Sunday, March 24, 2013

A Dream Deferred?

I'm somewhat ashamed to admit it, but I used to kind of look down on my theatre friends who"gave up" on their theatrical dreams to pursue other employment.  I used to silently judge them and think how sad it was that they stopped acting or costuming or directing or what-have-you to go into banking or bar-tending or teaching or to be a housewife or whatever.

Some of these friends really could have gone far in their theatrical careers, I feel, and I always thought it unfortunate that those talents were not being shared they way I felt they should have been.  Some probably made the right choice to pursue other careers.  And some still are active in nonprofessional theatrical pursuits, which still made me a little sad because I feel they could have had successful professional careers.

I have had a very successful acting career, and acting has always been a huge part of my life.  However, I feel like some of my regular employment is drying up.  With our selling Mom's house, I can no longer live there when I'm in Utah.  One of the companies for which I most consistently work will not be able to afford to house me; the other will not likely house me either (not to mention that there is a new artistic director, and I feel I am being "phased out" somewhat).

I've also missed Jonah terribly while I've been away from him, and the longer I've been home with him, the more I just want to stay home.

And frankly, at my age (I'm only 42 (well, I will be in 3 days), but I'm not getting any younger), I'm just tired of the instability of my career; I'm tired of constantly hustling for a job; musicals are getting harder to do because my body and voice are not in the shape they once were; and union jobs seem to be getting harder to find.

I've recently been hired as a glorified usher for a theater that is part of a rather large corporation.  While it is an ushering job, there is a bit of acting and improvisation involved as i will be playing a sort of character that gets the audience in the mood for the show. It won't be the same as being on stage, but I'm actually looking forward to it.

I had an orientation meeting on Thursday to learn about company policy and their mission statement and take a tour of the property, etc.  I have to say, I'm actually quite excited.  The job starts out as an on call position, but has the potential to turn into a permanent position by the summer, hopefully.

When I hear about all the benefits that come with the job once it becomes a full-time position, it kinds of excites me.  Some of these benefits I admittedly do already receive because I belong to Actors' Equity, but it will be nice to have a more permanent, stable job that provides similar benefits.  Some of the benefits include really good health insurance, enrollment in a 401(k), life insurance, a paid day off to get a doctor's check up, pension, free counseling if needed, fitness classes, discounts at stores and eating places on the property, educational assistance, one free meal per shift, paid time off and vacation pay, among others.

I like the attitude and philosophies of this particular company (at least in theory; I'll wait until I've actually worked for them for a while to make a final judgment), and thus far, everyone has been extremely welcoming and warm.  It's been a great first impression.

Even though, it's an on-call job, I'm currently going through orientation and training, both of which will be paid for, so that will be nice.  And while maybe it's not the acting job I dream of, I do think it will be a job I enjoy doing, and I'm looking forward to it and am even seriously considering taking a hiatus from full-time acting to perhaps do this job for a while.  I long for something stable, secure, and close to home, and maybe this job will provide that.

I never thought I'd want to take a break from full-time acting, but that's the way I'm feeling right now.  I've had a great run, and if my acting career were to stop right now, I'd feel enormously blessed and fortunate to have done all I've done as an actor.  I don't anticipate that I'm giving up acting forever.  And who knows if I will find this new job satisfying.  Perhaps a year from now I will yearn to be on stage again.  But for now, I think I'm looking forward to this.

Part of me, of course, thinks, "Am I giving up on my dreams?"  I don't really feel like I am.  I just feel like I'm trying to be smart and responsible.  I'm tired of the constant grind of looking for work and losing work.  I'm getting too old for it.

What's interesting is that Jonah is kind of in an opposite place.  After nearly ten years of working as a dresser of actors, Jonah longs to do something more creative and artistic; something that is more in line with what he's always longed to do.  It will be interesting to see where our careers go from here.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

My First Gay Kiss: Six Years Later

Six years ago on March 17th I kissed Jonah for the first time.  At the time, it was both wonderful and awkward; scary and terrific; and I was full of so many conflicting feelings, among them incredible guilt; incredible excitement; and love, love, love!  You can read about it here.

