Beauty and the Beast is my favorite Disney Movie. When I was a little girl my dad took me to the movie theater to see it. We didn't go out to the movies very often when I was a kid so this was a big deal. When Belle first came on screen she secured a place in my heart forever. She had brown hair and brown eyes, loved to read, and sang beautifully. She felt slightly out of place in her town and longed for adventure. 10 year old me with my brown hair and eyes made an instant connection with the animated princess. A dream was birthed in my heart. I wanted to grow up to be Belle.
Many years later in 2003, I was in my early twenties and decided it was a good time to pursue my dream. I wasn't married and I didn't have any kids. I had left school and was working at a YMCA as a preschool assistant. After doing internet research and making phone calls with human resources at Disney to figure out the audition process, I started saving for a plane ticket and hotel costs. I had a plan and was putting it into action. It seemed like it was only a matter of time before I would be able to pursue my dream.
My plan was interrupted when I answered a phone call that changed my life. The previous Christmas I had met a baby girl who was in foster care. She and I had an instant connection. When her plan changed from return to parent to adoption, I received a phone call asking me if I was interested in adopting her. I knew in a moment I was meant to be Hope's mom, and my future took a new path. The money saved for a plane ticket, instead when to a deposit for a little rental home in St Helens. I completed the necessary classes to become a foster parent and Hope moved in with me. Six months later, my husband and I got married and we became an instant family of three.
Life moved at a fast pace as we continued to be foster parents, had biological children, and finalized Hope's adoption. My husband and I were serving as Youth and Children's Pastors at our church and he also taught technology at one of our local elementary schools. I soon forgot all about my dream of being a princess, except when I put in the DVD and would sing along with Belle while my kids watched the Disney movie.
While I was deep in this life of motherhood, I heard our local community theater was going to be putting on the Broadway Production of Beauty and the Beast. I was so excited. Some of the most talented people in the community were going to be directing the stage, orchestra, and music. I knew it was going to be a well done show. I wanted so desperately to be a part. I had been in plays and musicals in high school and college, but that was many years prior. With my husband's support, I decided to try out.
I walked into the Olmscheid Auditorium with a million butterflies in my stomach. It had been 7 years since I had auditioned to be in a play. When I stood on the stage I remembered why I loved musical theater so much. There is something magical about the theater. The smells, the lights, the sounds. I was so happy to be standing in that auditorium. I sang and read along with several other adults auditioning. I have no idea what I sang or how it went. It's all a little fuzzy in my mind due to my nerves.
I do, however, remember very clearly when the director made an announcement about the costumes. The costumes had already been rented and the actors would need to be the right size in order to be cast. I was crushed. I understood the incredible detail of the costumes and the fact they were rented required specific sized people to play the roles, but my body which had carried and given birth to multiple babies was not the size of the Bell costume.
I left the theater that night and drowned my sorrows in Ben and Jerry's ice cream because I believed there was no way they would cast me in the role of Belle. I was completely surprised when I received a call back. I went back to the theater and sang, read, and did some basic choreography with several other people who had also received a call back. Once again I remembered my deep love of the theater. I still knew the rules about the costume, and when I wrote my size down on the audition form I figured that would be the end.
A few days later, the head director called to tell me they loved my portrayal of the character so much they decided to have a local seamstress make my costume so they could give me the part. I was over the moon ecstatic.
It was one of the happiest seasons of my life. I would spend my days loving my kids and spend my evenings rehearsing at the theater. I loved the singing, dancing, and acting. I loved the people. I loved the sense of excitement in the air as the show date grew closer. I could have practiced endlessly and still loved it.
On opening night I stood in the wings and felt a rush of joy as I waited for the musical to begin. I listened to the overture and the opening monologue telling the tragic story of the man turned beast. As the first few notes of the opening song played, I felt a wave of nervousness. But as soon as the words, "Little town, it's a quiet village," came out of my mouth I was home. The nerves evaporated and I was completely immersed in the moment.
At the end of every show we would get to meet the audience. Those moments were magical as boys and girls would come hug me and take photos. They believed in their hearts I really was Belle. To advertise the show I also did readings at the local library. In those precious days I was able to live out a childhood dream.
I still enjoy looking back and remembering that season of my life. As I reflect I am reminded of the importance of not giving up on your dreams. They might not come to fruition like you imagined, but that doesn't mean something beautiful won't happen. You are never too old to fulfill a dream. So many times we think if we didn't accomplish it in our early twenties then we missed our chance, but that isn't true, friends.
I have dreamed for many years of writing a book. There isn't a book with my name sitting on a shelf at Target...yet. But I have the privilege of sharing my words with those of you who read this blog. I dream of speaking in front of groups of people encouraging them to embrace the messiness of foster care and adoption. I'm not standing on any big stages...yet. But I get to laugh and cry with people over cups of coffee about the things I have learned and am still learning about loving kids from hard places. Since I fell in love with the community where I live, I have wanted to open a Kids Pub where children can hang out and feel safe while drinking a root beer floats. It hasn't opened...yet. But this past year I became the Founder and Executive Director of Riverside Community Outreach, a non-profit that serves vulnerable children and supports families in Columbia County.
I believe as long as we are breathing we can be dreaming. I am a 38 year old mama of 10 who is still reaching and striving for more. Just because I didn't write an amazing book, become a motivational speaker, or open a kids pub in my twenties doesn't mean those aren't still possibilities.
When I became a mom, I thought my chance at being a princess was over. I was wrong. Are their desires and ambitions in your heart you have been carrying around quietly? Do you believe you've missed your chance to fulfill them?
Let me encourage you. What are your dreams? Go for them! It's not too late, you aren't too old, your moment hasn't passed. Dreams can still come true.
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