Finding My Voice

Last night, I was stuck in a downward spiral.

I was trying to coordinate holiday plans with family that lives far away, and heard news of a trip to Paris and some pregnancies. I started to go down the path one should never go down; a path of self-depreciation.

We have no trips to Paris on our schedule. Whenever we have free vacation time we use it to go visit relatives. There is no exciting baby news here. Our lives are inundated with work, running a household, and taking care of a toddler.  There are no major accomplishments or life changes to celebrate here. Basically, it is just plain boring.

As I spiraled into a negative thinking pattern that involved questioning my worth and my path in life and wondering what I would ever amount to, I packed my son’s bag. I was getting ready to take him to childcare so I could attend a rehearsal for my lead role in a Christmas production.

After getting my son settled, I walked into the rehearsal area and busied myself with rehearsing lines.

After a few minutes, one of the older men in the production approached me and asked my name, and followed up by saying, “I didn’t realize that was your real voice.”

So here’s the thing if you haven’t met me in real life…I have kind of a unique voice. One that has been made fun of, drives comments from cashiers at check out lanes, and sometimes even receives a compliment. But it is noticeably a different thing. And it lands me lead roles on the stage.

So sometime towards the beginning of rehearsals in October, this older gentleman had complimented me on my theatrical voice. Last night when he approached me, he said he didn’t realize that was actually my voice. I responded by saying, “This character isn’t me, but, yes, it is my natural voice.”

And then the most amazing thing happened.

This man stood there and inspired me. He asked if I had ever considered performing professionally.

“Well, yes, that’s what I always wanted to do. I was even a voice major in college and I used to perform a lot in community theater. But then, you know, I got married and had a baby, so now I’m just a mom. This Christmas show is just for fun.”

He stopped me from my spiraling as he said, “I’m not saying this to be nice, I’m saying this to be true; you are very talented. You have a gift. God gave you that. Is this something you want to do?”

“Well, yes, it’s always something I’ve loved doing, but you know, now I’m just a mom and…”

“No, it doesn’t matter what anyone says. If this is something you want to do, you need to do it. If your husband loves you, he will support you. This show isn’t just for fun. This show is your starting point.”

He continued to tell me about how much he enjoys watching me perform. How unique my voice is.  How he loves this character I’m bringing to life. He quoted scripture to me. He made me cry.

And then he said, “This is my mission. Because I was meant to talk to you tonight. And you are meant to do something great.”

As I wiped tears away from my eyes, I said, “Thank you. That is something I really needed to hear tonight.”

He left with a smile and a “See you on stage.”

*****

 It’s a prayer I say often, “Dear God, You gave me a voice. Please show me how to use it.”

And then it was answered with a speech from a man at rehearsal and an email about a new writing opportunity…both on the same day. (I’m telling you, fives are significant!) (And I can’t wait to tell you about the new writing opportunity..more news on that soon.)

 *****

Late last night, after my son and I returned home safely from rehearsal and my husband got home from his 12 hour shift, I began to recount my encounter to my husband as we stood in the kitchen, him eating leftovers and me sipping a cup of hot tea. Our toddler was eating a late night snack near by and we were all winding down to head to long-awaited bed.

“I guess I just thought that part of my life was over, you know? I mean I made a choice between pursuing performance or getting married and having a family. And now I’m just a wife and a mom and this show was just something to do. But tonight, this man inspired me. He reminded me that maybe I could be more than that. People used to say things like that to me all the time, but no one has said anything like that to me in a long time. I don’t know, it just really meant a lot for him to say that. And then there’s this writing opportunity  That’s one of the reasons I started blogging  right?  To become open to possibilities.  Maybe I could still be somebody.”

At this point, somehow my husband and I had wandered over to the refrigerator (I tend to pace when I talk.) My husband hugged me and gave me a kiss as he said “Of course you’re somebody.”

And then, on perfect cue, the cereal boxes on top of the fridge fell down and hit me on the head, spewing a few Apple Jacks and Frosted Flakes around.

My husband, toddler and I all erupted into hysterical laughter that was just as much from the humor of falling cereal as it was from exhaustion before finally heading upstairs to bed.

Maybe there’s a greater purpose for me somewhere out there. Maybe I can use my voice for writing and performing in some capacity. But at the end of the day I will always be a Mommy, finding humor in spilled cereal and beauty in slobbery kisses.

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Speaking of using your voice, today is election day! I was thrilled to take my son to vote today and loved how proud he was to participate. Did you use your voice and vote?

We voted! Presidential Election 2012

 

 

The Day I Saw the President

The sun was just beginning to peek its way through the trees as I bundled up my still sleepy three-year old son. I comforted him with sweet whispers and wrapped in him layers to protect him from the weather that has ever so subtly and recently brought us into fall.

“We are going to see the President!” I whispered in an excited fervor, as I urged him to put on his shoes.

