By definition I am… Or Who am I anyway, am I my resume…?

My mission this holiday season is to figure out what it is I am created to do, my destiny. I am comprised of several components none of which are defining.

I am a Mom. I have three kids that each have special challenges, some unique and some so very common. My eldest daughter is a bright, beautiful ten-year-old girl who suffers from Bipolar Disorder. I can tell you now that my special calling is not to work with mental illness. I read article after article on dealing with depression in bi-polar and the course of action and non-reaction that should take place. I repeat steadily to myself, “Julia, it’s an illness. She can’t help herself. Support her through this.” I say all of these things reminding me that being 10 with bi-polar and approaching puberty is a chemical nightmare. Still when I say, “do your reading kiddo” or “let’s get started on this project” and the anxiety kicks in and she starts scratching herself I feel myself begin to panic. Quick as a wink Olivia finds an outlet, typically her brother, that prevents her from moving forward. I try in a usually feeble attempt to solve this problem with some gem from my youth like “just ignore him.” Remembering how well that never worked I then start to try to control Cooper’s behavior losing sight of the original goal completely. Cooper, who is a delicious nine-year-old boy who battles with high functioning Autism and a healthy dash of OCD, completely side rails me and my own emotional issues start bubbling up, and anger kicks in. Feeling defeated I turn back to Olivia still scratching and avoiding her work but has now introduced topics like public humility at the hands of her music teacher or a fellow student who criticized her. Quickly my attention is re-directed to figuring out how to make Olivia not drop out of school because I am sure that is what is about to happen. In the middle of my daughter, Ruby who is a sweet but very stubborn six-year-old insists on doing some reading or spelling which takes another level of patients since a very enthusiastic Ruby is delayed in her reading and spelling. Okay, Julia praise Ruby, “honey good job.” A quick look to Olivia who is now breathing at a rapid rate, Cooper begins taking his clothes off and repeating irritating phrases to get the attention of his sisters. Olivia starts chasing Cooper, full mania taking over. Ruby usually ends up getting hit and screaming. Okay, Dr. Spock what now? I take one of two fantastic parenting routes; Screaming at everyone and invoking fear or walk away to the basement and do the laundry.

I am a Stage Manager in the theatre. I love the mix of people and the variance in the work. I can be working with a fifth-generation Stage Hand who could give you the untold history of the theatre during a slow pre-set one minute and the next minute laughing with a star who has come to Broadway to work those acting chops long since realized because of a successful sitcom. Mostly I enjoy working with good old theatre professionals. The dancer who is finally got a part that is character movement after hoofing their way through the chorus for years. The principal actor who is a team player and raises the bar at work to motivate everyone else working on the show. The stagehands that have family that they take any opportunity to brag about. The Company Manager who you see the gleam in their eye that this is just a stepping stone to Producing shows themselves one day. The House Manager who has heard every complaint about air flow and plumbing every thought possible. I could try to find a deeper purpose in my work and how I operate as a manager but those skills need to remain very fluid in the theatre since every show requires a different skill set. Once again not really letting me find that defining style. Not to mention that once again mental illness comes into play but in the case of the theatre professional, present company included, mental illness is actually a nurtured trait, we like to think of it as creative genius.

Perhaps I am living my destiny. Raising children that I hope one day will be happy functional adults and taking my part in a business that brings joy and the occasional lesson to the lives of thousands every day. Perhaps it’s not searching that I need to do, perhaps it’s just staying present and available that defines me.


Foster Family with a side of heart and extra cheese

Today two people were carried out of my door and loaded safely into a white mini van and driven to a new home. All of their worldly possessions loaded in a cardboard box. All of the worldly possessions which they gathered over the last ten months. You see these two people came to Doreen and I ten months ago with the clothes on their backs, a few diapers, a stuffed animal and some formula. Kaylee was the ripe old age of 18 months, beautiful doe eyes always with a sheen of want. Jeremiah was just five weeks old, a new person ripe with possibility.

Doreen took on the role of the major nurturer seeing to their day to day needs. Food, clothing, fun, and loads of love. Arranging for early intervention for Kaylee who didn’t speak but expressed herself with what she obviously knew screams and aggression. Finding the right formula for Jeremiah and making sure he was safe and warm (love and cuddles not a problem in our family). She managed all their affairs with the State’s Division of Youth and Family Sevices (DYFS), with it’s overburdened workers and a Judicial system that minds trends in children’s welfare rather than minding the welfare of individual children. I made myself as domestically useful as possible which was extremely limited by my career since at the time of their arrival I was in rehearsal for the Broadway production of Motown, The Musical. I had been given the lead Stage Manager position on very short notice after my colleague had decided he could not continue with the project. It was a job that was often all consuming.

Our children, Olivia, Cooper and Ruby, presented both challenge and support in this journey. They loved the extra big family. Cooper and Ruby insisted on carrying Jeremiah everywhere and Olivia immediately took on the role of interpreter for Kaylee, she couldn’t be bothered with Jeremiah who’s baby status held no interest. The three of them were also immediately tortured by the attention that these two sweet babies took away from them. Suddenly there were bedtime books for Kaylee who after a book comforted herself by screaming herself to sleep. Cooper shared bedtime with “Jer Jer” which was tricky for a boy who relies so heavily on routine. Somehow all of these new challenges were muted by the joy we had as a family. Grocery bills skyrocketed, the ability to get up and go decreased by a good forty percent but still my family was happy and our two little additions were learning to smile and play. We were a family of five and thrilled to be so.

The next ten months continued to roll by with a family vacation to Myrtle beach, pool visits, park visits, fighting, friends visiting, braces, school starting, homework, day trips to farms, holidays, hospital visits for Jer’s less than impressive lungs coupled with a very impressive case of reflux, birthday celebrations, new cousin Benjamin’s arrival, Kaylee’s therapies to catch her up after a first year propped up in front of a television, and lots of bedtimes. There were a variety of mixed signals from the state regarding the fate of our foster babies. We had no idea if we were adopting or returning to family, we were just living in the moment. Then one day, about a month ago, we got a call from the children’s case worker. Kaylee and Jeremiah’s birth mom requested that her children be fostered by a foster family that attends the same church she attended. Doreen being the rational foster parent began the painful process of transitioning the children, speaking with the intended foster parents about the children’s needs and working through the paperwork with the state. Doreen was not only doing this for the two foster children but also for our three children so they understood what was happening. I lived happily in my bubble of denial, giving these two little babies cuddles and love as if they were my own. My brain listened to what was happening but my heart, which rules my life solidly, ignored all of the signs that were in front of me.

When I loaded that baby boy and girl in that car and watched my son Cooper give Jeremiah a final kiss goodbye I had to excuse myself, ran to my room and had a deep cry. The pain I felt was so intense and lingers in my mind. Kaylee and Jeremiah mean so much to me and because of that I need to move on with faith that they will be loved by their new family and grow happily. I do wonder as Doreen and I move forward fostering more of these angels that need to be loved how I will embrace them? Will I let my head be involved? Probably not. It’s hard to teach an old dog new tricks.