I recently finished a mind-bending 6-week run of The Anarchist; a play by that genius David Mamet. It was by far the most difficult thing I have ever done…But let me back up.

When I was asked to do the play, I thought “Ahh, yes! Going home to the theater!  This will be fun, this will be easy!” I was feeling confident; I had just finished Season One of American Crime playing a tortured, racist mother whose son had just been murdered, and I thought, “Nothing could be harder than that!” This adventure was going to be a little vending machine of joy; I would put my quarter in and get a delicious chocolate covered dose of adoration…with nuts.

The director, Marja Lewis-Ryan, was unknown to me, but I was assured she was a skilled professional.  When she dropped off the script at my house, in her khaki pants and green vest, I thought she was selling Girl Scout Cookies. Literally, I wondered if this “director” had hit puberty yet. I have socks that are older than she is.

And then rehearsals began…in my living room.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Living Room Rehearsal
This is my living room – lamps on the floor and Rebecca looking beautiful as always.

My furniture was pushed up against walls or shoved into bedrooms, there was masking tape all over the floor marking the stage, and my husband and daughters were relegated to walking across the lawn to reach the kitchen.  When we had people over for dinner they all sat against the walls – it looked like a Pentecostal Revival Meeting.

90% of the time, in rehearsals, I had no idea what I was saying, or more accurately what any of it meant. I kept having recurring dreams that I was drowning, or wishful dreams that my costume transformed from prison garb to a princess dress.

My friend, Rebecca Pidgeon, and I were the only two actors “onstage,” talking non-stop for 75 minutes straight.  The play was short–but if you measured it by meaning, density and brilliance it was a marathon.

Finally, we moved from my living room into this tiny, run down theater in Hollywood where the seats were broken and the bathroom was around the corner by the dumpster – the same dumpster where homeless people or desperate people (I think I just described the same people) often took dumps or vomited.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Rehearsing In Theatre
Rehearsing in the actual theatre.

The first few weeks in front of an audience felt like I was committing Seppuku (but without the honor part); flinging my guts around the stage for 75 minutes while speaking a different language.  I was not serving the play well, to say the least. The audience left saying things like, “Wow, that was a lot of words she had to learn!” Or, “Oh My! Did that place have air conditioning?”

But wait! There’s more; having done TV for years, I’ve become very comfortable with a distant audience i.e. people judging me from the comfort of their very own couch. In this theater the front row was literally 6 feet away from me. As I wrestled with my lines, I saw every yawn, every butt shift, and every dig in a purse for the crinkly mint. And to a certain young man with size 14 white sneakers I wanted to say, “STOP BOBBING YOUR FUCKING FOOT.  IT LOOKS LIKE YOU’RE DIRECTING A 747 TO LAND ON STAGE!”

Where was that vending machine of adoration?

Which leads me to the idea of desire and expectations. Most of the time there didn’t seem to be an upside to this project … at all. I was working to the max of my ability, I was climbing Everest with no oxygen, and no one got it or cared. It was like engaging in this weird antiquated endeavor like shearing sheep, carding, spinning, weaving the wool, and then sewing your own clothes. At most people could say is, “Wow you did that…why?

Why was I doing this incredibly difficult thing for no reward, no recognition, and no money?! And it wasn’t leading anywhere. I felt shallow and petty for asking these questions, but this was not what I wanted for my quarter! I picked the wrong vending machine! I wasn’t getting a chocolate covered treat, but an exhausting dose of failure.

Let me cut to the chase: the play was a success and ultimately we learned to do it well. I might even venture to say we did it justice. And I was in front of the correct vending machine; I just wanted the wrong thing with my quarter.

Okay, here’s what did drop down.

-I was in service to something greater than my petty desires. The Anarchist is a brilliant play and 70 people a night were gripped by the genius of one of our greatest playwrights, at his best.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Coffee and Scripts
Script and coffee – a necessary pairing.

 Marja Ryan-Lewis, IS an ace, she has vision, guts, and talent. I hope to work with that “girl scout” director for many years to come.

Felicity Huffman's What the Flicka-Pup in the Theatre
Yep, we brought the dog!

-The play became a family undertaking; my girls came with me to the theater most nights. They worked the box office, hung out backstage and tried to keep the dog (yup, brought the dog too) quiet. They also stepped in as post – show bartenders. They now make a mean margarita.

-I was lifted and supported by friends that I have known since NYU. Robert gave volumes of life saving notes. Sarah, Todd and Kate showed up for early previews and guided me away from the false and toward the true …over whiskey sours. Scott, whom I met freshman year in philosophy 101, spent hours on the phone with me, explaining what the multilayered play meant.

-I got to know the “Brasil Coffee” guy next door who often times made artistically obscene pictures in my latte.

coffee
Brasil Coffee and Classic Latte Art.

