A love letter to my community theater

To my dear, dear The Shea Theater (a love letter),

This Sunday I leave for a new life in Austin, Texas. I will be leaving behind Western Massachusetts for a new adventure, and when I think of all the friends and family I must say goodbye to, the Shea is not far from my thoughts. In fact, it’s probably the epicenter of my thoughts, just to the right of “I Will Miss My Mom” and “I Will Miss My Cat.” After all, it is because of this amazing theater that I’ve found such wonderful friendships and shared countless incredible experiences.

A friend of the family had been bugging me to audition for the plays years before I finally gave in—despite having done theater in high school, I was intimidated by the idea of auditioning with adults. There was no way I was good enough, I thought. What if they’re mean? I wondered. Finally, I gave in and auditioned for The Country Player’s “Oklahoma!” In 2008. I was a chorus part, but the feeling of returning to the stage was invigorating. Each year I looked forward to my summers home from college, so that I could do the yearly TCP musical.

Each year my parts got a little better, each year I learned and grew as an actor. Occasionally I would feel the rivalries and jealousies that come with being an actor, but it was always overshadowed by the tremendous support and camaraderie of the Shea family. Eventually I expanded my theater circle to include New Renaissance Players and Shea alum Ja’ Duke, and while I never was able to do an Arena Civic Theatre show I met many great ACT regulars and enjoyed watching them perform as well. Each group was so different, but each one amazing and welcomed me with open arms. After I was a chorus member I was a funeral director, a sassy Scotswoman, a mobster’s moll, an actor in a play-within-a-play, a pirate, a former debutante, a phantom, a nurse, a ditzy dancer, Alice (in Wonderland), and a fairy.

After moving home from college, I was excited to finally be able to do plays year round. Being a constant presence in the Shea rather than a once a year visitor, I was better able to make lasting relationships. In the past few years I have met the most amazing people who have become my most cherished friends. The other day a group of us met at Twisters and tried to make a “family tree” of how we all met each other. Eventually, the tree became more of a tangled bush—if one of us had never invited everyone over after rehearsal, if another one of us hadn’t invited a friend to join a play, if someone hadn’t seen that audition post, if someone else hadn’t taken a chance and met for drinks via a Facebook request, all these ifs that would have resulted in someone being absent from the group, or the group never existing at all. In the center of this loving tangle was the Shea.

This theater has given me so much, I cannot thank you enough. It’s given me a voice, a home away from home, an opportunity to be seen on stage, something to look forward to every single season, people who need me, and friends I will never forget. I wish I had a million dollars so that I could put in just a fraction of what the Shea is worth to me. I will never, ever forget my time here. I love this theater, these people, with every inch of my heart. Thank you, thank you so much for everything.

Until we meet again, “take pains, be perfect, adieu.” 
Ashley Blom

 

Originally posted as my Facebook status, but I decided to put it here to save it in a more organized fashion 😉

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New Adventures (And a New Purpose for this Blog?)

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Hello again, my often-forgotten blog.

At this point, anyone who cares has probably heard the news, but on the offchance you don’t check Facebook or my Cooking Blog regularly, here it is:

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As of November 8th, I will no longer be a resident of Greenfield, MA, but rather a resident of Austin, TX.

This is a big, huge, scary, intimidating, and endlessly exciting change.

I’ve lived in New England for 26 years. I knew if I ended up staying here forever, I’d feel tragically unfulfilled. I remember back to high school, when I assumed I’d go to Smith College, marry my high school boyfriend, and be a Western Masshole forever. That all changed once I went to college in the “big city” of Boston, and the true “seal the deal” experience was when I studied abroad. The world is freaking HUGE, I realized, and confining myself to just this tiny corner would be a shame. I need to get out, explore, live somewhere new, so that when I return I’ll know that it’s because I WANT to live in New England, not because I just fell into it by chance. My mom made me promise that I’ll move back to the East Coast before I start having babies, so that gives me at least 5 years in the Southwest. That’s a good amount of time for soul searching and travel, methinks.

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Austin wasn’t the original goal. As you probably know, I’ve been itching to get to California for years. But California never totally made sense to me. I chose it because it was warm, and there were friends there. It wasn’t ideal for the career paths I’d chosen (part-time writer, full time PR/marketing… somethingorother?) and way too expensive to live in. I worry that people will just assume I chose Austin because my best friend from childhood recently moved there (“Is she just copying Jenn?” I can almost hear them say) and while that surely HELPS the decision, it isn’t the be all and end all.

