Monday, December 31, 2018

Saturday, December 29, 2018



Things I’ve accomplished today:

• Had my first formal voice lesson in 30 years, and already determined some bad habits I can start working on unlearning
• Went to Target and bought only what was on my list
• Did my first leg workout since I started running last spring ... and freaking KILLED my legs without sacrificing proper form
• Accepted a very romantic marriage proposal from one of my 934 freakishly hunky gym crushes as all the rest of the guys in the gym struggled to mask their jealousy through forced smiles and wan applause*
• Attended a Full Monty line bash where I remembered more of my lines than I’d expected
• Sat down and actually played the piano for the first time in months as an overture (for lack of a less obvious metaphor) to my New Year’s resolution to practice with specific regularity
• Made it to my 11th day without having Diet Coke
• Wrote a blog post that doesn’t use the word “boobies”
• Oops
• Didn’t kill anyone intentionally
• Did some laundry without expecting a gold star on my chores chart
• Boobies
• Oops again

* This one is a total fucking lie

Full Monty line bash!

So far we still have all our clothes on, but you never know. The script is pretty compelling ...

A stealth selfie from my seat on the leg-press sled

Because skipping leg day is like skipping childbirth day; it hurts and it sucks and it never seems to end, but it’s important for your body and you’re always glad you did it when it’s over. Even though you walk funny for a while. And there might be some surprise pooping. But at least I don’t have to mash up peas and save for college after a 225 lb. squat.

I! Made! A! Meme!

Thursday, December 27, 2018

It’s amazing how easily a post-Christmas-clearance pewter-rock-glitter placemat can transform a bedside table from boring to boy-that-sure-looks-homosexual

A letter to one future husband

Dear Boy-Next-Door-Handsome-But-Also-Holy-Shit-Alarmingly-Handsome Dude At The Gym Who Looks Like A Young Keanu Reeves But More Meet-The-Parents-Respectable With One Of Those Sharp-Edged Haircuts And A Degree In Maybe Applied Biochemistry Or Entrepreneurial Public Policy Or Conversational Latin Or Something Equally Impressive That You Got On A Non-Threateningly-Hot Supermodel Scholarship At A Small But Not Elitist College Where You Also No Doubt Selflessly Fostered Ugly Puppies And Tirelessly Tutored Dead Children: Even though I was studiously not noticing you so as not to appear twice-your-age creepy, you made my night when you not only noticed me but also ASKED ME TO SPOT YOU.

Also: When I said “that’s quite an impressive feat, dude” about you benching 90-lb. dumbbells, that was just me showing you how witheringly awkward I am capable of being around non-threateningly-hot supermodels.

Also: Not that I noticed, but let’s talk about how we can fix that problem with your missing wedding ring.

Wednesday, December 26, 2018

Here's your one chance ...

I probably shouldn’t have been so cavalier about living my life effortlessly free and clear on my bipolar meds this morning, because by noon I was sliding into a depressive episode fast enough that I left work and came home to crash. But five hours of sleep and shovelfuls of leftover Christmas comfort food have brought me back from the brink. Seeing Kelly Clarkson sing “Fancy” in tribute to Reba McEntire on Kennedy Center Honors didn’t hurt either. I’m profoundly exhausted, but I think I dodged a bullet by canceling the rest of my day to sleep. Onward!


Two years ago today, just hours into adding yet another new bipolar med to my ever-evolving cocktail, I stood up from a chair, walked three steps, blacked completely the hell out, fell Timber! onto the tile floor (which I cracked with my face because go big or go home), shredded myself eyebrow-to-chin on my shattered glasses, bit most of the way through my lip, loosened some teeth, got a concussion, and woke up in my sister's car holding a huge bloody rag to my face too confused to remember that Christmas had happened (or, for just a few glorious moments, that I was even bipolar) as she rushed me to the ER, where I looked so brutally horrifying that the nurses assumed I was the victim of a violent assault and three police officers visited my room well before the doctor showed up to give me stitches.

