momsun(Why am I naming days?)

8/26/14, Day, 13,993 (Mercena Day 12): Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra

I grew up calling my father’s mother Baba Dodie. The legend goes that this odd nickname comes from my cousin Chris’ attempt to say “grandma” as a young child. We all adored our Baba Dodie, and it is through her that we are linked to the Newton Genealogy that gave us Mercena’s name.

She was born August 26th, 1915, and to honor her birth yesterday, I sang the Irish lullaby popularized by Bing Crosby, Too-Ra-Loo-Ra-Loo-Ra.  Of course, growing up I didn’t know the song was made famous by Bing; I only knew it as the song our Dad sang us (our Mom had a different lullaby as the lead in her repertoire).

I don’t remember whether or not Baba Dodie sang that song to him as a child, or whether or not I just made that up because of the lyrics (which, I’m pleased to learn, have a unique Schulenburg variant).

So, to remember Baba Dodie on her 99th birthday, I made sure to sing that song to Mercena on her 12th day, and whether her great-grandmother’s spirit was there or not, she had a much more peaceful day and night yesterday.

We also had a great visit from Amanda Feldman and her beautiful five-month old baby Maggie.

Perhaps most importantly, we’ve developed a technique that has soothed her from a serious crying jag the last three times we’ve attempted it! So, for the moment, no more inscrutable wails…

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 128 out of 162 days (Untitled Space Play)
Spanish: 119 out of 162 days
Music: 31 out of 67 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

  • Ate and cooked local, organic, vegetarian food, and used cloth diapers for Mercena;
  • Asked the Dept of the Interior to reverse their decision on seismic blasting for Atlantic drilling;
  • While I’m not opposed to GMOs on principle (I like science, after all), I do believe in GMO-transparency and so I’ve signed a petition for honesty in GMO labeling;
  • Asked Dr. Margaret Chan to speak out against so-called “gay cures” in China.

dia(Why am I naming days?)

8/25/14, Day, 13,992 (Mercena Day 11): That Inscrutable Wail

I love the word inscrutable.

It is a central word to two plays of mine, Other Bodies and Encryption.  

It may be this love of the word inscrutable is a manifestation of the pretension I am sometimes teased about by certain friends. However, if pretension is the price for loving this word inscrutable, I’m happy to ante up.

The Internet tells me it comes from Middle English, from the Late Latin inscrutabilis, from Latin in- +scrutari, “to search,” and was first used in the 15th century.

(As you might guess from the title, this is all going somewhere Mercena-related, and you can probably guess where.)

I love that its root is in the word for “to search.” Unlike its synonym unknowable, it offers the promise that it could be known, like a magician who might reveal her trick if caught off guard with drinks at the bar.

It is the word mysterious given consciousness, the word enigmatic given legs, the word inexplicable given hunger. It might be ineffable but you can’t F-ing help yourself, you have to say it, you have to search, to chase the glowing wisp of a word through whatever dark forest it takes you. Inscrutable.

Now, Mercena’s wailing last night from 1 to 2am without much of a break is probably not truly inscrutable. Even when we tried everything multiple times in multiple places in multiple ways to soothe her and failed; still, after a tighter swaddle and rocking her next to the white noise of the AC, we did manage to help her fall asleep. Whether or not she had a reason, whether or not that last trick had anything to do with her stopping, we don’t know, but that’s not quite inscrutable, is it?

Maybe not. But when you’re as tired as we are today, things take on a certain ragged grandeur…

It was otherwise a good day. We had a lovely visit from our doula, Dia (pictured above), and we continue to recommend her (learn more here).

We had another walk, this time with Mercena in the Ergo with me, and other than checking her once per minute (maybe more) to make sure her sweet little airways were unblocked, it was a fun excursion.

And we had a warm visit from Stephanie Willing and Matthew Trumbull, with dinner by Stephanie and drinks out on the terrace, with a blissfully sleeping Mercena lap-hopping between our guests.

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 127 out of 161 days (Untitled Space Play)
Spanish: 118 out of 161 days
Music: 30 out of 66 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

  • Ate and cooked local, organic, vegetarian food, and used cloth diapers for Mercena;
  • Asked Tanzania’s president to vote in favor of whale protections at the upcoming International Whaling Commission meeting;
  • In support of Women’s Equality Day, I signed a petition to raise the minimum wage and ensure paid medical and family leave;
  • Asked the judicial mediators working on Detroit’s bankruptcy settlement to move forward the Water Affordability Plan;
  • Signed my support for carbon pollution standards for existing power plants.



sunflower girl

(Why am I naming days?)

