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Spoken Word: Art Class

Anyone who knows me, knows I’m not a typical grown-up.  I’m lucky enough to be married to an awesome audio engineer and he recorded me reading, Art Class, the poem I wrote to my son explaining this.

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Live Fast, Die… Eventually and Only if Absolutely Necessary

[ I read this essay at The Story Department in October for their From Beyond the Grave show. ]

I grew up in Houston, Texas. If you’ve never been to Houston, I can describe it for you like this: just imagine any dystopian movie and then replace all the crazed brain-eating zombies with crazed brain-eating conservatives and there you go.

To be fair, Houston’s come a long way lately, but when I was growing up there, it was the late 80’s/early 90’s. And Houston in the 90’s certainly wasn’t known for its picturesque parks, art scene, or lesbian mayor. Houston in the 90’s was largely known for its suburbs and its malls, neither of which I felt particularly drawn to. I knew there had to be more to life than to grow up, live by a big mall, and then die.

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Rainbow Connection

There are eggs cooking in a pan.

Why are there so many songs about rainbows and what’s on the other side?

The notes drift into the kitchen and I feel them in my chest, know them by heart. There’s a special joy in unexpectedly hearing a song you love right when you need to hear it; a little gift from the universe. Serendipity. He heard it too and runs to me; his 6 year old hands outstretched, inviting me to dance. I move the half cooked eggs off the burner. Breakfast can wait, my dance partner can’t.

This is our song. The one I have sung to him nearly every night of his life.

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Saints and Starbucks

So the other night I had this dream that I was somehow entangled with religious fundamentalists and I was told to gather a few things that were really important to me before we all climbed onto a big tour bus. So there I was, crying and clutching my wedding ring, a manila folder full of papers… and a coffee maker…  That sounds about right, I *do* love coffee (and manila folders).

But I feel bad talking about my love of coffee; I’m not supposed to like it. While it might be a normal part of your day and there’s a Starbucks on every corner, I was raised Mormon and coffee was strictly off limits. It’s a part of the Word of Wisdom, a dietary code for Mormons that forbids coffee, tea, alcohol, and drugs. You know, all the fun stuff.

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It’s Poetry Month!

I’m a poet. I always have been. And even though my writing of late has moved towards essays and magazine articles (money), I will always be a poet.

I love to talk and will spend hours chatting away in person, but when I write I am minimalist, I want to conserve words, I want crystallized moments to explode off the page in just a few sentences. I love the power of poetry. I love its beauty and its truth. And on days when the world seems ugly and gray, I remember that human beings can write poetry and how amazing that it is, and I am filled with hope again.

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Bad Parents

This is where I’ll be on Wednesday night. Part of the FronteraFest Short Fringe, Bad Parents, will be at Hyde Park Theatre on Wednesday, Jan. 22 at 8 pm.

The show is hilarious and was written by the über talented Max Langert, whom I met as an Austin cast member of Listen to Your Mother last year. He and Tristan told touching stories about their mothers, while I was sharing one of my finer parenting moments: The Vagina-Mommy Incident.
Bad Parents at FronteraFest Short Fringe

You can read more about the show and FronteraFest here: Bad Parents at FronteraFest

Riding the Carousel

He wanted to ride the carousel at the mall. He’s five now, so I got on with him intending only to help him find an animal and climb up. The carousel was old and small, and wobbled as everyone climbed aboard. I put him on top of a brown horse with a flowing mane and wild eyes — It was a good fit.

He grabbed onto the pole with both hands, leaned into it, trembled a bit and looked at me with worried eyes as he surveyed how high he was and felt the wobbling of the ride before it had even begun. He looked up and noticed that the pole was at its low point and asked me if it would go even higher.

He is awake now, this little boy. Aware. He struggles with the lankiness of his legs, tries to understand his changing body as he faces growth spurt after growth spurt in an unrelenting parade. He is no longer an over confident toddler who charges into battle, he sees the world around him and senses danger, feels overwhelmed by noises, is trying to find his place.

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Contemplative Ennui at the Blanton Museum of Art

I am standing in a museum surrounded by marble statues of people from worlds long gone; they are echoes of some other unreal time. History is like that to me, it never feels real.

I pick a bench in a sunny, windowed corner to sit and write. I’ve come here to try to dispel the dark clouds that have been chasing me this week… to try to numb the swollen ache in my heart. I thought the art might help, that it would give me something to look at so I could get out of my head for a little while. Maybe, it would ease some of this ridiculous pain. Instead, I feel every piece. It’s like they’re all playing on the same vibration as this depression; each one feels like a thumb pushing on a deep bruise.

The Blanton Museum of Art - Austin

I am mourning an inexplicable loss, something that doesn’t exist, has no resolution, and I am powerless to make myself feel whole. I’m a control freak, so this kind of thing sucks. All I can do is wait it out.

Is it her? Is that what they like? I compare myself to every woman who walks by and every piece of art. Notice how imperfect I am. I have a thing for perfection, or rather for being perfect.

Recently, I started to people-watch and noticed for the first time in my life how men will stare at certain women. Grown men will slow their cars to watch a young woman in shorts cross the street, a woman in a dress walking past the entrance to West Elm causes a conversation to halt while the three men crane their necks to watch her walk by. It is creepy, this level of unabashed focus that I’m seeing men devote to a woman who is merely crossing their path. I’ve never paid attention to it before, and now I can’t unsee it. It’s everywhere and I feel like I’m losing a competition. I’m pretty enough, but my strong suits have always been humor and intelligence… not the kind of things that random men notice when I walk down the street.

