Friday, December 29, 2017

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


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." 


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, December 12, 2017

Hammers and Other Tools of the Trade

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

photo via

Friday, November 3, 2017

Itchy Feet

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Monday, October 16, 2017


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

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

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

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

Every single woman in the room raised her hand.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Friday, October 13, 2017

Weddings are fun, and marriage is crazy

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

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

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

To Daniel and Annalicia, on their wedding 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Totality, in flash fiction form

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

"Two Minutes and Twenty-Two Seconds"

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

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

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

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

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

I think I am eclipse glasses.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, September 17, 2017

New URL who dis?

Hello everyone! 

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

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

I love you.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Perspective: Three Years

Provo/Salt Lake City Audition Record, July 2014 - July 2017

"Damn Yankees" - HCTO musical
"Oklahoma!" - HCT musical
"You May Now Kill the Bride" - Lifetime film
"Mosaic" - HBO miniseries
"Beau Jest" - HCT comedy
"Cabaret" - Utah Rep musical
"Jane Eyre" - HCTO musical
"RC Willey" - local commercial
"The Nerd" - HCT comedy
"To Kill A Mockingbird" - HCT play
"Bundle of Trouble" - HCT play

"Marriott" - commercial (*called back)
"Les Miserables" - HCTO musical
"Barefoot in the Park" - HCTO comedy
"Over the River and Through the Woods" - HCT play (*called back)
"The Little Mermaid" - HCT musical
UPS - industrial
"Being Charlie" - Rob Reiner film
"Into the Woods" - HCTO musical
"Random Acts" - BYUTV show
"Special Helper" - film
"Magellan" - film
"AARP" - industrial
"Christmas Carol" - HCT musical (*called back)
"Blood and Oil" - ABC tv show
"Saline Soothers" - commercial (*called back)
"Peter and the Starcatcher" - HCT musical
"Robyn Hoodwyn" - web series
"Lucky John" - film
"Everyone Loves You, Sally Carmichael!" - film
"Texas Pete Hot Sauce" - commercial (*called back)
"A Summer To Remember" - film
"Cooking Product" - infomercial
"DEQ" - commercial
"I.T." - industrial
"SLCC" - youtube spot
"Deidre and Laney Rob A Train" - Netflix film (*called back)
"Brigsby Bear" - film
"Sister Act" - HCT musical
"Silent Sky" - PYGmalion play (*called back)
"Glass Menagerie" - Pioneer Theatre play
"LDS Hospital" - commercial
"Snatchers" - film
"Chatbooks" - commercial
"12 Days of Christmas" - film
"Maggie" - film short
"Poo Pourri" - commercial
"Women in Jeopardy" - Pioneer Theatre play
"King Charles III" - Pioneer Theatre play
"Utah Education" - industrial
"My Favorite Mormon" - film (*called back)
"Time Freak" - film
"The Landlord" - film (*called back)
"Plural Sights" - industrial
"Curious Incident of the Dog In the Night-Time" - Pioneer Theatre play (*called back)
"Heart of Robin Hood" - HCT musical
"Click Funnels" - commercial
"Secret Santa" - film
"Youth and Cons" - YouTube series
"Yellowstone" - TV show

Just keep auditioning, folks. Sometimes it's just a numbers game. Chin up, stiff upper lip, onward. 

Thursday, August 3, 2017

Midnight Thoughts on Fried Brains

My brain is fried. Maybe my heart is a little bit, too, but mostly my brain, I think.

I don't know why the hell I'm writing. It's early by my bedtime standards (11:45) but I've been tired for two weeks straight. I should go to sleep. But as a fellow MFA student said this quarter, "I write because it makes me feel better." And maybe I want to feel better. Think better? I don't know.

This is going to be a little all over the place. Apologies in advance for any failings of grammar.

Here's why my brain is fried:

Because of the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, wherein I perform a 15-minute monologue, three times in a row, while two other people are talking at the same time. And that takes a lot of energy. And it took a lot of energy in rehearsal, and it takes a lot of energy to perform. (It's also awesome, and one of the things that keeps me anchored, and I love being a part of this awesome thing with awesome people.) (And hey, come see "Punxsutawney" at the Fringe Factory, Friday @ 10:30 pm, Saturday @ 3:00 and 6:00!)

Because school started again, and somehow we're already 4 weeks into the quarter? That's a third of the way done. So I've got reading and writing and critiquing and discussion board posting always on my mind.

Because auditions for a show with PYGmalion are coming up, and I've gotta memorize this monologue.

Because I had to fill out all this paperwork and send all these emails to see if I could qualify for a little bit more financial aid to help me make ends meet while I finish school. (Finally got the additional financial aid--yay!)

Because divorce and legal name change and blah blah blah.

Because I get to see all this amazing theatre as part of the Great Salt Lake Fringe Festival, which I'm currently obsessed with. But also, it's exhausting.

Because I am certainly not ready to step into the dating world again, but I can feel the water of it inching towards my toes, occasionally washing right over my feet, and I'm not sure if I remember how to swim and I thought I had found a lifeboat in the form of marriage, but now I don't have the lifeboat but I'm also not ready to swim, so it's like I'm trying to build my own lifeboat WHILE I'm trying not to drown? (I don't know if this metaphor works, but I'll revisit it in the morning or sometime later when my brain isn't fried.)

Because one of my bosses was gone all last week, and we've got this HUGE project that has all of these different parts, and I've driven 45 miles running errands and it's my job so I'm happy to do it, but it's just occupying a lot of headspace. I sometimes have time at work to do homework, but that's definitely out nowadays.

