Two Trains Running

Leavealilroomforgrace is a blog about my quest to navigate my marriage, motherhood, and career with grace. By a stroke of Grace, I was selected to be one of the four bloggers for the August Wilson Celebration at the Goodman Theatre. I am so elated to chronicle this journey with you as I travel through the decades of the Black experience  by way of August’s ten-play cycle. We will provide personal reflections on the women of August Wilson.

Often times women are relegated to being the backbone of society. They are banished to the background to bear the weight of the burden. This holds true in August Wilson’s 1960’s based play, Two Trains Running.

Nambi E. Kelley’s Risa is the very spine of the piece.  Though her demeanor is stiff and protective at times, her movement is lucid. Her gait deserves its own soundtrack. Risa is no-nonsense and she literally takes matters into her own hands to make it clear that she is no one’s sexual object. She is tough enough to withstand the lewd passes, barked orders, and  frequent demands of the men she’s surrounded by daily and yet compassionate enough to handle the less fortunate with white glove service.  Many knock at the door to gain entry into Risa’s heart, but only one man succeeds…Hambone( the incomparable Ernest Perry, Jr.) The relationship between Hambone and Risa is the real love story. Hambone may be mentally handicapped, but he has more sense than most. Risa handles Hambone with humility and grace.   The very man who does not objectify her is the one who truly has her heart. Though there is the more “traditional” love line between Sterling ( played suavely by Chester Gregory), it is clear that Risa’s true love is Hambone.


Ernest Perry, Jr. as Hambone and Nambi E. Kelley as Risa photo credit: Liz Lauren

 

The thing about the backbone is that it’s complicated. It has so many components that contribute to the strength and flexibility of the body. It is vital for the whole unit. Well, sounds a bit like a woman to me, at least this woman.

Please look for more posts chronicling the celebration from these ladies:

Sydney Chatman 

Loy Webb

Danielle Pinnock

Grief Pi: Part I

3.14.14

I talked to her that morning as I got ready for my walk to work. She sounded a bit out of it. Last night was rough for her. She’d always had a high tolerance for pain, but this was just too much.  They gave her morphine. It was hard to believe I was talking to her, she just sounded so different. She told me to call her back in a few minutes. As I walked to work, I decided I would call her that evening… I wanted her to get her strength back and recover from a grueling night. I figured I’d let her rest…

I went about my work day portraying a depressed patient in the basement of a medical school for med students. Lunch time arrived and I went upstairs to catch some air and some cell phone reception. I called my husband for small talk. He said he would meet me at the coffeehouse on campus, get a little work done and then we could walk home together. I thought that was sweet and I looked forward to our walk home together. He asked me if I had spoken to my mom or anyone else and I told him I hadn’t. I knew something was wrong. I thought maybe they had to rush her to the emergency room to get her pain under control again…I was not prepared.

I don’t remember his exact words, but the message was simply, Granny passed this morning. All I remember screaming is “What happened? I just talked to her. How did this happen?” I had just finalized our shirt order on the phone the previous night. The shirts would have been a surprise to her. I was five months pregnant and Granny and I were going to do the big reveal with personalized shirts via facebook. I was hysterical. I remember someone passing me in the stairwell and giving me a strange look. Perhaps she thought I was being dramatic, that whatever it was that caused me to weep so loudly could not have been that bad. It was. I had lost one of the dear loves of my life. Babe assured me that he would see me soon and I somehow managed to dry my tears and put on a brave face to return back to work.

I pretended as if everything was ok and then when I felt my tears would betray me I rushed to the bathroom and laid on the floor and wept some more. I gathered myself again. I wanted to tell my boss, but she could be cut and dry. I needed some comfort and compassion, I couldn’t guarantee that I could find it there. A small voice told me to go speak to her anyway. Compassion is what I found. She empathized with me and told me I was in no condition to continue working. She told me she was there to talk if I needed to or I could just sit and she wouldn’t bother me. She arranged for me to be off for the rest of the day. I headed out the door to meet my husband on the long walk home…without her in the land of the living…to be continued

great-great granny

No Room for Grace : Friendship

Adolescence is full of change for all of us. It’s a time of raging hormones, awkward growth, and great confusion! If you didn’t have a best friend by your side to navigate all of the chaos, you are lucky to have made it out alive. I had that best friend. We not only attended the same school during the day, but we were in theatre classes during the evening. We were thick as thieves and full of mischief. She dared me to kiss my first boy ( a simple peck, but frightening nonetheless) , was the only person to ever spend the night at my Granny’s, and the keeper of all of my secrets. She was he-larry-us! Some people have a gift for certain colorful words like they can almost make them sound musical. She had that gift.  And then, I changed…

