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
incomplete

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.
INCOMPLETE (10/12)

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

October 
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

November
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. 

December
Uhhhhh...

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

February
Uhhhhh...

March
Uhhhhh...

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

May
Uhhhhh...

June
A Bundle of Trouble by Ruth Hale

July
Uhhhhh...

August
The Red Bike by Caridad Svitch

September

Uhhhhh...

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.
INCOMPLETE

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

Progress
12/37 
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

Tempest

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


Pericles


Richard II


Richard III

Antony and Cleopatra

Coriolanus


Cymbeline

Hamlet

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

Julius Caesar

King Lear

Macbeth

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

Othello

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.

SELF-CARE IDEAS!

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.

Exercise
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.

Manicure/pedicure
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.

Journal/write
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.

Sing
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.

Meditation/mindfulness
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 https://suicidepreventionlifeline.org/. 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.

Monday, April 16, 2018

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

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


TATTOO: Hey, will you please scratch me?

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

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

LIZ: What?

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

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

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

LIZ: No.

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

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

TATTOO: Huh.

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

TATTOO: Hey, I’m itchy.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

LIZ: No.

TATTOO: Fine. Know what I miss?

LIZ: What?

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

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

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

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

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

LIZ: This is getting real old.

TATTOO: I can't help it!

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

TATTOO: How do you think I feel?

LIZ: Itchy?

TATTOO: Yes.

LIZ: Know what else I'm excited about?

TATTOO: What?

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

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

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

TATTOO: Then why did you do it?

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

TATTOO: That's...gross.

LIZ: I know.

TATTOO: Hey, I'm--

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

TATTOO: AND peeling.

LIZ: I know.

(beat)

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

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

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


Friday, April 6, 2018

#SisterBlogChallenge

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

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

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

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

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

SO GET READY FOR MORE CONSISTENT BLOG ENTRIES, PUNKS!

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

photo via

Tuesday, April 3, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then it was done.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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




Monday, February 19, 2018

A Cure for the Februaries

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



photo via

Friday, December 29, 2017

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

MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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

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


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

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

The flow, however, required sacrifice. Human sacrifice. 

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

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

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

"I am at your service," it said. 

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

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

"What is the gateway?" the woman asked. 

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

"Uhhh..." she replied. 

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

"Well, yes, I think I'm brave." 

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

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

"No, I did that." 

"Why?" 

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

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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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