Friday, July 5, 2013

TMI Fridays- Mom's New Stage

Keesha is a dancer, a teacher, a writer, a wife and a mother. She's the brilliant, poignant and hilarious voice behind the blog Mom's New Stage. She also penned the funny and sassy "So She Thought She Could Cut Off My Stroller" in the best-selling anthology I Just Want to Pee Alone. Keesha wrote my favorite quote of THE ENTIRE book. I'll share it with you, because I'm a giver.

"She saw me and waved me off like a dog fart."

Dude. I know that dismissal well. So very well. 

I'll be meeting Keesha in Chicago before the month is over. Don't spoil the surprise, but I'll be coercing her into teaching me some dance moves. It will probably happen in a public place and will be one of those experiences that, in hindsight, I should not attempt because you know some sneaky SOB will have a video camera and I will look like I'm having a seizure, but DAMMIT, it's happening anyway! I want to look like THIS:

Except for the pregnant part. My uterus is tired.

She looks like this when she is pregnant, people. She's jumping... gracefully. When I was pregnant, I grew 6 chins and looked like Jabba the Hut. I certainly did not do anything that required both feet to be off the ground simultaneously. The only semi-graceful thing I did was to mutter "Sorry about that" after I let go of some pesky gas.

Anyhoo, Keesha is awesome and I asked her a crap ton of questions so that you all could see the amount of sheer awesome. 

Johi: First of all, I am so envious that you are a dancer! In my mind, I am a dancer. In reality, I'm closer to Elaine from Seinfeld. What is your dance experience?

Keesha: Like many girls, I started dancing super early – at the age of 3.  It was all I ever wanted to do.  I studied ballet, jazz, tap and eventually modern.  I always studied ballet, although I knew I wouldn’t be a ballet dancer – I didn’t have the body or feet.  And when tap got tough, with all those crazy syncopations – I was more than happy to leave those loud-ass shoes behind!

I always loved jazz, and eventually in college I fell in love with modern.  I danced professionally in a German rock opera after I graduated from college, and then decided I was more interested in concert modern dance.  I began teaching at several NYC private schools to enable me to dance with Steeledance and the Amy Marshall Dance Company.  I continued to teach and perform until about seven years ago when I had a mortgage and was thinking about starting a family.  I had less time to dance for little or no money.

Now I teach – I am dedicated to fostering the next generation of dancers. 

Johi: Are you watching So You Think You Can Dance? If so, who is your early pick to win?

Keesha: No me gusta SYTYCD.  I don’t like watching dance reality shows, except maybe
Dancing with the Stars which is about ballroom -- not my area of expertise.  As a teacher, and an older dancer, those shows bring up too many issues for me.  I either start critiquing their technique and artistry,  or the choreography, or I start thinking, “Holy shit ball change, was I half that good when I was 19?”  Then I just want to go off and eat my weight in sorbet and Twizzlers. 

Johi: (I have a hard time watching people ride horses in movies so I get it. Also, I pick Amy.)

Johi: What has been your biggest challenge between dancer/mother/writer? How have you turned that challenge into a benefit?

Keesha: I think the biggest challenge of being all three is time management.  And you might not know it from looking at the preschooler’s-frat-house I live in, but I am a perfectionist.  If I can’t give 127% to something, it doesn’t seem worth doing.

When I change that challenge into a benefit I will let you know! 

Seriously, I know that the secret is finding more joy and less judgment in all three.  To realize that while I may not be perfect , I am doing a good job.  To celebrate the small victories instead of beating myself up for not winning those big awards.  To validate myself instead of looking for stamps of approval from others.  Most of these you would think I would have learned from dancing, but each medium requires that these lessons be learned anew…

 I am thrilled to be able to share these lessons with readers.  Now if only I could take my own advice.

Johi: What was your most humbling experience?

Keesha: I am a dancer and a writer. If you want to see how often I have been humbled you can look at a city bus schedule. 

Motherhood, however, has provided my most humbling moments.

I don’t remember what we were talking about, but recently, my insightful then two-year-old daughter said, “You have to love yourself.  I love myself.  Do you love yourself, Mommy?”

It was a time where psychologically, I wasn’t treating myself very well.  I almost broke down in tears.  As I nearly did when she said, “I don’t like those jeans,” in reference to a pair of 2003 Blue Cults I was elated to be able to fit into again. 

Johi: Tell us about your family. Did you always want to be a mother?

Keesha: I have two children who are 18 months apart to the day.  Mr. R is 4.5 and Lady A is 3.  At any given moment I both love them so much my heart could explode, and feel so crazed by them I could put them in puppy crates.  I am married to a wonderful man who should be sainted for tolerating my Florence Brady meets Joan Collins mood swings.    

I did always want to be a mother, but I wanted to dance first.  I put motherhood off until that ripe old age of 35, and then dealt with heartbreaking infertility.  Luckily my story had a beautiful ending.  But yes, I always wanted to be a mother, and I would have had major regrets had that not come to pass.

Johi: Which social media forum do you find most addictive and why?

Keesha: Pinterest is a runner up, but hands down, Facebook.  I would crawl into my laptop if I could to get more involved with the beautiful reconnecting, the mundane minutiae and the soul-killing bullshit people post on that site.  And even though, as a blogger, Facebook now nets me as much traffic as printing up my posts and taping them to selected overpasses on the Interstate, I feel compelled to spend hours a day on it.  Sigh.

Johi: If you could step into another life/time, what/who's/when would it be and why?

