Thursday, April 2, 2015

Do You Have What It Takes?

In the process of making this decision to go pursue an acting, dancing, or musical career in New York, you must ask yourself:  "Do I, or does my loved one, have what it takes to make it?  Talent isn't the only factor in the equation.  There are personality traits that I think one should have before embarking on such an endeavor.

1.  Determination

Yes, this may seem to be the impossible dream.  If you are going for it, you have to believe that it actually can happen.  When you close your eyes, can you see it?  Are you willing to work, get up early, give up a social life, and be totally committed to your goal?  

2.  Self-confidence

Do you feel good about who you are and what you can do?  There is no room for self-doubt here.  You must be on top of your game at all times.  That being said, there is a fine line between being confident and arrogant.  Arrogance is quickly recognized and is not a popular trait to possess.  You are talented.  So is everyone else.  Recognize who you are, hold your head up, and do what you do best.

3.  Kindness

Be kind to everyone.  Your accompanist.  Your roommate's best friend's uncle.  The girl who is competing with you for a role.  You never know how people are related to each other, and one day, that person might just be in a position to help you out.  Regardless, it will make you happier and a better person in the long run. Your mother was right when she told you to "do unto others as you would have them do unto you."  That being said, make sure your kindness is not interpreted as weakness.

4.  Organized and Goal-Focused

You will become busy fast.  Are you capable of keeping it all organized with some sort of system in place other than in your mind?  You will have classes, workshops, auditions, work schedules, and private lessons.  It is also important that you are able to set obtainable goals.  Being able to roll with the punches is great, but in this life you will have to be better organized in order to get everything done and still sleep.

5.  Passion

Do your eyes light up when someone talks about musical theatre?  Do you sing show tunes in the shower/car/kitchen?  Do you tap dance while you are waiting to take your clothes out of the dryer?  Can you see yourself on stage in the future?  Can you imagine doing anything else with your life?  Search your soul, because this will be the hardest career path you could choose to do.

6.  Responsibility

Are you always late?  Do you sit around and wait for things to happen?  Do you forget your lines?  Do you blame someone else for your shortcomings?  If so, you will be chewed up and spit out.  Someone else will be on time, taking the initiative, and will be prepared.  Showing up is a big part of success.  Showing up and being prepared is responsibility.

7.  Enthusiasm and Energy

This isn't college and it won't be a piece of cake.  Finding a job to cover expenses, going to classes, and getting up in the middle of the night to wait in line for an audition isn't easy.  Cutting class in college was one thing, but skipping work, lessons, or auditions because you are tired or hung over just won't do.  You will need to be there, bright-eyed and bushy-tailed, ready to take on the world.  Sometimes with only a few hours' sleep.  You will have to make time to eat healthy and exercise.  Smiling and radiating a positive attitude is a big plus!

There are other traits that will help you along the way, such as good social and communication skills, being able to take constructive criticism, and being a problem-solver.  Take a look at yourself and talk with others about whether you have what it takes.

Monday, February 23, 2015

How an Out-of-Towner can find a NYC Apartment to Rent

What is the first thing you should know about finding an apartment in New York City as an out-of-towner? Go in with your eyes open.  Be prepared and aware of the costs involved.  Based on our experiences, I will try to break this down.  We knew it would be expensive, but we were clueless as to how expensive it actually is.  We didn't really do our homework, because we were relying on our daughter to do it for us.  Here's what she told us:  I want to live in Manhattan in the financial district; I want a doorman, I want a rooftop deck, I want laundry in the building, I want easy subway access, and I want a gym in the building.  Ok, that all sounded great.  She made a few calls, and a nice, young broker called us back.  I explained that we did not want to pay a broker's fee, and he responded by saying he had lots of listings with fees paid. We were off to the city to look at apartments.
Yes, you can secure apartments without a broker, but I don't see how, especially if you are out of town.  Apartments go so fast that you can't look too far in advance, and when you find one, you have to be ready and jump on it quick.
We met our nice, young broker downtown and began our search.  The apartments he showed us were small.  I do mean small.  How were two females going to share a space this small without killing each other in the process?  We walked and looked at many apartments.  He explained to us that securing a one-bedroom and converting it to a two-bedroom, would be the way to go.  Problem was--it didn't seem that the one-bedrooms were big enough to convert to two.  We eventually went back to the first one he showed us, because it was on a quiet street, it looked safe, and the occupants and doorman seemed nice.
This is the actual building which housed the apartment we chose.  Now came the hard part.  Since we were co-signing as guarantors, we had to have documents in and notarized quickly.  Sometimes they want them within a 24-hour time period.  Here's what we had to show:

  • Application form: We filled out the application the day we found and decided on the apartment.  My daughter's roommate's co-signor wasn't with us, so they had to fax it in later.

Try to have these documents ready to go before the apartment search:
  • Letter of employment: On company letterhead.  A letter of intent won't work.  We are self-employed, so this wasn't part of our document package.  
  • Pay stubs: A copy of your three most recent pay stubs--renters and guarantors.
  • Tax return: Some management companies require a copy of your most recent federal tax return. This was important, because as I said, we are self-employed.
  • Landlord reference letter: Our daughter sent in a letter from her landlord when she lived in our town.
  • Bank statements: Your three most recent statements from your checking account, savings account or any financial institution should do.  They also asked us for current statements from investments--IRA's, stocks, bonds, etc.
  • Bank account numbers: Are often required on application forms. Have them ready just in case you need them.
  • References: Not always required, but since we were out-of-state, they were.
  • Identification: Many landlords require a copy of a photo ID at lease signing.

These documents were required because they want guarantors to earn 80 times the monthly rent, and renters to show 40 times the monthly rent.  Not sure what young person just starting out makes that kind of money, especially struggling artists, but I'm sure some do.  

We sent in all the necessary documents, and took a deep breath when they discussed costs.  Here is a breakdown:

Application fee--$75-$200 for each rentor and guarantor.  This usually covers the cost of a credit report, which is run on all applicants and guarantors.

Security Deposit--One to two months' rent.  They required two months' rent for us, since we were from out-of-town.

Broker's fee--Ours was prepaid, but it didn't feel like it at the time.  Usually, it is 10-15% of contract rental amount.

First month's rent--must be paid in advance.

The monthly rent was a little over $3,000, shared between the two girls.  So, let me try to add up all the initial costs:  $200 (application fees for 2 applicants--not including roommate), $6100 security deposit divided by two--$3050, one month's rent in advance--$3050 divided by 2--$1,525.  Total of $4,775! Now, mind you, that does not include the costs to get there and home.  Or the hotel stays while you are searching.  Or eating out. That quickly adds another $1,000 to the price tag, easily, maybe more.  In addition, a wall had to be built in the living area to accommodate another bedroom--price tag?  around $900.

To see pictures of this apartment in the financial district, click here.

Recently, my daughter and her roommate moved to Washington Heights.  The rent is much cheaper, $2,000 a month, and it is an actual two-bedroom, with more space.  We had to act quickly to get this apartment, which has no doorman, no roof-top deck, no gym, no laundry, and no elevator (luckily they are on the 3rd floor).  

Washington Heights is located in the northern-most part of Manhattan, but is only a 5-subway stop to my daughter's current job.  A lot of young people--students, struggling artists, and young families are now moving in the area, due to the lower costs.  

If you have any questions about this process, please ask in the comments section below.  Good luck with your search!  Now my daughter and her roommate are settled in, and you can see pictures of their apartment here!

Thanks for stopping by!!--Betsy

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Pursuing the Dream

Your child has made the decision.  She is going to move to New York to pursue her dream of a musical theatre career.  What's the next step?  Housing?  Job hunt?  No, the next step is for everyone involved to look inside their hearts and make sure this is the right thing to do.

