videos in Canada. Teenage girls have the power to rocket someone from anonymity to stardom, and that is terrifying. Imagine what they could do if we let them make the kind of decisions they are capable of.
4. The girls are the primary actors. By that I mean they are the ones facilitating the action. Their decisions propel the storyline. They’re the ones finding clues, solving mysteries, uncovering secrets and following shady characters. They use their intelligence and resources to progress in discovering who killed their friend Alison. Say what you want about their many agape facial expressions – that is pretty badass.
5.  PLL doesn’t avoid violence. The girls’ lives are often in serious danger. The main anonymous aggressor, “A,” doesn’t hold back his/her punches because he/she is after young girls. But that still doesn’t stop the girls from saving themselves and their loved ones over and over.
6.  It represents LGBT characters fairly and equally. Emily, one of the main characters, comes out of the closet in the first season and the show chronicles her journey with herself, her parents, her peers, and her love interests. She’s even shown in romantic scenes with her girlfriends just like the other girls are with their boyfriends. However:
7. Their love lives are not the primary focus. Sure, they have boyfriends (and girlfriends), but their purpose and airtime is not consumed by romance. In fact, most of the times relationships are discussed heavily are when the problem is how to keep their loved ones safe from “A.” Yet at the same time, the show gives them freedom to worry about little things like what to give their partner for their birthday. It makes sense – if there’s a murderer on the loose, is this really the time to be obsessed with Ezra/Caleb/Toby/Maya? This is not to say the girls stand alone – in fact:
8. The central relationship in the show is not romantic, but platonic: the four girls’ friendship. That’s the relationship tying the whole show together. And what an amazing friendship they have. So often we see depictions of girl friendships as full of cattiness, emotional manipulation, and competition. PLL reminds us that four teenage girls are capable of having a strong friendship, one in which the girls are honest, supportive, and not afraid to openly need one another. I wish I had seen this in high school.
9. It tackles the digital surveillance era head-on. We live in a time of the private becoming public. We put our lives online. Politicians’ pasts and presents are under constant scrutiny, and so are ours. In PLL, the girls are literally being watched 24/7. “A” sends them texts offering snarky comments on their every move, threatening to expose them or the people close to them. Sound familiar? In a time when it seems like we are already exposing everything, it calls to attention the crucial difference between exposing ourselves and being exposed without our consent. Appropriate, no?
10.  The name of the show itself deceives us. My mom listened to me rattle off this whole list of why PLL is such a great show before saying, “Alright, if it’s such a good show, why does it have such a stupid and belittling title?” I thought about it, and I think Pretty Little Liars speaks for itself. The title seems dismissive, weak, and petty – just as the characters, and all teenage girls, are dismissed. And just like we discover on the show, casting aside a story or entire group of people because they sound inconsequential is a mistake. So the harmless title Pretty Little Liars is itself a lie. I’m not trying to get you to like this show, but I do hate when people write it off as stupid and not worth their time. Don’t let yourself be deceived. What could you be missing?

If you want to read more on this, see the article that helped shape a lot of my own impressions, or get more info on the show, check this out.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Five Minute Friday: Lonely

I pride myself on my ability to make friends. I always say I wish I could get paid for it. I love the rush I get at making a connection with people. A smile, a nod, an affirming word to the girl in the dressing room trying on a dress for her fiance's 10 year reunion. Speaking as an Extrovert, it does come second nature. But what some people wouldn't expect is the moments of loneliness I have.

I don't like to talk about it. It's scary. It's something that I'm legit ashamed of. I shouldn't feel lonely. I have a wonderful family, beautiful/talented friends who support me and a boyfriend who would pull the stars from the heavens for me if I asked.

The loneliness isn't just solitude. It's deeper than that. It's pain...sorrow. Explainable emotions that I stuff down lower because I'm supposed to be outgoing and smiling all the time. I don't get it, but I'll get through it somehow.

Being lonely in a full room is the worst. I hate that the most. Surrounded by a ton of faces and just being...lonely.

Did Jesus ever feel like this, I wonder?

If you want to join in on Five Minute Friday, click http://lisajobaker.com/2013/08/five-minute-friday-lonely/ Five Minute Friday

Tuesday, July 30, 2013

We are all human disasters.

I dislike the idea that the man is ALWAYS expected to be the spiritual leader in a relationship.

In my experience, and after prayer and discussion with my wise mother, this expectation has not been the case.
Sometimes, I think God calls women to be in that spiritual leader position for whatever reason...a reason beyond my human understanding. I think we too easily cover up non-issues that might happen in relationships with scripture. But should I seriously not date a guy because he's not my spiritual leader, even though I feel that God has called me to be the leader? Am I a bad Christian for dating someone who is less "christian" than me? Or can I use my relationship with God to be a good influence on the guy?  Are we not called to "go into all the world and preach the gospel?" (Did I just cover up a relationship using scripture? youbetcha.) What if you're the only "Jesus" that guy encounters that day? Obviously, that doesn't mean you HAVE to date him if you're not into him, but be mindful of your words and actions. Which everyone should do regardless of the situation.

I'm not saying girls should compromise their beliefs and date someone who is so far beyond what they know is good for them. And if being a strong spiritual leader is on a girl's personal "list of things my Guy must have," then go for it!! If you know that's what you NEED in order to thrive in a relationship, that's awesome! But not everyone is wired that way. And that's ok.

But I think we, as Christian women, do ourselves a disservice by expecting each other to only date a guy who fits into this "perfect" mold of "Perfect Christian Boyfriend."
Because let's remember that not everyone is perfect. Even the most Christian guys, the ones on praise teams, raising his hands in worship, and wearing TOMS, are flawed.

Newsflash: WE ARE ALL FLAWED. We're humans! 

