in the voice of jenni, a new character:

okay, listen.  
yes:  that guy was a raging asshole the first time i met him.
he got so mad at me his face turned all red and he had to go in the other room and throw stuff around just so he didn't punch me.
and i'm a girl.
and he's not the kinda guy who punches girls.
but he wanted to punch me.
he really did.

but then, y'know, this time when i saw him he was really nice and stuff.
he was telling me all about his grandkids and how crazy in love with them he is and that always just makes me all mushy, y'know, when those really macho dudes start talking about their grandkids.
he doesn't really look old enough to have grandkids, but i guess he is.

anyway, i think you should talk to him.
he's single but he likes kids and he's pretty cute when he smiles and he doesn't punch girls.
even when he's really mad at them.
you need somebody who doesn't punch girls.
it's been a really long time since you've been with somebody like that.


i love

installment three || wednesdays at the durham farmers' market

wednesdays at the durham farmers' market, i love you

because you sold me the best blueberries i have ever tasted in my whole life.

because you help small, local farmers earn a living, and--having grown up with a family farm--i am a very big fan of small, local farmers.

because you don't sell anything with ingredients that i don't recognize as food.

because while i peruse the produce, i run into so many awesome people i know and don't see often enough.

because i don't feel judged when i visit, even though i only buy a little of our food each week from you and i usually forget to bring my own bag.

because i pay cash for my fruit and veggies and eggs, which is not something i do very often and feels strangely real and good to me now.

because i can only buy what's in season, so i'm not even tempted to reach for the tomatoes in may--and i know my tomato and mayonnaise sandwich will be unbelievable in august.

because you are the place where i spread my quilt out on the grass with a beloved little gang of new mamas (and a few papas) like me, munch on strawberries and pea pods, feed my baby, and swap stories about the way life is now.


a place called motel

the carpet in the elevator has probably been replaced
one hundred and twelve times since she first stepped on it
sandy chubby feet
two years old.
it still looks the same though
electric blue
flat cheap.
the gears rattle and she relaxes
feeling safer
the bell dings at the third floor and she puts the black plastic keychain tag between her teeth
so she has two hands free
one for her duffel bag
one for her beach chair.
she smells pall malls and budweisers and suddenly she is hungry
for fried shrimp and hushpuppies.
the room smells the same
she drops her bag and her chair.
she opens the vinyl blackout curtain and squints at the sun bouncing off the cars in the public access lot.
she flops back on the bed.
laying there on top of the comforter
a news report her friend ezra told her about flits through her brain.
something about germs and jizz and lice that could get all over you because they don't wash the motel comforters like they should.
she opens her eyes and wonders whether she'll break down and call her brother tonight.


because it helps them feel better

i woke up with hives the other night.  but i thought they were bug bites.  they were all over my chest and shoulders and down my back, and i thought we were infested with a big extended family of spiders or something.  and so, even though it was the middle of the night, and even though the baby was asleep in the co-sleeper attached to our bed, and even though he had absolutely no bites whatsoever making it highly unlikely that our bed was home to a gazillion biting meanies, my husband got up and helped me change the sheets.  he was pretty sure it was hives all along, and--even though he didn't say it--i know he didn't think the sheets really, logically, needed to be changed right that minute.  but.  he helped me change them anyway because he knew it would help me feel better.  (it did.)

i got to thinking about the illogical, irrational, or slightly inconvenient things we do just because we know they will make someone feel better.  i always let my husband sit so he can see the door when we go out to eat.  i'm not sure why, but it just makes him feel better.  i have a friend whose one-time roommate asked that she take all her cool magnets off and just let the refrigerator door be blank and clean and white.  she wasn't a neat freak in general, but that clean refrigerator door just made her feel better.  i know people who like to get to the airport a full two hours in advance, even for a domestic flight.  it's probably a little inconvenient for the family or friends who are traveling with them, but what's the harm?  it makes the other person feel better.

i like that we do this for each other in the world.  and i bet we do it more often that we realize.  i'm almost positive that my loved ones do it for me more often than i realize.

i'm curious:  what small things do you do--even though they're slightly inconvenient or irrational--to help someone feel better?  and even better:  what things like that do your people do for you?

