Sunday, November 7, 2021

Writing Elsewhere

Hello, my friends! 

Things have been a bit quiet here on the blog lately, and I just wanted to post real quick to excuse and justify my absence. 

RJ and I are continuing our Sister Blog Challenge, but we're on a brief hiatus while we focus on other projects. I'm doing NaNoWriMo (again) this year, so for the month of November, I'll be focused on that. And during October, I spent a lot of time editing old works and submitting them for publication and applying for writer residencies and doing all kinds of other writerly things. 

But if you're craving some Liz writing, never fear, because one of my essays got accepted for publication! You can read my creative non-fiction piece, "The Goddamn Miracles of Nature," on the Sad Girls Club Literary Blog by clicking here. (While based on truth, names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty alike.) 

Happy reading and writing, loves.

Monday, September 13, 2021

What I Learned from (Almost) Doing 50 Hours of Yoga in a Year

Actually, I won’t be able to tell you what I learned doing 50 hours of yoga. Because I didn’t do 50 hours. I did do 30 hours and 36 minutes, though, and I learned plenty from that! 

I set this as my birthday goal last year, but didn’t really post anything about it here like I usually do. It somehow felt more private, so I just quietly made my spreadsheet and paid for the premium version of my yoga app and set up a reminder in my phone to do yoga every other day, even if it was only for 10 minutes. I chose a goal of 50 hours because it worked out to be about an hour a week, or 20 minutes three times a week, or even 10 minutes six times a week. Not so much as to be overwhelming, but enough to make a difference. 

I had visions of being so flexible and strong at the end of this journey. I was going to be able to do headstands. I was going to be able to lift my leg straight up into the air, knee by my ear, my eyes gazing out serenely. I was going to have clearly defined abs and no double chin and I was going to be Zen as f*ck. 

Surprise: none of that happened. I am not really any stronger or more flexible than I was a year ago. And honestly, I don’t know if I would have been even if I had made it to 50 hours. But it was still worth doing.  

Because it sustained me. It kept me grounded through an ongoing pandemic, through a breakup, through cancelled shows and new jobs and stressful days and lonely nights. 

Most of the time, it was me and my app, my iPad propped in front of me in my room, my yoga mat unrolled in the space between my bed and desk. A few times, I joined a virtual yoga class, including one instance where I was the only student. I was always a little wary at the beginning of a formal class—did I really have an hour to give to this? And I always did. 

There were times when I dreaded, absolutely DREADED, doing yoga. When the task felt so heavy that it seemed to pull the rest of my to do list down, a ball and chain to my day.  Sometimes I just crossed it off the list without doing it. I just couldn’t bring myself to “show up at the mat” or whatever. But sometimes I showed up anyway, teeth gritted, until they weren’t gritted anymore. 

There were times when it was a desperately needed respite. When my mind was going 10 million miles a minute, when my whole body felt twitchy with the frantic need to ACCOMPLISH ACCOMPLISH ACCOMPLISH. When it took putting everything else aside and just breathing for one goddamn minute to help me get to sleep. 

There were times when I felt luxuriously glad to be doing yoga. When I moved into wide child’s pose with the kind of sigh that’s usually reserved for slipping into a hot bath. When that “Zen as f*ck” feeling settled into my spine with ease and I felt at home in my body. 

And there were times when I sobbed my way through poses. It happened a lot after my breakup in November. I would be going through my day with a background note of sadness, and then I’d move into some pose and it would all come rushing out. Like all the sorrow I was carrying was waiting for some kind of release. I don’t know what I would have done with all of that ache if I didn’t have yoga. 

I had weeks when I was unrolling the mat every single day. And then weeks where it lay completely untouched. It’s still that way--inconsistent. But even if the habit hasn’t taken hold exactly, I still feel the place that yoga has taken up in my life. Now, I can sense when I’m feeling a little tangled—emotionally or physically. I can feel when I need the slow untangling that yoga brings me. I’ve come to accept that I don’t need the leggings, I don’t need the classes (although I do like them!), I don’t need to do this for an hour every day, or even for an hour at a time. 25-minute increments still settle and untangle and strengthen me. 

There’s often a sort of self-righteous evangelism that comes with yoga. At least that’s how I interpreted it from most of social media. A lot of promises of it changing my life. It takes a certain level of privilege to be able to make yoga practice a part of your life. I used to get the impression that most yoga classes were filled with skinny white women who can afford $70 leggings. Which is sometimes true. But I have discovered spaces where all are welcome, and found a home on my mat that I didn't know was waiting for me. 

And now here’s the thing: I’m becoming a bit of a yoga evangelist myself. I hope I’m not coming across as self-righteous about it, but I've learned that yoga really is for everyone. Rich, poor, fat, skinny, cisgender, transgender, any and all races and abilities. Is your stomach getting in the way of doing child’s pose? Just modify it to wide child’s pose. Can’t afford classes or a studio membership? Find a free guided class on YouTube (there are hundreds). Don’t have an hour to give to your practice? Just do 10 minutes. Can’t touch your toes? Touch your knees. 

It sounds cheesy and evangelical and unrealistic, but I've come to believe that yoga really doesn't ask anything of you except showing up. And I'm grateful for what I found as I showed up this past year. I don't think I'll stop. 

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Breaking point


I'll be back with more writing later, on the regular schedule, when I'm not Door Dashing, Etsy-ing (x2), doing other side hustles, memorizing 2 different scripts, doing improv shows, house managing and rehearsing in Provo, and attempting to make food at home so that I don't spend a billion dollars on eating out. 

Love you all. 

Monday, August 2, 2021

Loving Our (Imperfect) Bodies

DISCLAIMER: I am not a health professional, for mental or physical health. I have done research and am providing relevant links, and I'm also experienced in advocacy and non-violent communication, which is really the focus of this blog. 

CONTENT WARNING: This blog contains frank discussions of body image and disordered eating, including examples of harmful things that are sometimes said about bodies and examples of negative inner monologues. I invite readers to practice self-care and discretion in reading, and offer the option of skipping the examples written in orange text

Image: A dim picture of an empty dressing room, with lighted mirrors.
(via Travel Salem on Flickr

Hello my friends! Before I start this blog, I want to be transparent about the fact that for most of my life, I've been thin. My body has grown somewhat in the last several years, and nowadays I've got a bigger and softer tummy and a proper double chin. But I haven't personally experienced a lot of fatphobia or disordered eating or body image issues. This makes it easy for me to stand up and say "Hey, let's all love our bodies!" with very little baggage. But the amount of baggage I have or don't have doesn't have anything to do with my willpower or character. I just got lucky. I won a genetic lottery and got a body type that happens to be valued in my society and a family that doesn't have too many issues around body image. All of us humans have grown up in this culture, and all of us have internalized messages about fat, about age, about appearance. No one should be shamed for how much those messages affect them. For all my positive body talk, I also still have plenty of moments when those messages get to me, too. This blog entry is about why I do my best to consciously undermine those messages, and some practical ideas about how to do it. It's a skill that has to be learned and practiced. 


Now that more people are vaccinated (for the love of Osiris, if you can get vaccinated but haven't yet, PLEASE GET VACCINATED), we have more opportunities to do live theatre safely! And with that comes something I had literally completely forgotten about: the negative body talk that gets thrown around in women’s dressing rooms. 

I don’t know what happens in men’s dressing rooms, and it’s been a while since I’ve been in a universal dressing room. But I’d like to invite everyone, regardless of the dressing rooms you’re in, to move away from this kind of talk. The last year and a half has further radicalized me into working for all kinds of equity and compassion, and the dressing room is one place where I can do that work. Come join me! 


Negative body talk is any negative comment about your own body, someone else’s body, or bodies in general. It may include comments about weight, shape, age, or appearance. Sometimes negative body talk comes in sneaky forms, like praising people for weight loss, or assigning moral value to certain foods. 

Here are a few examples: 

  • “Ugh, this costume makes my butt look huge.” 
  • “These crow’s feet around my eyes are driving me crazy.” 
  • “I was so bad today. I ate like five cookies.” 
  • “Okay, time to put on makeup. Because no one wants to see this face without makeup.” 
  • “I’m gonna have to go to the gym for an extra hour to work off that lunch.” 
  • “I hate having such tiny boobs!” 
  • “I felt so bad for him, trying to do that lift with her.” 
  • “You’ve lost so much weight! You look amazing!” 
  • “Time to put on my Spanx. Gotta tuck all of these saggy bits in.”
  • “These gray hairs look just awful.”  