Sometimes growth, be it spiritual, personal, or relational, has to happen. Sometimes it might be the woman who is propelling the growth. And I really don't see anything wrong with that.

I do find something wrong with adult Christian women (myself included sometimes!) putting Christian guys on some unattainable pedestal: "I could never date him. He's so much more into Jesus than I am. He's like...a SuperChristian."  "He's so outta my league! He's on the worship team!! He like...prays in front of the whole church!! He would never go for a girl like me." "I have to like...pray a bajillion times this week just to see the level he's on." Ladies, again, he's not perfect. No one is perfect. We are all human disasters who need God's grace multiple times a day. 

We are essentially idolizing these young men, and making them to be...demi-gods. And that goes against Commandment number 1: No false gods. Idolatry happens subtly, and it happens anytime we lift someone to the place where Jesus should be. That includes, but is not limited to, the hot hipster guitar player you were eyeing at Saturday night service.

It's also important to keep in mind that everyone's relationship experience will be different. There will always be something happening that you don't see on the surface. And it won't ever be perfect. 

Is this in direct defiance to some of the deepest held beliefs Christian women have? Yup. And do I have this all figured out? Absolutely not. I only have my experience.

I'm impulsive, I'm imperfect...I'm human, just like everyone else. That is why I'm so thankful for the Grace of God. I screw up on the daily, and still God's arms are open for me...for all of us...even the guys who aren't the typical spiritual leaders of a relationship.

If you agree, disagree, think I'm brilliant and/or crazy, please let me know in the comments section. I think this is an important topic that needs to be discussed. 

Thursday, July 25, 2013

"Year One: We Made It." or "An open letter to Lando."

Dear Lando,

Phew. We did it. I have so many emotions today, but the strangest one is probably the feeling of relief. Relief that we accomplished something. We accomplished staying together...and while some people would question the validity and authenticity of our relationship based on that statement, we know something that we've only shared with those closest to us: it has been a struggle that goes far beyond the distance aspect.

If I had a dollar for every time I doubted myself in this partnership...I'd have a lot of dollars. If I had a dollar for every time I doubted you in this partnership, I'd have zero dollars. Your tenacity and optimism is to be praised and admired. I wish I had a tenth of that...but then I realize that I have 100% of you for the days when when I'm feeling 0%.

A few nights ago, I was low. Low on hope, energy, and faith. My emotional storage was at it's brink, and there you were. You lifted me out of the darkness, as you've done so many times over the last 12 months. You emptied me of my hurt, and filled me with the knowledge that you support me, even if that means eventually enduring distance again. You believed in me...but more importantly, you believed in us. 

When we first embarked on this journey, we were strangers. I had always sworn I would never date someone until they were my friend for at least a year. I sat on the couch the night we made it official, and wondered what had happened. This wasn't a part of the plan. I only wanted a showmance. But God laughed and said, "Just kidding. But the waters will be rough. I have given you both enough strength to deal with the situation at hand."

Sometimes I wish our circumstance had been different. But then I remember how much we've grown as individuals and as a couple, even though we're miles apart. I think that's the reason 91.3 miles are between us. I needed to learn about myself. I needed to learn about you over a period of time. I always forget what foods you hate, but I'm sure that will come in time.

You have this quality about you that exudes natural friendship, and support. I challenge one person to name a time that they've felt abandoned or betrayed by you. I'm going to guess no one would be able to say that about you. You're Lando. In the words of Mo: "Errybody know Lando."
Your reputation precedes you, and is a constant reminder to me of the impact you have had on other peoples' lives. You inspire me to be the best version of myself, because in the end, that's all anybody can ask of me.

You know that you are not my better or other half, and I am not your better or other half. God created us as two fully formed beings. It just so happens that when we came together, we were able to supplement each others' already fully formed personalities. I think we balance each other out quite nicely: you help me come back down to reality, and I help pull you into a world that (at this moment) only exists only in our shared dream-space.  But it's more than just fantasies of big houses with multiple man/woman caves. It runs much deeper, but that, I think, I'll leave between us.

You aren't my better half, but you help me to be a better person. And that speaks volumes. Not only to you, but to what God has done in each of us during this journey. He's transformed our lives, and we both are beginning to see a clearer plan that he's laid out for us. Will it be easy? No. We're miles away, and it's going to take a lot of prayer and discernment and mentoring on both of our parts. But I have no doubt that more we delight in him, the more he will show us blessings and favor. (That's so preachy of me...but true!)

I look forward to growing with you, and seeing where this journey is going to take us next.


Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Words on pages.

No intro today, I'm just going to launch into my BIG ANNOUNCEMENT!

A few years ago, I had the idea of writing my life story. I have unique circumstances, amazing friends, and I'm in theatre; Could make for an interesting read, right? Last year I started writing snippets down of things I'd like to include in my "memoirs." (Thanks, Tim for planting THAT idea in my head...) Some of them were just events that were happening at the time (remember that time I directed and choreographed a full-length musical? yeah), and a few things from my childhood.

My mom has always wondered if I was going to document my adoption story, and I think that's a great idea. Another friend asked if I would think about co-writing a book with my mom about how a white mother can be educated on how to deal with black hair. My response: "I could go on for DAYS about that topic...maybe!"

But it wasn't until yesterday, as there were crazy things happening on a status I posted that I was reminded of a weekend in college that traumatized me to the core. It was then that I decided:

I'm going to write a book. 

Yup. A book.  

I have no idea why, I have no clue how to start, I have other things I should be doing, but I'm going do this anyway.

So this is where you come in. If you have anything you want me to include, or questions/situations I should address in this book, please please please suggest them to me! I can promise you that some of what will be written in my book will be questioned by people, but ultimately, I want to write about things that will interest my family, friends (internet and real life!) and blog followers. I'd also ask for your positive support, prayers, and fun things (bubbles, water balloons, surprise trips to Starbucks, etc...) as I partake on this scary journey.

There is no time limit on your offerings. I can be reached here in my ask box to the right, Facebook, and on Twitter: @StarleishaG 

So. There it is.
Happy Tuesday, everyone! Deep breaths, and try to stay cool!

Monday, July 8, 2013

1 year later: How it all happened.

I'm so excited to share this story with you all. It's the nitty gritty truth of the day I met my boyfriend, and countless other people who I consider friends. Everything I say here he already knows, so don't feel upset or shocked. Also, if you know me, you won't be too surprised. 

It was hot. Too hot. I woke up sweating, and with a ball of anxiety in the pit of my stomach. "Please dear God, let today go well. I don't know what I'll do if I don't make friends..."  I honestly don't know how many times I prayed that prayer. I attempted to eat some Kashi Heart Health cereal, but it stuck to the roof of my mouth, and, honestly, it's gross. I let it get soggy as I dialed my home number. My mom picked up, and as usual sang a cheerful "Hiya!" 

I can't do this. I can't go to this meet and greet. 
You have to. You'll be fine! Did you eat breakfast?
Not really. I can't eat. I'm so nervous. What if they don't like me??
You have nothing to be nervous about! Just be your sweet self, and you'll make friends!
But what if I don't??
You will.  

We hung up, and I laid down on the bed,  listening to the hum of the air conditioner, and pretending to watch "Gilmore Girls" on the television.
Finally, I forced myself to shower and get ready. I was moving at a snail's pace, occasionally throwing myself on the floor and forcing some deep breaths. I showered, pulled on a super cute outfit, fixed my hair, and forced my contacts to be comfortable in my eyes. I checked and double checked the address, studied the GoogleMap and figured out exactly where I was going. I can walk there! All I have to do is....cross 4 lanes of traffic. No big deal. YOLO. I filled a cooler bag full of soda, chips and hummus (theatre people LOVE hummus), filled my water bottle, and headed out the door. 
Before I was out of the neighborhood, I sent this picture to my best guy friend and my sister: 
                                    Off to the meet and greet! Hopefully I make friends!! 

15 minutes later, I got to the address. I took a deep breath, wiped the sweat off my arms, walked in, up the steps and saw a living room full of pre-teens. ughhh. children. I rounded the corner and saw adults in the kitchen. Let's do this. I smiled big, and began to introduce myself. So many names. So many people. I gave my basics: my school, my hometown, how my family ended up owning a house in this town, etc...There were some girls around my age there, but I wasn't sure what I'd talk about since these people were like...actually musical theatre people. Which I decidedly was not. So I just decided to eat, because I'm good at that. 
I chatted with a woman named Margaret, and I mentioned going to school at MC. She had sent her son to jazz camp there, and as we were remarking on the beauty of the campus, a male voice said behind me: 
"I know someone who went to M.C."
 "Really?? Who??"
 "Emily H."
 "OHMYGOSH I love Emily H!!! She's the nicest!" 

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the first conversation I ever had with my boyfriend. The second one came a few minutes later when I literally interrupted a conversation he and Amanda and Ellie were having about Sutton Foster. (In hindsight, that was really rude. I'm sorry guys. But also, I'm not sorry at all. ) 
The four of us moved to the deck and talked about life and theatre. This guy (I still wasn't sure of his name...it was something really weird, and I didn't want to get it wrong, so I avoided using it all together), mentioned that he had seen me walking to the party earlier. I laughed it off . "It's my workout for the day. No big deal." To be perfectly honest, I could tell this kid was kind of into me, but I couldn't wait to get home and back online to talk to this other guy I was obsessing over at the time. 

The younger kids came outside, so we decided it was time to move back indoors. We talked for a bit longer, and the two girls left, leaving me and this kid alone. He was fidgeting, and I was fighting off sleep. 
"Well, I should probably get going." He stood, and looked at me. "It was nice meeting you." 
This is the moment that still gets to me. He was leaving. He knew I had walked there. He was clearly interested in me, but he didn't offer me a ride home. I'd be lying if I told you I wasn't upset. I almost asked him if he could give me a ride, but we were practically strangers, and I thought that would be weird. But obviously, his offering me a ride would have been perfectly normal! He left, and I left shortly after. 

I got home, called my mom and told her the good news, and updated my facebook status. I saw I had a friend request. I accepted. "Lan Dando...I'm like a million percent positive that wasn't that kid's name, and his picture is of a Seuss character and, oh look...he just wrote on my wall... Hey! It was really nice meeting you today! I look forward to working on "Seussical" with you. See you next week!

A week passed, and Dando....? Lan.....do? What WAS this kid's name?!, had been away at a conference. He finally came back, and we avoided each other. We only talked online, and then we wouldn't say anything during rehearsals. 
On July 15, 2012, I posted an article from RELEVANT Magazine called 10 Summer Date Ideas which is a list of fun things to do. He commented on the link and said he knew someone who would like to do "many of them" with me. 
I think we all know what happened next. 
For our first date, we went mini golfing, and got Creamery ice cream.11.25 months later, that's the only thing on that list that we've accomplished, but that leaves room for more fun things to do. 

It's important to note here that I had no intention of dating this guy. I told several of my friends that I just wanted to have a summer fling. I'd never had one before, and I was finally living on my own in a small city, and there was a guy who was interested. Goodbye to the days of wanting a long-term commitment, and hello showmance! 

God's hilarious, isn't He? 

As I look back over the last year, I'm thankful for all the friends I've made from my experience in Seussical, and through Lando. It's been a year of new friends of all different types. 
I've learned much more than I anticipated: Life as a fraternity girlfriend, maintaining patience during a long distance relationship, and loving someone no matter where they are in life. 
Have things been perfect? No. 
Have we almost called it quits? Multiple times, actually. 
Would I trade all of the valley moments for consistent mountaintop experiences? No. It's at the low points where we grow the most. 

