Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Springs Ensemble Theatre Presents Harold Pinter's "One for the Road"; a.k.a. "Jenny did the lights"

For the past few weeks, I've been happily learning how to do lighting design over at SET, a Colorado Springs Theatre Company. SET's finishing up its season with a badass one-act play involving corrupt governments and a disturbing use of Christmas carols.

We open on Thursday, and if you're in town -- or even if you want to make a long trip -- you should come see it. The performances are stellar. The production quality amazing. And the lighting design isn't bad either. ;-)

Here's the trailer:

(And stay tuned, because I'm thinking Pinter is a good writer to explore.)

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Heartbeats

At my first doctor's appointment after I'd found out I was pregnant with Bronwen, I had an ultrasound. The first time we saw her, at seven weeks old, she was just a peanut. A gray, hazy peanut. I teased Shane that the baby obviously looked like him.

The goal of the ultrasound was threefold:

1.) To determine the number of embryos. (Thank God there was only one. The thought of twins/triplets/even greater -ets hadn't occurred to me until the doctor said so.)

2.) To determine time of conception more accurately and to set a due date.

3.) To see if there was a heartbeat.

You can't see a heartbeat when everything is gray and ghostly. The doctors or nurses performing the ultrasound have to set up what I think of as the Technicolor setting, which allows you to see where bloodflow and whatnot is. The doc switch Technicolor on, and there it was.

A red thrum thrum. It took up her whole peanut-like body.

Flash forward to this morning. Bronwen is now five years old and has discovered a stethoscope. She's sitting on the floor, using it to listen to a doll's hollow chest. And now she puts the stethoscope to her own chest.

I think of that whole-body heartbeat and realize:

She's hearing the same heart. 

Friday, November 22, 2013

Missing Your Goal Doesn't Mean You Didn't Accomplish Anything

2013 has five weeks left in it. Back in January I set myself a Goodreads goal to read 100 books this year. By October, I'd fallen so far behind the pace that there was no way for me to hit my goal. I was something like 30 books behind and it would take me the rest of the year just to catch up, let alone hit the goal. So I dropped the goal to 90, which cut my catch-up in half, and I proceeded to read as many books as I possibly could.

I'm not gonna hit 90 books.

Last night I looked at my numbers. This year I've read 64 books. According to the Goodreads counter, I'm fifteen books behind. So I have to read at least three books a week for the rest of the year to even catch the books I'm behind.

Last night I felt like a failure. I'd missed what I'd set out to do. In frustration, I looked at my stats -- the section in Goodreads where you can see how many books you've read and how many pages you've read and compare that to other years. I stared at the 64 books. I stared at 20,000+ pages. And felt like a failure.

Then Shane, who was reading over my shoulder said something like, "That's over a book a week." He said something like, "I've never read that many in a year."

So I looked at my stats again.

Prior to this year, the most books I'd read in a single year was 56.

Prior to this year, the most pages I'd read in a single year was 15,745.

Both of these records I've blown away this year. And I realized that I was being too hard on myself. Did I hit my goal? No. Which stings. I said I would do something, and then I didn't do it. It's like breaking a promise to myself.

But I have done more this year than I have ever done before. How could I not be proud of that? How could I beat myself up for that?

The answer is I shouldn't, and I'm going to stop right now. In the spirit of the upcoming Thanksgiving Holiday, I'm not going to look at what I don't have and be thankful for what I do. And what I have are 64 new books under my belt, five weeks to read more of what I want to read, and an opportunity to set a new, badass record for myself.  

Friday, November 15, 2013

Game Playing Reveals Inner Monologue is an Abusive Psychopath

On my phone I have a game that I'm sure a great deal of you are familiar with: Bejeweled -- a game where you match up jewels and blow things up and earn points. It's a great way to pass the time waiting in line at the DMV or the doctor's office. The game does not require a lot of brain power.

Recently, I noticed -- while playing the game -- my inner thoughts would say things like:

Some of you may be familiar with similarly somewhat engaging games on your phone or Facebook, like Candy Crush, Words With Friends, and (if you haven't been on a phone or computer in this decade) Tetris.