We sat our daughter down and spent hours going through different scenarios, of which I will list here.  After, and only after this discussion, we felt that she was ready.

Scenario No. 1:  Money

We agreed to help her get started and pay for her tuition in the professional dance semester into which she had been accepted.  After that, we thought she should pay her own way, as this was her idea.  At the time, none of us had any idea how expensive it was going to be.  Here's the thing:  if you work hard to pay rent, classes, and food, and you are self-sufficient, there's not enough time remaining for auditions and/or classes. Part-time jobs don't come close to paying for survival in New York City.  This is a very real topic that should be discussed at length.  Are you going to supplement your child's income and/or pay her way?  Is your child going to get a job?  Part-time or full-time?  How much money will she need to survive?  How many classes will she be taking weekly?  Will there be time for cooking, as ordering in and going out can be pricey?  I will break it down in a later post.  But make sure you know in advance how all these expenses are going to be covered and make sure there is a financial plan.

Scenario No. 2:  Attitude

So you have figured the money thing out.  There will be time for auditions and classes.  Does she have the right demeanor to handle this?  New York is a fun, friendly city.  But the bigger the area, the harder it is to break in.  It can be very lonely at first and without tons of money, it's hard to go out and meet people.  A strong will is a necessity.  A high energy level is a necessity.  Nothing is easy in New York and sometimes it can be completely overwhelming.  Being easily intimidated just won't work.  Make sure the passion is there and there's nothing that will stand in the way of that dream.  Sometimes it's all about who continues to show up for the game.

Scenario No. 3:  Thick Skin

You are sure that your child has the determination and drive to pursue this dream.  Now, think about this: she's in an audition and the 300 girls in the room are so good, so pretty, so talented.  The competition is confident, savvy, and perfect for the part.  There are more signed up to audition the next day.  She goes in, does her thing, they smile and thank her, and that's the end of that.  Getting up at 5:30 am to go sign in, waiting hours for a 20 second audition, and a thank-you, we'll let you know.  And she never hears from them again.  Can she handle this time and time again?  And how about the auditions where she feels she is the best one in the room, has more talent, a great look for the part, and she is still rejected?  No feedback, no nothing except a thank-you.  Or the audition where she gets up, signs in, and they let everyone go that's not blonde. Or brunette.  Or over 5'2".  Or under 5'3".  Or Black.  Or Caucasian.  Or Asian.  The list goes on.  She didn't even have the opportunity to show what she can do. Bottom line--this is an industry, a business, and you can't take it personally.  Make sure your child can handle the rejection.  Make sure you can handle her rejection.  My daughter handles it better than I do, because I want to know why...

Scenario No. 4:  Back-up Plan

We do not want to be pessimistic here.  She will need all the support you can give her.  But let's face it--there are hundreds of girls out there wanting the same thing.  If it doesn't work out because of the money, or she's had enough, whatever the reason, there should be a back-up plan.  I would highly recommend that you encourage her to go to college first.  My daughter graduated with a psychology degree and a minor in dance. Many musical theatre people are graduates of musical theatre programs in very prestigious colleges.  It's not a requirement for success, but it helps.  Knowing that there is a safety net in case she falls is a comforting thing.  Also, know how you are going to handle other peoples' comments.  Just about every time I tell someone what my daughter is doing, they proceed to tell me of someone they knew who tried it, didn't succeed, and ended up coming home.  I'm learning to keep my mouth shut, and when they do ask, I give them my honest answer--'This is her passion, her dream, and what better time in her life to pursue it while she is young with no family responsibilities?  At least there won't be any regrets.'  Everyone is different, and it can just as easily be my child as anyone else.