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Austin is warm. The winters are mild. It’s greener than I ever expected for a state I assumed was mostly desert and the landscape is gorgeous. And yeah, I have friends there–not just Jenn, but a friend from college, a few friendly friends-of-friends, a welcoming food blogger community that is already offering to show me the local eateries, and some guys I used to party with in Boston. Not to mention, my boyfriend has family there that has graciously offered us a room to stay in while we get on our feet. Plus, the cost of living is low ($700-$1000 for a two bedroom apartment, whereas LA or NYC would charge that PER ROOM), and the economy is booming. Already I’ve had three phone interviews, taken two tests, and have two in-person interviews lined up. Not only are the jobs there, but they ACTUALLY CALL YOU BACK WHEN YOU APPLY. This is a new thing for me. With the endless resumes I’ve sent to NYC and LA when the “need to get my butt out of MA” bug bit, I only ever got one legit interview, and maybe a handful of actual rejections.

Maybe I’ll get to Cali someday, maybe it won’t be LA but rather San Diego or San Fran—but Austin just makes the most sense right now.

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And, I finally have someone to share the journey with. I met Cory exactly a year ago, and our one year anniversary is next month. A year, you might say, is not a lot of time to get to know someone enough to move across the country with them. If you’d asked me a year ago, I probably would have agreed. I can’t count the times someone is relaying a love story to me and they say “I met him, and I just knew” and while I would nod and smile, inside I’d be rolling my eyes. I didn’t believe it until it happened to me. We were madly in love from just about the moment we met. A year feels like it’s been forever already. Taking this huge life step together feels more than right. I feel safe with him, I feel loved, and it’s a deeper and more meaningful relationship than any I’ve had in the past.

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Here’s how it’s going to go: This week I’ll be in Austin for some interviews. This Monday, Cory will make the drive to Austin in his truck. I’ll be in MA, finishing up my two-ish weeks at my current job and packing and getting rid of stuff. Then, on the 2nd, Cory will fly back to MA, we’ll have our going away party (if you’re a friend, you’re invited, fbook me for details), and then the very next day we drive out in my car.

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I’m going to miss Western Mass so much. I’m leaving during the best season, our gorgeous fall. I’m leaving my theater friends, my entire family, and the relationships I’ve grown to love so much. I hope at least some can visit me in my new home!

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This blog will become a place for Family and Friends to be updated on my new life in Austin. Still check Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine for recipes and tidbits, but I’ll write more longform here about my adventures. Stay tuned 🙂

The No-Flat Iron Hair Challenge, Summer 2013

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Thoughts on beauty and self image as I try to go an entire summer without straightening my hair, a feat I haven’t tried since I was 14. Basically, I go on forever about my hair. Read at your own will.

The day I got my first CHI flat iron was the happiest day of my young adult life. The 14 year old me, mind still buzzing from the gorgeously flat hair I’d had weeks before when a friend properly straightened it for the first time, carefully lifted the ceramic iron out of its box and out of the bubble wrap. This, this was where it all would change. No more feeling ugly and out of place as my straight haired friends were able to show off the latest hair cuts. My frizzy mop simply had two hair cut types: long, or short. No more wishing I could let my hair down in the summer, only to ultimately succumb to the scrunchie around my wrist as salvation from the heat.

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My father’s hair was straight, blonde, and ever-thinning as he combed over his bald spot until the day he died. My mom’s hair was dark and straight, and I remember the years she would get it permed and come home smelling of chemicals and looking, to my childhood memories at least, like a poodle. The only other family members who were gifted with the same brown, frizzy, curly situation as I were my brother (who, as a boy, could simply cut it short and hide the spirals) and my Aunt Krissy, whose curls were actually tighter than mine but a bit less thick. For years, new hair dressers would pick up my hair for the first time and marvel at how “you have the hair of THREE people at once!”

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The iron was my salvation. My self-confidence booster–until, of course, later in my teen years when I found a million OTHER things “wrong” with my appearance–my ticket into a world I’d never known. The world of pin-straight, shiny locks. It was my most prized possession.

