A Canadian-Belgian Jew, or How I met my birthmother

It all began with Lithuanians. Drunk Lithuanians, specifically. At a wedding.
Well, not real Lithuanians, nor was it a real wedding, but a group of us had been portraying them for about 5 hours when I sat down next to Colleen Winters and started chatting.

We didn’t talk about anything that particularly impressive, except that we got to chatting about our relative adoptions and the facts behind them. It was an interesting conversation, but I thought nothing of it.
Then, the next night, I went home and was talking to my mom and we somehow got talking about adoption, and I mentioned that Colleen and I had discussed meeting our birthmoms and our opinions about it.

My mom said “would you ever like to meet her”?

I said “Well, I guess? Just to see, you know. I mean, I have questions I’d like answered”.

So my mom left the room and came back with a letter that was postmarked May of 2007. It was a letter from my birthmother, who for sake of clarity will now be called Krista. Because that’s her name. In the letter, she wrote to say that I was free to write her should I have any questions, and she wasn’t trying to take over my life, but she’d love to hear from me.

So that was weird. So then I did what every responsible person would do. I Googled her. I found her in the first 3 minutes of searching, and a couple of cross indexes made me completely sure.

I debated for awhile. I mean, I was happy not knowing, but there is always that just sort of…wonder. I thought about when I was working at the court house and I had realized I had access to the birth records. I wasn’t sure what to do, and I remember Mex told me that this was something he couldn’t help me with–that I had to do this totally on my own….and now, the situation had come completely full circle..I was staring at the door to my birth mom, this woman who I had wondered about for so long…and it was completely up to me.

I decided to email her, while simultaneously freaking out to Steph, Andrew, Brittney and Abby. After about 10 revisions, I sent the email, kind of introducing myself, telling her a little about me, apologizing for emailing but hell if I was going to snail mail that shit.

So the next day, I heard back from her. It seemed like she was really nice, and she told me a little bit about herself. That was when things got Twilight Zone weird. Turns out Krista had gone not just to the same high school as me, but the same grade school, as well. Her parents were best friends with my grade school music teacher. She knew people I knew. I had been in a play with my sister and never known it. That was the weirdest part, I think. I had always thought that since I was born in Springfield, MO, my birth mom was far away. It turns out she was just visiting her sister when I was born.

So we exchanged emails for awhile, and then she asked if it would be alright if she called me. So she called me later that night,(while I was at the KFC drivethrough) and she seemed really nice. She mentioned that she might be in the Quad Cities that weekend because her daughter Zoey had a speech meet and could she call to do lunch? I said yes, but I didn’t really think anything of it until she called me at 3 on Saturday saying that she would be in town in a few minutes.

I suggested we eat at the Olive Garden, and after frantically trying to figure out what the hell I was going to wear (with help from Abby) I rushed over to the OG after stopping only to get flowers. So we met up, and it was a very surreal moment.

This is her…its just really, really weird still.

First off, she’s got GREAT fucking hair. And she’s really pretty. Which is good to know :). It was just weird–I had dreamed of this moment for so many years, and all of the sudden I was rushing out the door and my hair was a terrible mess and I didn’t know what was going to come out of it. (At least I didn’t get kidnapped like in Annie as Abby and I had previously discussed). And then I was sitting across the table with the real, live Amanda Virginia…who wasn’t Amanda Virgina at all, but a happy, friendly woman who I really liked.

But so we had lunch, and it was great. We got along very well,but I had to go to Godspell so I had to leave earlier than I would have liked. And I realized that I had forgotten to ask the most important question. What the HELL am I?

So I emailed her again, and survey says….Canadian/Belgian Jew!
Well, the Jew is by technicality only, but Goddamn it, I’ve joked about it long enough I’m embracing it.
See, my (birth) Grandmother was Belgian, and then immigrated to Canada, where she married my (birth) Grandfather who is German/Irish/English.
Then Krista married a Jew.

BAM.
So it’s the wrong side, and I’m not even entirely sure that she was talking about my birth father, but either way. Still cool.

So….that’s the story. It’s still a little weird, and I don’t really know how I feel about the whole situation. I mean, on one hand, I’m really happy about meeting her, but there are just a lot of weird emotions involved. We’ll see what happens, I guess, but for now, I’m pretty happy with the way things have turned out.

