Parts Unknown

Ode to Old Tom Joad, my son


All alone
In parts unknown
Smoke billows from the fire
I lay my head
The ground my bed
Rock pillows and quilted briar

Look for me
I’m hard to see
Nothing but a ghost
I’m all around
Spirit unbound
On my way to heaven almost

One more thing
My last hymn to sing
“I’ll fly away…” from here
Don’t forget
I have no regret
Remember and I’ll be near

Too strong to kill
Tougher than will
You cannot snuff this fire
Noble and fierce
My heart will pierce
The darkness that makes Devil a liar


I love you, my boy. You’re my blood.

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Most People

I hear all the time–“Most people are good.” There’s even a country song about it.
Most People Are Good

I don’t believe this. Most people aren’t good. Most people are selfish. Hurtful. Say the wrong thing. Do the wrong thing. THINK the wrong thing. Cut each other off in traffic. Scream at their kids. Act impatiently. Demand perfection, yet fall short in every single way a human can because…simply because we are not Jesus H. Christ. (the H stands for Herbert, betcha didn’t know that)

Most people are spiritually bankrupt. In fact, all people. In fact, me. I have no currency to enter heaven or even behave in a Godly way. Because I’m human. But thank God that he left us his Holy Spirit. To inhabit our lives so that we may be those good people we tell everyone we are.

I believe that most people wouldn’t murder someone. I believe most people wouldn’t steal. I believe that most people wouldn’t set a bag of poo on fire on their neighbor’s porch. If that’s what you mean by good. But come on. THAT’s the bare minimum. That doesn’t make you a good person.

Most people are people. Meaning–most people are human. All people are human. Except Mark Zuckerberg and Nicolas Cage.

An old woman came up to me last night, after the show, and poked my belly. She said, “That’s not you.” I don’t know what she meant, but I assured her THAT was all me.

I’ve lost so much weight. I have mucho excess skin. It still looks like I carry quite a few extra pounds. My legs are saggy. I basically have a saggy meat apron where my stomach should go. I don’t mind. I feel great. But to have someone poke your belly? Well, that’s just downright mean.

People have been saying all kinds of mean things to me lately. I try not to let it bother me. But this is exactly why, for years, I insulated myself with food. Extra fat. Isolated from community. Refused to love other people because I didn’t want to be hurt over and over. Protected my vulnerability and extra sensitivity. Avoided confrontation because I was ill-equipped to deal with people’s ignorance and arrogance. Unable to say completely what I wanted for fear of never stopping.

Where does some old woman get off poking me in the belly? Most people are dicks. But I don’t have to be. The only way I can be saved. The only way I can claim goodness. To accept the Holy Spirit each and every day and cling to his providence of fruits. Then my vine shall blossom.


God fill me with your holiness. The Spirit of your Son. So that I may love this depraved world. Let me complete your work. That is my purpose. That is my strength. That is my whole reason for living. For your sake. For our collective sake. Amen.

Ma

I open tonight in Grapes of Wrath. I’m nervous, excited and filled with emotion. All the things you should feel right before a debut. Except. I miss my mommy.

I chose to move to Florida. I chose to risk everything and make a new life, here in paradise. But I left behind a few things to come this far. Not possessions or a home. Friends. Most of all, my mother.

We had a beautiful day before we left. It was Mother’s Day 2017. We went to her hometown and drove around for the day. It was really special. Had lunch in a small cafe. The whole day was relaxed, yet compelling. Exciting and at the same time, comfortable. Familiar.

Perfect day for pictures. Sunny, cool and countrified. I snapped a pic of my mom and daughter at the restaurant in a very comfortable moment.

belarussian two lillies
Love those smiles. My two Lillis.

I put my own mother’s picture, the picture above in black and white, in my memory box on stage. That’s the one that gets me.

I have a box of pictures and a pair of earrings. I take the earrings and leave the pictures to burn. There’s no room on the journey for papers and keepsakes. I have to summon emotion to hold back tears to leave this precious box. So the one picture that always gets me? The one of my mother and daughter.

I ask myself, when I see the long, lonely road, “Will I travel this way again?”

I ask myself, when I look at her childhood home back in Missouri, “Will I see this place again?”

I ask myself, when I look at her picture, “Will I see you again?”

And I don’t have to do anything but that.

It’s a real concern, when you stray far from home, will I see these faces? Will I return to these places?

I’m homesick. Terribly so. But honestly. I feel like I’ve found a home at theatre again.

Whenever I have been lonely. In need of care. In need of laughter. Tears. Emotion. Connection. I have found that home on stage.

