Daily Musings

My Love Story

I moved to New York City in the summer of 2003. I had spent the summer living with a friend in a dorm style apartment while I was attending a summer musical theatre program. I decided that NYC was the place for me so I found an apartment via craigslist and moved in on September 6, 2003. My new roommate Julie was lovely and she decided that I should meet her friend Rob who lived in the neighborhood but was also in musical theatre. Luckily Rob was singing in a concert the next weekend so Julie decided that we would go so she could introduce us.

We were late to the concert. I had no idea how long it would take us to get from Astoria to the York Theatre! We were about 15 minutes late and missed the first song that Rob sang that night. The concert was fun and I did get to see him sing a duet later in the show. Afterwards we met in the lobby in front of the now extinct pay phones. He was cute. And tall. I liked that.

Julie and I joined Rob and his cast for a drink afterwards and Rob was complaining about having to lug his guitar with him to a friends birthday party later that night. I offered to take his guitar back to Astoria since we lived near each other. I figured he could come by and get it at a later date. Believe it or not, this was actually just me being nice and not me masterminding a grand, romantic plan. I am from Texas after all where we are bred to be polite.

I saw Rob again the next week when we went to see some really terrible theatre together. It was supposed to be a group outing with friends but everyone cancelled so it suddenly became a date. Interesting how that happens. We walked around the San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy and I kept making “Into The Woods” jokes. (bonus points if you know the joke I was making)

Rob eventually came over to get his guitar and I made him dinner. We flirted. We kept seeing each other over the next few weeks and eventually he swept in for a kiss when I wasn’t expecting it. He’s sneaky like that.

Those magical months were almost 10 years ago. We’ve managed to figure out this crazy life of being performers living in New York City. I think. Maybe we haven’t figured it out completely but we are trying together.

Last month Rob took me to The York Theatre where we met to see a show. Afterwards he said that he had a meeting with the company manager to talk about getting a show produced. We walked back into the theatre and this happened.

Flynn Says YES! from Mike Bradley on Vimeo.



I’m really excited about celebrating 10 years together with this amazing man and I can’t think of any better way than with an exchange of vows and a killer dance party. It’s gonna be awesome.
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Whoops

Remember my New Year’s resolution? Blogging every week? Whoops.

In my defense, I started back to school three weeks ago and my schedule just went completely to hell. I also got engaged. So I’ve been preoccupied with life and such.

I know what you’re thinking: “Shame on you Amanda!!! You made a commitment to this blog and therefore you shall make yourself blog come hell or high water!” I know loyal reader, I know. I’m sorry I let you down.

I should also add that I did completely redo my website and I couldn’t upload anything for about a week, so there’s that. And speaking of new website,

Do you like my new site????

I worked really hard on it. I think it’s pretty snazzy. My pics by the amazing Billy Bustamante are nailing it. I’m still trying to fix a few kinks so if you see anything that doesn’t work or doesn’t load properly, let me know. I want to make sure it works everywhere.

Now that I’ve apologized profusely I promise to get to blogging.

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Another JTF in the Books

I returned to NYC Monday after a jam packed weekend in Atlanta with 4,000 of my closest middle school aged friends. The Junior Theatre Festival is such a wonderful experience and I’m so honored that I get to be a part of it every year. JTF is organized by the good people of iTheatrics and Atlanta TUTS. Sponsors include Disney and MTI and the festival is the largest of its kind celebrating both musical theatre and kids.

The weekend kicks off on Friday with all the groups from around the country arriving and registering. After a Friday night reception where all the directors, workshop leaders, staff, and adjudicators get to mingle with each other, the festival officially gets started on Saturday morning with the adjudication process.

The festival is not about competition. Groups don’t come there to compete, but simply to present 15 minutes of their Broadway JR. work and receive feedback from Broadway and theatre professionals. It’s such a great opportunity to present a smattering of the show you’ve been working so hard on and get real feedback that will help celebrate your successes and help you improve where you need it. It’s such a rewarding experience for the kids and directors. It’s also great to see students who excel singled out. Kids that are great dancers are invited to audition for the Choreography DVD’s that are included with every Broadway JR. Director’s Guide. Kids that stand out as being a great part of their team get to be All Stars and learn a number just for them to present at the final awards ceremony. There are even awards for stand outs in acting, dancing, music, and ensemble work. The groups that receive the highest adjudication marks are also presented with the opportunity to perform in the final awards ceremony.