"God, you're so stupid, how could you have missed that?!?"
"Faster! Shit, you've got the fingers of an arthritic grandmother stuck in the Arctic!"
"Why the hell did you do that? You're such a dumbass."

And so on, depending on whatever 'mistake' I'd made during the course of the one minute Bejeweled Blast session.

Having fallen into a funk recently, I've been trying to think about how I think, just to see if maybe I'm being hard on myself for no justifiable reason. I've been paying attention to the words I use toward myself.

But, see, when you're talking to yourself, it's really hard to hear what you're saying. You're so used to hearing it. Does that make sense? So I hadn't noticed anything rude or untoward about my inner voice.

Until I played that random game on my phone. Then certain things stuck out:

stupid
how could you
slow
old and stiff
dumbass

Those are just from the three examples I chose to share. These are fast thoughts. Thoughts I thought without thinking I thought them. By the time I noticed I'd thought them, I was thinking different things. Really, it's surprising that I noticed how harsh I was being to myself.

Of course, Bejeweled is such a little game. It takes a minute to play. You only have to have a preschool education to play it. The world does not depend on you winning or losing. Yet, I was beating myself up over it. I spoke pretty darn hatefully in my mind.

After hearing the negative Nelly so clearly in the game, I noticed it in the other areas of my life.

Writing: The writing is going to slow. Why did you watch that TV show instead of working on your next chapter you lazy ass? You're messing it up. 

Acting: No one will cast you because you're too fat/can't do accents/have no training. Useless. Why are you doing this instead of writing? 

Family: You're a horrible mother, look -- on a list of things you can't do right, you didn't even list them first. You're selfish. How can you hate to help a kindergartner with their homework? It's not like the homework's gonna get easier Retard.

Again -- thoughts that come and go like wind. (And trust me, these are some of the more mild ones.) They keep poking in, leaving a tiny, pinprick hole where the go in and out.  Unfortunately, if enough of them come and go, your brain turns into this sieve. Things leak in and out and you have no control.

In an effort to stop these little bastards, I've taken to writing down at least three things I have done well during the course of the day. I started this reluctantly because it seemed a little too Self Help for my taste. But I'm glad I've started. Even after just a couple days I feel more positive and my funk is lifting.

Basically, what recording and catching positive thoughts does is give you ammunition -- something to fire back at the enemy of negative thoughts. After a while, all those positive things you wrote down in a notebook become a physical thing: paper after paper of things you've done right. It's hard to argue against thousands of positive words. I'm excited to keep building that evidence up.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Some Perspective Help from Marcus Aurelius

"Remember how long you have been putting off these things, and how many time the gods have given you days of grace, and yet you do not use them. Now is it high time to perceive,the kind of Universe whereof you are a part and the nature of the governor of the Universe from whom you subsist as effluence, and that the term of your time is circumscribed, and that unless you use it to attain calm of mind, time will be gone and you will be gone and the opportunity to use it will not be yours again." ~Marcus Aurelius Antoninus

In other words: Your time on this earth is short and you only have one shot to work on whatever it is you need to work on. Get to it.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Mommyhood

The question posed by Salon's headline: Is motherhood causing my depression?

It seems like a blaming, buck-passing kind of headline. "My kids are exhausting. My kids are needy. My kids are demanding. They are ruining my life." But the author, Kim Brooks, brings up some things that we just don't like to talk about when it comes to Mommyhood or Daddyhood. Sure, we all know parenting is hard...but for those without children and for early parents (those who have just had a child) I think "parenting is hard" gets misinterpreted.

Yes, changing diapers is unpleasant. It's not hard.
Yes, having to feed a baby every few hours is inconvenient. It's not hard.
Yes, screaming and whining is irritating. But that's not the hard part.

Those are the physical parts (and that's just the first couple years), which can be quite demanding. However, in my opinion, the hard parts are the emotional roller coasters you go through. I think even the best parents have moments -- brief or long -- where they feel things like guilt, resentment, jealousy, anger, frustration, uselessness, boredom.

