Pre-teen Blanket 


This is my latest Dark Yarn. 

On the surface, it’s not dark. It’s bright and cozy. The idea is adorable. My son’s new step-brother has a nursery filled with Winnie the Pooh and friends. 

I couldn’t quite bring myself to make the baby a new blanket. I started. I tried. His mother and grandmother are beautiful yarn artists, so the young one with have his share of cuddly wrappings. It’s good he didn’t need mine. Because I couldn’t keep going. 

I wanted to make a blanket for my own son. But, one he could share with his new brother. The one who shares his father and his initials and his half-birthday. 

So, we came up with this pre-teen blanket. No too baby-ish. (I was warned. Several times. Someone is not a baby.) But something that could bridge the gap between the boys-the distance spanning their rooms and their ages.

It wasn’t an easy blanket to crochet. Technically, it was simple. Emotionally, it was a tangle of dropped stitches and twisted wool. 

My heart hurt as I wrapped and pulled. I cried a bit. I made an absolute mess of the red yarn. I ripped it apart. I put it back together. And I kept on going. One stitch at a time. 

I hope both of these boys like their blanket. Something to share. Something to remember. 

I’m so glad I made it. 

And I hope I can keep on going. 

What If I Don’t?

From the set of ‘Silenced’ by James Barris

In the past few months, I got  to see Coney Island for the first time. I got to sit in a hospital room through the night with my mother. I got to see my son build his own game controller. I got to talk and share and feel for hours with a fantastic boy.
In the past few months, I’ve also had to give up at least six acting jobs. A combination of:

-getting cast and then turning now the part (surefire way to never get to work with that company again; and that was an incredible part. This is one that still stings.)

-scheduling several auditions and then cancelling

-being outright offered roles and refusing them

I look back with at least a little regret and anger at all those. Pointless but there’s truth and lies. Them is the truths.

Now, as I started many paragraphs and bulleted lists ago, I was able to do some important and very worthy things. I got to spend a weekend in the city of my heart, NYC and see my favorite band.  I got to see my son run in waves at the beach. And then I got to rescue him from the airport when his return trip from his father’s wedding when ridiculously awry.

I couldn’t have done any of those things if I had been in rehearsals for a play or on set.

I look back on those choices and I’m fine with what I picked. No regret or anger. Them is also the truths.

I wonder if I’m just justifying. Rationalizing. Piling on the horseshit high and wide.

That’s not impossible.

Maybe because I’m not getting cast or because life and it’s collars forced me back out of parts I could do, that I feel a compunction to tell a story. A story where I’d rather feel ineffectual and irrelevant as an artist than feel guilty for being an absent and selfish parent.

Maybe I just want to feel good about myself. So I spin a story about stepping away intentionally from my world of self, when it could be they pushed me off stage for being a cheap hack. I’m not the best actor.

Poor guy isn’t the best masker either.

Cause look at this kid.

I make this exact face every day. He often hates doing things out in the world with people. Just like I do. And I love him for it.


He made me a birthday cake. Something I could not have seen if I hadn’t turned down a recent acting offer.

I’m a mom. This is what I do. You give up the last slice of cake and you turn down leading roles in classic plays.

What worries me, if I let myself go to the dark and scary places, is what I don’t?

What if I don’t act again?

Conversely, what if I get an incredible professional chance, and grab it with both hands? To metaphorically keep the last piece of cake for myself sounds lucious sometimes in its indulgence.

What if to chase that, I run away from my kid and let him fend for himself with whatever family member takes over for me? I’m afraid because if I had the money and assistance I might. (Luckily or unluckily, that’s not my family’s lot. Not a healthy bunch. See above night in hospital. )

What if, as I’ve always feared and suspected but kinda knew, I’m not that strong an actor and that’s why the drive and journey and success eluded me?

Or  what if I just shut the hell up for a second? What if I accept with humble gratitude all my immense privileges and the freedoms, experiences and opportunities for profound happiness that comes with that shining gift? The ability to have a job and a home and a healthy kid is the holy grail and only a fool keeps searching once they’ve found at least one scroll.

