A GREAT DAY! An Anniversary and an Opening


I know, most folks are like “Ugh, April Fool’s Day, noooooo……” but that’s not the great part of today. (I mean, if you love practical jokes and pranks, go for it) There are TWO reasons it’s a great day:

Reason Number 1 is that it’s the Anniversary of me getting OUT of the hospital after my long meningitis/ARDS/coma event in 2014. (If you don’t know what I’m talking about CLICK HERE TO FIND OUT) It’s amazing to me that it’s been 8 years already – it feels like 100 years ago, and yet it also feels like it was yesterday. I sometimes find myself triggered into a memory of one of my long coma dreams by a sound, or an image, or a discussion. And I also still sometimes find myself suddenly anxious and sweaty when I’m at one of my doctor appointments or a checkup on my transplanted kidney, and it’ll take me a minute to realize that one of the machines in the room is making a sound similar to or exactly like the ones that were in my hospital room that made so much noise all the time, and it’s triggering a reaction. I’m SO lucky to be here – and so grateful for everyone at the Chelsea Hospital and St. Joe’s of Ann Arbor for everything they did to keep me alive and help me in my recovery, and grateful to everyone who was supportive of me and my family during that time and after. Life changing doesn’t even begin to describe it.

Reason Number 2 that today is a great day is that it’s OPENING NIGHT for The Cake at Williamston Theatre! This piece is beautiful and funny and thoughtful and I encourage everyone to come out and see the work by Director Jasmine Rivera and her wonderful team. Audience response to the previews was fabulous, and it’s an important piece in today’s world. Plus you’ll never look at cake, butter creme or mashed potatoes the same way! This piece entertains, provokes discussion and promotes empathy while making you laugh AND cry. I love it!

SO – I know we’re in a pandemic, and there’s a terrible war happening, and gas is $4.25 a gallon, and movie stars are slapping each other like fools, and every disagreement now means hatred and division and cancellation instead of discussion…. but there are still reasons to have hope, and to celebrate life.

I hope today you find some things in YOUR life to celebrate and savor.

This time of year….

This time of year is odd for me…

Today marks the 7th anniversary of my dad’s death. I still miss him every day. I talk to him all the time, sometimes in my head, sometimes out loud. Mostly if I’m trying to figure something out, or if something happens that he would’ve loved. Once in a while I’ll see someone on the street or in a store who reminds me of him and my breath catches for just a second – that usually takes the rest of the day to recover from. He was a a great guy, caring, smart, funny, imperfect like the rest of us, and I always knew I was loved. I wear the 25th Anniversary ring that he got from Ford Motor company, just to keep him close. (Well, he got a tie tack. Since my dad wore a tie about 3 times in his 68 years, he turned it into a ring when he got it!) Here’s what I wrote the day after he passed away, if you’d like to read more about Frank Caselli.

The other reason this time of year is weird is that 8 years ago today I was in the St. Joe’s Chelsea Hospital, after having collapsed at home, starting my long “meningitis adventure”. I remember very little of what happened, especially the beginning 6 weeks or so. The occasional flash of a hospital room or my wife or sister. I have clearer memories of the last few weeks, as I was waking from the coma and going in and out of consciousness. Some visitors, struggling to breathe, my parents being there non-stop. I remember a LOT of very vivid, long, coma dreams – what felt like other lifetimes and other realities. Here’s what I wrote about that experience, if you’d like to read more about that.

Also, my birthday is this coming Monday! It’s so close to these two things that have changed my life forever that it feels weird to be thankful and excited for my birthday, but I am. I know a lot of folks don’t like birthdays – “Another year older, ugh!” and all that, but I love it. Especially the last 8 years or so. “Another year older” isn’t “Ugh!” for me, it’s “I MADE IT!” – I got another year with my family, friends, enjoying the world around me. Especially with the pandemic and the world being what it is right now. This one will be 53! Who knows if I’ll make it to 68 like my dad – heck, who knows if I’ll make it to 54 – but I know I’m going to try and enjoy being here now, and celebrate the wonderfulness around me.

So, today, I encourage you all to celebrate. Celebrate your lives, celebrate the life of my dad, hug your loved ones and your friends – tell them how awesome they are, and put hang-out days on your calendar right now! This is the life we have – time is being spent right now. Enjoy it. Savor it all.

