Backstage, JCS

a hand on a hot stove

Backstage, JCS

I get these little sticking points, these moments of non-acceptance. I’m cast from my place of ease and serenity, or at least my finger on the pulse of the dharma – into confusion, a small smudge of despair – rudderless.  Tonight it’s in the car, as we drive to the hospital and my 12 year old daughter hears her mother praying aloud and crying, the helpless cry of abject suffering. Finally pull over at the side of the road – this is at about 9:30 PM – to vomit. Drive up to the ER and check in for pain relief. Pace and pace and breathe – finally on the bench in the lobby, rhythmic humming sounds. Placing myself in a trance to endure.

My daughter knows I won’t die, I’m only in severe pain. She gets to learn what it’s like to offer someone moral support – a loving presence. She puts her hand in mine. I tell her it means so much to me that she’s here.

These days, kidney stones pass about every three weeks. Most are a couple hours of pain – intense, distracting, maddening – but often such that I can walk about and focus on the business of others. Most times the pain eventually eases off – blessedly.

Tonight wasn’t like that. The pain started at about 2:30 and came and went, getting worse. Bringing a nausea that kept me from eating for about eight hours. At seven – right when we’re ready to take the stage for tonight’s performance – it steadily worsened. It took all I had to stay in the show to the end. The memory of getting through each bar of music, each song, each act. I was in a small, fourth-dimension place of a pain so acute the world seemed a Victorian-era vignette, unreal and distantly depersonalized.

I am home now. Exhuasted, but pain-free except for the ache in my lower back.

The hospital was kind. I am fretting about another medical bill. I haven’t yet moved off of that (futile) worry.

Still – today was, somehow, a good day. I kept a glad spirit – or I started off that way and it sustained me. And then: help, from so many quarters. A friend took me out grocery shopping. Another friend bought us our Christmas tree (!) and then delivered an oilskin envelope along with it – folded twenty dollar bills. Another friend sent me an online donation. Another friend let me help her with a home repair project. Another friend hosted my son this evening and took him out to a diner, and played video games with him besides. Another friend asked me along to her lunch. Castmates gave me hugs – castmates who aren’t particularly demonstrative.

If it weren’t for friends, if it weren’t for kindnesses large and small – my life would have little meaning.

And now, exhausted, I am back to pacing myself. Tomorrow: a matinee. I am behind on work for clients. I am tired and will need to recover further.

I can’t figure out tomorrow, today. That is for certain. I am grateful for the help and support I get. May it always remind me how worthwhile it is, to help and support others!

ER

Jesus Christ Superstar

this is just a saga now

In a few hours I take the stage in opening night for a local production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It’s not a big deal, but it kind of is. For me.

I can’t remember when I decided I’d audition for the production –  a while ago. See, first of all I have loved this particular rock opera deeply for about twenty years. When I heard we were going to produce it, I felt this pang. It was something I would have loved to do. But I couldn’t do it, no way. Right?

I blame my husband’s influence – his role a year ago in The Rocky Horror Show. I remember he said his duty to himself was to audition. And then do what followed, whatever that was. I remember respecting him for his attitude. And I was so proud to watch him participate. I think I went to the show six times – as many times as I could, given our family schedule!

It’s all well and good to be proud of Ralph, but when it came to me – I almost lost my bottle. I hadn’t been on a stage since I was sixteen. I wasn’t “in” with the theater folk (because yes, we do have a scene, even here in little old Grays Harbor). I didn’t have any dance or vocal workshops or classes under my belt to help me out during auditions. Since I’m a woman, I am “too old” to get a lead (yeah. Theater is like that). I have no formal training in any way in acting or stage work. I was about a half hour late to auditions, and I got to sing some tricky vocal parts in front of people I didn’t know (at all) – almost all of whom had experience and were known to one another.

I was surprised – and honored – to get a callback and be asked to join the ensemble.

