Quarantine 2020

There are so many thoughts bouncing around my head today. I’m profoundly and deeply sad, but it’s also mixed in with Easter Weekend and sunshine, shadows and the sound of birds nesting. There is a calmness that I can see and hear in this quiet slowed down city and it’s sort of beautiful.

Will the Easter Bunny wear a mask and gloves this year? Is it time that my kids know there is no Easter Bunny? What is that truth in the face of a lockdown? When mommy can’t even get a coffee? I don’t know.

Yesterday was an especially odd day for many reasons…if living in quarantine in New York City with over 700 deaths everyday from the virus is normal, it’s not.

Nothing about this situation is normal or easy. For parents with children, how do we cope living in our small apartments?

I remember when there was one case…and the man had been on the Subway…and I thought, should I stop getting on the Subway to take my daughter to ballet twice a week? Geez, she doesn’t want to go anyway, and now I feel like we are risking our lives. The answer by March 12th was a resounding – “No, don’t take the Subway.”

That same day, I reluctantly cancelled a play reading with The Worksop Theater, where I was in an intensive residency with my play “Reporter Girl.” I felt sick that morning with a scratchy throat. And I just couldn’t risk it; I didn’t want any of the actors to take the Subway to show up either. The next day, Friday the 13th was the day Broadway shut down. By Sunday, we were told by the DOE that schools would be closing. I took my last swim at my gym that weekend and I walked around our local mall for what would be the last time. The city that never sleeps was going to try to sleep.

Somehow in all of this, I’ve stayed very calm. Parents really need to stay grounded. If we freaked out, so would the kids. The first weeks of staying in my older daughter was so frightened, I was up with her all night, calming her, practicing deep breathing techniques that I guess I picked up from yoga. My kids describe me as doing a lot of yoga…really?

My family is united; there is love. We aren’t lonely. We have enough food and toilet paper. We sing out our windows at 7PM every night to thank the first responders. We even meet up with our best friends/neighbors (just a family of four who are our best friends in the city) and play a very socially distancing game of soccer every night. Sometimes they play and I go for a jog. My kids need to go outside. Their friendship, and this nightly hour has been lovely.

I took a bike ride by myself late this afternoon to the West Village and back. When I was done, I walked in the door and my family was sort of doing a zoom Sedar with some of our other family. This was my first EVER Sedar. Cool. We are zoomers, busy with virtual school. I even teach a monologue class online with my Playwriting For Kids class. Parents and teachers have jumped into the virtual classroom with two feet.

I had to get up several times during the Sedar to cook dinner. We were eating pork chops. So very wrong, I know.

I ended the day at 2AM throwing an Easter Basket together for the kids. They want to pretend, or they just want the candy. The Easter Bunny does wear a mask and gloves, I’m sure of it.

My husband and I stayed up late discussing my latest play. I wrote a new play (well, finished a play). It’s just a draft and he made me tell him every plot point without actually reading it — okay. My husband loves discussing my plays, so weird I know…

Discussing a new play feels so normal. Once a week my husband and I have these normal life discussions, and I could almost pretend life was normal, but it’s not.

I did say words of thanks over our family dinner because I’m grateful for…but if we all think there are things, new things each day, even in the darkest of times we are grateful for.

I’ve been writing down the 5 things I’m grateful for every day since 2018. I randomly heard about a free class in my neighborhood and I was struggling, so I showed up just this one time. It changed my life.

Five things. Write five new things you are grateful for everyday. I’ve done this religiously ever since that day, and it’s helped me enormously.

But sometimes I struggle to think of those five things. Lately, I’ll admit I’ve really struggled. Of course I’m grateful everyday that everyone in my family is still safe, and though many friends have contracted the virus (most without getting official test results) everyone has recovered or is in the process of recovering. One friend, who is younger than me is still in the ICU in LA. We went to grad school together. Please get well Phillip.  But the growing death toll is staggering. How this has changed us? Will we ever feel normal again? What is our new normal? So much uncertainty, so many moments that I’ve just wanted to cry, but I stop myself.

As I put the kids’ clothes away, I look at their little coats with only fond memories of when we were outside all the time. Every single picture of us smiling as a family — an RV trip last summer to Tahoe, a school event where children were singing together; the school talent show that I’m so pleased at least happened on Feb 29th. Feb 29th feels like a lifetime ago, back when we were making jokes about the Corona Virus, when I couldn’t even say it correctly, I kept saying the one that sounds like the Mexican beer…

But I knew it was coming for us. Can’t tell you how I knew, but I just had a dark feeling. Of course as the Virus was first spreading — to think it started in California — and they shut down right away — New York City felt like a place that would be a direct hit for this virus —  quicksand  — since it can spread easily, we know little about and we are so densely populated here. “This is going to be bad,” I thought to myself.

How quickly we went from fist bumps, to staying apart, to memes and making jokes to outright panic was really a matter of days. Remember when lines at the grocery store, toilet paper shortages were shocking? Now my Face Book feed is flooded with sadness because so many people have lost someone.

