J is for Jealousy: Blogging from A to Z Challenge


I work for an amazing company and over two decades ago, shortly after it it went public, growth was rapid and profits were abundant. The CEO would have these awesome company meetings where, after announcing another great quarter, would randomly tape $100 bills to the bottom of our seats, give away tickets to the Superbowl or have cash machines from which employees could grab at bills of varying denominations. One year, a colleague of mine won $5,000 in some sort of “Let’s Make A Deal” type game. I was in my late twenties at the time and my husband-to-be and I were in the process of planning a wedding that were paying for, mostly on our own. I really needed money. I remember being so envious that this woman, who lived in Darien and drove a luxury automobile to work, won this money. I was happy for her but, at the same time, the green-eyed monster reared his ugly head. I remember saying something about it and my friend saying, “Alicia, don’t be jealous. That isn’t flattering at all.” And she was right.


I try so hard not be be jealous. But i am not perfect and I shamefully admit that it is the deadly sin that I am most guilty of. As my Facebook feed is flooded with people on their Orlando-bound flights, I find myself wishing that I wasn’t spending my spring break working. Then I realize, jealousy is really about timing, isn’t it? I am a very fortunate person, my family and I have had some wonderful spring vacations to Québec, Disney, Pigeon Forge and Barbados. As we are posting our photos from our vacation we aren’t feeling so envious, are we?

I’ve had a lot of single friends become deeply depressed after their social media feeds were flooded with engagement announcements, wedding photos and baby pictures. I suppose the same would hold true for the unemployed when they see others are getting promotions or raises or the high school senior who gets rejected from every school they apply to while their peers get full rides from their top choices.

As someone who is active in the theatre arts, the opportunities to be jealous are omnipresent. It is especially difficult in a tight-knit community, where the people you are competing with are usually friends. As friends announce landing their dream role, or getting their first Off-Broadway/Broadway play produced, or launching their first CD, or publishing their first book, there is envy waiting in the corner of my mind. Anyone who says they are never jealous is lying. Again, it is all about the timing. For theatre artists, if you aren’t creating something, if you aren’t performing or writing or directing, you invariably find yourself wishing you were. When you are fortunate enough to have your creative outlet, it is amazing how quickly you forget to feel jealous.


There are two things I am constantly reminding myself of when envy creeps her way into my thoughts. First, did I make the choice to put myself in a position of longing for another’s good fortune? If I chose not to do the work or invest the time in developing my creative endeavors, I have no right to be jealous. If I don’t write something, there is nothing to publish. If I don’t audition, there is no role to be had. If I don’t submit for directing opportunities, there are no productions to helm.

The second thing, and the one I find saying most often, is this: Another person’s success does not equal my failure. If anything, another person’s success should inspire me to succeed. So quit your bitchin’, Alicia! Work harder. Work better. And remember when you succeed, be gracious enough to inspire and give thanks. Be the person that other people are genuinely happy for.

And that usually kills the green monster.

The Alignment of Storytelling Stars

In this post, three separate stories will converge into an evening of events that I choose to give more meaning than I probably should. These three stories are depicted in the photo banner above.

Photo #1
In 1988, I attended an American Theatre Wing panel discussion that featured Michael Crawford, Judy Kaye, Blythe Danner, John Lithgow and B.D. Wong. I was so taken by the discussion of M. Butterfly that I scurried over to the TKTS Booth afterward and purchased tickets to the show, which I would be attending with my father. Following the show, he and I went backstage to meet John Lithgow, as my father had met him back when he did The Changing Room. I was all of 19 years old at the time and when I handed my Playbill to Mr. Lithgow for his autograph, he inscribed upon its cover: For Alicia, We’ll work together soon. John Lithgow.

Photo #2
In 2008, I saw a musical that changed my life: [title of show]. I learned that creativity, perseverance and talent can, in fact, get you to Broadway. Shortly thereafter, I arranged for Susan Blackwell to teach her Die Vampire, Die! creativity workshop at the theatre I was affiliated with at the time. I need to say this: Susan Blackwell is my spirit animal. She has taught me how to unleash my creativity and how to kill the vampires. She is also one of the classiest ladies I’ve ever met. I don’t know if she realizes what a tremendous impact she has had on me. But I think she does.

