Monday, April 16, 2018

My New Tattoo and I, a short imagined dialogue during the two-week healing period

Scene: The living room of 32-year-old Liz. The carpet is old, but the room is filled with houseplants and art, giving it a pleasant, lived-in feeling. Liz sits on the couch, staring into space, lost in thought. Then, the tattoo on her left thigh speaks up.


TATTOO: Hey, will you please scratch me?

LIZ: No, I’m not supposed to. You have to heal.

TATTOO: Oh yeah. (beat) Hey, I have a question.

LIZ: What?

TATTOO: How the hell did you even brave a needle for 45 minutes to get me? You’re not generally cool with needles. You get light-headed when getting a flu shot. You’ve passed out almost every single time you had to have blood drawn. When you were three years old, you fainted in your father’s arms while your mom tried to remove a splinter from your foot. You get real anxious about simple medical procedures. You--

LIZ: I know. (thinking) You know, I kind of didn’t think of it as a needle. Just an abstract source of pain. I intentionally did not think about the fact that it was a needle creating a tattoo.

TATTOO: Huh. Interesting. (beat) Hey, will you scratch me? I’m so itchy!

LIZ: No.

TATTOO: Okay, fine. (beat) So you just ignored the needle and everything was copacetic?

LIZ: Yeah, actually. (beat) To be fair, I definitely did not once look at the needle. Not while it was sitting on the counter or when it was in Paige’s hand or when it was going into my skin. I just refused to think about it. I mean, I’m getting a little light-headed just having this conversation.

TATTOO: Huh.

(A pause as both Liz and the tattoo become lost in their own thoughts. Then the tattoo speaks up again.)

TATTOO: Hey, I’m itchy.

LIZ: I KNOW. I’m not supposed to scratch you.

TATTOO: Okay, okay. So…do you think your fear of needles is cured now?

LIZ: Probably not. I’ll probably still pass out the next time I have to have blood drawn. But in my defense, I have really teeny tiny terrible veins.

TATTOO: I guess that makes sense. (getting distracted) Ooh ooh! Look! Look at me! A little flake of peeling skin! Peel that off! Do it!

LIZ: Do not tempt me. You have to just heal!

TATTOO: But think how satisfying it will be to peel off this little flake of skin…

LIZ: I know! But if I do that, it could pull the ink right out from my skin and then you'll look bad.

TATTOO: Oh. Okay, well how about you scratch me?

LIZ: No.

TATTOO: Fine. Know what I miss?

LIZ: What?

TATTOO: Just living my damn life without having to be cleansed and moisturized 3 times a day.

LIZ: Believe me. I miss just living my damn life without having to cleanse and moisturize you 3 times a day. I also miss sleeping on my left side.

TATTOO: But you'll smoosh me! I'm still healing! Don't smoosh me while I'm healing!

LIZ: I know. That's why I don't sleep on my left side.

TATTOO: Oh. Thanks. (beat) Hey. I'm itchy.

LIZ: This is getting real old.

TATTOO: I can't help it!

LIZ: Well, I'm not going to scratch you no matter how many times you ask. (sighing) I can't wait until this phase of healing is over.

TATTOO: How do you think I feel?

LIZ: Itchy?

TATTOO: Yes.

LIZ: Know what else I'm excited about?

TATTOO: What?

LIZ: Being able to put my actual bedding back on my bed.

TATTOO: You have different bedding? But I thought--

LIZ: Those are my actual pillowcases, but I’ve also been sleeping with an old fitted sheet and comforter. That's why they don't match. At all. The juxtaposition of teal and yellow pillowcases, and rust/marigold fitted sheet and comforter is SO TERRIBLE. It hurts my soul to see such a terrible color combination. It's been bothering me this whole time.

TATTOO: Then why did you do it?

LIZ: Because Paige and the internet told me to sleep on old bedding for the first few nights because you might ooze blood and lymph and ink and ruin everything I own.

TATTOO: That's...gross.

LIZ: I know.

TATTOO: Hey, I'm--

LIZ: Don't say it. I know. You're itchy.

TATTOO: AND peeling.

LIZ: I know.

(beat)

TATTOO: (thinks for a moment) So why did you keep the terrible bedding combination for so long?

LIZ: Because I had to do laundry. I put the comforter and fitted sheet that match the pillows in the laundry but then I didn’t have time to actually launder them until now.

TATTOO: Oh. (beat) Hey, I’m itchy. Will you scratch me?


Friday, April 6, 2018

#SisterBlogChallenge

My sister Beckah and I both write. We both have blogs. And we both want to write on our blogs more often and more consistently.

So we decided on a six-month challenge! Here are the rules:

Each of us will post a 750-word blog entry on our respective blogs by 11:59 pm Mountain Standard Time every other Monday, starting April 16th.

Entries have no content restrictions--they can be fiction or essays or poetry or journal entries or movie reviews or whatever. But they must be original.

Should one of us fail to post by the deadline, the other is authorized to post a "tasteful but silly shaming post" on the other's blog. (We have each other's login info.)

SO GET READY FOR MORE CONSISTENT BLOG ENTRIES, PUNKS!

If you'd like to follow Beckah's blog, you can check it out here. I highly recommend it.

photo via

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

"I have not eaten the heart," or The Time I Got a Tattoo And Didn't Really Tell Anyone For A Minute

"If I don’t get cast in this part, maybe I’ll get that tattoo. If I don’t get this job, maybe I’ll get that tattoo. After I make it a year after divorce, maybe I’ll get that tattoo." --My inner monologue for the past...5 years? 

