Goodbye, 2016.

In my personal social media echo chamber, everyone is talking about how much 2016 sucked.

I’m not disagreeing.

So what do we do about that.

Though there’s no going back now, I tried anyway, and to my surprise uncovered a number of special little moments that I’d forgotten amidst this month’s tweets about nukes and Israel.

I share these moments now for a couple reasons:

  • To get back up-to-date on my out-of-date blog. (Oops.)
  • To remind myself that, despite a year full of global tragedy, political mayhem, personal overcommitment, and pulling weed after weed after weed in a mint field, good stuff happens.

Unless we make an effort to both curate and celebrate that ‘good stuff,’ I think we risk missing it.

Given our current cultural climate (and well, the climate, period), I don’t feel we dare do that. In a world so fragile, we dare not waste a single beautiful moment, however small, however trivial.

So here are 16 moments from 2016 that remind me, anyway, to celebrate and savor that fleeting crazy ‘good stuff’ that’s going to keep our world spinning, God willing, come January 20.

From me, to you, may your holiday be filled with love, love, love.

1>> The childlike joy of a snow day is simply something special. 
2>> With Hans’ sister & brother-in-law relocating to Brooklyn, 2016 brought many trips to the big city for long walks, Broadway shows, and summer night concerts.


3>> Hans’ brain is amazing, so he dreamt this old office space into a destination cafe, and a few months later…
4>> ..there it was! I completed a lifelong goal of becoming a snobby barista and even gained some new best friends in the process.
5>> Christina ended her college career with a zillion accomplishments, which we welcomed as reason to reunite the Hofer clan.
6>>Little did I know, 2016 would be the year of out-of-town guests. 6/7 of my immediate family made the trek to Lancaster, plus other relatives and friends from across the country–including dear Brook! I did my best to curate a true Lancaster experience (note, cows).
7>> And for all those days that my family and friends couldn’t cross the miles to reunite,  I felt grateful for the Sommer-Weaver family’s support and love.
8 >> Do work trips make me officially an adult? Multiple jobs took me on multiple work trips to Colorado, California, NYC, and above, a PRiMA trip to Washington D.C.  We don’t have that Tony yet, but we’re working on it… 😉
9>> Best friends wedding equals best friends reunion. 
10>> Alicia came to Lancaster for a solid month-and-a-half to help bring the Menno Tea Mint Field and Cafe to life (and to be the best friend to me that she always is). Our time together ended with a special trip to dear Jake’s hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. 
11>> When my parents came to Pa., they reminded me of how fun first-time experiences still are as an adult. This included kayaking and the U.S. Open.
12>> Then there was Hugo, the worlds cutest Airedale Terrier, who is now a million pounds heavier than pictured here.
13>>Lancaster Mennonite entrusted me with the best kiddos in the world. I directed the Lancaster debut of “Peter and the Starcatcher.” 
14 >> I could easily make top 16 moments just from this November trip to Peru. In addition to Machu Picchu (#15), we visited coffee farm/ers (pictured above), spent a few days at the northern coast near Ecuador, and explored the sprawling city of Lima with (new!) dear friends Andrea and Scott of One Village Coffee. Maybe I’ll blog about this in upcoming days.
15>> A solid best friend for every single day of 2016 is a special thing, indeed.
16>>Broadway tenor Adam Pascal marked the close of the PRiMA 2016 season–my first full calendar year on staff here. It’s a little fun to be a little starstruck. 
>>And a bonus, just for me. Sometimes something as silly as chopping off your hair and shaving half your head signals a personal victory of self discovery, self care and growth. 

Life’s not so bad. Here’s to the year ahead,



The Top 12

How do you begin to process a year of life?

By looking through thousands of low-resolution cell phone photos, apparently.

I leave 2015 with an odd feeling in my stomach and a lot to think about. It wasn’t as though it was all perfect. But amidst so much hardship in our world, I feel uncomfortably grateful.

Here’s my meager attempt to make sense of how I’ve gotten from point A to B, and to celebrate, just a little, last year’s milestones.