It’s bizarre. I know. Most people would chalk acting up to the pinnacle of emotional cutting. It is. But I have connected with people in audiences from all walks of life.

I met a downright Marlboro Man from western Nebraska who shared his tragic life story with me after I shared my story with him on stage. He waited at the end of the receiving line after the performance of my original play Fat. He waited to be last in line, hung back, so that when everyone had left, this chiseled-and-hewn rail of a man could cry in my arms. That would have never happened without theatre.

The breeze was blowing over my legs last night as I sat on my front porch. I was relaxed and happy at the work we put in yesterday to prepare for opening night. I’ve felt the same feeling before.

Sitting outside my community college, just starting back to school in 2009, waiting for my husband to pick me up. Late at night. I looked up at the trees. The wind was swirling through the shuddering leaves. The night was cool. I was happy with my effort. And I just felt God’s overwhelming presence as I sat and meditated. It brought a smile to my face and warmness to my heart. I didn’t know where God or my feet would take me, but I had hope for what was to come. I was right to have hope.

Whenever I feel those same cool breezes, I know God is with me. I just wish my mommy was, too. Love you, Mom. This isn’t for me or for you, I’m telling this story to share God’s grace and mercy for those who have hard times and continue to rise up and labor for goodness. For simple souls who need a voice.


Thank you, God. For such an amazing opportunity to share this story. Thank you for reminding me–God is with us. Even when our loved ones are not.

Girl Bye

You think I’m quiet
Powerless and weak
There is technically a difference
Between shy and meek

Meek is power
Under control
I choose to be this way
Restraint is my goal

Don’t mistake my silence
As consent to your little show
I’m also choosing to love you
Having patience before I go

And go I will.

Smoke a Turd in Purgatory

My friend always says, as a punishment for d-bag behavior, “That guy will have to smoke a turd in purgatory.” LOL

I just love those words together. It’s poetic in sound and justice.


a great reminder for me to be patient, from 2016:

i DMV’d it.

there was a guy who i should have tackled and hog-tied for cutting in line, but i restrained myself and prayed to the baby Jesus. he was the d-baggiest. but i believe in Karma. he’s going to the front of the line…in hell. mwahaha! JK

actually, if he’s in that big of a hurry, he can have it. i’m supposed to be where i’m supposed to be whenever i’m supposed to be there for whomever i’m supposed to be there for. i have purpose and i’m in no hurry.

i accept waiting. i embrace opportunities to be patient. and i just try to quiet my mind when i feel overwhelmed. (i did this yesterday and it helped!)

ur welcome, DMV-er. i didn’t call you out when i had every right to. u shall spend purgatory waiting in line behind an old lady with a change purse the size of ur ego. may God have mercy on ur soul. and may the turd you smoke while waiting in Satan’s nether regions be full-flavored.


Happy Easter! LOL

Throwing it out there

In Grapes of Wrath, I have a scene where I sit around the fire in the first act. I’m getting rid of some things I don’t want to pack on the truck. There isn’t room for my washtub, so there isn’t room for sentimentality or mementos. I’m supposed to have a small box, probably an old cigar box or something, with papers inside and a pair of earrings.

I take the earrings, but I trash the rest. Throw it on the fire.

I made myself some papers to look at this morning. Stuff to burn. Stuff that has emotion in it. Stuff to stuff in that box. I can’t be sentimental about fake pictures, so I put my own pictures in a small box.

It’s hard for Ma to toss out the scraps of her life. This is the first time she’s confronted with leaving everything behind. I remember leaving everything behind 4 years ago.

Up until 4 years ago, I had to let go of very little. My mom stored some small stuff for me, but I had been carting around all my belongings, accumulating more and more stuff every place I went after I got married.

We took much, but we left much, 4 years ago.

4 years ago, I had a house. 4 years ago, I had medical debt. 4 years ago, I had cancer and didn’t know it. 4 years ago, I had hope that by leaving everything I had built, by walking away from crippling debt, I would know peace. At the very least.

I was right.

4 years ago, we had a small house in Kansas City. We were trying to make payments on the house, trying to fix ‘er up, trying to remodel and repair an aging older home. Gas was $4 a gallon. I was so sick, I couldn’t hold down a job. I was mentally and physically ill.

I had heart failure, undiagnosed thyroid cancer, failing gallbladder and out-of-control obesity. Of course I couldn’t work. I also had undiagnosed complex PTSD. Some days, I remember, it’s a miracle I’m still here. That I didn’t kill myself with food or by some other means.