(My radicalization is gonna show here…) 

Negative body talk upholds the patriarchy

It’s the patriarchy that says “women are valuable because of their looks.” It’s the patriarchy that says “Men should look a certain way to get women to date them, because that’s where men get their value from.” It’s the patriarchy that says that women’s jobs are to be ornamental, decorative, and make others comfortable. It’s the patriarchy that makes no room for queerness or anything outside of the gender binary. It’s the patriarchy that says only pretty people can be romantic leads. It's the patriarchy that says women's value goes down as they get older. And there’s no inherent truth to any of it. It’s what society teaches us, but we can decide to disregard it. And as more of us disregard it, the less power it has. 

Negative body talk perpetuates the toxic aspects of capitalism

Think about how much money we spend trying to change how we look. I’m all for cool haircuts and tattoos and piercings and sunscreen and yoga studios—those things help us express and care for ourselves. But the only reason women shave their legs is because some guy in the 1920s wanted to sell us razors. The only reason we have so many diet programs is because people want to make money off diet programs. Even though none of them demonstrably work long-term and restrictive eating is always harmful. (Check out The F*ck It Diet for one resource on this.) The diet industry makes an estimated $60 billion a year. Imagine how much good that money could do if we spent it elsewhere. On small businesses. On bail funds. Or hell, on our f*cking bills. And don’t even get me started on the “pink tax.”

Negative body talk is often deeply rooted in racism

This is way complex, and I’m not the best person to speak on this, and many others have spoken about this more eloquently than I have. (Check out this interview with Sabrina Strings on NPR for one example.) But the idea that “thin is the only and best way to be beautiful” is an extraordinarily Western idea, based on white ideals that attempt to separate “superior” bodies from “inferior” bodies. The beauty ideals of other cultures are all so radically different…if we say “Well, being thin and young are the ONLY ways to be beautiful” we’re saying “White colonial ideals of beauty are the only valuable ones.” (Also, your value as a human being doesn’t have anything to do with how you look ANYWAY.) 

Negative body talk perpetuates the fatphobia that plagues the entertainment industry

There is literally no reason for actors to be thin. Because we use our bodies to tell stories, it’s helpful if our bodies are strong and healthy. But the lie that we’ve been fed for so many decades and from so many sources is that fat = unhealthy. And it’s just not…true. (Check out Health At Every Size to learn more). Health can be measured in a few different ways, but generally speaking, the actual science says that weight is not an accurate predictor of health. Lizzo can do cardio while singing and playing the flute for hours at a time in heels, night after night, for months on end. And have you seen Olympic weight-lifters? And also, the BMI is racist and completely useless and was never intended to measure health. So if you’re ACTUALLY worried about health, you don’t need to worry about weight. And as far as storytelling goes, there’s no reason we can’t have a fat Juliet on stage. A fat Elle Woods. A fat Hedda Gabler. LITERALLY NO REASON. If being thin doesn’t mean being healthy, and if you don’t have to be thin to play certain roles, then there’s literally no reason to push ourselves (or each other) to be thin. 

Negative body talk harms those with body image issues and disordered eating

It's difficult to get really accurate statistics, but eating disorders affect AT LEAST 9% of the population. So if you're in a room with 10 people, it's highly likely that at least one of them has experienced some kind of eating disorder, and even likelier that more people in the room have a difficult relationship with food or body image (if not all of them/us). When we make comments about our own weight, or the weight of others, we're adding our voices to the chorus of already loud voices saying "you're not thin enough" or "you'll only be loved if you're thin" or "you're not worthy of love unless you're thin." This is also why it's powerful to not compliment people about weight loss. I personally have multiple friends who have shared that compliments on their weight loss caused their eating disorder to deepen. Or perhaps their weight loss was because of another health issue, and the compliment made their pain feel invisible. In both cases, they were being rewarded with love and acceptance in times when they were very ill. I want to live in a world where we give people love and acceptance regardless of their weight. 


(and any other rooms, really)

Okay, so if you're on board with moving away from the negative body talk that perpetuates the patriarchy, toxic capitalism, racism, and myths about health, here are a few ideas of how to do it. 

  1. Aggressively compliment yourself. Look at yourself in the full-length mirror and smile at what you see. Exclaim with ecstasy. “Are you seeing this?! Look at these thighs! Look at these curves! Man, I love this gorgeous tummy.” Grab handfuls of your body and jiggle it with joy.
  2. Abstain from the “script” when someone says something disparaging about their own appearance. When one person says “Ugh, I hate how this makes my butt look!” the expected response is either “No, it looks great!” or “Well, MY costume makes my tummy look huge.” Both of those responses reinforce the idea that appearance = worth. Which is completely false. Speak up, or change the subject, or abstain. 
  3. Give specific compliments that don’t have to do with size. These compliments can have to do with appearance, but think of it as praising the way you’d praise a painting. (“You have such great eyebrows.” “You have such lovely hands.” “Look at your beautiful elegant feet!”) You can also compliment things that don’t have to do with appearance at all, like talent or smarts or interpersonal skills. 
  4. Respond to negative body talk with “That’s the patriarchy talking!” or another quippy one-liner of your choice. 
  5. Post body positivity quotes/images by the mirror/on the walls. A few of my favorites include "Love Your Tree" from Eve Ensler's The Good Body, some variation of this popular sticker, or this one, and this cross-stitch from my own Etsy shop (shameless plug).
  6. Respond with a simple “Hey, this kind of negative body talk isn’t okay with me. Could we please keep it out of this space?” 
  7. If the costumes/time period of the show allows, refuse to wear Spanx or other shape wear. 
  8. Invite people to explore the ideas behind the fatphobic comment. “Hey, have you ever thought about where those ideas come from?” (This can also be done more pointedly, in the form of “Explain what you mean by that?”)
  9. Speak frankly and matter-of-factly about your own body to the costume team (“These jeans are too small for my belly.” “If I wear this skirt, can I also get something to wear underneath so that my thighs don’t get irritated from rubbing together?”)
  10. Respond with “Hey, friends. Someone recently pointed out to me that this kind of negative body talk can be rough for folks with eating disorders. So because we never know what the people in the dressing room are going through, I’ve been trying to just refrain from any kind of negative body talk in every dressing room I’m in. Would it be cool if we did that in here?” 
  11. Sometimes negative body talk is an attempt to bond with those around us. The desire to connect to our fellow humans is deep and primal! (This is often what's going on when people are following the "script" mentioned earlier in #2.) So work on finding other ways to connect. Tell a funny story about your day, ask people what their favorite part of their day was, bring up an interesting article or YouTube video you recently read, or ask any of these conversation starters. (I always love hearing about people's journeys, so I like to ask "How did you get into theatre?") 
If you have other ideas, feel free to share them in the comments! Now go forth, and practice showing love to your beautiful, imperfect body and help others love theirs! 

Monday, July 19, 2021

Am Writing

No blog today. But it's because I'm working on two essays, four poems, and one script (at least). The entire point of the Sister Blog Challenge is to stay writing. And I am writing. It's just not ready to be seen yet. 

Maybe in two weeks it will be. See you then. 

Monday, July 5, 2021

Kick off your Sunday shoes

“If Walt Whitman were alive today, what song would he hear America singing? When I turn on television, all I hear is the music of easy sexuality and relaxed morals. I hear rock and roll and the endless chant of pornography.” – Reverend Moore, “Footloose,” Act One 

“You wish to change the law because you want to throw a dance; that is your right. It is my duty to challenge any enterprise which, in my experience, fosters the use of liquor, the abuse of drugs, and most importantly, celebrates spiritual corruption.” –Reverend Moore, “Footloose,” Act Two

Listen. I'm in a production of "Footloose" that opens this week, and it's kind of all I can think about nowadays. (You know how tech week is.) The premise of the show always struck me as so ridiculous as to be unbelievable. A ban on dancing seems absurd for any time period after the early 1600s.  

But the more I learn about American history in the 1980s, the less ridiculous a religious ban on dancing seems. First of all, the show is based on a true story (you can read about it here), but also there were a lot of things going on in American culture during the 1970s and 1980s that could easily lead a Christian preacher to believe that dancing is dangerous.   