-I met up with an old and trusted friend, the audience, who always let’s me know when I’m a little full of shit.

So, I was mistaken about the kind of vending machine I was in front of. I didn’t get my expectation of easy gratification and recognition. I got a chocolate covered dose of humility, love, education and gratitude – and in this season of Thanksgiving – I am reminded of that. What more can I ask?

Happy Turkey Day,

Flicka

“Happy October! How crazy that it is already fall? For this year’s first autumnal Felicitations, I’m excited to introduce to you food crafter and fellow mother, Sarah Michelle Gellar. We are welcoming her as this month’s guest editor for What The Flicka!” – Felicity

I am so excited to be the guest editor on What the Flicka this month! Fall is one of my favorite times of the year, even in Southern California where children decorate pumpkins in their bathing suits!

I’ve chosen #makestuff as What The Flicka’s theme for October and contributors will be sharing their own experiences with crafting and spending fun, quality time with their kids. I thought this would be perfect, as October is all about the creative and spirited holiday of Halloween!

Anyone that knows me knows of my crafting love (read: obsession). As a child I always loved art class even though I was by no means the most talented. As an adult I discovered crafting. Whether its food, jewelry, flowers, photography, crafting can be found everywhere.

I recently took my passion for crafting and turned it into a business. This week we officially launched Foodstirs, a culinary lifestyle brand focused on healthier and creative baking kits! The idea came after my friend and Co-founder, Galit Laibow, and I went shopping to recreate all those Pinterest pins we saved, and realized not only were the available ingredients not appealing or good for you, but it took a lot of work to make something that took only a few seconds to save on a board. So after a year of recipe tasting and brand building, Foodstirs is up and running!

Now not all crafts are created equal…or edible in this case! Another great creative outlet we do as a family is painting. Sometimes we will roll out a large canvas, sometimes it is project based, and one time we even painted all of my husbands old sneakers (another great way to get your men to clean out their closet).

We also love family story time. Some nights, (or even) days, we all pile into bed and one kid picks a random word and off we go. We take turns adding to the story, and just listen, as it gets crazier and crazier. The last story started with the word Monkey from dad, then my daughter named it Chi-Chi and my two and half year old added the word pinch (thanks preschool) and suddenly we began the tale of Chi-Chi the pinching monkey.

For this month you can expect me to try out holiday apples, ghoulish cupcakes, leaf art, and DIY costumes for the kids. So share your stories with me and #makestuff this month. It may be DIY Halloween costumes (see my inspo here), fun fall decorations, or even a ghost themed cookie!

Happy New Year! An unorthodox sentiment, but every parent knows the New Year starts in September.

Kids show up for their first day at school; a building full of people who seem to know what they are doing, a place where they are pushed outside their comfort zone, continually asked to reach beyond the familiar to the unknown, risk failure, and finally take it on faith that this shit will pay off. 

As I get older the opportunities to learn new things and be pushed outside my comfort zone dwindle. I also don’t exactly seek them out because, well … they are outside my comfort zone – and the older I get the less I like being … well uncomfortable.

I recently had a taste of that sort of challenge and realized how brave our children are to step into school every day.

I just started shooting the second season of American Crime. It’s an anthology; a new hybrid for network TV and an actor’s mecca. Every year it’s a brand new story with new characters in a new setting.

felicity huffman american crime

Just as a returning student feels different from the person she had been the year before, I felt changed. Walking onto the set felt new; I was unsure, frightened of making mistakes, worried about being bad, hoping to do good work and not sure what was required of me.

The first day the director said, “Felicity, maybe a little less like Cruella de Vil and a little more… human?” And he was right.

Compared to what students go through my unease was minor, but I was still outside my comfort zone.

But I was choosing that situation, which makes a huge difference. Our kids don’t get to choose what subjects they take! “Hey Mom! This year I’m only going to take P.E. and snack!” My daughters often say stuff like, “ What’s the point of school? I need to learn what taxes are and how to pay them. Not that an imaginary number becomes a real number when multiplied by an imaginary unit!”

I understand her point of view. Now that I have been out of school for a thousand years, I realize it wasn’t the STUFF in school; the subjects, the facts or the rote knowledge (90% of which I have forgotten) that really impacted me. It was being forced into new situations and subjects and those life lessons that really educated me.

Problem solving, making hard work habitual, learning how to be a good friend, making stupid mistakes, figuring out how much of a “yes” is in that “no,” learning how the power system works and how to make it work for me; were my true education. This was everything from “why was Ruby Linder mean to me for all of second grade?” to “Is it okay if my professor looks down my blouse as long as he passes me in computer programing?”

Finally, school populated my world. I am not a naturally gregarious person, so without school I would now own a lot of cats instead of having a lot of friends. In short, its deep value was pushing me outside my comfort zone every day.

This is all to say, I salute and celebrate kids for walking into a building every day full of the unknown, the challenging, the potential of failure and the constant question, “Why am I doing this?”