I like the label this weekend “Stop Crying You’re Just Making A Fool Of Yourself” weekend. Seriously. From the second I walked into the theater on Friday morning and saw a group rehearsing Hairspray JR. for the New Works Showcase, I was done. I had tears in my eyes and goosebumps all down my arm and spine. I’m a sucker for kids who can perform well, and I’m even more of a sucker for kids who can’t perform well but are living their life on stage like there is no tomorrow. Needless to say, there was tons of both categories everywhere this weekend.

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I was lucky enough to be a discussion group leader, which is the person that takes a group into a discussion right after they finish their adjudication. It was such a rewarding experience. It was amazing getting to lead the kids in a discussion about how they were feeling about the whole process, why they felt that way, and how they were going to implement the adjudicators notes into their show. Kids are smart and sometimes I think we don’t give them enough credit. They can handle constructive criticism and they can handle pressure. All the kids that I got to chat with were lovely and well rounded. I also taught Advanced Acting classes on Saturday afternoon and had a blast. These kids are really special.

The kids at JTF are given so many fabulous opportunities. They had a Q&A with cast members from Newsies as well as the Pathways to Success chat where former JTF students who now have successful performing careers come back to talk about their success. Alan Menken was given the JTF Award and was so honored. Afterwards he was placed on a chair and given a surprise performance of “Be Our Guest” by a huge group of kids. I wish everyone in the world could have been there to see the look of surprise and tears on Alan’s face. I cried too, not that that was anything new by this point.

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We were even introduced to 9 year old Eli from Marietta, GA who spearheaded a fundraising effort at his school for Sandy victims in East Rockaway. Eli’s school raised $12,000 for the schools and was the cutest little peanut I’ve ever seen. And yes, I cried when they showed the video that he made about raising money. And don’t forget when he said that his favorite fundraising activity was making Origami. Yep. He raised $98 by making and selling Origami. SOMEBODY BRING ME THIS CHILD!!

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The Junior Theatre Festival is so special and I’m so honored to be a part of it every year. There is no way to accurately capture what it’s like in that giant convention center turned theatre when everyone is there. The festival ended with “Seasons of Love” sung by everyone. (click to watch) It was a spectacular way to end the weekend. I’m looking forward to next year!!




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Living Like An Actor

Being an actor is cool. Everyday presents a new set of challenges or adventure. You also get to do all sorts of fun things, go all sorts of fun places, and even when you think you know yourself pretty well, you sometimes get to learn a new thing or two about yourself.

I woke up Sunday morning to a surprise email from a writer friend of mine who wanted to know if by any chance I might be available to step into a reading of one of his shows this week. With a little finagling here and there I freed my schedule and jumped in. The show is a fabulous musical called
The Passion of Ed Wood and it is about none other than Ed Wood. Now, some of you may not be familiar with Ed Wood but you may have heard of some of his movies. Glen or Glenda. No?? How about Bride of the Monster? Nope?? Maybe Plan 9 from Outer Space? OK. So Ed Wood was known as Hollywood’s worst filmmaker. His films were terrible. They were campy, low budget, horribly written travesties that are now only remembered as cult classics. Ed Wood was committed to being a filmmaker and he wasn’t going to let anyone or anything stand in his way. He was also a cross dresser and friends with Bela Lugosi (the original Dracula) towards the end of Bela’s drug addled life. Needless to say, Ed Wood had an interesting life and it makes for a great story on the stage.

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Once I had committed to doing the reading my inbox was filled with emails with the script and music and people asking for my information and yadda yadda yadda. All great things to bombarded with. And then, near the bottom of one of the emails from the composer there was a lone question. It read:

Do you by any chance play the guitar or ukulele?


Now, I have many gifts in life, but playing instruments isn’t really one of them. I am a fair piano player but that’s about it. When I was a kid I played the guitar but then I broke a string and my mom never replaced it so I stopped playing. I know, I know. Silly Mommy. But then when I did
Mamma Mia in 2006, there is a scene where Sophie has to play the guitar on stage. The guitar player for the show taught me the four or five chords for the song and I did pretty well with it. However, if you were to put a gun to my head and ask me to play it for you now, I would die a quick death because my retention level is horrendous when it comes to stuff like that.