Now pictures of us with friends are taken from our lap tops with us all waving. This feels unreal, like an episode of the Twilight Zone or Black Mirror, but this is indeed real life. What if something happened to us? I can’t think about it or go there. But every trip to the store, likely every time we are outside…is putting us in danger. And every time I feel utterly exhausted and suddenly need a nap (it’s happened exactly twice) I worry.

To calm myself and to find something to be grateful for, I went to my mom’s house in California in my mind. My mom is caring for my nine-year-old nephew these days. This is not how she thought she’d spend her old-age and yet, I’m so grateful my nephew is being cared for and we know where he is.

For years, we didn’t even know where he was. His mom ran away with him when he was a baby and as far as we all knew, he was somewhere in Arizona, sometimes homeless, for a year he was in foster care. At some point, about 4 years ago, we finally got some legal clarity (long story) and he was able to visit us (my brother) in California for six weeks during the summer months that coincided with my family visits.  This past summer, he came for a visit and never went home.  There is much I can’t say, but what I can say is this: in the case of a global pandemic, when my mind wanders to all those I care about, I’m just happy to know that my nephew is safe. My mom is okay. It’s not easy caring for a child, especially as an older person. Three meals a day, snacks, all the clean up. It’s endless, I know first hand. The whole idea of getting at least the school break is thrown out the window these days. My mom is a saint for all she does, really.  She has learned the virtual technology (sort of) and is jumping in like the rest of us. She has earned her mom and grandma and good person stripes 10 times over already.

For me, I’m grateful I’m not with my kids all by myself. I’m grateful they aren’t even two years younger and are somewhat independent these days. I can sleep in a bit.  I can for a better word for it ignore them sometimes. I don’t want to be on their case every minute.  I’m grateful my husband is helping out more, that he understands that cleaning the kitchen actually takes an hour. I also recently started a reward system for chores that is working so far. Whatever I can do to ease the workload, I’m all in.

I’m grateful for my little Playwriting For Kids business. With a little prep I was able to create an online version of the class (we do monologue-writing).

I’m grateful that over the years (ah 20), I’ve built up quite a life in this town. I’ve gone from a very young woman on the morning of Sept 11th, who lived in the East Village on a 5th floor walk up (who was confused about life – ha ha), to a married mom of two girls who is somewhat less confused about life.

As I rode my bike to the West Village today to meet a friend (not the usual way one would meet a friend, the opposite, actually. We met with masks…with no hugs…we stood 10 feet apart and chatted for a few minutes)…I was thinking the whole ride, as the air flapped on my cheeks..yesterday, April 11th was my grandma’s birthday, Dale Messick, the creator of the Brenda Starr comic strip.

She lived in NYC, but long ago in the late 30’s and 40’s. She was a trail blazer, a  “creative” — she had artsy friends that included CD Bachelor, a Pulitzer Prize winning political cartoonist.

I’m a creative in this town, and I run in an artsy circle.

I moved to NYC about 20 years ago (in March) and these streets around the West Village were my home for many years (I used to live on Waverly Place). They contain most of my best memories, the early ones..the Manhattan Theater Source memories, the Grad School Actors Studio Drama School MFA memories, the Waverly Place apt memories. There was a lot of hanging out at the North End bar…drinking the blood orange martinis…playing pool, loud clinks, laughs. I can hear us. I can hear you…I miss you, New York. Joe Coffee, my old “office.” And then, more recently, I guess when my first daughter was a baby, even though we had moved to Battery Park City, I used to push her in the stroller all the way to the West Village once or twice a week.  I’d sit with my sleeping baby in Washington Square Park. I missed the noise of the Village. I got familiar with the walk and my new quiet life, where I’d spend 10 years re-inventing myself as a mommy. So many re-inventions.

There was so much mommy stuff, it all became a blur. But there was more West Village, it just usually involved my family. Haircuts at Doodle Doos and Morandi dinners on Sunday nights.  Haircuts for me at Snip and Sip, riding our bike to our favorite park with all the toys out.

For years I participated in an Alumni Playwrights Lab at the New School, where I was able to meet more collaborators. Career things slowed, but they didn’t stop entirely, they just changed. For the most part, there was less time for the busy stuff (but I’m one of those people who finds busy stuff — it’s annoying). There was a re-invention of myself as NYC allows. I’ve changed many times in the course of my 20 years in this city.

My dear friend Isa, who I first met in grad school in 2002 (like many of you) has been alone this whole time in her apartment. I stopped worrying about her so much because she’s in school/she’s busy — in zoom classes all day and it’s not like she doesn’t have other friends. I just worry. I’m a worrier. She was looking forward to walking outside and seeing me (even if from 6 ft away) for a week, she said. Riding the bike and getting some air on my face, some time to myself, was very nice for me too.

Some of us never get a minute alone; others are alone all the time. All of it kind of it is kind of terrible; but I’m sure we are also finding a new normal, a quiet in ourselves, a calm in this downtime. Who are you in quarantine?

I’ve discovered I’m a drill sergeant when it comes to keeping my house clean. Who knew?

