Monday, August 6, 2018

Dear Diary: A Toddler's Life

I found this project I had started years ago, when my nephew Benjamin was just 2 years old. It was inspired by a nursery school teacher who had kept a similar "diary" on my behalf when I was that age. Benjamin just turned five about a month ago, and I'm feeling deeply nostalgic. It was fun to re-visit this two-year-old Benjamin and re-work this piece.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Aunt Liz has been asking me about my dreams lately, but I haven’t given her a straight answer until today. She explained that “sometimes we imagine things while we sleep, and those are called dreams.” After that explanation, I replied, “Oh yeah! ChuckWagon! Mommy more pay-dohs. Daddy don’t bite it.”

"Chuckwagon" is what I call the Chuck-A-Rama restaurant, because of the wagon in the logo. That restaurant a big deal in my mind. (So is Play-dough.)

No one knows where I got this, but I keep using the word “forty-eight.” Today after my nap, I sat up and looked at the bookshelves and said, “Whoa lots books. Forty-eight books.” I use this number to describe things all the time.

My favorite things at Liz and Jacob’s house continue to be the “duggle balls” (juggle balls) and the “cale” (scale) in the bathroom. I also love dancing to the Ting Tings, watching “Danel Tiger” on the iPad, pressing the doorbell button, and singing to Frozen in the car. Today, I discovered that I can slide around in the kitchen on my stomach, but Liz won’t let me—she says it’s too dirty. Maybe she should clean it more so I can slide.

Also today, Aunt Liz was pulling a sticker off a pear and I saw it and wanted it. But she had already thrown it away by the time I asked for it. She told me she was sorry and that she threw it away. So I stood in front of the garbage can and quietly said, “Sticker? Where are you?” I don’t know why Aunt Liz hugged me so hard and smiled so big after I did that.


Wednesday, November 11, 2015

I was sooooo sleepy all day today. But Aunt Liz and I had some fun running errands. We went to Walmart, where I held the little mirror she was buying for a long time, and that was fun. Then we went to the pet store, just because it was close by. There were so many fun things there! Fishies, kitties, birdies, and I even got to pet a puppy. I wanted to hold every animal, and open all the cages. But Liz told me they had to stay there in their homes. My other favorite things were the bags of rocks for fish tanks. I love rocks.

Then we went to the Dollar Store and played with toys for a long time. I found a cool microphone toy and made Aunt Liz sing into it, and then I looked for everything remotely shaped like a microphone and made her sing into them too—fake lightsabers, nunchucks, bubble wands.

The only sad thing is that grown-ups never let me take things from stores! I just want to hold everything and take everything home, but they never let me. Someday I’ll figure out why.

I do know some things, though. While we were at the store, Liz said, “I wonder what time it is?” And I replied, “Forty-eight!”

At lunch today, Aunt Liz gave me some special Jewish bread called “challah,” but that’s too hard for me to say, so I just call it “Lala bread.”

I’m still obsessed with listening to Frozen whenever we get into the car. My favorite parts are the very beginning of “The First Time In Forever”—the music is so exciting! It always makes me grin and dance when it starts. And I also love the end of “In Summer,” and I sing it reeeeeeealllly loudly. Liz always smiles so big when I do that.


Monday, November 15, 2015

I spent the WHOLE WEEKEND with Liz and Jacob and Grandma and Grandpa and Dave and Camilla and Anna and Laura. I saw Anna in a show called “Mary Poppins,” and even though it went waaaaay past my bedtime, I loved it. When we were leaving the theatre, I told Liz, “Saw Anna! We did it! Really really fun.” Then I saw someone that I thought was Anna, so I called out her name. Liz explained that it wasn’t Anna, but that she did kind of look like Anna. I said, “Kind of Anna. Friend!” and reached out to the person for a hug. I’m quick to make friends.

I played with Lucy and family all weekend, and it was fun. Grandma even gave me a haircut and I stayed still the whole time. I slept for most of the drives, but the last hour to Salt Lake City made me INSANE. I just sat and made crazy faces and crazy noises for at least half an hour. I was going nuts being strapped in the car seat, so Jacob ran around with me in the grass at a rest stop. It was FREEZING, and my little nose was red with cold, but I just wanted to run around, and I was pretty upset when we had to get back into the car.

I went to nursery in Grandma and Grandpa’s ward, and I was a little nervous to be in a new nursery, but then there were bubbles, and it was okay. And I made a shaker with two paper plates! I was very proud of it.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Today, I told Liz several very detailed stories during lunch.

STORY #1: “Go see lots books! Libary! And see see see? Winnie Pooh. And Eeeeeeeyore. And libary stay really quiet. Stay stay right by me. We did it!”

STORY #2: “Don’t ride it the frog. Scary frog at the zoo! Really really fun. See muggies [monkeys] throw bread up there! See lions. Eflants [elephants] water. Muggies stand in trees! Scary muggies.”

STORY #3: “Play outside, too shiny. Oh no, fall down. Hurt leg, go doctor. Benjamin hurt leg, Daniel Tiger hurt leg. Get sticker.”

The last story was probably inspired by the episode of Daniel Tiger I watched, where Daniel Tiger gets hurt and goes to the doctor for a bandage.

Also during lunch, I pretended to sneeze some apples into my hand. Then I looked at them and said, “Oh no! Apples fall down!” Then I dropped the apples on the tray, and said, “Try again, apples!” I did this a few times.

I’m starting to put longer and longer sentences together, and I’m starting to understand more about grammar. Today, instead of saying “Craisins good,” I said, “Craisins are good.” I also identified the fridge and told Liz that there was a second fridge. She explained that the top one is called a freezer. A few minutes later, I pointed over and said, “That’s a fridge. And that’s a freezer. At Liz house!”

I get kind of crazy when I’m sleepy, and sometimes it takes some persuading to get me to take a nap. But sleep always wins. One day I’ll stay awake! I will!


Wednesday, December 2, 2015

I went with Liz to get an oil change for the van today, and spent a long time in the waiting room. It was pretty fun. There was a baby in there, and paper to throw around, and vending machine buttons to push. I kept asking Liz if we could watch “Daniel Tiger” on the vending machine, but she said no. Also, Liz said we would go to the library today, but we never did! I reminded her about it in the afternoon, but she said we didn’t have time. Maybe next week. Because, as I told Liz today, “I really love books.”

I still have a cough, so my nap was a little rough. But when I woke up, Liz said, “Hi Benjamin.” I looked at her blankly for a full ten seconds, and then said, with no expression at all, “Muggies.” Liz raised her eyebrows and asked if I dreamed about monkeys, and with excitement, I said, “Yeah! And Benjamin go Chuck Wagon really really soon!”

As a two-year-old, the most influential experiences of my life have been seeing monkeys at the zoo, and eating at Chuck-A-Rama, so it makes sense that I would dream about those things.


