Wednesday, November 05, 2014

On Babies and Birth Control

I found something out last night that shook me a little.

I was reading a new blog (see below) and somewhere in the middle, as I trolled through old posts, was a discussion on birth control. It wasn't in the article itself, but in the comment thread someone stated that "the pill" is an abortifacient. I, of course, began researching. I've always been both pro-life and pro-choice. I believe that sex is a great thing, that shouldn't be shameful or mysterious. I believe that women should get to make decisions about their health, and whether or not they will get pregnant. I believe that my personal right to choose to get pregnant, ends once a pregnancy has begun and another life is at stake. Therefore, I am way pro-birth control, but anti-abortion.

I went on birth control just before I got married. I got my birth control though a clinic that offered mail order delivery with phone in consultations. I had to get a health screening before they would issue my prescription. I went to the website to look up my options. I was comfortable with the description of "the pill" as introducing a hormone that prevented ovulation. I read up a lot on the side effects. I was sent my first package.

My body did not like birth control. I started by trying to do the continuous cycle method - and that was a bust. I was nauseated for almost a year and spotting continuously. I gained loads of weight, either from the hormones, or trying to stave off the morning sickness. I read up on common reactions to my pill, and switched brands to another. The nausea left, finally, but the breakthrough bleeding continued. I went in for an annual exam and spoke with a nurse. She switched me to a higher dosage. The symptoms didn't get better, but I didn't get pregnant - so I figured the pills were doing their job, and it was the best it was going to be. I felt gross and bloated.

This past summer, doing my third run of a show that took me out of town, I asked my husband if he would mind if I went off birth control for a month. He was working a day job, I was out of town evenings and weekends, and it was just TOO HOT to be carrying 17 extra pounds around. He was alright with it, and I went off the pill. It was delicious. No more spotting, a real period, no constant bloated "pregnant" feeling. The weight didn't magically disappear, but I felt better in my body. I decided that I wanted to find an alternate method of birth control that didn't include hormones. With the help of a friend, I latched onto F.A.M (Fertility Awareness Method) of Natural Family Planning. I read a huge book. I take my temperature every morning before I get out of bed. Now I know what my body is doing and when, and when I can and can't get pregnant. For me, this was the best choice. The charting plays well with my OCD tendencies, and I feel good in my skin again. It can be a little annoying in the early stages to get used to the fact that one can't have sex just any old time, but there are fun things to do in the meantime. (Or like last month, when my body didn't give very clear indicators of ovulation - so we missed our window entirely - argh!)

As I did research into FAM, I had to deal with the repercussions of what birth control has been doing to my body for these past three+ years. The simple , immediate ones - that my body has to relearn how to cycle and that the mucous membranes were damaged, and I'm temporarily left without any visual signs of where I am in the cycle by the type of bodily fluids being produced. The longer-reaching ones - that there is evidence that the birth control hormones made me more susceptible to certain cancers. I was shocked when I found this out. I did research before I signed on. I've spoken to the staff at the clinic. NONE of these were mentioned as side effects. I felt that my right to an informed decision was violated. I am an educated woman, capable of making decisions, and I researched my choices to the best of the information I found at the time. When they were walking me down the list of side effects, and making sure that I knew how to use the pill properly each annual visit, why was this never mentioned even as a remote possibility?

I've now been off birth control for 6 months. I feel good about my decision, and I'm happier with the natural methods. They do work, they are equally effective (depending on which type you practice, and how well you stick to the rules) as hormonal birth control. This was the right choice for me. Today, even more so. Because of a comment on the blog I mentioned, I did a little more research via google into the pill. I was told that the pill prevents ovulation. I'm certain that's also what the websites on the pill stated, as did the various places I went to research the side effects over and over. I discovered yesterday from various sources that, yes, it mostly prevents ovulation...but it also inhibits sperm, changes the discharges to create an inhospitable environment for fertilization, and thins the uterine lining so that a fertilized egg cannot implant. As a "life begins from conception because I don't see any other obvious place along the continuum to start the clock" person, that's a kinda big difference. And I'm kind of a little thrown. me it's a very different thing to say that no eggs will be produced, ergo - no pregnancy. It's another thing entirely to know that there was even a chance that I could have been pregnant at any time, and the birth control prevented a fertilized egg from attaching. I, of course, have no proof that it happened. I can't do anything now if it did. But I've been in tears all day.