(I don't really have the energy to go into the whole "Mormon getting a tattoo" thing at the moment. I know, I know. Maybe someday I'll talk about that, but not today. I just thought I'd get that disclaimer out of the way.)

I’ve had the design made and taped to my bathroom mirror for over six months now. It’s an ancient Egyptian hieroglyph, the feather of maat (click link for explanation), surrounded by a geometric pattern of an icosahedron (20-sided die). There wasn’t necessarily any planned symbolism to the icosahedron—I just liked the way it looked. But when I thought about it later, I also liked that there was a tabletop RPG connotation to it. I decided the tattoo would go on the outside of my upper thigh. Easy to cover for acting gigs, but not too hard to show off if I really wanted to. So I made an appointment for a consultation. And then I made an appointment for getting inked.

And on Wednesday last week, I walked into SLC Ink and got my tattoo.

Originally, I was going to have a friend or two come with me. It turned out that both friends who were going to come along were out of town, so I went by myself. Which ended up being perfect. I was doing something for myself, by myself.

Me laying in the chair at SLC Ink and wondering
what the hell I'm doing
I opened the door to SLC Ink that afternoon and thought, “What the hell am I doing?!” But I walked up to the reception desk and told them I had an appointment with Paige. I filled out the paperwork. I lifted the hem of my skirt and watched Paige clean and shave my thigh. I held still while she put the stencil in place. I laid on the plastic-covered bed and tried to get comfortable. I gritted my teeth for 45 minutes while the picture I had designed months ago became a permanent part of my body. Paige and I chatted about astrological signs and gun violence. And the whole time, every few minutes, I kept thinking, “What the hell am I doing?! I don’t have to do this. I can walk away. I’m so scared of this. Who am I? What am I doing?”

And then it was done.

Paige wrapped my new tattoo in a protective bandage and I stood up and swiped my debit card and limped to my van. And couldn’t stop grinning.

I didn’t really tell anyone what I was doing. Not right before, not during, not after. I didn’t post on social media while I was getting inked. I didn’t tell friends as I chatted and messaged and visited with them throughout the day, even though it was consuming 75% of my thoughts. I texted my sister about it that night, but I didn’t tell the two friends who were possibly going to come with me. Over the next few days, I didn't tell anyone while it was stinging during Othello rehearsals, or when it ached as I bent down to pick up my nephew. I know a week isn't that long to keep something quiet, but I wanted to for just a little while. Because I didn’t do it for anyone else. I did it for me.

I did it because I’m so damn tired of worrying about what other people think of me. Positive or negative. Spoken or unspoken. I’ve spent so much of the last year worried—terrified—that the people I care about don’t care about me. It has made me anxious, jealous, angry, heartbroken, and desperate in turn. And all of those fearful thoughts I had while getting my tattoo were, at their core, about other people. What they would think. What they would say. How they would react.

But the thing is that it’s no one else’s body, and it’s no one else’s tattoo.

It's not quite that I was afraid of what people would think if I talked about my new tattoo right away. But I wanted this important thing to be just mine for a little while, with no one else's input. Just a few days. It took so much energy to fight all of my fears just to get the tattoo, and I didn't want to use any more energy to field responses from other people, even if they were positive.

I still kind of can’t believe I did it. But I did it. I did it after a year of life post-divorce. I did it after one of the worst callbacks I’ve ever done, for a bucket-list dream role with a theatre I love. I did it despite a fear of needles and pain. I did it alone, despite my underlying fear that I will actually be alone forever. I did it while my anxiety about what other people think clamored for my attention at the back of my mind. And now this lovely pattern on my thigh reminds me of the principles of maat (truth, balance, morality, justice). But it also reminds me of a time when I overcame a whole bunch of fears, and a whole bunch of pain, and did something meaningful for myself. It reminds me of a time when I let peace speak louder than fear.

The phrase "I have not eaten the heart" is a part of maat, the hieroglyph at the center of my tattoo. It's one of the "42 Negative Confessions" listed in the Papyrus of Ani, and it's a poetic and ancient Egyptian way of saying "I have not grieved needlessly. I have not felt needless regret."

There have been times in my life, when making big decisions, when I have been filled with terror. Going to BYU-Idaho. Getting married. Going to grad school. Moving to Utah. Auditioning for that role. What if it was the wrong thing to do? What if I regretted it? What if what if what if?! But I did all of those things because in the moments when I was the most still and the most connected to myself, I was completely confident about the decision I had made. I felt peace about it, and knew that it was “the right thing to do.”

Not all of those things worked out the way I thought they would. I took 8 years to get my Bachelor's from BYU-Idaho. My marriage didn't last. I didn't (and don't) get every role I auditioned for. But that doesn't change the fact that those were the "right things to do." I'm so grateful for my time at BYU-Idaho. I'm so grateful for my time being married to Jacob. I'm so grateful for chances to do what I love at so many wonderful theatres. It took a lot of courage to do some of those things, but I don't regret any of them.

And I don't think I'll regret this tattoo either.




Monday, February 19, 2018

A Cure for the Februaries

I'm surrounded by wonderful, smart, and funny people. Here are some of the wonderful, smart, and funny things they've said lately. 