Wednesday, December 9, 2015

Today, Liz and I took the train to Gateway shopping center. I saw Olaf in a window, which I was very excited about, and also watched a splash pad/fountain show. I kept telling Liz I wanted to play in the water, but she said it was too cold. When I heard the announcement for the musical fountain show, I looked up at the speakers and said, “Oh! That’s conference!”

After my nap today, I told Liz that I dreamed about “Mary Poppins! See Anna on stage!” And Chuckwagon. As usual.

I’m way more independent than people think I am. Today, Liz noticed I had a little hangnail. She tried to just pull it off, but couldn’t get it, so she said, “I’ll get the clippers.” As she walked to the bathroom, I belligerently called out, “No! I can do it!” A few seconds later, I walked into the bathroom and handed Liz the hangnail I had just taken care of myself.

Also, I have no idea what colors are. At age two, I can count to ten accurately and consistently. I can point out circles and triangles by name. Today, I correctly identified the letter E. But any time Liz tries to talk about colors, I have no idea what she’s talking about. “That’s a blue pillow!” I’ll say. She’ll say, “Actually, that’s orange. The blanket is blue.” And I’ll smile and say, “That’s greeeeeeeen!” So I know the names of colors, but not what they mean. But how am I supposed to know? There’s no shape to them! No one knows how to sufficiently explain what green or blue or orange is. Ugh. Babyhood.


December 16, 2015

I had a pretty uneventful day with Liz. We did go to IKEA, but it wasn’t super fun because she wouldn’t let me get out of the cart. When she said we were leaving, I said goodbye to everything I saw as we walked past it. (“Bye, boxes! Bye, other more boxes! Bye, so many clocks! Bye, lights!”) After a while, I didn’t know the names of things, so I just resorted to “Bye, stuff! Bye, other stuff!”

For the last couple of weeks, I’ve kept two toys in the car: a little flashlight and a little stuffed sheep. I always talk about them when we get into the car, and request them if they’re not immediately available. I also always say good-bye to them when I get out of the car. Today, when Liz woke me up from my nap in the car seat, I found the little sheep right away and exclaimed, “Oh, seep [sheep]! So sweet, seep. Like a little lamb! Snuggle up little seep.” Then I cuddled up the little sheep to my face and Liz almost died of my cuteness.

My outfit was so cute today: little blue jeans and a plaid button up shirt. I was like a little lumberjack! And when I sat on the couch to watch Daniel Tiger, I crossed my little legs like a grown up and Liz almost died of my cuteness again.

Also, Liz ate like, HALF of MY cheddar bunnies this afternoon, like a responsible adult. But I still snuggled up with her anyway. I’ve got a big heart like that.


Monday, July 23, 2018

"In this age of 'Me, Too'"

(Warning: I’m mad as hell, and I swear in this entry. I could apologize, but I’m not actually sorry, so.)

I keep hearing people say things like “In this age of #MeToo, men have to be so careful.” “Nowadays, men everywhere are looking over their shoulders, worried that they’ll be accused.” Afraid that they’ll be the next Harvey Weinstein, Mario Batali, Israel Horovitz, Garrison Keillor, Matt Lauer, Charlie Rose, Al Franken, Louis C.K., Jeffrey Tambor, Kevin Spacey, Bill Cosby, Roy Moore, Donald Trump. (ad infinitum)


This is not some new time, when men have to be extra careful to not sexually harass women, to not get caught in their sexual misconduct. Men should have been this “careful” the whole damn time.

I am 12 years old, a child, leaning over a drinking fountain. A strange man says something to me about how I’m bent over. Says something leering about the shape my body makes as I lean forward to drink from a water fountain. I am almost 33 now, and I feel shadows of shame every single time I lean over in public. Careful to make it quick. Careful to tuck my pelvis so my ass isn’t on display to be commented on.

I hear people make jokes about it sometimes. Dismissing this "Me, too" uprising with that kind of benign misogyny that is insidious not because it rapes women behind dumpsters, but because it pays more attention to sports scores instead. Laughing when they accidentally bump up against you, their hands suddenly invasive. It's become a punchline for some, when unwanted touch comes up in conversation.

I am 23 years old, working for a vacuum company in the San Francisco Bay Area. It’s before morning meeting, and Carlos is at the white board with a marker. He’s drawn a big bed, and labeled the stick figures in it. “Hot bitch.” “Hotter bitch.” “Carlos.” The words “LAST NIGHT” are scrawled across the top. He draws squiggles to indicate the movement of these characters, making obscene noises to accompany his obscene gestures, then sits down next to me. When he catches me shaking my head, he grabs my knee. “You know what I’m talking about, Liz! That shit is hot!” I smile at him briefly, that careful smile so many of us women have perfected. The one that is polite, but closed off. The one that carefully smooths over the moment and waits for it to pass. Eventually, he moves his hand away from my knee.

This narrative of women accusing powerful men of sexual misconduct in order to “take them down” doesn’t make sense to me. It never has. It’s based on two premises that are difficult for me to accept. That A, women are consistently listened to and believed when they make accusations of sexual assault and harassment, and B, that men are consistently held accountable for their actions. Because historically, until recently, neither of those things have been true.

I am 23 years old, sitting with co-workers on a break. Michael and I have kissed a few times in the last few days. He’s sitting now with his arm over the back of my seat, his hand dangling close to my breast. In order to move it away, I take his hand and compliment it’s shape. “They are nice hands,” he replies. “They should be here”—he hovers over my breast—“or here”—he starts to reach between my legs. I grab his hand to stop him. “No,” I say. “Why not?” he asks. “My body,” I say, “ My body, my rules.” Later, another co-worker tells me to not lead Michael on. “If you’re not going to fuck him, don’t lead him on.” He tells me to be careful about how I treat Michael, to be careful to not waste his time.

Women’s accusations are not often believed, and men are not often held accountable. Harvey Weinstein sexually harassed actress Ashley Judd in 1997, and eventually, the New York Times uncovered nearly three decades worth of allegations. Weinstein remained in place at the Weinstein Company until October of 2017. Bill Cosby raped women starting in the mid-1960s, and didn’t face trial or even suffer commercial consequences until 2015. Donald Trump has been accused of sexual assault and harassment by at least 15 women since the 1980s, and has been recorded bragging about assaults. And he’s the fucking President of the United States. Why be careful in the way you treat others, the way you cover up what you do? Why bother?

I am 27 years old, and exploring Rome by myself. A man at least twice my age stops me on the street to tell me that I’m very attractive. I use that smile again, the one that says, “I am nice. I don’t want any trouble. But let this moment pass.” He keeps talking. I move away. He follows me. He eventually tells me that we should sleep together on the last night of the year. I quickly walk away, move down the street. I’m freezing, but I take off my bright orange, easy-to-spot jacket, careful to disguise myself so the man doesn’t follow me.