It’s like making a new friend, really. I mean, I’m not looking for a new mommy. I am quite happy with the one I have. But now I have a younger sister named Zoey who is a senior in high school, who likes theatre and music and is on the speech team, and a younger brother and sister who are twins named Samantha and Teddy who are 8. Samantha is chunky and dorky, and Teddy is skinny and covered with freckles and wears big gold glasses. I also have three aunts and an uncle. Krista has a boyfriend named Dean who knows a lot about flowers and picked me out daisies for when she first met me because he thought they were fun and I seemed like a fun person.

So, it doesn’t end with Lithuanians, but at least now I don’t have to keep telling the story over and over.

My Study Abroad Essay

There is something to be said about the fact that I learned to read at a very young age. Perhaps it is not entirely true that it changed the course of my life, but I can say for certain that it opened up a world vastly different from my own earlier, I think, than my parents intended. Instead of Sesame Street, I watched documentaries about the great princes of Egypt and the deep jungles of Africa. Instead of reading Where The Wild Things Are, I read the great classics and dreamed of the day that I too could travel and write great books.
For me, England has always held a special fascination. Some of my favorite memories are of warm summer nights spent pouring over Charles Dickens’ accounts of London and dreaming of spending foggy nights solving mysteries out on the moors with Sherlock Holmes and Watson. This is why, 17 years from that day when I awkwardly stuttered out the first few lines of my first read words, I am struggling to choose the right words to express how deeply I want to study abroad in England.
My decision to study abroad has not come lightly. As a theatre major, my classes are only a part of my education–the productions I audition for and participate in also become part of my learning process as an actress. Giving up an entire season was not a decision I made lightly, but I know that the opportunities I will have in England far outweigh a few lines on my resume. As a life long lover of Shakespeare, I cannot begin to describe my excitement at the prospect of literally walking in his footsteps and studying where he lived and worked.
Many of my friends and family have asked me why I have chosen to study at Edge Hill University rather than in London. There are many reasons, from the differences in culture and town living to Liverpool being chosen the 2008 culture capital of England. (Also, as a huge Beatles fan, I am not opposed to living only 20 minutes away from the birthplace of their music!) I also especially liked the fact that Edge Hill has a dance and costuming program, two things I greatly enjoy doing both as a past time and as part of my training to be an actress. Also having a quality theatre on campus (and a beautiful studio space) makes it feel more like home. In addition, I have been a writer for several years now, and when I looked at the course catalog, I was enthralled by the many writing courses and especially the cross-disciplinary courses that cater to many of my interests. I hope to leave Edge Hill with a better knowledge of British culture and British literature, especially newer authors and playwrights that I may not be exposed to here in the Midwest.
Several years ago, I had the good fortune to meet an elderly gentleman who had lived in Coventry for many years. I would pester him with questions about every aspect of English life, and he was more than happy to regale me with fantastic stories of his life and of the adventures he’d had traveling through Europe as a young man. As a young girl, I wanted nothing more to experience what he had, to see the sights that he had seen–and now I have that opportunity. I can actually see the moors that Emily Bronte told me about in Wuthering Heights, I can hear Shakespeare’s immortal words spoken on stage at The Globe, or spend the day eating real, authentic fish and chips where T.S. Elliot might have written his poems.
I think I am most excited for the little things: picking up on the differences between local accents, trying my first cup of real English tea, picking out the perfect souvenirs to take home, honing my photography skills and shopping the famous shops of London. But most of all, I’ve realized that this is my chance to finally see my dream of traveling and writing great books become a reality, and I want that more than anything.

My Trip To Vegas

Chapter 1. How I Got To Vegas.
-I was supposed to fly from Moline to Dallas to Vegas. But then, because I chose to fly American, the 2nd flight got canceled. So I called customer service and was on hold for an hour and a half, at which point they decided I would fly from Moline to Atlanta to Vegas.
The Moline flight was delayed by 15 minutes, which gave me exactly 10 minutes to get to my connecting flight. I sat next to a man who looked like Fabio but smelled like pickles. But when I got there, it had already taken off. So then began the great quest to get me on another flight. This also became the point where I had a HUGE audition in Vegas at 9:25 for Hairspray that could affect the course of my entire life.

I got the flight.

Chapter 2–Why Vegas Sucks
If you are not A: 21 B: Rich, or C: Hot, there is not a lot of opportunity for you in Vegas. This is best exemplified by this story. We went outside, andapparently on the strip there are many club promoters who offer you passes to their clubs to bring in business. One offered us club passes, and we said no, we’re not 21, but thanks. To which the club promoter responded..