“That’s a nice car. That car looks like a fancy tennis shoe.” – Josh

"Hey look! That cloud formation looks like a uterus and vagina! Or...maybe it's a heart..." – Anonymous

"We are a functional hotel. We do get rid of most of our death mattresses." – Stanley hotel tour guide

"Whoa. That guy looks like a lion! (sadly) But he's not." – little kid in Denver Airport

"This may or may not be true, because I read it on a restaurant menu..." – Beckah

"Your shoes are like a double-breasted suit but for shoes." – Brandon

"I got my hair cut and felt like a celebrity for two days but then I washed it and now I just have bad hair days." – Carrie

"I'm a rubber, not a patter." – Dad (talking about hugs)

"Wait...aren't there 32 letters in the alphabet? Oh, no, I'm thinking of teeth." – Beckah

Todd: Oh, that’s sad.
Liz: What?
Todd: My chips are gone.

“When I say, ‘I’m cleaning my room,’ what I really mean is, ‘I’m touching every single rock I own. All the rocks. Every. One.’” – Anne

“Splash pads are so stressful as a kid. At some point, you're like ‘I’m freezing! When is this going to stop being fun?!’” – Beckah

"I'm so bad at miming. Whenever I'm supposed to drink something, I inevitably end up chewing." –Brandon

Dallin: Did Alan touch base with you?
Jayne: No. Does he want to touch my base?

“From Ariel to Moana...all delightfully awkward and everyone LOVES them! I bring up the correlation between the enormity of the slave trade and the allocation of sugar via the West Indies Trading Company at an ice cream social and I'm an immediate outcast.” – Jamey

Me: Let’s just rob a bank and never work again.
Beckah: I think committing a felony pretty much guarantees we would never work again.

Olivia (age 6): I need to urine.
Brandon: Why didn't you go before?
Olivia: I didn't need to before. (Pause) I think it was the pizza.
Brandon: The smell of the pizza made you need to go to the bathroom?
Olivia: Yep.

Me: Why do you have a measuring tape?
Tito: I just like measuring things.

(While discussing lifting a heavy printer)
Director: The thing I'm worried about is your back.
Nathan: I'm worried that I'm gonna fart when I pick it up.

“Every time I see a bout of roller derby, I'm like, 'I wanna do this!' But I also like my bones where they are.” – Beckah

"He's in the...uh...the dragon situation. Game of Thrones." – Clotile

"Your handwriting is so...LDS." – Tito

“I love that you feel threatened as an adult by what I said to you about yelling at a baby.” – Brandon

“It was a film about roller derby and there were zero lesbians. It was a disgrace.” – Beckah

"I like the taste of eggnog, but I also like the taste of not-eggnog." —Ben

Liz: The human brain, man.
Laura: It's an asshole. But like, an asshole that knows me. 


"I feel like, in my heart, I'm a neurotic Jew." – Noah

“I’m going through all of my stories and spanking them with an editing paddle." – guy in my MFA class

“There’s nothing worse than a soft apple. Besides, like, unabashed white supremacy, sexual harassment, and crimes against children.” – Christina

"In case there was any confusion as to why I get so many letters from the AARP, I've spent all morning watching quilting tutorials." – Anna

"A stage manager's entire job is to just assume that no one remembers anything." – Finn

“Ooh. I should always drink water, because look at my cheekbones.” – Beckah

“The deepest cuneiform makes no impression on a squishy tablet.” – Brandon

"At least that painting looks ugly enough to be local." – Isha

Car full of Whittakers: (singing Christmas carols terribly)
Beckah: STOP! HOW DO YOU THINK JESUS FEELS ABOUT THIS?!

“I feel like you need a ball of magic yarn and a Minotaur to get out of here.” – Bryan

Me: I knew it was John Williams!
Brandon: Nobody else uses that many French horns.

Benjamin, age 4, after cartwheeling headfirst off the couch and landing safely on a cushion: “That made my tummy feel scared. But my head was excited! That was the greatest time of my life!”

Beckah: Last night I dreamed someone named their children Triangulation and Moctagon.
Me: Is Moctagon even a real word?
Beckah: I think it’s just the word “octagon” with an M in front of it.

Me: Why are you sitting alone in a corner?
Noah: I walked in and was confused by all this talk of death.

“Things were more romantic back when we had train stations.” – Brandon

“I feel like I just need to look at cat paws right now.” – Beckah

“This guy isn’t very attractive but he kisses a lot of birds in his pictures.” – Kacey

“There are no diphthongs if you’re rich!” – overheard

“Whenever we have brown bread at home, I always want to take a chunk, grab some cheese and an apple, and walk somewhere green. I'm totally romanticizing a fake pastoral image of medieval life, but I don't give a fig.” – Dan

“Dad, I like how the e-card you sent me defied all of the laws of physics in its animation.” – Beckah



photo via

Friday, December 29, 2017

Two Stories: "You Have the Heart" and "Twas the Night Before [Noun]"

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

I hope you all had a lovely holiday. I spent Christmas in Washington DC with some whacky and creative family members, and I thought I'd share two of the stories we collaboratively wrote together.

"You Have the Heart" 
By Beckah, Liz, Isha, and Dad


This was composed during sacrament meeting on Christmas Eve (I know, I know) by each person writing a sentence or two and then passing it on. Color change indicates when a new author was writing. We ended up with a short, incomplete tale that was one part Star Wars, one part Avatar, and one part Monty Python. I scanned and included the first page of our "illuminated manuscript" so that you can appreciate the artwork. Final note: If you read this aloud, please note that the sea monster's voice sounds like a bad Julia Child impression.

