Friday, April 23, 2010

Daddy's Girl

My dad is celebrating a milestone birthday this year (he's turning 65,) along with my mother who is turning 60 and myself (I'm turning 30). In a recent conversation with my mother, she told me that my dad doesn't want to celebrate his birthday (which is in June) until November when I get back to the United States and we can all celebrate our birthdays together. I got teary-eyed, of course. My dad is certainly not much of a sap, but in the past few years, there have been times when he does or says something that is surprisingly mushy. My dad never really likes to celebrate birthdays anyway, but that fact that he wants to wait until I'm home was sweet. It's probably because my dad and I share a special bond that no other father and daughter share. You see, my dad had me.

Yes, I mean that my dad gave birth to me.

My brother and I each have a photo album that my mom put together from our first year on the planet. The first page in both of our albums is a picture of each of us in the hospital, bright pink, only moments old. The only difference in my album is that the first picture you see is of my father, in a hospital gown sitting in a hospital chair holding me with pink and white balloons floating behind him with a big smile on his face. He looks exhausted but elated, I mean, he's just given birth for crying out loud; give the man a break! My mother, who hates to have her picture taken, was no where to be found in any of the hospital pictures. She must have been working that day and left my father to have me, all by himself.

I somehow got it into my head one day, very early on, when I looked through the photo album, that I had found out a huge secret that my parents were trying to keep from me. I confronted my mother.

"Dad had me, didn't he?" I asked her, through tears. "Why on earth would you think Dad had you?" my mother replied. Oh, okay, she was going to try and play hardball (with a 6 year old). I had THE EVIDENCE! I opened the front page of the photo album and presented it to her. "You aren't in any of these pictures and Dad is in a hospital gown holding me! Why didn't you ever tell me that dad had me?!"

"Oh, you're a silly goose," my mother replied and didn't elaborate, because, well, proving my theory wrong would be quite a conversation for a 6-year-old. I'm assuming that's why my belief went on for so long. I eventually got over the sting of betrayal that I had never been told this secret, and defended it with great honor. This was a constant source of amusement to my family, along with the fact that I am the ONLY person in my generation (and the generations before me) in my family to be born outside of New York. (The icing on the cake being that I was born in New Jersey, but more on that another day.)

I remember several family gatherings vividly where someone would say offhand, "Well, that's because Rich gave birth to Erin." I could sense sarcasm from a very young age and I would fly into a tantrum! "He DID have me! I have PROOF!" I would shout as I would stomp off to get the photo album. My father, of course, didn't help me accept the truth. He would laugh through a big smile and say, "That's right honey, show them!" I liked feeling that my dad and I were a team that no one could quite understand because WE had a special bond. None of my other friend's dads had had THEM! Obviously, those dads were too lazy!

Years went by, and I remember realizing that it might not be true, even before I knew the scientific reasons behind it, but I still insisted that my dad had me. Part of me didn't want to lose that special link to my dad. My mom and I got closer and closer as I became a woman, but the father-daughter bond is harder to keep strong.

One day I will have to re-post this with the picture (THE PROOF!) of my father and I, because it is in storage somewhere in North Hollywood until next year. I've just been thinking about this story and wanting to share it so I couldn't wait that long! I hope you enjoyed it!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Lessons . . .

I have a million things I have been tossing around in my mind to write about, but because my work schedule has been unrelenting and I have two college courses to worry about now, I haven't been able to. I'm also trying to have some semblance of a social life, so it's been quite a juggle lately. Of all the subjects and experiences I want to share, I am going to scrap all of them (for today) and get a little personal because I was really inspired and deeply touched by my friend Joan's blog. Click here to read her entry and subscribe to her blog. It's what made me initially begin mine.

I have been working on myself for the past 7 weeks pretty intensely. Now, in the past, I have gone through periods where I really take a look inside and get real about the things I want to improve, but I had just scratched the surface and then slowly backed off over time. Facing one of my biggest fears has made me re-evaluate everything. I sat back and looked at the past year of my life and everything I've been scared of, and thought, "No wonder my anxiety is at an all time high! No wonder my stomach is in knots! No wonder I can't let myself be really present and happy!"

