All the feelings…

A group of old and new friends is slowly working through a powerful book by Resmaa Menakem, My Grandmother’s Hands: Racialized Trauma and the Pathway to Mending Our Hearts and Bodies. During our discussion Tuesday night, I recognized how much training for white body supremacy was incorporated into containing and controlling my I-have-big-feelings-ness as a kid and how much I want to break the hold of that in my adult existence.

That work for me this week included collaborating with friends who raise and care for growing humans to see what feelings their kids need help normalizing and expressing. The result is this “If you’re happy/grumpy/sad/scared/lonely/wild/sleepy/bored/silly and you know it” video. I had a lot of fun playacting all those feelings, but the most important part for me comes at the end. Sometimes, I have to sit quietly and breathe long enough for my feelings to reveal themselves. I believe that’s necessary for us to do as adults, especially as we work to break down big systems outside the walls of our homes and inside the walls of our own bodies. I also think it’s vital to allow our kids the same space.

We have so many big feelings. How do you feel today? Are you happy? Grumpy? Sad? Stop, breathe, and let the feeling bubble up and tell you its name.

If you’re happy and you know it, shout hooray
If you’re grumpy and you know it, make some noise
If you’re sad and you know it, cry boo hoo
If you’re scared and you know it, hide your face
If you’re lonely and you know it, reach out
If you’re wild and you know it, drum real fast
If you’re sleepy and you know it, give a yawn
If you’re bored and you know it, great big sigh
If you’re silly and you know it, dance about

If you don’t know how you feel, stop and breathe I
f you don’t know how you feel, stop and breathe
If you don’t know how you feel, and you really want to know it
If you don’t know how you feel, stop and breathe

If you or your kids stumble over naming emotions, the Children’s Involvement Team of Sheffield, UK has provided a helpful feelings chart: http://www.sheffkids.co.uk/adultssite. I used it last year as a prop for Karaoke Visiting Hour and now it hangs in the space where I do online storytime.

Breathe, friends. ♥️

Animated Discussions

I’ve been known to fall down a youtube rabbit hole from time to time. My latest bunny trail began with a repeated viewing of Matthew A. Cherry’s HAIR LOVE, an adaptation of his picture book of the same name. Love, love, LOVE.

Oscar-nominated Animated Short Film HAIR LOVE

In addition to this Oscar-nominated short (fingers crossed for a win!), my providential e-spiral included MOM – A MOTHER, MISSING HOME (tears), THE PRESENT (tears), DESTINY (sighs), and ALIKE.

ALIKE, 2016 Goya Award-winning short film by Daniel Martínez Lara and Rafa Cano Méndez (update: 23 APR 2020 – no longer available on YouTube)…I feel as if I should show it to people instead of trying to explain why I’m taking my sweet time with There’s an Easy-Bake Oven Where My Heart Should Be. It’s about the same business, just in a different medium. Regardless of our age, we all need freedom of imagination and creativity in order to thrive. I know that I depend on the wonder of children to restore my ability to move through the world with awe and kindness. How do we keep our tiny folks from losing their own access?

Give HAIR LOVE a watch, won’t you? I’d love to talk to folks about it.

Big feet and trash can to fill

In honour of Carroll Spinney, I present to you two of my favourite storytime socks.

Image of Big Bird and Oscar the Grouch socks

The cuffs of the socks read as follows:

Big Bird: I like big books.

Oscar: Go away! I’m reading!

Big Bird modeled wonder, astonishment, gentleness, and curiosity for me. Oscar taught me it’s okay to express my emotions, whatever they might be. No surprise then, that these two marvelous beings still sing at me and inform my work four decades later. My favourite picture of Carroll Spinney shows him performing Oscar while wearing Big Bird’s legs. Proof that these disparate creatures can (and often did) inhabit the same body.

I love this tribute to Carroll Spinney from Judy Gold. We are not alone, dear friends.

