Monday, July 28, 2014

Rage Against the Latrine

Piazza Weeks

BD: "Not me."

Me: "Excuse me? It happened five seconds ago!"

Greg: "She's pregnant you know!"

BD: "It wasn't, lady."

Me: "What do you...!? I just now got out of my car and walked directly over to you as you were getting out of yours... your car over... there. You cut me off!"

BD: "Not me."

Me: "I almost plowed into you!"

Greg: "Look, she swerved not to hit you."

BD: "Nah. I was pulling out of— I wasn't— I... didn't do it."

Me: "OH MY— just... forget it. Watch out... look out where you're... BE CAREFUL... OUT THERE... DRIVING!"

I pee every hour now. I read it would happen and it has. If I don't have access to a bathroom every 60 minutes, I run the risk of rushing needlessly to the emergency room with 'broken water' in order to protect my dignity. Then I'd have to add to the lie. When I got home from my fake race to the hospital, I'd have to tell everyone it was a false alarm. Then I'd go to work and spin yarns about the possibilities of breaking water and remaining pregnant. "Two amniotic sacs. Yeah. It's rare but, no... yes... I had one put in just in case. Sure... yeah, they are expensive..."

Three times within this past week I have avoided a car accident. I know I'm a bad driving stereotype right now, but I promise, I was not the antagonist for any of these heart attacks. The first two left me strained against the seat belt after brief stream-of-conscious, foul-mouthed slurs. The perpetrators shielding his/her head as he/she continued on his/her merry way. Not even a shruggy-shouldered, scrunchy-mouth-mimed, "I'm sorry" face through the window as they passed by. Grrr. Those left me shaking and in need of the toilet sooner than anticipated.

The last near-collision happened this past weekend when a car full of the cast from The Young Ones whipped around our car to turn left into a parking lot as I was turning left into the same spot. Luckily, I swerved at the last moment - Greg and I cursing simultaneously. I headed in the opposite direction, calmly parked, noted where the clown-car stopped, pulled the keys from the ignition, turned to Greg and said, "WATCH THIS!" I stomped my fat belly right up to the driver as his gang streamed past on either side of us, husband-and-new-father-to-be following protectively at my side.  A kid stepped out of the SUV while wrestling with his shirt over his head and a lit cigarette hanging from his lips. I swear his eyes went in opposite directions after he finally figured out how to dress himself without losing a drag. He took a few steps toward us. It was at this moment I felt the warmth trigger my nether regions. My eyes momentarily matched his googly directions and I almost kept walking beyond him—bathroom first, shaming next. I fought it and squeezed.

Me: "HEY! You cut me off!"

BD: "Who...?"

What came out of my mouth after that wasn't very clear or concise and I felt myself getting more stupid as I tried to rant against his infantile, "nuh-uh" defense. But I had power. It felt good to face my anger. I was overwhelmed with what my dear friend K, calls "Mama Bear", rising inside and I stood up for my family. The confrontation lasted all of 15 seconds when Greg and I realized we may as well be arguing with the brick wall Brain Dead leaned against. We walked into the same store and heard him complaining to his friends. "You ain't dead are you? What are you whining about?" one of them passive aggressively barked as they stood near us on line. I felt the warmth again and squeezed. Nope. I'm not hiding in the bathroom now.

When we got back home I almost ran upstairs to the toilet, but I didn't. I held the urge back yet again and took the garbage down to the cellar instead. That'll show 'em.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Eye of the Beheld

30 Weeks

"What you rehearse is what you'll perform."

Big lesson in making theatre. You MUST take the time to rehearse and you must honor that time by rehearsing with sincerity. Otherwise, the time you set aside to rehearse is a social gathering and by opening night what you share with your audience is disconnected from the purpose. You dishonor the point if you don't take it seriously. In the grand scheme of things, is it really that important to dress up in strange clothes, recite planned narrative, and behave through carefully executed choreography in front of a group of people as if it were a spontaneous event? Maybe. Roger Ebert believed that "empathy is the most essential quality of civilization" and he thought the art of cinema was the perfect tool to communally experience compassion. I get it. Film is important, but in my life, theatre is my tool of preference. I dig the live action stuff. There is a large gap between the process of creating theatre versus film. No app for it. Theatre is increasingly more challenging to produce than film and, it, too, is an exceptional tool for teaching civilization's essential quality. I believe theatre is even more powerful than film. Especially when all of the stars align, which takes time and practice. If you're as prepared as you can be, you can make magic. Live souls in one moment riding the same wave, together. There's nothing like it. It transcends.

Since I see the world through theatre-colored glasses, I would say that I find about 90% of life pretty entertaining. I'll argue that as Buddhist behavior. I don't think cruelty, war, greed, terror, apathy, hate, fear is amusing, but I do think spending more than 10% of my time focusing on those things isn't useful. Even if you are living in the middle of them, how you choose to feel about your world is up to you. Don't mistake me for thinking this means I decide to stick my head in the sand when trouble bubbles up. I don't mean that. I think if at all possible, conflict should be dealt with head on, not ignored, and facing those fears responsibly without letting the emotions of the situation take over is key. Sometimes that is impossible, since we're human and all, but if you practice laughing every time you're cut off in traffic on your commute through the daily circus, maybe you'll be more serene when you find out your spouse needs an operation to save his life. Maybe. Rehearsal is important.