Photo #3
Also in 2008, shortly after In The Heights won the Tony Award for Best Musical, I braved a virtual hurricane to see my friend Robin de Jesús in his Tony nominated performance. Minutes before curtain, as I raced to the Richard Rodgers in a torrential downpour, I lost my wallet on Manhattan street  Despite this unfortunate turn of events, I was blessed to have experienced the original cast perform the work of a fresh, new voice in American musical theatre: Lin-Manuel Miranda. After the show, when I was telling Robin my tale of the lost wallet after the show, Lin stopped by to nuzzle Robin’s neck and posed for a picture.

On Sunday night, my husband and I had the enviable pleasure of attending a performance of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Hamilton at The Public Theater. The sold-out run has extended three times prior to its scheduled opening on Febuary 17th. To say it is the hottest ticket in town is an understatement.

When we arrived at the theatre, my husband and I were commenting on how large the stage looked compared to the last time he had been there, which was for another contemporary musical with an historical figure as its focus, Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson. I mentioned that I was taken by the size of the space when I went to see Fun Home there last year. He asked me if I saw it alone and I reminded him that I saw it after I attended Susan Blackwell’s full-day creativity workshop in January.

As we sat in our seats reading our programs, my husband leaned over to me and said, “Isn’t that Susan over there?” Sure enough, a few rows in front of us, Susan was taking her seat. It was a little freaky, actually. As much as I respect and admire the woman, I assure you that I don’t frequently find myself bringing her up in conversation.

During intermission, I ran into Susan and we exchanged the brief pleasantries suitable for the ladies room. Afterward, I hastened to the bar to grab, appropriately, an ale to enjoy during the second act. As I placed my order, I looked up and standing there, in all his tallness and grandeur, was John Lithgow.

I shit you not!

I wanted to say, “Hey, remember that time a quarter century ago when you said that you and I would work together soon?” Instead, I averted his gaze and thought to myself, “Oh my God, he’s the Trinity Killer!”

I am going to reserve my review of Hamilton until the show opens one week from today. I will, however, say this: this show alters the landscape of contemporary musical theatre in ways you cannot imagine.

So, to Mr. Lithgow, who gave a young girl the hope that she could have a career in this crazy business of show, I say, “Thanks for letting me believe that I have a shot.”

To Ms. Blackwell, the loveliest vampire killer I know, I say, “Thanks for showing me how to have faith in the words that will allow me to take the shot.”

To Mr. Miranda, the man who has raised the bar for every theatre artist living today, “Thanks for inspiring me to stop throwing away my shot.”

Who lives? Who dies? Who tells your story?

I now know the answer. Here I go.

I Am, Always, A Work In Progress

calvin-hobbes-new-years-resolutionsNormally, when the New Year comes, I don’t succumb to the trend of resolving to do things better, faster and/or more efficiently. Generally speaking, I don’t make resolutions because I believe that making them is a way of just setting yourself up for failure. I mean, who am I kidding? I won’t lose 30 pounds, I won’t stop having diabetes, I won’t stop living paycheck to paycheck and I won’t write the next award-winning play/novel. Does that make me a realist or does it make me a pessimist bound to fulfill her own prophecy? Hard to tell.

So began last year’s post about my New Year’s resolutions followed by a list of somewhat attainable goals. Looking back on the year, I can see where I succeeded and the many places I faltered. So, let’s take a look at last year’s resolutions, shall we?

