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25 Apr

run to the lake

sleeping bags nest next to the spangled underpass walls

I should really buy some special shoes

next to the Jewel the sidewalk says “everything is made new”

pass under a tree turned out and I hear a steady voice

a dot-scoll-sign reads behind my eyes

“you’re blossoming”


At the time, I was feeling pretty high on life and possibilities.  I was about to jump off some cliffs – nothing major in the big picture, but I made some moves toward things I’m interested in.  I reached for some things I’ve never reached for before.    I was hopeful, and that feeling always gives life a special shine.

So next, a thing that hasn’t happened for a long time happened – my luck came in.  I felt so happy –bursting , even.   I felt a little proud of myself.  Not big-deal stuff, but new stuff.  Challenging stuff.  Exciting stuff.

Now here I am.  Lucky, but not totally prepared.  I have to show up and learn how to do some things that, as it turns out, are hard for me.   There are new people who don’t seem to appreciate my special brand of awkwardness and quietness – my trying too hard (and I still don’t understand how that’s even a thing).

I liked the flower part.  All by myself with a brand-new idea.  I liked the liminal space – the hopeful shine as I ran for the third day in a row.  But I ran under that tree yesterday – in the new shoes I got, – now a couple weeks in and still running – and the flowers were gone.  Now it’s just gnarly little buds trying to make fruit, I guess.  I can’t really tell.   And they just keep being kind-of ugly, and small, and the same.  The gnarly nubs are just relentlessly there – being – doing something – becoming – but not in a satisfying growth-chart sort of way.  They just keep showing up.  Not even showing up because they never leave.  They’re just there.  God.  This is taking forever.

What’s that called again?  Oh right, spring.  I forget what spring feels like every time.


It’s (almost the) Weekend Update! With Liz Joynt Sandberg!

13 Apr

Dream on, lady.

So anyway, here’s what’s been keeping me from posting around here lately:

I went on my first improvisation audition!  It was, in a word, terrifying.  Now, you need to keep in mind that I have absolutely no training whatsoever in comedy improvisation.  I’m in the writing program at Second City, and have never taken a performance class.  Ever.  I do a fair amount of performing and improvising for my art shenanigans, but I very rarely talk during these doings.  Improv comedy is mostly talking (says the lady who doesn’t really know what improv comedy is).  What possessed me?  It’s hard to say.  But I stared at an audition posted by a member of a company I swoon for (Improvised Shakespeare at iO – thou should dost get thee there at thy earliest convenience – thank me later)  for weeks and finally decided “screw it, I’m going to find out what this is all about.”  I applied, they said “uh, ok we guess…” And you know what?  It was pretty fun!  Or at least it was after I stopped feeling like I needed to explode diarrhea, and throw up and re-apply chapstick and change my outfit and get a new face.  I think the secret to succeeding in this endeavor is that I am completely fearless about looking dumb.  I’m a 6-foot-tall dancer, you know?  I spend a lot of my time looking ridiculous.  I didn’t get that job, but…

I DID get cast in a Second City Training Center show!  What the?!  Riding the high of my fearlessness, when I got an email about an audition for a show my writing teacher is directing I said “heck yes!  I’ll sign up for this!  Another chance to learn!”  A pal took some new headshots for me on the weekend, I printed ’em out along with what I will optimistically call a James-Franco-esque resume, and off I went, to goof around in a room full of other aspiring goofs.  We introduced ourselves, did some improvised two-person scenes (inspired by a one-word directive – mine was “dragon!”), read a script, did some more improvisation, and sang a little ditty of our choice (I sang the intro to Someone to Watch Over Me.  I may be an idiot, but I am classy, goddamnit!).  What I really want to know is if the kid who sang Wu-tang Clan was also cast. The next day, I was waiting for a redline train downtown with Ida after seeing a friend dance at the library.  There was a man singing Gershwin standards so loud and beautiful I thought my heart would explode when I heard snatches of a voicemail:  “offer… part… our show… you… great… yes… call me back.”   I felt like a million bucks.  I know it’s not really a big deal, but it’s kind-of huge to me.  The show runs for 5 weeks in one of the small theaters at The Second City in June and July.  My mom is so proud.