I came home covered in swelling and bruises and scabs and stitches and glue--after telling the ER doctor in my foggy haze that my modeling days were over and I didn't care if he left scars all over my face but I vaguely remember him informing me that he still had a professional obligation to do his best--and filled eyeballs-to-spine with a not-for-amateurs headache that brought crippling new levels to my understanding of pain ... and yet I still found a way to take time out of my busy schedule for a quick selfie to document the occasion for future biographers. (You're welcome, posterity!)

This Timber! event was directly linked to my new drug (called Fetzima, who sounds like a resident of the Anatevka demimonde in Fiddler on the Roof) that, as with all psychotropics, came with an alarming list of ramp-up side effects ... including abrupt blackouts. But I knew from a decade-plus of trial-and-error experience that I needed to tough out the first three or four weeks until the side effects subsided and the drug's level (or not level) of efficacy manifested (or didn't manifest) itself.

And despite its hyperdramatic entrance into the musical of my life, Fetzima more-or-less quickly proved itself to be perhaps *the* drug that effectively balances my serotonin and norepinephrine and keeps me (more or less) stable and engaged and functional and capable and able to go to work and do shows and take care of my parents and run races and buy shoes and buy more shoes and here I am two years later, scar-free (thanks, conscientiously ethical ER doctor!) (though it took a good six months for the scars to heal and the scar tissue where I bit through my lip to subside to the point that I could drink out of a straw again) and concussion-free (pro tip: you do NOT. EVER. want a concussion), and clearly in possession of an added year's mouth wrinkles and silver foxiness.

So if you're inclined, raise a glass and yell Timber! in my scab-free, concussion-free, fog-free, not-functional-free honor today. I'm gonna go out and keep living. Timber!

hoarfrost (n):

1. a grayish-white crystalline deposit of frozen water vapor formed in clear still weather on vegetation, fences, etc. 2. giggle giggle I totally just said hoarfrost

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

I thought I had to make it to midnight tonight, but I won last night without even knowing it!

I’m giving this victory to someone special.

krumkake (say it with me: CRUMB caca):

a thin, crispy, bigger-than-your-hand Norwegian waffle cookie rolled into an unwieldy cone shape for two purposes: 1) to fool you into thinking it can hold ice cream or any other delicious treat without crumbling all over everything the second you try to eat or even hold it; 2) to crumble all over everything the second you try to eat or even hold it anyway

Gee, I wish I was able to see my nephew

If our Christmas brunch were White Christmas, I’d be Major General Thomas F. Waverly, our centerpiece would be a totally-real-looking, four-foot-tall, completely-stage-blocking tiered cake decorated with 12" tapered candles, and my nephew would be a stupid and instantly forgettable musical about the military featuring hundreds of soldiers who secretly came to my failing hotel in the dead of night SPECIFICALLY FOR ME TO SEE.

#ChristmasCountdown: Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 24, 2018

1-Day #ChristmasCountdown: Bedtime


My brother-in-law cares about attractive, appropriate Christmas wrap even less than I do—and that’s saying something—so I put his gift in a reused gift bag I found that’s decorated in a tool motif.

My dad cares even less about attractive, appropriate Christmas wrap than my brother-in-law and me—plus he’s legally blind—so I put HIS gift in a reused gift bag I found that’s decorated in Easter eggs. Don’t tell.

1-Day #ChristmasCountdown: Afternoon

1-Day #ChristmasCountdown: Morning

Sunday, December 23, 2018

Mary! Poppins! Returns!

Poor Deplorable Diane

She’s neither almost halfway to understanding math nor almost halfway to writing sentences that represent rudimentary American English. She should really go back to her country so we can build a wall to keep her kind out.

When you have an inordinate amount of broken Christmas cookies and you overestimated how much frosting you’d need to decorate them, it’s a crime to waste it all

And while it’s not technically a crime to ugly-shame the Frankenstein frosted cookies you creatively—and heroically, imho—salvage from the carnage, it’s still terribly rude.

Another covert gym selfie

Another chest day so I don’t have saggy moobs when I de-shirt in Full Monty. Another gym full of holy-shit hot men who refuse to ask me to marry them.

