Archive for the ‘thoughts’ Category

My mom likes to tell the story of the day my older brother asked about skin color.  He stared at a black man in the grocery store and then asked very loudly, “Why is his skin that color?”  I don’t know how old he was, young enough that he could get away with this honest question without too much insult.

I’ve made an effort to place books and toys before my child that have people of all races.  The books she read are filled with all shades as are the many baby dolls spread throughout the house.  And since she’s a big asker of “why” I knew I’d be tackling the question sooner or later.  But, last night, she surprised me by asking the question not as “why” but as “what.”

She said to me, “Mama, what is the color we call our skin?”

And I answered, “Well, that’s a difficult question because there are many different colors of skin.  You and I have skin that’s sort of peachy pink I think.  Do you think it’s peachy pink?”


“But not everybody has peachy-pink skin.  Your teacher, Mrs. K, has sort of golden brown skin.  And Mr. M. is so pale that he’s almost white.  What about your friend A at school?  What color is her skin?”

“It’s peachy-pink too.”

“Yeah, it is.  How about Z?  Is his skin peachy-pink?”

“No. It’s brown.”

“Yup.  Your doll Kevin has brown skin too.  And bitty-baby has what is called olive-tone skin.”

She surprised me again later when we were reading Girls Hold Up this World.  I pulled it out because it has nice pictures of all different kinds of girls (mostly darker than she and I) so we could talk about more skin color.  We got to the picture of a toddler who in my view has medium-brown skin.  Up unti now, we’d been placing our own arms up against the pictures to compare and talk about the differences.  Again, she held up her arm to this toddler’s face, but she happened to hold up her arm against the child’s cheek which glowed pale pink in the sunlight and declared that she had peachy-pink skin just like Avi.

Rather than “correct” her, I decided to agree.  Because it was true.  Even though I would have called this toddler a “black” child her cheek was, in fact, peachy-pink in the picture and very close to the skin on my child’s arm.

I am so proud that my three year old doesn’t question why we are born with different color skin and hair and eyes.  She simply wants a way to identify and name what she sees.  This, to me, means I’m off to a good start in raising a child who is non-descriminatory and welcomes all shades of people into her life.


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Mewling Transitions

In my little world, fall is a time of reflection.

September arrives in a whirlwind of seasonal change, school, theatre, jobs, and loss of daylight.

My birthday looms precariously as the leaves begin to change.

My dedicated relatives send me little L’Shana Tova emails and I have to pause and re-visit my heritage.

And, heartbreakingly, my child celebrates a birthday.

This has, by far, been the hardest addition to this time of transition. This year, it knocked me over the head, sent me flying and then proceeded to bounce up and down on me for a while.

I spent about three weeks getting teary-eyed at babies, sighing to myself when Avi wasn’t looking, and weirding her out by saying things like “I’m so proud of you being a big girl, but I miss you being a baby.” To which she would smartly reply with a huge grin, “Your baby grew into a big girl.”  And I would swallow the tears and grin in reply and move on.

The fact is, having my baby become a kid was an unexpected slap in the face because unlike most of my married girlfriends with two and three children, this is it for me.

Oh, I know, I’ve “got plenty of time.”   But, for now, this is it.

And that makes me really sad.

I would love to have a house just busting with kids.  But I don’t.  And, right now, it makes me sad and down right jealous to see women and their new babies because I want a new baby (and the dazed dad to go with it, if I’m really being honest).

Blame the genetic code if you want but no matter how you slice it, I want a mewling, puking bundle of squishiness to keep me up at night, latch on to my boob for instant comfort and make all the day-to-day stress completely obsolete with the lift of a tiny soft pinky.

I’m pretty much over the teary-eyed weeks until next year but I still sigh about the rapid growth of my “big girl.”  It doesn’t help when she asks me complicated questions from the backseat like, “Mama, what’s Simple Twist of Fate mean?”  And that she actually seemed to understand my halting reply.

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It turns out that my long-time fear of roller coasters which eventually included the scrambler and then the log flume now includes…the ferris wheel. Yes, the dreaded and terrifying ferris wheel.

How embarrassing.

Remember this photo?
Girl at County Fair

See that ferris wheel in the background?  That’s the one we rode together.

But it was at least fifty years old if a day.  In order to get on, the operator had to tip the seat forward so you literally climbed in.  I had to place Avi in, hold her in with one hand so she wouldn’t slide forward, and then climb in myself.  Once we started moving, every time the ride abruptly halted, the seat would swing madly forward threatening to tip us over into an alice-in-wonderland fall.  The first time this happened, we were only 15 feet off the ground.  No biggie.  The fifth or sixth time it happened, we were at the top and I felt my heart plummet in front of me, my breath sucked in hard as I dead-ended the shock tears and I stuck out an arm to grab my child.  And that is where my arm stayed the entire time.

And my breath?  Oh, I got it back alright.

I chattered like a nitwit for the entire ride.  Anything I could think of about the view, the animals, the air, the trees.  Eventually I resorted to “And we’re going up up up up up.  Here we are at the top.  Hello World!  And we’re going down down down down down.”

And this was on a ferris wheel.

I am officially the biggest chicken I know.

Later that day, as the fair was closing, we sat to watch the rides begin to be dismantled.  We spotted a man climbing up into the ferris wheel rigging.  He was wearing a harness but he hadn’t strapped in yet.  Shirtless and carefree, he swing himself upwards into the center of the circle.  Visions of Tuck Everlasting swam through my head and I wondered if it could be true and how it would be fun to climb up into the ferris wheel itself, but riding it scared me shitless.

So, there it is.

I will gladly climb and swing as long as I’m in control.

Put me in the hands of someone else’s swing and unless I’ve got a two year old to keep me calm, I will likely burst into tears.

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I’m finally finishing Kids, Parents, and Power Struggles.  I started reading it about a year ago when Avi and I were going through a particularly trying time.  I never finished it because I was able to apply the first half so readily that our situation improved right away and we moved on.

Life has gotten rough again.  She’s almost three.  And, boy, is she three.  All my mom-friends agree that they don’t understand why everyone gripes about the Terrible Twos when the Threes are far Worse.

For those of you who don’t remember, or are new readers, let me fill you in on my peanut:

  • She is what people call a “spirited” child.
  • She is absurdly precocious and has been speaking in complete sentences and holding entire comprehensible conversations for so long now that I can barely remember her as a non-speaker.
  • She has the ability to remember visual details.  She never fell for “out of sight, out of mind,” even as an infant.
  • She has a loooooooong attention span and can play the same game for over an hour.
  • She needs to feel she finished what she’s doing before she can move on and has a very hard time with transitions.
  • Emotionally, she’s exactly where she should be.  This makes it hard because the adults around her can forget that even though she can speak like a four year old and plays pretend like a five year old, she still is a two year old.
  • She has really good logical thinking skills which drives me crazy because everything that can become a negotiation becomes a negotiation.
  • She does not sleep readily.  At almost three, she finally sleeps through the night but can still take an hour to fall asleep and crawls into bed with me by dawn.  She does not nap.

So, now we’re back to today and the fact that I’m almost done with this book.  It’s been very helpful.  It uses the Myers-Briggs personality spectrums to help you identify your own strengths and challenges as well as your childs.  So, you can see where the interactions are beneficial and where it can cause communication (and patience) to break down.

For example, we both feel the need to “finish” things.  I can find it hard to set something down and pay attention to Avi even when she needs it most.  However, now that I’ve identified this issue, I can consciously say to myself “my child needs attention.  If I give it to her for these two minutes, she will feel loved and satisfied and then I will return to this task.”  And, voila, it has worked wonders.  This step alone has meant far fewer time struggles.

