9 to 5 The Musical

It's the day after the show closing. Not time for the post show depression to set in (though I admit there have already been some tears). I'm just exhausted. But, I'm still glowing from the whole experience. I cannot adequately put into words just how amazing this journey has been for me, but I'm going to try. 

I've always enjoyed music and theater of all kinds. I remember the one family vacation we went on when I was a little girl was to Branson, MO and my favorite thing we did was go to a show. I've enjoyed every show I've ever seen whether it be on Broadway, in a high school, church, an amusement park, or a make shift stage. Every show I have ever seen in my entire life, I sat in the audience wondering what it would be like to actually be the one on stage. 

The last several years, working with FRC, my love for theater has grown immensely - especially after experiencing JTF for the first time last year. Admittedly, when it comes to my own musical abilities, I often lack confidence. Thankfully, God has put some amazing people in my life that have encouraged me and taught me some great things! I also realized after working with some phenomenal kids who also struggle with believing in themselves, that I must practice what I preach. If I can help them see the God-given talents that they have and encourage them to use them, why can't I do the same? 

I've sat in on numerous auditions over the years.  I know how difficult it is to cast people.  I know how exciting it is from a production standpoint to envision something and have it come to life before your eyes.  I love the creative process.  I just really wanted the chance to experience it  from the performer's perspective - to be the one responsible for bringing joy and laughter to the audience. (I did dance some in our church's Christmas production I choreographed a few years ago, just to clarify.)

I'm my own worst enemy. I've never felt good enough and have struggled with self image as an overweight adult.  But, I decided I was being a hypocrite to those kids (and my own) telling them to work hard for their dreams while I cowered behind my own.  You've got to be in it to win it, right?  I finally decided it was my time to take the leap and give it a shot.  Seriously, what did I have to lose? I was going to walk into a theater where I did not know a single person.  I was going to give it my all and they were either going to love me or hate me.  I truly had no idea if I could act or not.  I've sang my whole life - but never a Broadway tune.  I really had no expectation going in.

Heading into my first audition!
So, how did my first audition go? I walked in and immediately met this spunky 69 year old lady named Ivana who was auditioning for, I believe, her 8th show at the Holly.  She and another lady, Alicia, welcomed me in and encouraged me throughout the entire process.  I also met this sweet young lady named Emily who was also auditioning for her first show.  They all helped put my mind at ease and made me feel comfortable.  We each sang our 16 bars.  Then this amazing choreographer, Joe, jumped on stage and kicked our butt in a dance audition.  I was NOT expecting that.  LOL  I was having a good hair day so I felt good.  Ha!!! I think I kept up pretty well with those youngin's, Cole & Amberly.  After that we did some cold reads which were super fun - but the entire time I kept thinking, "I have NO clue how this is going.  I either look like a complete fool or I'm blending in ok."  Seriously, no idea!  Then a new crew of people came in.  I was a wee bit star struck when I saw Carla come up on stage and read.  I had just seen her play the lead in Cabaret a week or so before (along with our assistant director, Jesse).  They were amazing!  Then this kid, Austin, gets up on stage and knocks my freakin' socks off! I laughed so hard I cried.  Later I would find out that "kid" was an almost 31 year old guy who would become a lifelong friend.  I loved every second of the audition process and watching everyone do their thing.  

The next day I received an email from director, Linda, for a callback for the parts of Violet, Roz, & Doralee (I tried out for Judy fully hoping for an ensemble part).  I was ecstatic!! Callbacks were a blast!! When I realized I could make people laugh, I thought my heart was going to burst out of my chest.  Going into callbacks, I was still thinking, "maybe this means I'm at least going to be a part of the show." I left there thinking, "I like these people.  A lot. If I'm not in this show at all, I'm going to be very disappointed."  Wednesday morning I was sitting in Chosen practice watching my phone every time it lit up with an email.  We were in the middle of singing a song when I saw I had an email from Linda. Mid song, I couldn't help myself (sorry, Kelly) I opened it up and the tears started.  It was so surreal to me.  I had no idea how my life was about to change!

