Love Notes for Those Wishing for February 15th

Valentine's Day used to break my heart.

I let it become a glaring reminder of all I didn't have - and nobody was going to tell me otherwise.

It just...hurt.

I wasn't angry. I didn't wear black as a statement, I just wore it because, I like clothes that are black. (It matches my hair.)

This Valentine's is admittedly a little special. It's my ENGAGED Valentine's Day! We're going out to dinner, and he bought me roses, and I just want to hug everyone today. If my fiancé reads this, he's going to roll his eyes. He thinks it's cheesy when I say it's our "engaged anything". But, I think it's fun.

Usually our little exchange goes something like this - I say "Happy Engaged ______!" He rolls his eyes. I tell him to stop rolling his eyes and be romantic. Then he gives me some snarky answer, and smiles. Then we laugh. Perhaps that's one of the million reasons why it works. Balance.

And just a quick side note to my single friends - it's OK to wait for the kind of love you've dreamt of al your life. The kind that gives you butterflies, sees the beauty in your flaws, and celebrates you for the wonder you are. It is out there. Maybe at this moment in your life it seems like a fantasy, but it's there. I promise. 

Now, that's enough of the newly engaged schmaltz. 

I wanted to put words out there for you, the reader who's just sad.

The reader who just wants February 15th to come real bad.

I get it, I do.

I've been there. 

But here's the thing - the sadness of Valentine's Day, for me, started to fade when I thought about the love I did have.

See, for the past three years, I produced and directed a concert series called LOVE SONGS for V-Day. I curated an evening of Broadway love songs, and gave a portion of the proceeds to The V-Day Foundation.

But, it wasn't just romantic love songs - because romantic love is just one kind of love. But then there's love between parent and child, love between friends, love between siblings, love for self.

And it's when I thought about that, Valentine's Day didn't seem so painful after all.

I thought of how my Dad often gives me flowers on Valentine's Day. And it was never because he felt bad for me cause I was single - it's cause he loves me. It's cause I'm his only daughter, and that's something worth celebrating.

It thought of how my Mom would always have her students write Valentine's Day letters to one another - not because she was playing matchmaker, but because love of friends and classmates is a beautiful thing to foster, to nourish, to cultivate.

I thought of my friend Hannah, who created The World Needs More Love Letters, not to mail romance letters around the world, but to mail words of hope and heart and healing for those who need it in their darkest moments.

Look at the love that surrounds you this Valentine's Day - whether it's between you and your child, you and your partner, you and your family, and/or you and your parents, and recognize that love of community and family and friends is truly one of life's greatest gifts.

And, last but not least, I hope you look inward and that you take care of your heart. I hope you look in the mirror and love what you see. I hope you learn how to love you, for all your wonder and all your flaws.

And I hope you hear me when I say that that's a love worth celebrating. Always.

WTF Wedding Flowers

Let's talk about wedding flowers.

I love flowers. I think they're beautiful. Like a perfect piece of beauty in this crazy world. I always appreciate a bouquet. I have marveled at a field of sunflowers. I love how my grandmother speaks to her garden.

I am also a creative person. I understand that people need to get paid for their craft, for their work, for their artistry.

I get it, I really do.

But there's a difference between getting paid for the work you do, and downright thievery.

I recently got a quote from a florist to do the flowers for my wedding.

If you're a regular around here, you know I've lost all patience with the nonsense of wedding costs. If you're new, well, you can read my thoughts on the madness of wedding pricing here.

So, as I was saying - I got a quote from a florist to do the flowers for my wedding. We have a bridal party that totals 10 people. Including my fiancé and I, there's 12.

12 people.

We're getting married in a vineyard. THERE IS A SUNFLOWER FIELD ON THE PROPERTY.

The quote was $4700.00

Are you still breathing?

Good.

Now get this - they were charing me TEN DOLLARS A BOUTONNIÈRE. The suggestion was that the boutonnières be made out of spray roses, which are tiny roses. They're adorable. According to this florist, they're ten dollars per boutonnière. 