Because of the insanity of making travel plans for August and September.

Because it's been like 100 degrees all week and while I'd rather be too hot than too cold, the heat makes it hard to function.

Because of trying to figure out how to balance self-respect and expressing my thoughts and feelings with respecting others' desires and thoughts and feelings, and not sacrificing one for the other, which is like, really complicated. (Good thing I have awesome friends like Carrie to give me awesome advice.)

Anyway, I'm tired all the time. So when I get a second, I just binge-watch Mad Men and eat ice cream and do art. I suppose it would be more productive to take a nap or something, but I'm always afraid I won't sleep well later, so I stay awake to try to ensure a good night's sleep. (Spoiler alert: it hasn't worked.)

If I've been weird (like, weirder than normal), thanks for your patience while I'm trying to get my head back on straight. I've got a marathon of a weekend to get through, but I should be able to breathe again by Monday.

That lifeboat analogy is feeling more and more applicable, and not just to dating.

But what do I know? My brain is fried.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

Misadventures of an Elementary School Secretary

I found this short blog entry in the backlog of drafts, and it made me smile. I miss those Alianza days. 

Things I'm Surprised to Find Myself Saying While Working As An Elementary School Secretary:

"Don't eat things you find growing on the ground. It could be wild parsley, or it could be POISON HEMLOCK, so please take it out of your mouth."

"The same goes for mushrooms you find on the playground. Don't eat those either."

"Please stop walking on that stranger's lawn."

"If you're cold when you go outside, you should put your coat ON, instead of HOLDING it."

"Just because someone's water bottle looks to you like a 'rainbow penis' doesn't mean you need to point it out."

"Please do not pelvic thrust. Or crab walk. And please do not do both at the same time."

"Even though you said it in the context of kindness, as in 'he's my f***ing friend,' please do not use the F-word at school. Especially since you're a kindergartener."

"I appreciate your love of 'ancient languages,' but just saying the word 'penis' over and over again, does not an ancient language make."

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

What are you doing August 21, 2017?

If you live in the United States and your answer is anything other than "watching the total solar eclipse," I'm gonna say you need to change your plans.

Here's why this whole thing is so awesome.

First of all, it's a cosmic coincidence that total solar eclipses happen AT ALL. Our sun just happens to be 400 times bigger than the moon, but it also just happens to be 400 times farther away from us. So from our point of view on earth, they appear to be exactly the same size. The moon passes between the sun and the earth, causing a total solar eclipse, fairly's visible from some point on earth about once every 18 months. But the path of totality crossing the United States? That's a little rarer. The last time it happened was in 1979, and it won't happen again until 2024.

So where's it gonna be visible? HERE:

That grey band is where you gotta be to see totality. You'll still get a pretty good show elsewhere (check out this guy's site for more info), but it's less than a day's drive to get to the path of totality from just about any point in the U.S. So I say go for it! Carpe diem, people!

Although...two warnings. Number one, don't look at the eclipse without eye protection. You can suffer serious permanent eye damage from looking directly at the sun, even when it's partially blocked by the moon. You can get special "eclipse glasses" for hella cheap on Amazon, though (pack of ten for $10). Regular sunglasses won't cut it. Number two, hotels and campsites along the path of totality are BOOKED SOLID, and have been for months. Because big space nerds like me plan their entire year around this.

Here's what will happen in the path of totality on August 21st, 2017, over the course of about half an hour. (DON'T FORGET TO WEAR ECLIPSE GLASSES!)

First Contact
As the moon starts to move in front of the sun, it will appear to take a little tiny bite out of it. You'll be able to see this with a telescope before you can see it with the naked eye.

Crescent projections may possibly be seen on various surfaces
As more of the sun is covered, it will look like a crescent. If you happen to be near some trees or other vegetation, look on the ground. The spaces between the leaves create a "pinhole camera," projecting images of the solar eclipse on the ground. You can also create this same effect by making your own pinhole projector--just punch a tiny hole in a sheet of paper or cardboard.

Changing light
The light will become noticeably dimmer. You may even notice a strange or eerie "tint" to the light as more of the sun is blocked, and colors will appear washed out.

Strange animal behavior
If you happen to be near wildlife, you may notice some changes in behavior. Animals don't keep calendars of solar eclipses (that we know of), so they interpret the darkening light as oncoming twilight, and may either settle in for the night, or get up and start their nocturnal activities. (Joke's on you, fauna!)

Sharpening shadows
Because of the angle and amount of light, shadows become much sharper. If you look at your own shadow, you may be able to see the shadows of the individual hairs on your arms.

Drop in temperature
Two thirds of the sun's radiation is in the form of heat, so as more of the sun is covered, we get less of that heat. The weather changes will vary depending on where you are, but you can expect an average drop in temperature of about 10 degrees Fahrenheit.

Oncoming umbral shadow
Quick! Look to the west! You'll see the moon's shadow barreling towards you as the eclipse continues. The shadow moves across the landscape at over 1000 mph! (By comparison, planes cruise at around 575 mph, and the speed of sound is about 767 mph.)

Shadow bands
Just before totality, you may be able to see shadow bands rippling across any white-colored surfaces nearby. The tiny sliver of sunlight remaining passes through layers of turbulent air in the earth's atmosphere, producing shadow bands--kind of like the patterns the sunlight makes in water.

Bailey's beads
The moon isn't a perfect's got mountains and valleys just like earth. As it passes in front of the sun, a few last shafts of light pass through these valleys, creating bright "beads" of light in a ring around the moon.