So even though today is just the anniversary of when we first met, not started dating, I wanted to share the experience with you all, even though some of you were lucky enough to experience it with us. Special thanks to Rick G. for suggesting that Marcy call Lando and ask him to be in the show. Marcy, for listening to Rick.  Kat & Michael for hosting the meet and greet, and everyone else who saw the whole thing going in a great direction, and nurtured the relationship from day one. 

Lando says: "I just wanted to sincerely thank all of Star's new friends, my new friends, and and our mutual friends for your love, support, and prayers for the last year. We are so grateful to have you all in our lives." 

I second his sentiments, and would add that are both so excited to see what God has in store for our future,
and we are excited to have you by our sides. 
Onward with phase two!!  

Photo by Lois Abdelmalek

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Nomadic Life

Happy Tuesday, and wow, Happy July! It's crazy that it's July already! I'm super excited about July for a number of reasons:
1. Lots of Penn State friends are coming back to town (State College) for Fourth Fest and Arts Fest! I'm mentally preparing myself for lots of food and merriment and shenanigans!
2. New York City trip! My boyfriend is taking me to the City this coming Saturday, and there's a lot of secretive things happening. He keeps saying "don't ask questions." So I can't wait to see what he has up his sleeves.
3. Anniversary Month. It's been almost a year since I had my first conversation with my boyfriend; and countless other people I now consider close friends. (The official "first conversation" date is the 8th!!)  So. Let's just say.....I'm anticipatory.
4. Vacation Bible School! I haven't been to VBS in YEARS and this year I co-wrote opening skits with a friend that we get to perform at the beginning of VBS every night. Stoked.

Anyway, other than those four things, July is going to be a typical moth...spending time with my family, and doing what I do best: Be a Nomad. Here are some things I've learned about being a nomad over the last [almost] year--

Nomadic life is easy. Sometimes when I return home, I don't even unpack my suitcases. Of course my laundry gets done, but otherwise, things are left for the next trip. It just makes life a lot easier, you know? Why unpack something you're going to repack in 5-8 days? No time for that mess. Just leave it all in the bags!

Nomadic life is stressful. No matter how cool it is to be house-hopping, I still live with my parents, and they are still working full time. That means, sometimes I'm ready to leave home way before they are, and sometimes, they're ready to leave without me. It's fun, and we always have good times in the car. And I think I've finally gotten to the point where I'm so excited to get going every Friday that I don't put off packing until the last minute. (Is that called maturity? ew.)

Nomadic life ruins plans. My boyfriend and I decided to do Surprise Date Night. Because usually, we just make plans spontaneously and occasionally default on them for various reasons. One Friday, there was a lot of work to be done before my family and I left the house, but my boyfriend had already planned our Surprise Date Night for that evening. Whoops. We had to reschedule because sometimes you have to help out with the chores. (He took me mini golfing in the freezing cold to re-create our first date! Fastest round of mini golf ever.)

Nomadic life makes the long-distance relationship easier to manage. I am so thankful to my grandparents for their purchase of this house in small town PA that's only 15 minutes away from my boyfriend. No more words needed.

Nomadic life is easy to schedule. I'm bad with planners. I got a Downton Abbey Engagement Calendar  for Christmas, and I love it! It's been so helpful, and the pictures are great! I've consulted it a lot, and it helps me when I have to tell people when I'm available, or not. I have a handful of friends, all of whom I've met in the last year. (Pre-Nomadic Life.) Unfortunately, have I spent a lot of time with them? Kinda sorta. And it's fun when we do get together. But a group of us have been trying to get together for MONTHS and I'm the hold up. They are sweet enough to wait for me to come home, but not everyone is, and that leads to:

Nomadic life has left me partially friend-less. It's not intentional. I don't say "oh so and so wants to hang out, I gotta skip town." No. It's literally a planning thing. I've been scheduled to be away/busy/out of town for a reason. Not just to avoid you. I'm sorry you feel abandoned. But this is my life now. I'm destined to be a Nomad. And I like it.

Nomadic life confuses me. You know that saying "Home is where the heart is." ? You know the variations, I'm sure: "Home is wherever I'm with you." "Home is where my bunch of crazies are." A good friend said it really well. "Where I was born and where I'm living isn't home.It's like home is everywhere and nowhere. And that's beautiful and scary all at the same time."

They say "the heart" is wherever you long to be. But as a Nomad, I long to be everywhere. So, really my heart is everywhere. It's in this sleepy little town 4.6 miles east of The Pennsylvania State University. It's in State College. It's at home, with my parents, where I grew up with my cats and my dog, and the gorgeous farmland and smell of cow manure. It's in Lancaster County, where my life has been changed countless times. It's on any stage I've ever stepped foot on, and every stage I have yet to grace.

Would I trade these mixed feelings for a life of mental peace? Nope.
Would I trade Nomadic life for a sense of consistency? No. Spontaneity is what makes my life beautiful.  Being everywhere and nowhere all at once is how I'm choosing to live.

Won't you join me? I'll pick you up so we can journey together.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

I'm a noisy gong.

If you know me, or know someone who can describe me well, you know that I'm an Extrovert. My letters are ESFP: Extroverted Sensing Feeling Perceiving. I'm The Performer. I like to be the center of attention. I don't intuit well, and the "what will happen if" part of my brain isn't always firing on all 4 cylinders.
I hate conflict, and I hate it even more if it's happening online. I really try to avoid it as much as possible. As I've mentioned before, a few months ago I was belittled on Facebook for my opinion of an article. (Ironically, what I was attacked for had NOTHING to do with the content of the article. The article was about Megan Fox...) The conflict grew to the point where I had to block the person and their family members from being able to see my comments/posts/etc.. It was "whatever" and I was over it quickly. But ever since then, I've been more aware of expressing my opinions and views in a public forum. 
This creates an inner conflict. 