The modern art made me sadder. I can’t really explain why. I stared at the replicated cardboard box, sleeping bag, pack of cigarettes, marble sculpted trash bag. A marble trash bag… that’s what I feel like sometimes… a waste of materials and talent.

I can’t let go. The sky is divided – filled partially with angry sun and heavy, dark clouds. They tease rain, but won’t let it go. It is both sunny and potentially stormy, I’m caught in the tension.

The statue in front of me has no head or arms, and is missing its legs from the knees down. Incomplete or damaged, I don’t know. It’s only a replica, so I feel nothing when I look at it; none of the artistic energy of the real one is there.

I whisper to the universe, If you ever loved me, let the rain fall.

What about that statue, the topless one. I wonder if they prefer the curve of her breasts; if she meets the standard. I wonder how many would turn to look at her in a crowded restaurant or bar.  Even minerals are my competition. I stare at her breasts and feel a sense of loathing for her – for her perfect breasts, their shape and lift, for her look of contentment. I feel an alliance with the male statue across from her: poorly endowed, exposed, and forced to stare forever at her ample perfect chest.

I am not enjoying marble today.

I leave and enter the calm quiet solemnity of the masters – perfect imperfection – ample bodies and vacant empty stares. I stand for a long time in front of a Flemish portrait of a man with a curved mustache. His look is so sad; he’s pale, anemic. He stares at me while I examine his facial hair. It’s so realistic; I can’t even see the strokes. I want to climb into the painting and touch his mustache.

It’s cool and dark in here which matches my mood. All around me are paintings of saints and sinners. I’m stuck, standing still in front of The Visitation. I think it’s about the Virgin Mary but all I can focus on is the donkey in the corner staring at me, upstaging everyone else. He’s looking at me as if to say, “Pfft, I know, right?” I nod. I like this room, everyone in the paintings looks like they’re rolling their eyes.

I walk a few steps, but I’m stuck again, this time in front of another portrait of a man with sad eyes and a mustache. Maybe I stop here because he’s looking at me, while everyone else is looking off to one side – like they know they’re in the painting, but want to act casual. This guy though, he looks right at me, and I can feel his hurt or maybe he feels mine… or maybe his collar is too tight.

I leave the dark cool space and find myself in the hallway, assaulted by sunlight. The clouds look like they are giving up and the sun is claiming the sky. I feel heartbroken by the brightness, I turn and give one last look at the donkey who still gets me, scoff warily at the giant reproduction of a milk carton near the entrance, and head towards my car to find that despite the sun, one cloud – one persistent cloud – waited for me, and gives rain to blanket my path.

Poem: Parents (Spoken Word)

This is my poem Parents, about the things every parent knows and every potential parent should be told.

Before I had a child, no one told me the real truth about parenting (spoiler: it’s awesome, but HARD). Actually, to be fair, they probably tried, but I just wasn’t paying attention: Yes, of course I’m listening: Labor sucks, they never sleep, they…. omg look how tiny these socks are! And there’s a tiny matching hat!!

Nature is a jerk. It has a way of camouflaging  the truth. It made babies tiny and adorable because you cant really get mad at something that little and cute.

Now, if a middle aged man kept coming into your room and crying in your face while you were asleep, or kept accidentally pooping or peeing on you… I’m pretty certain you would give him a piece of your mind. But, when a tiny little person with cute little spider monkey hands screams you awake from a deep sleep, then proceeds to vomit and/or pee on you all while smiling with his little baby mouth and sparkly eyes… what do you do? You smile the hell back and thank the universe for this wonderful tiny person.

*shakes fist at nature*

Here’s the thing, you can not, no matter how hard you try, convince someone that once they have a kid they will never ever sleep again. It’s like trying to explain color to a blind person. There is no frame of reference. You can try, you could say: Okay think about the most tired you’ve ever been and now quadruple that and expect to feel it every second of every day, for.ev.er. 

But, they just can’t comprehend it; it’s tacit knowledge, the kind that can only be learned via actual experience (and by then it’s too damn late and they are forced to have their own epiphany in the middle of the night while rocking what must be some sort of advanced human child who has evolved beyond the need for sleep).

Let’s be honest, it’s probably important that potential parents don’t understand how challenging parenting really is… otherwise, there would be zero chance of the human race continuing.

*continues to shake fist at nature and the manufacturers of tiny baby socks*

Video – The Vagina-Mommy Incident – LTYM 2013

Earlier this year, I was chosen to read an essay about motherhood as a member of the 2013 cast of the Listen to Your Mother Show.

It was an amazing night full of wonderful stories by talented writers all celebrating motherhood. I was so honored to be a member of the cast this year.

Here is the video of me reading my essay, The Vagina-Mommy Incident. It’s about the time I thought it would be a good idea to tell Kai the proper name for our genitals and how great that went…

Thank you so much Ann Imig for creating this wonderful event! And, thank you to Wendi Aarons, Liz Mcguire, and Blythe Jewell for producing the Austin show so that I could get up and say the word vagina over and over in front of a room full of people. It is an experience I will always cherish.

The 2013 Cast of Listen to Your Mother Austin

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