Some time before the world was covered in concrete and ablaze with artificial light, there was a great and green forest. And within that forest, all things were connected by a power that lived and traveled through the roots of trees. The people of the forest called this power "the flow." 

The flow, however, required sacrifice. Human sacrifice. 

For the flow understood that, with its power, the people would destroy the world around them. 

But there was one woman who wanted the power of the flow for herself. She could feel it coursing beneath her feet and she knew that she could rule if she could somehow harness the flow. So setting off on a hero's quest, she began her journey, deep into the uncharted regions of the forest. For days she walked until she suddenly came upon a body of water. The trees grew right up to the edge, but she could not see the far side of the pool. She would not be deterred; neither would she go around. Calling upon the powers of the flow, she held her hands out to the pool. 

The waters began to shimmer, then vibrate, as if the very earth beneath was trembling. Suddenly, the water froze in place--not like ice, but frozen in time, solid as the banks surrounding the pool. She took a step. The water was solid beneath her. She began to walk slowly across. But as she did, she saw large shadows moving through the water, coming towards her. She held her breath. Suddenly, the creature burst out of the water, landing right in front of her. 

"I am at your service," it said. 

"Well, is there anything you can do about all this water you just splashed on me?" she said. 

"Well, no," the creature said, looking a little sheepish. "But I can lead you to the gateway!" 

"What is the gateway?" the woman asked. 

"The gateway is the entrance into the flow system. You have the key, I presume?" 

"Uhhh..." she replied. 

Looking at her slightly askance, in a pond creature kind of way, the creature said, "You have the heart, I presume." 

"Well, yes, I think I'm brave." 

"No, I mean the heart...from the human sacrifice. You did perform the required sacrifice, did you not?" 

"Uh, no. And yet I managed to freeze the water." 

"No, I did that." 

"Why?" 

"So I may counsel and show you the way." 

"So...I begin my hero's quest by following a pond creature. Lead on...I guess." 




"Twas the Night Before [Noun]"
By Beckah, Isha, Daniel, Liz, Jillian, and Dad

Every year, my Mom sends out a "Mad Libs" version of the famous "Night Before Christmas" poem. This was our result of filling in nouns, adjectives, etc. What we lack in rhyme scheme we make up for in absurdity. 

Twas the night before Christmas, when all through the snuffle toast,
Not a water bear was watusi-ing, not even a mouse.
The Ho-Hos were hung by the carpeting with care,
In hopes that St Nicholas soon would be sleeping.

The children were nestled all snug in their Frances,
While visions of sugarplums purged in their toenail.
And mamma in her 'kerchief, and I in my grass,
Had just settled our brains for a long winter's nap.

When out on the tesseract there arose such a clatter,
I fornicated from the bed to see what was the matter.
Away to the window I shot like a trout,
Tore open the shutters and threw up the sash.

The moon on the breast of the new-fallen snow
Gave the lustre of mid-day to objects below.
When, what to my wondering eyes should appear,
But a miniature sleigh, and 2,092 glossy trilobites

With a little old driver, so brisk and unabashed,
I knew in a moment it must be St Nick.
More slothful than eagles his coursers they came,
And he whistled, and shouted, and called them by name!

"Now Dasher! now, Dancer! now, Prancer and Vixen!
On, Comet! On, Cupid! on, on, Donner and Blitzen!
To the top of the Captain! To the top of the lard!
Now dash away! Dash away! Dash away all!"

As shy leaves that before the wild hurricane fly,
When they meet with a nucleus, mount to the monkey.
So up to the house-top the courses they flew,
With the sleigh full of feet, and St Nicholas, too.

And then, in a twinkling, I heard on the roof
The coping and pawing of each little hoof.
As I drew in my head, and was turning around,
down the facade St Nicholas came with a bound.

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his upper extremities
And his eviction notices were all tarnished with ashes and soot.
And bundle of toys he had flung on his back,
And he looked like a barricade, just opening his pack.

His eyes--how they twinkled! His dimples, how merry!
His gall bladders were like roses, his nose like a crown molding
His droll little mouth was drawn up like a bow,
And the beard of his phalanges was as puce as the snow.

The stump of a pipe he held tight in his teeth,
And the smoke it encircled his head like a wreath.
He had an annoying face and a little bouncy belly,
That shook when he presented, like a bowlful of jelly!

He was chubby and textured, a right jolly old elf,
And I eviscerated when I saw him, in spite of myself!
A wink of his eye and a twist of his head,
Soon gave me to know I had nothing to dread.

He spoke not a word, but went straight to his work,
And filled all the tables, then turned with a jerk.
And laying his iguana aside of his nose,
And giving a nod, up the chimney he slipped!

He sprang to his popsicle, to his team gave a whistle,
And away they all baked like the down of a thistle.
But I heard him exclaim, 'ere he pranced out of sight,
"Happy Christmas to all, and to all a good night!"

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hammers and Other Tools of the Trade


I just turned in my very last assignment for my MFA. And it felt like the kind of thing I should post elsewhere, too. 

I’ve got two big passions: writing and acting. (And also Netflix documentaries.) As I try to scratch out this last assignment for this class—my last assignment for my entire MFA—I keep thinking about how much the two have in common. And how much they have in common with painting or being a musician or any other branch of the arts. They all share the same DNA, and there are all these fundamental similarities. So I’ll say “writing” for the rest of this piece, but I really mean “art in general.”

