Archive | May 2014

Rest in peace, Maya Angelou

The first time I saw Maya Angelou I think I actually cried when she came onstage.  When she spoke in that beautiful voice of hers, you could hear a pin drop.  The tickets were really expensive and hard to get and I was thrilled to be there. I couldn’t afford the limited meet and greet VIP tickets but after the show, I peered at her through the barriers. I felt like a commoner trying to sneak a peek at a queen or something.  The 2nd time, I saw her at the Vogue theatre,  I ran into an actress colleague of mine and we went around back of the theatre to see if we could catch her coming out.  We did, and I did get a chance to tell her how much I admired her and how I really appreciated her.  On stage, she seemed larger than life, but here she was 80 and frail, sitting in a wheelchair, she seemed small but exceptionally powerful. Tired, I think.   I just wanted her to see me, really see how much I loved her, her words, her very being in this world.  I just couldn’t seem to find the most eloquent of words to express to her how I felt.  There was this other woman there, who was just blabbering on at her, not going away, not ceding her space up to me, and grasping at her and I wanted to slap her.  Really, really?!  You just don’t reach out to touch a cultural icon.  But I spoke to her, she spoke back.  I don’t even remember what she said.  Of course I don’t.  Honestly, I was just trying not to sound like a lovesick fan.  Tried to play it cool and professional. Not gush, not crowd her. Not embarrass myself. I wish I could remember.  Probably she said thank you.  Stupid blabbering woman who would not go away.  I wanted to choke her.  And then someone helped Ms Angelou on the tour bus and she was gone. 

The baby girl I thought I would have?  I named her Maya. 

Years ago, I performed this poem for a spoken word evening I had produced for Black History Month.  She made me proud to be a black woman. 

And Still I Rise

You may write me down in history
With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I’ll rise.

Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
‘Cause I walk like I’ve got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.

Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.

Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don’t you take it awful hard
‘Cause I laugh like I’ve got gold mines
Diggin’ in my own back yard.

You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I’ll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I’ve got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?

Out of the huts of history’s shame
I rise
Up from a past that’s rooted in pain
I rise
I’m a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that’s wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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Quiet around here…too quiet

When I got back from Toronto, it was pretty quiet here.  Show business wise.  I went in to pick up a cheque and my agent told me I hadn’t missed anything.  Mmmm.  Then silence the following week.  There were tons of time I would cringe when she called cause it meant I had to rearrange my schedule for a little audition that went nowhere and now I was miserable cause I didn’t hear from her at all.  Life as a stay at home mum resumed.  I was crabby.  Okay, more than crabby.  I think the world glum would apply.  I kept trying to remember that nothing is permanent, things change from moment to moment all the time.  But it was sooo quiet.  I had so enjoyed being so busy doing what I loved and now I couldn’t deny that what I was feeling was more like…being trapped. Bored.  No more visits with old friends, no more subway rides, no sleeping in.  I tell you I was than a bit nervous travelling with a 4 year old, but when you don’t have to cook, clean or do laundry, life is pretty sweet with a 4 year old.  He was up for every adventure and I enjoyed our time at Ripley’s Aquarium.  Not only was I enjoying spending time with people with whom I had shared history with, but I was also away from hubby’s dark mood (about work).  One week’s vacation felt like freedom.

When I was working (even just for those few days), I was out in the world, I could come home and hear about Boo’s day, peek in at him sleeping and even miss him a bit. I was doing something that I was acknowledged as being good at and valued for…. and I was paid for it.  Even being tired cause I was working til  4 am was satisfying in a way.

Why do I feel so guilty about that?  Does it mean I hate being a mother?  Mmm, no, I think it’s the actual stay at home part.  You know, the stay at home things that regular folk manage to do without whinging like cooking, cleaning, wrangling with the kid about what shoes to put on and what food they will eat, and laundry and making meals, etc.  I’ve tried to be all zen about it, but it doesn’t always work.  Last week, I just wanted to go on strike.  I wanted to lay in bed all day and do absolutely NOTHING.  That never happened of course but that doesn’t mean that I wasn’t fervently wishing for it every second of the day.  I felt so low. I even freaked myself out.

