Tuesday, July 14, 2020

Zoom Terror

You may not know that I used to be a singer. I toured the country with a Christian singing group. I used to have a pretty good range. I used to be a good size fish in a tiny little pond, but that was too many years ago to admit. Just like every muscle in your body if you don't use it, you lose it. So recently, I have become a very successful drivers seat singer.

However, in this pandemic I have decided to find ways to grow. Yesterday there was a zoom class offered to work on vocal technique. I turned off my mic. I turned off the camera and away we go. (You guys, zoom classes are so amazing right now because you can be AWFUL and no one will ever know.)

 As the class began, we started doing techniques and the teacher had everyone muted, but was giving correction on what she saw. "Relax your shoulders. Lower your jaw." I thought, "Well, i can do that." So, I turned my camera on. I got a correction and I was so happy to be improving.

 Then, terror.

 She says "Liz Hetzel, let's hear you." You guys. Why she picked me out of all those people, why I had to sing, what made me stand out, I have no idea. But I decided this is my chance to have an amazing vocal teacher teach me. So I went for it. I turned on my mic and after every time I sang, she gave a little lecture to everyone on something I was doing wrong.

We moved up the scale and it got higher and higher. Finally, we were at the point where I knew my voice was going to crack, so when she moved up to the next note I said, "Oh, still me?" and she said "Yah go for it." (Hint not taken.) My voice cracked. My shoulder got tense. My neck was a mess. I was so embarrassed, but I got done and she used my failure to encourage everyone to relax and gave them great advice from my ridiculousness.

She moved up another note. She could see the panic on my face and she says to me "Let's bring it on home." I do the last little bit and I just gave up and sounded horrible. I decided to just get through this because it would be over soon.

 Sure enough, just after that, the class was concluded. I was so relieved the embarrassment was over. The woman hosting the event comes back on and thanks us all for being there. Then the instructor says to the host, "Feel free to post this on YouTube so everyone one can rewatch it."

Oh. No.

Well, now my awful singing will be on YouTube for all the world to see. All my litle mistakes and flaws out there in the cyber universe.

But you know what? I'm not dead. If anything I'm stronger. Maybe seeing someone who doesn't have the best voice sing with courage will inspire someone else who has a better voice. Maybe the corrections she gave after I sang was exactly what someone needed to make that little improvement. Maybe it's all not as bad as I feel like it is.

If there is something you love (maybe you aren't good at it) and have never taken a class, go find it online or on zoom right now. Take advantage of this pandemic and all the free classes. Now's your time! (Maybe just leave your camera and mic off. Hahaha.)

Friday, June 26, 2020

That Stupid Cavalcade

A Disneyland cavalcade changed my life.  (Click here to watch it.)

In 2005, after years of successfully dancing at Disneyland, I was unexpectedly not cast in any of the upcoming parades.  So I begged for a job.  Any job.  Disney came back and said that they could use me as a lead for a small cavalcade.   A lead is a person who walks along the parade.  They make sure the music runs correctly, the guests stay out of the street and ensures the performers are safe.  I wasn't going to be picky, I was just so thankful for any job. 

It was torture.

As I took my small steps down Main Street USA, pacing the parade, I would look up and watch the girls twirling in their skirts, jumping into the arms of their dance partners, and doing what they loved.  My ugly khakis and blue polo shirt made me look plump. The large bulky headset I wore had an antenna on both sides of my head making me look like some kind of bizarre insect. The headset was connected to a controller that hung on my belt making my pants sag a bit adding to the awkward.

But everyday I showed up and walked down that route, watching my dreams from the sidelines.

One day, the choreographer was doing a rehearsal backstage.  I was in charge of the DVD player. As the dancers rehearsed, they were struggling because a person was missing. The choreographer looked over and said, "Liz, jump in."  I looked at him and said "Oh, I'm not in this parade."  He looked back at me and said, "Don't make me call you Karen."  (My first name is Karen and like a loving family, it's not good when they use your whole name.)

He knew the dancer I was.  He knew that I could learn anything from watching.  He knew I had watched the routine a million times from the sidelines.  So, I took my headphones from my head and put them around my neck and jumped in.  As I danced along,  the headset controller on my belt kept knocking around.  So, mid dance, I ripped off the headset and controller, and launched them to the side.  I was so light, so free.  I danced with my whole soul.  This is what I was made for.

I image that you are thinking that I was then cast in that cavalcade.  I wasn't.

I just walked next to that cavalcade for months, trying to get into the parades that were in the rehearsal process, but I got no where.