Of course there have been cases where men have been falsely accused of rape. (Historically, in the United States, these have been predominantly men of color, and racism is a major factor in many of these cases.) But most studies show that only between 2% and 10% of rape accusations are false. Correction: Only between 2% and 10% of REPORTED rape accusations are false. There’s no way to know how many rapes go unreported. And that’s just rape—not assault, not groping, not catcalling, not solicitations, etc. So, if I were a man, I’d be careful about calling myself a victim in this situation.

As a woman, I am so careful. All the time. I carry my keys like a weapon. I lock my door as soon as I get into my car. I don’t lean over public drinking fountains too long. I get the keys to my apartment out before leaving the car, so there’s no fumbling at the front door. I don’t walk alone at night. I don’t leave drinks unattended. I fake phone calls and I smile that careful polite smile and I carry pepper spray and I text friends that I made it home safely. So careful. All the damn time.

Men. We are not asking you to be careful around us. That’s not what we’ve been asking. Not in the past, and not in this “age of #MeToo.” We are asking you to treat us as human beings, and we have been from the beginning. Here’s the best way to avoid being accused of sexual harassment or assault: don’t sexually harass or assault people. It’s that simple. Not sure how those things are defined? Do some damn research. Get online and google “consent.”

#MeToo is decades, centuries overdue. The widespread nature of sexual misconduct that we now see in the media is not new. It has always been this bad. Historically, it’s been worse. The thing that’s new is women saying, “ENOUGH.” We are saying "TIME’S UP." We will not allow this to keep happening. You cannot treat us as less than human anymore. We are tired of being careful around men. We would like to feel like people around them instead.

Monday, July 16, 2018

The Simple Life, Part Two

(If you haven’t read it already, check out my minimalist philosophy in this entry.)

So you wanna organize your house/office/car/life? I’m no expert; I’m just a woman who really enjoys organizing things, and have gathered a few ideas along the way. Here are the basic principles I use to make my organizing decisions!

You seriously, really, truly don’t need that much stuff
The simplest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it. Go through your stuff and get rid of the excess. The Marie Kondo method to get rid of stuff is to hold the thing you own in your hand and ask, “Does this spark joy?” and to throw it out if the answer is no. Which is actually a pretty decent system in some ways. I tend to use this criteria:

- Does it have sentimental value?
- Have I used it in the past year?
- If I have not used it in the past year, 
do I have a specific and timely plan to use it?

That last one is a little tricky—sometimes our “projects” build up, so you’ve got to be harshly realistic with yourself here. If you save these projects and don’t do them within a year, it might be time to get rid of them.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed about deciding which things you should keep and which you shouldn’t, a good first step is to get rid of duplicates. You don’t need more than one first aid kit, backpack, broom, etc. Depending on your laundry situation, you probably don’t need more than about 2 weeks worth of socks and underwear. Unless you entertain a lot, you probably only need 3 cups/plates/bowls/etc per family member in your home.

A few years ago, I started doing occasional “purges” of our (now my) household. Every six months or so, I’d go through the apartment and fill a few garbage bags and boxes with things to get rid of. And every single time I did, I’d think, “Okay, that’s it. That’s the last time I can do this. I absolutely need everything I have left.” And then a few months later, I’d do another purge and find dozens of things I didn’t actually absolutely need. It may take some trial and error to figure out what you do and don’t need. But I highly recommend purges.

Don’t bring home useless clutter
I don’t know about the rest of the world, but Americans have a weird obsession with “swag.” We take home goodie bags and gifts and end up with a lot of plastic stuff we don’t have any need for. So if you’re at a conference or meeting or party, and they offer you a tote full of promotional items, you can either politely decline, or take it home and then donate it/get rid of it.

And as a reminder: Don't buy and bring something home just because it's a really good deal. If you don't have any need for 20 mason jars, don't buy them just because they're 10 cents each. Even though it's tempting. ONLY buy and bring things home if you have a specific and immediate plan for them.

Keep similar items together
Not only does this make things easier to find, but it also just makes sense. Put all of your board games on the same shelf, or in the same area. Same with tools, craft supplies, electronics, etc.

Everything has a place
And I mean everything. Your keys. Your purse. Your shoes. Your batteries. Your spare change. Because if your belongings don’t have a place, where are you going to put them when you want to tidy up the clutter?

Think about your routine
This will help you decide where to put things. When you come home from work or errands, what do you do with your stuff? Do you throw it on the couch? Leave it by the door? Consider a small entry way table, or a crate by the door. In the morning, when you get dressed, do you coordinate your shoes with your outfits and check out the look in the mirror in your room? Then keep your shoes in your room. But if you tend to just throw them on as you leave, maybe keeping them in the entry area makes more sense.

Appearances matter
Not like, as a value judgment. But your psyche will rest easier if things simply “look” tidy. This is also a kind of cheat for those who don’t have the kind of visual OCD that I do—things can be messy as hell INSIDE the drawer, but when the drawer is closed, viola! Tidy! Learn to love opaque containers. Embrace cord clips and ties. Put things in boxes, behind things, under things. I’m a huge fan of cube storage solutions, because of how versatile they are. I also dig simple wooden crates. The aesthetic is flexible, and they can be used for lots of things.

I know a clear storage solution makes sense because you can see what’s in the storage container. But A, it’s visually messier. B, you can’t see everything at once. C, labels are your friend. I’m a big fan of chalkboard labels (you can get chalkboard paper!).

Display sentimental/artistic stuff
Once you’ve got all of your practical stuff organized, you can find ways to display the things that are especially meaningful to you. Cube storage solutions are your friend, because you can either put cubes in the spaces and treat them as drawers, or you can treat each cube space like shelving. Also, shelving in general is your friend.

If you’re into houseplants and art, you can spread these things around your living space interspersed with the pictures of loved ones, souvenirs from travels, or gifts.

A thought about gifts: Marie Kondo talks about this idea that if a gift once brought you joy, but keeping it around doesn’t serve you, it has already served its purpose in the moment you received it. Sometimes we keep gifts from others out of guilt, even though the gift itself is never used and doesn’t make us happy and just takes up space. That’s understandable. But think of it this way: When people give gifts, their intention is to make the receiver of the gift happy. And it probably did make you happy when you received it. But if it no longer makes you happy, then it has fulfilled its purpose. You can thank it for making you happy, and say goodbye to it.

Seasonal/temporary storage
There are two aspects to this. One is if you’re not sure if you’re ready to make a leap into minimalism. Take all the things you think you don’t need, put them into boxes, and then put them in storage. During the next few months, you may find that you actually DID need that other frying pan you thought you could live without. You may also find that you don’t need ANY of the things you put in storage. After a year or so, it’ll be easier to get rid of those things.

The second aspect is that sometimes we have seasonal items that we only use for part of the year. It makes sense to have a temporary storage solution for those things. I’ve got a few plastic tote boxes in my bedroom closet. During the winter, they hold bathing suits, shorts, sandals, sunhats, etc. Nowadays, they hold winter coats, scarves, snow boots, etc. Every spring and fall, I do a shift and switch out what’s in storage to prepare for the coming months. This is a simple way to keep things out of the way when you don’t need them for months at a time.

Final thought: You can break your projects down into simple, manageable steps
I’m a weirdo who is sort of thrilled at the idea of re-organizing a room or a closet or a desk. I sincerely enjoy the process. But if you’re NOT like that, and still want things to be organized, then break things down. Instead of saying, “This weekend I’m going to organize the house,” sit down and break that huge project into small afternoon or even 10-minute projects. Hang the list somewhere and go through each item, one by one.

Here, I even made a simplified checklist!

(You can get a downloadable version by clicking here.)

OR, if you really want to get down to business, you can use THIS epic and detailed downloadable list for inspiration (click link for download)! This is a list I made myself, highly inspired by the “Konmari Method" (Marie Kondo’s life-changing magic), and my own experience. Uh, fair's like 8 pages long. BUT, it's really really really broken down into very small steps. Your own living space will likely demand totally different projects, and you may come up with totally different solutions, but this can be a good place to start. Pinterest also has loads of ideas, as well.


Monday, July 9, 2018

The Simple Life, Part One (Philosophy)

I really like organizing stuff. The physical arranging of objects pleases me. Efficiency pleases me. I’ve been talking about organization with a few people lately, so I decided to do a "How I Keep My Stuff Organized" blog. But as I was outlining, the blog entry sort of…grew. I actually have a lot to say about WHY I have the relationship I do with my belongings, and that those ideas are an important foundation for HOW I interact with my belongings. So I’ve split the original blog entry idea into two parts: the philosophical and the practical.

I consider myself a “minimalist.” There’s a huge range of what this means—for some people, it means owning almost nothing. For me, it means only owning that which I truly need and which truly has value for me. (I have a decent amount of possessions--far more than a lot of people on earth, but probably less than a lot of other people in my age and income bracket.) My favorite definition of minimalism comes from author and minimalist Joshua Becker, who says that minimalism is “the intentional promotion of the things we most value and the removal of everything that distracts us from it." It's about intentionality, not deprivation. It's not getting rid of things you need, it's evaluating what you actually need and actually don't and adjusting accordingly.

I’ve got a few sources of inspiration here. I grew up with three siblings and not much room. That sort of forces you to thin out your possessions. I moved a lot in my twenties, and that was easier when I didn’t have too much stuff. But my minimalist lifestyle goes beyond just my past experiences. Years ago, I watched a documentary series called “Beyond Survival With Les Stroud,” and it was one of those things that had a really profound effect on me. I've come to believe that happiness can be found with very few possessions.

There are other factors, too. I also read that ridiculous “Magical Tidying Up” book by Marie Kondo. (Which I highly recommend, even though most people don't tidy up to this extreme.) I did a ton of research about human impact on the environment, and ways that individuals can affect positive change. I’ve been inspired by the tiny house movement, and full-time RV living.

I also feel like I have to get a disclaimer out of the way right now. And that is that I don’t quite know how to talk about minimalism without sounding kind of insufferable. For one thing, there's an element of privilege here...minimalism can be one of those "trendy things rich white people like." But mostly, I worry that I come across as sounding superior. "My lifestyle is better" kind of vibe. I know that a minimalist lifestyle is better for me, but I can't presume to know what's best for everyone. I do think it's worth trying, or looking into. So with that said, here's:


To Help Alleviate Anxiety
There’s this psychological effect that clutter can have on a person. I think this is true for a lot of people, but I know for SURE it’s true for me, most of the time. (This is less true for me with other people’s clutter. Somehow.) Having things tidy makes me feel empowered and confident, and the easiest way to keep things tidy is to not keep a lot of things.

To Reduce My Environmental Footprint
Minimalist living helps preserve environmental resources in a few ways. Smaller living spaces take less energy to heat and cool. Anytime you buy something new (which you probably don’t need), that new thing took resources to manufacture and transport, and it will take resources to dispose of. (And when you have fewer things, you’re less likely to accidentally buy duplicates of things.) I also have this theory that the only reason we have stuff is that we have room for it. If we were to give ourselves less room for it, we'd find we could live without the stuff.

To Live Deliberately
This is sort of hard to explain, but this is a really big thing for me. When I have less “stuff,” it means that I have a deliberate relationship with everything I own. It also means I spend less time cleaning up clutter or looking for things, giving me more time to do things that are more meaningful to me.

To Keep Me (And My Budget) Focused On Other Things I Care About
I suppose this has a lot to do with living deliberately. But to be more specific, minimalism keeps me from being distracted. Instead of spending money on more “stuff,” I can spend money on things that are more meaningful to me. Instead of spending hours picking up clutter, I can read or paint or write or spend time with friends. Minimalism just takes way less tedious “work” to maintain.

I’m not sure exactly how naturally I lean towards minimalism...if I'd have ended up living this way without thinking about it. At this point, I know that it’s a deliberate lifestyle choice I have made for myself. I do not want a large house. I don't want a lot of “toys.” I want to surround myself with things that are useful and/or meaningful, and get rid of everything else.

I’m not going to tell you that you should get rid of everything you own. (I am going to tell you that you can get rid of a lot more than you think you can, though.) After all, the easiest way to organize your stuff is to get rid of most of it. I promise that most of you don’t need more than one suitcase, or that many pairs of socks, or that much silverware. I promise you can live without many of the things you "can't live without."

In the next entry, I’ll get into the practical side of how to organize stuff (and get rid of a lot of it). In the meantime, check out these pinterest ideas for inspiration.

Monday, June 25, 2018

What makes you happy?

It’s that day when Beckah and I post things to our blogs. I have roughly 8 different drafts of things to post, but none of them are done and as for those that are close, the timing doesn’t seem right.

So after searching “blog post prompts,” Pinterest gave me a bunch of suggestions. And the one that kept sticking in my head was the simple question, “What makes you happy?”

Maybe it’s because I’ve had a tenuous relationship with happiness over the past year or so. I mean, all of us have a kind of tenuous relationship with happiness all of the time, but a year ago, if you had asked me, “Are you happy?” I wouldn’t have been able to say “yes” with much confidence. I had happy moments. But the general over-arching sense I had about life wasn’t happiness.

I knew time just had to pass for some of the happiness to return. But there are things, both small and big things, that make me happy. So I’ll spend this blog entry telling you about them.