And then I got sick yesterday.  Just a cold, but I felt terrible.  We still managed to walk the dog quickly and I took Boo to a playdate.  I had to finally pull him away from all his fun, cause I was feeling worse and by the time we got home, I crashed for an hour.  Boo brought me his blankie and Spiderman and he managed to stay alive til I woke up.  He told me he took a nap,too.  I stayed in bed.  HEAVEN!  It’s a pity I felt so crappy, I would have enjoyed it more.  I should have spent the WHOLE day in bed in retrospect.  Luckily hubby arrived and made dinner, etc.

I wonder if I manifested this cold just so I could take a nap and not be judged for it. As luck would have it, I did end up having a small gig for additional dialogue recording (which lasted all of five minutes) but hey, a paycheque is a paycheque.

A Simple Day Off

The in-laws came over last Thursday before so we could go out for an evening to hubby’s work party.  We went out for drinks and appies then took a cab over to his colleagues and proceeded to drink more and play Wii Dance Party.  That’s an awesome game by the way and I really enjoyed myself.  I won a game!  You can tell his industry has been downsized quite a bit.  We used to have these parties in fancy restaurants or bars but now it was in someone’s home.  Mind you, this was in a beautifully renovated heritage home with food from Whole Foods, but still. I think those days of private dining rooms in swank restaurants are over.  Hubby’s mood in regard to work is quite dark and once again, we’re headed for uncertain waters.  He used to ask me what kind of luxury car I would like and now we’re praying our 13 year old vehicle doesn’t break down.  He’s moved on to creating new paths but I can understand his frustration.  Just when it seemed we were getting ahead, being able to help our families and keep up with the Jones’s, it seems like we’re starting all over again and watching the Jones’s go on their 3rd vacation for the year from our living room window.

It’s vital to me that I concentrate on creating happiness in my heart and my home.  It’s been a struggle, but I’m really paying attention to my Buddhist study and my practice.  Now is the time for wisdom and compassion and perseverance.  Now if I can just get that wicked Gemini side of me that wants to drink wine and sit on a patio and eat french fries to just pay attention.

I did have a wonderful Mother’s Day after all.  I usually feel a little odd about it.  In one sense, I just love any excuse to celebrate and be pampered.  Who doesn’t?  A day I don’t have to cook or do dishes, yippee!    In another, I think about Boo’s birthmother all day.  This year, I did not send flowers.    And then of course, there’s the horrible pissed off feeling that my mum is wheelchair bound in a home with dementia and can’t hang out with me. I usually get a fancy brunch and gift certificates to spas or little treats or something. This year, hubby made me and his mum breakfast and we all enjoyed pancakes with sausage and bacon, strawberries, raspberries and blueberries.  And mimosas!  I got a homemade card from Boo that his daddy helped him make.  And then later, we all went to see Mum.  At first, she was pretty agitated with all the company.  I was trying to get her to talk to my sister via gmail chat and she just couldn’t concentrate on her image and her voice was getting more and more strident.  I had to ask everyone to move out of her line of sight just so I could talk to her without her being distracted.  Then we  took her out and she completely quieted down and we hung out on the patio at Starbucks.  Now it’s downtown and quite busy, motorcycles roaring by, but she wasn’t overwhelmed at all.  Back when we lived downtown and before Boo, hubby and my mum would sit there all the time watching the girls go by.  Nice memories.  She tried to take part in our conversation and she even took part in a balloon toss around the circle with Boo.  It really lifted my heart.

Then after taking her back to the home, we stopped by my friend’s place for chilled rose and cheese & crackers.  I would have liked to stay longer, but you know how older people are, they’ve got to get back to their dog and if you don’t tell them the schedule a week in advance, they get antsy.   (It’s a trait that hubby inherited.  That’s why whenever we do anything together, there has to be an itinerary and if I don’t tell him ahead of time where I need or want to go, it just doesn’t happen. “Who’s going to be there, when does it start, what exactly are we supposed to be doing?”) They need to know when something starts, how long will we be there, etc.  My girlfriend and I can do the let’s get together later and be okay with not knowing a start or end time.  We came home and ordered pizza for dinner and I have to admit, I was sad the day was over.  Boo just had a blast with his grandparents, and it was nice to have another woman in the house to back me up.

50 years old and still infertile…. go figure.