Yesterday I went grocery shopping at Trader Joe's. And there, in the florist section - were bouquets of sprig roses.

And, wait for it, THEY WERE $3.99 PER BOQUET.

To which I say, stop the madness.

Just stop.

I politely told the florist, nope, but our budget is not thousands of dollars for flowers. She told me, best of luck.

And that was that.

So, fellow brides & grooms & engaged couples - tune out the madness. You do not need to spend two mortgage payments at a florist.

You just need to find a Trader Joe's. 

..or someone who's not going to take advantage of the fact that you're blissfully happy, and hoping that you won't realize they're up-charging you to the max. 

Also - I discovered The Bouqs Company today - if anyone has an experience with them, do let me know!

Stay strong, my wedding warriors!

The Magic of Dear Evan Hansen

Three days a week, I teach theatre to adults with special needs.

Each and every week, I introduce my students to a new piece of musical theatre, and select at least one knew song for them to learn, to hear, and to sing to. 

This past week I introduced them to Dear Evan Hansen, and they listened to "You Will Be Found".

The second time they listened to the song, one student, well, she started to cry.

What's the matter? I said.

Happy, she said.

Happy, but sad.

Janna (I changed her name for the purposes of this piece), well, Janna is considered to be non verbal. She can say some words, and knows her name, but her verbal and communication skills are quite limited.

So needless to say, when she sat there after listening to You Will Be Found, eyes wet with tears and smile so wide, my heart practically exploded.

Even with her limited vocal skills, the power and magic of the music of Dear Evan Hansen broke through.

It resonated with her.

She connected with it.

So the next time someone says arts don't matter, and wants to cut an education budget to rid their school or organization of the arts education that's in place - I hope you tell them this story.

The story of music so powerful it knows no bounds.

The story of a girl who heard the message of a show loud and clear.

Art lets us communicate when we no longer have the words - and that's never something to be cast aside. 

Ever.

 

Legacy and Loss

I was going to write something else today.

Something else entirely, about how I'm stressing out about wedding finances, and life finances, and how I feel like I haven't accomplished enough professionally for my age. 

I was going to write something about how it's hard to sometimes stay focused on your own path, and your. own progress, and your own journey in this life of highlight reels and social media celebrations and whatnot.

I was going to write something about learning to tune out the chatter - for everyone has their own progress, and all timing is not the same.

I was going to write how it's ok to give yourself a break, and that it's OK to focus on one thing at a time, and that you're not an octopus and sometimes you just have to remind yourself that you can't do it all.

I was going to write that if you're an artist, there is no shame in taking jobs that pay your wallet more than they pay your soul, cause, well, you have to eat.

I was going to write all that.

And then I was wasting valuable time on Facebook, and I saw that  a friend I had in high school lost her older brother to melanoma this week, and everything else I was going to write just seemed dumb.

And then, I was just still.

I didn't know her brother. I didn't know his wife, or his kids, and honestly, I haven't spoken to this classmate of mine in years.

But it just stopped me in my tracks, in my thought process, in my focus of the day. And I sat there and wrote on the post that I was sorry for her loss, and that I was sending love and light to her family.

I read what others wrote, and it reminded me of what matters most.

The legacy we leave behind isn't wrapped up in accolades or awards. It's not about the number in your bank account, it's about the number of people you've touched - the souls that hurt when they cannot call you, or talk to you, or laugh with you, or sit with you.

It's about the ones who think about life differently because they've known you, and how they carry you in their hearts and actions for the rest of their days.

Be still with those you love, be present in the moments you share, and give thanks for what you have - for our days on this earth are far too short.

photo by Joe Pallister of designingjoe.com

Everything's One Thousand Dollars

On November 9th, I got engaged to the love of my life.

We're 30 something year old ADULTS, and happen to be living together already, and so we decided to get married this coming summer.

Cue the chorus of "Oh my goodness, that's so fast!"

Cue my eyerolls.

It's EIGHT MONTHS PEOPLE. Let's get it together. We're planning a party, not inventing the cure for cancer. 

Anyway, while this process has been lovely, and exciting, and fun, I've now hit the point where everything is apparently one thousand dollars (and up).