I’m here.

When we realized that we would never pay off my medical debt, that we were sinking in a hole of a house, we quit paying on the house and filed bankruptcy. It was the hardest thing to walk away from debt and our house. I felt like a failure. A worthless piece of shit who deserved to go to jail for failing at adulthood.

I just thank God that our country offers a second chance. That you don’t go to prison for being irresponsible financially. (If that were true, our president would be in jail. LOL) Even Walt Disney claimed bankruptcy. KC represent! (He’s a KC boy, originally.)

There was so much pain. Guilt. Shame. But, at the end, relief. I could sleep again at night.

Bankruptcy is one of those things you never want to go through twice. For me anyway. I never want to go through the hassle or terror again. Stay out of debt. If you can. If your organs don’t fail. Also, keep insurance! (America’s medical safety net should not be bankruptcy.)

When we filed bankruptcy, we planned to move before they made us move. We started furiously working toward the goal of downsizing our entire house. I had a basement and a garage full of shit. Hand-me-downs. Arts and crafts. Tables. Chairs. Bookcases. Books. Thrift store finds. Theatre costumes. Bullshit. I had to start letting go of all those projects I told myself I’d do. I even had a friggin’ old, dusty upright piano. What was I thinking?

What I really wanted to do was start a house fire. Burn it to the ground. Emerge from the smoking hull. Start completely over. But I’m not a law breaker. So, we worked. For hours. With one vision in mind. Think of how nice it will be when this is all over. We will be free of these things. We won’t be slaves to objects. And we wanted to move to an apartment with a pool! Having a pool goal is a good motivator.

Plus, we had a huge garage sale. Sold a bunch on Craigslist. Made some fat stacks of cash. That was also a good motivator. I became quite a Craigslist savant. Never murdered! Woot!

One of the last days at our house, we had a bonfire. We had some folks over and had some food. We sat in our backyard to use it for the last time with friends. Something we rarely did and said we always wanted to do. It was a fun day. We bought hay bales for seats. We made burgers and dogs. We made a huge fire pit out of a decorative well. We cut the top of the well off (the roof and bucket) and used the brick oval base to make a fire pit. Done.

Threw old lumber, sticks and as many pieces of wood we could find (we had alot of scrap wood for some reason, we were hoarders, I guess) on the fire and lit the whole thing at once. Whoosh! It was a fireball. It was pretty cool.

We had just mowed the day before for company and the yard was full of dried grass clippings. We had an acre of land and plenty of dried grass. The kids at the party went around picking up the dried grass and throwing it on the fire. They had a blast. And the yard looked pretty nice, too. New party game. LOL

It was nice to use the yard finally. To enjoy the day. But it was far too late. Made me want to stay. But we would have never had the party if we weren’t going away. Such is life. Things are the sweetest, love is fiercest, when the end is near. Just enjoy it. Just do it before it’s too late.

When I do the scene as Ma, I’ve been around that fire before. I’ve left behind some precious things to come to where I am. But they are just things. I saved the best or most important parts from the fire. OR

Everything gets burnt. But the best things come out of the fire still intact. Refined. Like me.

When I think as Ma

Photo credit: Sean Priest


Any scene that I do lately, when I’m playing Ma Joad, I think of the long line of strong women in my family before me.

The way I stand. The way I stare. The way I clench my jaw in contemplation. Tired, somewhat relaxed, but chewing on tomorrow.

These two women saw the 20th century in color.

gmas
Both of my grandmothers at my mother’s wedding in 1954.

They saw the blood. And the babies. And the dust.
They saw the first car in their town.
The first TV.
The first washing machine.
They watched tears roll down their children’s faces.
Wiped those tears.
Watched rivers rise and fall.
Husbands come and go.

I think of them as I play Ma. How they would hold themselves? Carry themselves? Present themselves to the world? What did they have to do for their families during the Depression?

I know that deep down, they were both scared for their families, wanted the best for their kids. Loved God. Wanted all the things good people want for their descendants. And they just went on. Did what they needed. Hoped they made the right decisions. Cried their own tears.

They are Ma.
I am Ma.
All women are Ma.

I can only imagine

i imagine what it will be like when i stand before God. finally to be with him, just to be near him. that he will know all my sins and still love me.

he already does.

that he will judge me and rightly so. i will be held accountable, all will be fair, all will be balanced. all will be wiped away with one stroke if we simply bow.

what will it be like to be embraced by our father?

one by one, he will reach out for us and we will collapse in his arms. won’t that be heaven? to be known. completely. to be cherished.

we already are.