I have a friend whose father has Alzheimer's. She recently told me a-day-in-the-life story about him and she told it with such interest and amusement that we were both holding our sides from laughing so hard. Her father woke from a nap and happily got ready to participate in 'movie night' at the Center. Joined the group. Five minutes in, decided he didn't like the movie and went back to his apartment. Watched TV for a few minutes. Happily remembered it was 'movie night' so he went to join the group. Loved the movie. Had an accident and needed to change his pants. Went back to his apartment, changed his shirt, then joined the group for the start of 'movie night'. Alzheimer's isn't funny. Not at all. But the way she shared this story about an experience with this awful disease was not only entertaining, she made me feel empathetic about her situation. I admire and am inspired by her strength. Strength that comes from practice. I know this because she told me. It wasn't always easy for her to laugh at her father's behavior.

Greg and I often share articles and information with each other we know the other will find interesting. Lately, the subjects are mostly about parenting. He emailed me a link to one this morning about the trend in teaching our kids happiness through self-confidence, self-reliance, self-help, and what might be a rising trend is the lack of instruction on kindness, compassion, empathy, and sympathy. We could be shooting ourselves in our civilized feet—that in actuality, being kind and compassionate makes a person happier, more self-confident and self-reliant. Teach empathy first as a tool for gaining happiness.

I'm starting rehearsals right away. Who needs a helping hand and a good laugh? Moving? I'm there. You can watch me try to lift things off the ground. It's hilarious.

Tuesday, July 15, 2014

The Bliss of Ignorance

29 Weeks

Five Reasons I Feel Prepared to Be a Mom

1. A Needy Little Dog Covered in Poop. Standing at the kitchen sink, I look up and rap loudly on the window. Stewart, our 11 pound Italian Greyhound, flinches, glances around the backyard nervously, then goes right back to his favorite outdoor activity: rolling around in exotic feces. I read somewhere that small animals have this instinct as a measure of protection from larger prey. Mother Nature: smart. What I have a really hard time understanding is that this little mammal, who is capable of learning a variety of intelligent behavior that Greg and I have personally taught him, NEVER EVER EVER learns that a) he's a house pet and has no mortal enemies and b) if he rolls around in deer s*%t, I will fiercely yell, scream to the point of seizure, hold him down, spray him with a hose, spank him, gruffly throw him in a bathtub, and scrub him fragrantly. One of the perks of dog ownership in the country—watching your man's-best-friend gallop throughout a plain of grass. One of the irks—watching your little guy go temporarily blind by pushing his head into a cow paddy.

2. Babysitting A Two Year Old Diva. I am eleven years older than my only sibling, Dallas's own infamous Drag Queen, Onya Stereo. The same week I got my first kiss, I played tug-of-war with my tiny kin using one of my white pumps. He won. When he was left in my charge, I would often chase him around the house to remove my mother's lipstick from his quick hands, distract him by letting him roughly brush or style my long hair, and get him to bed by promising to sing a George Michael hit until he fell asleep. He once had to be escorted out of my high school theatrical debut for repeatedly yelling out my name and another time, he put my entire Barbie collection in the oven so they could 'go to sleep'. They did. My parents would bring him to watch me cheerlead at basketball games. Sometimes he joined in. They nick-named him the Tasmanian Devil and started making him wear a leash wherever we went. One Saturday afternoon, I invited the coolest girl in school over to our house. My pubescent nightmare clomped into my room wearing high heels, makeup, and one of my old tutus made of shear, pink fabric. He wasn't wearing any underwear. Today, my brother is thirty and if he set me on fire I would still love him. 

3. The Harem. I'm a woman. I often feel like an 80 year old, homosexual man trapped in a woman's body, but I couldn't prove my femininity any more clearly than my current state. Because of my femaleness, I have the honor of being in the Lady Club. I am lucky enough to have grandmothers, mothers, good friends who are mothers, good friends who are women who have mothers, and I happen to work in an office full of women, many of them mothers who also know lots of women and mothers. I observe, listen, and take in all I can on the subject of mothering. Plus, I'm not afraid to ask for advice or help. I trust the sisterhood. If six months from now I am found babbling to myself through the produce section of our local grocery store without pants, I am confident one of the female persuasion will knowingly take my hand and calmly help me find my way back home.

4. Theatre. If you know anything about theatre, you know that it is a pure collaborative art form that juggles many egos, personalities, ideas, cultures, processes, practices, commitments, and vulnerabilities all in the name of one all-consuming, passionate goal. You also know it has another name: Drama. I have had a fair share of drama in my life and the show always went on. Often with people I love and trust. If I can endure years of death-inducing embarrassments while standing alone, center stage in front of a live audience, I can endure the heartbreak of my teenage son not wanting to be seen with me. Right? Ouch. 