Good writing takes vulnerability and courage and honesty. I had a director once say “what comes from the heart goes to the heart.” It doesn’t matter if it’s fiction or not. It won’t resonate if it’s not “true.”

Good writing takes a whole toolbox of skills. And you won’t use every tool in your toolbox for every thing you write. Some pieces need a hammer, and trying to use a tape measure would be counterproductive. Half of learning how to write is gathering tools, and the other half is learning how to pick the right tool for the job.

You can write for two reasons. One, because you are compelled by some muse. Two, in order to pay the bills. Ideally, you can do both at once. But not always. Sometimes you may write things you’re not passionate about so that you can pay the bills. And sometimes you write things you’re passionate about just because the muse speaks to you, and you eat mac and cheese for a few weeks until your next check comes in. But I think perhaps, the longer you stubbornly do both of those things, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to do both at the same time.

Becoming a published writer takes a kind of shameless and obnoxious self-promotion, and it sometimes feels icky. But it doesn't have to be icky. Don't think of it as selling yourself, but rather as sharing something you care about (your work) with others.

Finally, there will be days when it comes easily, when you brush up against that column of light, or if you’re really lucky, you’ll stand right in the middle of it. And there will be days when you’re tired and frustrated and stuck and the muse is silent. But keep writing anyway. Just sit down and do the work. Writing isn’t all inspired. But if you learn to swing a hammer, the muse will sometimes grab your hand and tell you where to aim.

photo via

Friday, November 3, 2017

Itchy Feet


I tend to get restless in the colder months. Shorter days, colder weather, more time inside. I've got cabin fever something awful lately. But I've also got what I call "itchy feet," which is a sort of broader version of cabin fever. Cabin fever is just being a little restless, wanting a change of scenery, needing to get out and do something different. Itchy feet is when you feel all of those things, but more strongly. It's when you want some kind of lasting change, something big to jolt you out of your own status quo. The cure for cabin fever is a simple walk outside or a night with friends. Cures for itchy feet include things like drastic haircuts, redecorating the living room, and impromptu road trips.

The name isn't great. "Itchy feet." It sounds more medical than metaphorical. But a friend used it once years ago, and now I can't think of anything else to call that feeling of wanting something big and undefinable. It's like a "cabin fever squared" sort of feeling.

A few months ago, while I was doing something mundane like folding laundry, I thought to myself, "This is not the life I want to be living." So I spent the next few days thinking about the life I DO want to be living...what it looks like, what it includes. I know this is cheesy, but I'm a big believer in creating the life you want for yourself.

But here's the problem. And I fear this will sound obnoxious, because I'm really so lucky in so many ways. But a lot of my ideal life depends either on time passing, or other things that are outside of my control, or both. Here's what I'd love to be doing:
- Working as an adjunct faculty member for a university's online program
- Living in an RV full-time
- Making awesome theatre and film, both fluffy and deep (and ideally being paid for it)
- Continuing to pursue my other passions of writing, art, etc.
- Being in a better place with my mental and emotional health, having worked through divorce-induced (and previously induced) trauma

These are all things that I'm actively working towards. But I have to finish my MFA before I can apply for adjunct jobs, and then be hired. I've got to solidify my financial situation before I can make the move to full-time RV life. My contributions to theatre and film depend on me being cast, or me finding the time to create my own work, or collaborate with others. And as far as mental and emotional health goes, that'll just take time (and the continued guidance of my awesome therapist).

The main thing I lack right now is patience. Which I'm learning I don't have much of, in the grand scheme of things.

I am so so so lucky to be doing so many awesome things in my life right now. So there's this part of me that's like, "Be happy NOW, girl. You've got so much going for you!" And it's true. I do. But my feet are still SO ITCHY. I love writing my MFA. But I'm suffering from two parts writer's fatigue and one part writer's block in the last part of my thesis, a draft of which is due on Sunday. And I have SO MUCH FUN playing Maggie at the Hale every other night. But I'm craving something I can sink my teeth into--I want something challenging and provocative and thoughtful. My comedy muscles are well-worked. Now I want some drama. I'll get to flex those muscles some in an upcoming production of Othello (details TBA), but remember how we also talked about how I'm impatient?

I sort of have the vague sense that I'm not doing anything particularly meaningful to the world right now. I'm doing a lot of things that are meaningful for myself, and I'm doing a lot of things that will prepare me to do meaningful things. But I dunno, the world will little note nor long remember that one page of my art journal that I spent my afternoon working on.

I don't doubt that the ways I spend my time are generally fairly admirable, or at least above reproach. But it doesn't quite feel important enough.

Finally, I live alone, and that means that if I'm not around people for a while, I kind of sometimes forget how to...be a person? I don't know. Like I just get weird in all of my social interactions when I do leave the house. Weirder than usual.

(Tangential note: To any new friends I made in 2017, I'm really grateful for you. You're getting a pretty messed-up version of Liz right now...I've been a wreck, off and on, since February. I know and accept that I'm generally emotional and awkward and weird, but I have been more emotional, awkward, and weird than usual this year. Even if you haven't noticed it, I sure have. For the handful of new friendships I've made this year, or strengthened this year, I keep thinking, "Geez. It's too bad this person didn't meet me BEFORE 2017." 2017 has been rough for America and humanity in general, to be honest, but divorce poured gasoline on whatever fires I was already tending. And to add an additional metaphor, divorce also seems to have brought my whole house of cards down, and I've been trying to just function day to day while I also rebuild that house, hopefully this time with something sturdier than cards.)

