Monday, December 10, 2018

Today I Love My Life For

Gratitude Journal: Excerpts and Explorations

Monday, January 8, 2018
Today I love my life for successfully flirting a good flirt.

It’s been an ongoing discussion between B and I. “What even is flirting?!” I demand. B has multiple (and very good) examples and explanations, none of which come naturally to me. I use B as my flirtation sounding board. “I have a thing for forearms,” I try. “Whose?” he says. “You’ve got to make it specific.” I’m astounded at the idea of just telling someone that I like their forearms. Just saying it. Outright.

Later that night, we’re sitting next to each other in the theatre, watching the other cast rehearse. I rest my head on his shoulder, in that friendly, cuddly way that we theatre people do. But after a few moments, I sit up and whisper, “You smell too good to sleep on.”

B stifles his laughter, then says, “THAT was a good flirt.” I make him high five me.


Thursday, April 12, 2018
Today I love my life for Patrick’s smile when I dropped my pen at rehearsal.

His words onstage are so full of life and it makes my spine hum. When he’s sitting offstage, he has this habit of taking his pencil and running it through his hair, up over his ears, along the sides of his head. A soothing habit.

I’m sitting across the room from him, and take my pencil and run it through my hair. Patrick is right, it does feel good. I look up and we make eye contact. I smile and run the pencil through my hair again. But it gets caught and clatters to the floor. I give him a sheepish look. And Patrick smiles, all the way from his chest to his eyes.


Friday, May 18, 2018
Today I love my life for listening to the rain while holding sleeping baby Michael.

Benjamin was almost two when Adele and Daniel moved here. And Nathan is almost two now. I’ve watched both of them learn to run, speak in longer sentences, ask questions that I don’t know how to answer.

But I only have a few short, precious months with Michael. The family will be in Arizona when he says his first words. I’ve been trying not to think about it.

Most of my memories of Michael will be of holding him while he sleeps, in the dim master bedroom, while Adele does the hundreds of other things she’s doing. His snuggled up warmth as we rock in the evening light.

Today, he’s asleep, his head against my chest in his moby wrap. We’re standing in a stranger’s kitchen, while Adele’s clear voice and the tones of her crystal singing bowls ring out from the other room. I’m here to hold the baby so that she can work uninterrupted.

Michael and I walk up and down, up and down the length of this kitchen. Something in his little baby self can tell when I’m not moving, and he stirs if I pause for too long. Outside, the rain comes pouring out of gutters, hits the wooden deck in soothing plunks, runs in rivulets down the windows. But there’s a stillness in it, too. In this moment, everything is still. I don’t have bills to pay or laundry to fold or work projects or auditions or lines to memorize. It’s just me and this rain, and Adele’s music, and this sweet baby boy sleeping with his head against my chest.


Saturday, August 4, 2018
Today I love my life for the hummingbird on the wire.

Oma and Opa have had the hummingbird feeder for at least 30 years. The guest shower has a window, chin-height, that looks right out onto it. I’m thinking about the autumn when I lived here, in 2008, when everything was falling apart, and the night when I was brushing my teeth at 2 or 3 in the morning, and some crazy bird sat outside that bathroom window and sang like it was welcoming the dawn. I wrote a poem about it—about that bird not giving a damn if it was the middle of the night and singing despite the darkness.

I glance out the window now, and see, in the morning light, a hummingbird circling the trees outside. And then it pauses in its frenzied flight, and lands neatly on the telephone wire above. Such a tiny thing. Hardly ever still. Its iridescent throat catches the light as it turns. It sits there for a full minute, a warm jewel in the sunlight. I watch it, feeling like everything is holding its breath, until it finally flies away.

Monday, November 26, 2018

Food vs. Fight or Flight

I hate the sound of people smacking their lips when they eat. For the first few months of marriage, I couldn’t eat in the same room as my husband. I couldn’t figure out how to explain how his lips smacking sent me into fits of barely concealed rage. For years, I imagined my sensitivity came from being raised in a home where table manners were strictly observed. Chew with your mouth closed. Don’t talk with food in your mouth. Small bites. Elbows off the table, hands above the table. Forks on the left, knives and spoons on the right. Cups on the right. Napkins folded neatly in your lap. Smacking lips while eating was a blatant disregard of the decorum that a social contract demanded. Even when my father was losing his hearing, and the sound of smacking lips wouldn’t have been an issue, he continued to eat as if at a state dinner, and we continued to follow his example.