I’ve been researching this for weeks, like the nerd I am, so get ready for a dramaturgy dump, my friends. 


In the late 70s and early 80s, evangelical Christians were like "You know what we need MORE of? Combining Church and State." For them, the separation was clearly leading to the "decay of the nation's morality." Groups like The Moral Majority, Christian Coalition, Focus on the Family, and the Family Research Council urged evangelicals to get involved in politics and got them pumped up about "traditional family values." Before this, things like abortion, divorce, feminism, LGBTQ rights were all separate issues. It's a great PR move, really, and it carries through to this day. 


For members of the Christian right, Satan wasn’t metaphorical. And know who he was after? THE CHILDREN. In 1972, Evangelical Christian Mike Warnke published “The Satan Seller,” a memoir of a childhood allegedly spent in Satan worship, detailing everything from summoning demons to ritualistic sex orgies, and his subsequent salvation and conversion to Christianity. 

In 1980, another even more explosive “memoir” was published called “Michelle Remembers.” Co-written by Michelle Smith and her therapist Lawrence Pazder (who eventually became her husband), the book is based on hundreds of hours of interviews with Michelle while she was under hypnosis. During these interviews, Michelle recounted terrifying childhood experiences after her mother sent her to live with a Satanic cult at age five. She described everything from being forced to consume urine and feces, bathing in the blood of dismembered babies, and being locked in a cage filled with snakes and spiders. She also recalled being sexually assaulted as part of Satanic rituals. The entire experience allegedly culminated in meeting Satan himself, before Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and the Archangel Michael intervened. These beings removed all physical scars, and hid the memories from Michelle until “the time was right.” 

The best-selling book, along with one or two accusations of sexual assault made against preschool teachers (particularly the McMartin preschool in 1983), launched what we now call “The Satanic Panic.” There was a widespread fear throughout North America that Satanists were secretly running preschools in order to use the children in rituals. Under dubious interview practices, children made statements about being taken to "devil churches," being sexually abused, performing Satanic spells, and being tortured. Worried parents campaigned vehemently for authorities to do something with the slogan “We believe the children.” Federal law enforcement made training videos to help officers recognize the signs of “Satanic Ritual Abuse.” 


In 1973, the horror film “The Exorcist” was released, and the fear of Satan’s power ramped up among those who believed in him literally. Not only was the movie legitimately terrifying to audiences, but the making of it was also terrifying. (At one point, the entire set burned down in an accidental fire, except for the possessed character Regan’s bedroom???) The film was based on a real life exorcism on a 14-year-old boy known only as Roland Doe. Or rather, it's based on the attempted exorcism, because Roland somehow managed to break out of his restraints, pull a metal bedspring out of his mattress, and slash one of the priests with it, and they declared him beyond their help. When the film was played in theatres, there were multiple reports of audience members fainting and vomiting, and at least four cases of people requiring psychiatric care afterwards. Televangelist Billy Graham said “There is a power of evil in the film, in the fabric of the film itself.” 

And when 17-year-old Nicholas Bell killed a 9-year-old girl in his UK neighborhood in 1975, his statement to the police read, in part: "It was not really me that did it, you know. There was something inside me. I want to see a priest. It is ever since I saw that film The Exorcist. I felt something take possession of me. It has been in me ever since." Turning to the attack on the girl he had said: "I don't know why I killed her. It was this spirit inside me." In a later alleged statement he continued: "One night I was alone at home playing with the [ouija] board and while doing so felt something bad was happening."

Satan was everywhere. Movies. Books. Music. Television shows. Advertisements. Magazines. 

By 1988, Satanism had so permeated popular culture that TV Talk Show star Gerardo Rivera aired a special called “Devil Worship: Exposing Satan’s Underground.” 

Music and dancing were especially dangerous. The 1989 Christian documentary “Hell’s Bells: The Dangers of Rock ‘N’ Roll” linked rock music to sex, violence, suicide, drug use, rebellion, and the occult, and ended with a dramatic call to be saved. In 1989, Mormon church leader Gene R. Cook recounted a story about meeting Mick Jagger on a plane, and asking him what he thinks the influence of his music is on young people. Jagger reportedly replied, “Our music is calculated to drive the kids to sex.”

Here are a few excerpts from the LDS Church’s “For the Strength of Youth” pamphlets—a free publication to help Mormon teenagers live righteous standards. 

From For the Strength of Youth, 1972 edition: 

“Church standards prohibit dancing that is suggestive or sensual in any way…If one concentrates on good posture, many dances can be danced in a manner which will meet LDS standards. Some examples of these dances are the waltz, fox trot, tango, rhumba, cha-cha, samba, swing, and most of the folk dances. When dancing, young people should avoid crouching, slumping over, trying to do a backbend, or having too close a body contact…Members of the Church should be good dancers and not contortionists. Extreme body movements—such as hip and shoulder shaking, body jerking, etc.—should be avoided, and emphasis should be placed more on smooth styling and clever footwork…The kind of music that is played has a definite effect upon the actions of those participating in dance. Moderate and modest music should always be played. When electronic bands or instruments are used, an extremely loud beat is discouraged because it is inconsistent with church standards. Musical lyrics should always be in good taste and sung in a dignified way.” 

From For the Strength of Youth, 1990 edition: 

“Music can help you draw closer to your Heavenly Father. It can be used to educate, edify, inspire, and unite. However, music can be used for wicked purposes. Music can, by its tempo, beat, intensity, and lyrics, dull your spiritual sensitivity. You cannot afford to fill your minds with unworthy music. Music is an important and powerful part of life. You must consider your listening habits thoughtfully and prayerfully. You should be willing to control your listening habits and shun music that is spiritually harmful. Don’t listen to music that contains ideas that contradict the principles of the gospel. Don’t listen to music that promotes Satanism or other evil practices, encourages immorality, uses foul and offensive language, or drives away the Spirit. Use careful judgment and maturity to choose the music you listen to and the level of its volume. Dancing can be enjoyable and provide an opportunity to meet new people and strengthen friendships. However, it too can be misused. When you are dancing, avoid full body contact or intimate positions with your partner. Plan and attend dances where dress, grooming, lighting, dancing styles, lyrics, and music contribute to an atmosphere in which the Spirit of the Lord may be present.” 


There was an enormous surge in serial murders during the 1970s. Why? Who the hell knows. Unresolved PTSD? Intergenerational trauma? Misogynist backlash against second wave feminism? All of the above? Maybe better forensic methods, stronger police communication, and deeper research into psychology just made us more aware of the murders. Maybe the nation was paying more attention because more victims were white women. Whatever the reason, the majority of the most well-known serial killers in American history were committing their crimes during this time period. 

Charles Manson and "Helter Skelter." "Son of Sam" killer David Berkowitz. Edmund Kemper. John Wayne Gacy. "BTK Killer" Dennis Rader. The "Golden State Killer" and "Easy Area Rapist" Joseph James DeAngelo. The "Hillside Stranglers" Angelo Buono Jr and Kenneth A Bianchi. Ted Bundy. Jeffrey Dahmer. Wayne B Williams and the Atlanta child murders. Richard Ramirez. 

Dennis Rader wasn't apprehended until 2005, and Joseph James DeAngelo was at large until 2018. Berkowitz and Ramirez both cited Satanism as the reasons for their crimes. Bundy was a law student who had converted to Mormonism. (Incidentally, he was arrested a few blocks west of the Harman Theatre, where "Footloose" is being produced.) 

From these cases alone, that means there were AT LEAST 150 seemingly senseless murders/sex crimes during the 15-year period from 1969 to 1985. If you were to average it out, that’s around 1 per month. For 15 years straight. Murders that didn’t have to do with gang violence or drugs, or even robberies much of the time. It was happening in Brooklyn, New York and Witchita, Kansas and Provo, Utah. Nowhere was safe. Kids were warned about "stranger danger" through PSAs and children's books. 


Also to the dismay of Christians, sex was going mainstream during the 70s and 80s. Chippendale’s opened in Los Angeles, then in New York, and then went on tour, performing mostly for middle-aged white women (who apparently were into sex? What?). Pornography films like Blue Movie, Deep Throat, and Mona were being reviewed positively by everyone from Johnny Carson to Roger Ebert. Madonna and Prince and dozens of other singers were writing lyrics that weren’t even thinly veiled references to sex. 