  1. Be accountable for my actions and the impact those actions have on my life and on the lives of others. I think I have learned to be more accountable for my actions. When I screw up, I more readily admit that I screwed up. I’m still not perfect and, to be honest, this is sort of an ongoing resolution that will never be attained 100%.
  2. Be more honest with myself and with the people in my life. Especially myself. I have learned to trust people a little bit more and have a few friends that I have grown closer to this year. Honesty is hard and I am still not there. But I am trying.
  3. Be more relentless about saying “I love you” to the people that matter. I am not what you’d call an affectionate person. I’m not a hugger, a kisser or a PDA person. I still find myself making a concerted effort to say “I love you,” which means that I’m still working on this, too.
  4. Clean the basement and attic and utilize the space for something that is more effective than being a hiding place for our junk. Well, in 2014 we filled two 10-yeard dumpsters with junk. The attic was almost there and then one of the twins made it her bedroom. She’s a good sport and lives among boxes of Christmas decorations and toddler clothes. I suspect this project will be done in short order as will the basement, which is more than halfway there. If you’ve seen either our attic or our basement, you would know what at truly daunting task it is.
  5. Complain less. Comparatively speaking, I’ve got it pretty good. I still complain. Or maybe, more appropriately, I pass a lot of judgment. My kids accuse me often of drinking too much “judgy juice.” Fortunately, I have a very small group of people to whom I voice my complaints and judgment.
  6. Do more jigsaw puzzles. I did a lot of jigsaw puzzles during our two week vacation in Maine. Once I have a space where we can keep a puzzle going (or the puzzle board that has been on my wish list for two years now), I think I will do more puzzles. I love working a puzzle while the TV plays in the background.
  7. Eat more fruits, vegetables and seafood. Eat less fatty meats, cheese and carbs. Well this has been a roller coaster of a year for me in terms of my diet. I made a lot of headway and lost about 20 pounds but then managed to do a 180 and reclaim all of that lost weight and then some. I am at the heaviest I’ve been in my whole life, with the exception of when I was pregnant with twins, which tilted the scale over the 200 pound mark. While weight loss and better living is a boring resolution, it clearly needs to be a priority in 2015.
  8. Eliminate jealousy from my life and realize that another person’s success does not mean that I have failed. I know I should not judge my own self-worth when I see other people succeed. I think that social media does not help. People tend to bring forth their best or their worst selves on social medial. While I can just roll my eyes at the complaining, I can’t help but envy the person that got the promotion, has the perfect family, traveled to exotic places far and wide, got their show published/produced, etc. There are two things I can think of to combat this weakness: do more that will help me achieve my personal goals and stay away from social media. Hard to tell which one is the more attainable goal.
  9. Invite my friends into my home more often, for no special reason, and not worry about how clean the house is before I do it. I’ve been better about not caring about the mess so much. Now I just need to de-clutter my calendar so that we can host more gatherings.
  10. Knock the socks off of the people I work with. Impress someone at Gartner and get a long overdue promotion. Well, as we head into the new fiscal year, it is hard to tell whether or not I will actually be promoted. I do know that I have worked harder than ever this year and I know that it has gotten noticed. While my paycheck and title may not reflect that, I am proud of the work that I’ve done this year.
  11. Learn to say “no” more. I have had moments when I’ve said “no” but when I look at my schedule, I see that I still haven’t mastered the “just because you can do it, doesn’t mean you should” philosophy. I have a lot of talents and I want to share them but sometimes that one extra thing is what tips me into feeling overwhelmed and anxious.
  12. Learn to sew – even if it’s just basic things like place mats, pillows or the hem on a pair of pants. While I found my sewing machine in 2014, I did not take it out of its box. I didn’t even pick up a needle and thread in 2014. So I’m going to keep this one on the list.
  13. Let go of the need to do more and be more and realize that, for today, I’ve done the best I can, and that’s enough. I am a person that continually strives for perfection, so letting go is not in my DNA. We’ll add this to the “still working on it” column.
  14. Limit alcohol intake to weekends and special occasions. <Insert sounds of maniacal laughter here.>
  15. Lower my A1C. While I have lowered my A1C incrementally from appointment to appointment in 2014, it still needs a vast improvement. This really goes hand in hand with the managing of my diet.
  16. Master my “fancy camera” and learn how to take really good photographs. Well, Santa brought me some new lighting equipment, a new camera bag and some fun circular flashes for my lens, so I am determined now more than ever to take better pictures and take them more often.
  17. Read more books. When I think back to the number of books that I read in 2013, this was the year of getting back to reading. I will admit that I sometimes combine reading with the audio version of the book but all-in-all I have spent less time watching stories and more time reading and listening to them. In 2014, I completed: Gone Girl, Dark Places, Sharp Objects, The Giver, Me Before You, I’ll Give You The Sun, Eleanor & Park, Papa Hemingway and half of Still Alice. Not bad, considering I read nothing except plays in 2013.
  18. Resist the temptation for the following behaviors on Facebook: vaguebooking, passive aggression, attention seeking statuses or self deprecation. Better to say nothing at all. I have found myself thinking a lot more before I share something on social media, be it a status or a comment. There were even times when I would vocalize my thoughts to my husband and tell him that I am walking away from the computer. Still not perfected but getting better.
  19. Save $20 a week and use the money to fund one of the following in 2015: a writer’s retreat to Oregon for myself or a short cruise with Billy. Yeah, saving money was NOT something I did in 2014. Period. The end.
  20. See more movies at the movie theatre with a big bucket of popcorn in my lap and someone I care about by my side. I have seen a few movies this year but in the day and age of Netflix and streaming, the cost is so formidable. I did see Into The Woods, which was beautiful from a cinematography standpoint, even if I have no soul and don’t love the source material.
  21. Send more handwritten correspondence. This is something that I think is important and, in the age of technology, it is truly a lost art. I did not do a lot of handwritten correspondence in 2014, if any. I hope to in the forthcoming year.
  22. Spend no more than a half an hour a day on social media. Oh, the road to hell is paved with good intentions, isn’t it?
  23. Take more chances. Take those chances with the understanding that the answer might be “no” and that being told “no” is okay. I took a couple chances this year and most often was told “no” or “we’ll see.” I’m finding as I grow older that it doesn’t sting as much as it used to. I think I shall take more chances in 2015.
  24. Volunteer somewhere I am truly needed that is a place that will remind me of how blessed I am. I started volunteering with my daughter at Tails of Courage in Danbury this year. It has been a great experience thus far. She loves dogs and Tails of Courage rescues animals and facilitates their adoption. This is a perfect way to spend more time with my daughter and do something that makes a difference in our community and in the lives of innocent animals.
  25. Write every day. My writing, which is an avocation, has taken a curious turn this year. I started a new blog after my dear friend Jude passed away. I have been sporadic at best when it comes to posting to it. I also started reviewing local productions and writing columns for OnStage, a blog dedicated to promoting local theatre. In 2015, I hope to really put the pedal to the metal and complete a few projects.