“Well, that sucks”. And walked away.

Chapter 3–Planet Hollywood.
Planet Hollywood is HUGE. There is a mall in the casino. And i’m not just talking about like a strip mall. No. This is a huge ass mall. Which, consequently, has been decorated to resemble the streets of Agraba in Aladdin. The ceiling was painted to look like the sky. Oh, and it rains.

On the inside of the building. Every half hour and hour.

Chapter 4: The Elevators
Apparently, Planet Hollywood is so huge that they have to divide the elevators up in to North South East and West, with North and West going to half of the floors, South and East going to the others. There are giant flat screen TVs in the ceilings. One night after we ate, we got on the elevator and there were seven huge black men and 3 little white girls (that’s us). One of the guys said something to the effect of “It’s like a mother fucking rap video up in here”
And there was another guy in the corner who merely nodded silently and said

“Word”.

Chapter 5: The Main Event
So, the pageant was fun. The current (old?) Miss USA looked like a giant bannana, Miss Ohio had to be at LEAST 50 and Delaware looked like a man. And Texas is a hobgoblin in disguise. Donald Trump (who I saw) should make shere to not feed her after midnight, or she might turn into a monster.Although, she is a beauty queen so in reality, I don’t think we’ll have to worry about the imminent threat of food ingestion by the new miss USA.
Abbey was just fantastic. And the bitch gets to be on the Ellen Show, so I think she did pretty okay for herself. I was quite obnoxious, but it was only to really offset the fear I felt by being surrounded by scary pageant moms and rabid California fans. There was a little man down in the front who looked like Sean Astin from the Goonies and started mocking the fact that anything would set off the California fans by yelling “Callifooooornnia”. Which would then send them into veritable paroxysms of joy and happiness about the fact that they did, indeed, support California. Which was funny as hell, except that they were REALLY loud, and I was sitting REALLY close. Of course, I was inappropriate. I tried to lead a cheer to support the tech crew.

No one but me cheered.

Chapter 6: Packing.
I would just like to say that being a beauty queen means that you need to have a TON of shit. If it were me, I’d have a suitcase and maybe a duffel. Maybe. But no. These girls had BOXES of crap. And not only that, but they were supplied with hefty gift baskets as well. Nice gift baskets. Filled with many lovely things. However, the practicality of some is something i would like to address. The specific prize I have in mind is a gift certificate for Eyelash Extensions. The fact that these actually exist could be the basis for an entire note, but that is not the point. Picture in your mind your average computer paper. Got it? Now imagine that someone printed off a certificate for these faux lashes. A thoughtful gift. Now imagine that someone sprayed said gift certificate with some sort of unstickable sticky spray and stuck it to a computer paper-sized piece of glass that is about 2 inches thick. That was the gift certificate. have never heard of anything more ironic than a 10 pound gift certificate for a service used to apply eyelashes.
Also, there was a string-less G-string, which is apparently going to revolutionize the future of our underwear. A string-less G-string. Instead, there are sticky patches that you stick onto your…..person…at…str

ategic points….

Picture it in your mind. It’s exactly how it looked.

Chapter 7. How to survive if you’re a picky eater.
You won’t. They put a Christmas tree in Abbey’s macaroni and cheese.

That is just excessive.

Chapter 8: The Hospitality Suite
It is actually just one of the super nice suites at the end of every floor, but this was a magical room filled with cookies and free T-shirts. There was also an amazing velvet purple couch. And Miss New York, who told us that the after party was “whack” and that it was “a hijack”. Which I gathered to mean that at some point, someone remembered that there should be a party, so they sort of took over an area and created the party right there.
I am glad I am not from New York.

I don’t speak beauty queen ebonics that well.

Chapter 9: Why I Would Never Survive At a Pageant
Besides the fact that I would not be able to keep a straight face when talking about how deeply I want world peace and how I personally believe that it is important it is that the youth of tomorrow such as to have maps such as….
They send someone into the bathroom with you to watch you to make sure you’re not like, shooting up heroin or puking up your supper like the fat, fat 6’2″ 110 pound lard ass you are. They watch you poop.

THEY WATCH YOU POOP!

Chapter 10: Getting Home.
We sat next to a huge fat man who needed a seat belt extender. That’s what we call “a hint”.
Abbey and I had an epic adventure sprinting through the Chicago airport, and they held the plane for us, Because they are thoughtful like that. When we got off, there was a lady who had the good sense to inform us that “They really weren’t kidding when they said that it was cold in Iowa”.