(leave a comment and let me know.  i love stuff like this--these little bits of human uniqueness.  i love them.)



she looks at me when we all sit around the table
which is surprising because
she's the only one who ever has.
in fact
turns to me many times on purpose choosing me over the others for whatever morsel she has to share
it strikes me as funny but laughing is inappropriate so
i cover it up with a cough and a napkin swipe
like i'm in a sitcom.
she's laughing right now all about how she's wearing purple pants for the first time in her life and she dares anyone to say something about it.
no one says anything about it
not even anything nice, which i think is odd and probably a little rude since i'm sure she was fishing for support there
a little bit of encouragement.
i don't say anything either because i am mesmerized by her gold eyeshadow.
it might not be the first time she's worn gold eyeshadow, but it might just be the second or third time.
she doesn't have it quite right yet.
this is the first time i've ever met her so i wonder
has she always been like this?
or is this new?
and i have a strong impulse to ask her,
lady! how did you get so free?
it's a ridiculous question so i keep it trapped just under my tongue
while i watch her say the things we've all wanted to say for ages
but haven't
because we were scared to look like we didn't know what we were doing.


how being a mama is making me a better theatre artist (and vice versa)

installment three :: the value of repetition

anyone who has seen anything by both hands theatre company can probably tell you that we love working with repetition.  i've long loved the pattern that repeated sounds make.  i've been a fan of repetitive gesture for revealing and creating a character for years.  and i've been experimenting with repetition in images at least as far back as jeff storer's (excellent) college directing class.

and now: mama-dom has raised my level of respect for repetition to new heights.  right from the start, in fact.  in labor.  yes, i must have repeated the same vocal-warm-up-y, low-pitched "ma" sound one billion times in the transition from mama-of-inside-baby to mama-of-outside-baby.  (and my husband repeated it right along with me.)  that episode of repetition helped me get through one of the hardest things i've ever done.  and i've been relying on repetition as a mama ever since:  one million and one bounces, seven thousand shhhh sounds, reading the same hippopotamus book four times back to back, singing the one song that seems to mesmerize her twenty-seven times in one day (i counted).

i think repetition is valuable for theatre and for mama-ing for the same reason, really:  it both comforts us and reveals new things to us simultaneously.  we are safe while we push against our own edges.  our expectations are met, and our understanding is deepened.


what s/he wrote

recently, amanda soule wrote this blog post titled out to pasture.

now, i'll admit, i often read the soulemama blog with not a small amount of envy over the soule family's seemingly ideal life.  creativity and family and nature and handmade everything and so much love: it's easy to feel like i'm eating a big piece of jealous pie.  but.  soulemama has worked hard to prioritize these things in her life, and i was absolutely reminded of that when i read this post.

she and her family realized a big, awesome, dreamy project together because they didn't just dream about it.  as she says, it's been a "great focus of our time these past (almost two!) years."

they've been working toward it, in a daily kind of way, bit by bit, for a looooong time.  they didn't get distracted away from it for too long.  they didn't give up a quarter of the way through and say it was too hard.  they didn't try to do it all at once or all by themselves and burn out.  and now they have something so cool.

and me?  yes, i'm the girl who wrote a 30-page term paper, complete with extensive research, in a single night my senior year of college.  but i'm also the girl who likes to rehearse new plays five days a week for eight weeks straight.  and i'm the girl who is learning that bit by bit might just work better in other parts of my life, too.

i'm curious:  are there projects--big or small--that you've made happen the bit-by-bit way?



what is everyone doing?