Most of what I resolved to in 2014 will stay on the list for 2015. Since I am ever-changing and always looking to broaden my horizons, here are five more that I’ve added to the list for this year:

  1. Learn to play an instrument.
  2. Write a novel.
  3. Learn to shuck my own oysters.
  4. Revisit and fine tune my abilities as a performer. Nobody in the area has a real sense of what I can do and my audition skills have gotten so rusty that I’ve not yet been afforded the chance to show them.
  5. Start a vegetable and herb garden in the spring.

Every year is filled with challenges, some expected and most unforeseen. On the eve before my birthday, which also happens to be the start of a new calendar year, I am happy to have made it through the outgoing year without major incident and look forward to a new year with family, friends and experiences that make me the complicated, slightly imperfect but well-worth-knowing person that I am.

Happy 2015!

November Becomes Stresspiration

AngerStresspiration? Yes – it is a word that I made up. So what? It really sums up my continuous and apparent need to add more stress to my life by categorizing it as an inspirational endeavor.

Between October and the end of the year, our family celebrates seven birthdays, eight if you include December 25th’s birthday boy. And that is one heck of a stressful birthday celebration. Then there is travel, holidays, parties, shows to see, concerts to attend and, of course, the subsequent financial ruin that basically leaves me in tears and an anxiety-induced cold sweat by the time my birthday rolls around on January 1st.

Naturally, the first thing I would do is add more to my plate. At least the three things I’ve added won’t cost me more than time and here they are:

I tried National Novel Writing Month last year and failed miserably. Of course, I was directing a play at the time so I pretty much went to work and then to rehearsal, with no time to write. This year, I have a bit of a head start as I am going to be converting my play, A Gift of Undetermined Value, to a novel format. I’m leaving the house in about an hour for a party so I’m already in the hole 50,000 words.

National Diabetes Month
As many of you know, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes right before my 40th birthday. A very big part of me wishes that I had been diagnosed when I was a child because it would be much more incorporated with my lifestyle than it is now. I promise you, if you live forty years without it, the changes are very evident and exceedingly frustrating. That said, I have made it a goal of mine to post about what it is like to live with diabetes, including a week where I do a play-by-play on social media during November to help people understand what it’s like to live with it.

Blog A Day
So, my blog has been pretty neglected. Some friends that didn’t want to commit to NaNoWriMo felt that writing a blog post a day would be less ominous in nature. So I signed up. This is the first post for Blog A Day.

