Sunday, December 27, 2015

How My Domestic Side Turned Out To Be My Artistic Side

A Relaxing Afternoon

I had just cleaned my house, and it looked great.  I must have been getting ready to go somewhere, because I was wearing one of my favorite dresses.  If the house looked great, I looked fantastic.  It must have been winter, because I remember that there was a fire burning in the fireplace.  I had a few minutes of free time, so I grabbed a book and sat down on the sofa by the fire to read.  It should have been a wonderful experience.  The house looked good, I looked good, the fire was warm, and the book was interesting.  But it wasn't a wonderful experience.  It was nice, but not wonderful.  There was something missing.

An Elegant Dinner Party

This is something I've relaxed about somewhat in recent years, but when I was a new homeowner, this was my experience every time I had people over for dinner.  I'd clean the house and choose the menu.  I'd lay hors d'oeuvres out on the coffee table and brew a pot of coffee.  I'd purchase assorted teas and boil some water so my guests would have a variety of hot beverages to enjoy.  And then they'd come.  After having done all of the preparations I should have been delighted to see my guests arrive, but I wasn't.  Again, something was missing.

A Simple Pleasure

The sun was shining and there was a gentle breeze.  It was warm, but not too warm.  I had just washed a load of laundry and was taking advantage of the perfect weather to hang it on the line to dry.  When you have to hang your clothes on the line because it is the only method of drying available to you, it can be quite a tedious chore, but if you choose to do it because it's a perfect day to be outside and you might as well get some chores done while your out there, then idyllic is the word that comes to mind.  I should have been deliriously happy, but I wasn't.  Something was missing.

A Little June Cleaver

I remember watching fifties television shows as a small child (in re-runs, of course) and being struck by the beauty of it all.  The houses were perfect, the clothes were perfect, the hair was perfect, and I naturally assumed that the world these people inhabited was perfect as well.  I wanted to grow up to be just like that.  I don't just mean that I wanted to be a housewife.  I also wanted to wear fifties clothes and hairstyles.  I wanted my house to look old-timey (which it does, by the way).  I wanted to know all of my neighbors and I wanted to have a bridge club.  I wanted to enter cake-baking contests and do all of the things that, according to the television, all women did back in the day.  I wanted to be June Cleaver.

A Pioneer Girl

I started reading the Little House books because I had seen Little House on the Prairie on television (also in re-runs).  The show was good, but the books were amazing.  I read them and reread them, and again I fell in love with the world that was depicted there.  I wanted to make my own clothes and my own cheese and my own bread.  I wanted to live a simpler life, doing without certain material things and working hard for the few things I did have.  I wanted to raise my children to appreciate what was important in life and to not care about having video games and all the latest toys.  I wanted to be Ma Ingalls.

A Little Lady

Two of my other favorite books from my childhood are The Secret Garden and Little Women.  Like the Little House books, these two books also show a picture of life in the 1800s, but instead of the simplicity of the pioneers, they show the elegance of the rich.  Of course, the family in Little Women is not very rich, but they are certainly better off than the Ingalls family.  I wanted to wear beautiful dresses and go to balls and be courted by handsome men.  I wanted an old house in the country with acres of gardens to explore.  I wanted fine china and tapestries hanging on the wall.  I wanted to be Mary Lennox.

A World That Doesn't Exist

I spent my early adulthood chasing the dream of living in my favorite books and TV shows.  I learned to cook and I learned to sew.  I rescued several old pieces of furniture from my grandmother's house because they had the look that I wanted for my home.  I dried my clothes on the line and hosted the occasional dinner party.  I should have been happy.  And I was.  But it wasn't perfect.  Something was missing.

A Shocking Realization

What is the difference between me and June Cleaver?  Or Laura Ingalls or Mary Lennox?  What do they have that makes their lives so perfect?  What is missing from my own attempts to be just like them?  An audience.  It sounds strange, I know, but that is the truth that I discovered about myself.  I would never be just like my favorite characters from books and television because they, by merit of being in books and on television, live their lives in front of an audience whereas I, being a real person, do not.  And an audience is what I desperately craved. 

When I relaxed with my book in front of the fire, I felt just like Jo March.  But when Jo March dons a beautiful dress and sits in her beautiful parlor to read, the world watches (or at least reads about it).  There was no one to watch me, so I was not just like Jo March.