With Resolve’s National Infertility Awareness fresh in my mind (well, it was last week), I want to share something with you.  Though those days of infertility anxiety slapping me in the face every five minutes are long gone, I had a rather uncomfortable moment on an outing with my son.  Instead of going to the local “farm” (really, it’s more of a petting zoo) with his preschool, 2 other moms and I decided to go rogue and go to Science World instead.  We were sitting on a bench while the kids played and talking about house prices and such.  This is what all Vancouverites do by the way.  Hi, I’m Sally, do you rent or own?  We bonded over the fact that we all rented (oooh, dirty secrets) and I laughed and said I had spent so much on adoption fees and infertility treatments that my down payment was gone.  It is something that I actually do find rather amusing cause I was actually saving all that money to buy a home when I got pregnant.  In hindsight, it was probably not a great time to reveal that (one woman knew and had shown great sensitivity and discretion) and then other woman said, “Oh, I wish I had known you before….” and proceeded to tell me about a gem she had given to a friend who was struggling with infertility and bam, she had gotten pregnant and you know, it’s so much about just relaxing.   I actually retreated in my mind to my happy place to prevent myself from reading her the riot act. Oh, god, yes, all I was needed was a fertility stone, that would have done the trick, what the hell was I thinking, oh, please time machine go back so this educated medical professional could give me a magic gem to get me pregnant. Why on earth did I think that fertility treatments, acupuncture, losing weight, drinking Chinese herbal medicine, holding babies, chanting for 21 hours and adopting would get me pregnant!  WHY???   So I mentioned I had fibroids and then there was my age, I’m 50 now, you know.  That always blows them away.   I managed to change the subject quickly.  To adoption, and I moved through that one in record speed.  His birthmother, yes, we’re in touch, oh her story? Not my story to tell.  Next!  The good thing about going out with a couple of moms and their kids is that you rarely have that much time to finish a conversation.  It’s always, does anyone have to go pee, where is so and so, where did he go?  In fact, we all managed to misplace our preschoolers and had to divide up to find them. 

Every now and then I forget who I’m talking to.  You know people who have actually given birth to their own children without any major obstacles. While they may think being constantly nauseous throughout their pregnancy was a big deal, and I’m sure it’s perfectly dreadful, they did manage to squeak out a couple of kids and it’s NOT THE SAME THING.  Women like to trade stories in order to bond, this is what we do, but sometimes even now, I get a little slap in the face that I am and will always be infertile.

Slices of a past life

(I just read my previous post.  Sorry for all the horrendous grammar and typos but I get interrupted a lot and sometimes I just hit publish without checking or editing.) Anyway, a story about that dinner with those academics and theatre people. In attendance was an old colleague, a female director that I had worked with on a theatre for young audiences  show about dating abuse.  She looked about the same, her hair a little grayer, but recognizable.  At the time I did the show, I was 29 years old.  I believe she had children, at least one daughter anyway and she was the first woman I had asked upon noticing her wide mid section, “When are you due?”  She was not pregnant.  In fact she had had her child about 2 or 3 years before.  Gulp.  Yup, I was that person.  I was mortified.  I still remember that awkward expression on her face.   I find it very ironic that  I was standing in front of her, 50 years old with a 4 year old.  And a belly (which has never been pregnant) which could provoke the same question.  I told her that play and all the people I had worked with meant a great deal to me and still impacted me to this day.  I didn’t get a chance to ask about her children, but I guess they are grown now.  I guess, if I had never adopted my son, I would be there on my own talking and gabbing til late with those Phd’d people comparing my accomplishments or lack thereof.  But here I was feeling happy and content with Boo was actually eating fish and conversing with grownups.