For the past 10 months I have been scared of moving to Singapore. I have been scared that I will never get out of debt. I have been holding on to the fear that I went through with my breast biopsy. I have been scared that even though the results were negative THIS time, that next time, or the time after, they won't be. I have been scared that my relationship wasn't heading in the direction it was originally. I have been scared of what everyone that I work with thinks of me. I have been scared that I can't trust the company I work for. I have been scared of turning 30 this year . . .

And that's really just scratching the surface. It was exhausting, and devastating. I feel like I look back at myself 2 months ago and think, "Who was that person?" I felt completely and utterly unsafe. I thought, "I have to go home!" and in the same instance, "I can't go home!" I had been running further and further away from myself until I was forced to take a breath, turn around and look at where I was. It was not a place I ever want to be again.

The positive thing about my fears coming to fruition is that, little by little, I realized I actually can handle all those things I thought I couldn't. And I can handle all the scary things that haven't happened, but might some day; but not without putting in the work, and LOTS of it. I've been reading endlessly and journaling and meditating every day. I've been changing my thoughts and it has changed everything. I had been missing out on so much by worrying about everything! And in the past month, I see things I didn't see before, because I'm open to it and I'm looking for the good stuff. It was as if I were absolutely refusing to let all of the joy in before, and I can assure you, Joy will not kick the door in! Thankfully, it waited politely outside until I came to my senses and invited it in. "Letting go" is my biggest lesson this year. I am letting go of that list of crap that has been holding me back.

Don't get me wrong, I'm still a work in progress! I'm not and never will be perfect, but who is? I just feel like I have really turned a huge corner in my life and am so grateful. Meditation is something I always shied away from because I felt like I didn't really "get it" and therefore resisted trying it. Now, I can't get enough! I mean, I'm not like, in a creepy state of mediation 24 hours a day, but I do take at least 10 minutes a day to do it and I feel peace for the first time in a year. A friend actually said to me a couple of days ago, "I like coming to you with my problems because you are so peaceful about it and really think before you give me an answer." I can tell you that would never have been said 2 months ago and it just about floored me. I hope that means I can be a better friend now as well.

Life is stinkin' tough; but it's absolutely beautiful as well. It is all in how you absorb what you are confronted with. If you see a world that is out to get you and make you unhappy, then that is the world you are going to be living in. Somehow, along the way, I forgot that lesson. Now I'm in a world full of hope, beauty and inspiration. Join me, won't you?

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Blond, A Brunette and A Redhead Walk into a Bar . . .

Rachel (Ray Ray), Niki (Nipple Niki) and I (Err Bear) have been the walking cliche for a decade, ever since we met working as can-can girls at Rosie O'Grady's in downtown Orlando. (Clearly, that picture to the left is not us, it's from like the early 90's but that's what we wore and did. I don't have my older pictures out here with me in Singa!) For anyone not from Orlando, Rosie O'Grady's was a tourist hot spot that boasted the "Good Time Gang" which consisted of a ragtime band, jazz singer (the "Hot Mama") and a can-can dance on the bar performed by the cocktail waitresses. We would slide down the two story brass fireman's pole in the center of the stage and rouse the crowd with our can-can routine, full of "Wooo's!" and high kicks. It was one of my first jobs, and I can still say to this day, it was the one of the most fun jobs I've ever had! Rachel (the blond), Niki (the brunette) and I (duh) were fast friends and when Rosie O'Grady's closed it's doors, our manager said, "Yeah, you three act like you are inseparable, but I bet you won't keep in touch for more than a year." Famous last words, Jim.

If I were to even try to tell you all the adventures I have had as a part of this threesome friendship, we'd be here all day! The stories from the summer after college when I lived with them, alone, would take a week to regale and they could never compare to the experience. I'm introducing you to these amazing ladies to highlight one of my deep dark secrets. I have never been able to, and fear I will never be able to flirt. And if I didn't learn from these girls (the masters), I doubt there is any one who could teach me! I think I'm just one of those girls who feels more comfortable hanging back and watching in awe as my beautiful friends work their magic. I'm the sarcastically funny one, which I am happy with, but it usually makes you "the buddy" or "wing man" when it comes to the opposite sex.

Now, make no mistake, Niki and Rachel are hilariously funny also! That's what brought us all together. All of my girlfriends from Orlando happen to be the most stunning, humble, and comical people I know.