By nature, I'm impulsive. My spiritual gift is encouragement. (Do I lose points for telling people that? Whatever). I like to talk, and like it when people listen. I've been reading more blogs and articles over the last year, and I want to talk about the newly formed opinions I have. And often times, I see posts on Facebook that relate to topics that I've learned through the writings I've read. So, it makes sense to talk about about it, right? 
Nah. Not always, no. 

Expressing my opinions, essentially daring conflict to come at me, and speaking up isn't always helpful or encouraging. Even when I'm not laughing in the face of a pending argument, saying something that is a general  truth, might be met with conflict. And I don't know how to handle that. Especially when I thought the person on the other end had similar beliefs than me. It's easy to debate someone you know disagrees with you, but when you're blindsided by someone's opposing thoughts, it can really tilt your axis. 

It's also easy to blame the other person's circumstances for the way that they reacted. And while that might be a good place to look, an even better place to look is yourself. Why did I make that comment? What was my intention? Was I being genuine, or just commenting for the sake of it? 

Friends, we can talk, drop wisdom, and quote Scripture and Jesus' teachings until we're blue in the face. But if we don't do it with pure hearts, the words are like lead balloons dropping to the bottom of the ocean. Unheard and unaccepted by the ones we are trying to talk with. 

My parting words of wisdom to myself, and everyone else, no matter what you believe or stand for, would be these: 

 "If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn't love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal." -1 Corinthians 13:13

Let's not be noisy gongs. 
Let's speak the truth in love instead. 

Friday, June 14, 2013

It's true.

Happy Friday! 
Yikes, I'm terrible at blogging lately, and I truly apologize. Between my boyfriend graduating, random roadtrips around the state, and getting sick, I've been busy, and sleeping a lot! But I'm back, and today I wanted to talk about something scary: Feminism. 

When I was younger, all I knew about feminism was that in the 70s these women probably didn't wear bras, and opened car doors themselves and declared their independence from the tyrant that is the male species. Had I ever met a feminist? No, of course not, don't be silly. I grew up in the church, and God forbid women be too independent. (To be fair, a lot of the women in my church were very independent of their husbands. but it's the principle of the matter.) 

Before I got to college, I had a friend at my church who went to the same school that I was headed to. She was a few years older than me so I was able to witness how MC affected her growth as a Christian and as a woman. Before she had gone to school, she said "I don't want to end up like the crazy feminists." Three years later, guess what she was: A semi-crazy feminist with alternate views on Christianity. I couldn't believe it. Not only did I feel completely left in the dust and betrayed, I was TERRIFIED that I would go to MC and end up like her. I decided to choose a major that wouldn't involve a lot of theology and social science classes: Music Education. And we all saw how that worked out. (I was in the program for HALF of a semester. Hated it. Different story.) I was determined to avoid my theology class for as long as humanly possible, and I finally realized that I wouldn't be taking too many classes that would force me to have an introspective look at being a female in a "male dominated world." So, in general, I think it's safe to say that I made it out of college fairly unscathed, and with some influences that showed me what true female independence was. 

Last year, I discovered Good Women Project, and I was blown away at this community of Christian women who struggled with sexual issues, dating, abuse, and feminism. At that point in my life I was focused more on the dating/who-should-I-marry articles, but the founder of GWP, Lauren Dubinsky Tweeted something that literally changed my life:

Feminism is what gives me the right 
to be the woman that I am, 
not the woman that other feminists
wish I was or expect me to be.

I sat and stared at my screen for a few seconds processing what I had just read. I broke it down into
the two obvious parts:
1: "Feminism is what gives me the right to be the woman that I am." 
I don't need to be the "type" of feminist who looks at her boyfriend and says
"make your own damn sandwich," because that's not who I am as a person. If my boyfriend wants a
sandwich, we're going to make that thing together. Because God made me, me Starleisha,
as a collaborative being. I don't feel objectified when I'm hanging out in the kitchen, I actually feel
empowered. I'm a good cook and I'm going to show off those skills. My boyfriend laid it out when we
first started dating that he would NEVER expect me to make him food. That's fine. I'm ok with that.
But I will offer, and that's cool too. And  that's what works for me.
2:"Not the woman that other feminists wish I was or expect me to be." 
Also pretty simple. Online, I've encountered tweets that imply that people do feminism wrong.
How is it doing it wrong if statement number 1. is the very core basis of feminism? Even though I know
this to be true, I still struggle with it. Sometimes I think "Ugh, I can't be a good feminist because I still
believe that the husband, to some extent, should be the spiritual leader of the household." But those
negative thoughts just take up room in my brain where positive thoughts should be!

If there are women out there who look at me and think I'm doing feminism wrong because I still like
it when my boyfriend opens my car door, to them I say: Your lack of support for me is actually
wrong. As Taylor Swift so famously quoted the even cooler Katie Couric: "There's a special place
in Hell for women who don't help other women." For this topic, that's a bit of an extreme example, but
I think it warrants some discussion. If feminists are to be about women's rights, we need to help each
other, not put each other into this place of shame, and make each other feel that we can't express our
views. I can be an independent woman and still enjoy it when my boyfriend sends me surprise flowers
"just because." You can be independent and still not want anything extra from your boyfriend because
you feel like it detracts from your feminist battle-cry. And that's ok! But let's not berate one another.