I don't want children. I've never been a "baby" person. I don't go gooey when a newborn is brought into a room. But I knew as a tween that even if I was raped I would bring a baby into the world, but give it up. (I don't fault anyone else for a different view on that one - I only know how I felt and still feel). If Alan and I have an "oops" we know we'd be fine parents. But I'm not ok carrying the knowledge that I didn't know enough, I didn't learn enough, I didn't investigate enough - and I might have unwittingly killed a baby.

All I can do is ask forgiveness if it happened, and move on with life. It's not like I can ever know. It feels wrong to be this upset about a "might have been." I stopped birth control half a year ago, and won't go back. But, I feel violated by the system that was supposed to be empowering my rights as a woman to make an informed choice about my reproductive health, and I'm hurting. As the comment said last night, there's a big difference between "almost never" and "cannot happen." That decimal of a percent is breaking my heart.

Tuesday, November 04, 2014

The End is Nigh!

I really thought that I was the only person who felt this way. As a child, and well into my adult life, I would get panic attacks in stores if I lost the people I was with, thinking that the Rapture had happened, and I missed it. I would wake up screaming from dreams where demons were chasing me, and then thinking I was awake only to find another one outside my window. Now, I read the Bible, but I skip Revelations. I don't really care anymore about the weird end-times fetish that is gripping us - except to remember that Jesus told me not to worry when people start proclaiming that "The End is Here." I found This Blog today, and feel I need to quote the whole article.

Silencing Chicken Little
In fundamentalism, the sky is always falling, the world is always ending and kids like me prayed apocalyptic bedtime prayers: Lord,
please no earthquakes, wars, famines or pestilence tonight. And please
don't leave me behind if my family gets raptured. Amen.

Fundamentalists like to read the Bible in one hand and the newspaper in
the other. When I was a kid, events both big and small foretold that
the end was near: the proliferation of credit cards, Gorbachev, the
year 1988, the first George Bush's "New World Order."

the public interest surrounding Y2K? Now multiply that by 1,000 and
you'll know what it felt like to be a fundamentalist in the months
leading up to New Year's Eve 1999.

Eschatology is the pet hobby
of fundamentalists. Nothing gets their blood pumping like a natural
disaster–or just the threat of one. It's also lucrative. You can make
bank by selling apocalyptic books. Or by making movies starring Kirk

When I was kid, we didn't have real Hollywood movie stars. But we did have our campy, quasi-horror flicks. One was called Thief In the Night and it scared me so badly that I had nightmares for years.

a few years after that movie, I would panic every time I lost sight of
my parents. I mean, most kids who lose sight of their parents in a
public place assume they're lost.

I assumed the rapture had happened and I'd been left behind.

a kid I was forever worrying about not being "counted worthy of escape"
because I might do something really, really bad. Like tell my sister to

Herein lies the end-game of fundamentalism: a
insecurity. No matter how hard I tried I was never good enough. When I
failed, I believed God might disown me. The onus was always on the
individual to perform well as the pre-requisite for earning "rewards."

rewards were riches, mansions, streets of gold and new bodies. I think
the adults were pretty stoked about the whole new bodies thing. But being a
kid, I would have settled for a cessation to my nightmares. And maybe a

Of course, there were consequences for not performing well and these included being cast into outer darkness, weeping and gnashing of teeth.

In other words, the closest you could get to Hell without actually being in it.

I left fundamentalism, I had to unlearn the belief that love was
conditional. Up until that point I believed God loved everyone–except
that He loved certain people more. There were degrees to His love.

has taken some concerted effort to re-align my thinking with the truth:
I am God's child and He is pleased with me. He loves me. Period.

have stopped asking myself questions like: am I saved? Will I be
"counted worthy of escape"? Instead, I focus on the bountiful blessings
He has bestowed on my life. I practice gratitude and thanksgiving and
find beauty in imperfection. I try to overlook the faults and
shortcomings of others and emphasize their strengths.

I'm tempted to default into all-or-nothing thinking, I use my mind to
objectively analyze what has triggered that reaction. Usually I can
think my way out of Chicken Little syndrome. When I get stuck, I have a
few go-to people whom I can rely on for a balanced perspective.

Ultimately the road out of fundamentalism has been a journey away from extremism and toward moderation.

realize now that recovery is not a straight road. There are bumps,
twists, turns and backwards steps. I still have a long way to go.

But at least I know one thing for sure: God holds my hand and He has promised never to let go.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

FA La La La La - or not!