What else… keeping a 2-and-a-half year old alive.  Which, if you’ve never had the pleasure, is no fucking joke.  Ida is at turns delightful and kind, and at other times does things like (true story) comes into the kitchen while I’m cooking at the stove, punches me in the butthole as hard as she can and exclaims “POW!  There’s a hole right there” and runs away.   She’s got several imaginary friends (e-ah and grandfather – whose grandfather is still unclear), and a job at a store called Be-Toe that sells lollipops and meatballs and has, from what I can gather, limited hours.  She has developed an alter-ego, “Rope-ie” who is to blame for any misbehavior.  He/she looks exactly like Ida, so you can understand our confusion at times.  She was given a baby Rapunzel complete with flowing hair and a very frilly dress for her 2nd birthday and she has since named him/her (fluctuating) Frank.  I love that kid.  She makes me nuts.

In the mix has also been  some dance performing, some shows I helped curate around town, some other fun adventures with Ida, and many evenings starting into the fridge and thinking “why is there never stuff to make dinner?”

file under “didn’t make the fridge”

12 Jan

Oh the shame of wanting so badly to be good at something and being so…. badly at it.  See?  See what I mean?

As I’m sure you know (since, let’s face it, you’re here and are tracking the minutiae of my life in this season for whatever reason), I’m a student in the writing program at The Second City.  Big whup, right?  Right.  I completely agree – as I have made clear previously, I have no delusions of grandeur.  Oh, er, in case The Secret is reading, I’M AWESOME!  I CAN DO IT!  I’M VISUALIZING SO MUCH SWEET STUFF!  I’M WEARING GOLD UNDERPANTS  (unfortunately yes, that is the first idea my brain generated from the prompt “life of luxury and success.”  I think we’re finding some clues here, guys).  So, with that out of the way, do you want to see what I made at my first class?  I thought so.

I’m not sure how proprietary the teaching techniques are in this course, so I’m not going to go into detail about how our instructor got us to this point.  But know that it was AWESOME.  It kind-of blew my mind.  Based on week 1 alone, I recommend that if you have some disposable income/a sugar-daddy, you should definitely take a class.  Anyway, I’m sure I can share that using two different but similar writing exercises, we created two characters and then took 5 minutes to write a 6 line dialogue between the two of them.

This is what I wrote:

Celia:  I guess more than anything, I just don’t understand why you care so much about me saying “thank you” every time the server refreshes my water.

Shannon:  Celia, it’s because I’m trying very hard to help you become a more palatable person.

Celia:  You’re saying “palatable” to me, at La Senorita.

Shannon:  Honey, if you say “thank you” at La Senorita, I promise I won’t say another goddamn word.

Celia:  Nice, mom.

Shannon:  Celia, please.  Just do this for me and stop being so awful.

Good?  Nope.  Something I’m proud of?  Not especially (other than that I did, in fact, sit there and write it despite the fact that I could feel it sucking as it happened).  But I’m starting something.  I’m learning.  And goddamnit, I’m going to get better.  I’ve been trying to write dialogue all week during snatches of free time and let me tell you, it’s hard, yo!  Another way to say that is “I’m bad at it!” but I’m trying hard to be optimistic and positive – suppressing all of my instincts is another new years resolution that I’m half-heartedly working on.

I also engaged in this dialogue today with Jack, an internet troll who likes to terrorize my friend’s (very excellent) blog.  As loyal readers may recall, Jack and I go way back.  My pal is a badass journalist, and an all-around swell human being, so I feel a sense of duty to try and irritate Jack, since he’s such a prolific dick.  I usually have a rule against meanness in my writing/jokes (I like how this implies that I write enough to necessitate policies), but Jack provides a justified exception. Again, probably not my finest work, but you know what?  They can’t all be winners.  Or productive.

If you want, any of y’all that are in Chicago (or have road-trip fever) can come see me dance to a text that I wrote that I actually do think is kind-of a winner here.


3 Jan

And now, without further delay (since I have already been a few days late in sharing this breaking news) I present my 2012 New Years Resolution in two parts:

1.  Become ever more obnoxious

2.  Find new ways to communicate these developments

You might be thinking “Wow.  These are lofty goals!  Liz is already so obnoxious!  And with an ample (if poorly spelled) vocabulary!  And a blog for sporadic communication to tens of readers!  What could she possibly do to satisfy not just one, but BOTH of these ambitions?”

Well, dear readers, prepare for a truly elegant solution:  I have recently matriculated as a student in (so far) good standing at The Second City!  I have a shiny new notebook, and a Pilot V-ball pen and I’m already planning my back to school outfit.  Okay, well, no.  That’s not totally true.  But “notebook” and “good pen” are listed along with tampons, batteries, and a candy thermometer on a list entitled “Go to Target Today, You Lazy Jerk.”  These items are, in case you were wondering, for separate projects.