Diamond ring
When only one of Bailey's beads remains, the moon will look like a diamond ring in the sky.

THE MOON WILL COMPLETELY BLOCK THE SUNLIGHT! Totality will last about two and a half minutes, depending on where you are. And it will be amazing. Night will fall during the middle of the day, and instead of the sun, there will only be a black disc visible in the sky.
For a few brief seconds at the beginning of totality, you may be able to see the sun's red outer photosphere and chromosphere. If you are lucky, you may even see prominences, red streamers of light created by eruptions on the sun.
You'll be able to see the stars and planets during the day. In the United States, you'll be able to see Venus, Jupiter, and maybe Mars and Mercury.
The light will create a 360-degree sunset.
And for a few brief minutes, you'll get to see the sun's corona...outer wispy layers of ionized gas that are only visible during a total solar eclipse. The translucent shafts of light shining out from all sides of the sun is one of the rarest sights in nature, and can be as bright as a full moon at night. This is the main source of light during an eclipse. If you have a telescope or binoculars, you can look for loops and arcs in the corona that reveal the sun's magnetic fields. The corona is very difficult to photograph, and photographs aren't able to capture the full live experience of viewing.

Then, Bailey's beads will become visible again, the umbral shadow will continue moving west, and everything else will happen in reverse order.

AND WE GET TO WITNESS IT! This is a cosmic MIRACLE. I know the word "miracle" has religious connotations, but I can't think of a good secular equivalent to describe how incredible it is that this happens and that we get to be alive and on earth and in the United States to see it.

So what are you waiting for?! Make your plans! Figure out the closest path of totality and tell your boss you're taking the day off.

Here's your packing list:
- Binoculars and/or telescope
- Eclipse glasses
- A pinhole camera (piece of cardboard with a hole poked in it)
- A large piece of white posterboard or foamcore board to see shadow bands
- A full tank of gas
- A sense of wonder.

See ya in 54 days, solar eclipse.

Learn more about the upcoming solar eclipse here, here, and especially here.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Puzzle Pieces Purloined from Polyamory

Here's something you may or may not know about me: I and a handful of other ladies I know run an LDS sex website for women called Eternal Intimacy. A few of us got so tired of not having clear, honest resources about sexuality with an LDS perspective that we just created one. It's not super active, but I'm still really proud of it. (I'm especially proud of the "Newly Engaged Kit" section of the website, where we give details about birth control, answer common questions, give some basic anatomy, and detail what to expect on your wedding night.)

ANYWAY, a few months ago, we ran an article called "What Mormons Can Learn From Other Communities." In helping put together the article, I stumbled into all kinds of rabbit holes, but I spent a lot of time learning about the polyamory community, and now I'm coming back to my own world with some wisdom.

Polyamory is a blanket term for any consensual non-monogamy. It could be anything from a group marriage to an open relationship. It IS NOT adultery--the difference is knowledge and consent of all parties involved. Polyamorous people can cheat, the same as monogamous people. (You can learn more about polyamory here.) I'm not here to debate the idea of polyamory, or discuss whether or not is a real, sustainable thing. I'm just sharing some of the ideas I've found in that community that resonate with me. Because there are a handful of ideas in the poly community that I think apply to ALL relationships. Or at least they should. Not just romantic relationships, or sexual relationships. All relationships. Monogamous and otherwise.

I've been thinking a lot about relationships in general lately--everything from marriages to friendships. (Understandably.) And I keep feeling like I'm on the edge of figuring something big I keep stumbling on puzzle pieces, but I don't know what the finished puzzle is yet. I'm probably tilting at windmills in trying to put it all together RIGHT NOW, but in the meantime, here are some of those puzzle pieces, stolen straight from the poly community.

Puzzle Piece #1: "New Relationship Energy" (NRE)
This refers to that giddy feeling of excitement and infatuation at the beginning of a relationship. Sometimes this is called the "honeymoon phase" of a relationship. You know the phase. The butterflies when they call. The way your stomach drops when you think about kissing them. The grin you can't wipe off your face when they say something nice. That phase when you want to talk to them all the time, and they're so awesome, and everything in the world smells like rainbows. This phase (or some variation of it) can last anywhere from a few weeks to a few years.

CLEARLY, this is something that most people feel, not just poly folks. But poly folks have a name for it for two reasons. 1, being non-monogamous means you're more likely to experience New Relationship Energy more often. 2, poly folks have learned that this phase is not a good time to make big decisions. And THAT'S the lesson I'm carrying with me. Hollywood and romance novels would have us believe that if that big sparkly feeling is missing, something is wrong and you shouldn't be with someone. But Hollywood and romance novels are full of crap. The polyamory world says, "Enjoy those giddy feelings! Have fun! But know that it wears off. Don't make any big decisions about your relationship during this phase. Wait until things cool down enough for you to think clearly." That's a damn sight smarter than how most of us do things.

And I think this can apply to more than just romantic relationships. I think we sometimes get a version of this in friendships, too, just not as strongly. But sometimes we get so excited about new friendships that we make plans, either consciously or unconsciously, that can't be sustained. Because NRE wears off. THAT'S NOT A BAD THING. Feelings don't disappear. They shift. They settle.

Puzzle Piece #2: Dealing With Jealousy
There's this myth about the polyamory world that poly folks don't get jealous, and that that's why they can have open relationships. But that's not quite true. There are poly folks who get jealous, and there are poly folks that don't. But here's what poly folks recognize about jealousy. 95% of the time, jealousy is about your own fears. There is the 5% of the time when there really is an issue that you need to talk about with the person in question. But before you do, you can pause and ask yourself, "What am I afraid of? What am I worried that I won't get? What am I scared I'll lose? What needs am I afraid won't be met?" And most of the time, you can work that stuff out for yourself.