Keesha: I have always been fascinated by Josephine Baker.  Her story is extraordinary -- from the Jim-Crow South to a Harlem vaudeville star, then rising to becoming a diva of the stage and screen in Paris (not to mention being admired by figures like Picasso, Hemingway, and Langston Hughes), working for the French Resistance during WW II, and becoming a staunch activist for Civil Rights back the US. 

I have always wanted to live in Paris, where I have visited several times, but never lived.  I am in awe of how “La Baker” took that city by storm, but also stood up for what she believed in as a fearless and political and social activist.  Also, I am fascinated by how, like many female stars, Baker was both in control of and manipulated as a result of her sexuality, not to mention racial identity.  Her story has it all, and I’d love to step into the shoes of this iconic figure – at least for a little while. 

Johi: What is your greatest fear?

Keesha: My greatest fear is searching desperately all the way to the end, and realizing I had it all along.

Johi: That's brilliant. Someone should write that down.

Johi: If you had to share a bus seat with a clown, a spider or a mouse, which would you pick?

Keesha: Spiders and mice freak my shit out.  So reluctantly, I choose clown.  Clowns love to laugh and make people happy, so I’d like to know what their secret is – or if they are really crying on the inside.

Johi: GAME TIME! Marry, f*ck or kill! 
George Costanza, Andrew Dice Clay or Carrot Top?

Keesha: Ok.

Carrot Top I would just plain kill.  Gross. He makes my eyes bleed.

Andrew Dice Clay I would, you know, the “f” one.  By the way, I am a bipolar curser.  Sometimes I curse like a gang member, and sometimes I get all schoolmarm-y.  Anyhoo, the thought of doing that with him makes me want a chastity belt.  That foul mouth in bed, however, would make me laugh ‘til I peed, which would be hysterical in so many ways…

And George Costanza, I would marry.  Don’t tell my husband, but GC is my soul mate.  I am a short, chubby, neurotic, balding, Queens (I am from Queens too!) man trapped in the athletic body of an African-American woman.  I shit you not.  So we’d be married, though a sexless one, because there would always be some kind of “hahribble” problem to kvetch about instead of getting busy.  And we’d probably wind up killing each other, so that’s a twofer. 

Johi: What is your all time favorite:
Keesha: You are killing me here.  I don’t have all time favorites – I love too many of everything.  But I will try…
Song: “As”  by Stevie Wonder
Book: anything by Jhumpa Lahiri
Movie:  A tie between Thelma and Louise and Gladiator
Food:  Sushi
Cartoon Character:  Stewie on “Family Guy”
Heroine:  Miss Celie (The Color Purple)
Actor:  Denzel Washington
Drink:  Gin and Tonic

Johi: What part of life do you think is the best and why?

Keesha: The part of life that was the most even was my early thirties.  I was comfortable with myself; I was beyond drama.  I was married.  I worked and danced and partied and went on trips… I went shopping and had a great wardrobe.  I was a grown up kid.  A phase in life everyone should have.

But here, right now -- this is the phase where I have everything I want.  A great husband. Beautiful, smart, curious, loving children -- children that at one point I didn’t think I’d have.  A home.  I am doing well in the field I love.  This is the best time.  And the most challenging.

Johi: Who's essay in I Just Want to Pee Alone was your favorite and why?

Keesha: There were so many awesomesauce pieces in that book.  I am so honored to have been a part of it.  I wish I had my face recorded while I read Meredith Spidel’s essay.  It knocked me for a loop – without giving anything away, she leads the reader on a roller coaster ride from extreme sadness to roll-off-the-bed hysterical laughter.  I adore Meredith, she’s a sweetheart, and I’m so happy that she hit it so far out of the park.  

I also loved Susan Bristow’s “A Tale of Two Vaginas,” which is just as shockingly funny as the title, and “Why I Belong in Coach” by Julianna Miner of Rants in Mommyland.

Before her two children re-choreographed her life, Keesha was a professional dancer who performed in the U.S. and in Europe. Today she teaches modern and jazz dance in the Chicago area. She is also the human cyclone behind the popular blog Mom’s New Stage. A multitasker at heart, she shows fierce skills at simultaneously writing, choreographing, checking Facebook and Pinterest updates, playing the role of a mother named Joan “Kumbaya” Crawford, and overcooking food. Her writing has been featured on Mampedia, The Huffington Post, and in the bestselling anthology I Just Want to Pee Alone.

Meet Keesha, myself and 13 other rad writers from I Just Want to Pee Alone on Friday July 26th in Chicago! We hope to see you there!


  1. Thiß just isn't fair. When I was pregnant I looked like Jabba the Hutt. Even my nose got fat.

    I... I love her.

    1. Thanks Valerie! So glad you liked this. "Even my nose got fat." Ha! I had heard shoulders, but I'm stealing this "nose" line...

  2. Keesha, I have a hard time picturing you as George Costanza, but I love him and I love you, so I guess it makes sense. It was so fun reading about you! Another great interview, Johi!

    I hate all of you for having fun without me in Chicago. I'm going to have stay away from all social media that weekend so my jealous rage doesn't drive me to do something regrettable.

    1. Johi does amazing interview, doesn't she? I loved doing this, it was super fun. If someone could interview all my posts out of me, it would be Johi! And I am glad you like Mr. Costanza. Like me, he may be a total pain in the ass, but he's just trying to get by...

      We will miss you too, Amy. We will have to make a video showing the good, bad and the ugly...

  3. Great interview! I have been Keesha's fangirl for some time now! SO want her to teach my daughter some moves!

  4. Great interview! I have been Keesha's fangirl for some time now! SO want her to teach my daughter some moves!

    1. I <3 you Rebecca. Hope we can meet up soon! Thank you for all your support!