Also, obvious and crystal, sparkling clear, I think the women who work and parent and pursue their art are goddesses and I bow to their glory. Being any of those three things should not lessen the worth or might of the others. I know personally several brilliant actor mamas and they have my daily awe and jealousy. Just because I can’t make it happen for myself doesn’t mean I judge what they do. Of course, I cringe and melt into a pile of self-pity and why esteem vacates when I see their pictures from set on Instagram. But I don’t judge them. Nor do I the moms who left our little acting and art world to play in the realm of motherhood forever and always. I applaud them all. At least I try.

And I’m so, so grateful for what I’ve been able to do. I have gorgeous memories and friends to take with me as I continue through my script. Other pulls abated for a bit, now I have time and space to focus on the people fate has brought into my life and home. Much more guitar and laughter and hugging than I ever thought my sphere would hold. Lucky girl.

So, tonight, fine at home with no pending outlets, I’m not sad. I’m listening. I’m trying to turn out and not in. I’m staying open.

Maybe that part will be back. I have some ideas for when it’s time.

For now, there’s my novel that is on a second draft and won’t find and editor on its own. There is a lovely boy who is coming to Nashville with me.

And there is a small-ish Chewbacca that needs a Rey to take him to the Halloween dance.

Don’t mind if I do.

What If I Don’t?

From the set of ‘Silenced’ by James Barris

In the past few months, I got  to see Coney Island for the first time. I got to sit in a hospital room through the night with my mother. I got to see my son build his own game controller. I got to talk and share and feel for hours with a fantastic boy. 
In the past few months, I’ve also had to give up at least six acting jobs. A combination of: 

-getting cast and then turning now the part (surefire way to never get to work with that company again; and that was an incredible part. This is one that still stings.)

-scheduling several auditions and then cancelling

-being outright offered roles and refusing them

I look back with at least a little regret and anger at all those. Pointless but there’s truth and lies. Them is the truths. 

Now, as I started many paragraphs and bulleted lists ago, I was able to do some important and very worthy things. I got to spend a weekend in the city of my heart, NYC and see my favorite band.  I got to see my son run in waves at the beach. And then I got to rescue him from the airport when his return trip from his father’s wedding when ridiculously awry. 

I couldn’t have done any of those things if I had been in rehearsals for a play or on set. 

I look back on those choices and I’m fine with what I picked. No regret or anger. Them is also the truths. 

I wonder if I’m just justifying. Rationalizing. Piling on the horseshit high and wide. 

That’s not impossible. 

Maybe because I’m not getting cast or because life and it’s collars forced me back out of parts I could do, that I feel a compunction to tell a story. A story where I’d rather feel ineffectual and irrelevant as an artist than feel guilty for being an absent and selfish parent. 

Maybe I just want to feel good about myself. So I spin a story about stepping away intentionally from my world of self, when it could be they pushed me off stage for being a cheap hack. I’m not the best actor. 

Poor guy isn’t the best masker either. 

Cause look at this kid. 

I make this exact face every day. He often hates doing things out in the world with people. Just like I do. And I love him for it. 


He made me a birthday cake. Something I could not have seen if I hadn’t turned down a recent acting offer. 

I’m a mom. This is what I do. You give up the last slice of cake and you turn down leading roles in classic plays. 

What worries me, if I let myself go to the dark and scary places, is what I don’t?

What if I don’t act again? 

Conversely, what if I get an incredible professional chance, and grab it with both hands? To metaphorically keep the last piece of cake for myself sounds lucious sometimes in its indulgence. 

What if to chase that, I run away from my kid and let him fend for himself with whatever family member takes over for me? I’m afraid because if I had the money and assistance I might. (Luckily or unluckily, that’s not my family’s lot. Not a healthy bunch. See above night in hospital. )

What if, as I’ve always feared and suspected but kinda knew, I’m not that strong an actor and that’s why the drive and journey and success eluded me? 

Or  what if I just shut the hell up for a second? What if I accept with humble gratitude all my immense privileges and the freedoms, experiences and opportunities for profound happiness that comes with that shining gift? The ability to have a job and a home and a healthy kid is the holy grail and only a fool keeps searching once they’ve found at least one scroll. 