I also later heard her remark “I hope I see some corn”.

Fucking tourists.

Jobs That Suck and Steven Spielburg

So, today at the yard sale, Andrew and I were discussing jobs.
And then I came home, and mom and dad were watching Indiana Jones.
And I got to thinking.
There are a lot of people with shitty jobs in Steven Spielberg movies. Think about it.
Shindler’s List, Jurassic Park, Amistad, ET, Gremlins,The Color Purple, Arachnophobia, The Terminal….
Between people who have to deal with cleaning up dead spiders to dead….dinosaurs…(you totally thought I was going to say Jews, don’t lie)…there are a TON of shitty jobs.

I mean, in the Terminal there are McDonalds employees. The ultimate stereotype of the shitty job, there immortalized by Spielberg.

Hell, and some of them are slaves who aren’t even getting paid.

Hands down, the worst job has to be that poor knight in The Last Crusade.
I mean, seriously. The dude sits, all day, every day, in a hidden temple that has impassable obstacles and challenges JUST in case someone makes it in so he can give them instructions. They could have just made a plaque or something with instructions. Plus, I mean, you’d think they could have like, at least given him a book or something. The Bible would get pretty old, I think.

And on top of all of that, he doesn’t even really DO anything.
“He chose…poorly”. Well, no shit sherlock. Thank you for that brilliant observation. I thought the whole face-melting skeleton exploding bit meant that God was pleased with the selection.

Also, you’d think he could like, dust once in awhile. It’s not like he had anything better to do.

Profound Thoughts On Baking

So tonight I was going through recipes online, whilst the amazing Abby and I were talking.
And I got to thinking about why I like baking so much.
And I realized something quite profound.

There is a reason why I like baking, why it’s become something of a nightly ritual for me. Well, there are several reasons, but there is one big one that I have come to realize.

Baking bread, at least to me, is quite metaphorical for life. More specifically, the shit life throws at us.

Unless you’ve ever handmade bread, it’s a difficult feeling to explain. But I’ll try.

All bread consists of primarily the same ingredients. But it’s the differences that make each bread unique, so when measuring your ingredients, you have to make sure you do it carefully. Subtle undertones of cinnamon or nutmeg, pungent garlic or melty cheese–some breads begin plain but become great, others can be disappointments.

Some breads are right for some occasions: a think slice of cinnamon ginger spice bread dusted over with powdered sugar isn’t right with your spaghetti, nor is a still singing loaf of garlic parmesan right for the office Christmas party. It’s a matter of choosing your situations carefully.

But no matter what type of bread you’re making, from the heaviest sourdough to the lightest of pastries–they all start out the same, as dough.

The thing I like best about bread is that it is alive. The yeast that makes the bread rise is alive and has to be carefully tended to before you even begin to make the bread. If your water is too cold, it will die. If your water is too hot, it will die. If you don’t give it sugar, it doesn’t have anything to feed on and will die. Nurturing your yeast–taking responsibility—is one of the most important things you can do to make bread.

Then begins the waiting game. And anyone who know me know that I am not a patient person. Some recipes call for waiting 15 minutes, others call for 8 hours in a refrigerator to let the bread rise. But you have to. You have to wait, or the bread won’t cook right. Patience, as it were, is crucial.Timing is everything.

And sometimes, no matter how carefully you measure the ingredients, the dough gets really sticky.

When the dough gets sticky, there is only one thing you can do. You have to knead it. And it SUCKS kneading sticky dough. It gets all over your hands and the table and is a bitch to do. But you have to keep at it.

Sometimes it takes a long time to work out. And sometimes it just needs a few minutes of work to come out alright.

But the trick to successful bread is that you have to keep with it. You can’t give up in the middle of things because it seems as though there is no hope. Because things do, usually work out for the best.

And sometimes the dough falls, or the bread burns. It’s just a fact of life. Sometimes things don’t turn out as expected. Maybe your oven was too hot or too cold or your pan wasn’t floured or sundry other problems that can come up. Hell, even the weather that day can affect things.

But the most important thing with bread is that you make the best out of things. Maybe you only get half a loaf. Maybe you make croutons, or bread pudding,or stuffing, or a pie crust. Hell, maybe you just take it down by the river and feed the birds.

But the best part is that tomorrow you can wake up and try again.