When I invited my guests over for dinner, I had unrealistic expectations for how they would behave.  I envisioned them milling about the house, relaxing in the living room and sipping tea and coffee while they munched on cheese and crackers.  I would hide away in the kitchen until the meal was ready, at which point I would invite my guests into the dining room to eat.  But it never happened that way.  They all came to the kitchen and sat around the table, often never even seeing the goodies I had so carefully placed on the coffee table for them.  As I said above, I have relaxed in recent years.  I now expect my guests to hang out in the kitchen with me, and so if I lay out hors d'oeuvres I put them on the kitchen table so they will be eaten.  I have learned the difference between a casual dinner and a dinner party, and have accepted that the casual variety is what people want when they come to eat at my house.  But still.  I'm no June Cleaver.

When I hang my clothes on the line what always pops into my head is the opening scene from the movie First Blood.  Yeah, I know, it's an odd movie for a wannabe domestic goddess to try and emulate, but that first scene is so beautiful I couldn't help falling in love with it the first time I saw that movie.  Here's a link to it.  It doesn't show the whole thing, but if you watch to the end of the clip, you'll see the woman hanging her clothes out to dry in the background.  I have that ideal in my head every time I hang out my own clothes.  But of course I don't have that gorgeous lake view when I'm engaged in the task.  And--this is the important part--I don't have cameras filming me while I do it.

That's what I had to learn about myself the hard way.  I don't just want to do domestic things.  I want to be a part of a beautiful portrait of those domestic things being done, and I want to show that portrait to the world.  I do enjoy occasionally hanging my clothes on the line, if the weather's nice and I have time to do it, but in the back of my mind I'll always be regretting the fact there's no one around to take a picture of it.  I also enjoy sitting by the fire and reading a book, but if I'm going to go to all the trouble of making myself and my house look good, by golly there really should be someone there to see it.

The Real Domestic Me

There are some domestic chores I actually enjoy.  I love cooking, and it often doesn't matter if the world knows that I can cook.  I'm usually happy just to know that my husband and kids like what I make.  I prepare meals from scratch more often than not, and while I do occasionally have a desire for everyone to know that fact, for the most part I'm happy cooking in my own little kitchen tucked away from the world.  I sometimes enjoy sewing.  Or at least I feel proud of my accomplishment when I'm done, which is not exactly the same thing as enjoying the activity itself, but close enough.  And when I sew, of course, I do get to share it with the world when I, or my children, wear my latest creation in public.  But cleaning my house, decorating my house, or even just existing in my beautiful house does not by itself make me happy because there is no one there to watch. 

So here I am, in my thirties and still trying to figure out who the heck I am.  Have you had a similar experience?  Did you discover that the real you was not the person you thought you were?  Do you share my desire to live life in front of an adoring audience?  I would love to read about it in the comments.

Remember to follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my YouTube channel if you would like to be a part of that audience I've always wanted to have.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Finding My Voice

My Other Passion

I have written several posts about my love of writing and my love of dancing, but I have not said much about my love of music.  There are a few reasons for that.  One is that I just self-published my first book, and was in the middle of that whole process when I started this blog, so I naturally shared all of the things I was learning as I was going through that.  I also just began taking ballet lessons and shared a little about that experience as well.  Music sort of got lot in the shuffle of everything else that was going on.

The other reason I haven't written about music is because for a while I really didn't know where to start.  It's been a long, and often frustrating, journey, and there were so many stories that I was at a loss to pick one and write about it.  Maybe I will tell some of those stories in the future, but today I'm going to stick to what's happening in my musical life right now.

A Long Time Coming

Music has been a part of my life for a long time, and I have tried to pursue it as a career in multiple ways.  As I said above, it has often been frustrating.  I have encountered more dead ends than I care to mention.  Now that I am having a go at it from a different angle, I don't know what the future holds.  I only know that I'm giving it my all right now and hope that it will take me somewhere good.

Becoming an Indie Artist

About a year ago I started working on an album with my dad.  He's been on his own musical journey throughout his life, and though it has taken him on a different path than the one I chose to walk, we have ended up in the same place and are making an album together.  The album is almost finished and we plan to sell mp3s online.  In addition to the album I have also recently uploaded my first Youtube video.  It is a simple live recording of me singing, nothing fancy, but my hope is to continue posting videos, some of which will be much more sophisticated and artistic than this first one.  I had to start somewhere, right?

