New Chapters

(Why am I naming days?)
08/19/15, Day 14,350 (Mercena Day 369): Chapter Four of After Earth Complete

Yesterday was particularly satisfying because two important projects very dear to my heart passed important milestones. I completed the fourth chapter of my sci-fi novel After Earth on the subway in the morning, and in the afternoon, received the green light for the launch of a TCG project I’ve been working on for almost two years. A great deal of work remains on both counts, but my life is all about the long game now; chipping away at these big dreams one day at a time. One setback, one adaptation, one little victory at a time. More on both these things soon.

08/18/15, Day 14,349 (Mercena Day 368): Liminal at the Fringe

This day was mostly defined by intense preparation for a presentation related to the TCG project above, but I also had the delightful opportunity to see my friend Amelia Parenteau’s production of her play Liminal at the Fringe. She had a great actress in the lead role, and the scenes with a chorus of NYC women undermining her protagonist’s claims for a single story were a particular joy. It was a 9:30pm show, and a late ride home, but I was grateful to reconnect with the Fringe, and witness Amelia’s work brought to vivid life. It is a searching, aesthetically restless, and socially-curious play that explores what connections are possible across our barriers of privilege, and how healing after trauma happens in a city of strangers. Bravo!



(Photo by Sarah Schulenburg.)

(Why am I naming days?)
08/16/15, Day 14,347 (Mercena Day 366): The Day After One; or, Cousin Robert is the Coolest

A quick two-day update: the Sunday after Mercena’s first birthday was our chance to spend some extended time with Cousin Robert, Aunt Sarah, and Uncle Allan. Robert may be going through his Terrible Threes, where the default is No first and Think later, but to Mercena, he is a wondrous creature that instantly becomes the most exciting thing in the the room. She may be more interested in playing with him than the reverse, but her definition of playing with him can simply involve proximity, so she had plenty of satisfying parallel play. The highlight of the cousin party was a bath where Robert shared his turtles with a rapturous Mercena–we were worried she wouldn’t be able to sleep from all the excitement (she did).

This last day of family also involved more Catan (victory for me), Cribbage (crushing defeat at the hands of my brother), and local corn for dinner out on the terrace. It was great to have time to really talk with Sarah and Allan, who have proceeded us on this parental journey by several years, and who offer weary wisdom about the challenges (and joys) to come.

We also had a great time at Yellowstone Park, where Mercena took her usual delight in being soaked by sprinklers as larger kids dash all around:

Park Fun

08/17/15, Day 14,348 (Mercena Day 367): Zero Inbox TCG

It’s somewhat embarrassing to admit the delight I took in reaching Zero Inbox at TCG, but it’s been so long–eight or nine years?–since I had zero emails in my inbox at the end of the day that it really does deserve the eponymous honors.

Now, that doesn’t mean I’m actually caught up with work at TCG; oh, what an amazing feeling that would be! But it does mean that I can actually think about what projects I want to focus on, rather than batting the email endlessly back over the net.

Speaking of net, I worked more on prep for the gathering, and had a ridiculous impromptu Flux meeting that involved the full arsenal of G-Hang silliness (and we got some work done on planning the fall fundraiser). Then it was cleaning the house, eating dinner, catching up with Heather and suddenly, it’s midnight and I’m exhausted. After finally feeling better after a few days under the weather, I didn’t push it; I went to sleep at a semi-reasonable hour, and had uneasy dreams about Mercena crawling out of our car and getting lost on the beach…there is no escape from worrying about these lovely crituras, not even in sleep…

1st Birthday(Why am I naming days?)
08/15/15, Day 14,346 (Mercena Day 365): Mercena’s 1st Birthday Party

If I try to capture all of the emotion and memories caught up in Mercena’s first year, I’ll wipe out before I ever get started. Let me ride a smaller wave: a few memories of her birthday itself:

  • Waking up still sick with a sore throat, and worrying about getting through such a big day with so many people;
  • As Mercena nursed in the bed, remembering her first day of life, how she was born over the birthing stool and was lifted up into our arms bawling and bigger than I could’ve imagined, enormous (but really so small), and how we first fell asleep together as a family in our own bed, thanks to the courage and preparation of Heather and the support of our midwife and doula for our home birth (and the scare of the placenta that wouldn’t come out until it most painfully did), and how my gratitude for that home birth grows (and how difficult it will be to ever leave this co-op of so many memories);
  • How on days like this, every present thing carries some memory of the past in parenthesis (even typing this now, I remember those first journal entries and how I felt like I needed to capture every little thing, and regret ever day I’ve missed);
  • Standing with Mercena on the terrace for our morning gratitude ritual and thanking the world not just for the day, but for the year;
  • Rising to find our helper Sandra “MomMom” asleep on the couch as I made the coffee (and how we can never stop using the French Press, even if we fix our old automatic brew, since now Mercena has rituals involving the preparation);
  • How she napped beautifully and let us complete our intense schedule of cleaning (which has now of course fallen into disarray post-party);
  • How my weary and sick self was distracted (by memories, of course) while cooking beans for a taco lunch and I burned my hand to the point of scarring on a pan’s handle;
  • How useless I felt soaking my hand as Allan, Sarah, Nana, and Robert arrived to help us with the rest of the party prep;
  • How ridiculous I looked holding my singed hand in the only position that felt comfortable, a weird elevated claw (and how gleefully my family made fun of it);
  • How at least the burn distracted me from the ache of my cold;
  • Mercena’s arms and legs flapping with delight upon seeing her cousin Robert;
  • How no one makes Mercena laugh as often or with as much delight as her Nana (and how this adds another room in the house of love we have for our own parents–the way they bring delight to our children);
  • The guests arriving, the thrill of seeing who’d made it, the sadness of those who couldn’t, and the regret of the folks we should’ve invited but just didn’t know how the day would go, and how the stress we had feared would be so much less than the love we felt (and then wanted to share with more friends);
  • Holding Mercena’s cake with my hand in a claw to avoid it touching my burns, and her silent wonder at the display of all the people singing for her, and the candles on the cake burning;
  • All the antics of our friends and family–Zach’s juggling song, Isaiah hiding in a blue bag, Amanda’s daughter Maggie scooting around on Mercena’s Radio Flyer (and climbing, oh my goodness, how soon will Mercena be climbing like that?), Ken playing the guitar, Emily carefully preventing Mercena’s attempts to slam her face into her new music table (she eventually succeeded), all the thoughtful gifts people gave;
  • And especially the moving gift of an email address for Mercena that features emails from all the Friends of Flux to be opened on her 18th birthday…I have no words for all these beautiful words (but thank you Shaun, Kia, and everyone);
  • All the pizza! And it was good! But so filling! I am now made of pizza!
  • How deftly we had to weave the bedtime schedules of Robert and Mercena (but we made them work);
  • The speedy clean-up, aided by my hand healing faster than expected (though I do have a cool scar);
  • The game of Settlers of Catan (Cities and Knights, of course) that ended at a reasonable hour, with a triumphantly tied Heather and Zach taking the victory, but everyone in good spirits in spite of our competitive natures; and
  • At last, falling into a deep sleep, full and tipsy and burnt and aching and grateful and happy.

There’s so much more to say about the day, about the year, about our daughter; but it’s another day already, and there’s still a lot of party to clean up.

High Five


(Why am I naming days?)
08/11/15, Day 14,342 (Mercena Day 361): High Five

Yes, my daughter is officially in love with high fives. And cruising. And this weird hitch crawl that involves walking on one leg while crawling with the other three limbs. And bumping her head on things. And eating orzo. And covering her body with orzo that resists your efforts to wash it off. And baths. And playgrounds. And other kids. And especially other kids at playgrounds.