IMG_3886I needed some time away. It’s tiring being mommy chef and the enforcer of rules and schedule keeping all day, every day. The ride was so smooth. No one was out, no traffic. It was almost as if the NYC streets were closed off for a bike race and I was the only participant. A few people were out. There were singers in Washington Square Park. But really…it’s quiet outside.


My Friend Tony

IMG_3409Now that he’s gone, it feels impossible to talk about my friend Tony White without telling a Tony story, to bring you into my Tony world. I live in New York City and Tony White was my amazing theater friend for many years, until he died suddenly from complications from surgery on January 19th 2020. Ugh. January is not starting out great. I miss my friend so much.

You know how it’s funny that when someone dies, you suddenly see all of them in a minute, or I do. Or at least this is how I see Tony. I see all of his light in a hot minute. Tony was pure light, pure magic. I guess I’m lucky because one day not so long ago, I saw the whole picture of Tony and it gave me pause. Ah Tony.

Tony was this big black man who I’d often meet in bars. It’s sounds funny, but it’s the truth. Not so long ago, I had to run to pay his bill in a bar and then leave to pick up my kids. I never thought of Tony as a drunk, because he wasn’t a drunk.  But he did like to drink and he may not have seemed an appropriate best buddy for me, but there we were. He was this crazy, enigma, unicorn…possibly angel on earth. Many are describing Tony White using the word “angel.” And I’m struck by it, actually because it’s hard for me to come up with a better word for him.

Tony had a degree in theater and a JD Law Degree.  He worked in sales and made good good money.  He could sell ice to eskimos. He could inspire with a few words of praise.  He could apologize. Not a lot of people know when and how to apologize. He was a gentleman. Tony was da man in many respects. Tony could also mess things up more than anyone. Oh my gosh.

He was brave and passionate about theater and helping others, almost like a coach. I’ve never seen someone so generous with their time, money and talents to help others’ on their journey of ‘becoming.’ When he’d ask me to work on a project with him, I’d always wonder to what end? What was he getting out of it? Usually nothing. He was more about the connections…connecting people and pushing people forward.

For commercials, Tony often played the big black clown and he was okay with that. How many times did he play Falstaff? Or a black Santa? Or the fat guy? Tony was the funny guy. Tony was witty and funny and he likely made a good bit of cash between his regular sales job at AM NY and commercials. I was often impressed with how much he worked. “I’m on my way to an audition, a commercial shoot, or a sales call.”  These were phrases I often heard from Tony. And he always showed up to our theater meetings with AM NY’s stuffed under his arm. He was always out and about. When did he sleep? I guess during many of our meetings. Tony was the guy who would fall asleep during meetings or even our rehearsals. He was a busy guy. Theater was Tony’s passion, his reason d’etre so-to-speak and yeah, maybe it was what killed him — just his non-stop about it. He’s one of those people who really burned the candle at both ends. Enough already.

Tony was always on his phone, busy, in another world. He was sometimes too busy in the universe to be in our orbit. He was far too busy creating this universe, throwing it out there — splat. Details & focus were not his thing. His magic was people and theater.

Our paths crossed often in my early days in New York City when we were both members of a small Off-Off-Off company called Love Creek Productions. I was young and full of energy back then. Not a gray hair on my head, or an ounce of fat on my slim figure. That was before kids, but not before I was married. I may have met Tony the year I got married (2004). And even though I was pursuing playwriting and in grad school for playwriting from 2002-2005, somehow I was in a handful of plays between 2002-2008 and many of them were with Tony.

At some point in 2004 we were in a play together, a comedy set in a bar called Montevideo that was written by our mentor Le Wilhem. My character jumps on his character when I realize my husband’s been cheating on me. It was a very funny scene. In the fall of 2005, we were in another play where we played Heroine addicts living in New Orleans. In the end, when I overdose, he carries me off stage. He was a drag queen and I feel like he might have been wearing angel wings, which is rather profound, especially in retrospect. In the last play I would ever act in Who Put The X in X-Mas, it was 2008, he played my sweet cab driver who saves me. Tony was always saving me on stage, and in life too I suppose.

After 2008, I didn’t see him so much. I’m sure and even from photos on social media I can see that Tony did a million plays between the years until we’d reconnect.  The guy was always doing theater. It was like throwing it up — splat, splat splat. There is a Shakespeare play, and another. Splat.

In 2009 I had a baby and in 2011 I had another baby. I was mostly a busy stay-at-home mom in those early years. But even with babies, I was busy with playwriting and TV projects. I don’t know how though. In 2011 my play Reporter Girl was in the Comic Book Theater Festival…holy smokes.

In 2013, I ran into Tony in a hospital waiting room.  We were both saying our final goodbyes to our theater mentor from the Love Creek days, Le Wilhelm, who was dying of Cancer. And that was also abrupt, as I only found out he was ill the day before. I can’t remember exactly what was going on, but our paths were meant to cross again and it was Le, in his dying moments who brought us together (again). We were both shaken and passed each other in the hallway. We were the old-schoolers, part of the early group. We were also two of Le’s favorites — I was considered a company playwright at some point and Tony, an artistic director.  And there we were, unplanned, saying our goodbyes.  I was crying.