Here are some things Brooks brings up in her article:


You have emotions you can't even pinpoint: 
"All day, going about my stay-at-home mom business, I cried. I cried while asking my kids if they wanted their morning bagels with cream cheese or peanut butter. I cried while driving them to school. I cried at the coffee shop where I go to write and in the dried foods aisle of Trader Joe’s. There was no sobbing, no blubbering or nose blowing, just a stream of tears stopping and starting all day long without any real cause."

I don't know whether this indicates depression or not, I'm not a psychologist and whatever emotional distresses Brooks feels, she's discussed with her a professional. 

However, I am a mommy, and I know that sometimes you just want to freakin' cry. You can list all of the reasons: the very real threat of exhaustion from sleep deprivation, the pile of laundry, the whining that is still ringing in your ears. But, the fact is, those reasons could be miles and miles away. You could be driving along after dropping your first grader off at school, the sun is shining, birds are singing, your favorite song is on the radio, you don't have anything pressing to do today and BAM! suddenly you're sobbing like your best friend just died. 

This doesn't necessarily mean you need medication. Or that you're a bad parent. It may mean you just need to cry.

Lack of intellectual stimulation:
"My friend Megan, who quit her job when her first child was born, wrote to me in an email that, 'After a few months at home with Penelope, I began to get depressed — sleeping too much, drinking too much, watching endless, mindless hours of brainless television. This low-level depression continued through the birth of my second daughter, and it began to escalate when I was home with two kids.'"

Probably the biggest things that no one tells new mommies and daddies is that you will be BORED OUT OF YOUR EVER-LOVING MIND. 

Children-free adults swear up and down that, if they had children, they would never let them watch the likes of Barney, or Elmo, or insert name of annoying television show character. Any time I hear this I want to laugh at the clueless children-free adults and say "Bitch, please." Because, the fact is, Elmo and Sesame Street have done a fine job teaching my kids the alphabet. Barney does a great job showing the kiddos how to use their imagination.

However, I have known the alphabet for a verrrrrry long time. I have known how to count to 100 for at least a couple decades now. I have cut and pasted for years. All of these little artsy-craftsy things I have mastered. 

So, while my kids are wonderfully stimulated, with their little brains firing all kinds of creative waves, I am trying not to run out the door to find the closest lecture on Kant's philosophies. Or an R-rated movie. Until the kids get older, it's really really really hard not feel like your brain -- which you may have educated with advanced degrees and/or job experiences -- is turning into some kind of gelatinous mush.    

Your options change:
"Another friend, Ann, who has a son with a disability, said that for her, the depression had less to do with day-to-day strain and more to do with acknowledging that certain things in her life weren’t ever going to be the way she wanted them to be, that the possibilities of what lay ahead had suddenly gotten much smaller."

Now, I won't say that your options go away. Careers and goals are always still viable, no matter what the rest of the world might say. But it gets a lot fucking harder. Time and money are both in shorter supply than without children. 

I didn't have a degree when I had my son. I didn't have a degree when I had my daughter. It took me ten years from the start of my college career to the end. But I do have a degree. I took fewer classes at a time because I had to work around my kids' schedules.  

However, money is very tight. We went on our first family vacation in June. It was just to Las Vegas, which is only a few hundred miles away, and we stayed with family. Even with help from my mother-in-law, we only had five dollars left by the time we got home -- and we really only paid to feed our family and gas. We had to wait three days before pay day. So, trips to Europe (which I would dearly love to see) are presently out of the question. 

So, for everything you want to do, you have to double the money and time to get there. And it's hard not to imagine how much time and money you would have if you weren't paying for school lunches or extra clothing. There can be some resentment when you have to choose between new underwear for your kid and a new bra for you. Then you feel guilty because you felt resentful for half a second. This is not a mood-disorder. This is life. 