So naturally I responded with:

I play a little! :) :)


What? Way to go Amanda. Sure, telling them you play “a little” isn’t technically incorrect. You have played a “little” amount in your life. You knew a “little” amount of chords in 2006. Your natural talent is quite a “little” amount in regards to playing any string instrument. Good job. And stop using so many freaking smiley faces! That doesn’t make it better! Luckily,
Rob is extremely gifted musically and knows how to play. He said, “The ukulele is easy! I’ll teach you!” Yeah Rob. Easy for people with the type of musical gifts that I do not possess.

Rob just happened to be borrowing our fried
Lauren’s ukulele this week for a recording so he printed out a chord sheet and started showing me the four chords that I needed for the song in the show. The strangest thing happened. I was able to do it. I’ve never experienced anything like it. It was simple. And not only did it feel simple, but it all stayed in my head. I didn’t even have to think about it. It just made sense.

Instantly I’m picturing myself as a full blown rockstar rocking alongside Pete Townshend and Slash. They are shredding away on their guitars as they make way for my ukulele solo. I’m entering the stage from above as I’m dropped down slowly into the fog from the fog machines. And there are fireworks. Clearly I’m a gifted musician. How could I have gone almost 31 years without knowing that this musical gift lied inside me like a dormant beast awaiting to be aroused?? Obviously my life was just starting.

Once the high of mastering four chords wore off, I started thinking about my accomplishments. Obviously no one has ever mastered the ukulele as fast as I did. Right? Right?? It was just so easy. The neck is so small that my hands don’t have to reach too much and the simplicity of only four strings is great. I mean, who needs those pesky two other strings! It’s almost as if the ukulele was made for kids!

Wait. What? Made for kids? Is this why I’m so good at it? Are you telling me that I have mastered the recorder of the string instruments at 31? Great. Just great.

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blonde ukuleleUnknown


Despite the fact that I may have just picked up a child’s instrument, I still feel pretty accomplished, albeit a little less than I initially thought. Maybe Pete and Slash will have to wait. The important thing is that I couldn’t play the ukulele on Sunday and I could on Monday. Who knew! And what’s even better is that I really, really like playing it. It’s fun. Being an actor is great. I love these challenges that allows you to discover something new about yourself. Those type of challenges are much more fun than the not-making-enough-money-to-eat kind of challenges that also come along with being an actor.

So, perhaps you’ll consider living your life like an actor this week? No, I don’t mean starve yourself, I mean challenge yourself to go outside the box and do something that you never thought you could do. You might be amazed at the results. I know I was.

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2013: The Year of the Blog

I first started a blog in 2006 when I moved to Las Vegas to join Mamma Mia. I thought it would be a good way for my family and friends to keep up with me and what I was doing. I blog fiercely for about a month or two and then abandoned the idea. Over the years I kept coming back to the blog every once in a while and once again I’d blog fiercely for a month or two and then abandon the site. Do you see a pattern here?

When I started my triathlon training I saw it as a great opportunity to blog once again. There were so many things happening in my life that it made for good blogging. I really enjoy blogging, so I’m making a commitment to myself that I will blog at least once a week for the year of 2013. My blog will mostly consist of my musings and will be about anything from football to fashion; from voice teaching ideas to triathlon training; from motivational mantras to musical theatre; from favorite food to the struggles of living in NYC. I will include anything that seems blog worthy.

So, stick around if you’d like. If I’m gonna take the time to write it I sure hope someone reads it. Besides you Mom.
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30 Days of Thanks

Every November, Facebook and Twitter are filled with people listing something they are thankful for every day of the month. I’m no good at these things. I suck at sticking to a routine. It’s just who I am. BUT, in the spirit of Thanksgiving, I decided that I would give it a try. So, in no particular order, here are 60 things that I am thankful for. Two for everyday of the month. Enjoy.