Let's say your significant other has lunch with an old boyfriend/girlfriend. You're pretty sure they won't cheat on you, but you still feel jealous. That's an opportunity to tune in and say, "Okay, what am I scared I won't get?" Maybe the answer is time with your significant other. Maybe the answer is you're afraid they'll feel new relationship energy and not want to be with you. Maybe you're scared that if they leave you, you'll never find love again. Once you've identified those fears, you can go through and address them.

I don't know about you guys, but this has happened to me with friendships, too. I'll have a really meaningful connection with someone, and then they'll also have meaningful connections with other people. Which is actually just how friendship works. But dammit if I don't get jealous sometimes. Blame the trauma of middle school or whatever. But in recent months, when I feel twinges of jealousy, I've taken time to stop and think about what I'm afraid of. And then I've addressed those fears.

This doesn't prevent jealousy from happening. But it's a healthier way of dealing with jealousy.

Puzzle Piece #3: Compersion
So, the poly community coined this new term that's basically the opposite of jealousy. It's a feeling of joy or elation you get when your significant other (or one of them, if you're poly) finds satisfaction in another relationship.

This is another tool to help deal with initial feelings of jealousy. Step one, address your own fears. Step two, think outside yourself and try a little positive empathy. This doesn't just apply to people--you can feel compersion that your significant other/friend/roommate/sibling/parent/whatever has found a great new video game that they love, or a TV show that they can't get enough of, or a friendship that's enriching their life. Your initial instinct may be to resent whatever it is that seems to be drawing this person away from you. And you can't really force yourself to feel compersion if you don't. But sometimes you can choose to feel that way.

Puzzle Piece #4: Don't Make One Person Responsible for Meeting All of Your Needs
I've been realizing lately that I tend to do this sometimes, regardless of whether the relationship is romantic or friendly or what have you. This is something I'm still trying to figure out--how much ANYONE else is "responsible" for meeting someone else's needs. (I'll let you know when I figure it out...probably sometime around 2053.)

But this is one of the benefits that polyamorous people experience in their romantic or sexual relationships. Say you love playing video games with your partner, but you fall in love with someone who hates them. In a monogamous situation, you're stuck. But for poly folks, you simply find someone else to play video games with. (Technically, you can also do this if you're monogamous, but sometimes people make rules for themselves and their relationships that prevent it.)

THIS APPLIES SO MUCH TO FRIENDSHIPS. Sometimes I get into this weird head-space where I sort of put all of my eggs into one friendship basket for a little while. But it means that when that person is busy, or has other obligations, or other desires, I am basket-less and egg-less. This also means that I spend a lot of time in that friendship being selfish and TERRIFIED that they'll take away the basket and the eggs at any second and then I WILL NOT HAVE ANY FRIENDS.

(We're all neurotic somehow. Brene Brown, please high five me for being vulnerable right now.)

This is obviously a problem. It can make my friendships all about me and my fears instead of about who someone is or our common interests. It also means I'm miserable if they can't meet my every need. It means that any time I spend with that friend has a faint undercurrent of terror that makes me not quite genuine. It means that I think I have to bribe people into being friends with me.

I've found myself in this situation a little more often since Jacob and I separated, and I'm grateful it hasn't been drastic enough to burn any bridges down. I'm still learning how to get out of that head-space, and how to reach outward with less fear. (Granted, I'm a little fragile when it comes to any relationship at all right now, so I'm trying to be patient with myself as I stumble through. If you've been hurt by my neurosis, I apologize deeply. Come talk to me.) But I think the poly community has something right simply in recognizing that it's unreasonable to expect one person to meet all of our needs, all of the time. You gotta spread that love around. (In a platonic way, if you are monogamous.)

Puzzle Piece #5: Talk About It
Final thing I'm stealing from the poly world? I have rarely seen any group of people emphasize communication as much as these folks. It's simply a necessity. After the New Relationship Energy fades, a great deal of any relationship is just administrative tasks. For those who've been in a relationship, think about your schedule and how difficult it can be to make time for each other. Now double that. (Or triple it...etc.) And add on top of it discussions about making sure everyone's needs are met. Poly relationships demand that people talk to each other honestly and often.

But let's be real. Every single relationship we have, romantic or otherwise, could probably benefit from talking honestly and often.

I'll probably be gathering puzzle pieces like these for the rest of my life. I feel a little frustrated sometimes that I don't just HAVE IT ALL FIGURED OUT RIGHT NOW. I'm impatient like that. About most things. And given my recent circumstances, my desperate desire to figure things out makes sense. But I'm learning to just live in the moment a little more. To appreciate the knowledge I have, and to try and do kind and happy things, instead of worrying so much about whether or not I'm doing everything "right." Sometimes the road map we have doesn't have as much detail as we'd like. So for those moments, I'm grateful for what guidance I can find. Even if it comes in puzzle piece form.

I'm mixing my metaphors here, but I trust you know what I mean.

Monday, June 12, 2017

Themyscira: Benefits and Hazards

Jacob moved out in mid-February. (I'll write more about our divorce another time.) I drained my savings account to redecorate the entire apartment (and it looks awesome), because it was cheaper to do that than move, and because I won't find another apartment for $525 in as good of a location.

This also means that I'm currently living alone, something I did only once for a summer when I was in my early twenties. For the vast majority of my life, I've shared a bedroom, or at least an apartment or house. But I find I enjoy living alone. There are definitely benefits.