2-Day #ChristmasCountdown

Friday, December 21, 2018

Downtown Cedar Rapids Coolness

Excerpted from the Journal of Personal & Interpersonal Loss:

Twenty years ago—on the 10th anniversary of the bombing of Pan Am Flight 103—I was invited to write a personal remembrance of the event for the scholarly Journal of Personal & Interpersonal Loss through the psychology department at the University of Iowa. My copy of the publication currently sits in a box somewhere in storage, but I was able to dig up a transcript of the preamble I wrote for the piece, which I thought would be fitting to share today, on the 30th anniversary:

On December 21, 1988, a terrorist bomb blew Pan Am Flight 103 out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, 54 minutes after it took off from London's Heathrow Airport. The explosion sent 259 passengers and crew members tumbling 6 miles to their deaths, killed 11 people on the ground, and created waves of shock and grief that continue to reverberate across the globe. My friend Miriam Wolfe, one of 35 students returning from a semester in London under the auspices of Syracuse University, was on that flight. Her death was the final, jarring event in a traumatic year that had brought me the accidental deaths of four other friends in an Easter plane crash and the breast cancer that would force my mother to endure a mastectomy and painful years of chemotherapy and drug treatments. While it is tempting to canonize the victims of violent disaster, Miriam was different—and inarguably deserving of such hagiography. A tribute written for one of three memorial scholarships established in her honor calls her "a rare and gifted young woman who lived life to the fullest; actively worked to change the world for the better; and gave a great deal of love, joy and wisdom to all who knew her." Her death yanked me from the comfortable naiveté of my youth and forced me to confront the pain and confusion of the adult world. It destroyed my faith in the inherent good of mankind but showed me how disaster can bring out the best in people. It gave me a nihilistic view of life but forced me to make the most of every moment I have. It made me appreciate the people around me but gave me little tolerance for anyone who wastes my time. And it instilled in me a knee-jerk animus toward religion and nearly all things Middle Eastern. Ultimately, though, Miriam's life and death taught me how to live and love and survive in ways I never thought necessary—or possible.

Excerpted from "Surviving the Bombing of Pan Am Flight 103: The Loss of Innocence and a Dear Friend in an International Tragedy." Journal of Personal & Interpersonal Loss, Vol. 3, No. 1, January–March 1998. Pages 117–134. Publisher: Taylor &  Francis.

Thirty years ago today ...

I’d finished my classes for the semester and my dad had come to pick me up from college for the holiday break. 1988 had been an emotional roller coaster for our family. We’d lost four family friends in a small plane crash Easter morning, my mom had undergone a radical mastectomy in October and she was just starting her first rounds of chemo before Christmas. I was in the middle of my junior year in college, and I’d finally found a major I was willing to stick with: English. But since I’d waited a full two years to admit to myself I always should have been an English major, I had a lot of catching up to do. And my first-semester courseload had been heavy.

December 21 is the winter solstice—the day of the year with the shortest amount of sunlight—but it was beautiful and sunny in Eastern Iowa that afternoon in 1988. And Dad and I had a nice chat over the 40-minute drive home. My family has always been close, so when we saw Mom standing in the driveway as we pulled up to the house, I figured she was just excited to see me.

But she was sobbing.

I assumed she’d gotten some bad news about her cancer while Dad was gone, so I jumped out of the car before it even came to a stop and I ran up to hug her. But the bad news was something entirely different ... something so random and so unexpected that the shock of the words literally didn't make sense to me: Miriam’s plane had gone down.

Miriam was a friend of mine who had spent the 1988 autumn semester in London studying under the auspices of Syracuse University. I’d just visited her over the Thanksgiving break, and we’d had an awesome time seeing the sights, exploring the museums and taking in all the shows we could afford on our college-student budgets. Among the four we saw were Les Misérables and what ended up being a definitive revival of Stephen Sondheim’s Follies. Sondheim was just starting to appear on our collective radar, and we both agreed that seeing Follies together was a mountaintop experience for us to have shared over our magical week together in London.

But by December 21, I’d come home, a whole month had passed and I’d been so caught up in my finals and holiday preparations that I’d had no idea Miriam was flying back to the States that day—much less what flight she was on. Neither had my mom. But our friend Jody in Ohio did. And when the initial reports that Pan Am flight 103 had disappeared out of the sky over Lockerbie, Scotland, started washing over the newswires, Jody had called everyone she could think of.