Like Tony would do six years later, Le died in the middle of a project. Le was in the middle of directing a play when died. Tony and I made a date to go to the play together. After the  we went to dinner in the East Village and had a heartfelt discussion about Le, life and talked about various projects, possibly working together again someday.  My kids were only 1 and 3 at that point. Tony mentioned wanting to produce one of my plays, Hoboken, a play of mine he’d always had his eye on.  He was producing now, he told me. It all sounded genuinely exciting.

A few weeks later, Tony asked me if I wanted to do the press for his friend’s Native American Theater Company because he “always remembered that I was good at press and marketing.”

I had done marketing for years, but I’d never done theater press and Tony gave me my first foray, first job in the field at a time when I needed something. Tony just offered me a job doing the thing I was secretly wanting to try. It was kind of like he was reading my mind, or instinctively knew something I didn’t.  He was right, I was very good at press and specifically for theater.  This new skill was good fit for me, and I quickly found a niche that married my marketing skills, love of theater and interest in Native American cultures. PR was also the perfect job for a stay-at-home busy mom. Some of the work I could do while watching my kids on the playground. A lot of press is quick return emails, and phone calls. These jobs kept me busy and somewhat employed from 2013-2016. I also got to know the founder of the company, Ryan Victor Pierce, who was from the Lenape tribe. I can remember asking him over and over for press purposes about the Lenape thing (this comes back) for press materials.

Around 2016, besides my own plays, budding tv projects and PR jobs, I had started teaching theater, a playwriting program I’d later dub Playwriting For Kids at my kids’ school. In 2018, when my daughter was in the third grade, the class was doing a Lenape unit. My eyes lit up when the teachers announced it. Lenape? What? I knew a bit about the Lenape, of course.  I even knew a Lenape Tribe Member. I imagined that maybe we could do a Playwriting Unit together, which is what actually happened. Ryan was invited in to speak to the kids — it was fascinating. He has a theater project where he re-creates what Manahatta (Manhattan’s original name) looked and felt like for the Lenape people who lived here first. For the big Lenape theater project with the 3rd graders, I was on my own. So I asked my theater friends to come help.  Of all my theater friends, Tony was the only one who responded yes. He was up for anything, but he always had an agenda…one never knew what exactly was up his sleeve.

Working with Tony on the kids plays was great. I didn’t expect much from him. And there he was on his phone most of the time, mostly looking up laughing at me. While I was just going crazy, chasing the kids on the stage. There is a moment in any play where it feels like chaos when you are trying to stage it. But it was starting to gel, and there were these great little mini moments in the script that were impossible to stage. With so many kids (who were not staying put) I really needed a second person. “Tony, direct this. Here is the script. Here are the kids go!” And he was great. The scene was perfect — the moment perfectly directed and choreographed thanks to Tony.

After I’d work with the kids, I was exhausted. Mentally and physically I was spent, kaput. My brain was mush. But if Tony was there, I’d take him to lunch as a thank you.

We’d sit across from each other in different worlds. Hilarious. I was staging the plays in my head, and Tony was drinking — on his second cocktail and talking about his latest production. I didn’t really care and it didn’t matter anyway. I had sworn off working with him, after he botched one of my plays in late 2016, but even that play got a publication from the production, so it wasn’t a total loss…”a silver lining,” I’d say, trying to rub the memory of inviting my friends and neighbors to watch a woman on stage who didn’t know her lines…ever.

But it was 2018 now and I was into these kid plays.

Me: “What did you think of that kid who plays the wolf, he’s good right?”

Tony: “Ah yeah sure. ” So I’m supposed to be producing Closer but I can’t get the rights, it’s too damn expensive.”

Hmmm…Closer. The words floated in my head.  The play Closer had always reminded me of my play Hoboken. Both plays were dark and sexy. Did Tony know this? Was this a trick? The fog of children lifted and I was back to my play that I was once very passionate about.

Closer? Why are you doing Closer?” I snapped. “Do my play, do Hoboken.”

“Okay,” he said.

And that was that. I was back in my kid fog the next day. I forgot that I verbally told Tony he could produce my play. I think he did ask for me to send it to him. Still, I forgot about it. I wasn’t thinking about it at all.

A month went by.  I saw Tony at a friend’s show and he casually informs me that they are doing my play. It’s cast and they are starting rehearsals. “The play goes up in a month,” he said.

What? What? Omg. I can’t believe it. That’s not how it works. What? I’m mad, but I’m excited inside. There’s this odd bubbling feeling happening. I want to tell him no, but I’m also happy somehow. You see, I would never produce this play on my own.  I was actually afraid of this play. It is about a pedophile and not exactly a feel good story.  And since I never sent it out, no one else was going to just produce it. So it would just be sitting there doing nothing. The play is a love story about about a very bad guy and a girl who is darker than we think; it’s totally unexpected. It even has comedy, and if you relax for a minute, you are laughing and having fun and then it hits you. It’s messed up and seriously makes you think. It’s…daring. You’d have to be brave to want to produce this play, truly. And I’m stammering — trying to say no this man — this brave man who wants to produce my play so badly, he’s sneaking it out from under me.