An odd anniversary in an odd time…

Today is April 1. It’s my anniversary: 6 years ago today, I was released from the hospital after being there for 2 and 1/2 months. I’m incredibly grateful to the amazing medical staff at the St. Joe’s hospital in Ypsilanti AND Chelsea – they kept me alive when a lot of stuff didn’t want me that way.

Normally, on this day, I have a ritual. For the last 5 years I’ve gone to visit the 4 different floors I was on between the two hospitals on this day, and I take them treats – baskets of oranges and chocolates and cards that say “Thanks for keeping me alive, for helping me see things like my kids graduate high school, and my 25th wedding anniversary” – things like that. Sometimes I’d put a picture of what I looked like in the hospital bed then in the card, with one that shows me now. Sometimes I’d see people who remembered me, sometimes I wouldn’t, and often I would get hugs from people. It’s a ritual I take seriously. Those people are my heroes, and it’s an emotional time for me – more than once I’ve stood in one of those hallways hugging a nurse and I was tearing up and she was tearing up – and it’s an honor to be able to do something, even something small like fruit and chocolates, to let them know how much I appreciate them.

Today, of course, I wasn’t able to go to the hospital because, like most of us, I’m quarantined at home, isolating to avoid catching, and spreading, Covid 19. I’m spending the time at home, with my wife and kids, and hoping that everything slows down and gets better soon. We’re playing games, and cooking, and watching shows, and working, washing our hands and walking the dogs, and reading. And I’m grateful that I’m here, with them, and I owe that to the medical professionals who made it their job, their life, to help the rest of us when we need it.

This year, I can’t make it to St. Joe’s – but I hope they somehow see this, and know how much I appreciate them. And this year it’s even MORE than that. The people who helped me, and the people who are working so hard right now to help the thousands and thousands of people that Covid 19 is affecting. We owe such a HUGE thank you to all of them.

Thank you. THANK YOU.

I don’t know where we’ll all be once this all settles down, and the curve is flattened, and we try and get back to some sense of routine and normalcy… but I know this: There are many people who are risking a lot to keep our society functioning as smoothly as it can during this, and those people are ALL worthy of our praise and respect. First and foremost are the people on the front lines of the medical industry. People like my friends Barb, and Jen, and Bry and Paula. They don’t do it for the recognition – but we should recognize them.


For the rest of us…. Chocolates, oranges, or whatever y’all choose:

When this is over, we’re all going to need to pass out a lot of treats.

Marking the day

It was five years ago today that I collapsed at home and was taken to the hospital, marking the beginning of an ordeal that changed my whole life. If you don’t know that story, click here!

It seems crazy that it was 5 years ago – it feels like it just happened, but at the same tine it feels like it was a lifetime ago.

I am so grateful to the amazing people in my life who helped my family and I through that time. As awful as that was, it taught me how wonderful people can be, and how precious our minutes are. As I enjoy these extra innings of my life, I hope you all remember to enjoy your lives too. Love loudly, savor the world around you, every moment you can. Be a force of awesomeness and drag people in your wake! There is so much beauty to see, so much joy to share, so many people to embrace, and such an unknowably finite amount of time in which to do it – Be Relentless!

Wednesday gratitude

A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of visiting the hospitals that saved my life! It was, on April 1st, the 2-year anniversary of me getting out of the hospital after my long bacterial meningitis/ARDS/coma adventure. Jeanne and I took gift baskets and thank you cards to the ICU of St. Joe’s in Chelsea and all 3 floors I was on at the St. Joe’s of Ann Arbor. It’s nice going back to say thank you!  

And today, I’m back! Just for part of the day. Having some vein surgery done on my arm – one of the many little after effects of that whole hospital stay – should be back on my feet in a day. Glad to get it done, my arm has been swollen and sore, it’ll be a relief to have that taken care of!

The whole thing, though, has me marveling again at how fortunate I’ve been during this last few years. Modern medicine amazes me. Today, they’ll go in and fix a tiny collapsing vein in my arm with super cool science and technology!  

