It’s time for our 2017 end-of-the-year review…

I’ve found that this can really be a good time to actually figure out so much of what I learned versus what I thought I had learned. Rinse and repeat. At least things are getting better.

Mimicking last year’s annual review, let’s go over the WORST parts of 2017…. OK.

At the beginning of the year, I had tears in my meniscus in both of my knees due to excessive weight and wear-and-tear. I was told I needed to drastically lose weight or I would need a cane for the rest of my life or worse. I was also told I was pre-diabetic. My period had started on New Year’s Eve and didn’t stop until April. Heavy-flow days that were no fun at all. I had worked previously on GANYC’s official bid documents, the website, and produced the official video. We were traveling to Iran to present our bid. As scary as it seemed to travel to a country that apparently hated Americans, I knew I would be safe. We would be fine. And our bid was destined to be the best and we would win, or so we thought.

When we arrived we were greeted with so much love, attention, and tons of gifts. The food was amazing and the culture took us to a whole other level of expectations and experience of being a tour guide and tourist. The WFTGA convention was amazing except for the part where I broke down crying hysterically during a snowstorm on a mountain because I thought my knees were going to give out and I was going to fall. I was incredibly embarrassed and so very upset. I cried in front of strangers and yet I also found peace and guidance because people arrived to help me up the hill that I couldn’t see in front of me. A couple of days into the convention, it was time for our BID presentation and we blew them all away. We had a Broadway-style show incorporated into the BID, and the whole BID was worth the money and time spent. We were proud. A link to the whole video presentation can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nm-s5wTOLAo

The next morning we found out that president Donald Trump had banned Muslims from re-entering the country. We were devastated and heartbroken. We also were worried that our colleague and my best friend Ibrahima might not be allowed back into the country. But somehow that week, thanks to protests at the airports, by the time we needed to come back we were all allowed back in. We of course did not win the bid. Not that our presentation wasn’t hands-down the best but because our new Iranian friends were now not allowed to come. It was literally a blow and let-down that left us not only scared for our country but for the future of our own country.

I was scheduled to have the weight-loss surgery on April 11th but I needed to lose 20 pounds before surgery date. However, when I returned from Iran in February, my father had gotten sicker and was having surgery for his lung cancer that had returned. I decided to fly home with my husband and help my parents for the month.

Helping my parents didn’t leave me time to focus on weight loss. By the beginning of March we had to return to New York. I had student tours and I was producing the GANYC Apple awards so I was needed. I felt incredibly burnt out and I did the best I could to get the show off the ground with my fellow committee members. But after the awards show, I stepped down from all my responsibilities. All committees and my role as PR Chair. I needed the space to focus on myself.

Everything seemed to be good until my mom called and said my father had fallen and broke his foot. The medication had made him nauseous and dizzy. My tour guide work had picked up and I had even enrolled in a couple of signature programs to better myself. One of them I had been wanting to do since February of 2015 called Marie Forleo’s B-School and Denise Duffield-Thomas’ Lucky Bitch Bootcamp. It cost me almost $2000 and I didn’t have all of that money up-front, but somehow I trusted that it would arrive when I needed it. With this new excitement of learning what I needed to focus on my business and doing what I needed to do for my weight loss, I felt like I had some control. However, I was doing the recommended liquid diet so I was hungry all the time but this was my last chance to lose weight. I wanted to have the bypass but my surgeon said he wouldn’t give it to me unless I lost the weight. He would have given me the sleeve instead but luckily I lost 31 pounds right before surgery and got what I wanted.

I’ve never have even had a tooth pulled, so surgery was the biggest thing I’ve ever put my body through. It was tough recouping. So much pain. Still hungry. I got sick a lot. And then I tried going back to work after a few weeks and almost passed out cold on 42nd Street. The same day my mom called and said my dad was getting worse and I felt like I needed to take the time off anyways from work so I should go home to see him. He was staying at the VA hospital in Tampa and she was driving back and forth a few times a week to see him. It’s an hour each way. She’s diabetic so I didn’t want her stressing herself out to much. So Damon and I went home again.

My father had told me when I was 15 or so that I might possibly have 2 older sisters somewhere in Indiana. He couldn’t remember their names and he couldn’t remember very much at all. I had noticed that his memory was not so good these past 5 years. Always forgetting things. He was also severely depressed so it was hard having meaningful conversations with him because he would sleep all the time. But I was praying that he might remember something so I could eventually find them. It didn’t work out that way. He passed away on May 1st due to complications of lung failure from the cancer and possibly pneumonia.