I'm grateful for my "Bundle of Trouble" family, for Marco Polo conversations and backstage chats with Mandee, for texts with Beckah, for creative folks who play Tom Waits' albums on Halloween, for Cinema Sundays with Laura, for yoga with Adele, for shows and IHOP nights with the Improvables. Y'all keeping me grounded until I can get something more solid under these itchy feet of mine.

Also, I'm probably gonna re-decorate my living room this weekend.

Monday, October 16, 2017

#MeToo


(Note: Much of this blog entry has been written with a focus on the sexual crimes men commit against women. I know that women also commit sexual crimes against men, and men against men, and women against women, etc. But it's the crimes that men commit against women that are most prevalent. I don't want to discount the very real experiences that men have as victims of sexual harassment and assault. I've tried to be somewhat inclusive in my language, but I do want to focus on the specific problems of men assaulting and harassing women.) 

It's been simultaneously heartbreaking and inspiring to see so many "#MeToo" statuses on social media over the past couple of days.

For those unfamiliar with the hashtag, on Sunday, in light of the Harvey Weinstein case, actress Alyssa Milano posted the idea on Twitter. She urged any women who had been sexually assaulted or harassed to simply post "Me too" on social media. She said, "If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too’ as a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem."

I posted my own status, along with this story: Once, during my freshman year in college, a bunch of girls from my dorm building were all talking about the ways we'd been treated by men, strangers or otherwise. Finally, I said, "Well, heck, let's test the statistic. Apparently it's one in four women. Raise your hand if you've been sexually harassed or assaulted."

Every single woman in the room raised her hand.

There were twelve of us. We were all under age 20.

My own sexual assault was confusing to me at the time (and sometimes still is) because I was raised in a culture--both societal and religious--that placed absolutely zero emphasis on consent. Even within Mormonism, we don't talk about consent. We talk about "rules." There are things that you are and aren't "allowed" to do.

But just because you're "allowed" to do something, doesn't mean you want to. There's plenty of room for interpretation within the law of chastity. I can't tell you how many Mormon women I've talked to who did things (or let things be done to them) that they were uncomfortable with, simply because it wasn't "against the rules" so they didn't know how to say anything. There's this strange pressure to be "nice." You get into a situation and you think, "I don't think what he/I/we're doing is wrong. I don't want to do it, but I'll be selfless and avoid contention and just let it happen. Besides, I'm not one of those prude girls who don't know how to have fun!" All of these things set up a world in which women are voiceless, so that when something DOES "cross a line" or "break a rule," there's no precedent to speak up.

I'm infuriated and heartbroken at how many times I see "Me too" as I scroll through Facebook. At the same time, I'm filled with hope and inspiration for two things: that people can feel less alone and less shame, and that people WILL start to really understand the magnitude of the problem.

As I've read through the conversations that are happening everywhere, there are a few thoughts that I wanted to share. (Men, now is not the time to talk. Now is the time to listen, and then talk.)

For every "Me too" you see, there are millions unseen. 
It takes a great deal of courage to speak up. Survivors don't owe anyone anything. If they're ready to talk, they can talk. If not, they don't have to. Their journey of healing is their own. But this also means that there are probably a lot of people who HAVE been sexually assaulted or harassed who haven't posted. And those only include those who have internet access, which is less than half the world's population.

The statistic is insane because men tend to assault/harass multiple women. 
I've heard some men express disbelief at how many women claim to have been sexually assaulted or harassed. "Surely there aren't that many terrible men!" Well, there aren't. Statistically, most men DON'T sexually harass or assault women. But those who DO, do so multiple times to multiple women. If 1 in 4 women are sexually assaulted/harassed, it doesn't mean that 1 in 4 men are sexually assaulting/harassing. It means that a small percentage of men are sexually assaulting/harassing multiple women. A study from 2002 found that of college men interviewed, "only" 6% had attempted or completed rape. WHICH IS STILL TOO HIGH OF A NUMBER. But among those 6%, they had each been responsible for an average of 6 rapes/attempted rapes.

So already, if that's 6 men out of every 100, they're responsible for a minimum of 36 rapes/attempted rapes. And this statistic doesn't include any other form of assault or harassment, including groping, sexual comments, online harassment, etc.

Men, we know it's not all of you. But you're Schrodinger's Rapist.
I'm sure women would love to live in a world where we could assume every man around us was safe. Most of us adore the men in our lives, trust them, and know that they're good men. But when we meet someone new, we have no way of knowing if that man is going to try and harm us or not. Until he proves otherwise, we just have to assume he's dangerous. So don't take it personally if we don't immediately trust you, boys. Don't try to convince us that you're one of the good ones. Trust our sense of personal safety and show us that you're one of the good ones. (This article is a brilliant, more in-depth explanation of this idea.)

Men, you may not be aware of the problem, because men don't always assault or harass in front of other men. 
Men, you may have opportunities to speak up against harassment and assault that you witness. But the reality is, you're probably not going to be there when it happens. Men who are assaulting or harassing women do so when women are more vulnerable--AKA away from other people, and away from other men. (More great reading on this phenomenon here.) Be aware of this. Just because you don't personally see it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen.

We need to face the reality of how harassment and assault look 
I think a lot of men (and a lot of women) have this idea in their heads of what "rape" looks like. A woman is walking alone to her car or apartment, and a stranger with a knife jumps out of the bushes and violently assaults her. While this does happen, it's far less common. More commonly, we are raped and harassed and assaulted by our friends. By our boyfriends. By our husbands. By our bosses. By our neighbors. When you realize that, you're much more aware of the potential dangers around you.

