Death: A Faithful Companion

You would think that after surviving a car accident over 10 years ago, I would be well aware that one could die at any moment. But instead, I think that accident made me feel immortal in a way. What were the odds I would survive that accident? I should have died. But I got by with several broken bones, a surgery, and months of physical therapy. Yes, I had a weird experience on that night, but that’s a story for another time. Anyway, I hadn’t thought about my own death that much. Even when I’m looking for ghosts, that’s someone else’s death…not mine.

For some reason, in 2013, as if that year wasn’t messed up enough already, it hit me.

I’m going to die someday.

With this newfound fear, and yes it is a fear, it has changed the way that I approach paranormal investigating. First, I really REALLY want that confirmation that there is life after death. Second, when I pass I want someone to talk to me like I’m a person and not a blip on a gadget. Third, I can feel death looming around me when I’m investigating or in some location where a lot of death has taken place.

I’m not saying that death is a conscious being that is following me around. But there has been a consistent vibe that I’ll feel when I’m in a location that has seen a lot of death. The vibe has been the same from the time I walked into my mom’s trailer after she died to visiting a location like Old South Pittsburg Hospital where people passed. I even get that feeling when I’m a Duke sometimes, knowing that there are people dying every minute and there are bodies in the morgue.

I visualize death as a personification of the life I’ve lived. As I survive each day, a page is added to my book of life. I see death as this faithful companion who is with me and on my mind each day; reminding me that it’s waiting for me.

Of course, I was also raised Christian and taught to believe that we will indeed survive and go to heaven once our time here is over. I want to believe it…I truly do. But between my interactions with some not-so-perfect Christians and seeing how unfair life can be (example: kids dying from cancer), I question my faith all the time. If there is a heaven, awesome. If not, what is waiting for us? In this case, death is the door…the door that remains unlocked and is waiting for us to open.

I just hope it’s not nothingness and ceasing to exist. But, I feel like it is likely identical to falling asleep. You don’t know you’re asleep, and you’re not aware of yourself. You don’t remember when you fell asleep, just like we will likely not be aware when death finally does come to collect the debt.

This Little Light of Mine

If you know me well, which most of you do, if you had to name two things I love it would be theatre and the paranormal. Theatre has been a part of my life for over 20 years, and it isn’t going anywhere soon. The paranormal found me, so to speak, and it’s been at the forefront of my mind since I was a kid. Regardless of where I end up in life, those two things will always be important to me.

I will say 99% of the people in these communities are amazing and fantastic. But that 1%…not so much. It doesn’t mean they’re bad people. It just means our personalities are quite different and it wasn’t a good mix. However, that 1% has gone out of their way to hurt and break my spirit it seems. Like, they need to put me in my place.

Why does that 1% get more attention than the other 99% who are amazing to me? Maybe it’s because I once trusted them? I need to stop focusing so much on the people who have hurt me. I’ve noticed a pattern with those who end up hurting me, and it usually goes along like this:

  • They aggressively insert themselves into my life to become my friend
  • They do a lot of favors for me
  • In turn, they expect me to go to bat for them in ridiculous circumstances because of said favors
  • When I can’t deliver or don’t meet their standards when I do go to bat for them, they leave quite dramatically
  • Thus follows about a year’s worth of petty drama and a one-sided pissing contest

Now that I’ve noticed the signs early on, I’m usually pretty good at picking this up. When this happens, I divert myself away from the person as soon as possible. But what happened to giving people chances? Nope. Not doing it anymore.

I’ve put myself out there to the extent now that my light faded for a bit. But, it’s time to let that shine. If that means certain people aren’t invited to the party, so be it. I’d rather have just 1-2 friends who are awesome than 50+ friends who take advantage of my weaknesses and vulnerabilities for their personal gain.

Let your light shine, and don’t you dare let someone else put it out.

Life Without Mom

It’s been about 2.5 years since my mom passed away unexpectedly. Needless to say, life has been so much different.

What I kinda expected, but also didn’t, was that this empty feeling still remains. Growing up, you look to your parents for the answers. No one knows you better than your parents. Well, considering my father was mostly absent from my life, it was pretty much just me and Mom (and Grandma until I was 14). Once you lose that beacon in your life, especially before you turn 30…you kinda feel lost. I don’t know what direction I’m headed sometimes because I don’t have my mom to talk through my crazy ideas. Instead, I just go for the crazy ideas now. Some are good, some…not quite so much. Since I’m an only child, I also feel REALLY alone.