It was extremely hard to say goodbye, but we made the choice to take him off lung support so that he could move on to a better place. He didn’t want to be in hospice waiting to die. I helped organize the memorial and helped my family and my mom with all the important paperwork. I would say that January to May were the most stressful experiences I have ever been through. Click here to see his memorial video reel: https://youtu.be/kKaYvSU2rzk

Flash-forward now to after the memorial… we had to take my mom to social security and close out accounts that had my dad’s name on them. As she was going through various papers, she found an envelope that had a letter with my dad’s signature on it addressed to a lawyer in Indiana. It mentioned that he was releasing from the woman his rights for his two daughters. Our jaws dropped because they had that paper all that time and we finally had their names. I quickly looked them up and ran a report on them. I found out one of my sisters had passed away and the other one was living in Arizona. I wondered if she might be on Facebook and sure enough she was. Even had my last name. So many thoughts raced through my head, she must know Dad’s her father. She must have never been adopted. Did she know about me?! We tried calling the numbers we had found. Nothing worked. But I friend-requested her on FB and sent her a message. I told her my father’s name and that I thought I was her half sister. She responded back within 5 minutes that she had been looking for me for 20 years. I had decided to stay home until the end of my birthday which is May 26th and after a few weeks of video-chatting and realizing we didn’t know the whole story, I asked her if she would like to come to Florida and visit for a few days. She did. We finally found some peace and resolution.

The rest of the year has flown by…

I’ve mourned, I’ve celebrated, I’ve cried hysterically and passionately over all that has occurred. I’ve met my half-sister twice and have gotten to spend more quality-time with my family than ever before.

I have dreams that I am destined to work on; I am finding it easier to manage everyday stress and am learning to love myself and forgive myself. Even challenge myself. I’ve been through a lot but I feel like I am just getting polished. There’s a fire burning that I can’t quite explain and I know in the end I will figure it out.

The Good Stuff:

—I renewed my passport and traveled to a far-away country for the first time in 8 years. I somehow was able to save up extra money to travel for this convention where I never could have in years past.

—Damon and I traveled to Disney using my employee benefits for our 1-year anniversary/honeymoon since we technically got married on Leap Day!

—I was able to give my tour guide Mikey, who also helps me with social media, a raise.

—Took on more coaching opportunities as a tour guide and website coach.

—Was featured on YESBroadway with GoldStar with my company New York Broadway Tours for the first time.

—Produced and Directed The GANYC Apple Awards for the third year in a row.

—Saw my family 3 times (February, May, and December), spent almost 3-4 weeks each time. Since I am self-employed I make my own hours. I also was able to pay for my own plane tickets and hotel stays and dinner for the first time in years. (Money blocks gone! Huzzah! Ka-Ching!)

—I was able to take care of my female health issues and am on track for baby-making whenever Damon and I are ready.

—I had new headshot pictures taken by an amazing photographer, Charles Chessler for my new business and to track my weight loss change. http://www.charleschesslerphotography.com 

—My business has quadrupled since last year. I actually have a credit-worthy salary now! (Money blocks gone! Huzzah! Ka-Ching!)

—I’m continuing to purchase weekly MTA cards in case I get last-minute bookings as needed. (Money blocks gone! Huzzah! Ka-Ching!)

—I launched a dog-walking business, www.storytailsdogwalking.com, with my husband so he can work closer to home and continue to write. We love dogs and are enjoying the extra money.

—I started paying off my student loans with no more help from my parents. (Money blocks gone! Huzzah! Ka-Ching!)

—I paid off an online program that cost me almost $2k. (Money blocks gone! Huzzah! Ka-Ching!)

—I was nominated by The Guides Association of NYC to be on the board. I am no longer chair of anything but finally a board member where I can implement real changes for the association.

—I completed GANYC’s certification program and helped in utilizing a necessary program that can help fellow GANYC guides learn and do better with their craft.

—I was hired by Education First Explore America as a tour director/tour guide where I will get to travel to D.C., Boston, PA, and New York with students during the spring and summer. EF Education First is an international education company that specializes in language training, educational travel, academic degree programs, and cultural exchange. (Money blocks gone! Huzzah! Ka-Ching!)

—I got licensed to give tours in Washington, D.C. and am working on joining their guild soon!

—Oh, and I lost 115 pounds thanks to the gastric bypass and the lessons I learned from the Dukan and Atkins diets. I am currently wearing a size 18-20 where I was a size 26-28 at the beginning of the year. My knees no longer hurt at all, and I am moving and feeling so much better. My whole weight loss journey has been posted on YouTube for over a year. You can watch it here: https://youtu.be/TQP7fswHt6g 

Here’s to 2018! My goals for the new year include:

  • Losing 80 pounds to get to a goal weight of 175. A size 10-12 maybe. I don’t know what I will feel comfortable in, but I am going to go for it.
  • Focusing on getting stronger and toned up. (YOGA!)
  • Launching my online program and membership website that will help actors and NYC tour guides. To learn more, visit my FB group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/NYCActorTourGuideTraining
  • Finishing Part 1 of my memoir and start working on my solo show.
  • Traveling more, either for business or for my own personal experience. (Hello JetBlue points!)
  • Seeing more Broadway, Off-Broadway shows and maybe even auditioning again!
  • And of course I plan on spending more quality-time with my amazing, supportive, handsome husband Damon, who is my rock and the love of my life.

Bye bye 2017! Hello 2018. #letsdothis