Lights for your wedding? So people can see? One thousand dollars. A shuttle bus to take guests back and forth from their hotel to the reception? One thousand dollars. Get married in a church? One thousand dollars. GLASSES that you have to rent because neither your caterer nor your reception hall will give you actual glasses, NOT PLASTIC? One thousand dollars.

So yes, I'm a having a lot of fun planning my wedding. But I'm also losing patience with hidden fees, and people not being upfront about how much their services cost right away. I'm losing patience with salespeople that do not have the skills to be pleasant on the phone and cordial in an email with customers who are about to spend some serious cash.

The last straw was this week. Hotels in the area where we are getting married price gouge. Plain and simple. They know people get married in the vineyards a couple of towns over, and they triple their prices.

We were all set to book a certain hotel, and I asked the sales rep at this hotel to send me a different contract for a smaller room block, and she gave me a hard time. See, this hotel would charge us for the rooms we didn't use, and then resell the rooms that we've already paid for to strangers. And that just didn't sit too well with me. So, we asked for a different contract, so that we would be minimizing our potential losses.

She didn't want to rewrite the contract, she didn't want to answer my additional questions, and she spoke to me like I was a child. 

So, now my fiancé and I will be taking our business elsewhere - to a hotel that's equal in price, and far exceeds them in hospitality.

Planning a wedding shouldn't feel like redoing a graduate degree. It shouldn't be difficult. It shouldn't be stressful. It shouldn't keep you up at night. 

So, my fellow brides to be - hear me when I say, remember what you want. Remember to take care of your wallet. Remember that the vendors work FOR YOU, and if they aren't treating you the way you expect, move on. 

It's so easy to get swept up in the costs, and the details, and get sucked into the abyss that is Pinterest.

But, put down the phone, and the magazines, and take a deep breath. 

Focus on what you want. 

Focus on what matters most to you - tune out the chatter that tells you what you "should" do, and you do what's best for you and your fiancé. 

Delete Pinterest.

Don't be afraid to ask people for input on how to make it affordable - chances are that people are going to want to help you celebrate you and your beloved - and let them if that makes your heart happy and your life easier. It's ok. That's what family and friends are for! 

Remember that a wedding doesn't have to cost a hundred thousand dollars (nor should it, in my opinion). Trust your gut. Stand up for your wallet. Remember that they're price gouging everything - and it may take a little more work to get the price you need and want.

I know I said it before, but I'm saying it again - remember that the vendors are working FOR YOU - so, if you don't like what they have to offer, move on.

It's one day. It's a really beautiful, magical, wonderful day, but it's just a day. And it doesn't need to break your bank account. And it shouldn't break your bank account.

It should be a celebration of you and your spouse, a day that honors the loved ones you have, and the start to the most important thing about your wedding - your marriage. Cause at the end of the day, that's what matters. You and your spouse, and the life you're starting together. Enjoy the mayhem of the planning, but don't let it take away from the joy of the season that you find yourselves in.

The College Pause

Recently I had an exchange with a former student of mine. It went something like this - 

Can I ask you a question?

Sure.

Did you ever feel like college made you put your life on hold?

I'm going to need more information.

So, I love the idea of getting an education and the idea of college as a whole, I just don't sit well with putting my life on hold of roofer years. I may sound super naive right now, but I'm sitting my dorm room reading chapter eight and taking some great notes on the women revolution in the 18th century and I just feel like I can be doing more. I want to put my brain to work, I want to make a change to do something that isn't pointless.

Does that make sense?

Oh, my child, it makes so much sense.

We spoke. 

We chatted.

I told her what I thought. And yet, the question still lingers in my mind.

How often to we put things on hold, because it's not the right time? Because we want to wait? Because we feel like there's an order to doing things, and our brains have become designed to do things in a linear fashion?

How many times?

I'm guilty of that. Of waiting and waiting and waiting and waiting. And then sometimes you wait so long, that you feel like you've missed the boat.

And it's so easy.

It's easy to wait for the stars align to take the plunge - in whatever that plunge may be for you.