She is a happy baby, even when she’s a little under the weather, as she was today, and even when she doesn’t nap well, as today she didn’t. She packed plenty of feels into this last day of our impromptu staycation, and while I look forward to work, there’s really nothing like time at home (even though it’s just as hard as all the articles say).

This rainy day was spent cleaning, cooking, and going for walks once the duul cleared (#Jane), picking up CSA veggies and organizing closets, and putting Mercena to bed solo, as Heather had an event. And once again, staying up late, inspired to work…

Oh, I want to tell you so much about this extraordinarily ordinary day! How the hunt for a hard drive nearly undid our household in a frenzy of, “well, since we’re doing that, we might as well also do…”; how Mercena rests her head on my shoulder as I sing her lullaby; how we have become jewel thieves in our efforts to be quiet as she sleeps; how many times you do the dishes when you have a baby (and more than one? I can’t imagine); how exciting it is to see the #SpeakUp scripts come in; how thrilled I am that Ravi from New Sanctuary will be coming as Flux’s community partner to the Network of Ensemble Theaters Gathering in Maine; how I think I figured out a way forward for a Flux impasse (but am willing to return to the drawing board); how the streetlights look right now through the trees; how how how, and on and on.

But it’s really late, and I should sleep. I think I’ll sleep well, and I hope you do, too.

Mercena Jumparoo

(Why am I naming days?)
08/10/15, Day 14,341 (Mercena Day 360): The Launch of #SpeakUp

You may think you’re in the cruise business, but if your ship catches fire, everyone on board becomes a firefighter.

Over the past few weeks, this little saying has been gnawing at my brain, as it comes the closest to explaining the renewed urgency I wrote about yesterday, and not just about racial justice, but about every fire we face on Spaceship Earth: gender inequality, climate change, fundamentalist violence, and on and on. I now believe that all of us, and all of our communities and organizations, must be firefighters, regardless of how we defined ourselves before. We must be theatre-makers (and doctors and lawyers and teachers and musicians) for racial healing, for climate justice, for disability advocacy, for immigrant rights, for whichever fires burn closest to us, knowing they are all one blaze.

We need all hands on deck, for there are many ways to fight fires, and I believe that we theatre-makers must carry our bucket of water along with everyone else. That’s one reason why I’m so excited to be one of the contributors to #SpeakUp: The Street Harassment Plays, which  Flux launched yesterday, and which you can read more about here.

I remain so grateful that catalyst Shaun Fauntleroy thought Flux would be the right home for her exciting project. This is the community of collaborative creators of which I’m proud to be a part.

In addition to the launch of #SpeakUp yesterday, I worked on planning for NET’s next board meeting, and had lots of joyful playtime with Mercena. And because this has been a very serious post, it seems only right to end on a gratuitously cute slow-motion video of Mercena in a jumperaroo:

Mercena Slow-Mo Jumping in her Jumparoo from August Schulenburg on Vimeo.

(Why am I naming days?)
08/09/15, Day 14,340 (Mercena Day 359): The Anniversary of Michael Brown’s Death

Yesterday was a beautiful day. I spent the morning with my family, then travelled into the city to host Flux Sunday, then walked through a bustling and sun-drenched Washington Square Park on my way back home to Mercena’s bedtime. After she slept, I worked late again, planning for NET’s next board meeting, and working on Flux’s Breathe Free, #SpeakUp (more on that soon), and FluxForward.

Yet the beauty of the day had an unsettling and painful doubleness, for this was also the anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, and the launch of the Ferguson Moment, #BlackLivesMatter, and the heightened awareness of the black lives lost to state-sanctioned violence Every 28 Hours. It’s impossible now for me to un-see how every good thing in my life is inextricably linked to systems of oppression and exclusion; and so this doubleness of love and anger, of gratitude and grief, infuses each day and especially this anniversary.