Once, at a restaurant, a friend declared to the group that he hated it when people were overly strict about table manners. People shouldn’t have to try and be neat eaters, worrying about their bite sizes or chewing noises. “Just enjoy your food!” he said. I was instantly filled with horror. I took a deep breath and explained that if you do that and disregard manners, no one else at the table can enjoy THEIR food. It’s not arbitrary politeness. It’s evident of a deep consideration for the comfort of others.

Extended family gatherings are a source of deep stress for me. The elderly wheezes, the open-mouth chewing of in-laws. I eat through gritted teeth. How does one tell an entire family that the way they’re eating is horrifying, that it causes shudders to run up and down my spine, that it is the equivalent of nails on a chalkboard? There’s no polite way to correct someone’s chewing without being a snobby asshole. So I just assumed I was a snobby asshole.

And then, years ago, I came across an article detailing a newly discovered neurological disorder. Misophonia. Hatred of sound. Selective Sound Sensitivity Syndrome. For those with the disease, there seems to be a heightened connection between the auditory system (the part of the brain that controls hearing) and the limbic system (the part of the brain that controls emotion). Sufferers report feelings of intense and immediate anxiety and rage upon hearing the “trigger sounds.” Common triggers include eating and chewing noises, breathing sounds, and repetitive sounds like pencil tapping.

There it was. Validation. I could post this article to social media. I could share it with extended family. I could explain it to friends. I’m not a snobby asshole. I’m a sufferer of a neurological disorder.

But the stupid thing, the really deeply stupid thing, is that no matter how many times I share this article, I will always be in situations where people continue to smack their lips when they eat. I’ll come up with an amusing anecdote about misophonia before a meal, a subtle diplomatic announcement that I will be filled with rage when manners are ignored, not because of strict social upbringing, but because my auditory and limbic systems are closely linked. People nod. “That’s interesting,” they say, as they continue to smack their lips wetly, breathing through their noses, their mouths wide. I can feel the muscles in my jaw tightening.

A friend who shares the disorder once described the feeling as “wanting to crawl out of my skin and stuff that skin down the offending person’s throat.” It’s not just annoyance. The feeling isn’t akin to someone cutting you off in traffic, or posting a political article you disagree with on social media. The feeling is disgust and anger swirled together and multiplied by 100. It’s projectile vomit plus someone stepping on your toes. It’s banging your funny bone in a sewer. It’s stepping on a lego that’s covered in slug slime.

It has nothing to do with WHO is doing the lip-smacking. It isn’t a moral judgment, or an indictment of someone’s upbringing. It’s just an abnormal connection between my frontal lobe and my anterior insular cortex causing a visceral reaction to stimuli.

The good news is that I’ve managed to develop some coping mechanisms. A little cognitive-behavioral therapy here, a little mindfulness there. I’ll leave the room in the most desperate situations. My symptoms tend to fluctuate, depending on general stress levels. But most of the time, when I hear lip-smacking, I feel like I’m eating a food I hate. I can survive it, but everything in my brain and body is shuddering.

So if I ever say something about how you’re eating, it’s not because I’m a snobby asshole. It’s because I want to stay in the room with you, even though my brain is screaming fight-or-flight warnings about chewing noises.

Further Reading:
Science Alert article
Harvard Health Publishing article
Science Daily article
Misophonia Online (resources for sufferers)

Monday, November 12, 2018

1667: What I've Learned from Six Years of NaNoWriMo

(What the hell is NaNoWriMo?! Click here.)

Most of these lessons apply specifically to writers, but there's probably something in here for everyone. I hope so, at least.

First of all, I don't like writing novels. That's an important thing I've learned. I love writing, but I'm not particularly good at writing novels, and also I don't particularly enjoy it. How the hell do people get to be good at writing novels?! I feel like I'm decent at poetry and creative non-fiction because I do it ALL THE TIME. Do novelists just write novels ALL THE TIME?! Anyway, novels are not my strong suit. I'm not a completely horrendous novelist, but I also don't enjoy it enough to practice at this point in my life/writing career. I value NaNoWriMo because I don't think I would have learned that about myself if I hadn't written three full manuscripts, and started three others.

Second of all, that daily word count goal is key. If I fall behind for even one day, I struggle to catch up. Fall behind for two days and I’m doomed. For some, this attitude is disastrous in the event that they fall behind. For me, it motivates me to not fall behind.