First let's take Niki, a molecular microbiology major, graduate of UCF, Pilate's instructor, pharmaceutical sales rep and all around generally amazing person. She's the first to throw a get together in her home when I come visit Orlando and always has dozens of guys waiting for her to become single (which she rarely is). Flirting technique? The eyelash bat. Seriously, Niki bats her eyelashes at men like Minnie Mouse and they fall to their knees. It's actually a lethal combination of a giggle and eye lash bat, but I digress. I realized shortly into our friendship that it only shows itself when there are people of the male species within a 6 foot radius. I tried to do it once. I just looked like I had something in my contact or was at the onset of an epileptic seizure.

Next, we have Rachel, a five foot eight or nine blond Cuban model, built like a shit brick house. She is one of those people you hate because she has had a baby and looks better then you ever will pre-baby. This is someone who does not even NEED the skill of flirting, because guys just stop, look and listen when she walks in the door. On top of her looks, she's a spectacular mother, amazing lifelong friend, a top real estate agent, and the first one to cook dinner for me every time I come to town (and an spectacular cook on top of all that). Flirting technique? The Spicy Cuban-ness. She's has no inhibitions whatsoever! She walks into a bar or club and heads right to the dance floor and throws down some wicked moves. If she wants to talk to a guy, there's no hesitation or waiting, she will just go up to him; and I've certainly never seen any guy mind! The funniest thing about it is that she is one of the kindest sweetest people I know, but you don't want to be a girl in a bar giving her the stink eye. She has no problem showing you how she feels about that out back in the alley, walking away from it with a ripped skirt and one shoe on, but always victorious. Clearly, even trying this flirting technique when you are a bony Irish girl would be ludicrous.

And bless their hearts, but Niki and Rachel certainly didn't help my case. I was working at Universal Studios, Orlando as Kimberley Duncan in T2-3D at the time and for some reason they found the opening monologue knee-slappingly hilarious. I had rehearsed in front of them at home when I was training in to the role and that was the start of a never ending barrage of, "Oh! Do the Kimberley monologue!!" at every outting we had. If they had a drink and there were a group of guys talking to us, I knew it was only a matter of time before they would shout, "Oh my gosh, you guys, Erin is so funny! Erin! Do the Kimberley monologue!" Now, the monologue was "cute" on it's best day, but out of the context of the show, in a bar, it was most certainly not funny. In fact, I would describe it more as confusing. But after minutes of, "Oh please! Come on! It's SO FUNNY!" I would give in because otherwise I looked like a jerk. I would always preface it with, "It's really not that funny," then I would watch Niki and Rachel die laughing as I spoke and the guys just stare blankly, wondering when the funny part was coming. I guess, ultimately, this was my flirting technique, albeit something I did repeatedly against my will and to my great discomfort.

Maybe I have a flirting technique that just hasn't quite manifested yet and when it does, it will be spectacular. I certainly don't have trouble making friends with guys but that's pretty much as far as it goes on my end. My relationships have generally come about because the guy has flirted with me. In fact, if I'm attracted to someone, I am much less likely to talk to them or attempt flirting. Obviously, that's a flawless system.

Make no mistake, I'm perfectly content being the audience for these adventures. My friends are the best! We can be completely ridiculous and have a ball. For instance, the picture below is just a regular night in Orlando where we decided it was The Village People Appreciation Day. We started at Cigarz, where we all tended bar (that's the owner and our surrogate pops, Syd) and continued to several bars around downtown in our costumes. I even had caution tape that I put up in various places. Being 22 years old makes these things possible.

I miss these girls terribly and can't wait to get back to Orlando to have more adventures!

But the important question is, What's your flirting technique? Do you have a friend who has that magical, effortless technique as well? Sign up, follow my blog and share! (pretty please!)

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Building Sand Castles

When I was a little girl, I was extremely shy. My mother likes to constantly remind me of how she would have to take my hand and walk me over to groups of other little girls playing (whether we were on the beach, playground, you name it) and ask if they would mind if I joined them. I remember vividly one day on the beach when I was probably about 7 or 8 years old, standing in front of a group of little girls, with my head down, looking at my feet, waiting to hear their answer to my mother's request. I was really hoping they would say I could play with them because they were building an incredible sand castle. I had been watching from our beach towels with envy and had tried to psyche myself up to ask them myself but I just couldn't do it.