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Older friends and family members would lament, “but your curls are so PRETTY! I WISH I had hair like yours!” to which I would grumble a “thank you” and mutter “you wouldn’t like it if you had to deal with it.” I cannot count the number of hair elastics broken in my hair. Bobby pins lost and found days later. And I already mentioned the haircuts. Layered bob? More like frizzy triangle. Angled front? Nope, and the shortest pieces would simply hang in my eyes when I wore a ponytail. I tried serums, creams, gels, and all would just make my hair glisten or stiffen while it still puffed and frizzed and poofed. I needed this iron. It was life changing.

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In college, nobody knew I had curly hair. Due to a dry scalp I could wash, blow dry, and straighten on a Sunday and not have to repeat the process until at least Thursday. With some minor touchups, this was nearly a week of straight hair. In recent years, friends have even questioned which texture is the real one.

As straight hair fell out of favor and light, perfect barrel curls (or beachy waves, if it’s a casual day) became more popular, I still could not fit in. Now my hair could be pin-straight or the usual frizzy mess, no happy in between. I still couldn’t win. But it did inspire me to let my hair air dry more often. I found that somehow, straightening my hair through puberty and letting it grow had made my hair more wavy than curly–but sadly did nothing for the frizz or poof. I still call it “curly” although “wavy” probably would be more accurate.

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I had a secret question I would ask a new suitor: “Curly or straight?” And while I didn’t believe them when they told me they liked it just the way it was naturally, I still appreciated it. Only one has ever failed this test, but I dated him for 2 years regardless. “It just makes it seem like you take better care of yourself.” Hmm. “Take better care of yourself” is code for “conform to traditional beauty standards” these days, isn’t it? Male friends pass on female dates because they’re heavy and say “I just want someone who ‘takes care of themself'” and I would roll my eyes. Further confirming that I should keep painting my face, shaving my legs, and ironing out my hair.

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When my current boyfriend caught me for the first time with my big, frizzy hair and nearly no makeup one morning, he cupped my face gently in his hands and looked me in my eyes and told me that “this is you at your most beautiful.” I had never even asked him the question. I still didn’t believe him, but somehow it made me love him even more. It was winter, and my busy schedule was keeping me from having much time. I was letting the curls out more and more. I was instructed to leave my hair natural for a play I was in, and after a month of curls I was on the edge of summer and had an idea.

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I’ve made it this far, well into May, I wonder how far I could go? Could I risk an entire summer, surrounded by girls decked out in sundresses, mini skirts, and shorts, looking their most attractive and me next to them, with my frizzy hair? Could I make it with my pride intact, would I gain the self confidence I’d been striving for for years? I wonder…

So I challenged myself, and posted it to Facebook so friends would know–I needed witnesses, to make sure that no one could call me out if an Instagrammed picture of me with flat hair came about–I was taking a summer off. I was packing away my CHI under lock and key. I was going to give my curls their freedom, for a few months at least.

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It was easy, at first. More time, less to worry about. As summer creeped in I could feel the weight of my hair pulling me down, begging me to end the challenge early. Short shorts and more skin and light, airy hair was in style. The beachy waves I could not have but the shiny sun-bleached hair? Maybe? But I resisted. I had to do this.

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It is now the halfway mark and I’ve yet to pull my flat iron from its hiding spot. Some days, I’ve realized, I can actually have the coveted “good hair day” despite being wavy. I discovered new products to help ease the frizz and add some shine–Nume Finishing Serum, a sample I got from Ipsy (a monthly makeup club I joined to curb my need for makeup I cannot typically afford for only $10 a month) became my new secret weapon. A bit on damp hair, then a bit later for dry. In between washes, a spray of Dove Dry Shampoo kept it from looking limp and weighed down by sweat and product. And on a heavily humid day, perhaps some mousse, but not too much, because crunchy curls are as bad as frizzy ones.

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I want to say I’ve had some big revelation about my appearance and how I don’t need straight hair and lots of makeup to feel beautiful. But due to a weight gain that simply won’t go away no matter what I do (daily gym and strict diets are failing to work for me), my confidence is low. It’s not even a lot of weight, just enough to make me feel miserable–which is, thanks to society or the media or whoever you want to blame, seemingly a lot. 15 pounds and up two dress sizes but still in the single digits so friends tell me to just shut up about it. Enough to make me worry, not enough to complain about ,I suppose. So I put my hair up in a messy bun and hide my growing thighs under long skirts and wish I could wear all the crop tops I bought last summer on sale. I lament about the drawer of pants that no longer fit and fight back tears when I try to wear them and they won’t fit and won’t button if they even make it to my waist at all. And then I look in the mirror and I see the bits of frizz springing up from my hairline and it’s the last straw, and I want to cry. I’m sure there are harder things in this life, so many harder things, but for me, this is hard.