Third, 1,667 words are easier to write than 50,000. 50,000 words over 30 days is 1,667 words per day. And that’s totally manageable if you make the time for it. If you can set aside an hour per day, even in increments, you can totally write 1,667 words a day. If that still feels like too many, write 834 words twice a day.

Fourth, you can do hard things. This is a little trite, but the first year that I completed a NaNoWriMo novel, my greatest sense was one of exhausted accomplishment. I wrote a NOVEL. And as clich├ęd as it sounds, it was a good reminder to carry into other areas of my life. Need to build some shelves? You totally can, because you wrote a novel. Not sure how to play this role? You’ll figure it out, because you wrote a novel. Wanna go to grad school? You totally can, because YOU WROTE A NOVEL.

Fifth, there’s a difference between writer’s block and writer’s fatigue. Writer’s fatigue is when you know what to write, and you just don’t feel like writing it. In those times, the best solution is to take a break. Given the need to meet a daily word count, that break may not be longer than a few hours. But take the break and do something different for a minute. Writer’s block is when you don’t know what to write. Or worse yet, you think you could probably come up with something but you can’t hear any inspiration over the sound of your own inner critic.

Sixth, there will always be an inner critic. There will probably be multiple inner critics. These are the voices who scream from the corners that you don’t know what you’re doing and that all your writing is rubbish and that you should probably give up because nothing you write is original or even interesting and it’s definitely not good. Fortunately, those critics are almost always liars. Unfortunately, the best way to shut them up is to do the very thing they’re telling you not to, which is just to write. (If you're looking for some encouragement, I HIGHLY recommend looking through the archive of NaNoWriMo Pep Talks, wherein published writers give advice and encouragement. The pep talks written by John Green and Dave Eggers are two personal favorites.)

Seventh, just write. Write the memoir or the novel or the poem or the screenplay or the stage play or the radio drama or the narrative journalism or all of the above. The point of NaNoWriMo is to write the thing you’ve always been meaning to write but haven’t gotten around to yet. It’s to help you create a disciplined writing habit. It’s to help you get the words onto the page. Because you can take 50,000 words of a terrible novel and make a good novel out of them. (The way to write a good story is to write a bad story and then fix it.) You can’t take 50,000 words of nothing and make them into a good novel.

Eighth, you’re not a garbage human if you decide to resign from NaNoWriMo. This is especially true if you’re working two jobs, performing in one play, rehearsing for another, preparing an audition for a third, spending more than two hours per day commuting, and discovering that you don’t, in fact, enjoy writing novels. If NaNoWriMo isn’t making you a better or more disciplined writer, isn’t helping you meet your goals, and is in fact taking away from your ability to do well at meeting other goals, then you don’t have to do it. You may feel guilty for a day or two, but ultimately, feel much more at home continuing a blog challenge with your sister and writing poetry and the occasional essay. (When I say “you” in this section, I mean myself. I’m talking about myself.)

The last thing I've learned is that if you embark on this month-long folly, setting up a profile on the NaNoWriMo website is actually a really helpful tool. The pep talks and badges and forums are awesome. I highly recommend it. Both setting up a profile and doing NaNoWriMo.

(photo via)

Monday, October 15, 2018

Last night I dreamed that I was dreaming of you...


Unknown Date
On a cruise ship with elaborate antique rooms. Kept hanging out with Shaun S, which upset Amy Schumer who was there and had a crush on him. Rescued Beckah W.

Unknown Date
We were performing “The Nerd,” but apparently just the highlights—the technical crew needed to end the show early because they had to go to a D&D supply store before it closed. So we just rushed through the scenes, sort of making up transitions, and then it became just weirdly improv-ed scenes that didn’t have anything to do with “The Nerd,” and then it was just a short-form improv show, with Andy K MC-ing from the booth. And it was kind of a bummer because Camilla M came all the way from England to see the show, and it was THAT SHOW that she saw.

December 11, 2017
Dreamed that I fell asleep at work and slept until almost 4, which meant I was late to meet Adele to help with the babies. On my way there I got distracted by a house made out of a giant pumpkin. It was an INCREDIBLE pumpkin house. I had no sense of what time it was.

February 22, 2018
I dreamed that Kacey S added an interpretive zombie dance number to the beginning of “Angels in America” (to symbolize...AIDS...?) and audience response was very poor but I couldn’t figure out how to tell him I thought we should cut it.