And then there was today.  The elongated steps of my Thinking Child:

  1. She spent the morning in a new situation with a babysitter and then we went to two different grocery stores before we came home for lunch.  We were both tired.  I promised her that after I picked up the kitchen clutter we would play.
  2. She became a bunny and hopped around my feet, chipped in a little, and then climbed under the table to make it her home.  All was good.
  3. She then tried to “tie” the cushions back on the two kitchen seats.  She actually does manage to tie things sometimes so she did one successfully and was close enough with the second that she was okay with it.  But then she got to the second cushion and lost.her.shit.
  4. I responded that she needed to use her big girl words to ask for help, “Mama, can you please help me tie the cushion?” but screaming and yelling was not a choice.  And so it began.
  5. She whined, “puhhleeassse?!?!”
  6. I replied, “please, what?”  Saying the word ‘please’ in a whiny voice isn’t enough.  Use your big girl words and ask for help, “Mama, Please help me tie the cushion.”
  7. And she exploded.  And I negotiated and she kept intermittently screaming.  I proclaimed I’d had enough with the crying.  And she kept going.
  8. It was then I remembered that there is a difference between ‘negotiating’ and ‘coaching’ so I knelt down in front of her, made eye contact and gave her three choices, “I see that you are angry.  1 – You can go to your room and keep crying.  2 – You can take a break by sitting on the couch, playing, take a breath, or read a book and come back and try the cushion when you’re ready.  3 – You can use your big girl words and ask for help. “
  9. She responded by saying she didn’t like choices and breaks.  “I can see that you are angry and having trouble making a decision.  If you need it, I can help you decide.”  I re-iterated the options to which she said she’d read a book with me.
  10. I stuck to my guns and said that she would have to read alone because I wasn’t done in the kitchen to which she replied that she would take a break on the couch watching a movie.
  11. “You may not watch a movie.  You may read a book.”
  12. This went on for I don’t know how long.  I’m sure I also threatened to make the choice for her, of course, that’s not what this book advises nor does it ever work but it always comes out of my mouth.  Eventually, we ended up on the couch reading a book after I assured her she had already used her big girl words to express the need for me to be with her.
  13. We read a book together, which I prefaced with the fact that I would have to finish the kitchen after this book and then we would play as promised.  Which I did.
  14. Here’s where it gets funny:  It is now an hour later.  We are upstairs playing together.  I have taken a minute to put a shirt in a drawer while she is lacing some beads.  She gleefully proclaims, “I have decided to use my big girl words and ask for you to tie on the cushion!”
  15. I said, “great!  Let’s do it!  Ask away!”
  16. She leads me down the stairs, explaining that as soon as we get to the kitchen she will use her big girl words to ask me to tie on the cushions.
  17. We arrive in the kitchen, she races to the chair, she asks me nicely, and I tie on the cushion.
  18. It took my child an entire hour to process.  An entire hour.

Now I understand how it is that I, someone who is possibly one of the most patient people alive, can lose my temper so frequently with this child.

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My mom rarely set punishments.  I was never grounded.

Once, when I was somewhere around 8, I got lazy and didn’t go home to check in at the appointed time.  A couple of hours later, my mom found me down in the yard of the local school.  Her voice was strained, like she was trying to speak through a straw.  I think she reprimanded me.  And then she told me I needed to play inside for the rest of the day.  I don’t recall it as a punishment, but I do recall feeling guilty since I knew I’d been naughty and made her worry when I could have just walked up the street and told her I was okay and gone back to playing.  That was, after all, why I was wearing my lovely red watch.

Yet, somehow along the way, even without grounding, I learned my lessons.  Don’t drive after 1am if you don’t have to: you’re too tired, you’ll probably hit a deer, and you’re more likely to get hit by a drunk driver.  Always get pierced somewhere reputable, with clean instruments.  Always save your video games: you’ll have to quit before you’re done and go get dinner.  Keep a journal.  Midwives are great.  Stand up for yourself.  Chocolate is so worth it.  Take risks, with caution.

And, my all time favorite: “Sometimes good enough, is enough.”

Well, my mom may never have grounded me, but I had to ground myself to learn a lesson this week.  And I learned it.  It was rough.  Here was the deal:

One week of no blogging, no blog-stalking, no message-boarding, no surfing.  Essential emails only.

I broke the rules once or twice.  I posted on my mom’s group message board a couple of times:  I was snowed in with a sick kid and really needed more apple juice.  I would consider it essential.  I worked on a blog, but it was for work, so I considered it essential since it wasn’t part of my mom blogging.  I surfed a couple times but only for something specific that I needed to know, and then I closed the browser as soon as I found the answer.