Classically Trained

I was a music major in college.  My emphasis wasn't on singing, but I still had to study it as a part of a well-rounded program.  I took voice class and sang in the concert choir.  All of this taught me a very specific style of singing and very specific rules for pronunciation.  I am grateful for the lessons I learned because classical vocal training gave me a certain amount of control over my voice that I didn't have before.  What it didn't teach me was how to sing with the level of emotion that the average listener wants to hear.  That's what I am learning now.

Coming Out of My Shell

My album has nine songs.  I obviously remember which ones were recorded early in the process and which ones were recorded more recently, but listening to them I have come to the conclusion that even if I didn't remember this I could guess it from my singing style.  When we recorded our very first song, my singing was fairly bland.  I was on pitch and my voice was strong, but there's just a little something missing.  Feeling.  Don't get me wrong, I was feeling the song quite strongly while I sang it, but I had not yet learned to manipulate my voice in a way that could communicate that fact to a listening audience. 

The second song was a little better than the first.  I intentionally did some stylistic things with it that gave my singing a certain oomph that the first song did not have.  But while I was singing it I still felt awkward and shy.  It was weird being cooped up in my dad's tiny studio and singing as though I had this huge audience watching me.  You know that feeling when someone walks in on you as you are singing by yourself in your house and then you get all embarrassed?  That's a pretty accurate description of my state of mind while recording that song.

The third song is where it all started to change.  Actually, I can hear the moment the change happened when I listen to it.  The first verse is all rhythm and pitch with no real emotion, and then suddenly in the second verse it begins to sound different.  It sounds like I'm having fun.  I finally learned to let my hair down and enjoy myself, and to let that enjoyment come through in my voice.  Every song after that has a quality about it that was lacking in the first two, because in every subsequent song I gave myself permission to have fun and not worry about my dad sitting there in the corner listening.  It's amazing the difference that change of attitude made.

Just Another Step On the Journey

It has at times been painful, but I am thankful for every musical experience I have had.  Though I have shed the classical style for a more natural one, I'm still glad to have that on my resume.  I use it when I sing in my church choir, and I also recognize the invaluable lessons I learned about warming up properly and protecting my voice.  Classical singing may not be what everyone wants to hear, but it's a good skill for all singers to learn.  I am, however, also glad that I have now learned to move beyond the strict parameters set by my college education and to explore other forms of music.

If you have been on your own musical journey, I would love to hear your thoughts.  Feel free to leave me a comment.

You can follow me on Twitter or subscribe to my Youtube channel for updates on this blog, my album, and all of my other projects.

Thursday, December 10, 2015

Fictional Characters Really Do Write Their Own Stories

A Surprising Revelation

If you have never tried to write a book, then the title of this post probably makes no sense to you.  It's not something you really understand until you've been through the process.  If you have written short stories in the past, you may have experienced a little of this, but the flow of a short story is often easier for an author to control than that of a full-length novel.  So if you've never written a book, you're probably looking at my title and thinking, "That doesn't make sense.  Doesn't the author choose what happens in the story?"  If you have written your own book, then you are nodding and thinking to yourself, "This is true.  This is absolutely true."  If you have written many books, then you probably saw my title and thought, "Well, of course."

Why Does It Happen?

I cannot comment on anyone else's writing process.  I only know why this happens when I'm writing.  For me it usually stems from the necessity of filling in the details of a scene.  The main character can't merely show up at her friend's house in one paragraph and immediately start in on a deep philosophical discussion in the next.  There has to be some sort of transition.  A bit of small talk, an observation of the surroundings, a physical description of the characters...something.  It is in those inconsequential moments that my characters start taking over the story.  Here are a couple of examples.

Meet Will Hathaway

My book Amelia's Children centers on Sarah Hathaway and David Jenson who meet and then team up to investigate a local unsolved murder.  Will is Sarah's brother.  In the beginning he existed for one specific reason.  In the story, David is new in town and Sarah has just returned after a three year absence.  I knew that they would not have had the connections that would have put them in touch with the people they would eventually need to help them solve the mystery.  That's where Will comes in.  Sarah is connected to him, and he is connected to pretty much everyone else in town.  In the beginning I saw him as a very minor character, but he ended up having a much bigger part in the story than I anticipated.  Here's how it happened.