I have signed up for Writing 1!  And as I’m sure you can gather from all of the exclaiming, I’m feeling pretty excited.  I attended New Student Orientation on Saturday, where I met the former (current?) dungeon masters, and the over-40 pre-discovered starlets who will be my fellows.  I think we might safely be able to add comedy to the list of things we don’t want to see being made (this is not including the prerequisite messed up childhood part, which, if the Lifetime network has taught us anything, is pretty compelling if a little disturbing viewing material).  I mostly sat there deciding which camp I fall under, and eating up all of the high-energy gospel of The Second City.  I think I might be joining a cult.  But still, excitement!

We were gently-t0-ardently urged to abandon all hopes of professional success in comedy (done, and done!).  I can’t quite figure out why they did this, though, considering that this sort of talk is like a speed-protein shake to kids who grew up with any sort of theater experience.  Can other formerly fabulous theater/dance/music kids back me up here?  Is this specific to my time under various dance masochists/motivators?  In any case, for those of you not familiar with this feeling it goes like this:

Respected Mentor With Boundary Issues:  “You’re never going to Make It, ______!  Dancers/musicians/actors/carneys are a dime-a-dozen.  You will work as hard as you possibly can for your whole life and still never Make It.  Wanting it is not enough.  Not by a long shot.  I’m telling you, if there is any other thing that could possibly make you even fractionally as happy as this thing, do that thing instead.”  (there might also be some kind of unpleasantness like “You’re going to end up a whore/waitress just like your mother!  Slap!  Now get back to shelving those cans!” – though nothing like that ever happened to me.  My mom taught Jr. High).  “Making It” is never, ever, under any circumstances, defined.

Aspiring Whatever:  no words.  We watch as steely resolve begins to radiate from ______’s eye-holes.  We know, for certain, that ____ is going to become a (insert whatever thing she wants to become against-all-odds here) or die trying.  We’re excited to watch either way.  This is usually followed by a montage, which, just to slide a feminist nudge in here, is usually fitness themed when a lady is the protagonist.  Hmm……  Even when Elle Woods wanted to become a lawyer, her first instinct was to hit the treadmill to the dulcet tones of a pop-licious song.  I digress.  The point is, the hopelessness only seems to make the aspiring grow stronger in her resolve while also making her feel so goddamn special because she KNOWS she’s going to Make It (still unclear, probably even to her) while so many others aren’t!  She’s high as a kite!  She’s mere steps from taking over the world!

So, basically, I sat in a room with a couple hundred people, many of whom were visibly experiencing the above summarized surge of mania.  I had a little bit of a contact-high, but otherwise, managed to maintain my usual pessimistic, 30-year-old-directionless-mother-of-a-two-year-old outlook.  I did, however, get pretty excited about the prospect of 3 weekly hours of adult (?) time (NOT including the bus/train ride!  Score!) where I’ll get to work on something I’m interested in.  I’ll be sure to share any especially great happenings along the way.


New Years Hopes

1 Jan

I’m not even going to pretend to make “resolutions.”  I think we all know that I do not take yoga 4 days a week, I don’t only buy absolutely essential items, I don’t have a thorough understanding of current events, I can’t do perfect triple (um, double? single?!) pirouettes, and I sure as hell don’t use polite language.  All resolutions – all tiny failures marring my years beginning around the 6th of January.  So, in an attempt to be more honest and maybe a little gentle with myself, here are some of my most sincere hopes, and maybe even some prayers for 2011:

Vocation.  I want and really hope to find a thing to be great at and to make some money doing.  I’m trying to be open to what this thing or things might be, and I’m trying to notice the things that I’m good at.  I’ve pretty much made all other major life decisions on a whim, but this time, no whims are coming – nothing is falling into my lap.  Which might be okay.  I’ve been involved in some grand scheme or another since I can remember (performance productions, college with the hope of being a professor and scholar one day, a vibrant dance education center, think/dance collective).  Since Ida came on the scene, things have been quiet on the “grand plans” front.  I think I’m ready for a grand plan.  A community?  A sewing enterprise?  Butchery?  Or maybe, the grand plan portion of my life is done – or in a lull.  I’ve been early for everything my whole life, always with my poop-in-a-group and taking action.  It’s been surreal to have such an extended period of sedentary feelings and definitely not having “it” together.  Looking back, or in, or from wherever I am – it’s been restorative and educational.

Generosity – I aspire to be a radically, subversively, evocatively generous person.  I want my family to be rooted in the idea of giving (help, resources, and our selves).