Thousands of gay men were dying of a mysterious new illness that would later be diagnosed as AIDS, an immunodeficiency disease caused by the HIV virus, and spread through bodily fluids. Ronald Reagan and the United States government intentionally ignored the crisis, and by 1995, over 800,000 people had been lost to AIDS. Conservative Christians viewed the crisis as a “gay plague” and that God was punishing homosexuality. 

So yeah. You take the rise of Christianity in politics and a literal belief in Satan, the occult showing up in everything from blockbuster films to rock music, hundreds of people being senselessly murdered and some of the murderers blaming it on Satanism, children saying they’re being ritualistically abused by their preschool teachers, and sex seeping into every facet of American society? You’re damn right I’m going to do everything I can to protect my kids. And if I have to ban dancing to do it, that’s a price I’m willing to pay for their eternal salvation. 

With hindsight, it’s easy to see how this kind of thinking is misguided. How the impact is miles away from the intent. But it still continues today. Fox News spent weeks clutching their pearls over Lil Nas X’s song and music video “Montero (Call Me By Your Name)” and did the same thing again with Cardi B/Megan Thee Stallion’s Grammy performance of Up/WAP. (It's worth mentioning that a lot of the criticisms of popular music always have been and still are deeply rooted in white supremacy, but that's a whole 'nother conversation.) Evangelical Christians still dominate conversations about conservative politics. 

And we still are determined to “protect our children.” Instead of putting signs in our windows that say "We Believe the Children," we share things with the hashtag #SaveOurChildren. In 2016, a 28-year-old man walked into a New York pizza parlor and fired 3 shots from an assault rifle, in an effort to rescue the children from a child sex-trafficking ring allegedly run by Democratic elites. Despite there not being a child sex-trafficking ring in the pizza parlor, the belief that powerful people were using children as sex slaves persists through QAnon and InfoWars and Trumpism. 

Here in Utah, Tim Ballard’s non-profit “Operation Underground Railroad” allows investors to join Liam Neeson/Taken-esque “rescue missions” in other countries. Despite a lack of any relevant training, problematic sting operations that create demand for underage sex workers, and a lack of recovery resources for victims, Ballard continues to frame his work as guided by God. 

Mike Warnke’s memoir “The Satan Seller” was completely debunked and revealed as fraud. The same goes for “Michelle Remembers.” The Satanic Panic surrounding daycare centers had more to do with anxiety about mothers entering the workplace than the devil torturing children. Child sex trafficking is absolutely an issue worth solving, but the problem has less to do with innocent white girls being kidnapped from suburbia and more to do with foreign policy and economics and racism and resource equity and drug policies. 

It’s difficult to face the real traumas. Poverty and grief and fear are all so messy. And the solutions are equally complicated and overwhelming. It’s so much easier to blame a metaphorical being whose only motivation is evil. If you're a parent, it feels both impossible and vital that you protect your children from sexual harm and violence and substance abuse. And if you're Christian, the stakes are even higher--those things lead to literal damnation. 

So it's easy to see how the parents who proclaimed “We Believe the Children” during the Daycare Satanic Panic had good intentions. They were trying to care for and protect the innocent young people they were responsible for. But the heartbreaking thing is that they didn’t actually believe the children. In interview after interview after interview about the satanic ritual abuse that supposedly happened in daycare centers, the children said that nothing really happened. Transcripts and recordings of the initial interviews show that the children were coerced into confessions and stories of things that weren’t even possible. 

But parents were so afraid of failing their children that they didn’t listen to them. 

Just like Reverend Moore. 

Monday, June 14, 2021

In Bloom

I’ve had the sense, lately, that the last year and a half was like a long winter. But as vaccinations go up and COVID numbers go down in my home state, it feels like a kind of spring. Like things that were buried and waiting in the soil are now reaching upwards towards the light. 

Or maybe it feels like summer. Like things have been awake and blooming for a while now. 

I’ve thought about this on warm evenings as I watered the yard. When A and K planted bulbs in the flower beds, A didn’t think they’d show up until next year. But there they are, growing taller every day, their green leaves standing strong in the dirt. The desert grasses are growing new stalks (well, except for that one by the mailbox). And while the lawn is struggling in this goddamn drought, there are patches of green that keep returning under our obstinate watering. 

It feels like things are blooming. And I want to embrace the blooming. 

First of all, I have declared summer of 2021 to be “Hobbit Girl Summer.” 

Inspired by this tweet, I’ve chosen to make this summer a time of taking pleasure in simple things and guarding my comfort fiercely. 

When I made this plan, I quickly discovered that I’m at least 75% Hobbit already. Often barefoot. 7+ meals per day, usually consisting of simple fare—fresh fruit, baked goods, pasta. Taking pleasure in homey, domestic past-times like cross stitching and gardening. Going to bed late and getting up late. 

So there may not actually be many radical changes. But rather, Hobbit Girl Summer will be about embracing those things more fully, and being more deliberate about them. I’m planning to throw in a few other Hobbit-y things. Reading books and taking naps under trees. Writing poetry by rivers. Smoking the occasional pipe-weed. Maybe there can be a garden party or two. (Sans Gandalf’s fireworks because Utah is in the worst drought since the 1970s.) (I will also not be donning any ornamental waistcoats, because it’s bloody hot outside.) I may seek a handful of adventures, Baggins-style. But a friend recently described hobbits as “hippie dippie hedonists,” and if that’s not what I want for my life this summer, I don’t know what is. 

Second of all, after a year and a half of Zoom theatre and streamed performances and radio plays, my fully vaccinated self is re-entering good old-fashioned rehearsal rooms and theatres all over the valley and it’s my favorite thing. I’m rehearsing “Footloose!” at West Valley Arts, and sort of also became the de facto intimacy and fight choreographer as well. I’m halfway through choreographing intimacy for a production of Much Ado About Nothing, and have another intimacy/fight choreo gig lined up for the fall. In a few weeks, I’ll teach an intimacy direction workshop at the Utah Advisory Council for Theatre Teachers Conference. I’ve been submitting resumes and self-tapes a few times a week. I felt rusty as hell for a while there—I spent a week doing vocal warmups for 15 minutes a day because any time I tried to sing, my diaphragm felt non-existent. But it’s like riding a bike…when you’ve been doing it long enough, it comes back to you pretty quickly. An Other Theater Co had our first in-person company call a week ago, where we made plans to clean up the space and get ready for our upcoming season. I feel like there’s a forward momentum in my theatre career that had been on hold for a while. 

Third of all, a handful of writing projects have been percolating in my brain, and some are ready for…consumption? Creation? Clearly, metaphors aren’t my strong suit today, but the point is that I’m moving out of the brainstorming phase and into the “actually writing” phase on a few things. I’ve been fighting myself on the idea of tropes and clich├ęs, and was just being an insufferable, snobby hipster about it all. Like “tropes are too simple and therefore beneath me because I’m an original artist and only art that is challenging is worthwhile.” I’m calling myself on my own bullshit. I’ve started leaning hard into tropes and have found it makes writing much easier, and that there’s still room for “originality” within tropes anyway. 

I sometimes worry that I sound a little too “hippie dippie” in my observations about how “it feels like this is a season of blooming.” This feeling is 100% completely subjective and also deeply personal. But as I grow more into my witchy, intuitive, whole self, it’s empowering to speak these things, to name the chapters of the book I’m in. Friendships are beginning and deepening and shifting. Careers are gaining momentum. Things are just…blooming. So I’ll keep metaphorically watering them, and embrace the blooming.  

(I know I just had this like, great meaningful "button" for this blog, but as I initiate Hobbit Girl Summer, it feels necessary to share these pictures from 2008, when cell phone cameras were blurry as hell, and when some friends and I put on a sketch called "Middle Earth's First Christmas" and I played Legolas with my Nigel Lithgoe hair and RJ was a perfect hobbit and C was "Gandalf the Red" even though he was dressed in white.)

Monday, May 31, 2021

Tableaus of the American West, spring 2021

There are stretches of Utah that are, frankly, boring. Pastures, shrub-covered hills, sage and tumbleweeds. But down near the southern border, it becomes almost other-wordly. The sandy red cliffs rising against a backdrop of cotton candy clouds. I feel my stomach unclenching the farther south I go. 