8/24/14, Day, 13,991 (Mercena Day 10): Mercena’s First Walk; or, #StrollerFail

Well, it’s not technically her first walk outside–that was to the pediatrician–but it was her first walk just for walking’s sake.  Look how well it’s going! Well…it didn’t exactly start that way. We give you the shocking footage from #StrollerFail 2014 (not for the faint of heart):

stroller fail

Graphic, I know.

We gave up on the stroller, or as Mercena likes to call it, The Roly-Poly Torture Device of Hate and Screaming, and went with good ol’ reliable Ergo carrier, which got us through the unnervingly-pretty stretch of Forest Hills where it feels as though you’ve fallen through a wormhole into the Platonic Essence of Suburbia.

It was a great day, with lots of awake engagement time in the morning, long stretches of naps where Mom and Dad got stuff done (including writing), and the most restful night of sleep yet.

It was also the wedding day of Cotton and Jason, which we very much wished we could have attended. We are sending them so much love and light, and I know they’ll have a beautiful future together.

Finally, it was the closing performance of Faust, and there was a moving text chain that this baby-locked playwright greatly appreciated where the cast and creative team said goodbye to our strange creation. Thank you so much to everyone who made it out to the Brick. I have some good news about some upcoming productions of plays outside of NYC, but nothing ready to share yet…

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 126 out of 160 days
Spanish: 117 out of 160 days
Music: 29 out of 65 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)



(Photo above by Zack Robidas.) (Why am I naming days?)

8/23/14, Day, 13,990 (Mercena Day 9): Mercena’s Due Date (and Welcome Home, Raven)

Yup, this was the day that Mercena was scheduled to arrive on the scene, but clearly she had other ideas. We knew that the due date was always just an idea, but of course, I’d planned my life around it, and still have a lot of loose ends at TCG that need to be tied up during my paternity leave.  They tell you that first-time Moms (or primagravidas, as the fancy name goes) usually deliver after their due dates, but not so for us…

Today is also the day Raven, our friends Nell and Chris’ daughter, finally arrived home after coming very early at 28 weeks. We’ve been tracking brave little Raven’s journey on Facebook, and marveling at the courage of these two parents as they navigated the ups and downs of a premature birth and the hospital system. We’re so happy their family is now living under the same roof!

Yesterday also marked the second straight day of busy visits, beginning with our friends (and newlyweds) Shira and Ramon:


The Nana and Opa (grandparents on the Schulenburg side) arrived, with another visit from Aunt Marnie and Uncle Zack. There were so many great moments, including my Mom holding her first grandaughter while wearing a jade necklace that was her mother’s; of trading birth stories and first month stories; of my Dad playing the harmonica and catching Mercena’s brief but devoted attention with the sound.

Then we headed out to the terrace for some cribbage time (photo credit Zack Robidas):


After everyone left at 8pm-ish, Heather and I collapsed asleep, but lo, it could not be. We had our second night in a row of a very awake, very fussy Mercena; and we’re grateful that we’ll have a break from visits today so that we can steal a few more moments to catch up on sleep.

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 125 out of 159 days
Spanish: 116 out of 159 days
Music: 28 out of 64 days

I’m still having a hard time clearing the mental space to write, but hopefully today…

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

(Why am I naming days?)

8/22/14, Day, 13,989 (Mercena Day 8): Mercena’s First Week

It’s hard to believe it’s only/already been a week. Was there really ever a time this strange and beautiful creature wasn’t the center of our lives? And like any anniversary celebration, there was drama and excitement a-plenty.

We began by staging this silliness:

Duckie One Week

If only we had enough small rubber ducks to really represent her whole journey over the coming weeks…oh right (#WillLowry).

After a morning with Mommom, Mercena got to meet many of her Schulenburg Aunts and Uncles: Allan and Sarah, Zack and a returning Aunt Marnie.


Uncle Allan had some serious bonding time.


Uncle Zack not only had some good bonding time, but very nearly successfully initiated a game of “Bible-opoly,” a game we received as a gag after Jacob’s House and never played. Maybe next visit!

She slept through almost the entire visit, allowing us to play a game of hilariously-exhausted cribbage and regale our captive audience with our birth story. Then after a brief but excited awake time, she had became over-stimulated and had a rather spectacular meltdown.


Then, with everyone gone, we had some peaceful times before a spectacular midnight vomit freaked us all out. Thankfully, she fed again and seemed completely recovered.

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 125 out of 158 days
Spanish: 115 out of 158 days
Music: 28 out of 63 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)

(Why am I naming days?)