12 tops moments from 12 months

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(1) I taught K-5 music in the Goshen Public School System beginning in January 2015. On weekends, I commuted to Chicago to continue work in the theatre scene.
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 In Goshen, I  (2) reconnected with some of the most significant people in my life and learned, again, that I am absolutely a horrible skier.
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I had the crazy opportunity to (3) assistant coach MS girls’ basketball with my sister. This involved driving a minibus.
A new season signaled new adventures. (4) Spring trips took me to WV, PA, OH, IL and even to the top of a creaky wind tower in SD.
(5) I ran a half-marathon in Chicago. My first race of any kind, ever (and it sort of kicked my butt).
I spent some time in SD over the summer, during which (6) I organized a theatre camp in my hometown, with gracious help & support from many.
(7) I officially became my own business, VM Writing Services, LLC. I feel fancier now, yes.
(8) I moved to Lancaster, PA, over the summer and (8.5) discovered a new theatre scene I’m jazzed to continue exploring.
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(9) Autumn on the East Coast included first-time trips to NYC, the Chesapeake Bay, Phili and the Atlantic Ocean.
I loved going back to Goshen to (10) see my sisters, visit dear friends in ChiTown and (10.5) ride in a two-person plane for the 1st time, flown by Niles, in which I got to see my alma mater from above.
(11) A trip to Peru with Hans & Niles was one that I will never forget, during which I surprised a dear college friend, Brook…
(12) …saw spectacular views, explored the jungle, struggled with Spanish, tried new food, thought I might die on multiple occasionsand met new people I look forward to seeing again soon.
Family Christmas pics
And finally, a bonus, because you don’t do any of this fun stuff without the guidance, love, mentorship and support from many. Any moment with family and friends is a moment to be cherished…especially when dealing with this crazy crew. 😉

The adventure certainly continues.

A humble and heartfelt Happy New Year from me to you!

Christmas Letter 2014: A Filterer’s Review

If you had a conversation with me in the last 1-3 years, you may have experienced the following:

(1) I asked you a question immediately.
i.e. “Jane! How are you? Tell me about your life!”

(2) I answered your question with a question.
i.e. “Hi Vanessa, how are you?”
“Jane! How are you? Tell me about your life!”

(3) You got to the ‘real news’ after Hour #2, near The Goodbye, or possibly oops! I was going to tell you just now, I promise….
i.e. “Oh yeah, by the way, moving to Indiana in a week.* So that’s that. See you tomorrow?”

I am highly selective in my openness. Call it life experience. Call it a personality trait. Call it ‘something I’m working on’ or ‘something I love about myself.’

Personally, I’d choose mysterious, but I reckon close friends would opt for something along the lines of annoying.

But I’ve made a discovery this year. Just now, actually.

Being a self-prescribed filterer proves problematic when attempting to write an overview of an entire year…unless, that is, you’re okay with people thinking that your greatest accomplishment in the past twelve months was not killing a kitten.

(Which is…incidentally…true…but….)

Can anything I write in such a short, scrappy thing as this end-of-December blog post successfully reflect the incredible 365 adventure-filled days come and gone?

Well, gall-darn-it, it seems I better try.

“When will you write your Christmas letter? Are you going to write a Christmas letter? Will you write your Christmas letter soon? Will you post it on your blog? Will there be pictures?”

Oh my, what an ego boost!

Please, everyone, one moment, one at a time!

The adoring fans (cough *momanddad* cough) anxiously await the top 7 of 2014.

And so, on their behalf, here I go. As honest a Christmas letter as I can filter:

7 Honest Highlights from 2014
In no particular order

(1) Schmeckfest

I hope that, at least once in your life, somebody gives you a really awesome reason to go home and spend some time figuring yourself out. I hope this time reminds you how wonderful your hometown is. I hope this time helps you heal. And I hope this reason to go home also includes (1) a musical and (2) a German food festival. Because. I mean. Really. Yes, please.

(#1) Schmeckfest: Where the cast becomes family...especially if you're already related to over half of them.
(#1) Schmeckfest: Where the cast becomes family…especially if you’re already related to over half of them.
(#1 continued) A time to be home. Photo cred Marnette Hofer & Jeremy Waltner
(#1 continued) A time to be home. Photo cred Marnette Hofer & Jeremy Waltner

(2) Sweet solitude in the city studio

Learning to live alone is like learning to live with a roommate. The endless (internal) chatter, the dirty dishes (all your own), the laundry, everywhere (how is that all mine?!)….

It is the same game but with one less teammate to split the bills.