I remember the date well because it was both St. Patrick's Day and my brother's birthday.  Jonah and I were in Anaheim because we were on a Disneyland trip (our first time together).

Six years later and what seems to be a lifetime ago, kissing Jonah was one of the very best first steps I took to what has become a very happy and satisfying life.  I am filled with enormous gratitude for where I am now and how far I've come in my journey as a gay man.

No regrets.  Not one.

Useful Theatre Tips

A friend on Facebook posted this article about an acting career.  It's called, "Things I Wish I Had Been Told in Theatre School."  I thought it was a very good and accurate article.  Good tips for young actors who want to make a career out of it.  Enjoy.

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Turning A Glorious Corner

So six days ago on March 13, I had my usual conversation with Mom where she told me she didn't understand why she just couldn't go home and was trying to figure out ways to escape and was mad at my younger sister for not taking her home.  She felt her kids didn't care about her and was her normal, sad self that she's been since we moved her into assisted living.

The very next day, March 14, it was like talking to a completely different person: she was happy and laughing and talking about how she'd lived at the facility for two or three years and liked it there and talked about her friends and shared an experience about visiting one of her friends in her room and the therapy dog coming to visit. She was laughing about it.
She talked about playing a game and winning. She was in a great mood and said she saw no reason to go back to her old place because no one was there anyway and she didn't even know if the house was there anymore.

She talked about having her own room and TV and said the place she was at wasn't too bad. She was looking forward to a Planetarium visit the next day.  She talked about how she and my older sister had gone on a fun drive (forgetting that it was actually a not-so-fun drive to the doctor).

She said she hadn't seen my younger sister in a while and that she had once asked her to take my mom home, but probably wouldn't now because "[my younger sister and her husband] need to live their own lives and don't need me hanging around."

She said she had lived at the assisted living facility before she lived there and would probably live there the rest of her life.

I am not sure what caused such an abrupt reversal in my mom, but it was so great to see her happy for a change.
 My biggest fear was that it would be temporary, but every day I've talked to Mom since then, she has said essentially the same thing: she's happy where she's living; it's her home; she has no reason to go back to where she used to live because nobody is there; she has friends where she is; and things are looking up.
 It's a miracle, and I credit God with helping her make a positive adjustment.  I also think there are things my family has done that have helped her become positive about her living arrangement.  Mom refers to a note my sister put up (based on another note my sister-in-law put up) essentially telling Mom this place is her home and that she lives there and that he family loves her.  
 Coincidentally (or not-so-coincidentally (I don't believe in coincidences)), the night before Mom's incredible change, I was on the phone for about an hour with a distant relative I went to school with who has been working with people in Mom's situation for ten years.  She offered a good picture of what we how we can expect Mom to be now and in the future  and things we can do to help her.  She actually offered some helpful suggestions, but one of the things she talked about was positive programming, and I believe the notes created by my sister and sister-in-law have been helpful in changing Mom's programming into something more positive.  
 Mom and I also had a conversation on the 13th where she had been depressed at the start of the call, and I steered her in a more positive direction by the end; I'd like to think that helped as well.
Whatever the reason, I so don't care.  It's just so nice to hear Mom be so positive about where she lives.  I must admit, she made me silently chuckle when she said a funny/not-so-funny thing.  In her excitement about her new digs, she said, "...and we get three meals a day here, and it's all free! We don't have a pay a thing!"

Oh, if you only knew, Mom. If you only knew.

Still, hearing my mom so happy and engaged is worth any price.  It's what I've longed for and it happened much sooner than I expected.  I hope it sticks.  It seems to be.

