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.

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! 😂

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

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.

A big reason to celebrate!


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!

A Big Move!

Too long since my last post, and that’s because we have been swamped with MOVING INTO A NEW HOUSE!  Jeanne, Max and Maggie and I are now living in Williamston, Michigan.  Several reasons for the move, like being closer to Jeanne’s parents, looking to downsize now that the kids are both headed to college, wanting a smaller yard to take care of, stuff like that.

It’s been a crazy couple months – some of it I chronicled here – got back from Italy, got sick for a few weeks (man, that bronchial infection kicked my BUTT!), slowly got better from that, then got super busy packing a house we’d lived in for 17 years (while trying to PURGE also!), and moving, and now we are slowly unpacking and making our little house feel like home!

I am loving being able to walk to work.  After working in Williamston for 14 years it already felt like home, but now walking to and from work, I’m falling in love with it even more.  Crossing the bridge over the Red Cedar River and passing by McCormick park with all of its carved-tree artwork, kids playing in the giant play area, it’s a beautiful place.

The kids seem to be enjoying the new house, even though it won’t be long before they are both moved into their college dorm rooms and Jeanne and I are gleefully selling their stuff and turning their rooms into offices and exercise rooms (HAH!  Kidding!)

So, right now we’re all deep into “managing change”, and adjusting to this new phase of life, and enjoying it!  Lots of good things happening, INCLUDING the kids moving to college and diving into THAT big change in their lives.  (Maggie’s been going to school for two years now, but this will be her first time living in the dorms. Max will be in college for the first time this fall!  Both kids lived away from home, of course, for a year, when they did their exchange programs in Finland and Germany, but this will be a cool new experience for them.  I’m excited for them!)

For now, though, we’re still digging out from boxes that need unpacking.  We “downsized” on purpose, and purged a bunch of stuff before moving, but as we unpack, I think another purge may be due!


The Little Things

The hugs my kids come in and give me, because they know I’ll want them to, when they’re leaving early in the morning and I’m still sleeping. 

As I stand at the kitchen sink, in the cool morning air coming in through the window, the steam that curls up off of my coffee spoon after I’ve stirred my first cup. 

Sitting in the screened in back porch, listening to the rain fall outside in the dark, with the Tigers on quietly in the radio next to me. 

That moment right before a play, when the house lights dim and you know things are about to begin. 

The way our dog FlipFlop will walk around the house carrying as many socks in his mouth as he can find. 

That moment of excitement, despite the fact that I own all of them and could play them at any time, when one of Prince’s songs comes on the radio when I’m driving. 

Watching and listening to patrons file out after a play, hearing them excitedly share their favorite moments from the show, and knowing that we got them. 

The little conversations my wife has, in her sleep, to the people in her dreams. 

The text-message thread between my brother and sister and I that keeps me laughing every day. 

The little things, almost every day, that carry my thoughts back to the many, many alternate-reality-like dreams I had while in my coma. 

Late at night, the gentle susurrus, the murmuring of the wind through all of the trees in our yard. 

So many little things, every day, that it’s easy to forget about. So much time listening to the negative, or looking for the big event, when everyday is filled with things to be grateful for. 

The desire to recognize more of these moments each day. 

Okay 2014, let’s shape up a little.


It’s been a while since I wrote on here about the adventures of Wheezy McCoughCough, The Bronchospasm Kid.
(I think the last couple times were here and  here, if you’re interested.)

Some of that is because I didn’t feel like using this site to complain about health issues, and some is, well, I guess that’s really the reason!  The last few weeks have been a challenge, though, and I feel like it’s worth writing about.

Just after Christmas, I was hit by another bout of breathing issues, (wheezing, coughing, bronchospasm, fever, chills, shortness of breath) which knocked me flat on my behind for a while and, unfortunately, kept me there more or less since then.  I’ve had better and worse days, and managed to fit in a fair amount of work, but the last two weeks have been particularly hard.  I’ve felt sort of like this:




Well, I guess I haven’t felt exactly like that, since that’s a fictitional gnome hurling rainbows.  I pretty much just wanted to use that image, because no matter how lousy I’m feeling it cheers me up a little.
(And the video of it is even funnier, if you’re interested!)

My doctors, thankfully, are working diligently with me and I am eternally grateful for the awesomeness of my wife, kids and co-workers who have helped me.

It’s very hard for me to lay on the couch taking medicines wondering why I can’t breathe and not be doing something at the theatre.  I dunno, I’m a little bit of a control freak, I like to make sure things are happening, but I also love my job.  At the same time, if I’m not there I feel like I’m letting people down.  Thankfully, my friends at the theatre can certainly run the thing without me for a while.  If that wasn’t the case, we would’ve been doing something wrong these last 8 years.  But at the same time, I don’t like feeling useless, or like I’m putting the burden of what I should be doing to earn my paycheck on everyone else.