Tomorrow there might be another one.

A Raised Glass & A Word for Papa



This post is not about my father. It is about one of America’s most notable literary figures – Ernest Hemingway. 53 years ago today, Ernest Miller Hemingway found his way to his gun cabinet and discharged one chamber of his double-barreled, 12 gauge  shotgun and ended his magnificent career as a writer and, more importantly, shut the light out on an extraordinary life.

I am in the process of researching a musical based on this iconic figure. Believe me when I say the landscape of material is wide and deep. Finding the proper way to approach this intricate life is not easy. I do not envy the biographers and scholars the task they’ve had in documenting this complicated man and his body of work. I am fortunate to personally know one of the foremost authorities on the subject but I’m saving that “Phone A Friend” lifeline in my research for another time.

I’ve been reading a book by Arnold Samuelson, a writer-come-hobo who managed to find himself on Hemingway’s doorstep in 1934 and then subsequently found employment and tutelage under Papa himself. What started out as a few questions about writing ended up as a year on Pilar as a deckhand/night watchman and as a writing student of Papa’s.

In Samuelson’s memoirs, he recalls some advice he received from the Master: “Every day describe something you’ve seen so that the reader can see it and it becomes alive on paper.  That’s the way Flaubert taught Maupassant to write.  Describe anything—the car on the dock, a squall on the stream or a heavy sea.  Then try to get the emotion.

As a tribute to EH and as an attempt to transfer my daily observations into words, I intend to write every day about something I’ve seen, no matter trivial. So that the reader can see it and so that it will come alive.



The air is hot and moist as the impending storm threatens to alter everyone’s weekend plans. The steam from my shower still lingers in the air as I stand in my bra, not quite ready to cover my damp skin with my Old Man and the Sea t-shirt. I wipe the fog from the mirror and stare at the reflection. Pale white skin, tubes and wires navigating needle scars that permeate a gut that hangs ever-so-slightly over my waistline. I am reminded of the second false start to my fitness regimen and cannot decide whether or not to accept defeat or refuse it. The snarky voices of the cast of MTV’s Girl Code echo downstairs, imploring their audience to embrace their bodies and love themselves for who they are. I laugh. Not because it is funny but because it isn’t. No man in my life has ever told me that I am beautiful. Sure, I was likely told that I looked beautiful on my prom night or on my wedding day but being told that you look beautiful is different than being told you are beautiful. I’ve been call intelligent, talented, amazing even, but never beautiful. My mind wanders back to my reflection. I grow weary of my it and hurriedly cover myself, despite the thick air.

From Director to Critic


I was recently asked to join the OnStage Critics Circle as a contributing columnist. The invitation really couldn’t have come at a better time. I was about to wrap up directing Bloody Bloody Andrew Jackson and I had made a solemn vow to myself that when that show was done and dusted I would devote time every day to writing or, at the very least, do something that would further the development of one of my writing projects. Since we struck the show on Sunday, I have definitely lived up to the promise in some way or another.

It is an interesting segue, to say the least. I have directed at or been involved with all of the Connecticut theaters within a 20 mile radius of my home and, in some instances, beyond that radius. Through my active involvement in our theater community, I have have developed a fairly broad familiarity of the theaters, the people who run them and the artisans that bring their seasons to life. As such, I was a little hesitant to step out of the director’s chair and pick up the pen of the critic.

I have put some thought into the last 20 years in our community and how the presence of the theater critic has faded. When I first started working in the area, there were a lot of journalists, then of the ink and newsprint ilk, who attended our productions. We would wait with bated breath for their words of praise or damnation and it was, despite our contribution, a part of the process of bringing our art to life. As a result of the digital age, the circulation of printed news is dwindling and so are budgets. Not surprisingly, the arts are the first to go and in this case, published theater reviews in our neck of the woods have become few and far between.

I hesitated to take on the role of critic because of the personal relationships that I have with the theaters and the people that run them. Chances are that every show I will see will feature an actor or two I’ve worked with in the past, a director with whom I am familiar and will be at a theater that is known to me. I have concerns about where to draw that “conflict of interest” line.