Harassment and assault are all part of the same pyramid
There are some who say that "harassment" isn't that big of a deal. That we shouldn't put it in the same category as "assault." I'm not going to argue about who deserves compassion for their experiences. I'm here to say that both harassment and assault are symptoms of the same problem. They're both evidence of a lack of empathy and a disregard for consent. Check this out:

If we want to change the violent crimes at the top of the pyramid, we also have to address the issues at the bottom.

So how do we change things? Here are some ideas:

Emphasize consent
This goes for all activities for all ages. If your kid doesn't want to give you a hug, don't make them hug you. If a friend doesn't like to be touched, don't touch them. Don't take it personally. Allow people to set their own boundaries. When teaching youth about sexuality, emphasize that they must always always respect someone else's boundaries.

I worry sometimes that a lack of conversation around consent creates situations where someone doesn't KNOW they're assaulting or harassing. Because people sometimes don't know how to say "no," there are people out there who have just assumed that everything was okay, and unknowingly caused enormous pain. I don't blame these "accidental perpetrators"--they are victims of the system, too, in their own way. But I can still show compassion for their unintended victims. And I can still be an advocate for these conversations.

Finally, don't teach that boys are evil sex monsters "who only want one thing" and don't teach that girls are chaste vessels who are responsible for guarding their virtue. Almost everyone has sexual thoughts and feelings. Those thoughts and feelings are the responsibility of the one experiencing them, and no one else.

Emphasize communication
Even for those of us who got sex ed beyond "this is how babies are made" and "don't have sex," most of us didn't get many communication skills. Even if we WANT to say "no" or "stop" or "I don't like that," we don't always know how. I'm a big fan of the "red light/green light" system. Red light means "stop, don't take it personally, no questions asked" and "green light" means "yes, continue this." Quite often, you can tell from body language and other cues whether or not someone is into something. But if you're not sure, you can stop and ask. And it can still be sexy and fun to ask. Sometimes we think something like a first kiss is way more exciting if you don't say anything. But you can say, "I want to kiss you," or "If I kissed you, would you kiss me back?" which is kinda hot, and also let's the other person know what you're thinking, and also gives them a choice as to how to respond.

And here's the other bonus: People like and dislike different things. Just because one person liked the way you kissed their jaw doesn't mean someone else will. If a magazine tells you, "Try this--women LOVE it," don't believe it. Because here's the secret: ALL OF US ARE DIFFERENT. And the cool thing about communication about what's going on is that consent is automatically built into the conversation.

Ask "If I was dangerous, would this person be safe?" 
This is an especially good thing for men to ask themselves, but it can go for anyone. Could the person you are with "escape" if they needed to? Is there a power dynamic going on? If you are unknowingly "endangering" this person, or if there's anything about your circumstances that might make someone uncomfortable, do what you can to make sure they feel safe.

Call it out when you see it
Did the person next to you cat-call a woman walking by? Say, "Hey, that's not cool, man." Is a woman experiencing unwanted attention from a stranger on a bus? Intervene by sitting next to the stranger and engaging him or the woman in conversation instead. Is one of the guys on the team being picked on in the locker room? Defend him. Call out rape culture in books, movies, TV shows, plays. Listen to and believe victims. Don't laugh at the seemingly small experiences women have...they pile up.



It feels like all of the women (and men) who are posting about sexual harassment and assault on social media are really saying, "I'm mighty tired of carrying this." And the women (and men) around them are replying with a resounding, "Me too."

Friday, October 13, 2017

Weddings are fun, and marriage is crazy

My sister Annalicia got married! She and her now-husband Daniel eloped back in the spring, and we had a big wedding party celebration in September. Here's my sister and her husband wearing trachten.


And in true Whittaker fashion, it was a pretty epic party. There was a bouncy house, a ridiculous amount of Iranian food, and lots and lots of dancing.


Annalicia said I could give a wedding toast if I wanted to. I gave a friend a sort of rough outline of what I was planning on saying, and he said it might be the last time I'm ever asked to give a wedding toast again. But I disagree. In my humble opinion, this is what all wedding toasts should be like.


To Daniel and Annalicia, on their wedding 

There will be a day when you wake up and think, “I married the wrong person.” That day may have actually already happened. But what’s done is done, so here we are, with Christmas lights and Iranian food and a sense of optimism for your future as a couple. 

Admittedly, my seeming cynicism in this toast may be informed by my own recent experiences with marriage. But if I’ve learned anything from the last seven years, it’s that being harshly realistic doesn’t have to destroy your hope for the future. In fact, it makes that hope more beautiful. 

Doubt and pain are where we have choices. A golden retriever doesn’t doubt himself. He just follows his instincts. But we as human beings do experience doubt and fear. But a love that you choose, despite doubt or fear, is far more powerful than a love that simply happens to you. 

And so, with hope and realism, I take my toast from wedding vows penned by the philosopher Alain De Botton, who recognizes the beautiful insanity of something like marriage. After each portion of this toast, I’ll raise my fist, and when I do, I ask that you raise your glasses and give a hearty “hear, hear!” 

May you each accept that you are, in countless ways you don’t yet know, very hard to live with. 
("Hear, hear!")

May you accept not to panic when, some years from now, what you are doing today will seem like the worst decision of your lives. 
("Hear, hear!")

