Sunday, June 30, 2013

A Birthday Tradition

Today is my son's first birthday.

Every year on my birthday, my mother calls me- not just to sing "Happy Birthday," but to recount the story of my birth.

Highlights from the story include:

*High on anesthesia, Mom saw my father and told a nurse, "I think I know that man."
* The nurses in the nursery called me "Rosebud," because of my ruddy pink skin and (if you ask Mom) my delicate beauty.
* One nurse fell asleep while rocking me, and Mom flipped out.
* The day I was born was the best day of her entire life.

I always thought that last statement was sweet, but I never really understood how much she meant it until now.  And frankly, I never thought I'd ever be the one saying anything remotely like that.  Ever in my life.  Ever.

But here I am.

I had a few minutes alone with my baby this morning, feeding him a bottle.  As we sat there, quiet and cuddly, I found myself telling him the story of the day he was born.

After all, it is his birthday.

Highlights from the story include:

*Acupuncture induced my labor.
* We had to "walk the halls" until they could check me in a hospital room, and a custodian found me groaning and laboring on my hands and knees in an empty conference room.
* While I was getting an epidural, I buried my head in the ample, comforting bosom of a Trinidadian nurse named Anselma.
* It was the best day of my entire life.

While my baby probably didn't understand what I was saying, I like to think he understood what I was feeling.  Feeling nostalgic. Feeling intense, immeasurable love.  Feeling incredibly fortunate.

And also feeling glad that I still have a few good years before he starts rolling his eyes when I tell him this story.

But when he does, I'll know that deep down inside, he secretly loves hearing it.

Because I sure did.

Thanks Mom.

Happy Birthday, Elrod.

Friday, June 21, 2013


Long ago, my friend Jody moved to NYC.  Riding on the train one day, he was approached by a rep from Calvin Klein, and asked if he'd be interested in modeling for an upcoming shoot.  The man had legit business cards, and Jody was a handsome guy.  Jody said yes, and the man replied, "Good.  Just one more thing.  Can you snowboard?"

Crestfallen, Jody told him that no, he could not snowboard, but he would "look damn cute standing on one."  Jody didn't get the job.

Hindsight is 20/20, and we all told him, "You should have said YES!  You could have learned to snowboard in time for the shoot!"  Any actor would give the same advice:  always say YES.

Can you tap dance?  YES!
Can you speak Spanish? YES!
Can you fly fish? YES!

To these three questions in particular, I feel comfortable answering "Yes."  I actually CAN do all three things with varying levels of success.  I took tap from 4th through 9th grade.  I know enough Spanish to translate the Spanish advertisements on the subway, even ones without English versions hanging alongside of them.  I lived in Montana for two years, where the men give their women waders, boots and fly rods instead of engagement rings.  So, YES.  I can do those things.

This week, my agent called with a commercial audition for me.  I'd audition for the role of "Woman," early 40's, a young Sally Field type, with longish hair and a zest for life.  Perfect.  And then she said, "Just one more thing.  Can you salsa?"


"YES.  Yes, I can."

The internet is an incredibly useful tool. Want to give your loved one a foot massage?  Interested in fish taxidermy?  Want to cut your own hair? You Tube has videos to help.  You Tube can also teach you how to salsa.

With the audition looming a day away, I watched a handful of those how-to-salsa videos, and felt I had a good grasp on the basic steps I needed to know to get by.  Until now, by salsa experience was traditional, mild to medium.  I'd been known to try the occasional pineapple-habaƱero salsa, but very rarely, and there was usually a margarita involved.

But that's a different type of salsa.

When you go to a commercial audition, the waiting area is often filled with people who look a lot like you, but with mild variations.  Someone's cardigan may be a darker green, or maybe their ponytail is a little higher.  At this audition, no one looked like me.  The place was filled with (say this with an accent) Dancers of zee Salsa.  Women had weird Madonna arms and swirly, low-cut dresses, their partners (some brought actual dancing men) were clad in snug black t-shirts or white, flowy shirts with a few too many open buttons.  To some actors, it might have been intimidating.