Being in a relationship, one that’s rather serious, I’m starting to think about the milestones I’m going to miss out on sharing with my mom; engagement, wedding, MAYBE pregnancy, motherhood, etc. I’m not going to have my mom there if and when I become a mother myself. I’ll have to ask friends and extended family, read articles, etc. I won’t have my mom there to criticize my parenting style, or even my lifestyle.

The first weekend of Avenue Q, I was really not in a great place. I left it at the door for the most part when I walked into the theatre. But opening weekends hurt a lot everytime I’m in a show. It’s another show my mom won’t see. It’s a reminder that she’s not here with me anymore. When I put on my Christmas Eve wig, I saw my mother. With other stresses that happened that week, plus missing my mom…I couldn’t stop crying for a few days. My anxiety was out of control, and I was starting to think some really dark thoughts. I go through periods where I think I’m fine, and then it just hits me like a ton of bricks. Then, it passes, and I’m fine for a while once again…the cycle continues.

For those concerned, I’m fine now. It’s just another phase of life I have to deal with.

Be the Phoenix

It’s hard sometimes to swallow words when someone praises a person who hurt you so much. Of course, that someone doesn’t know the back story so it’s not on them.
 
This person took away my self-confidence and safe space. Since that person did what they did to me, I’m always looking over my shoulder, I don’t trust easily anymore, and my confidence took about 15 steps backward right when I was finally feeling comfortable in my own skin. That person violated my personal life as well and took liberties with my pain that felt like the moments in “Once Upon a Time” when your heart gets taken out of you.
 
But eventually, I realized that:
  1. While that person took the power upon themselves, I gave that person way too much power over me. They enjoyed that power, which gave them validation to do what they did.
  2. I can’t let someone dictate how I feel about myself because they did a crappy thing to me.
  3. Even when “triggering” moments are rampant right now, the best thing I need to do is ignore it.
  4. The truth eventually comes to light. And it’s coming to light from others who have been hurt by this same person.
I have to count my blessings. I’m *finally* in a show at Raleigh Little Theatre, I’m working from home even if there are days where it’s not easy, and my anxiety is under control. Sure, the next outburst is probably a moment away, but for now, I’m at peace. Anxiety is a sleeping beast that is unpredictable. Add in depression and you just have a whirlwind of chaos that looms over you at times.
Eventually, I’ll learn to trust again. For now, I trust my family, my boyfriend, and my closest friends. I’m picking up the pieces from the hurt I’ve been through, and using them to rise from the ashes…like a phoenix.
Wait, not LIKE a Phoenix. I need to BE the phoenix.

10 Things to Think About Before Working from Home

When I get emails from people who want to make a living from the comfort of their home, they always want to know how long it took me to reach that point. When I first started writing as a paid job, I didn’t expect it to become a full-time gig. I would write after I got home from work for a few hours per day. I will be honest and say I got lucky because I was already a decent writer, and it earned me the attention of the higher-ups with my company. I also had an article go viral with 13 million views thanks to a report from Yahoo News. When deciding to make that leap to working from home, there were many things that I had to think about. Here, I’ll share with you the 10 things you need to think about before working from home.

10. Does the Work Have Longevity?

Working from home is a nice idea in this moment, and you’ve found that you’ve gotten a well-paying gig that will pay for a few months of your bills. Before you submit your two weeks; notice to your boss, think further ahead. Where do you see yourself in 6 months? 1 year? 2 years? Do you still see yourself still maintaining enough gigs to work from home and be able to still eat and pay your bills?

9. There Will Be Dry Spells

When working as a freelancer, there will be times where the work isn’t as plentiful, or there may be mishaps in getting paid. When this happens, we know that the bills won’t wait. While you are still working a full-time job, start saving your money for about 6 months worth of your bills and expenses. This may seem daunting and may push your quit date a bit further, it will be well worth it when there are dry spells with freelancing.

8. Test the Waters

If you’re getting a decent amount of work while freelancing, and you want to see if you can get enough work to cover your regular income, then consider going part-time at your day job temporarily. If that’s not possible, then maybe take a few half-days per month. Of course, you don’t want to jeopardize your day job or lie to your boss. If you have vacation time that you need to use, then that would be a good opportunity to use that time to see what you can really pull off if you didn’t work at an office or day job.

7. Your Workspace

Working from home is much more than just sitting at your desk or dining room table. You have to have a workspace that will be productive. Think of your distractions you have at home, and come up with a game plan to combat them. Do you have pets? Do you have kids? Does your roommate come home early to turn on the TV and catch up on shows? Ideally, you should have a room dedicated to work so you can be productive with minimal to no distractions. Close the social media tabs and concentrate on work. Does working at a coffeehouse 5 days a week appeal to you? Figure out how you can get your work done at home before making the jump.