Still, I tried to tell him no and I begged him to do it later, when we had time to really make everything perfect. “Why can’t we do the play in October, when we have time to make it great.” He wouldn’t budge. “It’s great now and the actors love it.”

It fit the bill for the moment, I guess. It was replacing Closer. He had the cast and the actors all set.  It was go time. I either just scream no and take it back (assert myself), or I just let the wind take me. And this was Tony. He was going to produce my play whether I liked it or not. And it might be terrible and it might be amazing. Holy Shit.

If I were basing things on history, there was much more of a chance that the play would end up horrible, but something in my gut told me that it would be okay.

This was around the time when I really saw the essence of my friend Tony. It was February, I think. Much like today. It was cold and we were standing outside, down by where I live. Tony wasn’t nearly wearing enough to keep him warm. He had a simple light black trench coat. He had an issue with his leg, too. He limped and he was especially bad on stairs. You see, Tony was already fading before our eyes. I could see this quite clearly, but there was nothing I could do about it. But he wasn’t fading at the same time. It’s like he could see how important every minute was. Like Hamilton, he was running as if he was running out of time. He was putting in life what he wanted out. And he was squeezing it like a lemon. He worked it. He was old school. He was taking my play out the depths of me, taking my fears, my excuses and squashing them. He was throwing my talent out into the universe. Simple. Splat.

What’s more to that? I thought. My mouth open to say no, but I said nothing but “see you later.” On one of these days, it could have been this day, I threw my own scarf around his neck and buttoned his coat. “You need to take better care of yourself.” I couldn’t say no to Tony – my clown, my dreamer, my angel.








Hello 2020: We are on Fire

It seems like yesterday I was hiding in my room on Sonoma Mountain on NYE when it turned 2000 and we were worried about Y2K. I worked at a news webzine at the time and everyone was freaking out about the new decade. I’d be moving to New York City within a few months, so my life was about to change. I hid under my covers, wishing life wasn’t going to shoot me out like a cannon. There is something about my mom’s house, up on the beautiful mountain top, that despite everything going on in the world, it stays primarily the same as I remember it as a four-year-old. The trees surround our house and it’s nothing but endless mountains and quiet. The sounds are only the trees moving in the wind and the birds above. I moved to New York in 2000 and I’ve always been this mountain girl who lives in the big city; always longing for the view from my quiet mountain-top.

In 2010 NYC, I was back at my mom’s house on Sonoma Mountain, but this time I with my baby daughter, Maya and my husband, who decided he could go out for New Years Eve with some of our friends. I wasn’t worried about the end of the world per-se. Nine years ago, with Obama in The White House and a baby to care for, it was okay to worry about the immediate: my child, my own fatigue, wanting to lose the baby weight.

To say that with Trump’s ascent, my anxiety and fears have escalated is to say I drink water. My anxiety about our world, my children’s immediate safety and their future on this planet is not misplaced. I’m scared that my kids will get shot going to public school. I’m scared about all the racism and hate crimes going on around the world, particularly the uptick in the U.S. It’s like we are all on fire, from our souls. I know there is this dystopian end of times feeling that is creeping in all of us who are semi-awake. We are living with the very real anxiety that there is more to worry about that we know or can fully comprehend. Our earth is on fire, it’s in our face — it’s real. And what are we going to do about it? What can we do?

In 2017 when the Tubbs fire or Northern California firestorm engulfed the area where I was raised (Sonoma County) and both my parents’ homes (my parents are divorced) nearly burned down (and many friends lost homes) it was an anomaly, something I’d never experienced in my life: Fire. Red, glowing, out of control — fire. It took everything from my dear friend Felicia, who had a house near Kenwood (where she hosted by baby shower and many parties) a mere 30 minute drive from my mom’s burned to the ground in about 40 minutes.

I was on the East Coast during the 2017 Sonoma County fires. I woke at 4am Vermont time with the oddest feeling. I picked up my Iphone and flipped through my Face Book feed. The last image I saw was an old friend, Sylvia, who snapped a picture of her feet propped up on an outdoor stove from her home located in Coffee Park, Santa Rosa. The caption: “Happy.” I smiled. Within 10 minutes I got an email from the City of Santa Rosa that said the area where my dad and stepmom lived, about 10 minute drive from Coffee Park was being evacuated because of a fast-moving fire. Fire? My dad’s house is surrounded by redwood trees with one road out.  I had no idea that the fire had already spread everywhere, all over the city and surrounding area. By the time I looked back at my Face Book page, it was like hell had erupted everywhere that I loved. My friend Sylvia next posted: “I just drove away in my pajamas.  Several houses ablaze. The neighborhood is on fire. Fire on my house.” The next picture I’d see on Face Book is her house gone and only the outdoor fireplace standing.