But not to me.  I was out of the apartment.  I had a babysitter.  There were actual adults in the room, and I was fairly certain I'd be speaking complete sentences to them.  No, I wasn't intimidated.  I was already a winner.

And then they called me in.

"Monica, you're going to dance with Bernardo."

Bernardo reminded me of that guy from the Dos Equis commercials, The Most Fascinating Man in the World.  A cross between Ricardo Montalban and...a younger Ricardo Montalban.  Bernardo said, "Jest fahllow me."

I tried. I really did.  From the hips up, I was great.  I smiled, I snapped my head on the turns, I held my arms where the lady in the video told me to keep them.  I moved my hips as much as any white girl who's seen Shakira can move them.

But my feet.  Oh, my feet. Poor Bernardo got stepped on many times over, and at one point- and I didn't think this was possible- our KNEES banged into each other.  He said, "Relaaaax, and fahllow me."  I thought I was.  During my elementary and middle school tap training, I never had this problem.

When it was over, the casting director said, "You moved your hips, so that was good!  And you looked like you were having fun."  (A small victory.)

Bernardo said, "Goodbye."  (A crushing defeat.)

In the elevator, I updated my Facebook status to simply read "Salsa-pocalypse."

I wasn't surprised that I didn't book the gig, and I wasn't too bummed out about it.  After all, I had a break from The Best Baby in the World, and when my husband got home, he made me another delicious meal- this time, fish tacos.

Rummaging through the fridge, he asked, "Where's the salsa?"  I told him I'd been so busy watching dance videos, I'd forgotten to go to the store.

He said, "But your Facebook page said 'Salsa-pocalypse'."  So, I explained about my day, about Bernardo, and about saying YES.

Deflated, he replied, "Oh.  I was hoping for salsa."

So were we all, Dean.  So were we all.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

There's Never Enough Time

It's been months since my last blog post.

Mainly because there just isn't any time for that sort of thing when you have a baby.

There's no time to pick the avocado out of my hair.  No time to pick up the hairball the cat just threw up. No time to unpack those last few boxes from our December move, or to send out thank you notes and birthday cards.  No time to clean.  Anything.

Truthfully, it's not so much that there's no time for ANYTHING.  There just isn't time for EVERYTHING.  No time to squeeze it all in.  No time to see that play that was just extended for a third time, or to have drinks with friends past 9pm.  No time to go to the gym...not that I complain about that most days.

But there is time for some things.

There's plenty of time to feed oatmeal and bananas to the baby, even if most of it ends up on the floor or behind his ears.  Plenty of time to splash with him in the bathtub, and to read "Peek A Who?" and "Mr. Brown Can Moo, Can You?" whenever he grabs the books and crawls my way.  There's plenty of time to clap our hands and dance to "Rockin' Robin" for the one thousandth time, and plenty of time to cuddle with him on the sofa while he giggles at "this little piggy."

There's ample time to baby proof the apartment as our boy gets braver and more interested in opening drawers and doors.  There's tons of time for zerberts (I looked up how to spell that) and rocking and making finger-painted art projects for friends and family.  There's even time to change diapers.  (Let's face it, there HAS to be.)

Having a baby has made us realize what is truly important.  So while one may be stressed that their champagne glasses didn't match when they toasted their baby's baptism (Who, ME?), there are much, MUCH better things that deserve my attention and limited brain space.

Like wiping off that little drop of milk from the corner of the baby's mouth after he falls asleep in my arms.  Or marveling in the piece of hair on the back of his head that is just starting to curl.

But not cleaning.

The cleaning can wait.

Saturday, March 23, 2013

Should We Stay or Should We Go? Raising a Baby in the Big City.

We had a baby and momentarily forgot who we were.

We uprooted our lives and moved to NYC, excited to write plays and act, to forge a life together in the most creative city in the world.

And we did.