So my introduction to the world of Theater has been … well, amazing. The amount of time and work has been about what I thought it would  be (that is: grueling, when like me your presence is needed at home in the evenings). The egos and insecurities are also about what I expected. We’ve had some rows, some tensions – and ugliest of all, there has been gossip. When I hear the latter, I turn heel and walk off. So honestly, I’ve probably been spared a great deal of whatever unseemly bits there are to be had. And for this, I’m grateful.

I tried to think of myself as someone in service to the production. So: no complaining. No whinging. No asking annoying questions (this one was hard, because I had so many!). No second-guessing or picking on others. Show up – and do the job.

The world of costumes surprised me. I am a pretty detail-oriented tailor and the world of stage costumes is considerably less so – yet the pieces have to perform well, and be easily donned or torn apart or thrown back together. That said, I tried my best to be helpful. I found one dress for a lead in the costume room; I found a few other pieces for soldiers which the director put to use. I put together three of my own ensembles (including sewing my own hoodie, and making my own hair!). I put together Jesus’ second and final costume. And I made a lot of pom poms! Most fun: I got to craft a gold laurel leaf crown – out of real laurel leaves. The world of stage costumes, though new to me and not my forte (yet), has been fun.

And overall I am amazed at how much work it takes to put something together. Everybody – from my own 12-year old daughter running a tech aspect of the show, to the director, to the cast, and the musicians in the pit, and the prop stage workers, and those who clean the theater and take tickets – every single body involved is needed. People pour their heart out and at the end of the day – it’s all to please an audience. To make people laugh, or cry, or feel like singing. That’s what all that work is for. That is pretty fabulous. It really is.

So tonight I wash pieces of my costume (I have four major costume changes), scrub my face (the layers and layers of makeup required during dress rehearsal – pretty gross!), and finish making up opening night gifts for my castmates.

To say I’m glad I went for it, is an understatement. And the thing is … if I never would have went for it, I’d still be dithering around wondering if it was something I could do, or something way out of my league. I’d be sitting in the audience feeling a kind of cramped envy.

So yeah. I don’t have to go through any of that. I get to do it. Just do it! And I’m beyond grateful.

Jesus Christ Superstar

 

JCS

a two-way street

Today was rough. About an 11-hour day on my feet, out of the house. A few responsibilities that didn’t feel so great, tackling them. I thought about reneging on what I said I’d do – but in the end I did what I said I’d do, so I’d know that is who I am.

I have good days – and some days I have growth days.

Rehearsal, as busy as it was, was where I found a few moments to myself.

JCS

Backstage. My eyes are drawn with a Sharpie.

No peeking on any of my costumes. Y’all are going to be so impressed!

JCS

My castmate J. & I today onstage. She is perhaps the sweetest person I’ve had occasion to meet of late.

I’ve thought a lot about working in this play rock opera. My original intention was just to audition – that was all. I was determined not to be too shy to do so. I didn’t know anyone, or know anything about theater, but I still went for it. At the time I didn’t think I’d be asked to participate. And even after I was asked, I didn’t expect it would be as much work as it is.

Every step of the way I’ve had the opportunity to think about who I want to be, as a person. I’ve met new people – all of them passionate, and all of them working hard to put a good show together. Not everyone is kind to everyone else. But I can be kind. And in a hundred and one ways, I’ve been tasked with showing self-restraint as the production forms. Believe me, I can think of questions faster than a scene can unfold – and I can think of direction I’d give if I were in charge (um – I’m not.). I’ve tried to be helpful where I can – and to be encouraging to all. I’ve opened my eyes to how much other people know, things I don’t know – and it’s an impressive lot!

My family has had the opportunity to care for the home, and themselves, without me. Not only without me physically, but with a very tired Me at the end of the night.

So far the production has been a great deal of work, and more time than I’d thought it would be. One thing is for sure: I don’t regret auditioning. I don’t sit there and think, I could do that, because I actually know, because I’m actually doing it.

Coming home wired from rehearsal at nine, or ten-thirty, or whatever – it’s a new experience. My winter is taking shape this way!

Snuggle Besties

the world sometimes seems full of people being cruel, but I’ve got this little oasis and it means a great deal

Snuggle Besties

My son emerges from the bath, wrapped in a red terrycloth robe. I bought it for him for his last birthday and, far less than a year later, it is now too small.