At Zion that afternoon, it’s too hot to sleep in the tent. So I lay my sleeping pad out on the ground in the shade of my car and nap there. When I wake, it’s still hours before sundown, but I make a fire and roast hot dogs for dinner anyway. I read. I look at the fire. I move my chair in a steady orbit to avoid the smoke. I am discovering that more than half of what I enjoy about camping is spending time with other people. Maybe if I had a good place to hang my hammock, I’d feel differently. I make two unsatisfactory s’mores and go to bed. When I wake up in the middle of the night, I unzip my tent to look at the stars. It’s only a moment, but it’s beautiful anyway. 

The Grand Canyon is truly and actually GRAND. It’s also fucking enormous. I feel like I pass signs for hundreds of miles that tell me I’m at the Grand Canyon. I pull over after crossing the bridge at Glen Canyon, then walk back over it. It’s so far down to the water it doesn’t even feel real. Later, I take a small detour and hike ½ mile in the desert sun to see Horseshoe Bend. Maybe one day I’ll kayak around it. For now, I lean over gaze down, the metal of the railing scalding my forearms. I hold my breath as I glance over at a man close to my age, sitting with his legs dangling over the edge, hundreds of feet above the Colorado River. 

I’ve decided I hate camping by myself, so I cancel all of my camping reservations and book cheap motels. It’s probably just the fact that motels have internet access, but it feels much less lonely. In Williams, Arizona, I eat a meal by sitting down in a restaurant for the first time in 14 months. It’s surreal and a little nerve-wracking. I sit at the bar in a 50’s-themed diner and devour a burger and sweet potato fries with my book propped up behind my plate. At one point, I glance up in time to see one of the dishwashers in the back drop a cup onto the ground and put it right back onto the shelf. 

I listen to books on tape while I drive, or BTS, or podcasts, or my “Wandering Tunes” playlist. I’ve learned that I do best when I take a break every hour and a half or so. I pull over into rest stops and stretch, I wander the aisles of Maverick gas stations and side-of-the-road gift shops. I see a sign advertising the ancient site of Montezuma’s Castle and drive a few miles past two casinos to see it. I feel like John Steinbeck, “traveling with Charley.” But instead of a poodle and an RV, I have a journal and a Prius.

At a gift shop on Navajo land, things feel like April 2020. Masks are required, spacing is enforced, entrances and exits are calculated so that only a limited number of people are in the building at a time. After I spent so much time in areas that probably never really took the pandemic seriously, and as someone who’s been fully vaccinated for a while, it feels like a time capsule.  

There are whole stretches of the American southwest that look so much like the quintessential idea of “The American Southwest” that it almost feels fake. If I lived in a different country and had never been to America, and you asked me to describe Arizona, I’d say, “Big open areas with tall saguaro cactuses, flat-roofed adobe houses with dogs sleeping in the dusty driveways, the occasional tumbleweed, metal sculptures in the yards of the more wealthy.” It sounds like a movie set, or Disneyland’s Cars ride. But it’s 100% accurate. 

There’s something sort of surreal about the moment when your drive home turns from unfamiliar to familiar. I don’t know my way around Spanish Fork, but once I hit Provo, it feels like I’m “home.” Even if I still have an hour left to drive. 

I’m not entirely sure how to end this piece. I can’t tell if it’s a love letter to the American west or reminders for my next solo road trip. 

I suppose I’ll end abruptly, in that crisp way that you pull your car into your own driveway after a week away. 

Monday, May 17, 2021



Late yesterday afternoon, a 1-year-old coon hound mix lost his sanity when his owner walked into the bathroom and closed the door. Despite the fact that this is a frequent occurrence and that the owner always returns, the adolescent pup stood at the door and whined for the entire three-and-a-half minutes that the owner was gone. Other household members attempted to offer reassurances and comfort, but these had little effect on the worried doggo. It was only when the owner opened the door with exclamations of “Can you chill?” and “Why are you like this?” that the dog calmed down. Currently, all is calm in the house. (The dog declined to provide a statement for this story.)


It is that time of year where it’s hot during the day and cold at night. We recommend wearing shorts but bringing a jacket. Pollen count is very high, with winds expected to exacerbate any allergies. This report is only included to help meet the word count requirement. 


It’s that time of year—perennials are coming back, trees are blossoming, and the lawn mower is getting pulled out of the shed. But this year, Utahans are facing a conundrum. Their yards need water, but there isn’t a lot to spare. The state of Utah is currently in one of the worst droughts since the 1970s. With watering restrictions in place, residents have a more pressing question: Why doesn’t the drought prevent the millions of weeds sprouting up? Freelance scientist Rebeth Whitner has been studying the question for years. “The truth is…we don’t know,” Whitner says. “It could have to do with how much water each different plant needs to grow, but so far, our research indicates that there’s no real pattern. It seems like they do this just to spite us.” Whitner and her colleagues at the Center for Plant Science have been conducting experiments since 2014, but their findings have been inconclusive. When can we expect answers? Whitner laughs sardonically. “When hell freezes over,” she says. So in the meantime, wait to water, and just keep spraying those weeds. 


With the CDC recently lifting mask guidelines for vaccinated individuals, many are finding this new world has a few challenges to navigate. There’s the obvious uncertainty that comes with the fact that going mask-less is based on the “honor system.” There’s no way to know whether someone is vaccinated or not just by looking at them, sending some into anxiety spirals that can be difficult to come down from. But there are some unforeseen complications as well. One source, who wished to remain anonymous, shared her experience: “I didn’t realize how often I lip sync in stores,” Jane (not her real name) stated. “I’ve been doing it for about a year, and the first time I went out without a mask, I couldn’t figure out why people were staring and smiling.” It took Jane a few minutes to realize she’d been lip syncing to the Bruno Mars song playing over the loudspeakers. While most of us have found mask-wearing a little annoying, many have discovered unexpected benefits. “I went two days without brushing my teeth!” said one source, who also wished to remain anonymous. Others cited being able to cover acne, secretly mouthing rude things to people who walk too slow, and not feeling obligated to smile at friends’ babies. There’s also the benefit of not getting sick as often—while masks prevent the spread of COVID, they also prevent the spread of other infections like the common cold. It will likely be several months before we all adjust to a post-mask-requirement world, and there may be a few growing pains. None of us expected mask requirements to have silver linings, but it turns out there was something to smile about after all. Even if no one could see it.  


It’s been a long year and a half! We’re all coming out of isolation and getting ready for a summer of hedonism. Worried about that “quarantine 15”? You’re not alone. But luckily, you are only two steps away from having that “summer body,” and both take little to no effort. Step One: Have a body. Step Two: Experience summer.  


Last week we ran a story about a local cat who believed that the entire couch was hers. We erroneously stated that the couch belonged to the humans in the household. We have been informed that the couch is, in fact, the cat’s. 

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

Full reviews of things half-finished


New Girl (television sitcom) 

I slept on this show for literally a decade, and then A recommended it, and now it’s 2 weeks later and I’m almost done with season 4. I am charmed and delighted by this ensemble-based sitcom. I dismissed this show for so long for a few dumb reasons. One is that I was (am) a hipster with no logic and had this unjustified sense of superiority for “not liking sitcoms.” The other is that I am intimidated by Zooey Deschanel and have an unfounded fear that every straight guy wants me to be her. (That’s probably some internalized misogyny, actually.) But I now adore Zooey’s character Jess, and I’m also deeply in love with Nick Miller. (Crush on TV character = another way I’m currently acting like an 8th grader.) 

