name: Virginia Reed Murphy
current city: Memphis, TN
living situation: I live in a house with:
- my husband, Joe
- boy one, Abel (age five)
- boy two, Harlan (age three)
- man child, Josh, ( age 21) (He’s a college student and an actor in my theatre company.)
occupation: I am the director of Playback Memphis, a professional improv theatre group that animates audience members’ personal stories using movement, music, metaphor, and the spoken word. In addition, my husband and I co-direct an interactive children’s music program called Music for Aardvarks, Memphis.
how do you structure your time and space? Our life mirrors our Playback work in that there is a loose structure and a lot of room for variation in the moment. One constant is that, for the first time ever, both kids go to school every day from 8:30 to 3:15. Before, both boys got out at 11:30 a.m. and honestly, I have no idea how we ran two small businesses with that scenario. It was pretty nuts.
Another constant is yoga. I go three times a week — usually twice to Bikram, which is stinky and sweaty, and once a week to Lou Hoyt’s Iyengar class at Eastern Sun. Yoga is essential for my neck, it counteracts my extended computer time, and it also prevents me from being institutionalized. (I really believe that I would be a danger to myself and others without the practice. It’s incomprehensible to me how people live without it.)
We have an office at First Congo, a church that is a block and a half from our house. Sometimes I work there and sometimes I work at home. I would like to make better use of the office. But when I feel pressed for time, I usually stay home to save myself the 15 minutes it takes to pack up the computer and make the block and a half. Very silly. I really do long for my home to be a refuge from work, but when you run your own businesses, that just isn’t reality. It’s with you always.
In addition to their time in school, my children spend time with my mother and Josh. This is awesome. I think every family with two small children should have a Josh living with them. He’s wonderful with the kids and very responsible and creative. I just love that my kids are learning from and relating to him.
My days are completely improvisational and never look the same. The seasons of work dictate much of how I spend my time with the tasks of fundraising for Playback, promoting a new semester for Aardvarks,
meetings with clients, doing administrative work, vision questing about how to grow Aardvarks and Playback, putting together a Playback promo video, and my least favorite activity: bookkeeping. I wear a lot of hats and would very much like an assistant, but we can’t afford one. I’m exploring the intern option.
My homemaking happens in spurts. I really love the idea of living in a space where I experience beauty and creativity as well as order. However, this just feels impossible for me to maintain for any length of time. For example, I had piles of found Mississippi River bank drift wood sitting around my house for months. My kids would be chasing each other with five-foot-long pieces until I finally I made a sculpture for the wall. There is often laundry strewn all over the house, and although I have a system for separating clothes when we wash (towels, our clothes, kids clothes), most of the time the clothes never get put away, so it’s really a pointless system. And I have NO idea how anyone ever puts matching socks on their kids. I’m lucky if a find two socks. I’ve also never brushed my kids’ hair. Fortunately, they can pull it off – I think I would be in a bad way if I had girls.
Dinner is this whole other beast in home-making that I never manage to get a hold of. Sometimes I feed the kids hotdogs and tater tots and let them watch something on Netflix. (We have no TV, but again, what’s the point in having no TV if you park your kids in front of Netflix? I guess rules and structure exist to be broken in our household.) On these evenings, Joe and I drink beer and forgo plates as we stuff ourselves with pita and hummus. Then there are the nights where I get super ambitious and start something from Moosewood Simple Suppers at five o’clock and forget to feed my kids anything. Naturally, by 5:30 they are writhing on the floor in tandem tantrums (usually one of them is naked), the kitchen is a disaster, and I’m thinking, “why in God’s name did I decide tonight was the night for Navajo Stew? My kids won’t even eat it.” And then sometimes I manage to put together some deliciousness that everyone enjoys, and we manage to clean all the work off the dining room table and hold hands and sing the Montessori blessing and the world is right again. All case scenarios are equally us. I guess you could say we have wide range.
using the metaphor of seasons to describe the phases of women’s lives,
-what are the particular challenges and highlights of your current season? The biggest challenge is that we don’t make enough money, and I am tired of going into Walgreens and having to think for ten minutes if buying a new toothbrush is a “need” or a “want.” Also, more financial stablility would decrease stress and allow Joe and me to have some more time for just us. For example, we could have date nights that do not entail consuming hummus, pita, and beer while the kids watch TV. Among the many highlights of our current season is the fact that the nature of our work allows us to have a lot of great family time together. Our personal and professional lives are very integrated (meaning we’ve made amazing friends from both the Aardvarks and Playback worlds) and we feel very rooted in our community. We are trying to be the change we want to see in the world (and especially in Memphis) with both Aardvarks and Playback, and although this is challenging at times, it’s an incredible journey for us and our lives are so much richer for it in all the ways that matter.
-what season(s) preceded this one? Imagining and planning the garden I wanted to grow.
-what season(s) might your future hold? I’m hoping that now that the harvest is coming in, I can find some people to give me a good price so I can keep the farm.
favorite family activities: In nice weather we like to bike ride or go to the sandbar at Shelby Forest — a ridiculously underutilized, best big nature experience in Memphis. We also go camping a lot in Arkansas. This takes a crazy amount of work , but our life is just kind of one crazy production anyway, so we’re used to it. My husband is from farm stock, so he is really good at this kind of thing and the payoff is huge when I see the boys in their full nakedness throwing rocks in that beautiful stream. Joe and I have far too few date nights due to lack of funds, but if I could I would take him to Las Vegas to see Cirque de Soleil’s LOVE. I went with my sisters-in-law a couple of years ago, and now I have this whole new appreciation for the vision of an adult playground. I always snubbed my nose, but if we could take a weekend that would be up there for a top pick.
favorite solo activities: I’m sorry what?
source(s) of inspiration: humanity, our playback company, Aardvarks families, and amazingly talented friends
best MakeShift moment: Harlan used to be obsessed with pretending he was driving in the parked car. Sometimes I would bring the New York Times in the car and lie down in the backseat while he drove. Sometimes I would actually just leave him in the car while I did something inside. One day I came out and he was gone, which completely freaked me out. Every worst case scenario imagineable was running through my mind. It turns out he had found his way into our neighbor’s sports car and was behind the wheel (a much fancier ride). Hilarious, but really not. You shouldn’t leave your two-year-old unattended in a parked car. Creative perhaps, but quite foolish. Good story though. I walk a fine line.
virginia invites memphians to enjoy this weekend’s playback performances:
find virginia on the web:
- music for aardvarks, memphis: http://www.memphisaardvarks.com/
- playback memphis: http://www.playbackmemphis.com/
[if you or someone you know would make a good “mother of invention,” please check out the nomination process and questionnaire located on the sidebar to your right.]