Slowly Waking Up

That’s the way things feel right now – after the kidney transplant, I’ve gotten a lot more energy back, my numbers are all looking great, and so I’m starting to do more and more regular life stuff. We’re also starting the progress of waking up the Williamston Theatre, after a long 16 months of dusty, quiet emptiness. Starting in August we’re bringing back the staff, and starting the process of re-opening the building and prepping for a late Autumn return to performances. AND this month the current phase of our renovations will wrap-up, which is going to be great. I can’t wait for audiences to return to the space.

We’re also working on a couple of staged readings! Very excited for these, they’ll be outdoors on the Summer Circle stage at Michigan State University. We’re always thrilled to collaborate with the MSU Department of Theatre, and grateful for the use of their beautiful outdoor space for these readings. It feels great doing things like sending out scripts and working out rehearsals again! For more info on those readings, CLICK HERE, and then join us on August 6th and 7th! Two terrific plays: A super charming, brand new piece by the award winning playwright Jason Odell Williams called On The Market, and a fabulous bitingly funny satire by indigenous playwright and MacArthur fellow Larissa Fasthorse called The Thanksgiving Play.

I’m really hoping that the Delta variant of Covid, and now the new Lambda variant I just read about, don’t take off and sweep through the country. Our reopening plans depend on numbers getting better, not worse, and the whole theatre industry is making plans and watching with wary eyes. Take care of yourselves, folks, and get your vaccine!

In other news, has anyone been watching the Detroit Tigers since the All-Star break?! I mean, this team is probably going to finish middle of the pack at the end of the season, but that’s okay – it’s a big improvement over the last couple years, and their future is looking bright. As I write this though, they’re on a 6 game winning streak and leading 7-5 in the 8th inning, so it could be a 7 game streak soon!

I’ve spent a bunch of my recuperation weeks reading – anyone else a fan of N.K. Jemisin? Over the last few years I’ve become a huge admirer of her writing, and I’m nearly through her fabulous sci-fi/fantasy series The Inheritance Trilogy. You can check out all her writings here. I’ve also spent a bunch of time reading a lot of plays, in particular looking at a lot of plays by BIPOC writers. In fact we’re excited at Williamston Theatre about a gorgeous play we’ll be producing in collaboration with a couple other theatres around the country in an upcoming season that I can’t talk about yet, but it’s going to be a very cool project, and I’m thrilled to start this relationship with this fabulous playwright.

That’s it for the Thursday update. So grateful to be getting back to work, getting my energy back, and hoping for things to open up safely a little more. Aaaaaand the Tigers just beat the Rangers 7-5, so that’s a nice 7-game winning streak!

Take care of yourselves y’all!

Updates on a Tuesday

Lots of things happening around here at Casa Caselli.

Jeanne and I are healing up nicely from our kidney transplant. It’s officially been a month, and everything seems to be going in the right directions so far. We’re both moving around pretty well again, with just minor soreness. We can both drive again, although it’ll be another few weeks before we’re allowed to lift anything heavier than 8 lbs. I’m adjusting to the new regimen of anti-rejection meds, and glad that they let me wear this shirt:

(I may have bought several fun “kidney transplant” t-shirts this month!)

The whole family is really grateful for all the support we got during this whole event: a HUGE Thank You to everyone who reached out and sent support in any way – texts, cards, food, visits, it was all SO helpful.

Meanwhile, lots of other things are happening too – at Williamston Theatre we are FINALLY looking at a schedule that would reopen our building in 2021, and working on all of the 7,942,233,007 things that that involves. We’ve been doing some staff DEI training, which has been eye opening, educational, tough and really useful, resulting in lots of reworking of internal policies. We’re working on nailing down the reopening season (AND the next one, actually), and will be making some announcements over the upcoming months, and there are some really exciting projects and collaborations coming up that I’m excited to share with everyone. Plus we’ve got renovations happening at the theatre and new seats ready to install for our patrons to enjoy. The Covid Shutdown has been a nightmare of an intermission, but we’ve tried to combine “use the time wisely” with “spend this uncertain time with family and stay physically and mentally healthy”.

So, now we slowly start coming out of the bubble we’ve been in. Because of my anti-rejection meds making me extra susceptible to infection, I still will be wearing a mask often, but I’m still feeling better about being out among people again. I may have to see about getting to a Lansing Lugnuts game sometime next month, I’ve been looking forward to some live baseball!

One nice side effect of the surgery is that since coming out of it, because of the new dietary and medical stuff, I’ve been eating less junk and am down about 20 lbs. Feeling more fit than I have in a while, hoping to keep that trend up and stay healthier – I’m not quite back to my “pre-surgery” routine of walking 3-5 miles a day, but I’ve been able to do about 2.5 every couple of days the last week or so, and I’ll be trying to improve on that over the next couple of weeks. (I’m inspired by my amazing wife, who walked 2 miles AND ran 2 miles today!!)