It was rough.

But productive.

Really productive, actually.  Even with a sick kid, and now sick myself, I still got all my chores done and crossed a few things of the life to do list as well.  And I still got to bed on time, finished a book, and watched a movie.

I’m not sure what my new rules will be nor do I think I need to create any.  Just a little more self-awareness and self-control will do.

Lesson learnt, mom.

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i love teaching high school actors.

together, they are a group of inherently cool people.  and in every group of students there is at least one, often two or three, of the following:

– the chic i wish was my friend

– the dorky boy who will grow up to change the world

– the political activist who has done more in 15 years than i have in 30

– the forgotten child who fell into acting by chance and it has changed her world

– the one i want to party with

– the gay boy who doesn’t know it yet, or does but doesn’t announce it

– the gay boy who boldly announces it

– the movie starlet

– the shy one with a big soul and a louder voice (when she or he finally uses it)

– the one who gives me hugs

– the one who writes me such a beautiful thank you card that it makes me cry

– the unexpected jock

– the one who gets the least attention because she works the hardest and goes so far and needs only the smallest of nudges from me.  and, in the end, she reveals herself to have talent far beyond what i expected.

– the one i cannot budge.  he is seemingly talentless.  until, one day, something miraculous happens.  i never know what it is.  but it happens.  and then he is a changed child.  perhaps he is even a changed man.  and i wonder if i made a difference in his world, or if he did it all on his own after all.

they all make my heart soar.

due to creations like facebook, i get to see many of their shiny faces pretty much every day.  i respect the boundaries of children and adults.  i rarely look at their ‘party’ photos.  it’s none of my business.  but i love seeing them fly.

and, sometimes, i’m blessed with things like seeing two of them seriously lip-sync to the most absurd video ever.

this one.

it was pure silly high school.  and i told them so.  i told them i missed high school.

they responded by posting a video to my wall that made me laugh so hard that i cried.  four of them stared into the camera at me while the aural melodrama of Electra played in the background: screams of horror and mourning co-mingled with these very serious young faces trying very hard not to laugh at the silliness of their own ingenuity.

and it reminded me that my life is more than just feeling ill and learning to love my child.  my life is full of all these young souls that i love to work with.

all of these young souls blossoming with art.

all of these young souls with the minds and bodies of grown-ups but with a toddler’s ability to create and enjoy the most ridiculous pieces of art.  and life.

this is to you, kids.

thanks for being in my life.

may your years continue to delight you.

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No.  Not mine.


You, people I have met with and worked with and then I discover you have become something even grander.

I find myself bursting with pride when I come across an old friend or, more frequently, a short-term colleague (given the nature of theater) who has accomplished something wonderful.

When I was just out of college, I worked on a short play with a young man who, at the time, was approaching his late 20s.  He had a two year old son and a dedicated wife.  His wife had agreed to let him quit his day job so he could pursue acting full time.  He had a year to make sure he could bring home some bacon.  This short play was his first gig.  A few years later, when I returned to that city, I attended an awards banquet, and there he was, up on stage, part of the evening’s honored entertainment.

Just this fall I discovered a girlfriend out in LA writing for Knight Rider.

If I were to sit down and watch TV, I stumble across a familiar face on a commercial or TV show at least every couple of months.

And I feel like my heart will burst I’m so proud of them.  There is, fantastically, no jealousy at all.  I don’t find myself watching them, or reading about them, and burning up with desire.  Going green with envy of what they’ve done.  I just am glad I “knew them when…”

And the inspiration for this post?  This chic over at Living Oprah. She was my director in Chicago.  She cast me in an all-improvised show when I had very little experience and she patiently and determinedly dragged the best out of me.  Learning to improvise for her was one of the best things I ever could have done as an actress.  She is a remarkable woman.  She has spent this entire year taking ALL of Oprah’s advice–and I mean ALL.  Tomorrow morning, bright and early, she’ll be on the Today Show with Matt Lauer.  So freaking cool.

Go read her blog.

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