Also, obvious and crystal, sparkling clear, I think the women who work and parent and pursue their art are goddesses and I bow to their glory. Being any of those three things should not lessen the worth or might of the others. I know personally several brilliant actor mamas and they have my daily awe and jealousy. Just because I can’t make it happen for myself doesn’t mean I judge what they do. Of course, I cringe and melt into a pile of self-pity and why esteem vacates when I see their pictures from set on Instagram. But I don’t judge them. Nor do I the moms who left our little acting and art world to play in the realm of motherhood forever and always. I applaud them all. At least I try. 

And I’m so, so grateful for what I’ve been able to do. I have gorgeous memories and friends to take with me as I continue through my script. Other pulls abated for a bit, now I have time and space to focus on the people fate has brought into my life and home. Much more guitar and laughter and hugging than I ever thought my sphere would hold. Lucky girl. 

So, tonight, fine at home with no pending outlets, I’m not sad. I’m listening. I’m trying to turn out and not in. I’m staying open. 

Maybe that part will be back. I have some ideas for when it’s time. 

For now, there’s my novel that is on a second draft and won’t find and editor on its own. There is a lovely boy who is coming to Nashville with me. 

And there is a small-ish Chewbacca that needs a Rey to take him to the Halloween dance. 

Don’t mind if I do. 

Away and Across

 

It’s been a week of some melancholy and clouds. Days of changes not to be believed. But ones that had been seen coming, like a swelling storm,  twirling down a midwest road for miles. Time that brought broken things, but with those chances for new creations.

Unexpected. Somehow, in the middle of the dark, powdered dust of disappointment that settled, filling lungs and covering heads, there was light. That’s how I could see the particles of hurt and hard, dance and settle to where they were meant to spend their days. And I could see a way to wipe them clear.

My family changed this week. Changed in ways that are large, and I say with earnest acceptance and hope, permanent. Changed in ways I will only begin to understand when they all fly back across the plains.

Leonard Cohen echoed through my mind all these days. My mirror twin, my next of kin. Waiting for my young master to be back with me. I’ve missed this boy. At times a painful, empty ache.  But, he had adventures to take.

I’ve also had moments in these days. Moments of music and learning, of laughs and  ridiculous fatigue. Moments of more wine than is wise, but is somehow just the right amount, because the moments that followed were pure lovely.

Insights occurred. What my young half needs, what I need, how I can be more things for him and for myself. How we can all be better than we are and more together.

I have intentionally stepped away from the art that sometimes inhabits my world. Insecurity, sadness, failure. These things do not, for me, breed creation. But, there were shimmers this week  that made me want to find new ways to step back in and  find new ways. Looking back to look ahead and do better. I thought of  where something started.

 

Hank Williams Drove NorthIMG_6517

It was every Hank Williams song,
slow and repeated and so full of heart break
you’re thankful it happened under the sun.
Because at night, moonlight and black air carrying
the signal full strength, the radio would shut itself down
needing the static and silence to cover the grieving pain.

I drove south, scanning between
the scrawled directions in my hand
and the exit signs, skewered pikes
along the West Virginia highway.

I was too early.
So I sat in the truck stop parking lot
An out of place Volkswagen
in a sea of thick treaded rubber tires and rusty truck beds
The men in orange and green and mud brown
walked in and out of the diner
and the gas station clinging to it hopefully.

They pulled in. Him driving, his/my/our smaller self
asleep in the back of the truck, the shiny one without rust.
He looked like his father, tiny, innocent version of the man in the driver’s seat
Nose and eyelashes copies but unforgettable

We tried.
The lateral napping-child vehicle transfer.
We failed.
He woke up.
Crying.

Not whining, or moping.
No pouting hyperbolic and vengeful tears of
childhood jealousy and ego
powered by the short energy of perceived injustice

He woke up screaming.
Screaming, clinging,
reaching, grabbing,
pushing, pulling,
Screaming.

I held my son as he wanted absolutely
not me.

Screaming.

“I want to stay with daddy!”