Still, the lesson here is “When your doctor tells you to rest, and your wife tells you to rest, and your coworkers and friends tell you to rest… You should shut up and rest.”

So, I will.  And I’ll be grateful for the amazing people and opportunities in my life… and I’ll hope that the cure to whatever this medical mystery tour I’ve been on the last year presents itself soon.

In the meantime, everybody have a great start to 2014, and take care of your health!  🙂


A Nice Week – And A Moment Of Thanks

“After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.” -Phillip Pullman

This Thursday, we had our first preview performance for The Woman In Black at Williamston Theatre.

I got up onstage just before the show to make the pre-show announcements, (“Hi! I’m Tony, turn off your cell phones, thanks for being here, turn off your cell phones, we have some folks to thank for their support, and if you have a cell phone please turn it off.”)

As I was talking, I said “Welcome to the first performance of our 8th Season!” and the packed house erupted into applause, cutting me off.  I smiled and looked out into the crowd, making eye contact with a lot of people who I’ve come to know over the life of Williamston Theatre.  (We have a lot of patrons who LOVE coming to the first couple of previews, they love the talk-back after the show: knowing that we’re still in rehearsals they’re participating in what is still a work-in-progress, and they enjoy the fact that they may contribute to what the piece ultimately becomes.  We love them!)

So, I’m standing, seeing all of these people applaud and cheer, and had a moment.  Just a quick “Wow” moment, but it was there.  One of those lump-in-the-throat,  I had better talk now because if I don’t I may not be able to in a minute kinda moments, because I was again reminded of how lucky we’ve been.

Starting our 8th Season.  Wow.  42 productions – well, 43 now!  Lessons learned.  Friends made.  Families made.  Hundreds of jobs provided to artists.  Many awards won.  And – most importantly – lots of stories told that have moved people.

“People don’t want more information. They are up to their eyeballs in information. They want faith–faith in you, your goals, your success, in the story you tell.” -Annette Simmons

So many people to thank for making all of that happen – board members, actors, volunteers, my 3 co-founders John and Chris and Emily, our families, donors, our apprentices, our stage managers, designers, directors, the MSU theatre department, Williamston business owners, the list goes on and on.

We’re not done growing, I hope – and in fact as the applause faded and I spoke, I laughed and said “Thank you – we’re as amazed as you are that we’re still here!” because in many ways, we are!

So, this post is a Thank You.  And an acknowledgement of the huge amount of hard work and faith and dedication that so many people have given to help keep a dream going.  It’s also a reminder, too : Sometimes, in the middle of all of the day-to-day running and grinding and putting-out-metaphorical-fires, take a minute… take a minute to look around and appreciate where you are, who helped get you there, because it’s important.  Remembering why you do what you do, why all the hard work is worth it – no matter what it is you do – that not only makes life worth living… it keeps it beautiful.

“We tell ourselves stories in order to live.” -Joan Didion

Another Milestone

We completed our 7th Season at Williamston Theatre on Sunday!

Over 7 years and 42 productions ago, I wrote this post!

It’s amazing how that all seems like it was BOTH yesterday, and a million years ago!

Now, we continue moving forward:

  • There are construction workers downstairs beginning renovations to our seating risers, and construction on a new entrance into the theatre from the back of the house, so we can finally bring actors in from all 4 corners of the room!
  • In addition, season 7 was our most profitable and well-attended season yet.
  • In a couple of weeks we have our Season Launch Party for Season 8!
  • This weekend the Lansing City Pulse had their theatre awards ceremony, where WT won 9 Pulsar awards!
  • We also won several awards from the Lansing State Journal, and are nominated for several by the Rogue Critic
  • Tonight we’ll be attending the Wilde Awards, the state-wide theatre award ceremony, where WT is nominated for 10 awards! Whether we win or lose in any of these awards isn’t really the point, it’s nice to be nominated and to be in the company of some of the finest artists in the state.

All in all – it’s been a pretty great 7 seasons, and we’re incredibly grateful to everyone who had a part in getting us where we are: Donors, audiences, volunteers, actors, designers, directors, writers, crew…  we’re very lucky to have the support of so many wonderful people.

So, a couple of weeks for renovations, planning and preparation, and then it’s time to start rehearsals for another show!

First, though, first I’m going to take a sec and look back at these last seven years, and enjoy the view.  Lots of good things, lots of mistakes, lots of lessons, lots of good theatre, and lots of wonderful people.  Thank you, everyone who was involved, for everything you’ve done!