It's that time of year again. Time for the Holiday shopping madness. Time for increased pressure from the retail establishment to spend money, spend it faster, spend it earlier, and don't forget those last minute stocking stuffers!

I don't have a problem with Christmas. I LOVE Christmas. I love Thanksgiving. I love the day after Thanksgiving - as the day when Christmas decorations went up at our house. I love Christmas traditions. As a family with all sorts of holiday performances, we never really had a "set" way to do the Christmas thing. Generally a Christmas Eve service was involved. Sometimes a present the night before. Sometimes stockings in our pjs. If we were strategic, everyone would go and shower and look pretty for all pictures after that. My husband's family gives gifts to the children, but draws names for the adults. Backstage for the past two years we've done massive Secret Santas to bring the holidays to those of us who were providing entertainment for the rest of Seattle. My family isn't close enough geographically for a large extended family Christmas in one location, but I send out Christmas cards to everyone in my address book, and we each give presents to everyone in the immediate family. They've always been mostly second hand (we're all thrifters), but this year we've decided to go with handmade OR second hand.

I've begun my yearly facebook "don't shop on Thanksgiving" plea. It may sound preachy. I don't mean it to. Certainly the issue raises passionate arguments and gut level responses on both sides of the argument. The comment sections of each article quickly degenerate into increasingly hostile personal remarks. These are some of my reasons:

1. We are a grossly consumer culture. It's difficult to notice while we're all used to being inundated with constant commercial bombardment, but if you get the chance to leave for a while and come back into our culture, it's mind numbing how loudly we are screamed at to shop, day in and day out.

2. Our shopping is problematic on a daily basis. It's worse in the holidays. While we're all out mindlessly shopping trying to fill emotional holes (Like this article from Psychology Today), or worse impulse buying the "latest must-have toy or gadget," we've largely lost sight of what we are buying, where it's coming from, what it's taking to get it to us, who was paid to make it, and the loss of quality from our insistence for ever cheaper and more convenient products/foods/luxuries. Shopping mindfully is important. Isn't it better on a global scale to think more of the meaningfulness of our gifts, rather than some Bridget Jones "psychic failure torment" where each year becomes a huge headache trying to guess the value of gifts received.

3. There's even more evidence that making things yourself is hugely beneficial to your well-being (This article is about knitting, and This article is about the DIY movement.) If you're able, perhaps a simple handmade gift would be something to consider. If you aren't crafty yourself, perhaps a one-of-a-kind craft fair or Etsy gift would be a possibility. These won't be "cheap" but they will be special AND you've supported a local artist or crafter or small business. (If you're environmentally minded, you also know you're contributing less to pollution by buying an item that doesn't require shipping from across the planet, and if you're humanitarian, it wasn't made by a child or sweat shop worker.)

4. In the past 50 years or so, we've seen a trend towards instant gratification everywhere. Shops must be open 7 days a week, some 24 hours a day, and with shops opening on Thanksgiving, 364 days a year. It's a sad comment on our "NEED" to shop. It's a comment on inability to deny ourselves anything, for any length of time. We see the trickle down in a generation of adults who are incapable of waiting and are constantly attached to gadgets (I'm guilty). Where Christmas is concerned, we've lost site of what really is "NEED." We don't NEED to buy gifts 6 hours earlier than last year. Gifts are a fun and lovely thing, but our survival isn't at stake. Let's stop buying into this ingrained compulsion to GET MORE STUFF!

5. We can't shop in a void (well, online we can). There's a lot of "it's a free country, I should be able to shop when I want." But we can't shop at a store without bringing in employees. It's fine that you're tired of your family by 5pm, but your shopping means many many other people will be taken away from their holidays, too, to give you the opportunity. Some are paid overtime. Some are volunteers. Many have no choice in the matter, or their "choice" is accompanied by significant corporate pressure.

6. There's so much stuff in the world. Stuff we don't use. Stuff we don't need. Stuff that we donate, and give away and throw out - and then we feel we have to run out and buy new stuff. It's a weird little hamster wheel, that is actually detrimental to our health and emotional well being. Let's get off the wheel! I really want to try and use up the old, the perfectly functional, the lovely and better made, and the slightly distressed, but with a history. Not every family will go for it, but what's the difference between that N.I.B. Cuisinart that you got for $15 at Value Village, rather than for $200. After it's wrapped in pretty paper, what they don't know won't hurt them!