Not understanding the significance or rarity of such an opportunity  my son whined and struggled, longing for a morning of Disney Junior and sleepy cuddles instead.

When we reached the car, I clicked him in his seat and soothed him and made promises of lunch at his favorite restaurant after the rally was over.

We drove the very short 2 mile drive to a neighborhood just little bit closer to the event than ours, and then my son and I began the walk to the event; a once in a lifetime opportunity to hear the President speak in our hometown.

If we had been able to walk straight through, the walk would have only been 1.2 miles. Due to the heightened security surrounding this presidential event, our walk from the southside of Richmond to the Carillon park where the even took place was 3 miles long; an unexpected undertaking as I embarked on this trip alone with a toddler and no stroller.

Police officers were on tight patrol and the longer walking route was done to endure that no one could enter the event without first going through security. Our walk through residential streets was splattered with vendors selling Obama paraphernalia and I was reminded once again of how we were in the midst of a historically significant election year.

After an hour and a half of walking and lots of toddler carrying, we finally reached the start of the line. There, hidden beneath the trees of a quiet park in Richmond, VA, stood a line of people, all waiting with excited anticipation to see the President of our country. People had been waiting in line since 4:30 in the morning. My son and I finally arrived at the end at 11:00 AM. Leaves fell and covered the crowd in a colorful fall blanket as we joined a crowd of 15,000 people with hopeful hearts.

The crowd waiting to see Obama in RVA, 10/25/2012

A line of people to see the President hidden beneath the fall trees in a RVA park.

The line moved fairly quickly and my son and I were able to find a seat in the grass of the park by noon.

No food or drink was admitted due to security purposes  and admittedly, after our unexpectedly long walk and no food or drink all day, my son and I were both a bit tired and grumpy.

A tired toddler at the Obama political rally

My son and I sat and rested as we watched people continue to pour into the park. Spirits were high and standing there I knew I was in the midst of a group of people who believed in our President and were excited to hear his message.

Music blared through the loud speakers and my son and I passed the time with dancing and cricket chasing and playing with grass.

My son and I at the Obama rally in RVA

 

The Carillon tower decorated with an American flag served as the backdrop of Obama’s rally in Richmond.

Then it started. The large crowd hushed as we were led in the Pledge of Allegiance and the National Anthem under the backdrop of a large flag hanging from the Carillon tower.

 We were led in an opening prayer by a local Richmond pastor. We got to hear speeches by Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott, D-3rd, Former Gov. and U.S. Senate candidate Timothy M. Kaine, and Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va.

And then we got to see President Barack Obama.

My view of the rally, 10/25/2012. I couldn’t see much, but I could hear him and I was inspired by being at such an event.

The crowd’s screams of excitement were so moving and invigorating that they washed all previous complaints of tiredness and hunger away.

Here we were, in a crowd of 15,000 people, standing in a park just a few miles from our house, listening to the President of the United States give a speech. I was humbled by the historic significance such a gathering and the once in a lifetime chance that I was able to be there.

At some point before the president arrived my son fell asleep. I listened to President Obama as I held a sleeping toddler. My back ached with the weight of a 33 pound child resting in my arms, but my spirit was lifted by words of hope. My son woke up before the President gave his closing remarks and even got wrapped up in the crowd’s emotions himself, as he offered a few claps and “yays!”

It was a campaign rally, to be sure. President Obama stressed the importance of voting and outlined his policies and even made a few remarks about his opposing candidate, Romney. But when someone in the crowd began to boo, Obama said, “No, don’t boo, Vote!”

Throughout the day, people made comments about my son being there. I heard it all from, “Wow, you are brave to bring him here!” to “He’s so lucky you brought him.” to “I think you are doing a great thing. It’s so important. ” to a whispered hush of “Why would she bring a kid here?”

Perhaps it was a bit brazen of me to embark on round trip 6 mile walk and 4 mile drive alone with a toddler, no stroller, and no food or drink. There were certainly times in the day when I thought that maybe it was just plain crazy. But I am so very glad that we went.

I know my son did not understand the historical significance of such a moment and political policies and elections are (thankfully) not yet a part of his world.

But they are oh so important.

And so one day, when my son gets older, I will tell him that when he was 3 years old he got to see the President of the United States speak at a park close to our home in Richmond, VA. I will tell him that he got to be a part of history that day and how lucky he was to get to hear a sitting president speak in person.

Regardless of your political opinion, I think there is still a sense of awe in getting to watch the President of our country speak. I felt inspired and honored to get to be part of such an experience. And if the President of the United States ever comes to speak at a park just 5 miles away from your house? I think it is definitely worth going.

 

*Here are links to articles in the Richmond Times Dispatch, detailing the President’s time line of the day and an overview of the event.*

Carillon Hosts Obama 

Obama Rallies 15000 at Carillon in Richmond