8/21/14, Day, 13,988 (Mercena Day 7): …and I still can’t stand and we’re all laughing…

We take a break from your regularly scheduled baby blogging for the following message:

This day is so named because our devised adaptation of Goethe’s Faust opened last night, and thanks to Heather and Sandra watching over Mercena, I was able to see it. Though it was strange to leave the house, I am so glad I did.

There is much I could write about the excellent work of the entire Faust team, but Mercena may wake from her nap at any moment so I will only say this: I always knew something was missing from the end of the play, one more shoe or two that needed to drop. When Mercena came nine days early, I assumed I’d missed my chance to figure it out in rehearsal.

So imagine my joy in seeing the play last night to discover that this wonderful ensemble had found the exact moment–the only choice–that could make the play feel truly complete. That it was the ensemble that discovered this moment made it all the sweeter, as this Faust is in part about the collective genius (and dysfunction) of ensembles (juxtaposed against the solitary genius of the play-within-the-play, Doctor Faust).

I can’t say more for fear of spoilers, except to say if you do see it, the naming of this day may give you a clue as to what I mean.


“Her attitude to her verse was artisan-like: if she couldn’t get a table out of the material, she was quite happy to get a chair, or even a toy. The end product for her was not so much a successful poem, as something that had temporarily exhausted her ingenuity.” – Ted Hughes, Prologue to The Collected Poems of Sylvia Plath 

One final thought about the play, inspired by the quote above. Last night, I was fearful the audience would be empty except for Marielle the director and me. Instead, there were a number of dear friends present, some that loved the work, others that seemed indifferent, and of course others somewhere in between.

One of the hardest things for me as an artist is to accept that not everything I write will be a “table”; in fact, it seems I write very few tables in comparison to many artists I admire who write irresistibly sturdy plays. Sometimes I get lucky and write a table play, but more often than not, the material leads me to write a blender, or a beanbag, or a butterfly.

There is the pain that comes from feeling that you have failed your vision through a lack of discipline or craft; then there is the pain that comes from fulfilling your vision only to realize you’re writing chairs in an age of tables.

Last night watching Faust, I recognized both kinds of pain and just let them go. Maybe it’s the perspective of being a new dad (or just the exhaustion), but it felt like recognizing Plath’s truth that the play had indeed “temporarily exhausted [my] ingenuity” but that it had sparked the ingenuity in my collaborators in unexpected, exciting ways.

So thank you again to my Faust team for a wonderful process and production.

And now back to your regularly scheduled baby blogging…

With only a few minutes left in the day, and after having been interrupted many times in trying to complete this blog post, all I will say is that our nemesis, the Decaying Umbilical Cord Remnant, at last gave up the briny ghost, and Mercena has a liberated belly button!

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 125 out of 157 days
Spanish: 114 out of 157 days
Music: 27 out of 62 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)


(Why am I naming days?)

8/20/14, Day, 13,987 (Mercena Day 6): Mercena, Day Six; or, Just the Three of Us

Now, do not for one second think that this means you shouldn’t come and visit us: please do. And we’ve been exceedingly grateful for the visits and support thus far.

But yesterday we had a beautiful day with just the three of us and nowhere to go. The sad thing is, there probably won’t be too many of these days in our lives, because of work, of Flux, of our lives as artists, and our general inclination as Homo New Yorkus to always be in motion, a searching that is especially keen in Mercena’s parents and so will likely be keen for her, too.

But yesterday was as peaceful and lovely as a day with a newborn can be. We’ve begun to found a rhythm that works, and her intervals of sleep are getting longer. I even had enough time to write!

Some memories to keep from the day:

  • Our morning time together in the bed where she lies between us as we work on our computers (and where I’m writing this now);
  • Her first extended time on our little terrace, all bundled up against the cool breeze;
  • Cooking Heather these juevos rancheros:

magic food

  • Becoming a father has stoked my inner chef, and awakened an inner house cleaner I didn’t know existed within me;
  • Even though the house is probably cleaner than it’s ever been since we moved in, you might not notice that among all the new gadgets. Babies, as it turns out, require many gadgets. Yesterday, we installed the cloth diaper spray that allows you to get the worst of the poop off the diapers, and took the moby for a test drive;
  • Reading to her in Spanish (look at how interested she is in learning another language!):

spanish reading dad

Technique never stands still: it only advances or retreats…

Writing: 125 out of 156 days
Spanish: 113 out of 156 days
Music: 26 out of 61 days

What small things did I do yesterday to help build the Honeycomb?
(And what does it mean to “Help build the honeycomb?”)



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