It's easy to think that life starts after college.

It's easy to think hat life starts after high shcool.

It's easy to think that life starts when you get engaged, or married, or have kids.

It's easy to think that way, but the truth is, life started the second you were born. You've been living. You've been making decisions, you've been making choices, you've started creating memories. You're already living - so what exactly is it that you're waiting for? 

Nothing magical happens when you check off big ticket items like graduating from college.

It's interesting that she sent that text to me - cause I never realized that I did feel like I was putting my life on hold when I was in college. And I felt like that, because I did. I didn't start projects that I was passionate about because it wasn't the right time. I didn't take risks on travel because it wasn't the right time and the money wasn't there. I double majored because I was afraid to pursue a career in the arts without a back up plan.

So, to all my students, past and present - take the chance. Let your dreams live outside your head. You can start mapping out bigger dreams and take class at the same time. 

It is possible.

It's easy to think that if you're in college, you can't pursue other endeavors. That you have to hit pause on your dreams. 

I say, push play.

It takes juggling. It's not easy. You can't always say yes to all the things - and more often than not, you'll have to say no. You might even fail.

But thats ok. 

Cause the alternative is sitting in that freeze frame for way too long - and you start to let go of the bits of dreams that make up your heart.

And why would you do that?!

The world is waiting for you get to work. To make change for the better. To give a point to the things that may seem pointless.

So take a deep breath, and push play. You can always change the track if you want to.

 

Dear Fellow Artist Friends...

Dear Fellow Artist Friend(s),

As the season chugs on, I wanted to say hi.

I wanted to say, I see you.

I wanted to say, I get that your worried about your bank account.

I wanted to say, I get that maybe you're sad about not spending time with loved ones this holiday, because, well, you booked a gig and the show must go on.

I wanted to say, I understand that while you're excited for your friends booking new gigs and getting more work, you're worried about where your next paycheck is coming from.

I get it. I see it. I understand it. 

And it's ok.

You can still be happy for them and worried for you.

But, hard as it may be, try to keep the worrying and the wondering and the beating yourself up to a minimum.

Cut yourself some slack.

Whether you're an actor or a writer or a singer or a designer or a director or a creative entrepreneur or a creative that cannot fit one label or title - cut yourself some slack, and quit playing the comparison game.

So what if they booked the role and you didn't?

So what if they have a book deal and you don't?

So what if they're nominated for the awards and you aren't?

Does your work make you proud? Does your work make this world a bit brighter out there for someone else? 

Words and art don't have to resonate with millions of people to matter.

If your work resonates with just one human - I'd call that a win.

This artist life is tough to explain to others who aren't in it - believe me, I struggle with explaining it, too.

Sometimes it feels like you’re treading water in the deep end for a couple of hours, desperate for someone to throw you a life raft. Or one of those donut hole floats, preferably a sparkly one, with handles, and cup holder for a drink that sports an umbrella.

But alas, I digress.

The best I can say is don’t stop treading water.

Look, I'm not pretending to have all the answers. At all.

But I do know that this has helped me, and maybe it'll help you, too - let the envy of those who get that sparkly donut hole float fuel you, not sink you. Learn from your fellow artists - those who have come before you, and those who come after you.  As in the case for all professions, it never hurts to learn more. Grow more. Listen more.

Everyone can teach you something, even if it’s what not to do.

For my fellow artists, all I can say is this - surround yourself with people who push you, not depress you.

In the words of Lin Manuel-Miranda, be in the room where it happens. Even if it’s just to listen. Even if it’s just to watch. You can learn so much from listening to one another, watching one another, being present for another person’s art. So go to the shows, listen to the music, and be part of the experience that is the play.

Focus on your own work, your own dreams, and your own voice - but don’t squelch the voices that surround you. For we can all learn something from one another, and being open to that, well, that’s the mindset that allows glorious things to happen.

I'm rooting for you.

I hope you're rooting for you, too.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!

xo,

Megan

 

Twenty-Six Cents

The first week Schuyler and I moved into our new apartment, I made a trip down to the Family Dollar for garbage bags and cleaning supplies and a new charger.