Summer makes me happy. I love stepping out onto the pavement at nine o’clock at night, and feeling the heat underneath my bare feet, and watching the sun set and seeing the first few stars come out. I like seeing Jupiter and Venus and the moon, and the Big Dipper almost exactly overhead. I love popsicles and fresh fruit, and campfires, and parks.

Babies make me happy. With their stupid cute little hands and sneezes and laughter and cuddles. And the way they slowly learn to walk and talk and surprise you with how much they’re learning.

Hell, learning makes me happy. I think I might get a sort of extra big dopamine burst when I learn something new. It’s a high I’ll keep chasing for the rest of my life.

Theatre makes me happy. Dear goddess above, theatre makes me happy. It’s this beautiful combination of so many things I love. Literature. Acting. Sound and music. Lights and painting. Community. Design. A live connection between the creators of the art and the audience. And somehow it all combines to become something greater than the sum of its parts. (Wondrous mathematics.)

Patrick makes me happy. The way his blue eyes look at me, the way he makes me laugh, the way we can talk about anything. The way he shares my love of learning new things and the way we geek out about outer space and the human brain together. I love how almost every time I walk up the stairs to his apartment, I can hear him singing along to something playing on his laptop. The kindness and patience and honesty with which he lives his life makes me happy.

The incredible television that’s being made nowadays makes me happy. Handmaid’s Tale. Crazy Ex-Girlfriend. Love. Orange is the New Black. High Maintenance. Stories that are funny and beautiful and thought-provoking, that break with the traditions of the past, that put women and people of color and people of all shapes and sizes and levels of attraction at the center of their own stories. (There’s an entire episode of Easy about a teenage girl and her relationship with her parents’ Christianity, and the role was played by a big* actress, and NOT ONCE was her weight a plot point. Not in her relationship with her parents, not in her relationship with her boyfriend, not in her relationship with herself. Because while those stories are interesting and good to tell, it’s not the only story that fat people have to tell.)

Then there are little, deeply satisfying things that bring me happiness. Writing with a Uni-ball Jet Stream medium-point pen. Cross stitching. Organizing things—getting rid of things that aren’t needed anymore and finding places for what’s left. Food. Sleep. Kissing.

I know there are a million ways to measure happiness. To define happiness. I guess I’m just aware of the fact that the happy moments seem to outnumber the unhappy ones nowadays. There are still a lot of question marks about my life, and plenty of stresses, and plenty of sad moments. But I just feel happy lately. I’m grateful.

* I never quite know how to talk about weight. I’m all about fat acceptance, because I don’t think our society’s prejudice against fatness actually has much to do with health. (Going into detail would be a whole ‘nother blog post.) But here’s the reality. I’ve always been fairly skinny/average (through very little action on my part). So I don’t always know which terms are best. Overweight? Fat? Big? I want to de-stigmatize these words, but I also want to be sensitive to other people’s experiences, which are not always mine. Anyway. Feel free to hit me up in the DMs if you have insight.

Monday, June 18, 2018

Goals, a belated report

Those of you who know me well and/or follow this blog, know that I'm a goal and list oriented person. I've been doing this thing for the past few years, where instead of New Year's resolutions, I make goals at my birthday. This "31 Things" report is well overdue, but I was sort of preoccupied with other things until now. So here it is.

Okay, look. So this was the year I got divorced. I was just in survival mode for a lot of this year, so I'm going to cut myself some slack. 

As of September 9, 2017:
1 complete

1. Read 1 script per month 
I want to write more scripts, and I'm a big believer that you should read the types of things you want to write. And I know there are thousands (TENS OF THOUSANDS) of amazing scripts out there that I just haven't gotten to yet. I want to have read 12 new scripts by the time I'm 32. They can be TV episodes, screenplays, plays, etc.

X-Files: Season 3, Episode 3 "D.P.O." by Howard Gordon
The Nerd by Larry Shue

The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time by Simon Stephens (adapted from the book by Mark Haddon)
Trifles by Susan Glaspell
The Stronger by August Strindberg

Okay, so I didn't quite read one entire script this month. But it was because I was busy memorizing one, writing another, and workshopping a dozen more. So I'm gonna still count that, because I was surrounded by scripts all month. 


To Kill A Mockingbird by Christopher Sergel, based on the novel by Harper Lee



Punxsutawney by Larry West
The Heart of Robin Hood by David Farr


A Bundle of Trouble by Ruth Hale


The Red Bike by Caridad Svitch



2. Write a spec script
I have zero intention of publishing or sending out said spec script. I consider it purely an exercise in writing. It's a good way to start--it's kind of like fan fiction. The characters, world, and format already exist...I'm just creating a different story. I'm bowling with the gutter bumpers up, so to speak. I'm thinking "The X-Files"? I'll keep you posted.

3. Complete 1 painting
I've had this on my list before, and I've had a few different ideas for paintings floating around in my head lately. I think I'd like to make one of them a reality this year.
DONE! A few times, actually. Painting of an anatomical heart, a big pink jellyfish, an abstract painting about wonder. 

And as for my new goals...

Something a little different this time around! Because the next chapter of my life is fairly uncertain, I'm going to work on one big goal over the next two years. Here it is: by the time I turn 35, on September 8, 2020, the goal is to have read, watched, or participated in all 37 of Shakespeare's plays. (Note: I'm not starting from the beginning--I'm counting the ones I'm already familiar with

as of June 18, 2018

All's Well That Ends Well

As You Like It

Comedy of Errors

DONE! Played a servant in a production at BYU-Idaho

Love's Labour's Lost

Measure for Measure

Merchant of Venice

DONE! Read during undergrad at BYU-Idaho

Merry Wives of Windsor

Midsummer Night's Dream

DONE! Played Mustardseed in a production at South Medford High School

Much Ado about Nothing
DONE! Watched the film in high school

Taming of the Shrew

DONE! Watched multiple productions and films


DONE! Watched a production in high school, played Caliban and designed sound for a children's production at BYU-Idaho, played Gonzalo in a production at BYU-Idaho

Twelfth Night
DONE! Watched the film

Two Gentlemen of Verona

Winter's Tale

Henry IV, Part I

Henry IV, Part II

Henry V

Henry VI, Part I

Henry VI, Part II

Henry VI, Part III

Henry VIII

King John


Richard II

Richard III

Antony and Cleopatra




DONE! Watched lots of films and productions, read lots of times

Julius Caesar

King Lear


DONE! Watched a handful of productions, played a Witch in a production at BYU-Idaho


DONE! Read in high school, played Bianca in a production in Salt Lake City

Romeo and Juliet
DONE! Read lots and lots, seen a few productions

Timon of Athens

Titus Andronicus

DONE! Watched a film version

Troilus and Cressida

Monday, June 11, 2018

Self-Care: An Incomplete List

I had another essay in the works that I was planning on posting today—a venom-filled indictment of those who say “men have to be so careful in this age of #MeToo.” But the time doesn’t feel right for that post. A lot of people are aching right now. (Let’s be honest—a lot of people are aching all of the time.) But I’m just aware of the sadness people are feeling about the loss of Anthony Bourdain and Kate Spade, and I’m aware of the private battles of a handful of close friends. So I felt that something tender would be better for today.