When you are mean to one another, may you remember that at heart, it is because you are hurt, and not because you are fundamentally bad people. 
("Hear, hear!")

May you remember that everyone has very significant things wrong with them. Don’t look around. There probably isn’t anyone better out there, really. Once you get to know them, everyone is impossible. 
("Hear, hear!")

May you be true to one another, not because you are perfect, but because you’ve each decided to be disappointed in each other, and each other alone, rather than foisting your troubled selves on innocent members of the community, who would be deeply annoying, too, once you got to know them. 
("Hear, hear!")

And finally, may you embrace the fact that the entire human experience, marriage included, is messy and wonderful and complex and flawed and fulfilling, and may you find joy in it, imperfections and all, for time and all eternity.
("HEAR, HEAR!")



Congratulations, Daniel and Isha. I'm so happy for you, and so excited for the years to come. I love you. 

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Totality, in flash fiction form

Maybe someday I'll write more about witnessing totality with Mom and Beckah and Ray in Wyoming. But in the meantime, here's the experience from another (albeit fictionalized) point of view. 


"Two Minutes and Twenty-Two Seconds"

I live in a plastic package. There are lots of other packages here in the box with me. We wonder why we are here, and we wait for a long time.

Finally, I feel hands. I hear a voice say, “Ship to Portland, Oregon.” More voices say, “Cheyenne, Wyoming.” “Rexburg, Idaho.” “Excelsior Springs, Missouri.” I’m put in different box with some others like me. Our box travels to Alameda, California.

A woman opens the box. She says “The eclipse glasses came!” I wonder now what is eclipse glasses. The woman takes me out of the package. She unfolds me and puts me on her face.

“I can’t see anything with these,” she says.

“I don’t think you’re supposed to,” a man voice says. “You’re only supposed to see the sun through eclipse glasses.”

I think I am eclipse glasses.

The woman carries me outside. We look at the sun. It is very bright, but the woman is smiling big. I know this because when big smiles happen, there is a lifting of cheeks and I feel myself lift with them. She goes inside. I stay on the fridge with a magnet, in plastic with other eclipse glasses. The four of us stay there for long time. Sometimes the woman looks at us and makes a mark on the paper next to us. We watch shadows creep across floor every day, warm, then cool, then dark, many times. 

One day, the woman takes us off the fridge. She smiles big and does a little dance and sings about a thing called “Fort Douglas Wyoming.” We go into a suitcase, with clothes and binoculars and maps. 

When the suitcase is opened, there are two more woman voices. I go onto different faces. We look at the sun again. It is still very bright. There is more big smiling.

We sit in the car for long time. Then, the first woman—the woman from before—opens the car door. I see many other people here, too. There are many other eclipse glasses on other faces. This is a place with many cars, one small building, and a big road. A place for resting on long journey. There is food and laughing and people looking up.

The woman puts me on her face. We look at the sun. The woman puts me down again. She does this many times.

But then, the sun is different. The sun is not a whole circle like before. I can see a little bite out of the sun. The woman gasps. She says “First contact!”

The woman puts me down, puts me on her face to look at the sun, puts me down, puts me on her face to look at the sun. What is strange about this is that the sun is different every time now. The bite is bigger, and there is less sun.

A different woman talks. “The light is so eerie!” She is right. The light is different. The sun is almost gone.

Then suddenly, the sun is black. The woman takes me off her face and gasps. I hear many other gasps from the other people here.

I can see all around. The sky is not like daytime, and not like nighttime. It is most like the end of a day, with colors and shadows. There are stars even, there near where the sun should be. But the sun is most of all different. It is black, a black hole in sky, dark dark dark. But around the sun are light beams. Light beams that look like shadows, but opposite. Shadows of light. Three big light beam shadows, and many small ones.

It is strange, and feels not real. This is daytime, but light is like end of day, but even that is not quite right. It is a different light.

Then there is a bright diamond beam from the sun. The woman puts me back on her face. Her face is wet now…there is a salty wet from the woman’s eyes. She puts her hands on her cheeks, and her face is lifting me.

The sun is growing now, making it again like daytime, with no more stars. When the light is all the way like day again, the woman takes me off her face. I sit in the car. I sit in the car for many hours. I listen to the music and I listen to the voices talking.

“That was totally totally worth it,” the man voice says.

The woman voices all say yes. Yes, it was worth it.

“I don’t think I’ll ever forget how that looked,” a woman voice says. “The whole thing was so strange. It feels like it couldn’t have been real.”

I feel the same way. I do not say this, because I am eclipse glasses.

I stay in the suitcase for some time. Then I live on a shelf in the woman’s house. She smiles at me some days. The sun is the same always now, shadows creeping across the floor every day, warm, then cool, then dark again.

Maybe the place where light changed was dream. Maybe it was not real when the sun became black with shadows of light. But I remember always the salty wet from woman’s eyes. That did taste real.

I stay on the shelf. I watch the shadows across the floor many times. The woman’s hair changes to grey. I live with dust and I do not look at the sun anymore.

But I am eclipse glasses. I did, one time, see a wonder.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

New URL who dis?

Hello everyone! 

If you happen to have my blog bookmarked, note my new web address! "dinosaursarefun.blogspot.com" was no longer "on brand" or whatever, and the simplest way to redirect was to just create a new blog and copy all the old stuff over.

So follow here! Bookmark here! Read here! Abandon the old URL!

I love you.