From the diner, the music played as our son raged.
Hank Williams witnessed as we handed off
our child in a truck stop.

And we all cried as we drove off in different directions.

And I hated
This and me and him
and the one in charge
I wanted to yell over
the tears and the radio.

“I didn’t want this!
This wasn’t my idea!
I can’t do this!”

In the back of my car, watching
sleepy but unwilling to surrender,
now hot and sweating in his car seat,
he still cried.
We crossed the state line and drove north.
The radio played.

I wondered what Hank Williams would have done,
if someone had made him feel this way.
Punch them?
Kept swinging until his fist hit the wall
and they hit the floor?
I bet he would.
I bet he did.
That’s what I wanted.
To unload the hurt I felt.
The hurt that I was sure would never leave,
the hurt was sure would kill me.
But I couldn’t. It was mine.

At home that night, after the sweat had cooled
and the tears had stopped,
he was asleep.
Train blanket kicked off as always.

I went into his room.

Because I couldn’t sleep.

Climbed into his bed.

Because I was afraid.

I pushed my thumb into his open palm
and curled his small hand into a fist.
Because he likes to hold thumbs.
Because they’re squishy.

What was I doing to him?
Would he hate me? Tomorrow?
Forever?
For not settling? For not fixing?
For not being good enough?
For not being fine with fine?
For two different bedrooms in two different houses
in two different towns?
For the favorite book left overnight in the wrong one, there,
and Ross the giraffe left here with me, when he’s not?
When he needs it?
When of course, I need it more.

I hope he knows. That he sees and hears
the things and confessions and the absolution I beg for
from him when I whisper across our pillows
where he sleeps
and I watch.

Finally, I let go of his hand, and let dreams have me for a few hours.
I gave the guilt and sad a moment to themselves
to play and sing.
And do they ever. Loud and straight-ahead properly mourning, Irish wake raucous
that would make Joyce smirk with pleasure.
and only then building to honky tonk, jukebox kicking, gut spilling
sun will never come up and get us tease
that would make Hank pick up his guitar just so he could play along
and show them how it was done, son.

As I surrendered back in my own bed, beneath my eyelids I remembered to be thankful,
that he and I are here asleep together.
My heart resting beside me.
Singing. Waiting. Hurting.
Won’t be here forever.
But at least for this fleeting, moment, Here.

Because, south a few miles, his dad is missing
his heart. Singing. Waiting. Hurting.
There.

And away from all of it
somewhere on a cold, dark highway,
Singing. Waiting. Hurting
Hank Williams drove north.

 

When I wrote this, his father and I were starting our divergent travels. I thought and dreamed the worse. But it’s not. We’ve been open and honest about this journey from the start. When I’m open and honest, sorrowful and angry and scary words sometimes appear on pages. And I give access to this. When my little love read this piece, he cried, telling me it was the saddest thing ever. He’s come around on it, and so have I.  Good is still happening and more is possible. The paths are more entangled, we have more passengers. Miles from where we started and more to go. All of us.

This week was a changing one. Brought some sad, but so much more happy. So, maybe it deserves some dedications as it becomes a fond memory.

To my son: Love you, my darling boy.

To his father and step-mother: True wishes for every happiness.

To the one who held me through this week: You are truly fantastic.

More miles and music to come.

 

It Gets Better?

 

I mean, it does get better, right? Has to. I had to spend part of the night here, for Juno’s sake, with emerging filmmakers doing their new and wonderful things.

Poor me.

Art happens.

Art happens.

 

Poor, poor me.

(This is the condescending, self-centered conversation that I have with my brain. See, my brain can be a conceited ass that can’t see beyond its own sulcus/gyrus convolutions of pretend need and importance. )

Shut up, brain. Shut the fuck up.

It’s not really that bad.

Even that is offensive.  It’s not bad at all. Not even remotely close to resembling bad.

What do I need, line ticks, check marks, a tally marker?

Fine, brain. Have it your way.

