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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 really 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, it stays primarily the same as I remember it as a four-year-old waiting for my dad to pick me up. The trees surround our house and it’s nothing but endless mountains. We have lots of wild animals too.  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 NYE. 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 liek 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 thicke 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 sensitve 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 dammitt 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 doens’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 smarest, 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 afriad 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 rudimentally 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 childrens’ issues — from knowing the moment when she was 6 and I had to start her on chapter books becuase 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 burried 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 homewokrk. But thankfully we are a team. I can’t see doing this on my own at all.

With change comes some responsibilty. We don’t have any regular help anymore. That ended in January. I’m getting the kids to help out more, take more responsibility. And so is my husband; he’s often doing homework with my older daughter.

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

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

How A Child Can Brighten Your Day

Tonight as I was putting my youngest, Lilly Poo to bed – “Mommy, you happy?”
She asks me this a lot, and it’s always right when I’m feeling not happy.
Me: (through somewhat gritted teeth, it had been a challenging evening) “Yes, of course! I’ve got you and Maya.”
Lilly: “And Daddy.”
Lilly: “And Gommy.”
Now I’m smiling wider.
Lilly: “And Gompo, and Katie and uncle Curt…”
Me: “Yes…”
Lilly: “And dragons!”
Feeling grateful, happy and strong because I’ve got dragon power, l kiss her and say, “Goodnight, Lilly!”
Lilly: “Night, Mommy!”