After much thought, though, I have come to this conclusion: theatrical criticism is a dying art. Even the likes of Ben Brantley and Michael Riedel are losing their previous luster and sought after praise, so I truly feel there is a need in our community for opinion. While I am certainly nowhere near as accomplished the critics associated with New York theater, I am certainly a person who has both opinions and a pretty comprehensive understanding of the art. And I’m not a bad writer either. Bottom line, I feel I am qualified.

As for the personal relationships, I have seen local critics share their thoughts while they remain involved in the theater as actors or directors. So, as far as reviews that I will contribute to OnStage Critics Circle, I will follow these guidelines: (1) I will not review a show at a theater during a season in which I am slated to direct, (2) I will not review a show at a theater where I am serving as a member of the Board or on a Committee and (3) I will not review a show featuring my husband or another family member in the cast. I also promise to be as honest and fair in my reviews as possible, I will not review a show that I haven’t seen from beginning to end and I will accept invitations to review any show, regardless of my personal theatrical preferences. I believe those guidelines will serve to be a fair and reasonable foundation upon which I will place this next building block in my theatrical career.

So, with that, I will fold up my director’s chair and take a seat in the house, eager to see what the days ahead will bring. Break a leg, my friends, and I’ll see you at the show!

And Here’s To You, Mrs. Robinson

On Sunday, May 18th, I arose earlier than usual. As a believer in signs and with the hindsight I now have, perhaps it was for a reason wholly different than the fact that I had a shit ton of stuff to get done that day. I brushed my teeth, ran a comb through my hair and threw on some clothes I didn’t care about. This morning was going to be messy and I didn’t want to get paint on my skinny jeans or on the shoes I bought to train for the Avon 3-Day in October.

I am not one to make New Year’s resolutions but on January 1, 2014 I made a lot of them. Last year was a difficult year for me so I thought it was a good idea to have a list that would serve as a barometer for all of the positive changes that I wanted to make. One of the resolutions was to form a book club with some of my bibliophile friends in an effort to spend time with people that were voracious readers while, at the same time, forcing myself to read a book or two. On this particular Sunday, our book club, appropriately named Reading Between The Wines, was meant to get together to discuss Lois Lowry’s The Giver. Ever the procrastinator, I double-checked to ensure that the audio version of the book was loaded on my iPod and I headed to the theater to get a few hours of set painting in while finishing up the book for the afternoon’s discussion.

As I was slathering paint on the upstage walls of the theater, I listened to the last hour of The Giver. My phone began to rang as the story reached its conclusion. The lead character, Jonas, was sledding down a hill with the infant Gabriel, leaving behind Sameness and heading toward toward the freedom of Elsewhere, replete with all of the joy of music and the color of twinkling light. This ambiguous ending is simultaneously sad and hopeful. (Yet another moment made oddly clear with hindsight.) Once the story was completed, I picked up my phone to see a missed call and a text from a friend. It said, “Call me.” I have learned two things since the dawning of the age of digital communication: (1) if you receive a text or an e-mail to call someone, you do and (2) it is rarely good news when you make that call.

“Where are you?”

“At the theater, painting the set,” I replied. I could tell in her voice what was coming next.

“Jude passed away this morning.”

And that is when the fog began to roll in. My friend said something about cancelling book club and about getting together at a friend’s house later. She may have said something about seeing me at rehearsal that night. I honestly don’t remember. I hung up and called my husband, who’s first words, “I’m sorry,” which seemed ill suited for me but at the same time, since my husband knew how this news would hit me when it came, ideally suited. Then I called another friend to let her know that Jude was gone. Then I filled the theater walls with loud music, covered them with blood red paint and I cried. I was alone in my church, the whole time thinking of and remembering my friend. I like to think should would have dug that.

Jude had been a presence in our theatrical community well before I happened upon it. To me, she was this enigmatic figurehead of talent that I had yet to experience firsthand, she was The Baker’s Wife, she was Maggie the Cat, she was that charismatic woman who danced with reckless abandon at weddings or the sophisticated lady at the barbecue. But she was not yet my friend. I first really came to know Jude in October 2001, when my husband contracted necrotizing fasciitis (the fancy term for flesh-eating bacteria). She would come to visit him in the ICU every day and hang out in the family waiting room with me and the many friends who came to offer me and our family support and encouragement. When I wasn’t at the hospital, I would be home with my 1-year-old daughter and whichever family members or friends that were staying with me at the time. I remember Jude stopping by one afternoon, sitting casually on my living room floor, reminiscing about time spent onstage with my husband. She brought with her a photo of her and my husband in a production of The Actor’s Nightmare  that had hung on her porch. She felt he needed to have it.