On Easter Monday, my old friend Kathy(alias) came all the way from Hamilton to see me.  I have known her since I was 8 years old.  It was incredible seeing her again.  Oh, man, the older I get, the more I get misty-eyed when I think of people.  Good friends are so hard to find and when you are honoured to have one that just knows  you and loves you anyway, well, that’s just incredible. She posted on FB a pic of us on her wedding day, our waistlines so small, you could wrap two hands around them.   I had so much to say and so little time.  I wanted to carve out a space in time where we could drink wine for hours and catch up on each other’s lives, ask those deep questions, explore dreams and confess things.  As if we could recreate a sleepover experience.  Instead we talked about the one kid we both have.  Hers a teenager, mine a preschooler.  She was encouraging, reassuring me I was doing a good job.  Sometimes that’s something a mum doesn’t get to hear nearly often enough.  I do regret not being there for her when she needed a fellow mother to understand what she was going through.  I would not have understood in the way I do now, my life was so utterly different at the time.  But had I known, I told her, I would have jumped on a plane in a heartbeat.  I once thought I’d be one of those auntie friends who would send her daughter postcards from around the world and I’d buy her a lavish gift for her 18th birthday.  I do appreciate her for being the memory keeper of things I have forgotten.  She even kept our locker notes, the little slips of paper we would slip into each other’s lockers to communicate during school (no cell phones, no texts, we were lucky if our parents let us stay on the phone that was anchored to the kitchen wall).  We share pages in the same yearbooks, and we played viola together in the orchestra.  There still in an ongoing debate on who was the better player.  We walked the same streets, rode the same buses, yearned for more than what we saw around us.  I suppose she already knows this, or she will cause I know she’s reading this, but she has a slice of me that no one else has.  And seeing her, made me feel whole.  I can also say “fuck” to her as many times as I wish.

Above, I talked about a theatre tour that truly impacted my life.  That’s because it’s where I met one of my best friends, John (alias). He is truly one of those bodhisattvas in the world, well, a silly one.  Hard to believe, but there was a time in my life where I was a dopey little vixen in the world  getting drunk every chance I got and running the streets with gay boys.  He was my wing man. When he wasn’t disappearing on me at the end of the night.   He was part social worker (which  is what he did for a while), part actor, part parent, part father confessor, part goofball.  If I could hire him to run my life, I would.   I did get to spend a bit of private time with him, and that was awesome.  He’s so encouraging and wickedly funny.  He calls me Zsa Zsa Buddhist.  And he’d make a hell of a baby sitter, cause he has the soul of a kid and within five minutes, Boo and him were running around squealing.  Almost 20 years ago, he sat me down after a delicious lunch and told me had HIV and I thought my dear friend would be dead within a year.  Instead he demonstrates what it was like to live life with optimism and perseverance in the face of chronic illness.  He’s the one I call when I just need to be reminded that I used to be a dopey little vixen running the streets.

I also spend a brief time with an old dear friend, Dee, who recently moved back to Toronto.  Oh, this is going way back.  We used to work at the CN Tower, back when all it had been the glass floor and it went up and down all day.  She basically looks like  Jamaican version of Tina Turner.  She wore the brightest colours, the boldest lipstick on her ecstatically full lips and laughed wholeheartedly.  She was the sister of my friend who passed away from breast cancer 5 years ago.  They kind of adopted me and I hung around with them trying to copy their Jamaican patois.  It was her sister that got me into her old High Park apartment and her workplace.  Dee shopped with me, teaching me about the ripeness of fruit, showed me how to get the best deals.  I marvelled at her curried goat and rice and peas and she always said I made the best scrambled eggs and apple pancakes.  They both tried to teach me about men because I knew nothing about them.  She and I would talk about our imaginary, some day husbands, and going on vacation together.  She came close I believe, but it didn’t work out in the end.  Oh, my, the talks we would have, the stories that were told.  We danced our asses off to reggae at the Big Bamboo club and brought colour and and raucous laughter wherever we went.  A bit like Sex and the City in High Park.  She still looks the same, older of course, no longer wearing her trademark high heels.  I was never sure of her age, but I’m sure she’s in her 60s.  When she stepped off the streetcar, it was all I could do to stem the tears.  Boo sat quietly in the food court with us while we talked about the aftermath of her sister’s death.  Our time together was too short.  She’s still strong, hardworking, resourceful and funny as hell.  I miss the sound of her voice, her patois when talking to her sister.

I’m sure that if I lived back in Toronto, life would be different, we’d all be busy with our lives and I wouldn’t spend as much time with them, but they’d still be there for me.  I miss them all terribly.  They are truly gifts to me.  I left with the feeling that I wanted to know more of their lives, wished I could be there for them.  I think I would be a better friend to them now, I’ve grown up a lot.  Late bloomer.   My friends were more like family to me and seeing them left me energized, refreshed and beloved.