We immediately started rehearsals and I can honestly say that I enjoyed every single one of them.  I felt like each one of them pushed me outside of my comfort zone.  I was dancing and physically being pushed like I had not in a long time.  I had given up on taking care of myself and this was showing me just how much and forcing me to get active again.  Going from teacher to student was mentally difficult, but I believe it's going to make me a better teacher and choreographer.  I had to throw my stage fright out the window.  I had to learn and sing my part every time.  No playing around. No time to get nervous - just do it (that would be a great slogan for something).  I was incredibly fearful of memorizing so many lines.  Could I even do it? I don't remember what I had for lunch yesterday.  But, when you have 202 lines in a show (not including the songs) - you just have to work that much harder to get it done.  Character development? What's that?  Oh, I need to become Violet. What is she feeling? What are her mannerisms? How does she interact with other characters? I'm pretty sure she was still developing this past weekend!  There were a few nights that I went into rehearsals after crying most of the day from just having a crappy day.  Within minutes, those feelings were gone and I found myself doubled over in laughter.  Was everything always sunshine and roses? Nope! We are working with human beings.  There's going to be occasional conflicts. Putting a show together is difficult. Learning can be frustrating.  Was it worth it? You bet it was!

First Read Through
                                First Read Through

Music Rehearsal at the Annex 
Getting some stage time practice
"You said it, sister!" Jen, made the best Margaret!

Then came Tech Week.  I've been on the production side of this, but it was about to get real as a performer! Entrances, exits, costume changes (um, really quick changes), props, set pieces, scene changes, a live band.... can I remember it all?  Preview night it seemed to finally come together. Perfect? No. Good? Yes! Then OPENING NIGHT! Wow, that was fun! The second night was probably my personal worst performance.  I knew the first two rows were mostly my friends and I let the nerves kick in a little bit, but it was still incredible.  My favorite night was probably the last Saturday.  The energy just felt so high.  I had a lot of close friends in the audience. It was a super fun night.  Sunday was bitter sweet.  It was an amazing show, but I did find myself a few times thinking, "This is the last time I get to...".  Seeing the set come down made me sad.  Saying goodbye to my new friends made me sadder.

Change It! My girls love Taylor (black dress). Mollie was awesome!

Roz and I had a special relationship!

"We're not taking orders from you anymore!"
One of the Boys

I believe the Hospital was the most fun scene for me.

My heart is so full and grateful not only for the opportunity to live out a life long dream, but for the outpouring of love and support from friends and family.  I had over 100 people come out to the shows over the 3 weeks of performances.  Friends and family from as far as Texas (and Tennessee) came out.  I don't think I've ever felt more loved in my entire life!  I know it hasn't always been easy for my own family.  Two nights a week I didn't get to tuck my girls in bed (more nights during Tech and performances).  With Derek traveling so much, my in-laws really stepped up and helped with the girls.  Thank you for making the sacrifices for me.

My BFF's from Knoxville - Jenny & Nikki.

Let's not forget the broken hand.

My girls!
Some of my precious cheer & drama girls.

Through this whole process I have discovered some great things about myself.  1. Life doesn't end at 40 - it's just beginning! You're never too old (or young) to reach for your dreams or try something new. 2. Doggone it, I am good enough. I may not get every role I ever audition for, but I can do whatever I put my mind to.  Not everyone will like me, but somebody will. 3. Theater is awesome and I want it in my life! This is a new season for me and I want to embrace it as much as I can. 4. I am stronger than I think. Violet taught me so.

And, now I walk away with the greatest gifts of all - and one I wasn't even thinking about.  People. New friends. I didn't go into this thinking about relationships with people, but I'm sure walking away with some of the best. I could not imagine doing this show without any one of the amazing people in that cast and crew.  No future show will ever compare to this one.

The Diva script lady!

Wig time!
Jesse's in charge.

Katie rocked the black wig!
Violet and her man.
No, I wasn't drinking. Just high hair!

Roz finally got some love from Hart!
Alex came in at the end and rocked!

Dakota did my hair every single night!
He's amazing!!
My people! Maurice was a fantastic
Bob & Stage Manager.

I adore this guy! So much talent it's ridiculous!

                                             Judy, Violet, & Doralee

So, what's next? No idea! I had another audition on Saturday for an event.  You win some, you lose some. We'll just have to see how that one pans out. For now I'm going to get a little rest, go to our drama leadership planning this weekend for FRC, reflect more on 9 to 5 with smiles and tears and try not to get too depressed it's over but rejoice that it happened.  Wherever the Lord leads, I will go.