And there’s a new lineup of lessons to learn. About responsibility. About just being without doing. About the importance of playing music and calling Mom and Dad regularly to prevent insanity. Lessons on how the dishes really don’t get done on their own.

(#2) Studio in the city
(#2) Studio in the city

(3) Smoked-out eyes

I could just tell you how extraordinary my time in Colorado this summer was, but I want you to be my friend after you finish reading this. So instead, this:

Everything comes at a price. So if you have the opportunity to spend June in the Rocky Mountains singing camp songs, sharing your faith story, and breathing in the freshest air known to humankind—all alongside your SISTER–be forewarned that your eyes, like mine, might possibly react to the campfire smoke and you may start to go blind over the next 3 months.

(This is the most recent theory from Mr. Eye Doctor (Date12/22/14) in the ongoing sight saga. See previous blog post.)

Oh, and you might also end up in the hospital, but that’s also old news. Moving on!

(#3) Summer adventures to Colorado
(#3) Summer adventures to Colorado
(#3 continued) But remember, I paid for this trip!
(#3 continued) But remember, I paid for this trip!

(4) Sister-in-law

My brother’s wedding was beautiful. Yes, even the slightly cold-hearted Vanessa shed a few tears. The puffy white clouds, the Indiana farmstead, the vows that might’ve been stolen from a manifesto written by a great 18th century philosopher…And we couldn’t possibly be more delighted to have a new sister in the family. Guess what? She’s just as weird as we are!

(#4) Welcome, Lynelle!
(#4) Welcome, Lynelle!

(5) Stage endeavors

I am currently reading “Fire Starter” by Danielle LaPorte (shoutout to Rachael for the recommend). LaPorte packs her book with inspirational one liners written in big, bold text. These mantras splatter ambitiously over entire already-bigger-than-normal pages. This is the stuff for anyone who is genuinely energized by a good ol’ fashioned pep talk.

LaPorte encourages doing what is easy. Quality easy, she differentiates, not cheap easy. She says, “your hunger will lead you home.”

My hunger leads me straight to theater.

In 2014 I didn’t try for my big break to get on Broadway and I didn’t try to edge out the competition to become the youngest casting director and I didn’t fight to be the newest exec. on the Chicago scene.

I did follow my hunger to a steady stream of projects and experiences that taught me triple what I knew about this art in 2013.

And I did watch theatre continue to make important waves in people’s lives on a variety of platforms–from the tundra of South Dakota to the ‘gritty’ Chicago theater scene.

(‘Gritty,’ I’ve learned, is the word of choice when trying to describe what theater is like in the Windy City.)

I love that. Can I have quadruple the experiences of 2014 for next year?

Highlights in the stage world included finishing a casting internship at Goodman Theatre, officially joining the team at Two Birds Casting, being a lead in a musical, and most recently, joining the staff as a project assistant at Sideshow Theatre Company, a talented ensemble that I’ve been eyeing since I first moved to Chi-town in the fall of ’13.

(#5) All my world is full of stages. Hopefully always.
(#5) All my world is full of stages. Hopefully always.

(6) Sideswiped—NEVER.

This might seem a little silly to list when you only have 7 points; but highlight #6 of 2014 was using my bike as my primary mode of transportation in Chicago–until the weather turned to below freezing (I’m not THAT admirable)…AND NOT GETTING HIT, ever!

I clearly recall people running off the sidewalks in college to get away from the terror known as Vanessa-on-her-bike. So to aptly and comfortably soar down busy city streets, weaving in and out of traffic during rush hour, was just about the greatest accomplishment for me, ever.

(#6) Redefining myself in the little ways.
(#6) Redefining myself in the little ways.

(7) Some pretty special people.

You’re in grad school. Florida. The city of Chicago. The city of New York. Washington D.C. The ‘burbs. In Freeman. Around Freeman. Nearish Freeman. Going to Freeman soon. Colorado. Kansas. Good ol’ Goshen. Trying out shifty Elkhart. The coast (take your pick). Africa. Europe. Latin America.

Should I keep going?

I’ve taken some good-natured grief for all my moving around. (Mainly from the people who keep having to help me move my stuff. Which is fair.)

But seriously, look where you are!!!