“Is there anything I can bring you, mama?” he asks. “Just kisses,” I tell him. He smells better than anything – his skin is warm, and damp, and perfect.

My daughter is off to bed. She tells me, “I love you so much,” and puts her arms around me. Her hair falls in my face – dry, sweet-smelling like straw. I feel a pang. She needs things I can’t provide, or at least not all at once: a door and a heater in her bedroom, new bedding, a kit for washing her face after gym. Two pair of shoes (gym shoes and regular trainers), t-shirts, socks, bras and underwear – and a haircut. I’d been invited to a pajama party last night and like an asshole, showed up in regular clothes. But I need to buy these things for my daughter and I hardly know where or how to start.

The kids grow fast. In no way ever, can I keep up.

But still, when she kisses me it isn’t the feeling of, I am behind or, My kids need things, like I’ve felt so many times before. I’m not in that place, not mentally. Instead I am thinking on their kind and sweet natures, and the entire trust they’ve placed in Ralph and I. Our children do not complain when circumstances are reduced in some way – nor do they grab and gobble when they get something lovely. They seem to be spiritually well. Like I told a friend last night, there might be no greater possession for a mother than to believe her children are okay. If you are okay, if you take care of yourself, you make your loved ones very happy. 

My children have been my biggest fans, my biggest supporters. Yesterday they sat through Jesus Christ Superstar rehearsals and praised my performance warmly. They are like two cotton quilts and they wrap me up. And I respect their opinion a great deal because they are one hundred percent accurate about everything – or at least, about their opinions on any given point.

The world I occupy lately – seems hostile. I’ve been thrown into a social circle that is often unkind and cruel. Today I had someone point-blank ask me to tell them intimate and upsetting details about another’s life. Later on, I walked in on a small group, trashing another (absent) person’s character. I walked right out again, but I felt quite forlorn. People just go around hurting one another, yet no one likes to be hurt.

My little family, and my group of trusted friends, they know my heart, my nature. They know I want to be my better self, and not devolve into behaviors that are harmful. Sometimes it is easy for me to walk in the world, and sometimes I struggle.

Today: steaming wool into shape on a new jacket; sewing on my beloved 70’s Pfaff. Drinking hot coffee and listening to my children’s laughter. The dryer, which is broken and shitty, so it runs all day all day all day. Listening to a spooky-lonely playlist. Kissing the basket full of kittens right on their noses.

A little island.

A small sanctuary.

I am very grateful.

"Everything Is Better With Mustard"

Fall Projects

that will probably become clear later, like the French Revolution

Fall Projects

The summer weather turned so fast I’m still reeling. We are amidst autumn traditions now: baking pumpkin bread, knitting, sewing up wool garments. I’m keeping busy in Halloween sewing (ONE more day. Well, one-and-a-half), rehearsals for Jesus Christ Superstar (I got my apostle name today! #w00t), and of course – raising my kids, caring for the home and five pets, and putting the time into my Recovery life. Kidney stones got the better of me a few days ago for a couple days but I hung in there. I’m still watching and reviewing vampire films like a menace. What can I say? Life carries on.

JCS, Keeping WarmKeeping warm in a chilly theatre.
Sequin Removal

This was my life before I knew anything different than the removal of sequins. Don’t worry, I got a lot faster at taking them out. I have removed one hundred billion sequins. The results are going to be amazing, but mostly the results are going to mean I am no longer cutting sequins, which is something I keep thinking I’m doing, because it’s the only thing I’ve been doing, ab aeterno.

Punkin

A little punkin’ & a big punkin’. Which is which?

My little ones had their school counseling sessions today with their father. I couldn’t be more proud of them. They are performing well, and better than that, they love school. I still miss them terribly during the day but the satisfaction I get knowing they are where they want to be (for now) is worth my occasional restlessness.

Nights I find myself having trouble falling asleep. But I have a warm bed, and loved ones, and (for now) some health. Life is very special. It is a miracle!