Shadow & Bone (series on Netflix) 

I read the “Six of Crows” series last summer, and then devoured the “Shadow and Bone” trilogy a few months later. Leigh Bardugo has become one of my favorite authors. (Strong focus on characters and relationships, good world-building, suspenseful plots, diversity of all kinds!) The Netflix series combines these two separate series into one story. They take place within the same world, but in different timelines, and are really pretty damn completely different. Six of Crows is all “ragtag group of petty thieves pulling off an epic heist” and Shadow and Bone is all “a girl is the answer to a prophecy about destroying the work of dark magic.” Structurally speaking, so far I think they’ve combined the plots fairly well. I think it technically works, but in all honesty, I think some executive at Netflix made a poor choice in slamming these two stories together. Even if you were just thinking as a dirty capitalist, the fan base absolutely exists to get way more mileage out of this world. They could have done literally twice as many episodes and people would have watched the hell out of it. But too late now, Netflix, so I’ll embrace what is and accept these plots being interwoven. I’m a fan of the art direction/design. I think the casting is fairly perfect, with no A-list stars to distract or “carry”—just capable actors doing good work. (Thank GOD this wasn’t made in the 90s, when studio execs would have cast Leonardo DiCaprio as Kaz for the star power and made every character straight and white and neurotypical.) (Also, I hadn’t realized until I watched the first few episodes of the series that I’d been picturing the Darkling looking a lot like David Bowie. Ben Barnes is much better casting.) 

Dear Edward (book) 

I dragged myself through 80% of this book. It had so many good reviews on Goodreads, and it was on so many lists, and I always like stories with multiple intersecting perspectives. Maybe I wasn’t in the right mindset or something, but I found this book to be a BUMMER. A whole lotta focus on trauma. Especially about, and from the perspective of, Edward. I imagine the end of the book is probably uplifting somehow. Finding meaning in the tragedy or whatever. But the discovery of the letters felt sort of trite. It was a “Chicken Soup for the Soul” resolution being set up. I spent most of this book hoping for a final chapter like The Goldfinch’s, but eventually decided I didn’t have the patience to get through the rest of the story to get to it (if it existed). 

The COVID-19 Pandemic (a pandemic) 

I’m mostly including this as a reminder (to myself more than anyone) that the pandemic is not yet over. I got my second shot in early April, and as of Friday, our entire household is vaccinated. Today, I drove past a movie theatre and thought about being able to sit in a darkened room in front of a big screen again and almost cried. I still haven’t eaten IN a restaurant yet, and we’ve had two or three other vaccinated people over, and I just accepted a role in a musical with COVID precautions. So in my corner of the world, things are looking pretty good. Vaccinations are up and infections are down. I still wear a mask when outside the house, but there’s a light at the end of the tunnel. I give the pandemic as a whole zero stars, but I give the current healing Utah curve a solid four and a half. 

Monday, April 19, 2021

Parallels to 1998

In the summer of 1998, I moved from the San Francisco Bay Area to southern Oregon. I would turn 13 that September, and begin my new life as an 8th grader at Talent Middle School. And while I’m turning 36 this year, and that middle school beginning was over two decades ago (!), I’m finding myself at a similar new beginning, with some strange parallels. 

I should state that I know that the pandemic is definitely not over. We’ve got variants popping up, and mask mandates and business restrictions ending way too soon, and in general our enthusiasm seems to be outpacing the decline of COVID. 

But there does seem to be a light at the end of the tunnel, and after receiving my 2nd vaccine shot, I find my heart readying itself to enter the world again, post-pandemic. 

First of all, just like in 1998, I spend a lot of time thinking about whether or not I should shave my legs. Ditto on wearing mascara. I can’t decide if I agree with society’s expectations enough to justify the time spent in meeting them. But I also want the social currency that comes with meeting society’s dumb expectations. Will people still be friends with me if I don’t shave my legs or wear mascara? Because I really want to have friends. 

And just like I did in 1998, I feel vaguely uncertain about my social skills. At age 13, I just didn’t have a ton of experience in making and maintaining friendships. At age 35, I’ve got the experience. It’s just that I’ve been hanging out with the same 2-4 people for more than a year and don’t entirely remember how to have conversations. Even social interactions with people I’ve known and loved for years are tinged with a slight uncertainty. There’s an 8th grader inside of me nervously whispering “Did you say the right thing? Should you say something else? What else can you talk about?” 

This also means that any successful (AKA not too awkward) human connection is cause for celebration. (A few weeks ago, I chatted with an entire group of people I didn’t know and I wasn’t very awkward and I rode the high of that for like four days.) 

And if I'm being completely honest, beyond social interactions, in the back of my mind, there’s the buzzing possibility of romantic interactions. In 8th grade, I didn’t have any plans to date until I was 16, and it would still be a full four years before my first kiss. And okay, maybe the possibility of romance was in the front of my mind in 8th grade. I couldn’t help it. I was a hopeless romantic and Ryan Gosling was stealing my heart as Young Hercules on Fox Kids, and the radio kept playing these sappy songs, and I could see my peers pairing off in halting, hand-holding couples. I kept wondering if it would happen for me. When? With whom? How? Would it be all starlight and dancing in gazebos and poetry, like I dreamed? 

I'm pleased to say that as of 2021, I've been able to experience my share of starlight and dancing in gazebos and poetry. But at this point, four years post-divorce and five months post-breakup, some of those questions are beginning to reach up to my heart and head again. Every single relationship I've ever had felt like a fluke. Not quite an accident, but like something I fell into without any planning or expertise on my part. Yes, I've had relationships before, but their initiations don't feel like anything I can replicate. (How does one actually start dating someone? Besides doing a theatre show with them, flirting throughout rehearsal, and then eventually making out?)

But logistics aside, there are more urgent questions. What if I ask someone out and they politely decline? Will I survive that? (Probably?) Or what if my year+ in relative isolation has completely eroded my ability to read any kind of social cues, and I don’t notice if someone is flirting? Or worse, I think they’re flirting when they’re not

8th grader thoughts. 

But there are also some positive parallels between 8th grade and now. I draw comfort from the same sources now that I did when I was younger—from books and movies and music and walks in nature. I feel uncertain of my exact future, but I know what I love and what I want to do, just like I did in 1998. Theatre and writing has been in my bones for as long as I can remember, and I knew even 23 year ago that I wanted to do both of those things. There are days as an adult when I can't get over the beauty of making my 8th grade dreams come true. 

1998 definitely had its rough moments. Moving to a completely new state and new school at age 13 is pretty challenging. But in the grand scheme, things turned out okay. 

And while I'm sure 2021 will have its rough moments, I think things will turn out okay this year too.

Monday, April 5, 2021

On mileposts and the question "What's the point?"

I’ve been thinking a lot about mileposts lately. 

It’s partly because I’ve got a bad case of “itchy feet” lately, which sounds clinical, but is just my phrase for “wanting to travel or explore new places or be someplace that isn’t here.” I’ve been daydreaming about a huge cross-country road trip to see everyone I know and love this summer. I’m planning a trip to Arizona to see some family in May. 

But I also know that I can’t drive for more than about five hours before I start to lose my mind. It’s just too exhausting, and I get tired of music and podcasts and singing and silence and sitting. So I’ve been finding mileposts. Places to stop and rest, to take a break and refill my strength before I keep going. 

If I had more time and hadn’t procrastinated this blog entry, I would have written much more poetic and symbolic drafts of this essay before posting the perfect and complete version of it. But I’ll have to tell instead of show this time. 

Because the last year or so has been the longest metaphorical road trip of my life. It has been for all of us. Pandemic aside, mine has included everything from the sudden and unexpected death of a dear friend to childhood cancer in the family to rejection from dream jobs to the break up of a serious relationship. And I’m tired. Tired enough that my brain started asking, “What’s the point?” 

In the last two months or so, so many small to medium-sized hardships just kept happening. It began to feel relentless. None of them were anyone’s fault, necessarily, and most were just perfectly reasonable and un-preventable circumstances, that also happened to make me miserable. 

My brain was asking “What’s the point?” often enough that at the suggestion of my therapist and doctor, I finally raised my dose of antidepressants, and after a week or so of adjusting, it’s made a wonderful difference. 

But the other thing that’s helped me is these sort of metaphorical mileposts. Moments when I could rest and refill before I carry on. Some have been planned—a massage, a haircut, a weekend getaway. Some were tiny things I chose in the moment. Looking up at the stars before I go inside, after coming home from Door Dashing. Opening a window to listen to birdsong or rainfall. Letting my body sleep when it needs to sleep. 

But some of the most beautiful mileposts were ones that were unexpected gifts. A late night text conversation about travel and magic and tarot readings. A friend stopping by unexpectedly—sitting in the sun and talking for an hour about art and how our bodies hold stories. A book that unexpectedly captured my heart (I see you, “The Kiss Quotient” by Helen Hoang). A rehearsal where the actors are making beautiful discoveries and creating stunning moments. Moments of magic. The other day, I was waiting to pick up a Door Dash order in a Five Guys, and noticed a Pearl Jam song playing over the speakers. As I got back into my car, my iTunes on shuffle, I thought “I wish my iTunes would shuffle to a Pearl Jam song” and immediately, my iTunes began playing “Wishlist” by Pearl Jam. 