today I am overwhelmed by the pushing of paper, the vague conversations packed with meaningless niceties, the laziness of hanging on to the same world view year after the year, the extreme eating and the extreme not eating, the goals that somehow became goals without anyone’s permission, the chronic overtiredness, the mediocrity that we not only put up with but actually fight to maintain, the inability to walk in anyone else’s shoes, the clock-watching, the distraction, all the time spent on things we value least (or at least less), the ruts we don’t even recognize.


i love

installment two  ||  geer street garden

geer street garden, i love you

because you are a place where i don't feel like an asshole bringing my 4-month-old but where i can also see my friends who are still rocking the kid-free life.

because you have that awesome panel of old doors that makes the entrance to the bathrooms feel just a little more private.

because you have gluten-free bread back there in case i want a pimiento cheese sandwich.

because sitting outside feels like i'm at a fun party where i can just hang out with the people i came with or i can meet some cool new people for a few minutes, too.

because your hot wings are delicious, and i am a sucker for hot wings.

because the people who work at your place are just nice.  and helpful.  and they fill up the water glasses really often.

because of srirachanaise.


a place called roadside

he sits down
the back of his mind noticing how his waistband chafes the roll of fat at his belly
scratching his wrist
and looking for bugs
probably he sat on an anthill or something
probably he'll get all bitten up
he doesn't know how to do nature
the cars are faster than he expects
when he is sitting still
he watches the way they rock the mazda as they rush by
the mazda seems insignificant next to the highway like that
for the millionth time he wishes it were a different color
he has never liked burgundy cars
he lies back in the grass and sits back up again
and now his back is itchy
the combination of grass and asphalt reminds him
of shopping with his mother for back to school clothes
when he was a kid
and she would take him to kmart and woolworth's and rose's
and he would get bored and ask for an icee
he looks down the road and sees
that the sunset is a very bright pink
which he loves
he smashes the bug on his knee
and her car pulls over to the side of the highway just past the mazda
he lumbers up
and waves to her to climb over and get out on the passenger side
this woman is the best thing that ever happened to him
and he wants to keep her in one piece


do you watch tv?

i wish we didn’t have a tv.  sort of.

we’ve been making sure our four-month-old daughter doesn’t see the tv.  she’ll have enough screen time in her life that we’d like to keep it out of her world for as long as possible.  and it’s a pretty widely-accepted fact that tv doesn’t do a whole lot for your brain, much less your motivation.

so i’ve been watching less tv, too.  and i haven’t been missing it. 

and then i read an article about what a waste of time tv is, and i agreed with every point.

and then i started thinking about how if we think our kid would so much better off without tv, then we probably think we would be so much better off without it, too.  so why do we still have a tv?

here’s what we use our tv for:

1)      zoning out
2)     relieving boredom
3)     feeling less lonely
4)     watching shows we actually love
5)     watching sports
6)     out of habit
7)     when we’re mad at each other
8)     procrastinating

so the only ones of those eight things that i actually want to use tv for are:  watching shows we actually love and watching sports.  do i have the self-control to actually make that happen?  or am i all or nothing when it comes to the magic square with the addictive flashing pictures?  do we need to get rid of it altogether?  can we do that?

i'm curious:  do you watch tv?



she works very hard
she works for herself
she works all the time
he is constantly at her side
asking for something
a drink / watch this / a french fry / find it / a carrot / help me
with her smartphone buzzing
and biscuits in the oven
and thirty-two new work emails since 2pm today
is poking her finger in his mouth to get out the grass he likes to eat for some reason
she does this automatically
without thinking about it
while thinking about something else
the dentist appointment she has tomorrow
and whether he will sit still long enough for her to get her teeth cleaned
or if she should get a sitter
or if she should just cancel it and try again later
like she did last time
she runs her tongue over her teeth
and thinks maybe if all her teeth fall out
they could give her new ones anyway
but those are dentures
and dentures are for old people
her phone buzzes again and she remembers the biscuits
and she saves them from burning
perfectly brown buttery yummy
and even though she burns her hand when she takes them out of the oven
she counts it as a victory
she counts his fingers and toes
she counts her blessings
she counts the number of minutes she has to respond to thirty-three emails before she hands him off to his dad and runs out to her lunch meeting
she counts on making at least seven out of eight green lights if she's going to be there on time