Of course, they said yes, as sweet little 7 year old girls always did, and I joined them in their sand castle building adventure. (It had a moat and the walls were as tall as I was, people!) Sometimes I can't believe how painfully shy I was; but to a certain extent, I still am. I always feel a little awkward when I'm thrown into a new group of people. When I have a security blanket of a boyfriend or best friend, I find myself getting comfortable in that relationship and not branching out as much as I should. If not, I just hang back and wait until time passes and I feel comfortable. Usually, I end up cracking a joke and then people all of a sudden look at me and say, "Whoa, you're funny. I always thought you were so quiet!" Don't ask me why it feels like a completely different thing to get up and perform or do stand up, but it somehow compartmentalizes to a different part of my brain where the shy gene does not have any power.

Since I came to Singapore, I had definitely kept a distance from meeting a lot of people by staying in the safety zone of my relationship. Moving here was so scary and different that it was easier to just sit on the beach towel and watch while everyone else built sand castles.

When my boyfriend, who was my closest friend, wasn't there to hide away with me anymore, I must admit my first instinct was, "RUN!" Then, after about a week, I didn't want to run away, but I DID feel like now everyone had their little clicks and it would be harder to work my way in and become friends.

This past Friday, Chelsey, Tori, Crista and I took the short little boat ride to Puala Ubin, a beautiful little island in Singapore, to mountain bike through the trails. It was such a fun little half-day adventure, and I felt really lucky to have gotten to a place where I have these kinds of friends. We spent the morning and early afternoon just biking, having girl talk and laughing.

And that's just a small example of the interesting and multi-faceted people I have gotten to know here. The amount of people I've communicated with in the past month in contrast to the first nearly 5 months of living here is incomparable. It's really shown me that even though it's a good thing to find someone I feel the security to hermit away with, sometimes I have to push through the shyness to connect with the other incredible people around me.

But I can't say I don't miss my mom holding my hand every once in a while.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

I'm Back! Did ya miss me?

It's been a month since my last post! I can't believe it! There are just some things that you go through in life that leave you empty for a while. In a blog where most people reading it actually know me in person, I find I can't always write about everything I'm actually going through. It's all a process and I am working hard to get through, but today I found myself going, "I want to write. I miss it." So, here I am! And as promised, I will give you a recap of the fabulous girls weekend I had in Bintan.

I showed up on Chelsey's doorstep that morning, in pajamas, red-faced, nose running, and broken. The night before I had been given news that I didn't know what to do with. I had kept it to myself that evening, slept on it, made it a few hours into the day before I realized, "I can't do this alone." Chelsey patiently listened as I wept on her couch and refused every offer of tea, water, cereal, or any other consumable she had. She had literally just said, "Man, I wish we had a few days off to just get away from here," when both of our phones went off with text messages from our employer saying, "The park needs last minute repairs and tests before the opening, all performers have the next 3 days off."

Now, if you know me, you know I'm a planner. I like to have prepared hours, or most often days of research on a vacation spot before I even consider it. But we had heard that lots of our friends had taken little mini-vacations to Bintan, Indonesia and loved it. It's an hour long ferry ride from Singapore and supposedly has spectacular beaches. Chelsey is also a huge "planner" so for us both to look down at our phones and say, "Let's get out of here!" was a big thrill and sort of scary! We looked up maybe 3 hotels in Bintan, picked one and booked our hotel within 45 minutes. We had contacted a few other ladies who wanted to go, but had evening plans so they decided to meet us on the island the next day. I looked at Chelsey and said, "I'll be back in a half hour with a suitcase," and walked back across the street to my apartment.

Because Chelsey and I had previously gone to the island of Batam (near Bintan, but not the same) we just assumed the ferry left from Harbor Front where the other ferry had left. We decided to just grab a cab there and book the ferry on the spot. We rushed to the ferry terminal and said, "Two round trip ferry tickets to Bintan please!" The bored-looking woman behind the counter looked at us blankly and said, "Batam?"

"No, Bintan please." We smiled and were just giddy with the excitement of our impending, spontaneous adventure. The woman stared back at us and said, "There are no ferries to Bintan from here. You have to go to Tanah Merah." So much for spontaneity.

We then had to take another taxi to Tanah Merah, which was NOT close by. And along the way, the taxi seemed to play every 80's or 90's romantic power ballad I've ever heard. Every time a new song came on we literally looked at each other like, "Are you kidding?" Regardless of the mix up, we were on the island of Bintan by nightfall and I couldn't believe I had a friend like Chelsey who would drop everything (and be cool with missing out on three days off of work with her boyfriend) to take my mind off my problem.