So, I think that’s it from here for now. Trying to heal, rest, prep for reopening, and enjoy being with my family. Doing a lot of reading (plays, novels, anti-racism education, an N.K. Jemisin trilogy) and watching TV. And, honestly, lots of self-reflection about what “Post Covid” and “Post Transplant” life should be, and could be. We’ll see what that leads to!

I hope everyone is doing well, staying healthy (physically AND mentally) and enjoying their summer. Take care of yourselves!

Transplant updates!

Jeanne and I have returned home from the amazing UofM hospital and transplant clinic. They took great care of us, and now she has one less kidney, and I have three! (But, as the transplant joke goes, two of mine are decoys!)

We are at home, getting taken care of by wonderful family and friends, and being very grateful for the support. We’re both very sore and tired, and under strict orders to rest, do nothing but take short walks, lift nothing and heal. The next 8 weeks will be a lot of recuperating, and we both have to just make ourselves take it easy. Right now it’s hard to sleep or rest because of how painful everything is, but the pain meds help and that will ease over the next week or so as incisions heal, muscles knit back together etc…. Right now we are trying to sleep a lot!

The new kidney, for me, is a whole new lease on life. It comes with a new set of challenges, a lifetime regimen of anti-rejection medications that require constant balancing and some other things that go along with those, but it’s such a gift. I’m the luckiest guy, and I’m determined to make the most of this blessing that my wife, medical science and the universe have given me.

Thanks to everyone who has been so supportive – the cards, social media posts, texts and well wishes – they all mean a ton to us and it’s deeply, deeply appreciated. If you know a medical professional, hug them for us.

The Transplant is Here!

Well, this is the week! On Friday the 21st of May, I’ll be getting my new kidney. Even more amazing is that it’s coming from my wonderful wife, Jeanne.

I’ve known this day would come for the last 7 years or so, although we didn’t find out until recently that Jeanne was a match and would be donating my kidney – for which I’m so grateful and thankful – she’s amazing and I’m a lucky man.

I’m also very grateful that I got the last 7 years of not needing dialysis. After my whole hospital stay in 2014, every day is one I’m thankful for, but for the first few months after the hospital I was on dialysis and we were thinking that would be a long-term thing as I went onto the transplant waiting list. But then I got very lucky and my kidneys healed up a bit, to my doctor’s surprise, and I got a whole 7 more years out of them! (If you don’t know any of this story and want some details, check out this part of my website)

Now we go into another stage of the adventure. Jeanne and I, and the kids, are so blessed to have family and friends who are so supportive during this time (If you’re reading this, you know who you are and we love you. Thank you.)

SO – if you’re a person who believes in putting good energy out into the universe for things, we’d appreciate any good vibes you have this Friday and through the weekend! I’m nervous, just because… y’know, surgery, but I also know we are in great hands with the fabulous team at the UofM Transplant Center – they’ve been SO great to work with, we’re eternally grateful for their skill and awesomeness.

Here’s Stef Din and I, and the Kidney SHE gave me. It’s a lot more plush than the one Jeanne is giving me, but I’ll love them both…. I’ll probably just USE the one from Jeanne more! 😂

Baseball!!

I know, I know – pandemics, politics, there is a LOT going on in the world more important than baseball.

I have so enjoyed the craziness of this 60 game Covid season of baseball, with the cardboard cutouts of fans and the 7-inning doubleheaders and crazy schedule changes based on coronavirus testing and runners starting on second base in extra innings. Just the “will they really be able to complete it?!” drama (and yes I was skeptical) but it’s been so therapeutic and exciting to watch, and the final game of the American League Playoff Series tonight was excellent.

But.

Yes. More important stuff in the world. And those deserve attention. But sometimes I need to… not pay attention. I run a theatre. We, like most of the industry, haven’t really been able to work since March and don’t know when the hell we’ll be able to. So, between not knowing when my company will re-open, and not knowing when I’ll get another paycheck, life is stressful. My kids are back in college and away from home during the worst pandemic in our lifetime. The country is a politically divided nightmare. And the solid, normal action of watching baseball is such a grounding thing, that it’s incredibly easy to add it to the list of things that I’m grateful for, that are helping me get through the craziness of NOW.

It’s way too easy to fall into getting locked into watching the news 24/7, building anxiety inducing scenarios in your head as you avoid big crowds, and sit doomscrolling Facebook for hours… but tonight, watching the Tampa Bay Rays win the ALCS was such a moment: the joy on those faces. The excitement, love, hope and JOY on that field moved me tonight in ways I didn’t expect it to. With the state of the world, I can’t remember the last time I’ve seen that much happiness. It choked me up. It was such a RELIEF – just seeing the emotion, the celebration – I’m so grateful to have been able to watch it, to have been reminded that those feelings can still happen, and to be unexpectedly overcome.