So – here we go! More things to be grateful for. Doctors and nurses who are good at their jobs, people who care, my wife and kids and friends and family.  Scientists and engineers who invent tiny little microscopic cameras that travel through blood veins! Oh, and Netflix – which has every season of Deep Space Nine for me to watch while I have to be in bed for a day! 🙂

Thanks for reading – Happy Wednesday! I hope you get the chance to reflect on some things to be grateful for today. 


A One-Year Anniversary

One year ago today, April 1, 2014, I got out of the hospital after spending a long time there, a little over 70 days, I think.  There was a lot wrong with me while I was there, we were so happy to beat the doctor’s predictions about how long a rehab stay I would need after coming out of the coma.

It’s quiet in our house tonight.  Everyone is sleeping.  I just got home from rehearsal.  I checked in on the kids – both teenagers needed blankets pulled up.  I sat just watching each of them sleep for a minute, and then checked on Jeanne, who fell asleep with a book and wearing her glasses, as usual.

It’s been an amazing year.  Spending time with my wonderful family, and friends.  Getting back to work at a job I love with people I love.  Learning to celebrate everything and savor everything.  Watching my family sleep, tucking them in,  that’s such a gift.  

So much has happened.  The amount of support my family and I received during the hospital adventure was, is, overwhelming and humbling and incredible. I spent months on dialysis – an amazing process that cleans your blood when your kidneys can’t, but it also takes 4 hours, 3 days per week… and leaves you feeling pretty miserable for an entire day each time you have it.  We were amazed and so grateful when my kidneys healed enough to stop needing dialysis.  There’s no guarantee they’ll stay that way, but I’m grateful for every day I don’t need it.

It’s funny to think that it was a year ago that I came home.  It feels both like yesterday, and a hundred years ago at the same time.   A couple of months ago, Jeanne and I were asked to speak to the Michigan Health Association of ICU Workers at their Keynote Conference.  They wanted to hear our story, as people who had been through a long illness in the ICU.  It was an honor to speak with them, to share the good things that happened and the bad.  They asked lots of questions, and wanted to know how to help people going through what we went through (even more than they already did).    It was wonderful to participate, there was a feeling of “giving back” to these people who had made such a difference in our lives.  At some points they cheered, and clapped – at others they gasped, and afterwards Jeanne and I got many hugs.  We’ve been asked to speak to another group in the Fall of this year, and I can’t wait!  

I say often that I’m still processing everything that happened, and that’s still the case.  I still have the occasional hospital nightmare.  Jeanne and I are still evaluating our lives, our paths, and working to simplify and purge, and who knows what that means for the future?  My health is better, but still not perfect.  The experts have diagnosed the reason behind the whole series of illnesses that led me to the hospital as CVID, or Common Variable Immuno Deficiency.  Short translation: my immune system stopped making immunoglobulins to fight off infections or illness.  Why?  They don’t know, as is the case in a LOT of CVID diagnoses.  My doctor said it occurs in about 1 of 50,000 people, and can just appear or can be brought on by a strong shock to the immune system.  The bad case of shingles I got in mid-2012 is being considered as a possible culprit.  

Now, to counteract the CVID, I have a weekly treatment.  It’s an infusion of immunoglobulins that have been harvested from donated blood.  A 90 minute procedure with almost no ill effects that I can do at home.  Again, I’m amazed at modern medicine, and how incredible our world is. 

So. 1 year ago tonight.  And here we are, one day away from the Opening Night of the first play I’ve directed in about a year and a half!  Crazy.  Life is crazy.  And beautiful.  My kids are amazing, and I get to be with them.  My wife is the strongest most beautiful woman ever.  I’m incredibly lucky to have the life with them that I have, and I’m determined to find ways to give back to that life.  As challenging as the last year was, and as much as I don’t want any of that to happen to anyone, I’m grateful that I had a wake up call to remind me of what is so easy to forget: If we pay attention, Amazingness is everywhere.  And now I get to direct a play all about a guy who learns how to fall in love with his life again, and it feels just right.  Falling in love with our lives over and over again is something we have to remind ourselves to do …and it’s worth it. 

You know, when I left the hospital, I spent the next 6 months walking with a cane, re-learning how to walk without falling over, without stumbling.  I still have several of those canes, in a corner of the living room by our front door.  Jeanne doesn’t like them there, she says they remind her of everything that happened… But that’s why I like them there.  I *want* to be reminded.  I don’t ever want to forget how hard it was for me to walk, and how much help I needed…and how much help I got.  Every day is a gift, and they help me remember that.