Friday, March 08, 2013

Feeling Blessed

After four months of unemployment and who knows how many resumes and job applications, I have finally been offered a job.  It is an on-call position as a theater usher, but it does have the potential to become a permanent position.  Although it is not an acting job per se, it does involve some performing and improv (the ushers are characters who set the mood for the patrons before they see the show).  Because I'm starting out on the bottom, it may be a bit of time before I make any real money, but I am still excited about it.  The pay is not bad (if you work often), there are health and pension benefits, and it has the potential to be a stable, permanent job.  I think it will be something I enjoy doing.  I hope so anyway.  In any case I am looking forward to it and frankly, at this point I'm just happy to have any kind of job.  My unemployment runs out soon.

Coincidentally (or not-so-coincidentally (I don't believe in coincidences), after 6 months of unemployment, Jonah was offered a temporary job that paid about $1,000 and was also offered an on-call position as a dresser at a local theater.  It also has potential to become more permanent. 

These jobs are not ideal, but we are extremely grateful to have them, and they at least relate to our skill set and interests. 

Things are looking up.

Monday, March 04, 2013

When Did I Become Responsible?

Sorry I've been a way for a while.  Life has been busy, and I just haven't been able to find the time (or frankly, the motivation) to write.  You probably needed a break from the sad story of my dementia-addled mom anyway because, yes, that's yet again the subject of today's post.

Jonah and I went back to Utah a week ago to take care of some legal and house matters involving my mom.  For once, I was actually grateful that the two of us were unemployed so we could take the trip down together.

Legally, essentially what we are doing is moving all of Mom's assets (except for her monthly Social Security check) into a new trust so that some of her assets can theoretically be saved.  Basically, it's a loophole that gives the trust ownership over her assets so that when she applies for Medicaid, the only money she will have in her own account is her monthly Social Security check, which is good since the state only allows a person to have less than $2,000 to qualify for Medicaid and only leaves the recipient with $45 a month to use for things Medicaid and Medicare don't cover such as regular dental care, vision care, podiatry care, and getting her hair done, for example.  Just another example of how our broken health care system bleeds the infirm and ill dry and leaves them with little dignity.

Of course, the downside is that gifting one's assets before applying for Medicaid carries a penalty.  Essentially, Mom's lawyer will apply for state aid now knowing full well that she will be denied and penalized for gifting all of her assets to the trust.  The penalty period is approximately four years, during which time we use Mom's assets, which will be in this new trust, to pay for her care.  Once the penalty period is over, Mom's lawyer will help her reapply for Medicaid, and because she, herself, will not make enough through Social Security to be denied, she should theoretically be approved, and the assets in the trust can be used to pay for those things Medicare and Medicaid don't cover, and possibly there may even be some money remaining after she dies, which is what should would have wanted.

Frankly, I don't care if there's any money left over after her death (well, except to cover funeral and death expenses); I just want my mom taken care of in this life.

Much of the success of this plan depends on selling her house because that is where the bulk of the money used to pay for her care during the penalty period will come from.  We should have enough from other assets to last 8-10 months, and we're sure we can sell her house in that amount of time.  I sure hope so anyway.  It's a nice house in a good area, and our appraiser actually valued it higher than we were expecting, so we hope we can get what it's worth.

Here's the big kicker: I am now sole trustee over the new trust that his been created, and I am sole power-of-attorney for my mom.  This carries an enormous amount of power and responsibility, neither of which I take lightly.

I am a responsible person, but I never would have imagined myself in this position.  Somehow I always thought my brother would be the one to deal with these sorts of things.  He's always been good with finances and has always struck me as level-headed and responsible.  I've always struck myself as the kid who never quite grew up.  I think that's part of why I'm an actor.

I have often been selfish in my life and freely admit I am lazy.  I would much rather play than work.  I have ambitions but rarely enough motivation to do anything about them.  I've always kind of lived my life in a "go-with-the-flow" manner rather than having concrete plans about how to get where I desire to go.  I tend to be more of a dreamer than a doer.  Certainly I have done many great things in both my personal life and career, but I've always felt I could have been capable of more if I had really put my mind to it.  Instead, I feel like much of my fortune, which I am truly grateful for, has often resulted more from happenstance than massive effort on my part.