I am, through-and-through a wanderer right now. (Hey, not all who wander are lost. #Truth.) And when you’re a wanderer asking big impossible questions, it can sometimes feel like there’s not a lot to hold onto.

What happened to clarity? To black and white? To high school schedules where the toughest pick was Chemistry versus Yearbook?

(How did I get away with that?!)

But you, wherever you are, keep me exploring, keep me honest, and keep asking me to share what I’m up to. You keep giving me excuses to visit new places. To try new things. To open up and tell you what I’m thinking and feeling.

You made 2014 awesome, exciting, heartbreaking, confusing, adventure-filled, so on and so forth, and I love you all every bit as much for it. Your care is humbling.

(#7) All of YOU, plus the many, many others I didn't embarrass by taking their picture.
(#7) All of YOU, plus the many, many others I didn’t embarrass by taking their picture.

I can only hope to return the love in the year to come by sleeping on your couch, Google chatting with you, and maybe, just maybe, posting some semi-humorous blog that might make your smile.

It’s the little things, right?

The merriest of Christmas to you from me and my crazy little kitten.

Merry Christmas from this tag team!
Merry Christmas from this tag team!
The Little Things
The little things.

And sincere wishes for a safe and adventurous 2015 for you and your loved ones.

Until the next post,


*This is actually true. Gotta go, see you tomorrow?

christmas letter 2013

Merry Christmas friends and family, far and near!

I’ve made it home for the holidays! And while, alas, the rumors ARE true, and I WILL be home later this winter, I’m actually headed back to the Windy City for a few weeks longer following the holiday festivities. 

Let’s not get ahead ourselves, though. We can talk about the home hiatus another time. First up, a look back at some of the top 20 moments of 2013–in pictures. And certainly in no particular order.

(20) ACTF

ACTF 2013After we learned that we had advanced to the final round of the Irene-Ryan Acting Competition at the American College Theater Festival (ACTF), we panicked a little. When Jay Mast (who was selected to compete because of his performance in GC’s “Twelfth Night”) had asked me to be his competition scene partner for the annual event, I hoped we might do well, but I certainly didn’t anticipate the top 16 of over-200-some duos. After making it past the preliminary round and semi-finals, we panicked (see above), scrambled, and crammed in as much practice as we could before finals the next day. Hey, and we won the award of “Best Musical Theater Scene”!

(19) GC Theater  (Almost, Maine by John Cariani, Cock by Mike Bartlett, and The Diviners by Jim Leonard Jr.)

I squeezed every last drop of theater out of my final semester at Goshen College. Granted, among my circle of friends, I was just sub-par — but it was a crazy semester for me, nonetheless. Amidst a difficult time in my life, the theater was my home and community. Putting together my senior show, John Cariani’s “Almost, Maine,” in particular, was this fabulous journey of watching all my dearest friends (and family) pour their time and talent into a process and script I was passionate about     (…and needed to graduate).

The full, enthusiastic crowd that came out for the recital made the entire ordeal complete–and truly unforgettable.


(18) I am so B.A.!

Where did the past four years go? In April, I graduated from Goshen College with a degree in theater (acting) and a minor in writing.

College Graduation

(17) One last May Term-Play Term


May Term is this unique time on the Goshen College campus where the clock suddenly hits near-summer-speed and everything drastically slows down. Suddenly there’s time (and yet somehow, never time enough!) for socializing, for sand volleyball, ice cream, late nights under the stars, and afternoon naps in the sun.

Knowing it was my last term as a student at Goshen College made May term extra full and extra meaningful. (The same could be said of spring semester.) I took one class in the morning (yay astronomy!) and spent the rest of my day with amazing people like the group above (Mike Holland, Alicia, me, Jaime Stack, Thomas Applegate, Will Kanagy).

(16) Every moment like this one:


(15) My 2 weeks of summer at home

That included seeing high school friends and an afternoon of exploring four-wheel trails with Dad around and about the Missouri River.


(14) Camping in Brown County


There were a couple of friends expeditions that could’ve made the top 20 this year (including a trip to Schmeckfest, a May Term BBQ, and a summer reunion). However, we’ll condense with just this one.Lewis, Jay, Maryn (Munley), and I spent an extended weekend camping in Brown County. Highlights of our trip included consuming large quantities of delicious food, star gazing (Lewis and I took astronomy together), hiking, and my car being accidentally smashed into a tree (the perpetrator shall remain unnamed).