February 27, 2018
I was driving somewhere with Jacob C while the moon rose ENORMOUS over in the east. I kept trying to get him to look over at it, but he was too focused on driving. We arrived at a house where a bunch of friends lived together, mostly hiding under blankets. Noah K came over to show us the page of candy buttons he had made as a gift for his friend, the local homeless man. The candy looked like ibuprofen, but we told him it was a very thoughtful gift. A little while later, someone said something to me that I needed to write down, so I scribbled it onto the nearest thing, doodling a little bit as I talked to this person. I suddenly realized with horror that I had drawn all over Noah’s gift, and couldn’t figure out how to tell him that I accidentally ruined it. But it turned out that the homeless man had found and befriended a bear, so he didn’t need a gift to be happy.

February 28, 2018
I had my mom “cover my shift” at work so that I could go to a fancy restaurant for a casting call. After making prolonged eye contact, Robert Downey Jr selected me to play an improv game as part of the audition he was running for his sequel to “The Greatest Showman.” He didn’t give us much instruction, but I soon realized we were playing “Press Conference.” The game went well, and then I dashed off to meet my mom. It turned out that I hadn’t given HER much instruction, so she had stayed at the building until 9 pm, and didn’t lock up or set the alarm. I decided to try and get there ASAP to make sure everything was secure, but someone was borrowing my car, and my scooter was out of gas. So I had to wait until the next morning, and just hoped no one robbed the place. But when I got there, I walked in to find an elderly man sitting at my desk with a gun pointed at me, who said, “No funny business” and then gave me really confusing instructions about what he wanted me to do with the company’s money.

March 31, 2018
Daniel Radcliffe was attending BYU-Idaho, where he got free tuition because he had designed one of the buildings. But he kept tracking mud everywhere on campus, and girls were constantly slipping in it, much to his embarrassment.

April 19, 2018
Dreamed that I woke up to discover 800 unsolicited dick pics from Aaron Woodall.

May 23, 2018
Spent a long time trying to figure out how to work the old metal mechanical lawn mower at the Chapman’s farmhouse in Rexburg, before remembering that they have a riding lawnmower.

September 14, 2018
Helped An Other Theater Company host an “educational matinee” where we invited school kids to the theatre for a performance of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-time. They all kept talking and coming in to the space before house opened, and when house did open, they kept talking, trying to move seats, and generally being disruptive. This finally culminated in the adults stopping the show at a climactic moment in the first scene, not to discipline the kids, but to complain to us that the theatre was too cold.

October 11, 2018
Had that nightmare where you realize that there's a class you've been enrolled in all semester that you haven't been attending, except this time I was supposed to be TEACHING the class, and I started to concoct an elaborate reason for my absences, which included (but was not limited to) the kidnapping of my sister.

image credit: 
unknown but it's awesome, even though it's visually more serious and mysterious than the contents of this blog entry are

Tuesday, October 2, 2018


Writing is difficult. It's ok. I get it. You don't have to feel bad! Just do a little better next time....

Your loving sister, Beckah

Monday, September 17, 2018

Anxiety Puzzles

It’s a full two weeks since Episode 31: Anxiety Attacks! of “Mormon and the Methhead” aired, but it’s taken me that long to gather and write my thoughts. (And I felt really good about them, and then I had a session with my therapist that made me think, “Huh, maybe I’m not the best person to be writing about this?!” But then I decided, “Screw it, I’ll share my thoughts anway.”)

If anxiety attacks are a puzzle to be figured out, then I’ll share the box my own anxiety puzzle came in, so you can look at the picture and see if it helps you figure out yours.

Disclaimer: I’ve figured out a lot of my own anxiety puzzle with the guidance of a few good books, several classes on psychology and brain function, lots of internet research, and hours and hours of therapy. But I’m no therapist myself. Take what resonates with you and discard the rest.


Some Stuff About Brains: The Physical and The Mental

There are two elements to all emotions: the physical (the things happening in our bodies) and the mental (our thoughts).

The physical elements of anxiety happen to us because our dumb caveman brains are overly enthusiastic about keeping us safe. The oldest and deepest part of our brain has one job: KEEP HUMAN ALIVE. So if it senses a threat, it amps up cortisol and adrenaline, which would normally be super helpful if we actually had to fight, flight, or freeze. Those chemicals strengthen our muscles and heighten our awareness, in case we need to run away or throw a punch or stay still so a predator doesn't see or hear us.