I was invited to an Easter play by some friends. At the end of the performance, I decided to  accept Christ as my Savior. Few times in my life have I ever felt so sure about something, this was one of those times. Being a new Christian, I had to let go of some things, i.e., my sailor friend. The example of Christianity in my age bracket was to me, perfection. I wanted to have it all together too, so I wrote a letter.. to break up with my best friend. She was heartbroken, but I stood my ground. Being perfect Christian, there was no room for the old me and that old friend.

We went our separate ways, to separate schools and separate lives. I was so silly to let go of a friendship over a little mischief.  I missed her laughter. It wasn’t until years later that I wrote a letter to apologize. I had not left any room for grace. She accepted my apology, chalked it up to adolescence and we moved forward.  She is still hilarious! She’s a wife, mother, and brilliant teacher. She’s able to balance it all with a lil lotta grace!

It can be easy to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Sometimes we write the character out of our story for a simple character flaw. If we eliminate all of the characters with flaws in our stories, we eliminate ourselves and that’s not a story anyone wants to read.

We eventually reunited and were able to share in the joy of each other’s wedding day. I’m so grateful that she leftalilroomforgrace…for me.

candadewed0063
He-larry-us joke from her on my wedding day!

What about you? Have you ever gotten rid of something or someone because of a simple “flaw”? Please share below!

Before and After : Second Best Day of my Life

So, I briefly searched quotes to coincide with this post, but it seems like second best understandably isn’t the most desired position. For me, however, being second best was one of the best days of my life!

I was sitting in the waiting area of a local chain when I got the phone call of a lifetime.
“Candice, I need you to re-submit your information, ***** can’t do the fellowship!”

I was a high school theatre teacher at the time and I had applied for a fellowship called Teaching Shakespeare through Performance. This program was fully funded by the English Speaking Union .The chosen honoree would get to spend 3 weeks learning how to teach Shakespeare at the World -Renowned Globe Theatre in London. This was an opportunity of a lifetime. I had applied for the past two years with no success.  At that point , I was pretty close to the end of my rope. I was doubting myself as a teacher ;wondering if I even had the resources necessary to continue teaching a subject where I was still very much a novice.

I’m one of those people that hopes until the last minute. It ain’t over til it’s really over. Even if it’s stinking dead, I hold on to the fact that it can just maaaaybe be resurrected.

resurrection
When I received a ‘no’ the previous year, I didn’t let go until the plane had landed, in London…without me. I know, I should have let go sooner.

The second rejection was equally as devastating, but I let it go.  I just thought it wasn’t in the cards for me and so I moved on with life as usual. I was disappointed, but what more could I do.

Trust me, I’m still learning the lesson of giving my best and then letting it go.  I’m still very much an actor and sometimes it can be one rejection after another. When you invest so much into something , you want your efforts to be rewarded with success. This isn’t just true for auditions, it’s the same for interviews, relationships and anything in life you feel like you’ve worked so hard for.

Inhale with me and on the exhale, let it all out and then fahgetaboutit, let it go! Nothing may come of it ever or…it just might be the second best day of your life.

globe up
After performing on the Globe stage!

everyone globe
The group of awesome teachers TSTP 2011!

Have you ever been turned down for something initially to be rewarded with it later? Please share below!

The Inheritance of my Mother

I don‘t understand what to do…how to be a mother   You either love too much or don‘t love enough. Don‘t seem like there‘s no middle ground.  Tonya, King Hedley II

I was gifted with a great mother. I believe she somehow found that middle ground.  I don’t take it for granted that such an amazing  woman gave birth to me. She has always been there to support my talents, cultivate my spirit, and anticipate my needs. She’s also the one who upon gifting me my first journal shared the quote ” A life worth living is worth recording”, and so I write.

My mother has these blazingly bright eyes, a perfectly round bottom , and effortless intelligence that God did not see fit to gift me.  I did , however, inherit her smile, her heart for giving, ( though I can never out give her) and her thighs! As a matter of fact, these thighs are generational from my great-grandma Marie.