I’ve been thinking a lot about self-care lately. The need to be patient and kind with ourselves. I once heard saw on Pinterest that the Buddha taught that if your compassion does not include yourself, it is incomplete. And the fact is that we all just need a little extra TLC sometimes, whether we’re suffering extra work stress or a recent illness/injury or a deeply broken heart or good ole pedestrian clinical depression.

But the phrase “self-care” doesn’t really include specific details or instructions. So, I’ve crowd-sourced some ideas, and included things from my own list. Because when you’re in crisis, it’s hard to brainstorm ways to care for yourself. If you already have a list made, it’s a little easier to just take a look at it and find a good way to hug your own heart.

So feel free to use this list to create your own—exclude the things that don’t work for you (because of interests or budget), and include some things of your own. Some items on this list are distractions from spiraling thought loops, and some are ways to address the hurts you’re feeling, and some are a little bit of both.

I know that some of these things are extra difficult when you’re dealing with clinical depression, and I’m in no way suggesting that any of these things will fix your problems, or be an adequate replacement for medication, therapy, etc. But a list of self-care strategies is just another tool to add to your toolbox. Consider it a first aid kit—sometimes a bandaid really is helpful.


Watch a great movie or TV show
This can be an old favorite, a comedy to make you forget your troubles, or something sad or romantic to give you a good cry. Or you can splurge and take yourself out to the movies. Get a giant popcorn and sit in one of those luxury loungers. Or just queue up Netflix and let that next episode play.

Go on a walk
The left-right movement of walking actually calms the brain, and makes difficult emotions a little easier to process. Movement in general is pretty good for brains, unhappy or otherwise. Find a good podcast or put on a good playlist, and just explore your neighborhood.

Because endorphins. It doesn’t have to be much—you can find a short, easy work out video on youtube and do it in your living room.

Paint or do art of some kind
Says the girl with the art therapist. The process is more important than the product. It doesn’t have to look good—just smear some paint. Fill a whole piece of paper with crayon scribbles. Get a coloring book and some colored pencils and have at it.

Take yourself out to eat
Someplace yummy, that you really love. Don’t count calories. And yes, order dessert.

Read a good book
An old favorite, or discover something new via Goodreads or your local library.

Shave your legs
Really really really well. Be meticulous. Use shaving cream. Use a new razor. Exfoliate and moisturize.

Either professionally, or at home.

Get a massage
If you can afford it, this is AMAZING.

Connect with someone you care about
Send a text/snapchat/Marco Polo/Facebook message. Spend some time in conversation with another person. Human connections are powerful and healing.

This is another one where process is more important than product. Just write what you’re thinking/feeling.

Reorganize something
How’s your bathroom closet look? Your bookshelf? Your Tupperware drawer? Sit down and go through and tidy it up. Sometimes your thoughts and emotions get tidied in the process.

Deep clean something
When’s the last time you wiped down your kitchen cupboards, inside and out? Just like tidying, a good deep clean can be cathartic.

Do a jigsaw puzzle
Just something simple that takes a little movement and a little thought.

Cook something new
Try a new recipe. Bonus if there’s chocolate involved.

Jerk off
Yeah, I said it.

Cuddle/kiss/make out/have sex with someone you care about
Physical touch can be so so so healing. There’s a phenomenon called “skin hunger,” where the human body and mind suffers if it doesn’t experience touch. If you have a friend or significant other who’s into this, ask them for some loving.

I’m a huge fan of YouTube karaoke.

YouTube Party
Speaking of YouTube, get on there and watch the things that make you smile. Favorite themes of mine include: babies laughing, cat/dog fails, dance videos, and bloopers. Watch your favorites and find some new ones.

Impromptu Emergency Dance Party
I have a specific playlist for this purpose. The exercise releases endorphins, and the music perks my heart up. And a lot of us just don’t dance like we used to!

Take a warm bath/hot shower
Water is healing, somehow.

Sometimes it’s helpful to just take a moment to breathe and BE in the moment. There are lots of apps and YouTube guides to help you if you’re a novice.

Spend time in nature/get outside
Whether it’s a public park or a hiking trail, just being outdoors and surrounded by green can work wonders. Or just move a kitchen chair to your front porch and sit in the sun.

An exploratory drive
Hop in your car and explore a part of town you’ve never been in before. Take a moment to appreciate the architecture of the houses.

Retail therapy
Listen, use this one sparingly. But sometimes a stroll through Target or Barnes & Noble really is lovely.

Just give yourself permission to feel
I often subconsciously go numb when I’m feeling distress. While it’s uncomfortable, the best way to deal with that distress is to just give myself time to feel it. I’ll usually do this while journaling or going on a walk or a drive, or having a conversation with a loved one.

Listen to awesome music
Sometimes I’ll go through my iTunes, and think “Oh yeah! I effing LOVE Franz Ferdinand! I wanna listen to this album!” Revisit some old favorites. Find some new ones.

Hang out with some animals
Visit the pet store or humane society and cuddle kitties and puppies.

Take care of yourselves, everyone.

If you or a loved one is having thoughts of suicide, or dealing with a moment of crisis in clinical depression, call the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255. You can also chat with them online at They are open 24/7 and also provide services for those who are deaf or hard of hearing. You can also google "Suicide or Crisis Hotline" and see what resources are available in your area.

Monday, May 28, 2018

On the Pleasures of Wandering

A few years ago, my family spent Christmas in Rome. We were there for about a week, without too many detailed plans, so one Sunday afternoon, they all said, “We’re going to go see ‘The Hobbit’!” And I said, “I’m going to go see Rome.”

I grabbed my passport and wallet, a copy of the key to our small apartment, and started walking, with no planned destination or activity in mind. I headed west because the streets looked interesting in that direction. They opened up onto a park, where a dozen barbecues were taking place around a community soccer game. The men on the team were middle-aged, with a few thirty-somethings here and there. Fathers who had been kicking soccer balls in public parks since they were kids themselves. I walked around ancient columns, now crumbling in the grass, and sat on a patch of grass and watched the game, cheering and booing in passionate English, to match the passionate Italian around me. At a nearby table, laden with food, a radio played pop music while people chatted.

I wandered down towards the Colosseum, taking side streets and eavesdropping on fellow tourists. I stopped to listen to a woman sing while accompanying herself on a guitar, before being verbally accosted by an older man who told me I was “very attractive” and told me that I should sleep with him “on the last night of the year for many presents!” I declined.