Mom and Dad and I raced to the family room and crowded around the TV that crisp, sunny Iowa afternoon to see what we could find out about Miriam’s plane. It was the early days of CNN and 24-hour news, so we were able to get (spotty) information right away about the mysterious crash, along with grainy images of the wreckage shining dimly in the emergency lights that were working so hard to pierce the solstice blackness six time zones away. Dimly seeing what we could of it and haltingly learning more and more about it over the next hours was at once horrifying and comforting, filling us with both hopefulness and helplessness.

Over the next few months and weeks, the world came to learn about the bomb, the Libyans, the retribution, the embargoes, the bankruptcies. We cautiously wrapped our brains around the unthinkable efficiencies of global terrorism at the dawn of the Information Age. And the friends and families of the victims of the 103 bombing started experiencing the bizarre dichotomy of watching our personal tragedy play itself out on the world stage.

In the years since Miriam’s murder, I’ve befriended her parents and friends. I’ve gotten in touch with the roommates she lived with in London, none of whom had been on her plane with her that day. I’ve written pieces about my relatively removed perspective on the bombing that were published in newspapers and scholarly journals and read on NPR. And since I had been in London and had hung out with a lot of the murdered Syracuse students a month before the bombing, I’ve actually been interviewed by the FBI.

And as I’ve grieved and matured over the last thirty years, I’ve discovered that I now tend to be efficiently emotionless when I hear about catastrophic tragedies like the 9/11 attacks and the Stoneman Douglas massacre and the devastating 2018 wildfires ... though I’ll still burst into tears over emotional pablum like Christmas cookie commercials.

Thirty years ago today, the world learned what a volatile mix misanthropy and religion and blind nationalism can be in a global melting pot.

Thirty years ago today, Miriam and her fellow passengers and their families and friends learned violently and unwillingly about harsh brutalities that the rest of the world got the relative luxury of absorbing over time.

Thirty years ago today, I learned that the distant tragedies that so often happen to “other people” should never be observed as abstractions.

I discovered that news of plane crashes and acts of terrorism that play endlessly in 24-hour news cycles can be both disturbing and strangely comforting. I learned that life is precious, that there are no guarantees, that people who waste your time are robbing you of a precious and very limited possession, that small gestures can make heroic impressions, that your pain and suffering and anguish and heartbreak both do and don't make you special, that no matter how bad it gets you should work to find solace in the fact that it will probably get better … or at least easier.

Thirty years is enough time for someone to raise a child and send him or her off into the world. Enough time for eight presidential elections and four new Sondheim musicals. (Six, if you count Saturday Night and The Frogs.)

It’s enough time for a gangly, unsure college boy to cycle through four cars and eight houses and eight jobs and three cities as he grows into a successful (more or less), confident (more or less) man.

It’s enough time for him to realize that the world is not fair. That bad things happen to good people. That the bad people who did them don’t always get punished. That horrible tragedy gets easier to accept over time, even though it remains impossible to forget. That the hate that some people burn into your heart never entirely leaves ... and that the smug, satisfied self-righteousness you experience when you finally see images of the bloodied, abused corpse of Moammar Gadhafi—who denied to his last hopefully excruciating, terrified breath every credible report that he'd ordered the Pan Am bombing—feels powerfully good.

I often wonder what Miriam would be if she were alive today. Tony-winning actor? International journalist? Have-it-all mom? She was among those people you just knew were going somewhere big with their lives. I’m sure that wherever the fates would have taken her, she’d be someone people knew about.

I also wonder if we would still be friends. We’d met that summer when we were singing and dancing in the shows at Darien Lake amusement park just outside Buffalo, New York. Our friendship lasted just seven months until she was murdered. I’m only barely in touch with the other friends I made at the park that summer. Miriam’s family and I aren’t in touch nearly as much as I’d like either (though her mother recently published a book of Miriam's writings along with essays from people who knew and loved her, including me).

Would Miriam and I have drifted apart as well?