I was on a cleaning mission, but I was also ecstatic, skipping down the road, eager to turn this little piece of property into our new home.

I was waiting online to pay, and I noticed two young kids waiting online to pay for candy. They had clearly just come from school, as their backpacks were bigger than them.

They stood online politely handing over their dollars, excited about their candy bars.

And then the cashier told them they didn't have enough. They had done the math wrong, and were short twenty six cents.

Oh, they said.

As they started to go put the candy back, my heart broke. It was twenty six cents. TWENTY SIX CENTS! So, not being able to keep my mouth shut, I piped up and told the cashier I'd pay.

She looked at me like I grew a third eye ball - and then said ok. The kids looked at me stunned. Who was this weird lady who was helping us out and giving us money for candy? They're programmed not to trust, and I get that. I was too, at their age. And, if we're being honest here, I don't think that's changed much as an adult. 

I simply said - here's to random acts of kindness.

They went along their way, and the cashier and I proceeded to talk about FitBits. 

I think about that day quite a bit lately.

It made me so sad that a random act of kindness was so startling - for both the kids and adults. 

We are so fearful and weary of one another lately, that I often wonder if we're becoming numb to the kindness and goodness that surrounds us all.

That goodness and kindness is there - I promise you that. Sometimes you just have to look for it. Sometimes you just have to remember to open your heart and mind to it. Sometimes, you have to be the one to take the first step.

Sometimes, you have to shell out twenty six cents.

Perhaps those kids won't remember that day, and perhaps they will.

I don't really know, and honestly, it wasn't about them remembering.

It was just an impulse, a brief moment where I saw the opportunity to help some kids, and infuse a little bit of kindness back into this crazy world.

Perhaps if we all seized those moments, fear and weariness found in so many hearts will start to be overshadowed by joy.

Perhaps.

 

The 12 Days of Love Letter Writing

I think back to when I first met Hannah Brencher and discovered The World Needs More Love Letters, and sometimes I think that was the beginning of my writing career. That was the beginning of my foray into blogging. If my life was a romantic comedy movie starring Meg Ryan, that was my moment when I had the courage to let the words that swirled around in my heart and head onto the page and the screen.

The World Needs More Love Letters is an international organization that spreads love across the globe through good ol' fashioned snail mail. In a time when we have become glued to our screens and are more comfortable texting than talking, The World Needs More Love Letters infuses humanity and heart back into the lives of countless people. 

It's about love - but not mushy, gushy, sappy love. It's about the type of love that comes when you show up for people you know, and those you've yet to me.

With all that's wrong with the internet, The World Needs More Love Letters is everything that's right. 

I love The World Needs More Love Letters (MLL).

And, I also happen to be a Christmas elf. I love Christmastime - the giving, the loving, the showing up for those who need it. I mean, don't get me wrong, I love white twinkle lights and hot chocolate and the smell of pine trees, too. But when we show up for one another, that's the greatest gift of all.

And so, each and every year I join The World More Love Letters in their largest campaign - The 12 Days of Love Letter Writing.

You too can join this campaign and write to one of the requests, to a couple of them, or, if you're feeling particularly inspired - all of them! (Just make sure everything is postmarked by December 20th, 2017. More info about the campaign can be found here.)

This year, I'm writing a letter to the students of The REAL School.

The behavioral specialist at The REAL School made the follow Love Letters Request for the students:

“REAL school serves middle school students who require structured therapeutic school-based supports and are at-risk in the areas of academic achievement as well as emotional and behavioral development. Most are dealing with challenges at home and in the community–trauma, abuse, violence–as well as mental health disorders. They and their families oftentimes lack access to effective resources and lack exposure to people outside of their communities, city, and the world around them. Research shows that these types of disconnections lead to ongoing struggles: incarceration, homelessness, a lower lifetime earning potential, chronic difficulty getting and keeping a job, living in extreme poverty, lack of health insurance, substance abuse, and chronic depression.