6. Work Never Leaves

I won’t lie, working from home is fantastic. But there is a major downside: work never leaves. Even if I go into the living room, I know I can get work done if I have free time. I struggle with taking breaks. If my show is on, I’ll watch it, but in the back of my mind I’m thinking, “You could be working right now and being super productive.” You have to be able to turn work mode off at the end of each day, otherwise, you’ll never be able to give yourself a break physically or mentally.

5. Keep a Schedule

If you’re working a job that is project based with a deadline, then this bullet point is already important. Keep a schedule of your work day, and have a start time and an end time. While sometimes there is flexibility in your work day, if you don’t maintain a schedule, then you will find yourself working day and night. Or worse, you could find yourself behind on your projects because you wanted to binge watch your favorite show, or you missed an opportunity because you took a walk.

4. More Bills

If you’re working a job with benefits, quitting your job to become self-employed and working from home will mean that you will lose your benefits like your 401K and your health insurance. This is especially important to keep in mind if you have a family. Health insurance isn’t getting cheaper at the moment, so before you quit your job to work from home, make a list of all of your monthly bills. Also, be sure to make a new list each month so you’re not hit with surprise charges.

3. Assumptions

When you make the jump to work from home, your friends and family will have opinions. Some will be good. Others, not so much. I found myself correcting people when they said I was unemployed. No, I AM EMPLOYED. Today, more companies have remote employees more than ever. I decided to work from home because it was a decision that best fit my needs and lifestyle. Some people may think that you couldn’t cut it in the traditional workforce, while others may even think you’re lazy. But, none of those negative connotations are true. As you start to talk to others about your decision, take comments with a grain of salt. As we move towards a more remote-based company structure, hopefully, there will be more open-mindedness towards working from home in the future.

2. Solitary Life

When you work a day job, it is likely that you encounter your coworkers every working day. You can walk to their desk or station, have a chit-chat in the break room, even go to lunch with a coworker. When you work from home, you don’t have that. You don’t have much physical contact with other people at all. When you want to meet up with your friends, they still work at an office so they might not be able to fit you into their daytime/weekday work schedule. Make sure you go outside at least once a day for a breath of fresh air, and if you’re feeling especially lonely, call a friend or loved one just so you can be social.

1. Do What’s Best for YOU

At the end of the day, you know you. You know what will work best for you. If you’re miserable at your current job and you need a change, do what is best for your mental health. Others will have opinions, you may run into unexpected surprises financially, working from home is not the perfect solution to your problems. Before taking this leap, take careful consideration into how life will change for you presently and in the future. If taking the leap is worth it, then by all means, spread your arms and soar!

Is This What Pride Feels Like?

Last night was our last rehearsal for “The Vagina Monologues” before we moved into the theatre. I’ve been getting told by my friends and family how proud they are of me for pulling this off and putting it together. Most people know how I feel about compliments, and I’ll keep the tradition going. This production was so much bigger than me! It was a massive puzzle that had to be put together, and every person involved has been a piece of that puzzle. Without them, this production wouldn’t have happened.

16836217_1356874697702905_7586359801460349449_oI’ve been crying a bit for the past day, but for once it’s because of a good thing! I’m so proud of this show! I can’t even explain in words how much my heart is bursting! It’s been a journey, but it has been SO POSITIVE!

This was honestly a crazy idea that I had back in December. This means that this production was a last minute decision that was pulled together in less than 3 months. I honestly could not have done it without Loni Price, Pimpila Violette, Emily Hamm, Ashley Jones, Alissa Alba, and Sarah Gendron. They were the first to answer the call when I put it out on social media that I wanted to do “The Vagina Monologues.” They kept me grounded, went along with the crazy ideas, and put their whole hearts into this project. I owe you ladies so much, and I don’t know how I will ever repay you.

Not only that, but I got so lucky with this cast.

For example, Kelly McConkey dove in even before she auditioned and was getting donation items, gave out of her own pocket and spread the word about the show like a true leader. She boosted me up when I felt hopeless and ready to give up on everything in my life, even on the paranormal side!

Joanna Herath is such a joy in my life. She was in the staged reading of my play, “Japanese Eyes/American Heart”, and she is amazing in Vagina Monologues. She has also done tremendous work on our fundraising end and made it possible for us to have a counselor present for our show.

I hadn’t met a few of the women before this show. Like Arin Dickson…holy cow! She is so passionate, and can own a stage like no one’s business! I am so glad she is with us!