For the longest time, I denied it. I denied even the teeniest ounce of feminism in me. I would even
blatantly say anti-feminist statements on Twitter to try to cover up my unsure feelings about the
whole subject. Some of it stemmed from the fear that I would someday emasculate the man I seriously
dated. And you know, in the 90s, that might have been a legit fear, but there are so many men who
are pro-feminist in the world today. I see my boyfriend as his own man, and, really, he's kind of
pro-feminist too. Within our relationship, we've leveled the playing field. He cooks, I cook. I'm
paying for my own movie today. No big deal. It doesn't mean that he's less of a man, and it doesn't
mean I'm castrating his wallet. (Pause for that mental image...ok, continue). It's really ok. It's how we
do things, and it works for us.

So my Star-Based Feminism pep-talk to myself goes a little something like this:
Enjoying being treated like a lady doesn't lessen my value as a woman.
I can be independent and still enjoy hanging out in the kitchen. 
The playing field is even, and my boyfriend and I should have an open dialogue to keep it
that way.
I am me, and you are you. Let's help each other. Let's support the different views of feminism.

After all...isn't that what it's about?

Sunday, May 26, 2013

Theatre: Rant edition.

A few weeks ago, an article came across Twitter with the title: Heroic Theatergoer Smashes Cell Phone, Gets Thrown Out. Of course, I'm all about hearing how people handle things themselves, especially when it comes to events in or about the theatre. (Seriously, before you continue reading this post, read that article. It's hilarious.)
 Everyone hates noisy audience members. There's nothing more distracting than someone who is not respecting the actors or the rest of the audience. Common courtesy, that we're all taught in Kindergarten, says that you shouldn't interrupt or talk over other people. Wait your turn. In the theatre, that translates to: As long as someone on the stage is talking, or performing action, your trap should be SHUT.

So let me tell you what happened to me last night. And I'm going to do it with Storify. (Which is really cool and good for putting your long Twitter stories/rants. all in one place.)

So. Please. Think about the people around you when you're an audience member.
 It's distracting to everyone,
 including the actors, and they are not paid enough to have you yapping in the seats. 

Thank you. 

Friday, May 24, 2013

I have an idea.

In a world full of differing opinions, denominations, sects, beliefs, degrees, upbringings, etc... we often take our discussions to Facebook. It can be a good forum for expressing thoughts, having book discussions, talking about pop-culture, and politics, religion, everything.

But if you're like me, sometimes it takes a few days to process your thoughts and form full sentences. and by that time, the thread is done; everyone has said what they wanted, and it's been moved lower on the timeline. Posting something now might be seen as trolling, or argument perpetuating. So then you're just sitting there, with all these thoughts and no place to put them.

I posted an article the other night, and a friend commented on it, and it was long, and I read it of course. But by the time I got through it, I had forgotten what I agreed with or found interesting in the first half of the comment!
That's when I had the idea. 

Facebook, in their ever prevalent obsession with staying "hip" and "fresh," should add a "Highlight" option for long comment threads. 

So, when someone leaves an extra long comment on a post you can highlight it and come back later after you've formed your thoughts. 

How cool would that be? I wonder what Mark Zuckerberg's personal email address is...
                        No? ok.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Dreamspace -5/19/2013-

I walked onto the stage.  There was a man at the table
There was a body on the ground, bloody; bruised; beaten. 
he said "You know she would have wanted me to do this to her." 
Instantly I knew where I was. 
Everyone knows not to think about your dreams. Or you'll loose them. 
I refocus. Two more men at the table. It was clear who the one was:
rich. status. wealth.
But you could tell it was all fading into the past
And then I saw her; there she was. 
The most beautiful woman I had ever seen.
Anyone you talk to knows that she is tragically wrapped up in a beautiful lie of a life.
I sat next to her, suddenly aware of my large sweatshirt and sweatpats. 
She was clad with diamonds; pearls; love; tragedy.
I took her hand. 
She pressed mine against her cheek. 
I did the same. 
She looked deep into my eyes. 
And I wept. 
The rich man placed his hand on my shoulder and directed my attention to the slats in the back wall.
"There it is. See it? It's blinking. Like a heartbeat." 
The Green Light. 
I wanted to go there. I wanted to follow it's pulse, I wanted it to sweep me away. 
In my awakespace I knew that it was real at one time. I didn't know if it still existed. I never longed to know.
But seeing it now, I needed to go there. 
The beautiful woman drew a ragged breath, and said those iconic words: 
"So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past." 
There is a beat; darkness; applause. The magic is gone.
 The icons fade. 
The body had slipped away, changing into curtain call clothes, I assume.
 I'm left with normal, everyday people, dressed in parts. 
We gather for our bow. 
I realize it's a dress rehearsal. 
I approach and do a goofy curtsy. 
We all stand centerstage;
 laughing; joking; talking about sports. 
Everything-- normal. 
We get lectured on curtain call etiquette. 
a boy questions: "Wait, we have to grab hands? Who does that anymore?" 
"Every Broadway cast." i reply. 
I turn to face the back of the stage. 
The light is gone. It was just a lighting effect.
Ironically, without it, my hope fades.
What do I trust now?
I sigh 
I'm back. 
My awakespace slowly creeps in, and I reflect on the details. 
I realize:
 Even when I awake, I'm drawn to it. 
I'm determined: 
Someday, I will chase, and catch, that green light.

Thursday, May 16, 2013

What I Wore- 4/26/2013 (Photo Set)

One morning my friend Ashley posted on Facebook wondering if she could pull of a maxi dress even though she's on the short side. My friend Luke and I were planning to see one of our former students sing opera choruses at his university that evening, and I had struggled for days with what to wear. But Ashley's question inspired me. 

I assured her that yes, she could! Just find one with a nice pattern and pair it with some high wedges. Or if you pick a solid, you can belt it! The trick is to show off your shoulders, so a strapless or thin-strapped dress is perfect. (Capped sleeves are also always a good option).