Welcome to Agrabah!

What an absolute blast this past weekend was! The First Redeemer Conservatory performed Aladdin, Jr. and it was simply spectacular!  I know I may be a bit biased, but seriously - there aren't adequate words to describe this year.  I'll give it my best shot though!

This was my fifth production with the FRC Conservatory of Music and Fine Arts Drama Class.  I can say without a doubt, this year really took the cake!   I looked forward to every class.  Tech week and production went smoothly. And, in the same amount of time as years past, we were able to pull off Annie (the elementary class production), the full Aladdin Jr. production, and a condensed JTF (Junior Theater Festival) competition performance.  We won an international award!  Not to mention, we had about 20+ extra kids than years past.  So, how did we do it?

1.  God Almighty:  He was the focus and center of everything we did.  We give Him glory for it all and continuously ask for His direction in all things.  We opened class with prayer.  We took time to study His word with the kids.  And, when extra prayer was needed, class stopped - and we prayed.  When decisions needed to be made, we sought Him first.  And, let me tell you, He showed up and showed out all year!  Thank you, Jesus, for blessing our program!  Thank you for allowing  us to reach families for Christ through musical theater.  What a fun way to serve!

2. A selfless leader: Katy loves the Lord, has a heart for kids, a creative mind, and a gift for teaching.  Put that together and you have one powerful punch in a tiny package that is Katy Cook.  She is quiet and humble.  She has never asked for recognition or been filled with pride.  She simply seeks to find the best in every single student and does what it takes to pull it out of that child.  As a mom, I'm incredibly grateful for what she has done for my children.  At the beginning of the year Audrey wouldn't speak.  She was the last to audition and we had to pull it out of her.  By the end of the year, she was the first to volunteer to stand up in class and improv with classmates.  She also had her first speaking role and solo in a performance.  Same with my youngest - who has now decided she wants to "be a singer".  She auditioned for a solo for another musical for the first time - and got it!  Life changing?  You bet!  As a choreographer, Katy was a joy to work with.  She's encouraging, supportive, and down right fun to be around!

3. Team Effort: This is certainly not a one man show.  Our leadership team met before the season began. We prayerfully considered the show and began to brainstorm about what we needed to do to make this the best we could for the kids.  We made a plan and we stuck to it!  Everything was thought out and organized before class ever started.  We communicated regularly and stayed on top of everything thanks to some incredibly organized and administratively gifted people.

One of my favorite things about the entire year was the way the kids showed their leadership.  They were taught how to lead and they put those skills in action when needed. When the elementary kids were having their production, the entire back stage process was lead by the older kids.  We went back stage at one point to make sure that the kids weren't running around crazy and what we found was all 19 first through fifth graders sitting quietly in their chairs as the older kids were kneeling with them and praying for their fears and nerves to be tamed.  Wow!  It doesn't get any better than that!  And, I will also say that the throughout the "big" production, the leadership continued.  What an incredible blessing this Mama has been given knowing that these are the kids my daughters look up to.

So, here's one last plug - if you're looking for a program for your child (first through twelfth grade) where they will be loved, taught, supported and encouraged - look no further.  The productions on stage will far exceed your expectations.  And, your child will learn far more than how to sing, dance, and act.  FRC Conservatory has gotten back to its mission focus - bringing kids closer to Christ through the art of musical theater.

Anxiety and Sleeping Fears

I'm reaching out to my friends for some advice on an issue that has recently popped up.  My 7 year old has suddenly developed a fear of going to sleep at night.  For a few months now she has complained daily of her tummy not feeling well.  I've taken her to the doctor twice and there have been no physical indications of an illness.  I've noticed some insecurities that she's dealing with and have been helping her to overcome those.  As of about a month ago, I noticed the daily complaints started changing to bed time.  When I put her to bed she would appear sick - even to the point of gagging.  She has not slept through the night in a month.  When I get her to sleep, she comes in my room usually between 1-2:00am visibly upset and unable to go back to sleep.  She seems to shiver with fear.  Often times I have taken her to another room to calm her and sleep with her until morning.  Her fears are progressing and now she is struggling just to go to bed at night.  She will sometimes work herself into a full blown panic attack.