We will explore more of these scenarios in later posts.  For now, have that discussion.  Make sure you, as her parents, are convinced that she is ready.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

My Name is Mom

Mom.  What a loaded word.  I still find myself turning around in the grocery store when I hear "Mom!"  I still worry whether my child has enough blankets on the bed.  I still wonder if they are getting enough fiber and vegetables in their diet. I worry that I worry too much.  The worries don't stop, they just change.  I can't see my children now, so I can't protect them from the evils in the world.  I can't shield them from the crazies that may be lurking in the subway or street corners.  I can't shield them from the dangerous drivers who are texting or driving drunk. I'm not around to remind them to wash their hands, brush their teeth, do their laundry or say their prayers.

Is it wrong that I tear up every time I leave them or they leave me?  I can't seem to hold those tears back, but I know in my mind that I have no right, and that these tears are just my selfishness.  Why do I do this, when my children are healthy and happy?  Because I am a mom.

Moms lose children--from disease, accidents, drug overdoses, and alcohol-related deaths.  When this happens to someone I know, even someone I sorta know, I feel pain intensely.  Maybe not the pain they are feeling, but something very similar.  Because I am a mom.

Just recently, a mom in my neighborhood lost her son in an alcohol-related incident.  I see her walking her dog, but we don't hang out in the same circles.  Her son attended the same college my son attends.  And they are close to the same age.  We say to each other, "what a tragedy, so sad, just awful what happened", but what I'm really thinking is, I feel, deep in my heart and soul, a true pain for his mom. Because I am a mom.

So I send up my prayers--that my children will be safe, happy, healthy, and successful.  I ask God to send them in the direction that He would have them go, and I know that they are on a journey.  I have faith that they will remember the things they were taught, and use the good judgment that I know they have. And if they fall down, I will be there to help them up.  Because I am a mom.

My children, all grown up!

Thanks for stopping by!  Come back soon!

Monday, February 2, 2015

Washington Heights Move-in Week-end

After a year and a half in an apartment in New York's financial district, a move was in the cards.  The apartments were going to be renovated, and Chelsea and Jenna were told they must move out.  They could continue to live in the building, but for a higher rent.  Well, the rent was already the equivalent of most people's mortgage, so when the time came, they set out to find another apartment.  Long story short, Washington Heights was the chosen area--a lot of struggling artists in this neighborhood--and the apartment was somewhat bigger with a much less expensive price tag.  

Sooo, off we went to New York to help her move.  Now, some have said, she's 25, she can do it herself. And yes she can; however, I have so few opportunities to help her now that she's so far away, that I feel fortunate that hubby and I could go to help.  We arrived and they had packed up quite a bit, so it was a few nights of stepping over boxes to get in and out of bed.  The next day we headed off to the new place, and after parking illegally on the street, we unpacked what we had brought and proceeded to paint.  We got three-fourths of the room done and ran out of paint.  What to do?  I had brought the paint from the paint store at home.  We also discovered that even though the small kitchen had been re-done, there was no drawer.  So after a Google search, we headed to the subway to find a store that carried the right kind of paint and to find a utensil caddy.  After all that shopping, we were exhausted and ready to relax with a glass of wine and dinner.  

The next day was her show, so not much was accomplished, but this was the highlight of our trip.  She sang two songs with other accomplished young talent, and we thoroughly enjoyed meeting some of her friends and, of course, hearing her sing.  While we were there, we heard that a snowstorm was headed our way, with up to 2 feet of snow.  Wow.  Movers were coming the next day.  We had to move the car. Geez, not such great timing.  But we proceeded and moved in blizzard conditions.

Moving in a snowstorm?  Not so much fun!
The living room was the catch-all during move-in day.
Living room after... floors were so pretty!
Window wall was painted a dark, charcoal gray.  Did you  notice the sconces have no candles?  They were there, but radiator below sort of melted them down.  Battery operated taper candles will go there instead!
Aaron Michael Krueger and Chelsea Moss sang "Little Red Hat" from 110 in the Shade.

And, if you are interested, here she is singing her solo, Much More from The Fantasticks.