 Throw on a cute cropped jacket or sweater over it, to change the look completely. Add a fab pair of platforms that will elongate your legs, and make the whole dress fall easier. Make sure your accessories that highlight your face and arms-dangle earrings, bangles, or a statement ring would be perfect. The other important thing is to try before you buy. Not all maxi dresses are made the same. They have different waistlines, lengths, bodices etc… it’s important to know what kind of maxi dress fits your body type! 
The good news is, lots of stores have these dresses for cheap, so you aren't in danger of breaking the bank. Target has great ones, which is where I purchased both of mine. (In addition to the one in the picture, I have a solid yellow one.) If you want to splurge, Nordstrom has a wide variety of maxis. Really, they can be found anywhere. It just depends on how much you want to spend!

I’m a huge advocate for wedges, and my favorites are the Dolce Vita ones I’m wearing in the picture below. They’re comfortable and super cute. I've had them for two years and I wear them with dresses, jeans, skirts, and shorts. Dolce Vita brand can be found in many department stores, so don't sweat the price! As usual, I got mine at Target.  Once again, try before you buy! 
I carried a brown leather purse and a took a jean jacket. The jean jacket makes it casual, but sometimes I'll wear a white cropped sweater over the dress. I wore pink drop earrings that were a gift from my sister, and I pulled my hair back into a maiden braid and pinned the rest to the side. 

Maxi dresses are appropriate for weddings, going out with friends, or a nice walk downtown. Really, you can't go wrong! So go wild, and find one that fits your personal style! 

Shine Bright

My ring is from Lia Sophia, and my nail polish is "I Just Blue Myself" by Wet n Wild. 

Camera: Canon Rebel t3

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

Working Theatre Manifesto

This was my final, working manifesto for my senior seminar in the fall of 2010. It's pretty self-explanatory. Questions/comments always welcome. 

Theatre is what I thrive on, and what motivates me. It’s where I can go and be completely surrounded by people who have a passion for the same things I do. 
I am wired to create. 
David Mamet, in his book “True and False,” says "Art is an expression of joy and awe. It is not an attempt to share one's virtues and accomplishments with the audience, but an act of selfless spirit."  He tells me that I have a gift to share; not for my own good, but for the good of the people observing the art that I have created.

When Liesl and I led a kid’s theatre camp at her church, one of the campers, AJ, completely captured my heart. On opening night, we all stood in a circle and joined hands to pray, and AJ was the second person to pray, and what he said moved me to tears. The simpleness of hearing a child say “God, help us to remember when we’re performing tonight that we’re doing it for your glory” struck a chord deep within my spirit. I have carried that sentence in my soul ever since. What AJ said is going to be a constant reminder for me as I continue my life and work in the theatre.

The theatre I believe in involves a give and take relationship. In a production, no matter what role a person is playing, they are constantly asked to pour forth and take in ideas, emotions, reactions, directions. Theatre, while not always outrightly asking the audience to participate, still requires some sort of emotional response from the spectators. Todd Johnson says “theatre (like “sacramental” or presence filled worship) is a process that demands our participation.” In the same way, our relationship with God begs, pleads, pines for some kind of response from Him. 

The theatre I believe in is honest, and I know that the biggest, most difficult gift to give is that of honesty. God requires of us our whole hearts, and I feel that as theatre artists we cheat the audience if we are not completely honest in our performance, or presentation of our gifts. Being  open to anything that happens onstage is the epitome of honesty. I have learned that while working with a scene partner I can find honesty within them, and then together, we can convey that honesty to the audience.
Theatre must be an open line of communication; between the director and actors, the actors and the audience, and ultimately, between God and His children. We have to remember that what we do we do for God’s glory, and for the enjoyment of others; but it shouldn't be an inward achievement checklist for us to cross off.

The theatre I believe in is spiritual. Why? Because there is no denying that we are spiritual beings. An article in Relevant Magazine stated: "True art taps into the spiritual realm. When artists are being authentic, they reflect the truest expression of who they are--either revealing aspects of their weakness or reflecting the heart of their Creator. Those expressions can inform our spiritual journey, and God can reveal Himself to us through them. Because we are spiritual beings, all true art-even secular eventually reveals the sacred."

I want to be spiritual; in my art and in my life.
I want to be honest; onstage and in offstage.
I want to be creative; to reflect the work of my creator,
 for the enjoyment of the audience; not for my own enjoyment.
I want to do all of these things for the Glory of God.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Long Distance:A Short Piece

If you had told me in May of 2012 that a year later I would be dating someone who was two hours away, I would have laughed in your face. I would have said, "Nah, dude. Just going to have a showmance this summer. Nothing more, nothing less." Fast forward to July. God was like "Just kidding, here, try this instead..." There was a boy, and we spent the month just taking walks, talking, going to and from rehearsals together, and just having fun.Then August came, and that's when I ended up 180 miles away from him, back in my small town. It was weird. It wasn't like it was the end of the semester, and you pinky-swore to be BFFs forever. This was our first real, grown-up relationship. And we would not be together everyday. 