I introduced his character at a family dinner at Sarah's parents' house.  Aside from introducing Will, the main thing I wanted to do with this scene was show Sarah's strained relationship with her mom, so I contrasted Will, the perfect child, with Sarah, the wayward child.  To do that I needed dialogue.  But that dialogue took the story in a new direction, at least for Will.  He shows up at the house with a peach cobbler, the only purpose of which was to give Sarah a reason to comment on the fact that her parents do not drink therefore a bottle of wine would not be an appropriate contribution to the meal.  So Will brings a cobbler instead.  But where does the cobbler come from?  Oh...why not from a coworker.  Oh...and maybe the coworker is an attractive woman.  Oh...and maybe the mom will hint that Will should ask her on a date.  And suddenly...boom!  Will has this whole backstory that I didn't know about before I wrote that scene.  And of course that backstory becomes the motivation for many of the things he will do later in the book.  Things I would never have thought of if it hadn't been for his mom's reaction to a peach cobbler.

Meet Ashley Preston

Okay, you really can't meet Ashley yet because I'm still writing her story, but I'll give you a glimpse of her.  She is a primary character in my current work in progress, the title of which I haven't definitively chosen.  I'm considering Primogénito, but am unsure if a Spanish title for an English book would be too confusing.  Feel free to offer advice in the comments if you'd like.  Anyway, back to my main topic.

Primogénito (if I decide to call it that) is about four people with a shared memory of one particular traumatic event.  Damian is the one who experienced the worst of it, but five years later he has managed to put his life back together and is living happily with is wife, Jenn, who is also one of the primary characters.  Things are fine for Damian and Jenn until Ashley shows up at their house announcing a new crisis and begging for Damian's help.

I originally imagined Ashley to be a confident, highly intelligent professional woman.  She knows what Damian went through and is hesitant to bring him back into all of that.  However, he is the only one who can help her, so she shows up at his house to make her request.

I was just a few paragraphs into the second chapter when Ashley's character started to change for me.  When she sees Damian for the first time it brings back all of her darkest memories.  At first I was just planning for her to be worried about Damian and glad to see that he was okay, but I needed to describe those feelings.  So I started describing them and suddenly I had this new Ashley whose life has become a living hell and seeing Damian whole and strong is the only hope she has to cling to.  When he smiles at her it takes her back to the way life was before everything went wrong, and she throws herself into his arms in an attempt to hold onto that feeling. 

I learned a lot about Ashley in that scene.  I learned that she and Damian had a romantic relationship in the past.  Damian has moved on, but Ashley has lingering feelings for him.  I also learned that while Damian was more physically damaged by what they all went through, Ashley is the one who is still emotionally broken.  She is desperately hoping Damian will swoop in and put together the pieces of her shattered life.

Do You Have to Listen to Your Characters?

Well, of course in your writing you get to make the rules.  You technically can do whatever the heck you want with your characters.  But is that a good idea?  What if I adamantly refused to write this new weaker Ashley who suddenly appeared in chapter two?  What if I was so dead set on her being the most confident of the four main characters that I ignored everything she thinks as she watches Damian walk toward her that first time.  What if I forced her character to stay within the parameters I initially set?  I could do that, sure, but I would be fighting her the whole way.  In every scene that is told from her point of view there would be a temptation to show her weaknesses.  I would have to force myself to show her strengths, and she would end up being a not very believable character.  So I'm listening to Ashley and am writing her story they way she wants it written.  I do worry that she is becoming less likable than my original concept of her, but there are three other characters, so if readers can't identify with Ashley, they can identify with someone else.

I am curious to hear your thoughts about this.  If you have stories about characters who hijacked your writing and made it their own, I would love for you to leave a comment.

Don't forget that you can follow me on Twitter for updates on this blog and to find out what my characters will be up to next.

Thursday, December 3, 2015

The Inevitability of Regret

A Personal Battle

I have this problem that keeps resurfacing from time to time.  This feeling of disappointment with some of the ways my life has turned out.  In general I have a very good life, but from time to time I find myself wondering, "what if..?"  There are very specific events that can trigger that feeling in me, and one happened just this week.  It's nothing earth-shattering.  It's really quite trivial, but my reaction, as usual, has been strong.  I will explain what it is in a moment, but first I want to talk a little about regret.

A Natural Consequence of Life

Regret is a part of life.  No one makes the right decision every time, and often even when we do make the right decision we are still likely to harbor some regret.  This is because most decisions involve choosing to do one thing while choosing not to do another.  Sometimes that other thing we choose not to do is easy for us to let go, and sometimes it's not.  And sometimes we let it go because we think we don't want it, only to find out a few years down the road that we really did.  Or at least a part of us wanted it.  And there are the times when we want both things, but can only have one.