I know that my refusal to shop on Thanksgiving doesn't make a change in the way things are done - but I don't have to be an accessory. I know my refusal to spend any holiday money at stores that have accepted this policy is kind of a minor gesture - I've already completed most of my holiday gifts, and almost all are handmade and 2nd hand. But some of those stores are places I buy those regular household staples, and I will be taking my business elsewhere for the holiday season for those items as well.

I'm trying to live my life and do my buying more consciously. I don't think it's about extremes. I'm trying to be more handmade, homemade, local and organic - but there's room for Ben and Jerry's and a Pier One Imports splurge from time to time. Even a small gesture makes a big difference.

I'm noticing in myself that, as I get better at making things myself, I'm less susceptible to impulse purchases and the general atmosphere in stores. I'm more excited about learning new skills, and less excited about shopping. It's easier to head straight to the items I need to purchase, and not get distracted by every display and shiny wrapper. Where the holidays are concerned, I want quality instead of quantity. I want to make a Thanksgiving dinner (I'm hosting this year) that is delicious and beautiful, but also local and healthier (um...well, somewhat. It's still Thanksgiving. I want pie.). I want a day to spend hanging out with my family. I want memories and photos. Honestly, I rarely remember most of my gifts after a while, but I remember the moments spent together, and the time preparing, and the time relaxing. I want more of this for my Holiday.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Depression and Performers

I like to read news about actors. Even though the famous and infamous in the film industry are doing work in projects with budgets that I'll only imagine, we are, after all, in the same industry. The news about Robin Williams (coming too soon after the news about Phillip Seymour Hoffman)makes me so sad. There is something in performing that seems to take people to extremes, or perhaps, there is something in people with extremes that make us want to perform. Alan and I are both fairly low key, as far as that goes - but Alan began finding the personality that I call "Greenroom Alan" as a shy young boy trying to keep up with a funny older sister. I have always been reserved, but find it easy to stand up in front of people in someone else's skin, and I love telling stories. We, too, found performance to be an outlet.

I think, reading the comments on the various articles, that if you've been depressed, you understand. If you haven't - there's just no way to.

I've struggled with an eating disorder, depression and seasonal affective disorder (an insufficiency of Vitamin D in the body, that leads to lethargy, exhaustion, depression, and (for me, who tends to be OCD anyway) obsessive negative thinking). I've never seriously thought of killing myself, but I can remember a period of depression so overwhelming that I curled up on my balcony and wished I would die. Before some counseling identified my S-A-D, I would have looping negative thoughts for months on end, that would become louder and louder the more I tried not to think them - all while trying to continue normal day to day tasks with this constant barrage of panicking thoughts in the background. Luckily for me the fixes were fairly simple: For the eating disorder (mine was more about control than body image) - Southern Cooking did a lot of the work. For the depression - several changes in situation, some counseling to identify the root of my depression, and a lot of time eventually led to healing. For the Seattle-prevalent SAD - Vitamin D, a $300 Sun Lamp, and some time in counseling (spent retraining my thought habits - to let thoughts come and go without attaching any weight to them) did the work. For many, though, the fixes aren't easy, the treatments are lifelong commitments, and a good day can become a bad day with no warning. I do think that a lot of addictions are really an attempt to self-medicate: that's why depression and addiction often seem to go hand in hand.

Robin Williams had a manic creativity. Phillip Seymour Hoffman managed to get under the skin of every character, and make even the worst villain into a sympathetic presence. Heath Ledger took himself into very dark places to create breathtaking characters. So many very fine actors, and reportedly very kind people, who for one reason or other finally needed an escape - and deliberately or accidentally ended their lives.

Saturday, June 28, 2014


My husband has an assignment this weekend! (Sound of cheering) I love the idea of temp work. It's lovely in our household, where it gives us some nice time to putter and travel together guilt free between assignments - without the hassle of arranging vacation time! This, however, has been a LONG season of very little work, prompting my husband to apply for another agency in the hope of regular work between the two. He's been home A LOT. (This is coming off of a 3 1/2 year stint at S-BUX Corporate, so we got spoiled)

It's very hard to get things done with a spouse at home. For one thing, I tend to get up fairly early (for a theater person) and start bustling around. I try to have a list of quiet, non-sewing activities for the early morning and weekends when both my husband and downstairs neighbor are sleeping. I post items on Etsy, do some early morning prep work on the kitchen front (this morning, I'm drying cherries), cut out my next sewing project, or pay bills. Eventually, my husband gets up and comes into the living room to hang out - which limits the scope of crafting - as clutter drives him crazy. Left to my own devices - I will have a project in some stage of "becoming" in each room of the house. I'll have Etsy linens in the bathroom getting hand washed or spot bleached, something dyeing in the vat in the kitchen, the mannequin I'm styling for a listing in the library - where the laundry I'm waiting to fold also sits, and the sewing room in perpetual explosion. With husband around, I try to reign in the chaos. And, when we're both home together, I don't want to work - I want to play, too! So a quick trip to the fabric store turns into several hours of joint puttering.