Also, because my dear mother was confused, the picture about is a literal Friendship Circle. Note the sign.

(13) Red Barn Summer Theatre


As my blog will attest, I had the opportunity to work as a full-time actress this summer! I spent the summer in central Indiana working at Red Barn Summer Theatre. Our cast and crew put together 4 shows–totaling 40-ish performances. As soon as show #1 was open to the public, we began rehearsing show #2, meaning that for most of the summer we were rehearsing one show during the day and performing another at night.

(12) The simple joys

The summer was busy–because one show bled into the next, there was never really a rest period or break. That being said, acting was it. That was my summer. My schedule was planned for me. Housing was part of my pay, the bills covered. All I needed to worry about was work: learning my lines, remembering my blocking, staying hydrated, being ready to perform. This sort of simplicity made room for bike rides, journaling, ice cream, and cooking adventures. As a cast, we quickly became close friends!


(11) And the opportunity to play my favorite role (ever).

 Natalie in “Next to Normal.” Yum.


(10) The big move to Chicago

When the Goodman Theatre called and offered me the fall casting internship, the ongoing struggle to decipher my ‘next step’ suddenly became perfectly clear. I was headed to Chicago! On August 18, we struck the set for “Next to Normal.” Less than 24-hours later, I was in downtown Chicago, beginning my internship.

Thankfully, I didn’t make this transition alone. Many of my friends from the summer also migrated to Chicago–including my summer roommate, Aubrey Neumann. Together we found an apartment and started exploring Chicago together (as much as schedules would allow…).


(9) Goodman Theatre Casting Internship

What exactly do you do in a casting internship, you ask? This was precisely my question going in. I had no idea what I was about to be doing — and for the first few weeks — what I was doing. I faced a major learning curve. Thankfully, I had (and continue to have) some amazing mentors (Erica and Adam). Essentially, a casting internship is a lot of admin work. It’s serving as the go-between for the casting department and the actors and agents. It’s creating audition schedules, sending out and confirming appointments, providing audition material — and then being the best, most friendly person you can possibly be on audition day (no one does well when they don’t feel comfortable.)

My internship is full time, downtown in the loop, at Chicago’s largest not-for-profit theatre. That’s theatre with an ‘Re.’  It’ll be wrapping up mid-January — but I’ve already started on some freelance casting work, and hope to continue in the field.

Vanessa in front of Goodman

(8) Making new connections in a new place

My internship certainly provided me an easy opportunity to meet other young professionals in my field — and through those new connections, new friendships (including below, Sophie Blumberg, Liza Massingberd, Kelly Reed (a Bethel College, KS, grad), Isaac Gomez and Aubrey).


(7) Goshen Visits

Despite a very full schedule, I had the chance to take three trips to Goshen this fall. Returning to Goshenland after graduation and a summer away was a rather pleasant experience, even surprisingly so: I felt affirmed that no, I’m not supposed to be in school any more–and that’s ok!–and simultaneously I was able to catch up with my beautiful sisters and many of my college friends I dearly miss every second we’re apart (such as below, Maryn, Lewis, Phil and Marlys Weaver-Stoesz). I also took in a fun night of celebrating the upcoming weddings of good friends Erin Helmuth and Alita Yoder alongside a number of other ladies, all reunited for the first time since school!


(6) Seeing the Sodak Harvest

I went home because Mom was sick. It wasn’t the best pretense for a visit. And frankly, dropping my responsibilities in Chicago was stressful. In the end, though, I left feeling so grateful that I was able to come home. In addition to spending time with Mom and Dad, I was able to ride the combine with my grandpa and take in the beauty of harvest time on the farm. I left feeling truly rejuvenated.

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(5) …having friendly faces to return to in the city!

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Jay and I!

(4) My 23rd bday

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(3) Thanksgiving with ALL the siblings back together

 Josh and Lynelle came up from Bloomington and Alicia and Christina from Goshen.

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(2)  The wonderful season of Christmas, and the wonderful celebration ahead. Our entire family reunited!


(1) Smiles inspite of tears, forgiveness, new beginnings, times of change, acceptance, and the beautiful people that love you always (no matter what). Adventures, simple joys, and realizations.


Merry Christmas 2013 and Happy New Year from me to you!