- I can wear whatever I want around the house, without making anyone else uncomfortable or distracted. (In these summer months, this means that I'm mostly naked, most of the time. I mean, do you see the title of my blog?)

- I can decorate every space however I want to. Do I want to put glow-in-the-dark stars on the bedroom ceiling? Do I want to re-arrange the furniture in the living room? Do I want to post this subversive cross-stitch in a prominent place? The entire apartment is my space, and I don't have to consult anyone about how I want it to look and feel.

- I can stay up as late as I want, and turn lights on and make noise without disturbing anyone. (Within reason...I do have neighbors.)

- I can keep thing as messy or as tidy as I want, without it affecting anyone else.

- I can have friends over any time, without needing to notify or check in with someone else.

Basically, I don't have to be considerate? It's good to be considerate, and when I'm living with another person, being considerate is its own reward and I didn't MIND doing these considerate things. It's just kind of nice to not have to worry about it.

Of course, there are hazards of living alone.

- There's no one there to rub aloe vera on my sunburned back. (I've currently got a patchy sunburn from camping this weekend...I'm only burned in the places where I didn't reach with sunscreen. Which means I also can't reach those spots with aloe vera.)

- It's hard to shop for one person. I'm not going to eat an entire loaf of bread in one week, but I can't buy half a loaf? So I have to freeze half? And some weeks I go through a gallon of milk, and sometimes just half that. I don't want food to go bad, but I also want food. I'm still figuring out how much to buy for myself.

- I have to make an effort to be social. I'm a fairly introverted person--I much prefer meaningful conversations with a few friends to a big party, and for every hour I spend with other people, I generally need an hour on my own. But I DO need those hours with other people. It can be lonely to live alone. So when I want to spend time with people, it takes more coordination. I have to call or text to set something up, and sometimes schedules don't quite line up. In college, if I wanted to spend time with people, I would just go into the living room, and usually a roommate or two would be available.

- Sometimes I start thinking about zombies/aliens/serial killers/ghosts and it's spooky to be in an apartment by myself in those times. Although, if I really WAS in some kind of danger, I'm pretty sure the ladies in my apartment complex would have my back. I live in a four-plex, and right now it's just women--three single ladies and a lesbian couple. The departure of all of the men in our building happened within the last few months, and that departure was marked by a strange uptick in building maintenance. The weeds in the yard have been removed. Stepping stones have been added to a pathway. Curtains have been hung up in the laundry room. Potted plants sit on the porch. We're just five badass women making a life for ourselves in this apartment building, and we just each needed "a room of one's own" to do it. I've started calling this place Themyscira, after the island where the Amazons live in "Wonder Woman." (Important note: I don't plan on killing any of the men who visit our island. Men are welcome here. There's just something special about having a place for just women--it's something that's been denied women for centuries, and often still is--to be away from male supervision.)

In general, I like living alone. (Someone suggested using a paint roller to apply aloe vera, so that problem is basically solved.) So I'll raise a glass to all my wonder women who make meals at midnight in their skivvies: "Here's to living alone!"

Saturday, May 27, 2017

If I were a drinker...

...I might pick this weekend to drink.

It's just been a long, intense, emotional week, and I dealt with it by spending WAY too much time in my head, to my own detriment and possibly to the temporary detriment of several friendships (sorry, everyone). There's not really any one particular thing going on. It's lots of things.

It's "Mockingbird" closing, which hurts so much that I haven't even really had the courage to face it. I was not ready for that show to end. And while I trust that I will have plenty of other meaningful experiences with other wonderful people, "Mockingbird" came at such an important time and I built so many incredible friendships and the story is so's just hard to let go of.

It's this paper I'm supposed to be working on for my Narrative Journalism class, that I can't find my way into, that's so big and sprawling and all the quotes and research are all so overwhelming. And my interview with the one source that would have been the perfect "way in" fell through.

It's being divorced, and navigating all of the new territory I find myself in. The loneliness and freedom and uncertainty and unfamiliarity of it all.

It's missing my sister so much that my chest physically aches.

It's auditions for "The Heart of Robin Hood" coming up in a week, and being so busy and overwhelmed by other things that I didn't finalize an audition song until YESTERDAY, so now I'm trying to cram a lot of preparation into seven days.

It's feeling like my testimony is being rearranged a little bit right now. Which is, ultimately, a good thing, but it's not exactly comfortable.

It's not being able to find an ENTIRE 50,000-WORD DRAFT of one of my old NaNoWriMo novels, which is actually still so overwhelming that I haven't fully pursued looking for it.

It's trying to balance my introverted need for alone time and my lonely need for companionship, which I haven't had to do to this extent since I was twenty-two or so, when I was a slightly different person under very different circumstances.

It's re-evaluating what I really want. In friendships. In Church. In life. In relationships. In how I spend my time. I feel like I have a solid core of understanding about who I am, and about the big abstract things I want. I want to be kind and learn a lot and experience things fully and make other people's lives better and create meaningful art. But it's figuring out the concrete, every day ways to do those things that's taking some re-evaluation.

It's doing one improv show and feeling like my contributions to it were small and pretty mediocre, and then doing another improv show that was so so solid.

But it hasn't JUST been challenging things. There have been great things this last week, too.

Getting really positive feedback on one of my workshop pieces for my MFA.

My 3-year-old nephew gleefully screaming my name and running to hug me when I showed up to babysit, and the hilarious speed with which my 10-month-old nephew crawls.

Sitting and talking with girls from the "Mockingbird" cast while we played with five adorable tiny puppies.