I can’t wait to watch the final National League Championship game tomorrow night. And then next week the World Series starts, and I will be watching every game.

And I’ll be so grateful.

Saturday Thankfulness

Things are tough. Pandemic, economy, political divisiveness, the list goes on and for everyone I know it gets more and more personal.

So today I needed a break. Spent the day with Maggie. We took a nice walk, about 4.5 miles. Made a nice dinner, did a few things around the house. And now I’m thinking about a lot of the things I’m grateful for right now:

The text thread between my siblings and I.

Watching baseball on tv. I know the whole thing is fraught and ridiculous because of Covid, but it does something good to me, even when the Tigers are losing. (Which is a lot right now 😂).

Bobby Flay’s technique for cooking a steak in cast iron skillet. I love using my skillet, but this was the first time I’ve ever cooked a steak in it and man oh man that was maybe the best one I’ve ever cooked.

The “Five Minute Italian” podcast. The last couple months of quarantine I’ve been working slowly on my Italian, and this podcast is terrific.

The patrons of Williamston Theatre. Months after we had to shut down, they’re still with us. We’ve sold a bunch of WT FaceMasks in just a couple weeks, and still get regular feedback from them. I’m excited to reveal to them a couple things we’ve been working on pretty soon.

Being able to sit on our front porch in the evening, listening to the summer night sounds of the crickets, katydids, and cicadas, while reading, or writing in my journal.

That Jeanne was able to retire from teaching, and start a new job that she’s enjoying with less hours, less homework and less stress!

My doctors. With my medical challenges, I’m so grateful for the meds and science and medical know-how that is available to me.

Living in a neighborhood that’s great to walk around in. Trying to keep in shape (well, GET in better shape) and I’ve been walking 4 or 5 miles a day, and very glad for the ability to do it. And I’m down around 15 lbs!

There are more things, but that’s enough for now. Time to enjoy some baseball and relax a little. 😁 Hang in there everyone.

A night to be thankful

Absolutely beautiful night for sitting on the porch, listening to the Tigers and doing some journaling. The frogs and crickets are serenading me. It’s early August, not too hot, and I’d be happy to sit here for many, many days.

A beautiful night on the porch

The house behind me is pretty quiet – I can hear Max and Maggie playing a game together in the basement, laughing quietly and enjoying time together. Another few weeks and they’ll be heading out, back to college, and I’ll miss the sounds of them laughing…. or fighting, or singing, or all of the sounds I’ve gotten used to hearing again since they moved back in waaaaay back in March, when the pandemic was just starting and we weren’t sure how long the interruptions would be. Of course I’ll be worried about them, and I still hate that they’re going, but they have leases on apartments, and most of their classes will be online, and so I have to trust they’ll be okay. Ugh.

Jeanne went to sleep a little early, she had a long, busy day. Some exciting things happening for her that’ll be announced soon enough. Yesterday evening the four of us took the dogs for a nice walk as the sun was setting, walking around the neighborhood. We were laughing, watching FlipFlop pull Max on his skateboard (which he LOVES to do!), and Sneakers was pulling on Maggie because she wanted to chase them… as we followed behind Jeanne said “Aw man… we aren’t going to get many more nights like these” and I knew she was right. The kids will be moving out soon, and who knows when or even if they’ll move back in. Sneakers is not doing well – she’s almost 16 and had a good life, but probably won’t be with us much longer, so we’re really trying to enjoy the time we have with her now. Even if you take the pandemic out of the equation, the constant shifting of sand beneath our feet will be bringing us to a new place again soon.

Can we take the pandemic out of the equation? I mean, all we can do is be as careful as possible, and wait. Wear our masks, wash our hands, Hope people do their best, and hope for a vaccine. And do our best to manage the change that keeps coming as time drifts on, gently dragging us along (and sometimes not gently at all).

Thing is, every time I can remember thinking “Aw man, this is the end of an era” in our family, or with friends, later I also found myself having nights like last night, or tonight, once again, where I wound up thinking “This is beautiful. I’m a lucky, lucky man.” So, even though everything is so up in the air right now, I have faith that as much as I love tonight, I’ll have more moments like this again in the future. Hopefully I’ll remember to take the time to recognize them.

For now, though, I’m going to enjoy the back-and-forth of this ridiculous ball game as the Tigers keep finding ways to give away the lead, and listen to the frogs and crickets reminding me to just breathe, and savor.

That is our challenge

That is our challenge: To cultivate lives of reflection, love, and joy and still somehow manage to do our share for this beautiful broken planet of ours.

– Mary Pipher

One of the chief privileges of man is to speak up for the universe.