Tonsillitis

the ground I stand upon

Tonsillitis

My son takes a day at home, a nasty bout with tonsillitis. (Pip helps him rest.) Today he is much improved; he arranges a picnic with his grandmother, and I drive out to pick my daughter up at the bus stop by myself.

She steps off the bus and she’s so happy to see me her face lights up and flushes. Do you have any idea how it makes me feel, that this is her response to me every day?

Later: the rain hits the roof in torrents; darkness whirls outside. I’m sitting in a theater, listening to my castmates practice. Smiles, laughter, silly impromptu dances, yes – but everyone is in earnest. Our director helps each performer with notes, with mood, with blocking.

I miss my home. I miss feeling a part of; feeling like the center of the household. Sewing for others, and writing and volunteering, and now this production – I am not the at-home provider the way I once was and I am still finding my niche. My children’s worlds continue to expand and although my life is very full, the sea change leaves me unsettled.

The gas tank, and the bank account, are empty. My son’s illness, though not a serious one, is very sad and frightening. He is one who hallucinates and has terrible dreams, when he has a fever. Sometimes my hands stretch out and find his edges; he feels like a little boat tossed in furious seas. I hold him close and kiss his head and yet my heart is tossed to and fro as well.

I bake – chocolate pumpkin bread – I boil eggs. I buy raw milk, I peel oranges. I tackle the laundry with sincerity – we have the worst dryer we’ve ever had and our little laundry hallway is piled deep.

I try not to worry: how will I afford groceries the next few days? Instead I buy lamb for a friend who recently had an illness, and cannot digest many kinds of meat. With satisfaction, that is the last $8 in my account. I am glad to gift her. Another friend asked me last night – why don’t I keep things? I told her, “I’m a Buddhist. We are all about non-attachment.”

Giving a gift when I have but little grounds me in a way almost impossible to articulate. I know I do not need to, either.

Pre-Colonoscopy

“What’s the buzz?” – or, about three weeks somehow shoehorned into just a couple days

The last few days have been growth days. Doing new things. New, often scary things. Being very busy; busier than I am normally

For instance I am hustling to finish up my projects from the Bundle Up! boys’ blog tour. Typically in my tailoring work I stroll with my head back, cockily finishing up before deadlines, like a Boss. However this time around my fabric order was freakishly late – the fabrics arrived last Thursday. And even then I might have had time but a medical project reared its head. Thursday afternoon I prepped for, and Friday I underwent – a colonoscopy.

Pre-procedure: tired, tired, at the tail end of a thirty-six hour fast, and ready for my Twilight Sleep:

Pre-Colonoscopy

(the “Shadow of the Vampire” look I put down to a puke-green “gown”, hospital lighting, and a very special adventure the day before.) That said I’m not sure if anyone’s done so well during a prep and colonoscopy as I did. (Is that something to be proud of?)

Post-procedure, I slept most the day.

Saturday, feeling quite amazing and energetic, I got to sewing as quick as I could. But of course: kids, housework. A long-lost friend resurfaced and needed some time. And of course – before I forget: we put together the Event Page on Facebook, printed the tickets, and rolled out the poster for our upcoming benefit for a local animal rescue:

(For the love of god, buy a ticket or donate to the cause. We put up our household grocery money to reserve the Theatre and secure film licensing – $750!)

And today?

Well, today. Ralph and I tried out for lead parts in a local production of “Jesus Christ Superstar”.

Yes. Yes, we really did.

Ralph & I Off To Audition

(we both channeled the late and great Philip Seymour Hoffman’s performance as Sandy Lyle in Along Came Polly)

I didn’t mean to have such a busy week, but when things get busy I get very “one thing at a time” – and sometimes I don’t notice how many “things” I strung together.

I guess out of everything… I mean I am proud of myself for stretching, for reaching out and doing things scary. But the auditions? That is huge for me. Not that long ago the only people who’d heard me sing were my children.

I’ve had a lot of adventures the last few days. I’m ready for a little rest.

Some people in the home, however, continue on much as before. So after a very busy last five days, I leave you with some precious Cat Serenity.

Just An Old Hat

Champions

Pip, Sleeping