I found out later, that it was only luck — the wind changing directions and a crew of volunteer Buddhist Monks (lead my old boyfriend Demian Kwong) who saved our beloved Sonoma Mountain and my mom’s house (the house I was born in). My mom mentioned the call she got at 4 in the morning to evacuate from a neighbor: “There is fire on the mountain. It’s glowing red, I can see it. I’ve never seen anything like this before. We need to leave. You have 40 minutes.” By the time I called my mom, thinking I’d be waking her, she was in a Denny’s at the bottom of our mountain with a pack of neighbors. My eyes were wide open; I was terrified and I could do nothing. At the same time, on the other line, my dad, stepmom and their animals didn’t know where to go. I was gulping hard, holding steady trying to direct them from watching a combo of news reports and following Face Book feeds. They were driving through a hell zone and ended up in the middle of it, but decided to buckle down and try to wait it out in my dad’s office “because it was a brick building.” That’s when my friend Felicia texted: “My house is gone.”By October 14, the fires had burned more than 210,000 acres (85,000 ha) while forcing 90,000 people to evacuate from their homes. In total, the Northern California fires killed 44 people and hospitalized at least 192 others, making this one of the deadliest wildfire events in the United States during the past century.

Climate change is here. This is now our reality. The next summer, my other best friend’s house nearly burned down in an area 30 miles away. And then LA burned and burned. This past October, because of another fire nearby my dad and stepmom were again  evacuated. Australia is on fire, the Amazon…this is our new reality.

There is no Abalone season because the kelp are dying. Our Oceans are dying. Fisheries are closing along the west coast because there is not enough fish. Our earth is in peril. We are on fire. This is life and death. Please wake up. What are you going to do today, tomorrow, this year that can help? Being a liberal voter, I already know where I stand. At the very least, the party I vote for, works for the environment. If you are a Republican voter, have you thought about where the Republican party stands on climate change? And specifically, where Trump stands on these issues? Wouldn’t you want to do something if you could to save the planet? Take a look at what he’s done, not done all on a platform of denial. I have some Republican friends, and I think we should be able to have an open conversation about the Earth and what’s happening to our planet. Where will be be in 2030 if we continue to be in denial about climate change right now? We need to wake up.

The Phases of Life

I’m back, if only for a moment to write a tiny post about life and motherhood and adulting and, well middle age. I might as well make a quick stop here because a few years from now I’ll be past this.

Here I am, sitting in front of a beautiful lake in a nearly quiet hotel, just a few days away from my 48th birthday. Sometimes I’m too busy for reflection, but this year, this feels like a good time and place to sneak a moment to myself to write on my blog. I know, I’m not to the end of my forties yet, but I’m close enough. And the way it goes, there isn’t time to write like there used to be when my kids were small. By the time my mom was my age, I was a senior in high school and here I’ve got young kids still. We are in the thick of it, almost more than we were when they were tiny babies, which seems impossible to say. It’s just different. Bigger kids, bigger problems.  But this is also the fun time too, the “easy years” as many parents say. My kids are 7 and 9 and we are busy with the school schedule and all the activities — soccer, ballet, tae kwon do, tutors, piano, after school and the big ELA test. My husband is the soccer coach and running the talent show. I am choreographing my younger daughter’s dance as I’ve done for the past three, no four years.

Last summer, my very astute and sensitive then 8 year-old informed me that she wanted to wear a bra. She didn’t need one and I tried to protest, but I was also happy that she wanted to talk about it and knew what she needed. “A bra will make me feel more comfortable.” How can I argue with that? If my daughter finds her way, she just might make a good lawyer. No one can argue and come up with an argument like she can. I certainly could never just say what I wanted or needed when I was young, or not that I remember. Maybe I wanted a bra and my mom wouldn’t get one. I remember how I finally got a bra (maybe a year after I actually needed one) was stealing on from a store with my girlfriend. We wanted bras and our parents were unaware or we were too embarrassed to just tell them.

I’m happy that my daughter has found a way to communicate her needs.

School started last September.  I felt bad that I let her have a bra because I figured the next thing we all knew all of the 4th grade girls will be wearing bras. I was right, but I’m not sure that she was the culprit. At the start of the year, she was one of just a few, by December it was half the girls and by now it’s 90%. See, I didn’t get a bra until I was 12, so to me this is kind of sad. My mom would always say “don’t be in such a hurry to grow up.” I’m mourning her childhood as I’ve been since I cried putting away her 3 month baby clothes 9 years ago. I want it to last a bit longer.

Six months later, she still doesn’t need that bra only a minute more than she did when she got it. But the other day, I came to hug her and I distinctly noticed adult body odor.  She doesn’t like to bathe. Her sister loves baths, barbies and princess dresses. My intensely smart 9 and half year old only wears pants and almost specifically doesn’t match. She’s got dreamy blue eyes and beautiful long hair that is always matted. So she’s her own perplexing self, the most beautiful mangled child. Under all those mismatched clothes and tangled hair and sometimes nasty comments is the smartest, most beautiful girl. Mornings with the brush are a fight. I always knew she was smart. I mean, I knew this from one look at her as a tiny baby next to me in the hospital. I was almost afraid of her. She looked up at me with this intensity and all I could see was her angry, intelligent eyes. To teasingly call her stupid is the wrong word indeed.  In school, she’s smart too, likely the top 10% of her small class, but with seemingly not New York (meaning not type A and pushy parents) she lands somewhere slightly lower than that. Sometimes just being smart isn’t enough and it’s how we help her, and how do we do that? With her anger, she also has social problems sometimes — to the point the school got involved and together and co-captains I felt we started to make progress. I hope. Perhaps it’s the education she’s able to get, but she knows so much more than I did at her age, including another language. She can translate Russian for me. I speak a bit, but I’ve never gotten past a kind of rudimentary Russian. My daughter understands everything (without a lot of push on our end).  It’s remarkable. But many of these choices of help, listening, understanding and considering the next choice did start with the mother, with me.  The constant issues that enter the mom mind, I can’t tell you.  MY mind is busy with my kids’ issues — from knowing the moment when she was 6 and I had to start her on chapter books because she was getting bored. When I think about myself for awhile or feel sort of sad or missing out on something, I quickly shift back to my kids. It’s a sense of purpose that is going somewhere.