Our brains are filtering through a ton of information from our senses all the time—smells, tastes, colors, microexpressions, movement, etc. In neurotypical brains, all of this information goes into the subconscious and gets sorted into “important” and “not important” information. If it notices that an important thing might be a danger, it sets off those fight/flight/freeze chemicals.

The problem is that our brains aren’t super great at detecting what’s an actual threat and what isn’t. It wants to KEEP HUMAN ALIVE. So sometimes it just “plays it safe,” and gives us that burst of chemicals just in case. And we end up with shortness of breath, muscle tension, increased heart rate, etc. even if we’re not in actual danger.

For people with anxiety, it’s like this: if one time you got food poisoning from a red apple, your brain now automatically assumes that anything red is poisonous. Which is not true, of course, but bless our brains for trying.

Also, this might sound a little “jiggy-woo-woo,” but sometimes we experience anxiety simply because we sense other people are. For example, empaths are people who are highly tuned in to the emotions of others. The scientific explanation is that they subconsciously tend to notice breathing and microexpressions and even the smells of other people, and mirror them. This makes sense—it’s a little gift from evolution. If someone near is us being threatened, it’s helpful for our brains to notice so that we can protect ourselves, too. So if we can’t find the trigger for our own anxiety, it might be because there isn’t one—we’re just picking up on someone else’s. The New Age-y explanation might use words like “frequency” or “vibration.” Some people “pick up” on those frequencies. And sometimes all of this happens in our conscious minds, and sometimes it doesn’t.

Which brings me to the second element of anxiety: our thoughts. These are all the things going on in the conscious mind. Most people have a sort of “inner monologue” going on—it’s like that deep, threat-finding part of the brain is whispering a bunch of warnings to us. But it does it in first person because it’s an asshole. Everyone’s inner monologue is different, and it’s not like hearing voices, but it may say things like, “What if I lose my job? What if no one loves me? He probably doesn’t think I’m funny. She probably thinks I’m a slut. I’m messing up as a parent.”

So if anxiety has both a physical and mental elements, then for most people, the trick to combating anxiety is to interrupt the physical pattern AND interrupt the thought pattern.

Interrupting the Physical Pattern

There are a lot of different ways to help your body calm the hell down. (These are also helpful if you tend to “disassociate” or have the sensation of “leaving your body” in stressful situations.) Here are a few ideas:

1. Breathing.
There are tons of different breathing exercises you can do to help you bring your body back to stasis. A simple one is breathing in through the nose for 3 counts, holding for 3 counts, breathing out of the mouth for 6 counts, holding for 3 counts, and repeating. Or you could simply take a moment and notice your breath. Just pay attention to it, whatever it’s doing.

2. Do something physical.
Give your body some strong sensory information that it has to process. Run your fingers over the teeth of a comb, toss something from one hand to the other, take off your shoes. Stand up and stretch. Dance. Paint.

3. Tune in to your senses.
Take a moment and be still in whatever room you’re in. Then name 3 things you see, 3 things you hear, 3 things you feel, 3 things you smell.

4. Bilateral stimulation.
This is a fancy word for any rhythmic back-and-forth movement between the left and right sides of the body. Walking left, right, left, right. Or tapping your thighs, left, right, left, right. For some reason, this helps calm the nervous system. Therapists use this in a type of treatment called EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing). When your body is experiencing this left-right stimulation, it’s easier to deal with distressing thoughts.

Interrupting the Mental Pattern

The actual scientific name for this is “Cognitive Behavioral Therapy,” or CBT. It basically has 2 steps: identifying the malicious thoughts and countering them with different thoughts. (For a great resource on this, I highly recommend The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook. Changed my life, and I mean that literally.) Identifying thoughts just takes some practice. Countering them is having statements at the ready to keep those thoughts from spiraling. The best counter-statements are positive statements that directly address the malicious thoughts.

You’re basically using your conscious brain to talk back to that inner monologue. For example, here are some common thoughts people have in times of anxiety, and some counter-statements.

Counter statement: This will be over soon. My body is just doing its job.

Anxiety thought: WHAT IF I LOSE MY JOB?!
Counter statement: I will always be able to find work.

Anxiety thought: I’M MESSING UP AS A PARENT.
Counter statement: I’m doing the best I can. My kids will figure things out, just as I figured things out.

Counter statement: This is something I am experiencing and it will be okay. There will always be people who love me.