I was at the mall today (1) where I was spending money from the job that I have (2) to buy Christmas gifts (3) for the people I am lucky to have in my life (4). After parking my car, that I don’t own but can manage the payments (5), I saw another mother shopping. Perched jauntily on my high horse, I judged her for letting her kindergarden-ish kid jump about outside the car in the busy parking lot. I couldn’t figure out what this broad was doing, bent and wiggling in and out of the doors and seats. Until I saw her unload the transport wheelchair from where it had been folded in that back seat. And then, I watched her fully alone, dead lift her teenage son from the car, and cradling him in her arms, transfer his to his wheelchair. I choked on the giant slab of crow that was caught in my throat. As well I should have. (Tally of things I was stupidly lucky and unworthy to have stands at 6 and carries through to infinity.)

Planted and locked in my own disbelief at her capacity, I held the door for this trio as she steered the chair into the mall. Meanwhile, she was just doing her daily life. I was agog and she was just handling Friday afternoon. (Run the world, girls.) She laughed, and so did her younger son as they misjudged the clearance and banged off the frame. And then her youngest and I had a game of hide-and-seek/monkey in the middle/musical doors where he and I debated on who was the official door holder of the day. He was better at the job, frankly.

Come to think of it, there are a lot of jobs I have mucked up in a magnificent way lately. Magnificent. Like, as good as the dialogue in His Girl Friday, magnificent. Jobs more important than holding doors. Now, I have yelled at my kid for spilling a drink, for getting peanut butter on a sweater, for not getting his shoes laced in time. I expect far too much from him, just to make the hours pass more easily for me. The irony of my own young man having an immediately eminent first penance is not lost on this usually guilt-ridden ex-ish Catholic.

It’s bullshit and I more precisely I am bullshit. Might blame my brain, and that’s fine. But someone here is definitely magnificent bullshit.

I was mortified at myself, watching that mother. The 20 yards from the pavement to the linoleum looked harder that anything I have faced in a long, long time. And that’s just my narrow, ignorant perception and presumption. I have no idea what that family’s days are like. I won’t pander to them and pretend to know their hards or easies. She handled her business and I walked in after them, feeling like a grade A schmuck. They seemed to feel fine. As well they should. Me feeling that things in my life should get better? That’s my bullshit.

Courtesy of this great team.

Courtesy of this great team.

Tonight was a premiere night. It’s always a kick to finally get to see on screen what so many people have worked on for so very long. I was thrilled for our director and producer (Both ladies. I won’t let that slide. Run the world, girls. ) A chance to be part of the thing I love. The artists involved were pleased with what I contributed to their project (Bringing to tally of good to infinity plus one)

This one was especially poignant. This was the film that I was in with my son. This was the one where, while the audience laughed at the humor of the script and the acting, I sat with tears in my eyes, watching my baby on screen. I watched him make a theater full of people laugh with a look. And, I melted.

I have this boy that I love. He’s fine. I have what I need. Every now and then I get to do the littlest bit of what I love. (There’s no meter reading for that tally. Infinity times infinity and then square that. Then do that all again.)

But things get better, right?

Oh brain. Go to sleep and get over it, already. Stop thinking and look.

Today was my reminder that things don’t need to get better.

They are better.

Just Kids

 

Tomorrow at dawn, I’m driving back to the city that I love.

Jump.

Jump.

 

I’m a viciously lucky bitch and this is my second time back in as many weeks. This particular trip is special because I’m taking my north and south.

My North: My mother, who hasn’t seen NYC since my dad drug (word choice intentional) us all there thirty years ago for the singular purpose of seeing the aircraft carrier on which he had served as a Navy sailor during Vietnam. That was Mayor Ed Koch’s New York.  A different world.  My dad was distracted and nostalgic. She was panic-stricken and developed her first duodenal ulcer carting two babies around this mad house of a town.  This time, she is carefully enthusiastic with robust reservations.

My South: My other travel companion in my son. New York is a land of make-believe that until now has only existed for his as the dreamy, scaffolded backdrop of The Avengers and Muppets Take Manhattan. He is careful about nothing. He’s going to the Empire State Building and he’s ecstatic.

So am I. To all of the above.