I’m changing too. Turns out, as luck may have it, I might be going through my life change as my kids go through puberty. Our house will be fun times!  I’m quite hot these days and moody. My skin breaks out like I’m a teenager. I can’t lose weight; my back hurts. I actually have a slipped disk. I don’t sleep. I need alone time; I feel kind of despondent and depressed at times and at the same time I’m buried in laundry and housework like I always was. In short, it’s all overwhelming. We don’t have a regular babysitter anymore, so much more is on me — getting my younger daughter to that fancy ballet class that is way up town, keeping up with the housework and the homework. But thankfully we are a team. I can’t see doing this on my own at all.

It’s time to go already. But this was a nice stop at almost 48. I’m grateful, really.

Goodbye Double Stroller, Hello Bike

We gave away our double stroller yesterday. Over the weekend I sold the warm stroller bags and gloves. All gone. There were no words to be had when the new baby rolled away with my memories. I just gulped and stood there, aimless…feeling like it’s all happening too quickly. I had to smile, though, because that stroller was with us through some pretty extreme weather – for four years. It also was my shopping cart, and often allowed two kids to sleep. I think even a year ago both kids were sleeping in it while mom and dad were parked at a bar drinking wine! As much as I loved the stroller, I also broke my back pushing it all over New York in the rain and snow…and wrote of being caught in a rain storm with babies as “humbling.” It was not uncommon for me to push it all the way to the West Village and beyond. That’s a long way. But we all have to grow and the happiness in those beautiful/stressful memories is that at least I have them. This time in my life happened. We are already past pacifiers, cribs, bottles and potty training. One kid is already reading chapter books and reading to the second kid -without me! And I’m already missing my special chair “Mommy Time” that was me reading to the kids. It’s hard to be sad when our new means of transport saves us money and is so much fun. And it’s hard to be sad about your kids learning to walk, run, dance and read. It’s just a sigh.12642499_10153423716222781_4678929169830025763_nIMG_5466

Saying goodbye to baby things

There is a mom in my building who has children around the same age as my two girls (she has two boys) and I was shocked today to realize that baby # 3 is on the way; I ran into her bump when I was in the elevator with my two girls in tow. This time she’s having a girl and she couldn’t be more excited. Oh wow. Um. I see a lot of people having their #3, and in NYC which is shocking, mostly because apartments are so small in the city and it’s so expensive. And still, all of a sudden in that moment, I wanted another baby. I wished that I started sooner,  because I would almost consider it. I guess I still could consider it, but really? Would I? I think not!!  We just got rid of our baby stuff, and now is about the time that I’ve really started looking at any of the remaining baby things. As your kids grow things start to look smaller, and it almost looks and feels like the clothes shrunk, but they didn’t shrink.  So today, I noticed that I still have baby bibs. There they are just sitting there in the sink in a pile. We haven’t used one in such a long time. But we’ve also been gone — we will use them once in awhile — maybe. And what about those baby sippy cups? Lilly still uses some of these things here and there, and we even still have a stroller. But we won’t need any of it for much longer. She really doesn’t need any of it anymore. There are no more cribs, no more baby cuddle seat — I mourned that one. It was just gone one day.  Our friends were having a baby and they snatched it up. I was singing and sitting in the day before. I would rock Lilly in the chair every afternoon and evening for bed. I would sing her a song and before I would do so, she always pretended to buckle herself in.
And then, poof the chair was  just gone. For weeks, months after — even now, I  turn to sit and cuddle Lilly and there is no chair to sit with her. We have a small apartment, so we just can’t keep things to keep them as we might if we had an attic or a garage, but we don’t. These precious things, things filled with the memories of childhood are just gone. The changing table, the high chair — went to the same fate, but to different friends. The double stroller at my mom’s went to my best friend. Thank goodness for you friends who all had babies recently and who are making this transition of getting rid of my baby stuff easier, so it’s almost fun. I said almost. It’s nice to know it’s all gone to good homes. And with the stuff gone, I don’t have to be reminded that we don’t have a baby anymore, but yeah, those baby bibs, those sippy cups….nagging at me. And it doesn’t take much, I just need to look at my girls to see that they are darling, but they are getting big so big.
Maya says to me today after the pregnant mom in the elevator incident — “Please mom, I’ll take care of the baby.”
But who would take care of me? I thought to myself as I just smiled at her. She seemed to be reading my mind (she always reads my mind).  “We will find a good babysitter,” she said without me saying a word. We walked on in silence. Oh Maya =)

Playwright Micheline Auger

I’m one of these playwrights…(my photo is coming soon), but I just really like what Jody is doing with her work. Check out these fabulous playwrights!