Having some pretty awesome validation for my work as an actress.

Buying a bunch of new bras that I'm OBSESSED with.

Eating popsicles and watching a documentary with a friend on a Tuesday night.

Finishing a painting and having it turn out even better than I had envisioned.

Spending time with the cast and crew of "Mockingbird" on a Sunday afternoon, eating food and talking and laughing.

Good conversations (even though some have also been scary conversations) with friends, with family, with my therapist, with my God.

Dinner with an old friend and his significant other, eating amazing Thai food and laughing and talking and reminiscing.

See? Beautiful and challenging things. It's just I've got a lot spinning around my mind-grapes nowadays, and it can be overwhelming experiencing all of this while simultaneously working 20 hours a week, taking MFA classes, and also doing all the little stupid things that need to be done, like filling the gas tank and doing the dishes and fixing the bathroom faucet and folding the laundry and restringing the guitar and finishing that graphic design project and refilling a prescription and getting groceries and watering the plants and sewing the sleeves on those blouses and eating and sleeping and basic hygiene.

I'm real grateful for a 3-day weekend, y'all. I don't have any solid plans, and I keep thinking about possible impromptu road trips that I probably can't afford to go on. But boy, are my feet itchin' to go on a road trip. I started this blog by saying that if I were a drinker, I'd drink this weekend. But I think it would just be another form of "running away." There have been lots of times in my life when I've "run away," but I've always come back. It's just a momentary escape. A moment to re-align my mirrors, get my head on straight, take a breath. I'd stop running away if it stopped working.

When I left work on Friday, my boss asked me what my weekend plans were. I said, "I might go on a road trip." When he asked where, I said, "I haven't decided yet." And I'm still deciding. Deciding whether I even need or want to run away, and if I do, what form it will take. But whether I hop in the car and keep driving or sit at home and paint, I'm really glad I have a long weekend to do so.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Funny friends = a medicine for melancholy

The quotebook is one of my very favorite things. I've been adding a lot of gems to it lately, so I thought I'd share. Laughter is a good remedy for a bad day, I think. 

"How did more babies NOT get swallowed by dogs? That's my question." - Ashley

Anne: I'm obsessed with sharks. They are the greatest animals on the planet.
Dawn: If you had the chance to be a shark, would you do it?
Anne: I want to get eaten by a shark.

"Daniel just wants to go to a nude beach and I just want to do things I'm not supposed to in communist countries." - Isha

Willis: Every time I take a shower and put a towel over my head, I take a picture of myself.
Erica: Because you look like Jesus?
Willis: Because I look like Jesus.

"What's that one thing where they throw the thing...? Oh, the Super Bowl." - Liz

"Nothing makes me feel smaller than going to a concert in a warehouse." - Ben

"'Skinwalker Ranch' sounds more like a porn studio than a paranormal hotspot." - Josh

Mary: Were you wearing a wetsuit?
Daniel: I was wet. I wasn't wearing a suit, though.

"I just admire Annalicia's combination of recreation and acts of rebellion." - Dad

"Nice shirt, Bryan. Do you want to stay a virgin forever?" - Kylee

"Like, that was funny. I just couldn't get my body to laugh." - Collette

Mary: I like your man-bun, Daniel!
Beckah: It's just a bun. It's the same thing on a man or a woman.
(15 minutes later)
Mary: It goes well with your man-bun.
Beckah: IT'S JUST A BUN!

"I KNOW it's a movie theater, but it has a recliner! We should be able to bring blankets and take our clothes off!" - Dad

"Do you know that song? I think it's from a Book of Mormon movie. Or Pocahontas..." - Collette

(after I lost him briefly in the grocery store)
Liz: Where did you go?
Dad: I was admiring the pickles.

Ben: Wait. What do you mean by "cold showers"?
Dan: No heat.

"Hey Dad, we're twins! Except you ain't got no hair." - Yahosh

Brighton: Wouldn't it be weird to not know what you look like? Like in the Middle Ages?
Collette: That's why you go into the woods and look in the puddles.

Josh: Does being a hermit living in a cabin next to a lake count as a profession?
Liz: Definitely. Unless you're planning domestic acts of terror or something.
Josh: Nope. Just gardening.

"I was so worried about lunch, but then I remembered that I never eat lunch." - Gayle

"I love things that taste like dirt." - Dan

"That's like the calligraphy of tongue-rolling." - Ben

"That sack looks so turnip-y." - Brandon, to no one in particular, as he walked by the prop shelf

“Why would you pour lemonade like that?!” - Ryan, to himself, while looking at his phone

“Is it bad that I get turned on by watching my own crossfit videos?" - Mandee

Me: I’m so tired.
Cairo: Oh. I have ADHD.

"You WILL listen to me. I will have you ARRESTED.” - Miss Rita, to a 1st grader

"Cool red pants. I almost wore red pants. Actually, that's a lie, but I have some red pants that I could have worn if I had wanted to.” - overheard

Liz: That's a good, strong hug.
Cairo: I can crush 70 pounds with my thighs.

"I hate to pat ourselves on the back, but we didn't clean the church this last week, and it doesn't look as good as when we did it." - Sunday school teacher

"I hate paisley. It looks like a bunch of sperm got drunk and went square-dancing." - Daniel

"I didn't know that aioli was fancy mayonnaise. What the f***. Just call it mayonnaise." - Betsy

(while chatting online)
Liz: Dude, you are not showing enough enthusiasm for this eclipse. THE MOON IS GOING TO BE DIRECTLY IN BETWEEN THE EARTH AND THE SUN IN A COSMIC MIRACLE AND WE GET TO SEE IT!
Josh: Sorry, went for a grapefruit.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

"It's a sin to kill a mockingbird."