Our students (we currently have six boys in the program, ages 12-14) are resilient, vibrant, creative, outspoken, musical, funny, caring, curious, resourceful, athletic, and often, overlooked. They love to rap, dance, play sports, do arts and crafts, and learn about others. They deserve to feel appreciated and supported. They deserve unconditional positive regard. And, most of all, they deserve to feel connected with others.

I'd love to share letters of encouragement and motivation, of overcoming tough times, and of different life experiences (cultures, cities, people) with our students as well as our amazing REAL School staff members.”

Join me in writing to The REAL Students, won't you? Please be sure to address your letters as "Dear Students", and Be sure to mail your letters by December 20th to the following address:

Students of REAL School

℅ Elizabeth L.

12 S. Stafford Avenue Apt. A,

Richmond, VA 23220

USA

Not sure what to write? Here's my letter:

Dear Gentlemen, 

I'm so proud of you. 

Yes, you.

I know you're probably asking yourself who is this crazy lady writing to us telling us that she's proud? This can't possibly be real.

But, my sweet boys, it is!

I am an artist and a teacher, and I am proud of you. For showing up to school and giving it your all. For diving headfirst into extracurricular activities and academics. For caring about others.

Did you know that your teacher describes you all as resilient, vibrant, creative, outspoken, musical, funny, caring, curious, resourceful, and athletic?

That's AMAZING.

I hope you hear her words. 

And, I hope you hear mine.

I hope you hear me when I say that the world needs more young men like you all. I hope you hear me when I say that the circumstances of your past do not have to dictate your future. You are more than your parents, and your home, and your clothes, and how much money you have.

You are a glorious, complex, wonderful human. 

You are resilient, vibrant, creative, outspoken, musical, funny, caring, curious, resourceful, and athletic - and you were not born to stay small.

I hope you know that you are loved. I hope you know that you are valued. I hope you know that you inspire teachers and staff each and every day that you show up to school.

And I hope you keep showing up. 

Because the world needs you.

It always has, and it always will.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Holidays!

xo,

Megan 

Letters to Heaven

It's been a whole year.

And, truthfully, words still fail me. 

But still I write. 

Cause sometimes, the words give way to something bigger. 

See, sometimes, it doesn't seem real. 

Sometimes, I forget. 

Not you, of course. I mean, I don't think there's a soul that's met you that could possibly forget you. But sometimes I forget that I just can't call you up, or shoot you a text. Sometimes I forget that when I think I see you, it's just my eyes playing tricks on me. 

And it comes in waves sometimes - the forgetting and remembering, that is. 

And it stings with certain moments. Things you should be there for, in person. Like...I'm getting married! I so wish you could be there, dancing with us. Laughing with us. Celebrating with us. 

And I know you'll be smiling down from up above. I know that if we decide to have it in a vineyard, the sunshine that will stream down will be a wedding gift from you. I know that. 

...it still doesn't change the fact that it sucks to not have you there. There's no poetry in that. There's no words that can make that seem pretty. There's nothing eloquent or elegant about death. 

It just sucks.

Lately I've been thinking about legacy. What we leave behind. Who we leave behind. What are the imprints we make upon people, and how do they carry us with them once we're not there anymore?

I think it's a million little things and big things. 

See, I talk about you all the time. I didn't realize how much I do, until I sat down to write this. I have a group of students who are doing Shrek this year, and I told them about you. Schuyler and I were thinking about getting married by the beach, and I thought of you. Every time I pass certain theatre, I think of you. 

We think about you always.

We talk about you always.

And sometimes it's sad, and sometimes it's happy, and sometimes we smile, and sometimes we cry, but it's. always a good thing to hear your name in conversation.

It was always good to hear your name.

And it still is.

There's a trick with legacies, with keeping memories alive and yet, knowing how not to let the feeling of loss swallow your whole, and I think it's with words.

I think it's in stories. It's in the stories that make us laugh, and the ones that make us cry, and the ones that make us smile real big and say I'm so happy that happened. And even know the hole of loss still hurts, that memory is a gift. 

Sometimes it's about saying the words out loud.

And sometimes, it's just writing a letter to heaven.

We miss you.