how being a mama is making me a better theatre artist (and vice versa)

installment two  ||  resilience

i fail a lot with this baby.  i do something that i hope will make her laugh, and she turns her head to stare at a blank, beige wall beside me.  i make a noise that i think will elicit a smile, and her bottom lip quivers.  i put on my very best song and dance show complete with rump-shaking and wacky face-making, and she bursts into tears.  with a baby, you can fail every day, 100 times a day like this, but you get back in there.  you try again.  maybe because the reward is so great.  maybe because you have no other choice.

in the theatre, i've failed a lot, too.  but my resilience hasn't been as great.  each time, it takes me a while to get back in there.  this baby's got me in resilience training.  in theatre, just like with a baby, you try again.  because the reward is so great.  and because you have no other choice.


this year

this year
we celebrate a new father
the countless times he cooked and cleaned for mama when you were an inside baby
the hours he knelt on the hard linoleum floor to support her as you made your way into the world
the nervous pride when he announced we had a baby...wait for it...girl
who changed your first diaper
who made the first late-night doctor call when mama got nervous
who melts when you smile at him and also when you poke that bottom lip out and threaten to cry
who sang you to sleep hours at a time
for months
who worries about whether you're pooping right
for days
who walks you around the circle in the neighborhood
for hours
this daddy of yours is patient, silly, tired, vigilant, confused, hopeful, anxious, playful, instinctive, and oh baby he will stand up for you any time any where to any one
i am so happy for you, daughter
but i am not the least bit surprised
because this year
as every year
we also celebrate two old fathers
you will only know them from our stories and our photographs
but girl
one of those fathers is the father who taught your father how to be father even before your father wanted to be a father
just by being such a brilliant father himself
one of those fathers is the father who taught your mama how to recognize a good father even before she was ready to be mama
just by being such a brilliant father himself
yes love
this year
we celebrate a new dad
and lucky for you
he's yours



my daughter is finding her voice right now.
she is 3 months old.
i listen to her gurgles and coos and of course her cries.
many, many cries.
her crying is upsetting to me, of course.
i'm her mama, and i want her to be happy.
and the kind of crying she's doing isn't happy crying.
but i'm also proud of her wailing.
she is expressing herself.
she is telling the world what she needs, in the only way she knows how.
she isn't doing it in a mean way.  or with an intention to hurt anyone else.

but she is doing it without apologies, without embarrassment, without tempering her feelings in order to please anyone else.
she doesn't get that from me.
but i hope i learn it from her.


i love

installment one  ||  the downtown durham Y

downtown durham Y, i love you

because you do not judge me when i come back to you after an unexplained absence of three months and seven days.

because the woman who gives me my locker and towel tells me to have a blessed day.

because your pull-up machine makes me feel strong.

because there are so many different sizes, shapes, colors, attitudes, beliefs, goals, and abilities present in your members.

because you provide childcare that i hope to make use of when my kiddo is a bit older.

because your lifeguards say hello to me and pretend not to notice when i bonk into the lane dividers and splutter when i'm sharing a lane and trying to backstroke in a reasonably straight line.

because you are a place where my husband and i can do a streamlined version of the both hands theatre warm-up side by side and synchronized before our workout knowing that no one will care that we're dorky as hell.

because your track is where this self-described non-runner finally--after inching forward in very small increments--ran her very first mile without stopping and felt like i had just conquered my own personal mount impossible.