Money Oblivion – I want to face the cluster-fuck that is my financial ignorance and learn how to make and manage money.  Consider any helpful resource suggestions solicited.

Wellness – I feel pretty good about many areas of my commitment to this.  I’m a great cook, a pretty responsible eater, a creative and crafty domestic problem solver, and I think we live a kind, love-filled life in the JS household.  Where I would like to grow in this area is in getting more exercise and pursuing a more active life in general.  I’m going to shift my focus from the results end of this (which for me is pretty much always about how I look and what I can DO with the physical fitness) to the good feelings I experience when I’m using my body in a mindful and active way.

Community – I’m going to make a more disciplined effort to be helpful and involved in my friends’ and family’s lives.  Any other outgoing introverts out there find this stupidly challenging?

So there you have it, a hand-full of aspirations for 2011.  What are you hoping for in the New Year?

Community, but…..

27 Dec

I just started reading Radical Homemakers by Shannon Hayes.  Now, before you lose your mind, and decide that I’m one of those people, let me assure you that the term radical is fully employed here.  Hayes is not advocating for any kind of cloistered, “keep sweet”, silent and supporting-role kind of life for women.  Feminism isn’t just a consideration, but the genesis of Hayes’s thought.   She doesn’t necessarily envision women as the ones to be doing this homemaking.  She’s mostly just uncovering and celebrating a network of people who have decided that Wendell Berry had the right idea – that we should try to make lives that are productive rather than consumptive and that we should focus on being good to people and the earth.  Keeping a really nice home (which to me has never meant anything about size or perfection or whatever) has always been really important to me.  I like to live in a nice place, with delicious food, and traditions, and good vibrations and it’s nice to read about other people who value those things too (and, who aren’t, well, you know, crazy).  People who want to find ways to make a wonderful life for themselves and their families without wrecking the world – even making it better.  Anyway, I digress.

I mention the book because it is bringing up all kinds of interesting ideas for me.  Firstly, it appeals to my growing sense that I want to live in community.  Except when I don’t.  Let me clarify.  I envision a space – sometimes it’s a 6-flat in the city, and sometimes it’s a farm in rural Michigan – where I’m living in a larger group of people with my family.  My family has our own little spot – an apartment or a little house – but there are community spaces too.  Everyone is contributing in their way.  For me, this means a lot of cooking, some creative making of things (for practical purposes and maybe art), taking care of Ida, participating in some kind of radical school co-op, and tending to earth-based projects like gardening or farming (says the girl who has never successfully kept a houseplant alive) tending to livestock, and definitely butchering – which I have never done, but will hopefully start learning soon.  I know I’m going to be awesome at it – the butchering that is.  I envision people to raise kids with, fellow adventurers for Ida, and general support – you know, community.

It’s a beautiful life the way I imagine it.  Everyone is doing what they’re supposed to do.  There are enough people so that no one has to take care of their kids when they’re sick, or do things alone that are easier with other people, or figure hard things out in a vacuum.  Everyone works hard.  Everyone is nice.  Everyone is happy.  Things are fair.  Money is magic.

Except…. what about how I like to sometimes read a book all day and mostly ignore my responsibilities?  Or what about how I do really uncool things sometimes?    Things that I wouldn’t want any of my hip, community friends to know about?  Or what about how I sometimes want to keep shopping at Target?  Or driving my car?  Or ordering pizzas?  Or netflix?  Are you allowed to have netflix in the community?  Even if you’re using it to watch crap tv?  Or what if I still want to celebrate over-the-top-commercial-Santa-loving-Christmas?  And what about those times when I want to be a hermit – not because I don’t love people, but just because I really like being alone?  What if the community people hear me and Nathan fighting… or worse…..?  What about how I only like to share on my own terms?  How I sometimes resent demands on my time or resources?

I don’t know how to negotiate all of this – my desire to live this sort-of utopian fantasy combined with all of my reservations and THEN combined with knowing a little bit about the way that shared efforts can get really ugly?  I really want to live in community, but I sometimes feel like in order to do it, I need to be a totally different person.  She’s someone I really want to be, for sure.  But I’m not her and truthfully, if I really wanted to be her, wouldn’t I be by now?  It’s overwhelming.  But even still, at the end of thinking about all of these things, my brain is still scheming…. still imagining my little shed where I’ll smoke meat (or, my little Chicago back-porch), Ida running around with other children, finally feeling like I have enough people to cook for, helping teach, helping grow, just plain helping.  Making something beautiful out of my little life – contributing to something rare and special.  Anyway, I digress…