While interactions such as these helped me to kn0w her better, I didn’t yet consider her my friend. She was really a friend of my husband’s. Over time, I finally had the privilege of seeing her perform and she was, of course, magnificent. One of those performance included sharing the stage with my husband in Twelfth Night, the production that marked his return to the stage following his year of medical uncertainty. We went out to dinner with Jude and her then husband and it was a delightful evening of French food, fine wine and hanging out with her beautiful dogs in their newly purchased home in Redding. I began to feel that she was someone I would like to spend more time getting to know. Someone I’d like to call friend.

It wasn’t too long after that dinner that we received news that Jude had been diagnosed with breast cancer. All at once she was experiencing what she would later refer to in her memoir, Breast Left Unsaid, as a “Category 5 hurricane” – a life that simultaneously included divorce, the passing of her best friend, both parents taking ill with a topping off of a breast cancer diagnosis. It would have been unrealistic to expect our friendship to become anything more than casual acquaintances as she weathered her hurricane and I gave birth to twins and set about raising three girls under the age of three.

Fast forward to Fall 2008. Jude was in remission and married to the love of her life, my twins were no longer babies and my husband was healthy. The timing found both of us back at our church – the theater – when Jude auditioned for a production of Little Women that I was directing. It was then that I finally felt that I connected with Jude on a more meaningful level. We became friends. We’d share glasses of wine and theater war stories and I realized that the awe I once felt for her had turned into mutual admiration. We were cut from a very similar cloth, she and I. During the run of this production, I was diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes. As I was working to control the ketoacidosis that had set in and juggling needles and insulin vials, she would constantly check in on me. I was so thankful for her concern, very aware of the fact that her father was gravely ill and truly touched that she still made sure to check in on me.

Over the years that followed I was proud to call her my friend. We would attend small dinner parties together, she counseled me through my own breast cancer scare, we would get together and talk about the challenges of starting a theater company and our love of boots, wine, travel and writing. No, I wasn’t a member of her beloved Stumble Upon Crew nor was I referenced directly in her memoir, but we were friends and I felt such a deep connection to her. In fact, as I laughed and cried through her book, I grew angry with myself for not being more “there for her” when she was fighting her battle with breast cancer.

In March 2012 I received an e-mail from Jude’s husband. I was at work and the message told me to call his cell when I had a private moment. As I said before, when you receive a message to call someone, it is never good news. I called him and he told me that Jude’s cancer had come back and that it was Stage 4. He assured me that they were going to do everything they could to fight it – clinical trials, chemo, whatever it took. Jude was going into this with guns blazing. My heart sunk, the tears flowed and, as I did a couple of days ago, I called my husband.

A few weeks later, we got together for lunch and she and I chatted about all the things that mattered: our spouses, our children, family and friends, theater and, of course, our illnesses. She said that she had found a good course of treatment and that she was thankful that her hair wasn’t falling out. I told her that I was on the short list to receive an artificial pancreas as soon as the FDA approved it. I found it almost laughable to reference my illness in the same breath as hers. But Jude understood. Whenever I was in the hospital, Jude was always one of the first people to send me a note asking how I was. I would say that she had no idea how much that meant but, the reality of it is, she did know.

In the all too short years that followed, Jude released her memoir and we proudly attended readings and events as she added writer and activist to her list of talents. Last spring, while my husband and kids were in Barbados, I stayed home to do some home improvement projects and to participate in my first ever 5K in an effort to support Jude and her quest to find a cure. I was literally the last person to cross the finish line but she was there, waiting for me, encouraging me to come to Green Acres and have a glass of wine and a nosh.

As Jude became more ill, the time we spent together was more and more infrequent. At one time, I was included on the e-mail updates pertaining to how she was doing and treatments she was undergoing but as time went on, I was no longer included. I believe that it was because the circle was becoming smaller and I was very aware of the how many lives Jude touched and where I fit into her concentric circles. In January, I sent her a message and told her that I understood that she needed to digest everything with her friends and family first but that I’d love an update. I knew that she didn’t want her illness to define her, yet I was concerned. She responded telling me how much she appreciated being my friend and acknowledged that I understood in a way that many do not. We made plans for lunch.