Each day that doubleness becomes a little more difficult to endure, and I wonder how my loved ones who have lived with this awareness all their lives, who have had this awareness forced upon them as a matter of survival, continue to move through the world with such grace and hope. And as the pain of this doubleness grows, so too does my urgency to do more, to weave racial justice into every aspect of my life and work. I’ve come to believe that anything less than a total commitment to racial justice will result in the perpetuation of violence. Ignorance is no excuse, indifference is not an option, and the disruption of oppression must be personal and systemic, lifelong and every day.  The sickness is at the root, and so that is where our cure must take hold.

I’ve shared these feelings less frequently here and on social media out of fear that doing so was a release or escape valve when I needed the steam of that pain to drive the engine of action. Also, I fear how social media so often leads me to gestures of action and the performance of ally-ship, rather than the thing itself. I worry how my whiteness, even with my very best intentions, can warp the conversation to be about the preservation of its own centrality rather than the end of its privilege.

But it’s been a year since his death, and for all the inspiring progress made in that time, it’s nowhere enough. It’s life and death, every day. So I’ll do my best to talk about it here, every day, and trust that conversation, even online, is its own form of action. If nothing else, this blog is one of the best ways I’ve found to hold myself accountable.

So on this anniversary of Michael Brown’s death, I recommit myself here to the daily work of racial justice, and to bring that work to very root of who I am, to the very foundation of the places I call home, in the great hope of seeing the beloved community brought to pass in my lifetime.


(Why am I naming days?)
08/08/15, Day 14,339 (Mercena Day 358): The Painted Ponies Go Up and Down

Blame Joni Mitchell, but there’s nothing quite like helping your daughter take her first carousel ride to put you in a time-drunk mood. Yesterday, the three of us went to Forest Park to ride the historic carousel and watch the Zabo the Clown show. We weren’t sure if she was too little to ride, but the supervisor assured us that if we held her tight, she should be fine.

So there I was, hands tightly clutching my daughter as Heather rode to the side of us, taking what pictures she could. The carousel was carved in 1903 and retains that beautiful, old-timey, haunting feel, undermined somewhat by the contemporary music selection. But as Mercena began to wiggle with impatience, I was definitely doubting our decision to bring her on the ride.

Then the carousel began its smooth spin and rise, and I was swept up in the magic as her fussing stopped, and she gazed in wonder as the world turned around her. It was one of those out-of-time moments that is over in a second, but in that second, is the only thing that ever happened.

The child train ride we took before that, on the other hand, was both underwhelming and unnerving, careening around a tiny circuit with a mechanical mewling sound that made you think the track was made of kittens. Mercena was rightfully underwhelmed.

Zabo the Clown, however, was a much bigger success, due as much to the mosh pit of excited toddlers as to the act. Mercena loves being around other kids, so this was her kind of party, and we had to keep her from grabbing all the other children in her sociable delight.

Her action-packed day kicked off with a long overdue brunch with old friends and fellow Fo-Hi residents Cotton and Jason. It was great to see them and catch up, and especially so because Mercena was in such great spirits. There was one particular sequence where she had all four of us giving her hi-fives in order that had her laughing and screeching with rapture.

Fathers and daughters were also a theme of Holden, a play created by Anisa George for the Ice Factory, and featuring her dad and our old friend, Bill George, as JD Salinger. The play lived in the dark psychic space of the privileged violence of the young white male shooters plaguing our country, tracing their lineage back to Cather in the Rye and its mythic relationship to the wounded male ego and the killers who adopted the book as their own. It reaches into the trauma of Salinger’s wartime service, and seeks hope in the bonds of family. Beyond the joy of seeing Bill act (and split wood like a bad-ass) and celebrating Anisa’s growth as an artist, it was also helpful to see a play operating in a similar aesthetic space as Kevin R. Free’s FluxForward play, Anatomical Lewis. Purgatory plays are difficult to make work, but when they work, have a truly theatrical power (since the trapped space of a theatre is itself a kind of purgatory).

Coming home, I worked late on a surge of Flux and NET stuff, weary but inspired by a day of theatre and family. A staycation can be rejuvenating, even if it’s not restful…