Being in a long distance relationship is unlike anything I've ever experienced. It's not tragic like some romance movies make it out to be (Example: "The Notebook." 365 hand-written letters all confiscated by a mother? Ain't nobody got time for dat!), and it's not as tumultuous and promiscuous as "Like Crazy": The movie with that sweet young couple who was separated by the Atlantic Ocean and mountains of Immigrant visa paperwork. (It also has really great poetic moments, and good picture-quotes: see below).
No, we are fortunate enough to have supportive parents who make sure we get to see each other, we are in the same state, and both of us are legal citizens of the U.S., so deportation is not a threat. (Side note: for those of you who don't know, my sister lives 15 minutes from my boyfriend. Convenient, right?)
In spite of all the positives, our long distance relationship, like any non-scripted relationship, has been anything but glamorous. 
The last 9 months of my life have been un-matchable. Peppered with so many emotions, a lot of prayer and growth on both his part and mine, and within our relationship. I think some of the challenges we are facing in our separate lives, (I'm trying to finish school, he's actively job-searching), would be overblown if we were together all of the time. Being apart has let us learn about ourselves away from another person. I'm not attached to his hip or relying on him for every little thing. I've learned how to read him even over Facebook Chat. I've figured out when to think before I speak as to not overwhelm him, (this is a shock to my system...I don't know how to handle it sometimes), and I'm getting better at adjusting to his busy schedule even though I have far less to do than he does. Seriously, I have functioned without him for 24 years, I can survive being two hours apart. 
Is it rewarding? Absolutely. Honestly, I am learning a lot about life and dedication and this has been one big exercise in patience for me. 
Is it sometimes awful? Yes. Some days it feels like this: 

Is it frustrating to see other people upset and missing their significant other even though they're a short distance apart? Incredibly. It baffles me. At first, being apart was just frustrating. But now, I try really hard not to whine about the distance. But other people do complain and it gets annoying. It got to the point where I created a meme about it and laughed for a long time.
At the same time, I have mad respect for military families who do this multiple times a year. They are the true champions of long distance relationships, and I admire them a lot! 

It was right after the meme that I was discussing this with a friend. He reminded me that the people who tend to complain about their relationships aren't in them for very long. It reminded me that I need to be thankful for what I'm learning while I'm in this season of my life, instead of wishing away the days that I do have. I have a feeling that kind of contentment will come in handy once we are ready to be geographically together. 

There's not real formula to successfully surviving long distance relationship; Trust me, I've looked.
My advice/reminders/pep-talk to myself and to anyone in a long distance relationship is simply this: 

 I refuse to complain about the distance aspect of my relationship. It's been 9 months. It is what it is. It's not perfect, but it's handled. With maturity comes acceptance. And the willingness to persevere and push through the sludge&distance and have faith in your relationship. Trust God, trust each other, trust yourself, and trust the "us" and the "we" and the "together" even if you're apart.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cats vs. Men: The Great Debate

Cats or men? I like men. I also like cats. But being a cat lady was never appealing to me. Even when I was single. These thoughts are exclusively my own. Comments/discussion is always welcome. 

Lately, (always), I've been seeing girls talking on social media about being alone, being betrayed by a guy or becoming a cat lady in the future (most recently 15 Reasons Why Having A Cat Is Better Than Having A Boyfriend). Honestly, I think that is silly.
Now, I know everyone has a story, and I love and respect that so much! I love that there are girls who are focusing on their careers, or other pursuits, and feel that single is the way to go. Relationships aren't for everyone, and value and self-worth don't come from being linked with someone. I love reading dialogue about being your own person, and how the person you will marry won't "complete" you or be your "other half." It's so cool to see so much positive growth and learning in single ladies that I love and/or look up to.

That being said: I hate feeling guilty about being in a relationship. Now, I know what you're thinking: "Well Star, it sounds like you should examine your blah blah blah priorities, blah blah blah, guilt complex, blah blah blah." 
I see that attempt at rationalization and I raise you this: I am one of the least guilt-ridden people you will ever meet. So, it's not that. I just...feel bad that not everyone is happy. Once again, I know true happiness doesn't come from being with someone in a romantic relationship. But I see so much hopelessness from a lot of single girls, and in my gut I just feel...guilty. I never would have guessed that this type of guilt existed in relationships. So, a note to the single girls, you aren't the only ones affected by your feelings when you are single.
I love cats! But when I see articles like the one above, (especially #9: my boyfriend is the LEAST distracting person in the world), I just want to say, "I have a boyfriend, but I love Cricket and Tater-Tot too, and they're my favorite cats EVER!"
I don't say it enough, but I appreciate and I'm incredibly proud of the man I'm in a relationship with. He accepts me for who I am, and we balance each other out very well. He's a hard worker, incredibly motivated, and graduating with dual degrees this weekend. Pretty sure Tater-Tot is just good at swatting at my behind when I walk through the door. Score 1 for the boyfriend.
I don't know...maybe I'm making too big of a deal out of the cat thing...

I'm pretty sure I was doing the whole "thank GOD I'm single" thing about 14 months ago, so I'm not faulting these girls at all. I just wish there was a way to say: "Hey...being in a relationship is not totally bad, so let's just try to avoid generalizing and stereotyping." I would never, ever consciously post something on social media that said "Girls who are single are that way because [fill in the blank]" or something to purposefully bring up negative feelings in others. And if I do, please tell me. {Note: I blog about my relationship because it's a part of my life. I really try not to brag. I promise.}

I don't value someone based on their relationship status. I care about them as people, right where they are, no matter what's going on, and I support them in the expression of their feelings. But I think that we do ourselves a great disservice by assuming how our lives are going to end up. Positive thinking yields positive results. Negative thinking yields negative results. Whether you believe it or not, God and you have great control over what path(s) your life will take.
Additionally, out of all the threats I see about being cat ladies, I see a lot of the same girls post about good, healthy relationships, whether they are romantic relationships or deep friendships. The good news is, you can have it both ways!
Cats are great, and so are real human relationships. In fact, you can learn a lot about humans from cats (and/or most animals), and vice versa.  No matter how furry, annoying, or distracting, neither should be neglected. They should be nurtured, and cared for, and loved unconditionally. Right where they are: if they're on the couch next to you watching ESPN, or sitting on your desk giving you an adorable face.
I'll let you decide which is the cat and which is the boy.

PS: Here are pictures of my cats. Cricket is the grey one, and Tator-Tot  They are cute.