The next morning, Lisa, Lauren and Tori joined us and we hit the beach. It was beautiful (aside from the massive amounts of construction to expand the hotel.) The water was too choppy to jet ski, which we wanted to do, so we set up a boat tour for the next day at the mangroves, and decided to just relax on the beach and at the pool the whole day. (From left to right: Tori, Lisa, Chelsey and I)

That night, after a fabulous dinner at a Japanese restaurant on the beach we headed back to our resort to do some karaoke. We got to the karaoke bar and a stylish Asian waif informed us, "Our main room is closed to the public because the prince of Malaysia is having a private party." I was in no position or mood to argue with that so I was thinking, "Okay, what's plan B?" Lisa had a very different opinion (and maybe a little sake in her . . . just a little.)

Lisa explained, "But we are all professional singers! He's gonna want us at this party! Look at us! We are hot and we are all professional singers!" Tori and I shot glances at each other like, "Uhhhh, not quite ALL of us are professional singers, but I guess we are going along with this." I assumed, because of how adamant Lisa was, that it was only moments before someone was going to escort us out of the bar. But the manager came and said, "Okay, we will give you all a private room and let the prince know that you are here and would like to sing for him. Then we will let you know."

We got to our private room and frankly, I forgot all about the prince. My girlfriends filled the karaoke queue up with girl power songs like, "Independent Women," "I Will Survive," and even a Spice Girls song. (Did I mention they are the BEST?) We danced around, drank beer and sake and sang at the top of our lungs; even us "non-singers."

The manager came back in and said, "Okay, the prince of Malaysia would like you to join him in the main room." I started to get nervous at this point! I was certainly not going to sing for the prince and was really hoping that Chelsey, Lisa and Lauren would completely take over in that scenario.

The room was empty accept for three Malaysian gentleman and three Malaysian young women who were all gussied up and very intently texting on their phones. Apparently, they were not adequately entertaining the prince!

The singers in our group picked out some Celine Dion songs and belted their hearts out. The prince was very impressed. Now I felt the pressure to earn my keep, but when I sing karaoke, it is restricted to 80's and 90's old school rap. So, in typical Muroski style, I dropped a little Salt and Pepper on them. I think they were confused, but ultimately impressed.

The next day we woke up early to get our delicious free breakfast buffet, fill some napkins with muffins and banana bread for later and hop in a neon pink van that would take us to the Bintan Mangroves. The tour was breath-taking, and although you would expect a boat tour of trees to be uneventful, you would be mistaken. Our tour guide proceeded to tell us about all the poisonous snakes that reside in the mangroves and up in the trees. As he is telling us this, they STOP THE BOAT as we are underneath a snake curled up asleep draped across some very shaky looking branches. I think we all had slight anxiety attacks during that encounter. We also had the pleasure of seeing monkeys jumping across our watery path from tree to tree.

This is a little video clip I took during the tour. The guide is talking about the venomous snakes and then the different types of monkeys. Yes, Lauren is texting through most of it.

Our tour guide was an Indonesian man who has lived among the mangroves his whole life. He explained that the oxygen given off by the mangroves keeps you young. He actually showed us his identification because none of us could believe he was in his 70's! It was, as my brother would say, an "educational tour" but still very fun. That's us looking in disbelief at his id.
We got back to the hotel and decided to take the later ferry home so we could go back to the beach and relax. I hadn't ever taken a last minute trip like that and I'm so glad I did, even though it was tough most of the time to fully enjoy it because of my emotional state, looking back I had some really wonderful moments and realized that I am surrounded by some pretty awesome ladies out here. Thank goodness they have my back. It makes me feel safe in an otherwise intimidating place.
On a funnier final note, right before we were going to leave to go to the ferry, Chelsey was complaining of a headache from the heat. She popped some Tylenol in her mouth and grabbed a bottle of water out of our tote bag of beverages. As she took a big pull from the bottle and swallowed, her eyes almost popped out of her head! She dove her hand into my bag and grabbed my bottle of water and chugged it down. When she could finally find her voice she croaked, "That was a bottle of vodka that I just washed my pills down with!" We had transferred our duty free vodka to a water bottle in order to get it through security and back to Singapore with us. Unfortunately, we had forgotten to label it.