I made my way past the Spanish steps, past gelato shops and designer clothing stores. As night fell, music drifted out from the doors of the churches I past. I found myself in a large courtyard and turned to discover that I’d stumbled upon the Pantheon. I stepped inside and craned my neck, looking up and up and up at the concrete dome, at the oculus at its center that would flood the cavernous room with light during the day. A group of people were singing hymns, standing in a small cluster, and I stood and listened to their voices echo off the old church walls.

It never occurred to me to worry about how I was going to get home. My internal compass is pretty reliable, and our apartment was near the Colosseum, which I figured would be pretty easy to find. I actually don’t really remember how I got home that night—I must have just walked in the direction I figured I needed to and eventually found my way back.

I am now a fierce advocate of wandering. It’s how I discovered the Pantheon. Years ago, it’s how I discovered “magical Egin” while on the back of a Kymco People 150. Through wandering, I’ve stumbled upon art installations, hidden parks, and historical sites. And sometimes I don’t stumble onto anything at all, but end up just wandering. It’s a reward in itself.

Here’s the counterintuitive thing, though. If you’re traveling to a new place, you have to actually schedule time in for wandering, or it won’t happen. You have to consciously set aside a block of time and guard it ferociously. The entire point of wandering is not to plan the time, but I highly recommend planning the time in which to not plan the time.

In order to have an enjoyable wander, I also recommend not bringing very much. No maps, no notebooks, no umbrella in case of inclement weather. Just the absolute minimum of what you need to be safe.

Wandering can be done in a car, or by foot. When traveling to a new place, I’m a huge fan of the walking wander. But I’ve also had many a lovely exploratory drive, alone or with company. That’s another thing about wandering—it can be done alone, or with others.

During that same trip to Italy, there was a day I scheduled to go explore Florence. I had a few places on my list to see—the Duomo, the Uffizi, the Galleria dell’Accademia. But I didn’t really make plans beyond that. I told family that they were welcome to join me, although I warned them that I didn’t have much of an itinerary. In the end, a few of us ended up taking the train from Rome to Florence, and spending the day wandering the city, looking at art, walking cobblestoned streets.

I know not everyone enjoys wandering as much as I do. I’m usually a planner in most aspects of my life. But there’s something sort of magical about just…moving forward. Not having a clear destination in mind. Not worrying about whether you’re doing something right or wrong. Not trying to meet anyone’s expectations or to get the right picture or the check the right thing off the list. Just walking. Just driving. Just stumbling. You might find a gem. But if you don’t, it’s usually all right. Just exploring is its own reward.

photo via

Monday, May 14, 2018

An Ode to Survival Mode and the Self-Induced Metaphorical Coma

In times of deep grief, of trauma, of upheaval, there seems to be a period of time when people go into “survival mode.” In survival mode, there’s no thought of “the future.” No long-term goals. Very little beyond the day-to-day. You divide your day into hours. “Today I will go to work. Then I’ll do homework. Then I’ll watch this TV show. Then I’ll eat dinner. Then I’ll go to rehearsal. Then I’ll go to bed.”

And you’ve made it through another day. One more down.

Someone may ask you, “How was your day?” And you won’t be able to answer. There isn’t room in survival mode for measuring days that way. You got through the day. Good days or bad days are sort of beyond that baseline of just…getting through days.

I don’t know that you can choose survival mode. I think that just sort of happens when you’re in chaotic circumstances, or when everything’s been turned upside down. (Motherhood actually comes to mind as a time of survival mode. There seems to be this period of time when children are young, when women are just “in the trenches” of motherhood. You’re just trying to make it from breakfast to naptime to dinner to bedtime.)

It’s not a comfortable place to be, in survival mode. But it’s the psyche’s way to protect itself, I think. A sort of gift.

I read once that when burn victims are going through the initial stages of healing, doctors will sometimes induce a coma to allow them to “sleep” through the worst of the pain. It’s medically convenient—a patient in a coma won’t thrash around in their bed, causing further injury and delaying healing. But there’s mercy in it, too. It’s a gift.

I spent the months after Jacob and I separated in a kind of self-induced coma. I think I sensed that there was only so much I could do to heal, and that some of the hurt just needed time. I needed to find some way to numb myself while my psyche worked through what it had to work through.

I remember intentionally distracting myself, during those first spring months. I felt like I was facing and sorting through all of the issues that I could, and what remained was just plain hurt. Hurt that was just going to be there until enough time passed to heal it. So did whatever I could to metaphorically induce that coma. I filled the time with Black-ish, The Handmaid’s Tale, Madmen, The Wire, Dear White People, Atlanta, Broad City, High Maintenance. With podcasts and art journaling. With memorizing and rehearsing and performing and designing whatever I could find. Sometimes something would come along that was a blessed time-filler. A visit from a friend or family member. A trip out of town. Some project around the house.

There are obvious downsides to this. I did a lot of sitting during my survival mode coma, and subsequently got pretty unhealthy. All of my long-term goals were put on hold. I wasn’t really able to reach out to other people in kindness very often or very well—I was too busy trying to keep my sh*t together to help anyone else carry theirs.

But here’s the thing. It kind of worked. My self-induced coma really did keep me from causing further injury to myself or delaying healing. It helped me survive the time that had to pass in order to heal the hurts.

I’ve been thinking a lot about this lately because I still do it—the self-induced coma thing. Out of habit. I do it even though I don’t have the same need for healing nowadays. Granted, I do still have hurts to work through, some small and some not-so-small, but none are big enough to warrant a self-induced metaphorical coma.

And it’s strange. It’s strange to not need the coma anymore. I’ve spent the last year trying so desperately to fill my days that an afternoon of free time initially gives me a vague sense of panic. I have to remind myself that it’s okay. There isn’t some monster of un-process-able hurt I have to guard myself against anymore.

I think the self-induced metaphorical coma can be easily abused. It can be used to avoid things that actually need to be worked through. But it’s like…it’s like you’re on this boat in the middle of the ocean, and there’s a huge storm. You’ve got to take in the sails and batten down the hatches and secure all the valuables while the hurricane rages. But after you’ve done that, you’ve just kind of got to get through it. You should tune in to the storm now and then to make sure everything’s basically safe, but otherwise, best just pass the time with stories or songs or whatever. Spending all of your time staring into the hurricane won’t actually do anything to the hurricane, and it won’t actually help you. After the storm is passed, then you can try to sail your boat again.

It’s not a perfect metaphor. But whatever. I was on a stormy sea for a while, and I got used to distracting myself from the rage and bluster outside. So sometimes I still cling to the stories and songs that filled my time. But now, spring is slipping towards the warmth of summer, and the skies are calm, and hands are reaching for mine and I’m stepping into the sunshine.