Necessary Exposure: The Female Playwright Project

Photo by Jody Christopherson Photo by Jody Christopherson

MICHELINE AUGER’s recent productions include the off-Broadway run of Donkey Punch at Soho Playhouse (Time Out NY Critics’ Pick); Untitled Degradation Play (Rising Phoenix Rep’s Cino Nights Series commission; O’Neill Semi-finalist) and American River (Lesser America), Her work has been developed or produced by Dixon Place, Primary Stages, Westside Theatre, Ivy Theater, Miranda Theatre, Amoralab, FringeNYC, New York Madness, OMPF, Horse Trade Theatre Group, Riot Act, Caps Lock Theatre Company, Sugarspace and Highways Performance Complex, among others.

She is one of Indie Theater’s 2014 People of the Year for her writing and producing, and is the recipient of the National Theater Conference’s Paul Green Award. She is the creator and editor-in-chief of Theaterspeak, and the producer of WRITE OUT FRONT which has put over 200 playwrights in the window of the Drama Book Shop writing new plays on view of the general public in the Times Square Theater District. WRITE OUT FRONT and has been featured on the front page of the NYTimes Saturday Arts Section, WNYC, Time Out NY, and on NY1. She has worked with the Lilly Awards co-producing their reading series of plays from the Kilroys List and…

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The Year of Lost and Found

This gallery contains 3 photos.

Originally posted on The PopCycle:
  Miles and Noni, May 1986 This has been a year…a year of me losing things…my mind, people and weight. There are such things in life as lost opportunities, “missed boats”…when the timing just isn’t…

Mom job

Here is your new job. You are a mom. Get ready. It’s an ongoing, open-ended, unpaid, on-call, open 24/7 nurse job with only 20 minute breaks here and there. Add doing it in 4 degree weather with bronchitis and a bad back…(that means when your three-year-old says “carry me” you wince because the idea of it makes you wince but you do it anyway and cry later) much later, like when they finally go to bed at 10 p.m. By then you are so tired you are seeing tracers…But even then, at the end of the day when you are saying goodnight…you know that it’s the best job in the world =). Take that you “I got a poetry meeting and seeing plays….pitching a producer.” I’ve got stuff like that too, believe me, I do….I somehow wrote a TV pilot…and stuff is happening…I think I have a play reading coming up, a few other projects…etc, etc. But I do that stuff in my free time…Ha ha…what free time? The above list is my day/night job. And guess what, if I need time, I have to pay for it — every minute. I’m on the clock right now. While I am diddling away a 30 minute break, my kid is creating a masterpiece.

The smile

Maya’s picture

Remember When I was Wild?

skiingnonGot to watch “Wild” last night thanks to a DVD copy from our friends. Great movie. I’m so happy that Reese Witherspoon produced the film so more people can know about this woman’s crazy story. When I was 14, I spent 28 days in the Central Cascades doing Outward Bound. That experience at such a young age really shaped my life. As a teenager and young adult I became avid backpacker and counted the peaks I had climbed. At 18 I climbed to the top of Mt. Witney in one day with my dad.  I dreamed that one day I would hike the Pacific Coast Trail. My friendships revolved around crazy backpacking adventures. I worked so I could buy Tevas, a stove, a better pack, the perfect bag. Given how I live these days — in a high rise building in New York City with a doorman with a husband who loves fancy hotel stays,  I guess I’ve changed a lot since my wild “walking” days. I also have a bad back, so I doubt that will ever hike the PTC. There was some point in my life when I could sleep anywhere, and I did — on trains, futons – ha ha — on the ground, upside down…instead of inside a hotel, in Athens, I slept on a hotel rooftop in my sleeping bag. I was the opposite of  luxurious. Why would I stay in a fancy hotel when I can sleep in my tent? Why would I drive a car when I can walk, ride a bike or if I have to take a bus? That was my mindset all the time. That’s who I was until….I got interested in playwriting,  and shortly after that, I started working in advertising…and started to meet more sophisticated people. I can recall the people I worked with in advertising never worked before the age of 22. I’d been working since I was 15. At 26 I got my nails (and toes)  done at a salon for the very first time.  These days I get my mani-pedi once a week. A luxury. I made fun of people who got their nails done when I was wild.

Despite my lifestyle changes over the years, I will  never completely change. I’m considering getting my groove on for some Snowboarding today. I grew up here, near the mountains. My friends were big into boarding and skiing and I often came along for the ride when they were off on their “Black Diamond” runs and I was stuck in some snow hole. But a manufactured glide down a crowded mountain, however beautiful, was never totally my thing. I was never super great at skiing or snowboarding. But as backpacker, I soared. I love a good hike, the fresh air, the view, the challenges, being one with nature.