The highlight reels are in-your-face nowadays:   
"And a third friend, Gallaudet, who has two school-age sons, wondered if all these insecurities aren’t societally driven. .... 'If I were to judge my friends’ parenting by Facebook and blog posts, I’d assume their lives were sunshine and organic flowers all the freaking time. When I actually talk to my friends, honestly, I feel much better and less anxious and stressed, because the same shit goes down in every household.  But because so much of what I see and hear is prepackaged — marketed, in a sense — I can quickly forget not to judge my own family’s insides based on other people’s families’ outsides.'"

If you flip to any parent on your Facebook page (even mine) you will see "the highlight" reel. These are photographs and posts about how wonderful little Johnny or Susie did in school, or how cute they were. The mommy pictures are only updated when Mommy is wearing make-up and has her hair done. 

Basically, this is all bullshit that we feed one another. Currently, I am not wearing make-up. My hair is in this scraggly ponytail. I am in sweats and a bright, god-awful yellow t-shirt. (It's workout gear, really.) (See? I couldn't even let my description go without an explanation...that's how strong the impulse is to be seen in a good light.) I'm not perfect, but I sure as hell want to be seen as-close-as-possible-to perfect.

But, let's say, I'm having one of those "crying for no goddamn reason" days and flip to my friends' Facebook pages. 

Look! L has made a spiffy pile of pancakes for her kindergartner! C has already run 15 miles and it's not even 7:00a.m.! D has just enrolled her son in martial arts and swimming lessons! M has knitted scarves for all eight of her kiddos and baked cookies while losing twenty pounds!

Let me tell you, that is a recipe for a downer day. But L, C, D, and M are all hiding the fact they're wearing sweats and god-awful yellow t-shirts behind the blue camouflage that is Facebook. However, we don't get to see their struggles and, therefore, we feel like we must be alone.    

But we're not. Parenting is tough. Every parent waiting outside the school to pick up their kid is going through a similar battle. So freakin' smile at one another, and don't judge the mommy who is picking up her kid while wearing sweats and a yellow t-shirt.  





Thursday, October 24, 2013

Reading Harry Potter to the Kiddos; or, I Love J.K. Rowling

This Saturday, I'll be joining a group of talented and beautiful actors at the Pikes Peak Library District's Briargate Branch for an all-day reading of Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone. In preparation for my parts (I'll be reading Uncle Vernon, the Gringott goblins, and Draco Malfoy, just to name a few -- and, yes, I do wonder: "What about me screams: Male Jerk?" But that's neither here nor there) I've been reading through Sorcerer's Stone again. That makes about the thirtieth time I've read it. Give or take.

And, I will state, yet again, that J.K. Rowling is my hero.

As I go through the lines, I'm just caught by the evil attitudes of the Dursleys (to whom I'm paying very close attention), the fairy tale-ish melody of the language, and just the wit that weaves throughout. It's thrilling to read this stuff out loud. Even in my somewhat Winston Churchill-ish Mr. Dursley voice.

Plus, I'm so excited about the reading format. I've been to endless readings where the author stands there, behind a podium, with his/her face half hidden by a microphone, and reads. Some authors are quite good. Others...well...less so? Shall we say? It can get kind of boring. So to hear local actors interpret these words will be very exciting. At least for me. I hope for the kiddos too.

Having finished a rough draft of a middle grade novel, I'm personally interested in seeing the kids' faces as we read. Are they all readers? Have they only seen the movies? What does this audience like?  Funny accents? Enthusiastic movement? I'm dying to see what works and what doesn't while reading/performing for that toughest of audiences: the children. I'll keep you posted.

And, if you happen to be in Colorado Springs, here's the info if you want to come see Harry Potter and Sorcerer's Stone read live:

Date: 10/26/2013
Start Time: 11:00 a.m.

Description:
 Come help raise money for the library while enjoying Harry Potter! Harry Potter enthusiasts are invited to collect pledges for pages or minutes read and either read quietly in the library or listen to the first book read aloud by a local theatre group. Participants are encouraged to bring a sleeping bag, pillow, and some snacks to stay cozy during this all day event.
Library: Briargate Branch - 9475 Briar Village Point
Location: Briargate Community Events
Contact: Michelle Archambault
Contact Number: 260-6882