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But I’m still going. I’ve challenged myself to do this. My hair is long now, it would reach to my lower back if straightened. I toy with the idea of coloring it again, or going back to blonde, or doing something interesting to enhance its beauty. And my boyfriend still runs his fingers over my hair (not THROUGH, he knows better) and tells me I am beautiful. Friends now know the true texture of my hair.

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And on those rare days that I pass by a store window and see my reflection and think, “oh, it’s a good hair day afterall” I smile. And I think about that 14 year old girl who so gingerly opened her very first flat iron and I want to hug her and tell her sadly that if it’s not one thing, it’s another. But if makeup makes you feel beautiful, then wear it. If taking an hour and a half to make your hair as perfectly flat as it can be, and you feel a bit better about going outside today, then do it.

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But know, that the ones who love you most will love you either way. They will tell you you are beautiful and they will mean it. And that strangers won’t see the things you see in the mirror, and they will rarely judge. It’s yourself that takes more convincing. It’s yourself that needs to see a face in the mirror that they can feel comfortable in.

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I’d tell her we’re still working on that part.

Things That Go Through My Mind at the Gym

The gym is not my natural habitat. Here is what tends to run through my brain when I attempt to go.

-Alright, I’m PUMPED, let’s DO THIS THING. Level 6 cardio on the elliptical? BRING IT.

-…Level 3 on the elliptical, bring it…

-Uhh let’s just bring the incline down a bit too… there… BRING. IT.

-Okay, Lady on the Stairmaster, I’m pretty sure those towels are for wiping down the machines after use and not for wiping your face but… I guess if you don’t mind sweaty germ residue on your face that’s great too.

-Why do I feel like an Italian sausage in my work out clothes? What is the point of skin-tight torture gear for working out? Is it to encourage you to lose weight so that you’re not subjected to inspecting every bulge poking out of your sides when they start jiggling as you run…?

-I’m not Italian, I should choose a different sausage. Polish? No, not really Polish either. Scandinavian sausage? Eh, they don’t have sausage, they mostly just have fish. French? Nope. Can I feel like a French fry instead of a sausage?

-Choose a different sausage. Heh.

-Damnit now I want French fries.

-Has anyone noticed that I wear the same gym outfit every time? Why are gym clothes $20 per piece anyway? WHY IS GETTING IN SHAPE SO EXPENSIVE? Don’t even get me started on the sneaker expense. I don’t CARE if these are not running shoes, running shoes are $100 and I got these for $20 at MARSHALL’S.

-…nobody knows I wear the same gym clothes because I am not here often enough. Shhh.

-Dear Girl in Front of Me on the Highest Elliptical Setting Acting Like It Ain’t No Thang–I hate you. I want your butt, but I hate you. You are also here every time I am here and I think it might be a sign sent to enrage me into fitness. It only kind of works.

-What am I going to have for dinner? Steak? Yeah. Steak. Steak sounds good.

-Fries. Friiiiiies. Frites. Frites with mayo? God damnit I wish.

-Workout time goes by a lot faster when you can watch Parks and Rec on your iphone…

-Friggin gym Wi-Fi… LET ME WATCH MY PARKS AND REC…

-Sure. I’ll settle for Lady Gaga spotify instead. Wi-fi can handle that but not NBC, urghgh.

-I’M ON THE RIGHT TRACK BABY I WAS BOOORN THIS WAAAAY…. Hah. Born this way, plus the 15 pounds I’ve gained since October? This song is too depressing for gym time. Skip.

-Someday I’ll be as confident as the old ladies that walk the length of the locker room naked to go to the showers. Someday.

-Rap about bitches or something. Not the girl-power upbeat gym soundtrack I was going for. Skip.

-Question: If my boyfriend insists I am beauuuuutiful, do I really need the gym?

-Answer: Yes, you do. Stop making excuses.

-Why are these magazines wrinkly? Is it from sweat? That’s gross. Really gross. I guess I’m not as interested in learning what Kim Kardashian was doing in December badly enough to continue to leaf through this sweat-saturated periodical.

-Taylor Swift on my Lady Gaga station? Lame. Skip.

-…I didn’t really skip it. I’m sorry. WEEE ARE NEVAR NEVAR NEVAR, GETTING BACK 2GETHARRRR…

-Am I done yet? Can I have fries?