This is a necessary trip. In part, because life has had some tough days lately. Even typing that, it feels so ridiculous, it’s offensive. Because I’m a selfish ass a lot ( A LOT) of the time. So, I’ve been bit sick and a little sad. Wow. What a martyr. The worst of that, is that my foibles and my inflated fragiles have cost me. Seriously. I’ve been locked in my head for a while now. Only when atrocious things like Paris and San Bernadino happen do I poke my brain out of its self-spun cocoon of doom and realize that I’m fine. Totally fine. I’m a middle-class, cis, white girl living in America. Believe me, I’m fine. An eye-roll inducing mansplaining about “all the chicks in Jessica Jones’ while I’m ordering my five dollar coffee is about as tough as my life gets. I accept that.  But just my lousy luck, that doesn’t get me back what I’ve pushed away with two hands.

But, back to the beautiful city.

I have to be the one in charge this weekend. Round the clock. And I need that. Let me fail. Remind me how ridiculous I sound with my petty hurts and imagined slights. It’s a good thing for me to  take the controls. Especially now.

It’s been casually suggested by friends and bluntly stated by a(t least one) therapist that you have to grow your own happy. You don’t just wait for Amazon to deliver it. (Unless that delivery is a pair of black leather Christian Louboutins for which I didn’t have to pay. Then, yes. Happiness delivered.) But my life doesn’t star Carrie Bradshaw. So,  go get your own damn happy.

Getting happy is hard with a kid. And that sounds awful. Just classless, sluggery parenting. (And it’s the reason I only have one child. Know your limits.) But it is. For me anyway.

For me, happy is what you chase by doing exactly what you want for your life. That’s not what happens in parenthood. Especially if you’re doing it with multiple households and some shifting cast members. For so many in this cohort, the years of middle-age are not about you. You, as self, is placed so far in the back of the car, you may as well be in the cargo carrier on top. You can’t lunge for what you want. Because there is laundry and karate and work meetings, and good gods you are tired. Lunging for you takes place at midnight behind a laptop. Or at 5 AM, because lunges, along with squats and pushups, are miserable creations, and before dawn seems as awful a time as any to do them.

Life becomes ‘just kids’. (One of the many reasons that I believe parents would be created by intention and not by mere circumstance. But’s that’s another prickly topic.) Your days and nights. Just. Kids.

That’s why this trip to New York will include whatever cheesy, over-priced kitsch we can pack in it. Because it’s for him. Love him. Love it. Thrilled to be on board. But, looking at my mom, our other passenger this time through, I realized there’s a whole separate and dividing  ‘just kids’ in her world.

My family is very small. That’s all I’ve ever known. As years have passed, it’s gotten smaller. Especially my nuclear family. My dad died a little over a year ago. There’s not a big circle for my mom to grab onto if she’s spinning. She’s had more than a few health issues lately, and ‘just kids’ is all she’s had to support her. Need someone with you during outpatient surgery? Just kids. Pharmacy run? Just kids. Pool covered replaced for the fourth time this winter? Exactly. Just kids.

And I’m happy to do it. Because of my own situation, I know what it’s like dealing with every facet of adult-ing alone. Friggin’ hard, dude. I’m glad that my brother and I can be there for her. And now, she and I have the close knitting of truly getting what a real just kids situation is. We are each other’s one and only huckleberries most days.

I pulled the title for this from the incredible memoir of the same name by Patti Smith. I have big, verdant, writer, music, art, and fashion envy for this woman. Ms. Smith chased her dreams of music and poetry and drawing on a wall through street and valleys of some frightful shit. But did it with a joy you can feel. I want that.

There’s a reason her Cavale monologue from the play Cowboy Mouth that she wrote with Sam Shepard is still my favorite audition piece. This raucous, hurt, but still-fighting broad gets it. There’s a joy there that I chase every time.

That’s what I’m driving to in New York City tomorrow. The joy of it. Shut your mouth. Shut your brain. Joy. Pure and simple. See and feel. Listen. Wonder. Imagine. Get fucking messy.  With all these twisted, funky inside parts of you. And the special parts to your north and south, that want nothing more that to have you, all of you come out and play.

Like kids.