That rehearsal taught me that I would never be satisfied walking alongside my dreams, so one day I auditioned for a role I had always dreamt of doing.  At the beginning of the audition they announced that women who are currently cast in the upcoming parade would not be allowed to audition.  A large pack of disappointed women streamed out of the room. (I couldn't believe how thankful I was for that stupid cavalcade.)  I auditioned for the role of a lifetime.  I got it.  I'm still doing it today.*

There are times in your life when you just have to sit on the sidelines and put in the work.  It's not always perfect.  You aren't always doing what you're made for, but there is something coming.  If you keep trying, if you keeping being willing to be rejected, if you keep putting in the work, you will end up in the perfect place.

*Cue me crying every time I read that because I can't believe how lucky I am.

Monday, November 12, 2018

Crying On The Way Home From LAX

I have cried three times leaving work at LAX, and I have only worked there for seven days.

The first cry was day one when I was overwhelmed, but the other two cries were very different.

Cry number two happened on day four. A woman came up to check in and was bravely holding her tears back with every ounce of courage she had. She was checking in her dad and grandfather. They both needed a lot of assistance. I could tell she didn't have the strength.

Finally, a moment of clarity came when she said, "I have one more question." and she stood there trying to find the words, but instead just stood there. Slowly she continued, "My brother died unexpectedly..." Her next words burst out along with her tears, "My father is carrying my brother's ashes, is that ok?" And she cried and cried.

I put my hand on her arm as she cried. I tried with everything inside of me not to cry with her, to stay professional. "It's fine. Let me help you."  I got a wheelchair for her grandfather; and noted that her dad was hard of hearing. I let her escort the ashes as far as she could. As I did these things she calmed. I'm not sure anyone had been taking care of her.

She composed herself, thanked me sincerely and walked away. I turned around and pulled the tears in my eyes back into my head and pulled all my courage together to help the next person.

Cry number three was yesterday. I was working at the self check in kiosks and an older woman walked through the door. She stopped suddenly and gasped as she covered her mouth. I thought maybe she had forgotten her license or suddenly remembered she was in the wrong airport, so I walked up with a smile, "Everything ok?" She stood with her hand on her mouth shaking her head quickly.

I took the smile off my face, "What's going on?"

She moved her hand to her heart and whispered, "My daughter has cancer and has just dropped me off. I wonder if I will see her again." And she pursed her lips together not wanting to cry. I put one hand under one of her arms and put my hand her back and helped her away from the door. She told me of her daughters chemo and the things she had gone through.  She told me how hard it was to watch her go down hill and I listened.  Finally, after she had calmed down, she pulled out a piece of paper and said, "I think my daughter already checked me in."

I said, "Let's take a look." Surprising myself, my voice cracked as I said it. The woman saw my kindness and said, "What is your name?" and I said, "Liz."  She started crying. "That is my granddaughter's name. I think that is a good sign."

I'm glad that even my name can help someone feel a little stronger.  One thing that I never expected with this job was being a source of comfort.  I was sure people would disrespectfully rushed by.  I expected people to yell at me when I couldn't let them on the flight, but I never expected people to cry; to need me to more than just to check them in.

I sometimes wonder if I will get callused to it.  I sure hope not.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

The dark or the light?

There is a dark spot and a light spot in every situation.

Today I find myself sitting calmly at a coffee shop, sipping a chai latte and slowly eating a cheese roll.  And it is wonderful.

This is happening because baseball season ended a couple days ago and I will no longer have to work 14 hour days for a week a time.  I get to go to cross country meets and see friends.  I get to work on my house and build a new apartment.  (Yes, you heard me. I'm building myself an apartment with my own two hands. More to come.)

Now that all sounds really wonderful, but that's because that's how I choose to look at it.

It could be this instead:

Today I find myself sitting at a coffee shop, drinking a chai wondering where my life is going.  Baseball season has ended and I don't get to see my work friends for another six months and the paychecks will be missing.  The lack of community and money brings stress that sits in the back of my head and I wonder, "What am I going to do with my life?"

Both of these are true, but which one do I choose to focus on? The first one of course because I'm Liz Hetzel, it's what I do.  But honestly, it's harder somedays than others. Sometimes I just need to sit in the stress and say "WHAT IS HAPPENING?!"  But other times, I just need to remember that there is light and dark in every situation.  I choose the light.