But today, I'm up. I'm doing. And I'm very efficient! Hooray!!!

Saturday, June 14, 2014


I've begun canning. I know!!! I've bought a living social coupon for a canning seminar, but I don't have a Saturday free to take it until August. But, with such thing as the internet -I've already broken in my new canning pot, rubber gripper thingy, and the first two jars.

I made....CHERRY JAM!

Ok. So Cherries plus a few things. Because the conversion from the big jar of pectin versus the original small paper packets wasn't very clearly spelled out, and I wound up putting in 3x as much as I was supposed to. Which led to chopping up the rest of the cherries I had in the kitchen. Which led to chopping up another cup of strawberries to add. Which ended with using a few tablespoons of grape juice instead of apple - because I had it around the house and didn't want to go back to the store...

And once my cherries were properly mashed and gelled, bottled, cleaned, topped and ready to go - I discovered that my stewpots were too short for the jars. So, after another mad dash to Value Village (bought a pot that would 'do') and Goodwill (found an actual small batch bona fide canning pot, complete with accessories), I made it home to boil the heck out of them.

I tasted the jam last night. It is GOOD!

Sunday, June 08, 2014

Many thoughts...

So many thoughts today. So many things buzzing around my head in general recently. So, off I go.

1. Etsy:

I've been working pretty consistently on my Etsy site. I've been wanting to do this for quite some time, but needed the right combination of steady work (for capital) and extra free time (to find/prep/photograph/list) to get started. The 8 weeks between Les Miserables and Funny Girl was ideal. My initial goal was simply to make enough profit to cover my crafting binges (and really, I'm fairly frugal even with those - but it felt better buying yarn if I knew that I'd contributed money to the general coffers JUST for that, instead of skimming off the grocery budget). However, as we stare around unknown corners of theatre work, with Alan still applying for artistic directing positions and directing jobs around the country, the idea struck me that this business would be one that could be easily moved to a different location as needed to provide me with continuing work. I'm not there yet, but I've made good progress. The business has already reimbursed my expenses, and left me with a tidy $200 of profit since March. Not a bad start to a brand-new enterprise.

2. Climate Change:

Maybe it's living in Seattle, and maybe it's getting a Prius and finding the DIY site to be very cool, but I'm more and more concerned about our environmental impact, and finding ways to eliminate it. I feel overwhelmed by reports of how quickly things are going to get very bad if we don't make radical changes. But I also believe in the power of ordinary people to make changes even when the powers that be can't. For example, we can get mad all we want at the oil companies and government, but as long as we -the consumer- continue to purchase gas for our car, we're contributing to the problem. If we all just got fed up and switched to electric vehicles (or hybrids, if we drive more), they wouldn't have a consumer base, anyway. I'm beginning to research the Smart Electric car, with the idea of keeping the Prius for hauling, and long trips.

3. Giving Back:

While appalled by the SPU shooting (and more so because my sister is a recent Grad, and her boyfriend who still attends classes was in the lockdown), I was heartened to watch both the GoFundMe Campaign to give a honeymoon and early marriage gift to the kid who stopped the shooter, and the GiveForward Campaign to pay for the funeral of one student, and medical expenses of the others. It is heartening to live in a community that cares that much (and I think the funds have both gone global now).

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

Doing what comes Naturally

Alright. I've done it.

Or rather, I've begun to do it. I've gone natural. Or at least, I've begun the process. It will take some time to filter out all of the chemicals and additives, but once you've fallen off the curb, you just keep gathering momentum.