Every decision, no matter how trivial, falls into one of these categories, and we start choosing very early in our lives.  Soccer instead of dance.  Piano instead of violin.  Technical college instead of art school.  Honeymoon in Hawaii instead of Paris.   The list goes on and on.

Not every life experience is a cross roads.  Sometimes we don't have to choose.  But a lot of times we do, and when we do we open the door to the possibility of regret. 

A Particular Brand of Regret

We've all heard of the Women's Lib movement, the Mommy Wars, and the desire to "have it all."  What is meant by "all", of course, is career and family.  Regret plays a big part in all of this.  Traditional wisdom said that family is everything.  In the past, people married young and threw everything they had into raising their children.  Even the men.  It was once considered very respectable for a young man to finish high school and immediately go out and get a job so that he could support a wife and, eventually, children.  Career dreams existed of course, but they were not granted the kind of importance placed upon them by our society today.

Today, career is everything.  We still encourage out children to work hard, but the goal has changed.  We don't want our children to go out and get any old job just to pay the bills.  We want them to dream big and work toward accomplishing that dream.  We want to see them in jobs that they find enjoyable and fulfilling, and not merely stable.  We still want to see them happily married and raising families, but the timeline has changed.  Marriage is viewed as something that should be entered into by people who are older and more mature.  If an eighteen year old girl comes home today and says, "I'm getting married," her parents are probably going to try and talk her out of it.  They'll tell her not to throw her life away, that there are so many things she needs to experience before she's tied down with a family.  Not all parents will react that way, but many will.  In the 1930s, however, marrying at that age would have been viewed as a very normal, and a very good, thing.

No Right Answer

I was old-fashioned.  Even before I met my husband I wanted to marry young.  I met him when I was sixteen, and within a year I was certain that he was the one.  We didn't get married until I was twenty because...well...we had to wait for him to finish college.  So I guess what we did was kind of a fusion of the traditional and the modern.  We were in a hurry to get married and start our lives together, but we also wanted college and career.  If he had taken a job right after high school we could have married as soon as I turned eighteen, but we didn't.  And I'm glad we didn't.  I'm glad we both have our college years to look back on, and to build careers on.

Though I married young and never looked back, I do understand why so many people say it's better to wait.  I have seen couples that married before they were really ready, or who married without taking time to figure out if they were with the right person, and I have seen it end badly.  If waiting can prevent that, then waiting can be a good thing.  But if two people know they are right for each other, I will never judge their decision to be together.  After all, I it's what I did.

Looking Back On What Could Have Been

My reason for writing this post is to illustrate that no matter what we choose, there's going to be regret.  I live in a small town where a lot of people still marry at the age that I did.  When I venture out of my neighborhood, though, I often get strange looks from people when I tell them I've been married for sixteen years.  I often wonder what they're thinking when they look at me that way.  I wonder if they're thinking about all of the things I "missed out on"  because I never enjoyed the single life.

The truth is I don't care about the single life.  I'm glad I wasn't still in the dating world in my twenties.  To me, that's a whole lot of stress that I didn't have to deal with.  Other people may feel differently, and that's okay, but it's something I don't regret in the slightest.  I do think about career sometimes, though.  I wonder where my professional life would be today if I had made different choices early on.  But the reality is that early marriage did not rob me of those things.  The things I look at today and think I may have wanted back then were things I wasn't thinking about back then.  It's impossible to choose something if you don't know you want it.

Thinking about dance is particularly troublesome in this regard.  I'm thirty-six years old and I've just started taking ballet.  My time of dreaming about being a professional dancer is gone.  It can be a bit depressing when you realize you're getting started with something at the age when many people retire from it.  I'm determined to learn as much as I possibly can, and to milk every ounce of enjoyment out of it that I possibly can, but still I have days when I look at my life as a dancer and wonder, "what if..?"

Other Artistic Pursuits

The first time I got all depressed about the direction my career was taking was when I was still in college.  It was my junior year.  I was majoring in Music Education, and then one day I suddenly realized I wanted to be an actress.  Um...well...yeah...there was some regret there.  I had chosen a music degree over a theatre degree.  Determined not to let it get me down, I started auditioning for plays.  I was in two productions that year, then I went to three auditions in a row and did not get a part, and my fear of rejection started to get the better of me.  I stopped auditioning.  I didn't think about it again until seven years later.  This time the catalyst was a job loss which plunged me into an intense identity crisis.  Desperate for a new creative outlet, I started auditioning again.  This time things went really well for me.  I was in several plays in a row, and even had the lead role in a couple of them.  But then life moved on again and theatre moved to the back burner.