And if the storms rage again, I’ll know what to do.

painting: Snow Storm by Joseph Turner

Tuesday, May 8, 2018

Parks, Reviewed

(Summer is basically here and all I want to do is be outside, so I think this will be a recurring feature/series.)

Faultline Park
1100 East, 400 South in Salt Lake City

A small and charming park near the University of Utah. Features steep grassy hills that look dangerously good for rolling down, but which you probably shouldn't roll down, because there's a road/parking lot at the bottom of the biggest hill. Stunning views of the Salt Lake Valley, and a swing set that's perfectly aligned to watch the sunset, if you can claim the swings from couples who have the same idea you did. Playground has the kind of soft rubber that feels exactly how you imagined walking on the moon would feel when you were a kid. Confusing, yet charming playground equipment. Terrible place to be if there is an earthquake, since the Wasatch Fault Line runs right through it. 4/5 stars.

Liberty Park
700 East, 1300 S in Salt Lake City

Huge and rambling and satisfyingly full of trees. Every Sunday, this park is transformed into Woodstock. People are unapologetically themselves and you can get a contact high just walking through the crowd. A romantic gazebo overlooks a pond if you have someone you'd like to kiss and need a good atmosphere. Hella geese and ducks, which eat bread that people feed them even though BREAD IS REALLY BAD FOR DUCKS AND GEESE AND IT MESSES UP THE ECOSYSTEM AND YOU SHOULDN'T DO IT. Additional features include various playgrounds, a splash pad, multiple fountains, an aviary, and a place to drop off your recycling if, like me, you don't have curbside recycling so you put it all in your car until you can drop it off the next time you're near Liberty Park. 5/5 stars. 

Fitts Park
500 East, 3050 South in Salt Lake City

A charming little river runs through this park, filled with ducks and geese (which will still eat the bread that people shouldn't feed them). Pleasant walking paths. Your 3-year-old nephew will call this the "fall-down park" after seeing a child his own age fall from the top of a play structure, but he will be comforted from this trauma by throwing rocks into the water. 3/5 stars.

Reservoir Park
1300 East, South Temple in Salt Lake City

A small park that's conveniently located for parents of small children who live in/near the Avenues. There is a huge hill that actually IS good for rolling down, and there are almost always dogs playing happily. You will always forget that this park exists, and what it's called. And apparently so will everyone else because there will be like, no distinguishing photographs of it online. 2/5 stars. 

Monday, April 30, 2018

A love letter to live theatre in general, and to a recent production of Othello in particular

Part One: F*** Your Patriarchal Gender Roles Bulls***

The other day, I was sitting and chatting with a guy friend about my costume for Othello, and the topic of fishnets came up. And then he said, “I’ve worn fishnets onstage. Wait…I think I have…I don’t remember?”

And I love that theatre is a world in which men can’t remember whether they’ve ever worn fishnet tights onstage or not.

The theatre world probably has its share of toxic masculinity. But in my own personal experience, there isn’t much. Theatre is a world in which straight, cisgender men can wear fishnets and nail polish and high heels, and hug and touch each other, and show emotions, and kiss each other onstage without freaking the hell out about their masculine identity. And I know there are other worlds outside of theatre where this is true, but I love theatre for this reason.

Part Two: We Are Not Strumpets! 

In Othello, there’s this dramatic scene where (spoiler alert but come on people it’s 400 years old) Roderigo’s been murdered, and Cassio’s been stabbed, and Iago is trying to blame my character, Bianca, for all of it. Iago calls Bianca some version of the word “whore” almost a dozen times within a few short pages. That scene has always been really intense to act, both in rehearsal and performance.

But for some reason, during our third show, it just…really got to me. We didn’t do anything particularly different. Maybe the actor playing Iago got a little bit closer to me, or said a few of his lines more intensely. But there was just something else going on for me. All of Iago’s lines suddenly felt like all of the things the world seems to shout about women’s sexuality. “This is your fault. Your fault. You are bad. You are a whore. Your fault.” As a survivor of sexual assault, those are the words you hear the most loudly. “What were you wearing?” “How did you lead him on?” “This nice young man’s life is ruined because you reported this.” So much blame. It’s overwhelming.

At the end of that scene, Iago grabs my wrist and calls me strumpet (again), and I pull a knife on him and yell, “I am no strumpet! But of life as honest as you that thus abuse me!” In rehearsals, and in the first few shows, I would usually kind of fall apart on the second half of that line, dropping the knife and sort of collapsing into a breakdown. But on that Saturday night, all of the rage of millions of women screaming “ME TOO!” welled up inside me and I yelled my entire line at Iago, full of righteous anger, before throwing the dagger violently to his feet.

I had a director once say that acting isn’t therapy, but it sure can be therapeutic. I kept the Saturday night interpretation of that scene for the rest of the run, and every night, I felt like I got to yell “I AM NO STRUMPET” not only for myself, but on behalf of so so so many women.

I love that theatre creates these unexpected opportunities to do something meaningful for yourself and for others. I definitely don’t think people should intentionally use theatrical productions to work through their gunk—it doesn’t make for the best theatre, and it can get pretty selfish. But often, the gunk sort of gets worked through anyways, through the simple act of telling a story that you connect with. I love theatre for that.

Part Three: The Give and Take

I’m no good at small talk. Words like “mingling” and “networking” set my heart racing with nerves. Some of the most important things in my life are the relationships I have with other people, but I’m definitely more of an introvert than an extrovert. It often takes me a while to open up to new folks.

But theatre gives me a chance to form meaningful relationships with other people without the “mingling” or small talk. It allows me to connect both face-to-face and side-by-side with so many caring, funny, smart, perceptive, hard-working people. The process of putting a show together automatically creates so many opportunities to connect. There are conversations in dressing rooms and green rooms. And there’s the give and take onstage, learning to listen to and trust each other. I love theatre for that.

Part Four: What It All Comes Down To 

Look, I know the world is kind of a mess. I think that in some ways it always has been, and it’s very possible that it always will be. But we do the best we can to make things good in the world while we’re here. And if there’s one thing I believe deeply, it’s that empathy makes the world better. And if there’s another thing I believe deeply, it’s that live theatre is one of the best teachers of empathy in the world.

I believe that as an audience member. But I also believe that as a maker of theatre, too. Participating in a live theatre production keeps all of my empathy muscles alive and well. It validates empathy by letting go of damaging gender expectations. It lets me know what it is to walk in someone else’s shoes, and gives me chances to tell other people’s stories. It helps me let my walls down as I learn to trust my fellow actors.

There are so many reasons why I love theatre. So so so many. I’ve got several volumes worth of love letters to theatre stored up. But today, after the closing weekend of “Othello,” this is the love letter I wanted to write.