1. Gingerbread Spice Latte’s. Seriously. They are delicious and remind me that Christmas is coming.
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2. Wigs and costumes because they make life better.
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3. Friends who will order the kids meal at a restaurant and unabashedly ask for the chocolate milk instead of juice box.
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4. This love of and excitement for string cheese. It’s an excellent food and I’ve clearly not been excited enough about it. I have learned my lesson and am thankful for it.
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5. These two little nuggets who learn about rock and roll from me every Saturday morning.
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6. I am thankful that this was the most damage my apartment had after Hurricane Sandy.
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7. Kitty tummy. It’s the greatest thing out there.
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8.I went to Casa Bonita this year. It was the most fun I may have ever had.
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9. Autumn.
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10. I am thankful for days that come along where you just get to play in the park with your friends.
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11. Love and commitment shown in so many different ways.
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12. This shirt. And Sky Mall.
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13. These shoes. They are the best purchase I’ve made in a long time.
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14. Kids attempting to hold things that are too big for them.
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15. Karaoke. It brings everyone joy.
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16. Wine and particularly consuming it with my family.
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17. Being crammed in a van with this group of people. You should try it sometime if you haven’t.
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18. Cheese. Although it doesn’t seem to last very long around here.
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19. This bacon donut.
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20. Real friends who could never be replaced in your life. The kind that know you better than you know yourself.
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21. Setting goals and having the means and determination to accomplish them.
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22. Friends who will have birthday parties with you and then run outside with you when it starts snowing.
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23. That time I went to the Superbowl with this crazy group of people.
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24. Holding babies less than 12 hours old. It’s so good for the soul.
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25. Generic drugs.
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26. Pudding Pies and the ability to *make them at home.
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*do not attempt to make them at home. It will not turn out well.

27. Kitty paws.
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28. Waterparks. I really need to go to a waterpark more often. They clearly bring you joy.
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29. These idyllic little ladies.
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30. Candy from my childhood.
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31. The view from my window.
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32. And this view from my roof.
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33. Pets that celebrate their birthdays in style.
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34. The Olympics.
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35. Lazy days with nothing to do.
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36. Living in NYC and finding gems like this for sale on the street.
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37. A group of friends so *cool that we have a name and make t-shirts every year.
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*we might just be immature

38. Nudey photo hunt.
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39. Seeing this face every time I sit down for dinner.
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40. An East Texas homemade meal.
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41. One of the people who made me who I am today.
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42. This face that looks almost identical to the face of my stepbrother when he was a kid.
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43. Hamming it up for the camera.
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44. Americuh.
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45. My dad.
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46. My mom. She dressed as an Olympic gold medal for Halloween. You’re welcome.
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47. My stepmom. She’s the coolest.
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48. My brother’s wine cellar. In his house. Yep.
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49. My siblings. They are nice and I like them.
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50. Going to the beach with someone you love.
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51. Graduating from college. Finally.
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52. This text message mistake I received earlier this year.
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53. Glamour Shots
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54. Having someone to comfort you when you are sad or *hurting.
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*I was hurting. My dog scratched me. It was rough.

55. This smirk on my grandfather’s face.
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56. This sticker that I found on a watermelon this summer. And yes, I did email him.
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57. Cats that get into precarious situations.
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58. My left armpit because it facilitates this at least once a day.
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59. My expanding family.
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60. This man. I love him and I’m thankful for him everyday of my life. He’s super talented and such a wonderful person. I’m thankful that I get to hang around him so much. He’s yet to get *sick of me.
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*This is an assumption based on the fact that he still comes home everyday. This is not based on actual facts.

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Oh Sandy, You Are Not The One That I Want

In the days leading up to Hurricane Sandy, the Grease and Annie jokes were abounding. Every theatre nerd, myself included, was thinking of ways to be clever with the name Sandy. I mean, we all saw this floating around the inter web.
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Oh Sandy.