-I wish there was a television in here.

-No, I wish I could afford the gym with the televisions.

-Can the girl next to me smell me? Am I even smelling me? Or am I smelling that guy? How much deodorant did I put on this morning?

-Who run the world? GIRLS. WHO RUN THE WORLD? GIRLS! Oh Beyonce, I love you, but the grammar of this song hurts my face. Skip.

-Wow I am hungry. Working out makes you hungry. But working out + diet = skinny. Skinnier. Something. This is a cruel process.

-Question: Do I trust my workout app to tell me how many calories I just burned, or the machine itself?

-Answer: Whichever is higher.

-I am out of skips on Spotify. I am at the mercy of the shuffle. Help me.

-I wish Zumba was at more convenient times to my schedule. Hopping around like a fool to Latin music tricks my mind into thinking I’m just spazzing out and therefore NOT exercising… and it seems to go by a lot quicker.

-Nope, elliptical it is.

-Ten minutes. The longest minutes. Count down, you little timer, count down.

-YESS I AM FINALLY DO–Friggin Cool Down? What? The timer just added five minutes for a “cool down” I THOUGHT I WAS DONE. THIS IS NOT COOL, COOL DOWN.

-Cool down in my mind means an icy shower because I am a sweat monster right now. THAT is a cool down, not FIVE MORE MINUTES OF MOVING.

-FINALLY. FRIES. STEAK FRITES. LET ME AT ‘EM!!!

-….nope, time for rehearsal. Damnit.

Updates!

I feel like I should probably update this a bit more…

Odds are, if you’re here, it’s probably because you heard about me in connection to my “So You Want to Write A Cookbook?” contest win.

In that case, you’ll find more of what you’re looking for at Quarter Life (Crisis) Cuisine.

And maybe I’ll start updating this thingie again… who knows! Blomblog is just too good of a name to waste…

I’m ALIVE.

I don’t think anyone reads my personal blog more than my cooking blog but on the offchance they do they’re probably concerned for my well-being since I haven’t posted anything on here all summer.

It’s okay! I’m alive! See, I’m typing things! Woo!

The usual excuse: I’ve just been super busy and when it comes down to it, I’d rather make some cookies and blog about it over on my cooking blog than come up with some personal essay to slap up on here. Meh.

Some updates:

-I went to the Bahamas. It was awesome. I kissed a dolphin and you know you’re jealous.

-I also went to a Red Sox Game. I am generally apathetic about sports but I can get into the Sox for sure. Especially at a game with all the Fenway Food and Beer. Yup.

-Currently working two jobs because I figured instead of complaining about how I don’t have enough money to achieve my dreams I should actually do something about it. So I’m back to working retail part-time in addition to my full-time job and my weekends already look like they’ll be full of work rather than my usual weekend escapes. This is sad, because I love my weekend mini-trips, but good, because I won’t be spending money on gas and food and drinks all the time. Day trips will have to suffice!

-I proceeded to spend my first paycheck from Job #2 on new purses and a dress. OOPS.

-Trying the whole “moving out of the parents’ house” thing again. Hopefully this time it will work! A friend is letting me move into her extra room for a good price and I’ll be closer to work. Looking forward to a drive that isn’t 45 minutes!

-Bought new gym clothes, but lost my gym card. I think this is a higher power telling me my butt looks just fine, but according to an internet weirdo today my body is only a 5 whereas my face is a 10 (but only in SOME of my pictures) so maybe that means I need to go back to the gym… or get off Okcupid…

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-Doing freelance food photography and potentially some freelance editing work for a local nonprofit newspaper. So that whole keep-my-foot-in-the-publishing-door can finally happen. Also I get to see my name on a piece of paper and that always makes me happy.

-…and since I am nowhere near good enough to be a freelance photographer of any sort, I’ve taken it upon myself to put my nose to the grindstone with learning the basic skills. Hopefully it’ll pay off!

And here’s a picture of me with Aaron Lewis of Staind. He did a solo show for an event I did for work. I look terrible and totally doing the whole double-chin thing.

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Amazon knows what I need…

 

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In other news, I wanted to share my awesome dress I got for my brother’s graduation, but I didn’t have any full-body views of it that didn’t have other people in it. So, here is me with some of the lovely women in my family. Aren’t they all so stylish?? (I’m on the far right)

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