The next three months were spent arranging dates and then canceling them for one legitimate reason or another. Jude was having procedures or undergoing treatment that would exhaust her or leave her incapable of walking, I would have a cold and wouldn’t to expose her fragile immune system to it or I had a medical procedure and was drugged up. Our Scandal slumber party ended up being a smattering of Twitter statuses about who was more evil: Cyrus or Papa Pope? In short, the timing just never worked for us.

A couple of weeks ago, at a social affair, a mutual friend asked me if I had seen or talked to Jude. Given the numerous cancels and reschedules, I had not. My friend proceeded to give me all of the inside information that she had amassed from her circle that rested closer to the center than mine. I told her to stop. I told her it upset me knowing that she got to see Jude and I didn’t. I told her I was fearful that I would never see her again and that I was deeply saddened by that fact. Fighting tears, I explained to her that I didn’t want to get news second or thirdhand. It seemed time and fate was never on our side, no matter how hard we tried.

A couple of days later, I sent a text to Jude, asking her how she was. Jude was very candid on social media, so I would usually get all of the information I needed from from there. But Facebook and Twitter had fallen into a very telling radio silence. She responded back, telling me that she had stopped chemo and that she was meeting with hospice. I told her that I loved her and that she meant more to me that she would ever realize. I’m glad I got to say that. She told me she loved me. I’m glad I got to hear that. We made plans to have lunch.

A week ago today, as I always did when we had plans, I sent her a text in the morning confirming that we were still on. I received a text back from her husband. “Jude did not have a good night. She needs to cancel. You should reschedule soon.”

And on Sunday she was gone. We never got to have lunch. We never got to have one last word. I never got to hear that laugh one more time. I didn’t want to impose on her. All I wanted to do was bring her a funny picture, sit on her living room floor and talk about Tuscany whilst drinking a glass of wine. I realize, though, that that is about me. Not her.

As I’ve been working through her passing, I keep telling myself that I should have tried one more time and that I should have fought my way harder to be a bigger part of a life already abundant with friends. Should I have just showed up on her doorstep with a casserole and tried jamming it in a refrigerator that I knew was overflowing with food? I didn’t want to insert myself inappropriately or be a nuisance. All I wanted to do was bring her a funny picture, sit on her living room floor and talk about Tuscany whilst drinking a glass of wine. I realize, though, that those are things I wanted, for me. And Jude’s passage from this earthly place was not, and should not, be about me.

Jude left behind an adoring husband, a mother who fought the breast cancer battle twice and won, three siblings who meant the world to her, a stepdaughter to whom she served as Mom2 and a community of friends, tangible and virtual, who loved her very much. There is a tremendous void in so many lives as a result of her passing. The realization I have come to is this: it is not about where I fit in her life, it is where she fit in mine. She made an indelible imprint on my soul and I will be forever changed because of those intertwined moments we shared, however infrequent they may have been.

I am reminded of a scene in Little Women. It is a scene after Beth dies and Jo is in the attic talking to Marmee about the fact that she cannot write, that she is filled with emptiness, that she should have been there and done more for Beth. Believe me when I tell you that I can relate to all of these struggles and have been for over a year now. Last year a show of mine that was meant to have its world premiere was cancelled and, on another project, the producers had replaced me as bookwriter for a show that I had co-written that had received a Broadway option. Jude, as a fellow writer, would always ask me about my writing. I’d tell her that I just didn’t have it in me anymore. I felt defeated by the cruelty of the business. She’d nod and sagely tell me that the time would come and when it did, my writing would be better than ever. My last birthday wish from Jude was this: “Happy happy birthday, darling. Wishing you a wonderful day and year. Drink wine, eat cake, and keep writing.”

As Marmee said to Jo, “But I refused to feel tragic, I am aching for more than pain and grief. There has got to be meaning, most of all when a life has been so brief. I have got to learn something, how can I give her any less? I want life to go on.”

My life will go on, filled with memories of a special woman, and I will start writing again. I will be as truthful in my writing as Jude was in hers and I will spend less time worrying about what others think. As Marmee said to Jo, I will carry on, full of hope. And she’ll be there. For all my days of plenty.