Dance mom.

I used to make a living designing graphics and websites back in the 90s. As a playwright who often needed to create her own promo materials, it was a very handy skill. I totally enjoyed doing it, and I still leap at the chance to dust off the ol’ vector program excuse oh OK I am I need to OK sorry I’m in 20C 20 we’re in 21C OK needs an I’ll aisle seat it’s a who ha situation it’s like Tetris

[i was proofreading this while boarding a plane when a row of folks realized they were in the wrong seats, one of which was mine… I accidentally hit the microphone button and now I can’t bring myself to delete our convo]

Anyway. These days I leap at the chance to design stuff. Even when no one asks me to. The last thing I designed was an ID logo for my son’s Irish dancing gear (I was on deadline and fighting it as usual). I made stickers, labels, iron-ons, vinyl patches…

… and I also designed T-shirts with cheeky phrases only Irish dancers would find funny.

Last Wednesday my 10-year-old reported that after four years of lessons twice a week and multiple competitions per year, he was done. I was crushed. Partially because I spent all that time on his design– which, by the way, is not something any other dancers have and is frankly kind of weird– but also, I loved being a dance mom. I loved traveling to hotels the night before, ordering room service at 6am, suiting my kid up in his sharp purple tie and crunchy precise hair, then heading down to the lobby and getting sucked into a swarm of glittered lip-sticked curly-wigged pre-teens smacking their heavy heels together to the music in their earbuds.

And while the multiple conference rooms stuffed with underslept parents fretting over their tense tanned children can get a little JESUS CHRIST, THIS IS FUN FOR LITERALLY NO ONE, WHAT ARE WE DOING, all that pre-performance thrill/terror/fuss is exactly what got me addicted to theatre years ago. At the time I didn’t understand that even a successful career in theatre involves long stretches where none of this is readily accessible. No performances. No opening nights. No pre-show jitters. Just dogged determination and heavy emotional labor that often has very little payoff. But even if I had known, I believe I woulda gotten myself sucked into the swarm. An addict is an addict.

My son also seemed to enjoy all the lobby chaos, and he loved the performance aspect. But he hated the oppressive grueling nature of competitive dancing– especially in a genre where technique is favored over expression. So he pulled the plug, and I almost did that old-school parent thing where you demand your child stick with something in order to build character. “You can’t keep quitting things just because you don’t like doing them.” Except actually, yeah, that’s exactly when you should quit: when the thing you used to love starts digging holes in you that it will never re-fill.

I don’t feel that way about theatre. Not yet, anyway.

In the meantime, what do I do with all the branded materials?

(answer: take pictures)

Spastic avenues.

I started this one-sided internet conversation thing (for some reason I have trouble calling it a blog—I think it makes me feel retro in a bad way) ’cause I needed to take a break from a certain kind of writing. Also I’d started jotting down notes for a memoir that would address some of the repercussions of toxic masculinity on a traditional family structure. (Mine.) I began to experiment with the use of the long-form personal essay as a lens through which to view/make sense of this awkward um “culturual moment” let’s call it.

But I have a new job now. So this conversation may become a little more spare.

(Or not?)

I’ve always been prolific-ish, but not ambitious in the traditional sense: I’m not running toward a goal. My productivity is characteristically clench-jawed and panic-fueled. Even while medicated, I can’t seem to un-trigger my fight-or-flight response. And unfortunately, the act of running from is often more chaotic than the act of running toward.  When you see the thing you want up ahead, you’re locked in. But if the thing behind you is bigger than the thing ahead of you,  you will run in a million different directions to get away from it.

The upside of the wild scramble down spastic avenues is that it often yields unexpected treasures. Perhaps you’ll discover how to make a cat litter ventilation system. Or begin an amateur woodworking club. Or design an extraordinarily complex and visually arresting Halloween costume. Or embark upon a professional fitness career at your local studio. Or start drawing again. Or draft long-form personal essays for your one-sided Internet whatever to use as a whatever whatever.

And by the time you finally sit down to write something career-related, you may feel raw and burned and beaten and out of breath… but hey, new coffee table!

A coffee table I made while on deadline.

All this is to say. I have a job and I’m trying to run towards it, so one or more of my spastic avenues may have to close for a bit. It might be this convo. It might be the woodworking club. It might be my new sewing machine habit that threatens to send me down a dark crafting rabbit hole.

Either way. You’ll know which when you receive a link to my new Etsy store.

A T-shirt I made Monday night.

(I don’t have an Etsy store.)



I was going to tell you about the meeting I had a month ago with a personage who got known for doing one thing and then had a second career doing another thing (both equally successful, both equally lucrative). I was going to tell you how excited I was to meet this person, and how I did a ton of reading about them the week before, and how they showed up 20 minutes late, and how I felt all bottled up and explodey when they sat down, and how I talked nonstop for maybe 40 minutes straight, and how at some point they asked if I had ADHD, and I said I did, and then they told me I should be medicated, and I said I was, and they said it’s a good thing I have help with my work or I wouldn’t be successful, and I said I was successful before I had help, and then it went downhill from there.

But I won’t tell you that story because there is no story. It’s just information. A lot of people like me have trouble containing themselves in high pressure situations. I do understand it’s not easy to hire someone with explosive manic energy like mine, especially when they (aka, “I”) don’t seem to have much control over it. What’s so annoying is that this is actually the controlled version of me. They should see me off my meds! (No they shouldn’t. No one should.)

But also, I spent plenty of years feeling bad that I couldn’t make myself behave normal in front of the right people. Now I try to find fewer reasons to be bummed about things I can’t change. Instead (and this is advice you hear all the time), I imagine all the other people like me who might feel a little bit better knowing they aren’t alone. And then I talk to them in my head: “It’s gonna be ok, guys. I’m writing about it.”

I have two projects I’m working on now that portray a woman with some of my aforementioned quirks. One of them is a movie that is very close to my heart for many reasons, and I hope someday I’ll be able to share it with you. The other is a pilot. Neither may ever see the light of day, but it is really fun (and also really harrowing) to graft your most exaggerated features onto a character who you want an audience to enjoy, cringe at, feel bad for, have a crush on, etc….


College classroom. The students chat with one other, sleep, text. After a bit. CJ, 35, bursts in to the room wearing a bike helmet. She is petite, not unattractive, smiley, with a lot of nervous energy. Nerd glasses, unwashed hair, cute thrifted outfit. She has pit-stains and is sweating. Her hands are covered in black grease. The students are amused. Weird prof.

CJ removes her messenger bag and her helmet. She digs for some tissues. She finds notebook paper instead. Rips a few sheets out, wipes her hands on them, then wipes them on the back of a chair. She grabs some chalk. Writes the following words on the board: