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 often...it'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.

BUT JUST CHECK OUT WHAT WE HAVE TO LOOK FORWARD TO!
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 sphere...it'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.

Totality! 
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 out...like 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 important...it'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.

art via David Wallace

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 05, 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.