"To Kill A Mockingbird" opens in a week and a half. And I'm loving every minute of rehearsal, even though there are moments that are emotionally draining just to watch. I've been doing something I've called "daily doses o' dramaturgy," where I research some aspect of 1935 or Alabama or the world of the play, and post about it on our private Facebook page. (Yes, yes, my nerdiness is well-established.) I'd do this research anyway, just for myself, so I might as well share what I find.

And something I sort of knew, but didn't quite fully comprehend, was how much this fear of a black man raping a white woman was a part of the American psyche. It was (and sometimes still is) everywhere. I started researching a few examples for my "daily dose o' dramaturgy," and it's been overwhelming.

For those unfamiliar with the story of "To Kill A Mockingbird," it takes place in a small Alabama town called Maycomb in 1935. A poor white woman, Mayella Ewell, has accused Tom Robinson, a Black man, of rape. The lawyer Atticus Finch defends Tom Robinson, even though most of the town assumes he's guilty. During the trial, Tom tells his experience, and it becomes clear that Mayella Ewell tried to seduce him, and when he rejected her advances, she accused him of rape.

I was going to share some of my research with just the "To Kill A Mockingbird" cast and crew, but it just...felt too important to keep there. I waited and waited and waited to post it, because it’s just so relentless. It’s heavy and wrong and offensive and hard to read and I hated researching the details of these cases and stories.

I originally just intended to talk about the film "Birth of a Nation" and the founding of the KKK. But my research led me into this awful rabbit hole of fact after fact after fact. White people have feared that Black men will rape "their" women for centuries in America. That unfounded--COMPLETELY UNFOUNDED--fear has been the shaky foundation of so many riots, so many crimes, so many tragedies. (The real danger has statistically always been white men sexually assaulting Black women.) There are whole books written about this idea. But here are just some of the things I found. Here are some of the plot points on the timeline that led to Mayella Ewell accusing Tom Robinson of raping her, confident that everyone would assume his guilt:

The 1765 Index to the Laws of Maryland has one entry for laws surrounding rape. It reads “RAPE: See Negroes.”

From 1812 – 1965, rape was a capital offense in Alabama. During this time, the state put 72 men to death for the crime of rape. Dozens of others were hanged or sent to the electric chair for unspecified crimes. All but 3 of them were Black. 

The word “rapist” wasn’t used in America until the late 1800s. The first recorded use was in a newspaper article, which referred to a “n****r rapist.”

In 1900, Congressman Benjamin Tillman stated on the Senate floor that “We have never believed [the Black man] to be equal to the white man, and we will not submit to his gratifying his lust on our wives and daughters without lynching him.”

In 1914, “experts” at Congressional hearings on drug use claimed that “most of the attacks upon white women of the South are the direct result of a cocaine-crazed Negro brain.”

In 1915, the film "Birth of a Nation" portrayed Black folks as incapable of being civilized, and as animals who lived by instinct. One famous scene shows a former slave sexually (and literally) pursuing a white woman, eventually leading to her death. The film inspired a re-birth of the Ku Klux Klan (which was basically obsolete at the time). The current Klan imagery was adopted directly from the film. 

The 1917 pamphlet “ABC of the Invisible Empire” listed one of the main goals of the KKK as “to shield the sanctity of the home and the chastity of womanhood.”

In 1921, a white mob incited a riot in Tulsa, Oklahoma, after 19-year-old Black man Dick Rowland was accused of raping a white female elevator operator. The riot destroyed more than 35 city blocks, and left 300 people dead. The claim of rape was unsubstantiated.

In 1923, a white mob destroyed almost the entire community of Rosewood, Florida, which was mostly Black, in response to a rumor that a white woman in a nearby town had been raped by an unknown Black man. At least 8 people were killed, 6 of them Black. During the massacre, two Black women were raped and then strangled to death by white men.

In 1931, 9 Black teenagers were accused of raping two white women on a train in Scottsboro, Alabama. All but 12-year-old Roy Wright were convicted of rape and sentenced to death, despite a lack of evidence. Their story includes rushed trials, all-white juries, and poor legal representation. The case was appealed several times, and charges were finally dropped for 4 of the 9 defendants. All but two served prison sentences. They were threatened by a lynch mob while waiting in jail for trial.

In 1934, "To Kill A Mockingbird" author Harper Lee's hometown of Monroeville, Alabama put a Black man on trial for raping a white woman. There was no hard evidence and witness testimony was unreliable, but Walter Lett was convicted and sentenced to death. Eventually, he was pardoned, but by that time, he had spent so long on death row that he suffered insanity. He died in an Alabama hospital in 1937.

And it didn’t stop in 1935, the year that "To Kill A Mockingbird" takes place.

In 1955, 14-year-old Emmett Till was falsely accused of flirting with a white woman. The woman’s husband and brother brutally beat and mutilated the teenage boy before shooting him and sinking his body in the Tallahatchie River. The white men who murdered Emmett were acquitted by a jury of their peers. A year later (protected by double jeopardy), they openly admitted that they had murdered Till.

In 1989, five Black and Latino teenagers were accused of raping a white woman in Central Park. Each of them was convicted, despite a lack of evidence, and served time in prison. They were exonerated by DNA evidence in 2002. At the time of the crimes, $85,000 worth of full-page advertisements in four major New York City newspapers called for the death penalty to be used on all five of the accused teenagers, regardless of the facts of the case. The ads were written and paid for by then-real estate mogul, Donald Trump. 