The ultimate counter-statement is “I can handle it.” Because really, at the heart of every single fear we have is the fear “I won’t be able to handle it.” (That bit of wisdom is from another great book with a cheesy title, Feel the Fear and Do It Anyway.) You can write these things down, post them around your house, keep them in a card in your wallet. The more accessible, the better.

Additional Coping Strategy: Being Zen About It

I’ve been hella into mindfulness lately. The basic idea behind mindfulness is to simply tune in and observe your experience and the world around you, without judgment, without trying to change anything about it. To practice just being in the moment. You can picture your thoughts as cars on a street, and you’re just watching them drive by. You may be tempted to run out and intervene, or get interested in where they’re going, but you can practice just watching them pass by.

And it does take PRACTICE. But there are a bajillion apps and books and audiobooks and websites and classes and resources to help you learn and practice. (I recommend the app Headspace—I’m a big fan.)

I was in a group therapy session once where someone shared the advice to keep your mind and your ass in the same room. It was a pithy way of saying that it’s good to reflect on the past, and it’s good to plan for the future, but sometimes you have to stop and say to yourself, “Hey what room is your ass in?” (A Noodles & Company in Salt Lake City.) “ Okay, now get your mind in the same room.” (Mindfulness exercises ensue.)

Final Thoughts

If you’re having trouble with shame surrounding anxiety, you can think of it as a purely chemical reaction. Just as people with diabetes have bodies that don’t make enough insulin, your body makes too much cortisol and adrenaline. You don’t have control over it, just like people with diabetes don’t have control over how much insulin they produce. Emotions like anxiety aren’t necessarily good or bad. They just are.

For me, sometimes it’s also helpful to think of strong emotions as little kids. Sometimes they tug on our sleeves, ask for our attention, talk to us when we’re trying to do something else. And sometimes, we can turn to them and say, “Hey, I love you. You’re okay. I’m doing something else right now, so you can go play.” And they do. But sometimes they’re like “HEY I’M BLEEDING PLEASE HELP ME.” In those times, you can hit the pause button on whatever you’re doing, and do whatever self-care stuff you gotta do to get yourself back to equilibrium. This isn’t always possible in your circumstances, in which case, you can do a few of the above exercises until you have time to sit down and write or paint or run or do whatever it is you do to cope. (This analogy is also really helpful in difficult conversations, conflicts, or fights. Sometimes you gotta go take care of the emotional children before you can keep talking with a fellow grown up.)

If you want to plug all of this in to Jessa’s video game analogy/metaphor/theory/I-don’t-know-what-to-call-it, here’s how I’ve been thinking of it. Jessa said that our bodies—the avatars we’re using to play this game—have their own artificial intelligence. That’s the part of the brain that’s running the program KEEP HUMAN ALIVE. Which totally makes sense. We can’t play the game if we’re dead. That AI is the thing releasing those anxiety chemicals, and it’s just running its program.

But we, our highest selves, can run programs as well. We can run ADJUST BREATHING or MINDFULNESS or SELF-CARE. It doesn’t change the fact that our overprotective AI is gonna keep running KEEP HUMAN ALIVE. We actually do want it to run that program. But when it interrupts our lives, it’s helpful to have a few programs of our own.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

Upon Reflection of 33 Years

What was the best part of this last year? 
Meeting and starting to date Patrick.

What was the hardest part of this last year? 
There was a period of time in January/February that was really hard, for a lot of reasons.

What are you looking forward to in the coming year? 
Continuing to get to know Patrick, theatrical and other acting projects, continuing to learn and grow.

What do you want to work on during this next year? 
Finding greater balance between kindness towards others and kindness towards myself.

Monday, September 3, 2018

A Love Letter to My Body

I’m turning 33 this week, and I’ve been thinking a lot about my body. It’s not quite as healthy as I’d like it to be—going up stairs makes me a little short of breath, and I can’t quite lift things or climb things as easily. But I’m working on it. And I sometimes catch glimpses of my body in videos or pictures. And sometimes it looks different from how it feels. The curves are stronger, the rib cage wider, the neck shorter. Sometimes the number on the scale is higher than I realized. But still, I love this body.

I love my thighs, the way they brush against one another when I walk. The curve of my backside, the strength of it. I love the way the muscles of my calves shape themselves around my bones.

I love the proportions of my hands. I love the green of my eyes. I love the shape of my feet when I point them and then flex my toes. I love the curve of my breasts, the fullness of my lips, the hair between my legs, the arch of my eyebrows. I love the freckles and moles that cover my skin.