Maybe we all need to show up for the first day of 2nd grade. It’s good to step out and be scared, to not know the answer. It sure makes me feel alive, awake and expands me. And maybe as I drop my daughter off at her first day of 9th grade in a new school, I will have a deeper empathy and appreciation for her.

Here’s to our courageous children, and here’s to us being open, really alive and outside our comfort zone.

Happy New Year!

Love,

Flicka

I have made so many mistakes as a parent it actually makes me nauseous to think about it. My girls grow and change at lightning speed, so just when I think I’m on my game, the rules change and I blunder and yell my way into another mistake.

But, I can honestly say I have done a few things right and one of those things is going back to the same vacation spot year after year.

There is something magical about returning to the same place throughout the years, particularly when you are growing up. The place itself becomes charmed and full of meaning; every room, every stonewall, every crooked gate. It’s as if time is reversed and you walk forward into a memory, a wonderful memory.

My girls and I have been going to Eaton’s Ranch in Wolf Wyoming since they were 5 and 6 – which isn’t that long to me but it’s a lifetime for them.

In years past we have sometimes gone with friends, who have fallen in love with the ranch themselves. But all our pals seem to be busy and Bill is editing a movie he just directed. So this summer it’s just the three of us, and when I asked my girls if they wanted to skip Eaton’s, they looked at me as if I had just suggested eating their pet baby rabbit. So we are going.

Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka - Felicitations for JulyThe day we arrive we always walk along Wolf Creek and spend hours building toy boats, using whatever is at hand, and float them down the stream, which runs by our cabin.

At first, there is a kind of restless panic, about my kids being bored, about my not working, about having not enough TO DO! There is no real Internet service at the Ranch. Well, that’s not true you can sometimes get a signal up by the shoeing shed.

Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka - Felicitations for July
It takes hours to make the boats, but it’s worth it.

Your cell phone feels like a phantom limb that itches and calls to you but is ultimately useless. It takes a couple of days to change your internal rhythm, but after day 3 you sink down into the slower pace, your belly relaxes, and you breathe deeply.

As we all know, unplugging changes your worldview. My daughter describes it as, “Things get small, and I don’t worry about the outside world here. We are just doing whatever we are doing.” Our day isn’t bookended by what we are finishing and what we haven’t done yet.

But it is the 7000 acres you can explore on horseback that calls to you from the moment you arrive. You can hop on your horse in the morning and ride back into the corral at the end of the day.

The mornings are cool and clear, the evenings are gorgeous.
The mornings are cool and clear, the evenings are gorgeous.

We usually take a ride to the duck pond with lunches in our saddlebags. There, we drop the horse’s reins; loosen their girths, and skinny dip in the pond all afternoon eating PBJ’s and hard-boiled eggs.

Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka - Felicitations for July
Georgia sharing her lunch with Buddy.

You can climb up the big cottonwood tree, grab the terrifying rope swing, (give a mighty jump so you don’t impale yourself on some dead tree branches) and plunge into the water.

Two years ago, the steps were broken so we climbed up a horse – stood on his butt and jumped from there.

Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka - Felicitations for July
That’s me jumping off Peecaboo’s butt!

Then the following year Bill packed some tools on his horse and rebuilt the steps, while the girls fished.

Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka - Felicitations for July
Chaps and carpentry don’t usually go together, but Bill makes it work.
Felicity Huffman's What The Flicka - Felicitations for July
Bill playing ukulele on the porch.

In the evenings we play cards on the porch of our cabin, which was built over 100 years ago, until it’s time to go to bed and start all over again the next morning.

Friday nights there is a dance in Howard Hall. The older cowboys gallantly danced with my girls when they were younger and the handsome wranglers dance with my girls now that they are old enough to blush.

I feel like this is something I have given my girls that is an unadulterated good. It’s non-negotiable. I felt the same way breastfeeding them. I couldn’t mess up breast milk. It was pure goodness. I feel the same way about the two weeks at the ranch.

Listen, we still have fights, and I still yell obscenities and blow it whether it is in our idyllic 100-year-old cabin (where a bat lives in the roof) or on horseback. So if it sounds perfect it’s not. It’s just about as good as REAL IMPERFECT life gets.

What about you? Did you grow up returning to the same vacation spot year after year? Did it mean a lot to you? How about your children now? Any secret vacation spots you want to share?

I wish you a long and happy July,

Love,

Flicka

Bill waving goodbye while the girls fish.

Happy June. We’ve reached the other side of Mother’s Day, Father’s day. In May WTF celebrated the Imperfect Mother. I thought, Oh how sweet! So, this month we can celebrate the Imperfect Father… huh… but I have never heard of a “Perfect Father” or an “Imperfect Father”. I haven’t seen any books on the NYT bestseller list titled, “The Good Enough Father.” WTF? It’s obvious Fatherhood doesn’t need the qualifier of “Imperfect” to fight off the tyranny of “Perfect.”

This inequity doesn’t make me bristle with indignation – but it does make me want to set us free! I think we are in need of a Mommy-Moses, “Let my people go!”

I mean, maybe the imperfect and the perfect are like matter and anti-matter. If we can get them in the same room together, it will lead to the annihilation of both, and then we can all sigh with relief because we are left with simply MOTHER.

The fact that any of us (or many of us) are grappling with the guilt and feelings of inadequacy in our mothering is a much larger discussion. But, for me, it’s superficial deconstruction is that even though I know that I can’t be a PERFECT Mother (which, let’s be honest, is synonymous with GOOD Mother) giving up the goal of perfection makes me feel somehow vulnerable. This is because the pursuit of PERFECTION in mothering feels like armor; my motives are unassailable both to others and myself. But, conversely, allowing myself to embrace IMPERFECTION in mothering, (just being who I truly am) feels like I am falling down on the sacred job of motherhood and failing my kids. Caught between a rock and a hard place.

Stepping back from this conundrum, I have to ask, “Who would give themselves a truly impossible job, then beat themselves up daily (if not hourly in my case) for not doing it PERFECTLY?” If we had a boss, or a friend, or a partner who did that to us, over and over, we might call that person … a Mother Fucker, no?

It’s shocking I know, but let’s look at a definition of that phrase:  “Mother fucker – a despicable … or vicious person. One who fucks his mother.”

My first step in setting us free would be to make the phrase “Good Mother” synonymous with ‘Mother Fucker.” Because that’s what we are doing to ourselves, and letting others do to us, being vicious and despicable. We are fucking ourselves.

My next step in setting us free might seem hypocritical but it’s claiming the power of Motherfucker.

A pal showed me a video recently of her 4-year-old daughter spinning around the room pretending to be a princess…excuse me! NOT a princess – a queen! “ I am a queen!” she sang as she danced around in a circle, “I am a queen” she sang louder, with a dishtowel tied on her shoulder, “I am a… Motherfucking queen!” I must have watched that video about 50 times because I thought,

“Yeah, she IS a MOTHERFUCKING QUEEN”.

Do you guys remember that line in the movie “Zero Dark Thirty,” when Jessica Chastain, as Maya, says, “I’m the motherfucker who found the place, sir.” And we have all heard, “He’s a bad-ass Mother Fucker.” That pronoun is the ultimate insult and the ultimate identification with power. It represents the primordial, raw power of the mother. We are mighty.

So, in June and for the rest of the summer, when we are chasing our kids around, begging them to put on sunscreen, feeling triumphant or embarrassed by our bathing suit clad selves; as we breathe in the long summer days and the soft summer nights. I have three ideas for freedom:

1. Don’t let ANYONE be a motherfucker to you, including yourself.
2. Be a Bad-Ass Motherfucker in the world.
3. Tie a dishtowel around your neck and dance around the room singing, “I am a Motherfucking Queen!”

Happy Father’s Day,

Love,
Flicka

An imperfect Mother behaving perfectly. 

When my two girls were toddlers and I was losing my sanity, my soul, and my sense of personal hygiene, I felt like a lone voice in the wilderness calling for help. Everyone around me basked in questions like, “Oh My God, isn’t motherhood wonderful?” and

“Don’t you miss your baby when you’re at work?” and

“Isn’t this the best thing you have ever done?”

I thought more fitting questions would be, “Do you think you’re gonna survive this epidemic called Motherhood?”

“How do you deal with the guilt and relief when you are away from your kids?”

“Do you ever wonder if you made a big mistake?” and finally

“Are you ready to stab your husband in the eye?”

There was only one woman who answered my call for help with, “Oh my God, I know! They’re impossible! No, you’re not crazy, children are awful!” Her words were like finding a sand bar to stand on when you are drowning.

That woman was my Mother and I loved her for it. I’ll never forget her advice to me. I asked her how to be a GOOD MOTHER and she answered: “Spend less time with your children!”

Isn’t it interesting that so many Mother’s Day gifts involve time away from the kids? Spa days, massages, mani-pedis. I have a friend who, on Mother’s Day, gets the longest shower she wants and often won’t come out of the bathroom until noon at the earliest. Instinctively we all know self-care equals taking some time away from your children and THAT can be the best Mother’s Day present of all.

So this Mother’s Day I wanted to honor once again, Grace Huffman. She was a mother of eight, an imperfect mother herself, and she saved her daughter from being alone in the wilderness of mothering, which I think is a perfect thing to do. I love you and miss you Mom.

We at the WTF community officially stamp your hall pass for some serious me-time. Don’t waste a hall pass or a Mother ‘s Day.

Happy Imperfect Mother’s Day.

Flicka