Now, I’m going to check in on my kids one more time before I go to sleep.  Because I can.

I’m so grateful that I can.

An Odd Anniversary

It was one year ago today that I collapsed at home, and my wife rushed me to the hospital. We didn’t know it at the time, but bacterial meningitis was attacking and swelling my brain, and the 19th of January started a hospital stay that wouldn’t end until almost 3 months later, on April 1st. I’ll be posting a couple more anniversaries like this, because it’s important to me that I don’t forget.

So. A year ago. It’s so odd. I sit here in my bedroom right now, typing this, and I vividly remember collapsing on the floor *right there*, just a few feet away, in the doorway to our bedroom bathroom. Scared the hell out of our teenagers. What a difference a year makes.

So much stuff to celebrate today. I’m feeling MUCH better than I was then. I’m back to work now, spending a lot of quality family time, working on several projects I love.

In a couple of weeks, in fact, we open The Best Brothers at Williamston Theatre, which I’m in! I haven’t talked about it here, but it’s a fabulous script, and I’m thrilled to be in it with my pal John Lepard, being directed by the wonderful Lynn Lammers. Because of my health I was a little unsure of taking it on, but I’ve been blessed with a good recovery (among other things!), and the process has been terrific.

Here are some pictures from yesterday at rehearsal:





Today was a great day to celebrate being alive! I got to go out to breakfast with my wife and kids, did some script work to prep for rehearsal tomorrow, recorded a podcast, and relaxed. A fantastic day.

So, on an odd anniversary, let me take a minute to say a couple of things: First, thanks for reading this. Second, take a minute to think about a handful of things you’re thankful for. Some of those, I expect, will be the people in your life. Remember to tell them. Don’t wait. Tell them.

And celebrate everything!

A Milestone, and Monday night quotes: The Universe Is Change…

The universe is change; our life is what our thoughts make it.
-Marcus Aurelius

This is a neat thing for me – I’m celebrating a milestone…

This week, I am celebrating 20 straight years of making a living in the theatre.

That’s a little amazing since, unless I stop to think about it, I’m pretty sure I’m still in my mid-20’s. 🙂 (Wait… Where did these gray hairs come from?!)

Start by doing what’s necessary, then what’s possible; and suddenly you are doing the impossible.
-St. Francis of Assisi

I remember discussing college with my Dad, when I was in high school, and I told him that I wanted to go to school for theatre. I don’t think he was surprised (I’d been doing theatre all through high school), but I saw that look of Dadly worry in his eyes. All he said, though, was “Do you think you can make a living at it?”. I said I thought I could, and that was all he needed – he nodded, and said “Then your Mom and I will help any way we can.”

I’m incredibly grateful for that support, and I’m really proud to be able to show them a career where, for two decades, every job I’ve had has been theatre related. I truly, truly hope that Jeanne and I are able to respond to our kids like that when the time comes.

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.
-Maya Angelou

For fun, I made a quick list:
California Theater Center, The Purple Rose Theatre Company, The Gem, Urban Stages in Manhattan, Studio Arena in Buffalo, Otterbein University, Eastern Michigan University, Michigan State University, Performance Network Theatre, Tipping Point Theatre, MeadowBrook Theatre, The City Theater, Williamston Theatre, apprentice, stage manager, sound designer, actor, director, literary manager, associate artistic director, house manager, writer, producer, set designer, teacher/instructor/adjunct professor, understudy.

So, although I’m amazed that 20 years have come and gone, I’m also incredibly thankful, and grateful for the opportunities I’ve gotten, the people I’ve worked with, the lessons I’ve learned, and the stories I’ve helped to tell. Man oh man, I hope the next 20 are as fun the first 20 were!

Depend upon yourself. Make your judgement trustworthy by trusting it. You can develop good judgement as you do the muscles of your body – by judicious, daily exercise. To be known as a man of sound judgement will be much in your favor.
-Grantland Rice

The hardest thing to learn in life is which bridge to cross and which to burn.
-David Russell

Make the decision, make it with confidence, and the world will be yours.
-Jaren l Davis

Nothing happens unless first a dream.
-Carl Sandburg