I love how my legs carry me from place to place, how I can make myself a few inches taller by standing on my tiptoes. I love that my hands can type and paint and touch. My throat can make music and words and laughter.

I love that my guts digest my food, and my lungs breathe. And there are trillions—TRILLIONS—of connections in my brain, and they’re shifting and growing and changing every single second I’m alive. I love that I can feel someone’s lips on my neck and their hands on my waist, and I love how my blood rushes in those moments.

I work in an industry that puts a lot of emphasis on appearance. Which makes sense in some ways—sometimes roles simply demand a certain “look.” But it’s easy to get caught up in how narrow those “look” expectations can be. And it’s even easier to get our value tangled up in how we look.

And I’m calling bullshit.

Bodies are bodies. They are lumpy and veiny and flabby and freckled and scarred and zitty and fat and skinny and strong and weak and broken and full. But my body is not here just for other people to look at. It’s here so that I can walk up mountains and swim in lakes and paint and write and sing.

I know that the reality is that we’ve always been obsessed with appearance, and a lot of people still are. That’s the world that we live in.

But I guess I uh…don’t want to live in it. So I don’t.

I rarely weigh myself. I intentionally don’t compliment people if and when they lose weight. (This is also because these compliments are extremely complicated and sometimes painful for those with eating disorders.) When little children ask me about the mole on my throat, or above my lip, I explain to them that my moles are part of what make me beautiful. Everyone has things that make them beautiful. Some people have lovely hands, or stunning eyes, or freckles, or shapely feet.

If and when I have children of my own someday, I will never comment on weight—mine, theirs, strangers’—as if it has anything to do with their value. As if weight has to do with character, as if it’s a moral issue. I will always talk about my body in terms of the things I like about its appearance, or in terms of things I like that it can do. Or else just factually. I don’t want my children to learn to dislike their bodies, or to judge them harshly.

If your body doesn’t meet your society’s idea of “beauty,” it’s not a moral failing. It doesn’t affect your inherent value. And if your body DOES meet your society’s idea of “beauty,” it just means that you won a genetic lottery. Either way, you’ll turn 40, then 50, then 60, and eventually your body won’t look like it did, or do the things that it did. You could get sick or get into an accident, and suddenly you won’t look the way you used to, or be able to do the things you used to.

So eat well. Stretch. Exercise. Use sunscreen. But do those things because you love your body, not because you hate it.

photo via Bruce Aoki
(Yes, that's me and also yes, I am naked in this picture.) 

Monday, August 20, 2018

Writer's Block

I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about maybe Fringe Festival last weekend because there were a lot of awesome things I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about maybe I could write about caveman brains or how I lack integrity as a consumer I don't know what to write about because I’ve had those two blog entries in mind for like literally years now I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about but the thing is that I’m really tired I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about and really busy I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about and I know that’s actually not a very good excuse because sometimes you have to MAKE TIME for the things that are important to you but I have so many things that are important to me and there are only so many hours in a day I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about maybe the magic of theatre somehow I don't know what to write about but whenever I try to do that I feel like words fall short of what I’m trying to express I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about maybe one of these days I’ll write about how I came to have a phobia of raccoons I don't know what to write about or how I might be allergic to koalas but don’t really have a way to test that hypothesis all I know is that I had one of the worst allergy attacks of my entire life at an open air koala exhibit at a zoo once I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about and the ridiculous thing is that I have like four books worth of writing prompts I don't know what to write about plus that awesome plot generator website thing I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about so like really there are like a ton of things I could write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about but if we’re being honest and getting right down to it the real issue is that I don’t know what to write about that will only take me like forty minutes to write about because I’m on a deadline here I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about and every now and then I sort of feel like writing isn’t the medium best suited to the things I want to say or talk about I don't know what to write about you know like sometimes I’d rather paint my thoughts or whatever I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about oh maybe I should do another documentary recommendation blog post I don’t think I’ve done one of those in years I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about but I’ve really been enjoying the Netflix series “Geniuses of the Ancient World” and “Geniuses of the Modern World” so if you need something to play in the background while you fold your laundry and you dig history I recommend those I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about I don't know what to write about on a completely unrelated note I learned today that a friend’s dad is named Adolf and I don’t know why the hell you would name your kid Adolf in 1962 and there really isn’t much more to this story but I’ve been thinking about it all night but there isn’t anything else to write about that so the point is that I don't know what to write about.

photo via

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.