This love of acting is something that keeps coming back again and again, and every time it does I get depressed.  It's interesting to see the kinds of things that trigger it.  For example, my husband thinks it's odd that I never want to watch behind the scenes featurettes or gag reels from our favorite movies and TV shows, but I just can't.  As long as I'm looking at the screen and seeing fictional characters, I can enjoy what I'm watching, but the moment I let my self glimpse the actors behind the characters, I start to get all worked up.  Those actors become real people to me all of a sudden, when they weren't real to me before, and I find myself thinking about their lives and their careers and the decisions they made that got them there.  I start envisioning myself living that same lifestyle and I have to deal with the fact that I made other choices.  I know it's never too late to try, but my life is full of so many other things--things that I did choose--that there's not really room for a serious pursuit of a brand new career.  Yeah, there's some regret that I did not become an actress, but there would also be a whole lot of regret if I left everything that I have now and chased that dream.

The Inspiration for a Book

I'm very happy to be seriously pursuing writing now.  It's empowering because I can sit down and do it anytime I want to.  I also know that it truly never is too late to become a writer.  It's not like dance where I'm always reminded that my body won't do certain things because it wasn't trained to do them when I was a child.  It's not like acting where age has to be matched to the character and many of the good roles are for twenty-somethings.  I can write until I'm eighty and no one will know the difference.

My actress angst played a big part in my debut book, Amelia's Children.  I threw all of that frustration into Sarah's character, and that is why the book begins with her returning home after a failed acting career.  But my writing is inspired by more than just my own life.

I recently tweeted the question, "Can I refer to the male actor who is inspiring my main character as my muse?"  I know that the word "muse" is supposed to refer to a woman, and that the male counterpart is called an Agent of Fortune.  But when I'm watching a favorite movie or television show in the hope that it will put me in the mood to write, it sounds much nicer to say, "I'm spending some time with my muse."  "Agent of Fortune" just doesn't have the same ring to it. 

I have based the physical description of the main character in my current work in progress on one specific actor.  Who is he?  I'm not going to tell you because, first of all, it's embarrassing, and second, I want you to read the book when I'm finished and you'll enjoy it much more if you can imagine him looking the way you want him to look.  But in my mind he looks exactly like this particular actor.

In order to get inspiration for his character, I've searched for this actor on Youtube and watched a few clips here and there.  I thought I would be okay doing this because I've been careful not to watch any interviews or gag reels or anything else about the actor himself.  I've only allowed myself to see him in character, in an effort to avoid sending myself down that dark path that I know is looming before me.  However, the other day I stumbled upon a very old clip.  He must have been in his early teens when it was filmed, and there I went down the rabbit hole of professional regret.  My mind was immediately flooded with thoughts of an imaginary life in which I had landed a role on television at such an early age.  When I realized what was happening, I instantly turned off the computer and walked away, but it was too late.  The seeds were already sown.

The Utter Futility of it All

In reminding myself that every choice carries the danger of regret, I am teaching myself to be content with my life as it is now.  I am teaching myself to be happy with the choices I made when I was younger, even if occasionally I look back and wonder if I could have done anything differently.  The truth is I was not ready for the spotlight when I was teenager.  I was ready for marriage and family.  That may seem backwards to some people, but it's the truth.  A career as an actor or a dancer or a singer or any number of other things I sometimes wish I could have been requires a lot of self confidence.  These are things I didn't have much of back then.  I could carry a tune, but would not have had the stage presence that is required of the average pop star.  I could memorize lines, but would not have been able to come completely out of myself when stepping into a character.  So for me, it was marriage and kids first.  Those were the challenges I was ready to tackle at the time.  And really, thirty-six is not that old.  There's still plenty of time to try all those other things now that I am older and more sure of myself. 

This has been a very personal post, an I know I've touched on a couple of subjects that have been hotly debated over the years.  I hope that in conveying the choices that I have made I did not imply any judgment against people who did it differently.  There is no cookie-cutter lifestyle that fits everyone, and I chose what was right for me at the time.  Everyone else has figure it out for themselves.

Thank you for reading my lengthy and somewhat rambling rant.  Remember to follow me on Twitter for updates on this blog and other tidbits about where I'm going next in my professional life.