There are times when the road trip we’re metaphorically on is so enjoyable that we don’t even notice how long we’ve been in the car, or that we’re in a car at all. And other times when it begins to feel relentless. When we start to wonder “What’s the point?” So on the long drive from Salt Lake City to Tucson, Arizona, I’m stopping at both Zion National Park and the Grand Canyon. I’m giving myself mileposts where I can rest and breathe and refill before I keep going. And the trip itself is a metaphorical milepost in the longer journey of this spring and summer, one with so many unknowns and a few quiet longings. 

I don’t think there’s one “right” way to go through difficult times. But I’ve discovered that for me, having mileposts helps to answer the question “What’s the point?” The point is a visit to see my mom and sister in Arizona in May. The point is that talk with T on the front patio. The point is theatre. The point is magic and starlight and the universe answering prayers in the form of songs shuffled on iTunes and good books. 

Some mileposts are solid and scheduled, like a second COVID vaccine dose or a roadtrip. But the more I look for them, the more I see mileposts to give me strength day to day. And even though it’s cheesy, I thank the universe for them. 

Monday, March 22, 2021


Welcome to Door Dash! We’re pleased you’ve decided to become a “Dasher.” You probably started doing this as a “temporary gig,” but you may find that it becomes one of the best jobs you’ve ever had, if you’re a slightly rebellious type who doesn’t like being told what to do. There’s almost complete freedom, you can consistently make around $20 per hour, and it’s mostly driving around while listening to music or podcasts. You don’t even really have to schedule yourself. Just dash when you feel like it. 

But as a new dasher, there are a few things you should know. 

People will not always leave their porch lights on, have a clearly visible address on their house, nor leave detailed instructions on how to reach their apartment number within a sprawling labyrinth of a complex. You may occasionally find yourself wandering around with a full meal from Popeye’s for ten minutes before finding your destination. You may consider writing a strongly worded letter to the universe in general, requesting that your destinations always be well-lit and easy to find. 

While the Dasher app has the ability to connect to your phone’s GPS system, this is not always reliable. You could discover that in your attempt to deliver McDonald’s to a family in Magna, your phone has guided you to the abandoned Saltair Pavilion, a dilapidated venue on the edge of the Great Salt Lake. These kinds of misadventures can be avoided by making sure the location in the Dasher app and the location in the Maps app are the same. 

Some people will be assholes. They will come out of their houses without masks and expect you to hand them their food, which you will either reluctantly do, or more often, you’ll set their food down on the ground and walk away because there’s a pandemic still happening. Some people will also be assholes by not tipping. You don’t have to take those orders. You can ignore them. 

If you’ve struggled in the past with the difference between left and right, in part due to years of being both an actor/dancer and a director/choreographer, where stage left and stage right are opposite of your left and right when looking at the stage, you may find that following GPS instructions regularly will help improve your ability to tell the difference. Spending hours each day being told to turn either left or right with pictures and arrows to guide you will kind of start to embed the difference more solidly in your brain.  

You’ll also grow more deeply familiar with the area in which you live in general. You’ll start to patch together neighborhoods and highways and areas into a more comprehensive mental map. It will be deeply satisfying. 

You’ll also grow familiar with restaurants in your area, and learn their quirks and what to expect. An order from that Boba place will usually take 10 minutes longer than stated, but you’ll get to watch KPOP videos on the large TV in the lobby while you wait. One restaurant chain will not serve Dashers through the drive-thru, but this other one prefers it. That cookie place always pays well, and the customers tip like gangbusters. Never take a grocery delivery from Walmart unless you know how big it is. 

Note that there are a dozen hotels near the airport and that the drive is a bit of a pain, but the tips are usually worth it. Also not that the FBI has a large, nondescript office building in the same area. You’ll discover this because one day you’ll deliver Panda Express to a friendly employee there. 

You may, on some nights, find yourself wishing that no one else would be on the roads while you are driving, ever. You may long to cruise through town, unhindered by other drivers, not needing to deal with long lines, lights that are slow to change, or people who don’t understand speed limits and/or turn signals. This is normal. Take a few deep breaths. 

If at all possible, drive a car that has infinite cupholders. You will need to be able to transport your water bottle, a separate drink for yourself if you’re fancy, customer drinks, and your phone. A 2012 Compact Toyota Prius will have excellent gas mileage, but not enough cupholders. 

Keep your eyes open. Not just for safety, but for wonder. There will be evenings when the sunset sky looks so spectacular it will seem like a painting. You may see a white rabbit nibbling in the grass of someone’s front yard. You’ll get two orders in a row for two different people named “Gray.” Look for magic. There are little altars everywhere.

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

Mental Health Life Buoy/Cheat Sheet

Okay, so this blog entry has been in my drafts for…months? Years? Honestly, it would have been more helpful to post this last spring, when we were all reeling from the new pandemic-y world we were living in, but I was also reeling so it’s getting posted now. 

VERY IMPORTANT DISCLOSURE: I AM NOT A THERAPIST. I am not an expert in mental health. I’m sharing the things I’ve learned from years of being IN therapy and living with Major Depressive Disorder, studying brain/nervous system function because I’m a nerd, reading books, and following a bunch of Instagram accounts about mental health. None of this should be considered professional advice. I’m only sharing what is helpful for me, and the reasons behind those things. If you can afford it, I highly recommend speaking with a professional.

I also have to recognize the irony of me posting this at a moment when my own mental health is not great, but whatever. 

Okay. So here’s one of the most helpful things I’ve ever done for my mental health: have a cheat sheet. I’ll share mine, and also a “blank” one for your own use, and you’re welcome to adapt it in any way you see fit! Here are the details on mine, and the reasons behind making it. 

When we’re in crisis, big or small, it’s really hard to think clearly. Our brains are too busy trying to keep us safe/alive to be able to do some higher executive function task like make a list of what we need and then figure out what to do to meet those needs. So in moments of non-crisis, you can pre-make that list and keep it handy for when the crisis moments hit.

I’ve organized mine into linear steps, because most of the time, this “order of operations” works really well for me. Here's my "life buoy"/mental health cheat sheet:

Step One: Breathe. Breathing intentionally and deeply helps calm your nervous system down when you’re feeling anxious or stressed, and definitely won’t hurt if you’re feeling depressed. For me, breathing is a good way to sort of tune back in to the present moment, and primes my brain for whatever else I need to do. 

Step Two: Check in on the basic needs. Have you eaten, slept, and/or moved your body recently? I can’t tell you how many deep emotional crises I’ve had that were basically solved with a snack and a nap. BECAUSE WE ARE ALL TODDLERS. At least I am. And even when the crisis wasn’t SOLVED with a snack and a nap, those things always help shrink the crisis down to a more manageable size. Our brain function is impaired when we don’t eat or sleep, so providing it with those things helps us get the right neurons firing again. As far as moving your body, a 20-minute walk or 10-minute yoga session can also help calm your nervous system. There’s this crazy cool thing where bilateral stimulation (left-right movement) calms the vagus nerve, which sounds woo-woo but is actually true(-woo). If you’re not able to meet those needs for food, sleep, and movement right away, then remind yourself that these things are probably exacerbating whatever crisis is happening.

Step Three: If breathing, snacking, sleeping, and moving aren’t helping quite enough, move on to the more specific needs. Some of the questions and answers on this list are pretty specific to me, but some are more universal. 

Do you feel lonely? Make a connection—send a text or message just to say hi, or have a conversation with a friend. 

Do you feel “anxious attachment” panic? Are you worried that you’ll lose someone, or that they don’t love you enough? Take a few deep breaths, then forge a connection with someone else (a safe person that you feel secure attachment to). 

How long has it been since you’ve been touched? If it’s been a minute, find someone or something to cuddle, or book a massage. 

Is there something that you're avoiding? Try writing in your journal to get to it. You can also try going on a walk to think about it, or doing some visual art about your feelings. 