5. Marriage. Yep.

I realize that being an actual mother will be like nothing I've ever known. I can only hope some of my life experiences will be of some use. Then again, Greg just proofread my writing before I posted this and said, "It's good. I put in a few commas... I'm not really sure what those things have to do with your theme." 


Well. I assured him I know enough not to use the backyard hose on the boy if he's covered in poop. At least not in winter.

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Who Let the Dogs Out?

28 Weeks

"Mom. Mom. Mo— Mom, mom, mom, mo— MOM!"


"I'm not done with it yet. I'll let you know when I am and you can look it over."

"You've got to finish it soon."

"I know. I will... am."

"The invitations have gone out, you know. And honey, I looked at it today and you didn't even pick out a swing or a bouncy seat or a schmlacka-do-diddly-schlooka. Everyone needs at least four of those. Plus, don't forget the schmoolidly-schlooky-loo and schmloka-moo-moo-oopah-neegla. Those are very important."

"They are?"

"Trust me. You'll need one!"

I sit at my desk at work and my office-mate steps out to go to lunch. I take the opportunity to call the doctor's office to set up yet another appointment. I'm an old mom. They need to see me often. The operator answers and I realize I've reached the switchboard for the entire practice. I tell her I need to be transferred to... "to... awbeh... ohwbsteh... ohwbsterrr-ehhkkee-hhee-TRICKS." She pauses to decipher. Tells me to hold on. I wanted to shout, "Wait! I've never said that word out loud before! I'm not an idiot. Really. I can read and stuff. And I know I'm 41, 6 months pregnant, and should know by now how to pronounce things like that, but— I'm not going to be a horrible mother! I won't. I promise! I'll do better! I'LL DO BETTER!" I sit with the muzak in my ear and wonder what in the world just happened to me. In a flash, my mind was stolen and replaced with one from a talking dog. I remind myself to read more. 

"I don't know."

"Well... what colors then? If you don't have a theme, what do I tell people your colors are?"

"I... I... don't know."

"Ok, sweetie. Why don't you look at those places I told you about online and let me know what set you like. Your father and I want to get the bedding for him. Just pick something out. You've got to do it soon."

Months ago, Greg and I went for a walk in our neighborhood. I was about 12 weeks pregnant and we were still very new to the idea. On our way up the street, we run into our neighbors. The Perfects. They have a fantastic country home partially constructed by their own hands. Two adorable boys that they rule idyllically. They chop their own wood. They keep chickens for fresh eggs. Since we moved to 'the country', this family has been our ideal. Before they settled down, they both traveled the world and now they have created a happy, modest, beautiful home. All while managing to be good looking, Fonzie cool, and stylish. Greg and I haven't shared our news yet with many, but this time we can't help ourselves for the pride: "We're pregnant!" The Perfects gush appropriately and tell us about their home births and give out advice. We listen with Talking Dog Brain as the wave of information and questions crash against our foreheads. "Are you getting a doula?" I blink a few times and our neighbor repeats himself. He's from New Zealand. I think perhaps I don't understand his accent then realize it's been quiet for far too long and respond, "I... I... don't know... what you're saying..." They explain. I tell myself it's time to pick up some birthing books.

"Honey. You've got cheap diapers listed here."

"Someone told me they're the best."

"What about a breast pump?"

"Mom. I'm not done. I know I should be but I'm just not. I'll finish soon. I promise."

"Jim and Kathy want to get you the changing table and it says here it isn't available online. You need to pick out another one."

"Who are Jim and Kath..."

"And you're going to need a schmoolky-doodle-doo."

"All right. How do you spell that?"

I, just now, as of yesterday, finally finished doing that thing that modern American woman MUST do before giving birth: set up the baby registry. This not only allows you to make a list of things for generous people to buy for your new child, it also gives you an opportunity to hold up a mirror to what is lacking in your mothering soul. You know, showing you just how ignorant you really are about this new world into which you are about to step. I think once you've completed the registry they should mail you a t-shirt from Consumer Affairs that says right across the belly, "I'm with Stupid."

How do you pack for a surprise trip? If I show up in Alaska with my flip-flops and a bikini, well, I'll need a little help from my mothers and friends who are mothers. I'll depend on them to advise, guide, push, and hopefully remind me where I packed my sense of humor. Setting up this registry was a giant slap in the jaw. There is a baby coming. And he'll need stuff. And you might kill him if you bring flip flops. It took me two hours to pick out a mobile. What if the music scares him? If the lights are out, will he even see it move? Which mobile will make him smart, healthy, and protect him from the evils of the world? The devil in the details takes over when you are shopping for something you've never thought about. Ever.

Nursery theme? Right. His room needs furniture and it should probably reflect a sense of our family style. Is thrift-store a good aesthetic? I chose simple: Black and White. Even talking dogs see in black and white.