Since at this point I’m the only one in control of our story, I choose to believe that by now I’d have sung in her wedding and befriended her kids on Facebook and marched in pink hats with her in Washington and lost countless hours texting ridiculous memes back and forth with her.

And I’m pretty sure she’d have written the same story for me if our fates had been reversed.

Thirty years ago today was the last, devastating act in a year that had shaken—and strengthened—my family to its core. It was the day my worldview changed from naive to guarded, from optimistic to cynical, from insular to secular.

It was the day my friend Miriam was murdered.

And it was just another day for most people.

And though the world continues to spin forward—as it should—and people’s memories continue to fade—as they do—I will never forget.

Wednesday, December 19, 2018


I have replaced my morning 44 oz. bucket of delicious chemical elixir with a can of itchy water infused with a vague taste of sodium and a wisp of a lie about ephemeral fruit flavor. We should find out relatively soon exactly how many tears of desperate despondency I’m capable of shedding as I shake uncontrollably from delicious chemical withdrawal. Stay tuned.

Also: Ranch peanuts taste exactly like peanuts that have the word Ranch on the packaging.

6-Day #ChristmasCountdown

Tuesday, December 18, 2018

Ugly rehearsal ties can mean only one thing: WE'RE GONNA STRIP ALL OUR CLOTHES OFF!

Oops. I mean we had a lovely Full Monty rehearsal tonight. We worked on all the hard numbers, and I think we’re all now full of confidence and happenis.

Do you see that little metal thing sticking out from under Bitch Kitty's ample butt?

That's the little sliver of the end of the heat vent in our guest room, which is at the moment our de facto gift room, which is also at the moment FREEZING because Bitch Kitty has completely obliterated the only heat vent in the room with her selfish, bag-of-pudding body. I hope the metal partitions on the heat vent are not only uncomfortable for her but they also sear scarlet-letter lines in her selfish Bitch Kitty belly like grill marks on a tuna steak.

Fun fact: My mother, my sister and I--without conferring amongst ourselves--all picked that same celery color when we painted various rooms in our houses: the front hall in my sister's house, the ensuite (which was really an elfin bathroom at the end of a 5/8th scale Barbie(R) Dream Bedroom but ensuite makes it sound palatial and glamorous) in my Chicago condo, and the private cat sauna in my parents' condo.

7-Day #ChristmasCountdown

Sunday, December 16, 2018

The last Elf bow has been bowed and Elf the Musical is now but a cotton-headed dream

We struck the set tonight as our final goodbye to our bejinglebelled adventures, and I have to say that the $6.99 work gloves I bought this morning at Walmart instead of having my oil changed there because nobody ever came to the check-in desk to see why about 10 of us were standing around waiting was the best $6.99 I’ve spent on myself in a very long time; I came home from strike with a satisfied exhaustion and no splinters or cuts on my elfin-soft hands.
Now on to my next theater adventure!

"Power play" is a hockey word. Look it up.

Last year today I was singing a power-play arrangement of “All I Want for Christmas is my Two Front Teeth” sporting authentic hockey gear and two magic-of-theater missing teeth in front of the power-play Orchestra Iowa in my beloved (and, obvs, power-play) Paramount Theatre.

Today today I’ll be tap-dancing with a merry band of bejinglebelled elves in the last of an eminently delightful five-week run of Elf the Musical at the always-eminently-delightful Theatre Cedar Rapids.

The only arguable difference here is I’ll be wearing brand-new work gloves to strike our set tonight.

I like my new gym

17 of my 593 new gym crushes are here this morning.

9-Day #ChristmasCountdown

Saturday, December 15, 2018

Tonight’s penultimate performance of Elf the Musical was an unmitigated disaster from start to finish

As we were waiting onstage for the overture, one of our little elves walked up and accused me of not knowing her name—rude!—and then I had to admit that she was right. And then in our big tappy finale, not one but two—TWO!—of my tap shoes came untied.

Existential. Horror.

I just hope I can salvage what’s left of my joy and dignity in tomorrow’s matinee, or all my Elf the Musical memories will carry with them the lingering stink of shame and potential OHSA violations.