Do you feel unattractive? Do something to help you feel appreciative of your body. Shave your legs, give yourself a pedicure or manicure, do a face mask, soak your feet, or take a shower/bath.

How are your hormones doing? If you're PMS-ing, that may be affecting your mood.

Are you procrastinating a task? Google Image search an example of the finished product, then tell yourself to do the thing, but you only need to do it for 5 minutes at a time, and then take a 5-minute break. Or "lean in" to figure out why you're procrastinating, then address that reason.

Do you feel ineffective? Accomplish some small thing. Sweep the floor, make the bed, clean the toilet, send the email. Just ONE thing. If you can’t do the one thing, do one thing half-way.

Do you feel overwhelmed? Take a moment to sit down and make a to do list. Remind yourself that you can totally do the things on the list, and that you only have to do them one at a time, and if you have to put a few things off until tomorrow, that’s okay.

Have you waited a few days? Most things work themselves out on their own. Give yourself some time, and then check in again. Practice letting yourself feel the distress without needing to do anything about it.

Step Four: If it turns out that there isn’t anything specific going on, or if you’re not able to fix the circumstances making you unhappy (*cough* pandemic *cough*), or your brain just isn’t making the helpful chemicals, then move on to the go-to self-care activities. Feel free to take suggestions from my list, and add your own! 

  • Take a hot shower or bath
  • Use the HeadSpace app and do a mindfulness session
  • Do some visual art—paint, collage, sketch, photography, cross-stitch
  • Read a good book
  • Write some poetry
  • Take a social media break for at least 24 hours
  • Watch a favorite movie or TV show
  • Listen to a favorite podcast
  • Watch some YouTube videos of cool dances, cute babies, or funny animals
  • Genuine laughter: Watch a comedy special or some YouTube bloopers
  • Spend time in nature
  • Go on an exploratory drive
  • Do a puzzle or play a game
  • Say some affirmations (“I am valuable, it’s gonna be okay, I am loved and lovable, I will get through this”)
  • Masturbate
  • Clean or organize something
  • Sing (YouTube karaoke or while on a drive)
  • Have a big ole cry
  • Reach out to trusted loved ones and ask for encouraging words or funny memes
  • Make a meaningful connection with a loved one (text, talk, visit)
  • Cuddle a friend, significant other, or a pet
  • Get a massage
Step Five: Get some professional help. If you’re consistently in “crisis,” or if the crisis is deep enough that none of the other things are helping, turn yourself over to the experts. As a reminder, crisis hotlines aren’t just for those who are contemplating self-harm in the moment—it’s for those who just need some help through whatever’s going on. And sometimes the hospital is the best choice to help get you on your feet again. I stayed in a psychiatric hospital for a few days back in 2017, and it was challenging but truly one of the best things I’ve ever done. It saved my life. Having info on your local psychiatric unit on hand is helpful because if you’re in crisis, you may not be able to think clearly enough to look it all up. 

Important thought that’s not included on the mental health cheat sheet, but that I think is really important: 

There’s a difference between distraction and processing. Both have their place, but it’s really helpful to note which you’re doing, when, and why. Distraction is doing something in your mind/body that helps regulate your nervous system and bring you down to a kind of “stasis.” Sometimes it’s intentionally moving away from whatever the issue is, but for me it’s helpful to think of it as calming yourself enough to process later. Processing is doing something in your mind/body that allows you to work through an issue now. 

I’m learning, much to my dismay, that if something needs to be processed, I can do it now or I can do it later, but it’ll need to be done at some point, and if I don’t do it now, it might affect my relationships and self-worth in the long run, so if I can, I might as well do it now. Even then, I still sometimes need some time to calm down with distraction.

Please feel free to take what works for you from this, and disregard the rest! (And also, please please please remember that I’m not a therapist! I’m only sharing what has been helpful for me. I cannot speak for others, and I definitely cannot speak for the psychological community.) 

Here are a few other resources that have been helpful for me! 

BOOK: “Burnout” by Emily and Amelia Nagosky

BOOK: “The Anxiety and Phobia Workbook” by Edmund Bourne

BOOK: “The Body Keeps the Score” by Bessel van der Kolk

INSTAGRAM: @findmywellbeing

INSTAGRAM: @the.holistic.psychologist

APP: Headspace

APP: Calm Harm

APP: Yoga Studio (by Gaiam)

IDEA: Attachment Theory

And here's a blank version of my print out! It's 11 x 17 inches, because that was a standard printing size that was also big enough to write things clearly and largely enough. 

Now go be well! 

Photo credit Christopher Martin

Monday, February 22, 2021

Flash Fiction: "Self Help"

 A "dive" into some fiction today, which I don't spend enough time writing. I found and polished up this old story from one of my MFA classes. At the time, I was interested in the idea of self-help gone awry, and the prompt I was given for class was "swimming pool." 

"Self Help"

Laura Lundquist did not have a swimming pool. 

She lived alone in a one-bedroom apartment, ten minutes away from the marketing firm where she worked. She had no dog, no cat, and no houseplants. She spent her evenings watching documentaries and foreign films, and trying new recipes, the results of which often languished in her fridge for weeks before she threw them out.

Walking into her apartment after work, the July heat radiating on her skin and hair, Laura imagined slipping out of her clothes and into the cool chlorine of Noah’s pool. She’d dangled her feet in it at last year’s work party, and he had smiled at her briefly, as she sat alone. She spent that afternoon watching him, and trying to hide the fact that she was watching him, and trying to figure out whether or not he was watching her. The hairs on the back of her arms stood up whenever he walked close by. 

Perhaps his invitation hadn’t been personal. Laura was a part of the head count. Noah just happened to be hosting that year’s work BBQ, and they happened to work together. Still. She felt hypnotized by the way the sunlight glistened on his warm arms, or how the water gathered on the hairs near his ankles. When he laughed, it was like firecrackers in her lungs…joyful and suffocating all at once. 

When it all became too blinding, she’d stood up from the side of the pool and quietly walked into the house. In the bathroom, she had pulled open drawers, peeked into the cabinets. She had categorized the inventory of his private life. Old Spice High Endurance Pure Sport Deodorant. Colgate whitening toothpaste. A razor that needed cleaning. All of these intimate things. Answers to questions she didn’t know how to ask. 

With music playing distantly outside, and the chatter of co-workers on the back porch, she had quietly opened doors until she found his bedroom. She’d run her hands along the row of clean shirts in his closet, and sat gingerly on his bed. For a few brief moments, she laid back with her legs dangling over the edge, his comforter had been cool beneath her as she’d stared at the ceiling of his bedroom, her arms stretched out to either side.

In the office, he never looked up from his desk when she walked past. But she had seen him, four desks down, slip his shoes off as he worked. She watched him twirl a pen between his fingers as he bent down over his sketchpad. She’d seen his lunch in the office fridge. 

It was late July now, weeks since that party at Noah’s house. Laura closed the apartment door behind her and pulled her dress over her head. She kicked her shoes off as she walked to the bedroom. Her sheets were cool on her back as she stared at the ceiling. She ran her hand along her neck. 

What she wanted was to swim in Noah’s pool. She wanted to come home to that backyard. She imagined him sitting with his feet dangling in the water, smiling at her as the water cooled her limbs. She imagined that he would ask her about the book she was reading, and if Marie from accounting was still ignoring her emails. And all of the thoughts that Laura had tumbling through her head would have a second home in Noah, and she would be able to breathe again. She would drown, smiling, in his love. 

Laura’s mother thought that Laura was depressed, because “she never went out and didn’t have any friends.” Laura replied that she liked being home and had friends at work. Laura arrived home one day to a package from her mother, containing four different types of vitamins, two DVDs of “guided positive affirmations,” and a book called “Taking Charge of Your Life: Going For (And Getting) What You Want.” 

In late August, Laura made her decision.

His back gate was unlocked. Laura stepped into the back yard and walked to the edge of the pool. She stepped out of her shoes and pulled her shirt over her head. She unzipped her skirt and let it fall, unhooked her bra, and stepped out of her underwear. 

She took a deep breath, and jumped into the blue-green, undulating water. Laura floated there, her face tilted to the sky, her arms making lazy circles. 

She didn’t hear the gate unlatch. So she was startled when she heard the voice she had been imagining. 

“Who the hell are you?” 

photo credit: Charlotte Astrid