We produced some great theatre, and worked on films; we took classes and joined writers' groups; we saw what was hot, and knew what was not.  We walked the dog and nursed hangovers and took out the trash, and made friends with people cooler than us.

And later, we had a baby.

We had a baby, and throughout my pregnancy, we said to ourselves and anyone who would listen, "NYC is the BEST place to raise a child!  There are so many museums and different languages, and interesting cultures, and sights to see, and lessons to be learned!" We affirmed that a child raised in the city would be more savvy than a child raised anywhere else. Our baby would know the difference between a redneck and a Brooklynite.  Our child would be more tolerant of other cultures, would be more willing to eat strange foods with his hands and sit on floor cushions, and would be fearless when pronouncing names with extra consonants and not so many vowels.  NYC would help us raise a super cool kid.

And then, we went home for the holidays.


Where people come at you, arms outstretched, begging to hold and care for your child, without charging you $20 an hour.  Where Mom lets you sleep in the good bed and there are plenty of coffee pods whenever you want them.  Where there is a car available for your use anytime. Where a glass of wine costs $6.  Where it's never 19 degrees. Where you can exhale and there is room to think and breathe.  And breathe some more.

Driving back to NYC after a week Back Home, we had a lot of time to talk. And before we'd reached the first state line of our trip, we'd decided to pack it in and move South- and if anyone asked, it was to be closer to family.  It was the baby's fault.  We wanted, so we said, to be near a support system of people who would watch our baby whenever we needed.  We needed to stop paying rent and start paying ourselves.  We needed a back yard and a swing set and a veggie garden, even though it was sure to wither and die from lack of attention.

We imagined quietly interviewing for Southern Jobs, avoiding telling our NY friends of our secret plan.  We pictured meeting with a builder and designing our Southern Dream Home.  We could even buy our very own Piece of Land (as Mom says, "They're not making any more of it.")  We would find the most darling Montessori school for our child.

And then we remembered the Parade Balloons.

Every year, the giant balloons from the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade are inflated outside the Museum of Natural History the day before the parade.  Families pack the closed-off streets to get an up-close, down-low look at Sponge Bob and Spider Man and Kung Fu Panda, before they fly high down Central Park West in front of network cameras.  It's a special thing, a cool thing.  And we want our kid to see those balloons.

We also want him to ice skate in Central Park, to go to the Bronx Zoo, and see a Picasso anytime he wants.  We want him to go to a Bar Mitzvah and a quinceanera, and eat dim sum in Chinatown.  We want him to decide for himself whether he's a Mets or Yankees fan, and we want him to develop a healthy preference for the C train over the 1/2/3. We want him to be a good person, a caring person, a kid who gives part of his allowance to the homeless guy he passes on the street every day- not because we make him, but because he is compelled to.  Because he is good, and he is grateful.

So, while we deeply miss our Southern roots, we've decided we want him to be a New Yorker.  We're letting go of the panic, and embracing the unique challenges of raising a child in the Greatest City on Earth.

And we won't lose sight of who we are.

We'll be the couple sharing a one-bedroom with a first grader.  After all, it's an expensive city.

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Show Me

An invitation to gun advocates:

In the wake of the daily news stories about gun-weilding Bad Guys,

In the wake of dozens of parents' Very Best Things being stolen away,

In the wake of All the Cities We'd Never Heard of Before,

Show me.

Share the countless success stories where the Good Guy uses the assault rifle beneath his bed to heroically save his family from the Gun-Weilding Mad Man we keep hearing about.

Show me.

Show me the news item describing Lindsay Graham's Atlanta mother who used her
Uzi or
AK-47 or
Streetsweeper or
Thompson 1927 Commando

Or any gun from the theatre of war

Show me where she takes down the Home Invader coming for her family,

Or her Stuff.

Where are the news stories about that?

Show me the many, many, many cases that justify Regular Citizens not just owning, but wielding (trained or not) weapons like those from the streets of Kabul or Sirte.

Prove your point.  Plead your case.

Because I'm just not seeing the evidence.