Last year when Irene hit, I was uber prepared. I grew up in Tornado Alley, so I have been in bad storms before. Although a tornado and hurricane are different, I know how to be prepared. As a kid, I slept every night with my NOAA radio by my bed along with my flashlight. I was ready to run to the bathroom with my supplies at the drop of a hat. I may have been slightly dramatic with this preparedness, but I never wanted to be caught off guard. (And I was scared to death of the storms) When Mayor Bloomberg told us to be prepared last year for Irene, prepared was an understatement. My fridge was stocked to brim. We had every non-perishable item available. We bought every battery in Astoria. We had 7 flashlights. Yes, 7 for 2 people. Don’t judge me. I had our backpacks filled with water, first aid kits, and food. We had our passports in waterproof bags along with photos of each other and the cat in case we were separated. We filled every pot with fresh water along with the bathtub. We could have lived in our apartment for a month without water or electricity and been just fine.
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We even had a soundtrack picked out for the weekend.
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We got lucky in NYC last year. Irene wasn’t the Maneater we expected her to be. At least not here in the city. Parts of Jersey and upstate New York were really hit, but we got away scott free. I spent most of the weekend after the storm passed drinking and hanging out with my friends on my neighbors porch.
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So, naturally many New Yorkers were skeptical of Sandy. Many felt that last years preparations were overkill and that Sandy would be no different. Luckily, I was prepared once again. I still had all 7 flashlights (shut up!!) and almost all the batteries from last year. (I mean, who actually uses D batteries anyway?) I had our emergency passport pictures ready, the non-perishables filling the kitchen, and enough water to sink a small ship. We were ready here at Chez Flynn-Rokicki.

Once again, we got lucky. Our neighborhood went relatively untouched. We had some trees down and small power outages mostly from trees falling on wires. Much of the rest of the city wasn’t so lucky. By now, everyone knows how bad the storm hit lower Manhattan, parts of Brooklyn, Long Island, and the Jersey Shore. Total devastation in some areas.

This week has been one of the strangest weeks I’ve ever lived through. Lower Manhattan, including my beloved restaurant Annisa and my school NYU, have been powerless all week as you can see from this amazing photo.
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This means no school or work since last week. Sounds great, right? Only it wasn’t. It was hard to live my life not only trapped in Astoria because of no transportation, but on hold knowing that thousands of my fellow New Yorkers were suffering. The fires that demolished Breezy Point, Queens; devastating. The people of The Rockways, Queens who are still waiting on rescue and aid; heart wrenching. The people of Staten Island who are isolated from both supplies and information; unbelievable. It breaks my heart to see anyone suffering, but especially my neighbors and fellow New Yorkers. While I enjoyed my hot showers, television and heat during the 40 degree weather, thousands of people were without any of these things.

Rob and I gathered up everything we could possibly donate for our fellow New Yorkers including much of the stuff that I had bought in preparation. After all, we got lucky. We didn’t need the D batteries or 7 flashlights. We went through drawers and closets and found every coat, scarf, hat, pair of socks, and gloves that we didn’t need. We didn’t need all those water bottles and the kitchen full of non-perishables. We didn’t need these things, but others did. We made our donation in hope that it will help in the tiniest way. It definitely wasn’t much, but it was what we could do.

I’ve lived in New York City for over 9 years; long enough to officially call myself a New Yorker. I’ve been through a lot with this city and I wouldn’t change it for anything. Every time I even entertain the thought of leaving, I catch myself staring at the skyline in awe, or perhaps watching the most glorious sunset from my fire escape. NYC is my home. And even more than that, it is my sanctuary. It is the city that makes me feel alive and whole. Even when it exhausts me, I am thankful to be here. I am reminded of an Ayn Rand quote from
The Fountainhead:

“I would give the greatest sunset in the world for one sight of New York's skyline. Particularly when one can't see the details. Just the shapes. The shapes and the thought that made them. The sky over New York and the will of man made visible. What other religion do we need? And then people tell me about pilgrimages to some dank pesthole in a jungle where they go to do homage to a crumbling temple, to a leering stone monster with a pot belly, created by some leprous savage. Is it beauty and genius they want to see? Do they seek a sense of the sublime? Let them come to New York, stand on the shore of the Hudson, look and kneel. When I see the city from my window - no, I don't feel how small I am - but I feel that if a war came to threaten this, I would throw myself into space, over the city, and protect these buildings with my body.”

As Governor Cuomo said today, “
The nation knows New Yorkers as tough. We are tough. But we’re also sweet and we’re also kind and we’re also generous and we’re also giving. And you can see that all across the state today." I’ve never seen a community come together to help each other like New Yorkers have over the past week. It’s inspiring. It reaffirms my faith in the human spirit. It makes me proud to call myself a New Yorker.
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