Think about it.

Gym War

I want to talk to you all about a serious problem in America.
Sure, there’s a war going on and a mortgage is required to pay for a tank of gas, but there is another epidemic sweeping the nation: Gym Challenges.
If you don’t know what I’m talking about…here’s what happens.
You go to the gym, and you get on the treadmill. And then, out of nowhere, despite the other 15 empty treadmills dispersed throughout the gym, some jerk decides to run. Some jerky spend-all-day-in-the-gym-m

atching-sweatsuit-and-socks guy. Right next to you. So you nod cordially, and you begin your workout, trying your best to ignore the interloper in your personal running space. He starts running only seconds behind you.
Then it happens. You glance over, and you see that he’s running at, oh, say 5.2. He sees your glance out of there peripheral vision and glances at your screen. 5.3.
And with that, without a single word being exchanged, the Gym Challenge has begun. There is no stopping it. Casually, your challenger ups the pace to 5.4. You try to resist, but you just…can’t…do it. 5.5. Take that.
You are sweating, but you can handle it for a little while longer. He ups the challenge. 5.6.
You know now that you’re in it for the long haul. Who’s going to win?
You’re at a steady 5.7 for at least a good five minutes, both of you studiously ignoring the other, pretending to be incredibly interested in the CSPAN that’s playing on the big screen in front of you.
Finally, he cracks. 5.8.
Might as well bring out the big guns. You bump it to 6.0 with a smirk and a giggle. This is going to get ugly.
Gym Guy is sweating now, and you can tell he’s struggling. Just for fun, you slow down for a second–he perks up–is this victory? No–you are merely slowing to adjust your Ipod. Gotta keep those sweet beats a-pumpin.
You think…should I?..No…but you can’t resist. You bump it to 6.4. Gym Guy is bright red, but he is not going to admit defeat this early in the game. You’ve only been going for 20 minutes.
5 minutes later you start to feel it. Your finger wavers over the “decrease speed” function…do you do it? Do you admit defeat? NO. This is Sparta. You keep on trucking. Gym Guy gets a second wind. 6.5. Damn it!
Now you’ve got a decision to make. Do you concede to a worthy opponent? Too late–the treadmill hits 30 minutes and begins its automatic cool down cycle. Bastard!!! Both of you start frantically pounding the stop/reset button. You use the opportunity to take a quick breather while Gym Guy messes with his pretentious neoprene bottle. You are never going to take that camping. Shut up.
The treadmill is reset and the race is on.
3.4, 4.5, 5.2, 6.2…you race through the numbers like an announcer at a figure-skating match. You both hit 6.6 and stop–are you going to go for the ultimate?
You’re both panting now,and the sweat is starting to soak your sweet ass Doggie Styles t-shirt. Damn it. This bastard is making you do extra laundry as well. He will pay for this. 6 point…….9!
You’re pretty sure you’re going to die, but Gym Guy won’t give up. He matches your pace.
At this point, you’ve got 2 choices. Stay and risk grievous personal injury,dehydration and exhaustion, or decide it’s not worth it and concede. fuck that. Goonies never say die. 7.0, bitch.
At this point, even your music isn’t going fast enough to keep up with you. Time to bring out the big guns. Somehow, you manage to get a desperate hold on your ipod and flick through until you find what you’re looking for. OK GO’s Here It Goes Again. F yeah!
By now, the entire room knows what’s going on, and they have all chosen favorites. Gym Guy pales and looks at the clock. Your eyes meet. You know. You know this is the guy who runs precisely 30 minutes every day. You’re already on the shorter side of 45. He’s done.
Finally, long after the final strains of your rockin’ tunes have faded and your shuffle has cursed you with cher, Gym Guy concedes. Casusally, oh so casually, he slows down to a brisk walk, studiously avoiding your gaze. Slower, slower….annnnnd stop. He does a quick douchey neck stretch and meanders oh-so-casually to the paper towel station. Only you notice the way his knee almost gives out on the way.
You round off your time at a nice steady trot, which at this point feels like a leisurely stroll.
And then, just as Gym Guy is returning to pick up his ipod and douchey matching water bottle…..you lower your incline from 5 to 0.
Your eyes meet and his smile fades.
Punk-ass bitch. Not on my watch.
You slowly gather your things and walk away, having defeated yet another unsuspecting opponent in…Gym Challenge

Don’t let this happen to you. Just kick him in the shin before it even starts.