I didn’t just inherit her thighs, though. I also inherited her disdain for them . I don’t remember her ever saying she hated her thighs , but I know they were always a “problem point” . Of course, I didn’t care much for my thighs either. I someone managed to inherit the exact amount of disdain for my own. I had to buy pants for my thighs and not my waist. I couldn’t run too fast for fear that they would clap back.

Eventually, I came around to loving them or at least kinda liking them.

As daughters , we inherit oh so much from our mothers. It can be something as simple as a love for bleu cheese dressing  ( I do love it ) or a certain store that she would never support. It can also be deeper ,like a fear of having a successful marriage or disgust for a certain body part.  Growing up, I watched her as “mommy”, but as I matured she revealed the woman behind the mommy . She shared some of her greatest triumphs, fears and some of her missteps ,praying I wouldn’t repeat them. She gave explanations for why she was so fiercely protective.  She shared the things she had inherited from my grandma. My prayer is that the inheritance we leave is enough to sustain the next generation, but also that it may…leavealilroomforgrace

mommy
I
sn’t she lovely?

mom and I
E
ssence Fest roadies!

So what about you? What did you inherit from your mom? Leave a comment below.

Wayback Wednesday : Woman First

Growing up , the local radio station had a Wayback Wednesday where they played music from yesteryear. I hope to do at least one Wayback Wednesday post a month. This one isn’t too “wayback”, but you catch my drift…

In 2009, I had the pleasure of attending my 2nd annual Essence Festival! If you have never been, you MUST put it on your bucket list. There’s music, entertainment, food, and New Orleans! You simply cannot go wrong! While I was there I got to see Kindred the Family Soul perform live. They are gracious onstage and off.  I had always been a fan of them, but seeing them live simply made my love for them blossom. They are Fatin Dantzler and Aja” legs of a goddess” Graydon, a husband/wife duo that sing about love, life, and everything in between. What’s even better is that they live what they sing. They gave us a peek inside their everyday lives with their webseries, ” Six is It”.  “Far Away”,“Stars”, ” Weather the Storm” , and  “My Time” are some of my absolute favorites.

They performed several songs from their album, In this Life Together ,one of them being “Woman First ” . They brought a beautiful , glowing pregnant woman up to the stage and serenaded her in all of her splendor. It was a glorious site to see and hear. The writing captures so much about womanhood, but especially motherhood.

“Cuz when you’re a daughter, a sister, a wife,
and a mother
And everybody needs you more than the other
It’s so very easy to loose you
When there’s so many other things to do”

In the chaos of taking care of the others, may you be reminded that  , ” You’re a woman, first” .

Life Lessons via Blackberry

Happy New Year ( is February too late to say that?) ! I hope this New Year continues to go well for you. It’s the beginning of the year so I hope you’re still fresh with great expectations.I pray that those expectations last until December 31st, and not just two weeks from now ( preaching to myself mostly) . The end of my year wasn’t anything too fancy. I did a quick toast surrounded by the ones I love in the coziness of my sauna, steam room, overheated  apartment. The strangest thing happened on the eve of the New Year. I got locked out of my Blackberry! Yes, I am still team #blackberry, don’t judge.

I used the same password to unlock my blackberry as I always do. 

                       newjcmeme

I matched the little number up with the picture, once. The next thing I know the screen informed me I’d  made 5/10 attempts at putting in the wrong password. Wait a minute, what?

                            blackbberry

I continued to put in the password I KNEW ( without a shadow of a doubt) was correct and nothing changed. I started searching  Blackberry forums for answers . Some said hook it up to the computer and then put in your password, put in the letter equivalent to your password, throw some holy water on it, turn around three times do the bankhead bounce  and then put in the PW…NONE of these options worked 😐 I contacted my carrier and they basically said everything would be swiped off my phone including my old password so at least I could start over…wait a minute , what?

Keep in mind I could not make any phone calls, texts, or emails from my phone for about a week.  If I happened to catch a call coming in I could answer it , but other than that  NADA!

At 8/10 attempts  and a now red screen, I decided you know what, maybe I was supposed to leave some things behind in 2014 . I got REAL spiritual. GOD locked my phone so I could be #delivert in 2015. I was prepared to lose everything. At least I had my pictures on my SD card, anything else , I was ready to leave behind. I put in my password the 9th time, nothing. The 10th time I put in the same password, closed my eyes expecting to lose all my recipes, what’s app convos and prized memes … and then my phone UNLOCKED!

                                    hallelujah

Sometimes you exhaust all possibilities and lose it all, but sometimes giving it your very last may be the key that  UNLOCKS your dreams!