I admit that with us being off of school so much in the last couple of weeks, bed times have been less consistent and I've been a little more willing to cuddle past bed time, let her fall asleep on the couch, etc.  Last night I was determined to make her stay in bed if she got up.  At 3:15 this morning, she came wandering into my room once again.  I walked her back to her room, tucked her in, and tried to leave.  Let's just say the next 45 minutes were unpleasant.  Every time I tried to leave her room, she chased me screaming.  It was painful to watch - and at 3:15 in the morning, I admit I was a wee bit cranky!  After nearly an hour, she calmed down and we discussed her fears at length.  I still ended up taking her to the guest room to sleep.  Even laying beside her, she wasn't able to go back to sleep until I wrapped both arms snugly around her.

Now, here are some things that I do know.  When we discuss her fears, they are consistent.  She is afraid 1 - that something bad is going to happen to me, her dad, or her sister and 2 - that she is afraid in the dark when she is not with an adult.  What I don't know is why all of a sudden these fears have developed.  We have been in our new house now for almost 7 months.  There have been two things that have happened that she has mentioned which could play a part in her fears.  One, we saw a bad car accident happen in front of us a few weeks ago.  We were the first on the scene and Derek & I both got out of our car to help the victims.  She was visibly upset by it.  Two, our sweet little 12 year old friend, Kylie, passed away from Cancer a couple of weeks ago.  She has asked many questions since then.

So, if these are the triggers of her fears, what do I do to calm them?  I've offered to keep lights on at night.  I check in on her more often.  I pray with her.  I diffuse essential oils before bed.  We discuss in length about her fears and concerns.  I try to reassure her.  I'm at a loss as to what else to do.

Snow Day Updates

I really stink at this "keeping up with my blog" thing.  Thank goodness we've been snowed in for several days and I can sit back and catch up on some things.  Laundry is done, dishes are washed, and by golly - I'm gonna sit down and blog!

First thing that has changed since my last post is our home.  We sold our house and moved further north into a beautiful new home.  It was not an easy road, but definitely worth it!  We are so happy in our new house and are so grateful!  The girls are going to a new school.  Audrey loves it.  It was definitely a positive move for her.  Maddie has struggled with the move a bit, but she's making progress.

Our cheer season went well.  It was a huge learning experience for me as Coordinator this year.  I do believe that the program honored its ministry goals and reached many girls and their families for Christ as we set out to do.  I'm still grateful to be a part of this amazing program.  Maddie loves cheer and has been blessed with some great coaches and teammates.

The girls and I are still participating in the FRC Conservatory's drama department.  The girls just had their very first elementary school performance.  They did ANNIE and it was super!  Be sure to check it out if get a chance.  I was incredibly proud of the kids - and of course, my own.  Audrey had her first speaking role and had a couple of one line solos.  She did fantastic!

This is also my 5th year teaching choreography for the drama class.  We did something new this year and it was a phenomenal experience.  We attended and competed in the JTF Festival.  It was a weekend filled with 4500 drama kids.  The weekend was filled with the Broadway stars, tv stars, and many other wonderfully, talented individuals.  The highlight of the weekend was receiving the Award of Excellence in Dance out of over 100 teams from 28 states and 6 countries.  What an honor!!

So, that's it for now.  More to come...

Summer 2014 Update

Once again I've fallen off of the blogging wagon.  You'll have to settle for an occasional update for now.  Several have asked about a few happenings in our lives so I thought I'd pop on here and knock it all out at once.  

First of all, we're having a great summer.  It's been packed full of swim team - which just ended.  The girls did great!  Maddie made the team this year and finished with several first place honors.  Audrey made some awesome time improvements and made it into the "double digit" club (improvements over 10 seconds).  We've had a couple of weeks of cheer camp and a week of drama camp. This week we are taking it easy before jumping into VBS and an overnight cheer camp next week.

Maddie after making the swim team.
Not sure that I ever posted this, but I took over as Coordinator for our competition cheer program.  I won't be coaching this year, but will be overseeing all the teams and doing all the "behind the scenes" stuff.  Our program has grown so much and I'm excited to see how the Lord is going to work this year.  I took several of the coaches on a cabin retreat right before camp.  It was an amazing time of rejuvenation and reflection.  God has truly anointed the ladies that are serving as coaches and I know it's going to be a wonderful year.  