I think my relationship with Jonah and Mom's illness have caused me to grow up more.  Mom's dementia, in particular, has really forced me to be more of a take charge kind of guy, which really is contrary to my personality.  The irony is I often have felt stymied in taking charge of some of the aspects in my own life, but somehow my love and devotion for my mother have caused me to take charge in hers.

The stress of dealing with Mom's affairs was too much for my brother.  This surprised me, actually.  His health was being adversely affected, and he asked me if I would be in charge.  My older sister didn't want the responsibility nor did any of us feel it would be wise for Mom's money to be near my brother-in-law, whose financial record hasn't been very great, partly because of troubles with his ex-wife.  My younger sister probably wouldn't feel comfortable taking the responsibility.  In any case, I am in charge.

I actually don't mind and, unlike my brother, I don't feel terribly stressed by any of it.  Perhaps I will later.  But I sleep well, and I try to manage Mom's affairs as best I can.  It does take some time and work to handle it, but I feel like I'm doing okay, and hopefully, in the long run, this will help her and us.

I do worry about what will happen if her health declines further or if she has to be moved to another facility, but I figure I'll cross those bridges when I get to them.

I have been particularly been saddened by how hard this has been for Mom.  She so wants to go home, even though she won't likely recognize her home anymore.   She feels so sad and lonely even though we visit her.  I call her every single day.  She complains that she's bored and lonely, but also makes little effort to participate or be social.  She also has a poor concept of time and a poor memory, which gives her the illusion that no one visits her or that they haven't visited her in a very long time.

Jonah and I tried redirecting her a lot while we were there.  It is almost like how you'd behave with a kid, making them forget that just bonked their head by distracting them with something else.  And that's another frustrating thing; Mom can be so childish in her behavior.  I'm truly glad there are two security doors at the place she's at because I know she would try to escape otherwise.

The time not spent with Mom or taking care of legal matters was spent going through old papers and photos of Mom's.  It was bittersweet.  Mom's house is a shell of its former self.  Furniture and donations and trash and things to sell are all placed in different rooms.  Mom's room is almost completely empty except for a chair, a vacuum, and a garbage can.  Going through Mom's stuff...selling her stuff...selling her house...spending her hard-earned money on a place she doesn't even want to be - it just feels wrong and unfair.  But it is what it is, and Mom is safer and healthier where she is.  But sadder, too.  And that makes me sad.

Jonah has been great through all this - very supportive and understanding.  I know it must get old.  And I am still is state of mourning, I suppose.  I've become almost obsessive about Mom - reading her journals...looking at old photos...preoccupying myself with her legal matters...calling her every day.  I had to take a break.  I do feel I need to call every day.  I don't want her to forget me...and she could.  But I have taken a step back from some of the other things.

I've been fortunate that some freelance writing work came my way, and I've been busy with that.  I also think I may be close to getting hired for a job here.  The company had me do two interviews and asked me to take a drug test, so I feel those are good signs.  It's an on call job, but it has the potential to turn into something more permanent.  It is theatre-related, but not acting, and somehow I seem to be okay with that.  I've had a very successful and wonderful career as an actor, and I certainly do not intend to give up that career.  But I do long for something a bit more secure.  Some days I feel like I'm getting too old for the transient, "feast-or-famine," "always-trying-to-hustle-for-the-next-job" lifestyle that an acting career is.  Maybe I am indeed growing up.  I also just want to be here with Jonah for a while.

Jonah was offered an on call position, too, but it could be very good money when he works.  He's also doing a temporary gig doing costume construction.  Anyway, after a long period of unemployment, I'm hoping things are picking up for both of us.

Well, I'm pretty wiped out.  I'm off to bed.

Oh, the very last photo I found at Mom's house (and the one I had been looking for without success) was this one taken of her at a conference President David O. Mckay presided over.

Mom is fifth from the left on the back row (with the "x" above her).  David O. McKay is on stand above and between the two men standing on the right.  I always thought it was a cool picture.  So Glad I found it.