Have you ever risked losing everything only for it to pay off in the in?

P.S. That Blackberry has gone on to glory in the past week. It survived being run over by a truck and numerous drops, but that last one did her in. R.I.P. Q

Somebody Almost Walked Off with All of my Stuff

 Somebody almost walked off with all of my stuff…

Honest to God! Somebody almost ran with all of my stuff…

Somebody almost ran off with all of my stuff

And I was standing there looking at myself the whole time…

                                                                                       Ntozake Shange
                                                                                        For colored girls..

To say that I’m functioning on less sleep is an understatement. Now that I’m a new mother, I feel like the synapses in my brain are not quite firing right, you know like Luther’s curl neeever quite curled right…but I digress. It’s easy for me to have a thought that quickly leaves for a vacation in the land of no return. This day was no different, and yet it was…

I was headed to do a gig. A gig that didn’t sit right with me. It wasn’t bad, just not for me. I had felt uncomfortable about the stereotypical nature of the gig upon my first reading of it, but I pushed all thoughts of arguing this case aside and decided it was just a gig, and it would be great for a few extra dollars to pay off debt, put in the tank, or any list of things that I needed money to accomplish. The problem is that every time I talked about this gig, I would talk about how much I was uncomfortable with it.  I proceeded to show up for work anyway, because I had a commitment. That was the day it all went down.

I arrived at the gig , parked my car and walked to the building. I saw a friend of mine and obnoxiously yelled her name as a large group of people walked by me. We checked in and went to start our gig. After I completed the job and headed out, I looked for my wallet, it was a bright colored so it was hard to miss. I didn’t see it in the room with the rest of my stuff so I thought that maybe I left it in the car….and then I got the call from the bank. Nope, it wasn’t in the car, it was slowly making it’s rounds , my debit card was being used like a 2 dollar floozy. ughhhhh

I don’t know when it happened. Did it fall out of my pocket when I got out of the car, did I drop it on my walk to work or did someone swipe it while my focus was elsewhere?

I was reminded of that episode of Sex and the City where Carrie found her “Carrie” necklace and in essence found herself again.

carrie paris

I was on the opposite end of the spectrum. Losing/having my wallet stolen was just a physical manifestation of what was internally going on with me, I had lost myself. Tryna make a dollar outta 85 cents, I started chasing the money and stopped chasing my dreams. I’m an artist mammit, and I got some things to create! The good news is I can get “me” back. Yes, I can get a new id or debit card, but I can also return to those things that are the essence of me, i.e. the writing, ,the acting, listening to that still voice again and the folly of life.

I’m going back to the old way of things anyway, carrying important things close to the heart. Things might get lost in there, but at least I know where to find ’em.

Oh yeah, that job I was so committed to wasn’t so committed to me.

So how about you, have you ever felt like you lost yourself? What did you do to get back to you?

Humanizing Our Heroes

As we celebrate MLK Day today, many will post his speeches, quotes, and interviews. Others will honor King by spending the granted time off with family field trips to the museum or to serve in the community. There is no denying the magnitude of a man that King was, the legacy that he still is ,and yet I find freedom in not only his greatness, but in his failures.

selma shot

I expected great things from Ava Duvernay’s SELMA ,and I received that and more from the film. I would be negligent if I didn’t mention the beauty of the shots, the attention to detail, and the necessary recognition of the women of the movement. Yet, what resonated with me most were the flaws of this great man. Not since Katori Hall’s Mountaintop had I seen such a grand job done of rounding King out with depth. Yes, he was a brilliant man, and yet like us all he had some fears, some doubts, some vices. The movie did not focus on these vices; it simply brought them to the surface. The thing about King ,as it is with all of us, is that we are not the sum of our mistakes or flaws. Our misfires and missteps are part of the process. We pray to overcome them, but even if we do not, I pray that like King, our worst days and character flaws are not what we are remembered by.  I pray that we are remembered by the changes we made for others no matter how small. A smile or a kind word can be just enough to change the course of another’s life.

Humanizing our heroes doesn’t hold us back, it propels us forward. The exposure of their imperfections allows us to relate to their humanity and reason, “I, too, can change the world.”  So today, as we honor a great man and a great movement, let us not forget the huManity of it all. A man of great vision, great insight and great wisdom was a man of great mistakes (some known and unknown) and it was enough to change the world! May we put one foot in front of the other and march forward into our destinies, our purposes, our calls and then…leavealilroomforgrace.

selma