A few pointers if you are from out of town and moving in New York:

 Expect no where to park.  Tip profusely to attendants in lots and garages to allow you to park if they refuse. We could have stayed in a nice hotel in the south for several days for what we paid in parking.  

If painting, buy more paint than you think you'll need.  It takes awhile to find the store, buy the paint, and get back.  

Try to move the small stuff and boxes yourself.  Movers charged per box, and everything had to be in a box, or it wasn't moved.

Back to parking.  If you do park illegally in front of your building, leave your flashers on and have someone stay with the car.  The ticket lady was very sweet when she was informed that we were moving our daughter and did not issue us a ticket.

Have fun!  Take breaks and get outside, even in cold weather.  We had a glass of wine and enjoyed being with each other.  It can be stressful, so remember to eat healthy, and relax.

For more pictures of the "new" apartment, go to !

That's it, for now!  Stay tuned for more adventures!

Monday, January 12, 2015

Introduction and Welcome!

Today begins my first post--well, not really my first post as I have another blog which is all about home decor and table settings, but my first post of my new blog and what's really on my mind these days. I have seen lots of blogs from mommys of young children, which are definitely needed and appreciated, but none concerning grown-up children.  Do we ever really stop parenting and/or worrying about our children?  I can't seem to cut off the mommy switch even though my children are 21 and 25.  So, here I am, hoping that a little of what I am going through will help someone out there while giving me perspective of the here and now.  I will attempt to give you a run-down on my daughter's life in New York, pursuing a Broadway musical theatre career, and my son--who is a first-year senior at Virginia Tech.  More on that subject later.

My oldest is a James Madison University graduate.  We were so proud and excited when she graduated from college and we couldn't wait to see what her next step would be.

With a psychology degree, she talked about continuing on with her major, getting her masters, and doing some sort of counseling work.  But a rest was needed, and she decided to take some time off and do something fun.  So she auditioned for a theater company, was cast, and off she went on three national tours with a Virginia theater company.
This child has always loved theater and performing.  Wicked, of course being her favorite, to Legally Blonde following a close second.  From a very early age, she was gathering up the neighborhood kids to direct plays, of which she always cast herself in the lead.  Even though they would want to play dolls, or tag, or whatever, she was in charge, and convinced them of the fun they would have playing some character that she had conjured up in her head.
With a flair for the dramatic, and a love of singing when she was old enough to talk, we enrolled her in dance lessons at an early age.  Why not acting or singing lessons, you ask?  Because this child had so much energy she had to have an outlet.  Not an overnight dancing sensation, but we all enjoyed watching her on stage, and she sure did love being up there.

The years flew by, as they do, and so it went.  School plays, show choir, cheerleading, dance recitals, church choir rehearsals and mission trips, and even softball and field hockey.  Whew, we got caught up in it.  The thing is, she enjoyed it all.  If we could have had more time, she would have done more, I think.  School work did suffer, at times, but we had activities to go to and schedules to keep.

Fast forward to 2013.  She sent in an audition tape to Broadway Dance Center's professional dance semester, and was accepted.  The surprise came when she announced to us that she was moving to New York to pursue this musical theatre career.  You could have knocked us over with a feather.  Yes, we love the fact that she is talented and ambitious.  We love watching her perform.  But but but... we had no idea that she would go for it.  "I don't want to be 60, look back, and say I wish I had gone for it," was her response. How can you deny a person's dream?  On the other hand, how can we let her do this?

So, you ask, would did we do?  That's what this blog is all about.  What we did, what we are doing, and what we will do.  Along the way, I hope you will give me your input.  I will take you along on this journey, and in my eyes, a journey it is.  You see, whatever happens, was meant to be.  This journey will lead her to where she is supposed to be, what she is supposed to do.  I believe that with all my heart, and I pray for that every day.

So come with us as we look at the ups and downs of this industry.  While we are at it, I will take you on my son's journey as well.  We think he will take a more traditional route, but as a parent you can never be sure. Stay tuned, and hang on.  It's going to be a helluva ride!