a place called church

it had white cinder block walls
and pews with green velvet cushions
the kind of cushions you could rub one way and then the other to make a pattern when you were a kid
bored during the sunday sermon at big church
she curled up on the pew
and thought of her dad there
at the end of the row
he always sat at the end of the row
second pew from the back
she thought of him in his suit and his red tie
his arm around her
her head leaning on his shoulder
even when she was older
even when she came home from college
his aftershave
and the coarse smoothness of his face
just shaved
she pictured the shaky jowls of the pastor
his small eyes glowing while he preached
she remembered listening intently
cutting her eyes to glance at her dad now and again
looking forward to the conversation they would have in the truck
on the way home
cracking themselves up with their philosophizing
laughing as they opened the back door into the kitchen
which would smell like butter beans and fried pork chops and fried corn bread
where her mama would be sweating
wearing shorts in the kitchen


what do you need to let go?

i used to be addicted to coca-cola.  before that, it was pepsi-cola.  before that, it was mountain dew.  in my growing-up house, it was all called "drink."  if you wanted to some pepsi, you asked for drink.  not "a drink," not "the drink," just "drink."  "drink" never referred to milk or juice or water.  those things were called milk, juice, and water.  only drink was called "drink."

somewhere along the way--in college, i think--coca-cola became my constant companion.  i felt wrong--panicky, really--if i didn't have a bottle of coke with me.  and during that time, coca-cola became a part of my identity.  people knew me as the girl who always had a coke with her.  friends teased me about it in that way that makes you feel known and loved for your quirks.  and that lasted--with one small break--until i was about 34 years old.

that was when the caffeine caught up with me.  "drink" is just flat-out awful for your health, no matter how you slice it, and apparently i had used up my lifetime allotment of caffeine in just 34 years.  i started having heart palpitations like crazy, and for a girl whose dad died of a heart attack at age 55, that shit was very, very scary.  so i had to quit coca-cola.  in fact, i quit all drink.

yes, it was hard to say goodbye to the taste and the caffeine and the bubbles.  but here's the thing: i think the hardest part of it was that coca-cola was part of my identity.  i actually thought that i would be disappointing other people if i wasn't the "coke" girl.  that i wouldn't be living up to their expectations of who i was.  that they wouldn't like me as much without that quirky drinking-coke thing.  i was really scared to let go of this thing that people knew me for.  which is strange.  it sounds ridiculous now.  i mean, who wants to be known for drinking coke?  that's not particularly awesome.  anyone can do it, really.

i did, eventually, put down the coke can, and now i haven't had a coke in years.  but i'm wondering:  are there other things in my life that i'm hanging onto just because i've always done them, and i'm scared for them not to be part of my identity anymore?

i'm curious:  are there things that have somehow become part of your identity that you're scared to let go?



red hair
but not that fiery red
not the red that makes you think of sex and lipstick and fishnet stockings
dishwater red
even against the everyday black
this woman's ensemble
her uniform

she is
very tailored
it's not just her pants
more than that
words are well-composed
the moment just right
movements are not too small
not too out of control
just enough
to communicate what she's trying to say
laughter is sized for the amusement
it doesn't quack or hoot or god forbid snort
it is a lovely, lilting, honest laughter
bubbling out of a slightly open mouth with crinkled but not wrinkled eyes

for twenty-seven days i have been watching this woman
and i have a feeling that today will be the day
i am determined to catch her
out of balance
off kilter
in flux
i am determined to see her eat chocolate pudding out of a cup with her finger while rocking the baby in one arm and jamming her feet into her size seven perfectly matte black flats and making a phone call to see why the recycling hasn't been picked up in three weeks

or something like that


how being a mama is making me a better theatre artist (and vice versa)

installment one :: trying anything

i will do anything to make this child laugh.  or at least stop crying.  go ahead.  ask me for my rendition of my new song moo*baa*lalala.  it has gestures.  and vocal oddities.  and special facial expressions.

i used to think i would try anything when making theatre.  and it's true that i often experimented with movement and voices that would be embarrassing to non-theatre-making friends of mine, so i did have a head start.  but my theatre-trained mama-self puts my theatre-trained non-mama-self to shame in the trying-anything area.  to shame, i tell you.