Arrissia Blanton is one of the strongest women I have ever met. She brings so much to her monologue, and you don’t want to stop watching her!

Chelsey Winstead is not only a sweetheart, but she makes me laugh so hard that I’m in near tears. I have enjoyed getting to know her, and I look forward to working with her in the future!

Speaking of tears, Maribeth McCarthy made me cry last night with her reading of “The Vagina Workshop.” I hadn’t worked with Maribeth before, and I’m so glad she wanted to be a part of this!

Amani Mckenzie brought new life to “My Vagina Was My Village” and her sweetness just made her portrayal of the devastation that much more heartbreaking.

Every day, Nicole Graziano inspires me to do more, live better, and be a fighter. She is someone who I feel honored to be in the show with.

I knew of Lauren Bamford but I hadn’t had the chance to see her perform until now. She brings “Hair” a new life that I have never seen before.

I can watch Lynnette Barber perform all day. She brings about a sense of calm and control that is so fascinating to watch, and she has one of the longest pieces in the show. And you know what? She rocks it and does it justice!

Sharon Moyer…where do I begin? What a talent and such a joy to work with. She is so dedicated to the cause that she drove from Fayetteville to be a part of this cast. She saw the cause as THAT important, and she makes me weep during “I Was There in the Room.”

Nan L. Stephenson has the challenge of bringing the annual Spotlight monologue to life. Let me tell you all, it’s a doozy. But Nan takes it on flawlessly and brings Eve’s words to life in such a way that I want to stand up and rise for the cause.

Seema Kukreja is one of the most passionate people I have ever met! She has put her whole heart into this production, and she has given so much of herself! Having her in this show is truly a blessing.

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As I watched the cast run through the show on Thursday night, I thought, “Wow…we have a show.” I felt so proud of these amazing women!

I have to give major kudos to Michelle Johnson. When we needed someone to wear the Pinky costume…aka dress as a giant vagina, she volunteered and has owned the role!

Kelly Buynitzky has been a tremendous helper since day one by spreading the word. Even at auditions, she was helping us sort papers, and she has helped promote the show.

I have to say how grateful I am to Jennifer Torres of Wake Health Medical Group. I met her at Friday Free for All at “Bob and the Showgram” and when I learned she did vaginal rejuvenation sessions, I knew I had to tell her about Vagina Monologues! Not only did she help promote, but also donated a rejuvenation session for our silent auction that’s worth $750! You can check out V-Day Raleigh’s silent auction here.

Finally, I have to give kudos to our show night volunteers! Ann Haigler, Heather Curry, Janice Blevins Hillanbrand, Julia Fair, Elizabeth Breakey, Marianne Ayers, Ciaran Cavanaugh, Juanita Velázquez, and Chris Yarborough will be on the front lines during the show to make sure the patrons have a great experience. And we also have Sheri Leider coming as our counselor in case anyone is triggered by the content.

I hope you will be able to join me on Monday February 27th and Tuesday February 28th at Sonorous Road Productions and see all of this hard work come to fruition as we raise money for InterAct of Wake County!

To get tickets, please click here. To donate to V-Day Raleigh’s Generosity page, click here.

V-Day Spotlight 2017: Violence Against Women in the Workplace

Each year, the international V-Day organization chooses a Spotlight. V-Day “spotlights” a certain group of women who are facing violence, “with the goal of raising awareness and funds to put a worldwide media spotlight on this area and to aid groups on the ground who are addressing it.” Previous Spotlight Campaigns featured Afghan Women (2002); Missing and Murdered Women in Juarez, Mexico (2004); and the Women and Girls of Haiti (2011 and 2012). V-Day’s 2017 Spotlight is Violence Against Women in the Workplace.

V-Day Raleigh

Each year, the international V-Day organization chooses a Spotlight. V-Day “spotlights” a certain group of women who are facing violence, “with the goal of raising awareness and funds to put a worldwide media spotlight on this area and to aid groups on the ground who are addressing it.” Previous Spotlight Campaigns featured Afghan Women (2002); Missing and Murdered Women in Juarez, Mexico (2004); and the Women and Girls of Haiti (2011 and 2012). V-Day’s 2017 Spotlight is Violence Against Women in the Workplace.black-and-white-city-man-people

Disproportionate Effect on Women

Workplace violence disproportionately affects women, who are often subject to sexual harassment on the job. The subject recently made national news when former FOX anchor Gretchen Carlson filed a lawsuit against FOX CEO and Chairman Roger Ailes, accusing him of sexual harassment. Subsequently, additional women came forward with similar accusations against Ailes. 21st Century Fox allowed Ailes to resign – and gave…

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