– Norman Maclean

We have to look deeply at things in order to see. When a swimmer enjoys the clear water of the river, he or she should also be able to be the river.

– Thich Nhat Hahn

I very much enjoyed Mary Pipher’s book Writing to Change the World. Thoughtful, inspiring and practical, it’s been one of my favorite reads of this pandemic “down time” I’m having with the theatre being closed. I love her take on storytelling, and making a difference in the world

A big reason to celebrate!

We got word that I AM NOW OFFICIALLY ON THE KIDNEY TRANSPLANT LIST.

This is good news. It means that I’m accruing time on the list, and I am now actively looking for a live donor.

In the next year to two years, my kidneys will fail thanks to kidney disease (acquired from my bout with Bacterial Meningitis 6 years ago). At that point I’ll wind up on dialysis, waiting for a kidney to become available. I’m grateful for the option of dialysis, but it comes with challenges and health risks of its own. So, the sooner I can get a transplant, the better.

The average wait time in Michigan can be 5-7 years for a donated kidney from a deceased donor. However, because of my other health issues left over from that whole incident, my transplant team has said they very strongly recommend a live donor kidney instead.

SO, for these reasons, Jeanne and I are asking for your help in spreading the word. If you’d be willing to share our search for a living donor with your community of family and friends, we’d greatly appreciate it. To learn more, you can go to Explore Transplant and get the information you need.

Finally, if you feel inclined and called to do so, you’re invited to consider becoming a living donor yourself! Thanks to the wonderful Pairing Program, your kidney wouldn’t even have to be a perfect match for me. It could match someone else, and I could get a better matched kidney in return! Of course this is a hugely sensitive and personal issue, and it’s simply not the right choice for many, many people, but if anyone out there thinks it might be something they’d consider, we’d be forever grateful! 🙂

If you’d like more specific info about donating a kidney, I’ll be having mine done at University of Michigan Hospital, and you can see their website about the donation process BY CLICKING HERE. Or, you can call the Living Donor Office at 1-800-333-9013.

And, of course, you can ask me if you have any questions! 🙂
Thanks, everyone, for reading this far and for caring. It means more than we’ll ever be able to express.

EDITED TO ADD: Wow, thanks so much for all the nice responses. For everyone asking, my blood type is A+, so compatible would be blood types A and O. However, with today’s Pairing Donor system, someone doesn’t necessarily have to match my blood type: Their kidney could be donated to someone else on the list, and in return I would get a kidney that best matched me!

SNOW DAY!

Boy, we had a nice winter storm on Saturday. I mean, it wasn’t anything to write home about, in terms of winter storms – we’ve certainly had bigger, snowier, scarier, but this one was… Nice. (For me, anyway. I apologize to anyone who was inconvenienced by it.)

Since we already had rehearsal off for the day, Jeanne and I decided to just have a relaxing Snow Day, and almost the whole day was in pajamas and on the couch. We watched a little TV, we played Word Chums (it’s like Scrabble, and its on our phones), we did some napping and some reading. I’m nearing the end of The Beautiful Ones, the autobiography that Prince was working on with Dan Piepenbring when he passed away. It’s a moving and insightful look at the artist and his life, but it was barely begun when he passed, and so what Piepenbring was able to do with the book in his attempt to honor Prince’s wishes is lovely.

So, we did those things, I made some fantastic BLT sandwiches, I worked on my script for the show I’m directing (900 Miles to International Falls by Annie Martin), we had fun speaker-phone conversations with both kids and snuggled with the dogs. At one point we were all curled up on the couch. Jeanne was at one end, with FlipFlop (Schnoodle, curled up on her feet). I looked up from my book, took a drink of my coffee (decaf, almond milk), and petted Sneakers (Cockapoo, curled up on my legs). As I stroked her head, she let out one of the longest, most contented sighs I’ve ever heard. I nodded my head and said “I agree, Sneaks. Me too.”

We did wander out of the house in the evening: The Sun Theatre is a 10 minute walk from home into downtown Williamston, and their one screen was showing Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the Tom Hanks movie about Mr. Rogers. It was not at all what I was expecting, and we both enjoyed it a lot.

Snow Day. A little oasis of time. It was wonderful. In the craziness of life – running a theatre, directing a show, wrapping my brain around all the doctor stuff for my kidney transplant evaluation, paying bills and putting out the many metaphorical fires that we all find ourselves dealing with – having that day was a gift. Thanks, Universe, for the chance to catch my breath – and for the reminder that stopping to catch our breath once in a while is really, really important.

I hope you, if you’ve read this far, get a chance to slow down and catch your breath soon. In fact, if I can be bold – I’d encourage you to go ahead and MAKE the time. I think I’ll be doing it more often.

“Simplify, slow down, be kind. And don’t forget to have art in your life – music, paintings, theater, dance, and sunsets.” – Eric Carole