Thursday, August 10, 2017

Surrounded by Incredible

I was standing in a kitchen with about 30 other people.  We were making a friendship salad.  Everyone brought one ingredient and then we all threw it together in this huge bowl. It was tossed and eaten.  Having a salad with over 30 ingredients is incredibly delicious.

Even more delicious than the salad were the people standing around the kitchen.  It was 30 people all in different stages of life, different religions, different genders, different sexual orientations.  Some had kids, some had spouses, some were widows, and some were single.

One thing they all had in common was that they are beautiful. Literally looking around the room, they each wore something classy and stylish. But it was even worse than that, they were beautiful inside and out. Everyone is clever and well spoken. You would think that being in a room with such wonderful humans would be intimidating and overwhelming, but they are all kind and approachable.  I honestly stood there confused how I got the privilege of being in this room.

I got there by doing one of the toughest interviews in my life which ended with my name being called in front of the Disneyland castle.  We were all Disneyland Ambassadors.  The women and men in that room were the resort representatives from 1967 - today.

We sat around and told stories that will never be told outside of that circle. We talked of embarrassing and overwhelming things we had to go through.  We talked about our worst interviews and where we failed.  I had a couple stories to tell that weren't so bad.  My stories are more funny.

Like, I was once walking out of the castle with Mickey to a stage in front of hundreds people.  I don't even remember what the event was now (there were so many). But as I walked over the draw bridge, my heel got stuck in between two boards and I walked right out of my shoe.

I had one second to decide; keep walking or stop and go get it.  Stand on stage with one shoe or jerk everything to a stop. I stopped which made Mickey look back at me.  I just said "I lost my shoe."  We walked back and Mickey knelt down as I slid my shoe on.  It was a perfect Cinderella moment and I'm not sure anyone else even remembers it.

But to me, every time I walk over that draw bridge I laugh. My life is weirdly phenomenal. It was such an amazing experience to represent the Resort and such a privilege to be a part of that group of unbelievably remarkable men and women. I hope that you find yourself surrounded by wonderful people that encourage you to be a better person.

I always thought it was cute when we both wore red.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

Where Is The Blue Sky?

I was hopping from boulder to boulder trying to keep my feet out of the stream rushing below me.  It was a beautiful hike, beautiful weather and a beautiful life.

One of the reason I really liked the weather was because it was warm but over cast. I could wear just a t-shirt and a light button up.  Perfect.  I knew there wouldn't see blue skies today and that was fine.

As I got to the top of the hike, a strong wind blew through and just for a second there it was, blue sky.  As fast as it was there, it was gone.  The wind continued to blow, pushing the clouds around.  In another couple minutes the clouds parted again and there it was again, that beautiful blue sky that caught my eye and filled my heart.

Those clouds felt a lot like my life for the last year.  The clouds had moved in and settled over me and my life.  It felt like it was always going to be like that, but every now and then, the clouds would part and I would see the joy I remembered before my injury; the fun loving girl I was before fear entered my life.

I see the blue skies more often than not these days, but the one thing that really hit me was that the blue sky is always sitting back there waiting for the clouds to part and be seen. My joy is always sitting back there waiting for me.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

The 12-year-old Compliment (Sort-of)

Today I waded into the ocean; flippers on my feet, boogie board in hand, and a smile plastered on my face.  Just getting into the water is a triumph.  I pushed myself into the water and started kicking.   I giggled, my body is getting back to normal.  I wave came and pushed me.  Colin grabbed me from flipping over.  We laughed.

A 12 year old girl, floated by on her surfboard.  A big smile on her face, she said, "I wish MY mom would come out in the water with me."  My heart sank.  Colin turned around and his grey hair caught her by surprise, "...or dad."

I know that's what she actually said, but what I heard was "Hey, clumsy chubby white lady. You're old and your boyfriend looks young enough to be your son."  I just wanted to sink into the water and let it pull me to shore, so I could crawl to the car and cry.

But I stopped.  I stopped beating myself up.  I stopped allowing lies to conquer my brain.  I stopped letting a 12 year old interfere with my greatness.  The truth is she was totally complimenting me.  She was telling me that it was fantastic that I was out in the water.  She loved that I was still having fun (at my real old age).  She thought my boyfriend was gorgeous. (Well, that's what I heard.)

I wish I could tell you that this is what happens every time I'm hurt by someone.  I wish I could tell you that I'm the queen of turning hurtful things into compliments, but I'm not.  But I am good at slowly learning and changing my thoughts.  And soon, purposeful choices of how to think about myself will be easier and soon it will just be a habit.  But until then, I will try my hardest to remember that I'm awesome and the lies are just that, lies.