Easy-Bake Draft 1 – Durham, NC

27 JULY 2018

Danielle Chelles, Emily Hill, Jessica Flemming and I were joined by 23 audience members for the first draft of There’s An Easy-Bake Oven Where My Heart Should Be. We presented 30 minutes of material exploring how and why children play (playing at being adults, learning to jump rope, self-soothing), why they stop (shame, grief), and Emily threw a whopper of a tantrum that makes me grin whenever I think about it.  I took feedback on construction paper while everyone partook of childhood snacks (goldfish crackers, string cheese, fruit snacks, and juice pouches).  I’m so thankful to those 3 and those 23, and to fellow Summer Sisters Cheryl Chamblee and Sharon Eisner who contributed writing and Rachel Klem who helped shape the group scenes. I’m really proud of what we developed in such a short amount of time! Some of the material will go back to the drawing board, other things will be lovingly scrapped in favor of Ontario-based stories, and some bits were really magical and you’ll have to pry them from my easy-bake heart with tweezers before they leave the piece.

I am notorious for being too present in the moment and not taking enough photographs. Draft 1 was no exception. I have video for review purposes, but completely spaced grabbing a pic with my amazing artists! Please enjoy this freeze-frame…

Easy-Bake Draft 1 - Durham, NC
From the section “Skipping” in Draft 1: Jessica Flemming, Amber Wood, Danielle Chelles, Emily Hill

Now that I’m back in Ontario, next comes unpacking the emotional parts from which the piece derives its name. I received my 1978 Easy-Bake Oven while I was still in NC and to say I was underwhelmed would be an understatement. So light, so small, so insubstantial. Not at all the thing I remember from my childhood. A to-scale-with-adult-sized-Amber papier-mâché recreation may be in order.

And it should talk. 

XOXO from NC

04 – 07 JULY

Charlotte, NC with my college roommate and her family!  I got some real sleep and introduced a wee one to some books and watched her she started to really walk. Did you know that Mister Rogers Neighborhood is available on PBS Kids? This episode about the death of a goldfish led to a scene about sadness I’m working on for the easybakeheart project.  ❤

08 JULY

Goodyear Arts is an incredible multi-artist space that is a dream of both I want to go to there AND if you build it they will come (and I want to build that) proportions. I caught up with Matt Cosper and Kadey Ballard of XOXO to talk a bit about process and training before observing a generative workshop (Matt, Kadey, Jon Prichard and Will Rudolph). It was deeply good and normalizing to be among folks who approach collaborative art-making in a similar way.  If you are even remotely Charlotte-adjacent, go check out a workshop performance of the deeply cool All Our Little Innocence (the children’s crusade) on August 25 at Goodyear Arts. You can find more information on their website or by liking them on Facebook or following their Instagram.  (Can you tell I like them a lot?)

While you’re at Goodyear Arts for the workshop performance, please check out Holly Keogh’s First Day. She’s a massive oil on panel and quite possibly the spirit guide for the easybakeheart project. I’m in love with her and with Holly’s body of work.

09 – 12 JULY

Fayetteville, NC with Naaman and our family: lots of reading time with my newly 7-year-old niece and starting book 2 of our co-authored series. (For interested parties, book 2 is about a monkey and a butterfly who run a race; both characters have small parts in book 1).  I’m still drooling over the scrumptious meal we siblings ate at Chef & the Farmer.

Durham, NC: Last night, Naaman and I bid adieu to the marvelous Nancy Hanks (moving to WI today), and then ate dinner and talked children’s books with Lauren Rachel Greenspan and Will Flowers.

AND NOW IT BEGINS IN EARNEST

I’m now bunked down in Elisabeth Lewis Corley and Joseph Megel’s amazing house in Pittsboro, NC. My companion for the day is Touchstone, a charming cat who, in Elisabeth’s words, “has her yes and no about people.” I believe Touchstone is currently  leaning towards “meh.”

I submitted a site-specific theatre festival proposal this morning (non-easybake) and have been working on some materials in advance of a working dinner tonight for easybakeheart. Emily Hill and I begin generative workshops in earnest tomorrow afternoon! Barring major hurdles, we’ll have something to show in a workshop performance here in Durham, NC on July 27.

Today’s inspiration: We are Built to be Kind