Love my sweet coaches and friends!
Getting into the spirit!
We were suppose to be heading to Pure American Nationals today, but we opted out.  We had so much on our plate.  The expense was huge and our traveling/split the cost partners had to withdraw, so we chose to, as well.  It would have been loads of fun, but there are greater needs here right now.

Derek and I celebrated our 10th wedding anniversary in May.  We celebrated with an Eastern Caribbean Cruise.  It was so much fun!  It was our first trip without the girls and I missed them terribly!  We really had a great time.  A couple of families from our church were on the same boat, so that made it extra fun.  :)

The end of this month Derek and I are heading to my 20th high school reunion.  I still can't quite wrap my brain around that one.  Have I really been out of school that long?  I'll be honest, I'm a little freaked out with my own insecurities - ya know, that same ole battle I fight every year with the weight issues.  But, I am who I am.  I'm going to go and enjoy myself.  I'll get to see some amazing friends that I literally haven't seen in 20 years.  And, maybe by my 30th reunion, I'll be skinny.  LOL

Throw back to my Senior Pic.

Audrey turned 9 last week.  Seriously, I'm feeling super old here!  She had a great time.  We got a couple of neighbors and went to the mall.  They went to My Room Rocks and designed some rooms.  It was super cute!  Can't believe this big girl will be starting 4th grade in the fall.  (Did I mention we just bought her a size 8 women's shoe?!)

Many have asked, so here's the scoop on the house.  Have you ever fallen fast and hard for something or someone?  Well, we did!  We weren't looking to move, though we've casually talked about it for years.  We have dreamed of living out on land, having some livestock, and enjoying the quiet.  Well, we found an amazing home on 10 acres of land about 45 minutes north of us.  It was everything we ever dreamed of - and much more.  We were willing to do whatever we could to get it.  For several weeks we negotiated with the sellers and finally came to an agreement which ended in a contract on the house.  We scrounged up closing costs and down payment - the night before our cruise!  We dreamed of the animals we would get, swimming in our new pool, where our furniture would go - all the fun stuff!  Well, obviously God had other plans.  I'll spare you all the details, but about 2 weeks after we put the contract on the house - and put our own on the market - things started to fall apart.  There were numerous issues that popped up - some that our lender said she had never in her career seen.  In the end, we felt like this was not a good choice for us.  The Lord gave us a very clear "out" and we took it.  It was heartbreaking at the time, but I know that it was what was best.  As of now, we still have our house on the market.  We've had 30 showings in a little over 30 days.  We've had one offer, which we turned down.  We're looking at other properties.  We're taking our time and making sure we are wise with our decisions.  It's exciting - yet challenging!  Half of our belongings are in a storage unit 30 minutes from here.  LOL  We have to keep the house "show ready" all the time - which is difficult with 2 children, 2 dogs, and a cat.  We've looked at so many different options.  Right now we're leaning towards a "fixer upper" that's on a beautiful 3 acre lot.  We'd love to make over our own kitchen, add a swimming pool, and update with our specific tastes.  We're just going to keep looking and praying.  The Lord will put us right where He wants us - and I know we'll be happy with wherever He picks!
Lastly, I wanted to share some exciting happenings with Chosen.  We are finishing up a CD project.  It's been incredibly exciting recording and going through the whole process of making an album.  Hopefully it will be out by Christmas.  :)  In the meantime, we'll be on an episode this Friday night on TLC's Say Yes to the Dress - Atlanta!!  We filmed an episode with the beautiful bride, Chrissy, back in October.  We didn't know if the episode would get picked up or not since they only air about 20 of the 80+ brides they film.  We just found out last week that they did choose Chrissy - so we'll be on TV THIS WEEK!!  I'm scared to death - and excited all at the same time.  You never know how on earth they will edit things.  They did have us sing a few diddies here and there.  :)  No matter what they do or do not air, I pray that Chrissy's story will touch the lives of others.  She is a beautiful person inside and out.  I'm blessed to call her friend.  And, I'm proud to say that I've seen her live out a life of grace and dignity in troubled times.  God is truly faithful to those who believe.

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