And on June 17, 2015, 21-year-old Dylann Roof entered a church in Charleston, South Carolina, and told its Black congregation, “You rape our women. You’re taking over our country. You have to go.” He shot and killed 9 people soon afterwards.

THIS is why we have to keep reading "To Kill A Mockingbird." This is why we have to keep doing this play, and telling these stories. I'm a white girl who has no actual idea what it's like to be a Black man in America. My own privilege means that I'm sometimes clumsy and ignorant when it comes to issues of race. In some ways, this isn't my story to write. But I don't want to ignore it either. I can't ignore it. I'm so grateful to be a part of this production of "To Kill A Mockingbird." When Tom Robinson sits onstage and speaks, he is sitting there on behalf of all of the men and women who can speak no longer. He's sitting there for the men and women killed by Dylann Roof. For the Black folks in Rosewood, Florida. For the Scottsboro boys. For Walter Lett and Dick Rowland and Emmett Till and Darryl Hunt and Thomas McGowen.

Mockingbirds are still flying among us, and we're still shooting them.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Hello again, and thank you.

I'm still here!

I'll write all about the roller coaster that the last few months has been, but I'll do that later. I'm still kind of motion sick from the ups and downs, so I need to take a little while to process them. Despite the rough ride, just know that there are lots of good and wonderful things in my life that make me grateful to wake up every morning.

Here are just a few of them:

1) The bedroom ceiling. 

I got a pack of glow-in-the-dark stars from, and spent two and a half hours covering the ceiling and upper walls of the bedroom, unsure about the result. And then when I went to bed, I couldn't sleep for a solid half hour, because I was just grinning at the ceiling. I am OBSESSED. (Note: The above picture is not my bedroom. I do not have a camera that has the ability to capture a star ceiling that well. Also, that bedroom is five times bigger.)

2) The apartment in general, actually. 
I've made a few changes around here, and it looks awesome, and I enjoy coming home to it every night. Someday I'll muster the energy to do a before-and-after blog, but today is not that day.

3) The Great British Baking Show. 

You guys. I am obsessed. I can't help it! It's so charming and British and everything is so yummy and I love cooking shows anyway, but there's none of this cut-throat American falsified DRAMA. It's just British people baking their tushes off and it's so charming. I'm in the middle of re-watching it. Already.

4) California. And family. 

The stars aligned last week and Beckah and I got to visit Mom and Ray and Oma and Opa and everyone in California AT THE SAME TIME. With our grown up jobs and grown up schedules, that's not always easy. Beckah got there the day before I did, and when they picked me up from the airport, we went STRAIGHT to the beach. Didn't even stop to drop off luggage. We also spent some time at my uncle's log cabin in the woods, and that was wonderful, too. Mad Libs and good music and books read aloud were all included, of course.

5) S-Town. 

The producers of "This American Life" and "Serial" created a new podcast called "S-Town" and it's amazing. It's one story with seven chapters, which they released all at once on Wednesday this past week, and I finished the series today. It's funny and sad and poignant and beautiful and mysterious. 10 out of 10, would recommend.

6) Curls

I love having curly hair. I had an especially good hair day today, and it made me feel especially pretty. I love days when I feel especially pretty. (Ain't vain. I just think women should spend less time focusing on what we think are flaws in our appearance and celebrating the pretty instead.)

7) The wind outside the bedroom window as I write. 
I can hear it rustling through the trees, making the branches creak slightly. It's eerie and lovely.

8) To Kill A Mockingbird

I've loved every show I've ever done. Even if it was hard or had challenges or wasn't as fulfilling, I've always found something to love, or at the very least, something to learn. But some shows just sort of stand out in your memory as special. There's just some extra magic somehow, and everyone is passionate about the work, or maybe the story means something important to everyone involved. Macbeth. Enchanted April. And now, To Kill A Mockingbird. This show came to me at a very difficult time in my life. And that's the case for a few of us in the cast...a lot of us are dealing with loss or heartbreak of some kind. It's so meaningful to have a place to go every night where we can all pour our hearts into a story...all the heartbreak and joy and anger and fear and laughter and sadness.

And everyone is SO TALENTED. These freaking little kids and tweens, even, the ones playing Dill and Scout and Jem, are INCREDIBLE. And that actually goes for everyone. We had a run-through earlier this week, and I cried roughly eight separate times? (In reality, I started crying at the top of Act Two, and sort of kept crying off and on until the end.)

I have some dear friends in the cast, and it's been wonderful to strengthen those friendships. And despite my feelings of social anxiety, I'm slowly forming new friendships, too. Most of the cast were strangers to me at the beginning of rehearsals, but I love that friendships sort of naturally form while we're all building a show. Even though I feel awkward and uncertain sometimes, I feel so lucky to be surrounded by such amazing people. People who care deeply about this work, who are funny and kind and smart.

So many members of the cast have shared what "To Kill A Mockingbird" has meant to them over the years. During rehearsals, people have shared personal experiences, poems, things they've learned, thoughts on the show. Tears have been shed. Not every rehearsal is this overwhelming emotional experience. But that's beautiful, too--the banter-y rehearsals, the missed lines, the just dragging through it. I may be blinded by my love of theatre, but I'm legitimately disappointed when I'm not called to rehearsal. During our first read-through, the director pointed out that this story is timeless, but unfortunately, it's also timely. I think all of us feel a small sense of responsibility in telling this story. It's such an honor to be even a small part of this process. I feel so so so blessed.