I've always had a thing for the homemade and old fashioned. Growing up homeschooled - although a very suburban, "normal" homeschooled (no denim jumpers, waist-length "shining glory" hair, or livestock) - gave us kids a hands-on existance. We gardened, spent a lot of time outdoors, baked, quilted, sewed, and read. Later in life, the book "Entre-Nous: A Woman's Guide to finding her Inner French Girl" got me on the road to using real ingredients, getting off the shopping treadmill, and taking time to do things meaningfully. Then I went to Cambodia for a while, and learned that our cultural drive to BUY THINGS is something that can be overcome. I began trying to use things up completely before buying more and buying based on need instead of buying based on desire to buy something.

My favorite thing about Seattle is living in a culture where people really are trying to make a difference by thinking about their consumption - of gas, or food, of packaging, or chemicals. On the negative side, going organic/vegan/gluten-free/local/fresh is practically a fashion statement. Here there are plenty of farmer's markets, and every grocery store has a natural section, but if you're REALLY COOL you go to a Co-op that has REALLY EXPENSIVE organic everything. I understand why natural products have to be more expensive than cheap chemical laden alternatives. I DON'T understand why the same products have to be double and sometimes triple in price. With my husband and me trying very hard to keep a frugal budget on a two-theatre income, buying organic hasn't been an option.

Then, I bought a Prius. (This naturally prompts a smug lifestyle shift as one looks at other cars on the freeway and feels good about the reduced environmental impact) and my father was treated for Cancer - leading my parents into a hormone and chemical free lifestyle.

Then I found the site: DIY Natural.

Living in a rented 1/2 of a house with a septic tank has made me concerned about the chemicals I'm pouring into the backyard - and eventually into the river at the bottom of our hill. With the discovery of the DIY site, I can start transitioning out the chemicals in my house, and replace them with a homemade, natural version. And the perk? It's cheaper than store bought regular brands, and WAYYYYYYYYY cheaper than the corresponding Organic variety. And in a lot of cases, the old ways work more effectively.

One article on the site recommends that a good way to transition is to learn to make a new product as you run out of the old one, instead of trying to completely overhaul all at once. This seems very wise, and cost effective - since the startup product purchase can be a little expensive. Though cheaper in the long run, the initial purchases of essential oils to make things smell as pretty as the Bath and Body works and Herbal Essenses you're replacing can cost a bit.

So far, here is what I've replaced:

1. Laundry Detergent - blending up 1 cup Borax, 1 Cup Washing Soda and 1 Bar of Ivory took less than 5 minutes, and requires only 1-3 TBSP per load.

2. Dishwashing Liquid - I Tbsp Borax, I Tbsp grated soap, 1-3/4c water, boiled and let sit for 6-8 hours to gel. This worked beautifully. I used a little food coloring in this batch, but probably won't in future. I'm still waiting for the Creamsicle essential oil to arrive in the mail. It's weird using soap that doesn't contain foaming agents, but I'm getting used to it. If one has the money, Dr. Bronner's Liquid Castile Soap works, too, and foams naturally.

3. Shampoo - I found a bottle of organic shampoo at Grocery Outlet and decided to give it a try. Ditto on the lack of foaming, but the organic brand smells fruity and herby - so not a far cry from my Herbal Essences. In future, I may try making my own, but if I can get it at the discount grocery for the same money as regular shampoo, I'll let them do the work.

4. Toothpaste - the DIY site didn't help me here. I understand why a baking soda paste works, but I'm not fond of the texture. So, I bought Cinnamon Clove toothpaste on sale in the natural section of QFC.

5. Deodorant - The husband already uses Tom's - since he's allergic to most scents. This is my current work-in-progress. I emptied out two deodorant, and one footsie fixer tube and am gathering ingredients to begin making this. In the meantime, I'm doing my several day no-deodorant period - to allow the aluminum to sweat out of my system. Apparently, keeping your body from sweating is bad for you, and while I hate to jump on the "it causes cancer" bandwagon for everything under the sun, stopping schmearing chemicals on the largest organ of the body can only be a good thing, right? In the meantime, I found a bar of beeswax at goodwill for $3 instead of the $16 at the craft store, and oil of coconut was cheapest at Fred Meyer's natural section. I just need some essential oils (again, I like smelling like baked goods or flowers) and some arrowroot powder (optional) and I'm ready to go.

How far will this go? I'm not sure. I'm excited by the prospect, and if I'm making a lot of these products myself, I can justify the expense of the products I don't want to make. As I think about the products I use, an endless number of things that need replacing starts to get overwhelming. But, I will keep taking this one product at a time. And getting to make cute packaging helps!

Thursday, May 08, 2014

OH...the sorrow of a bad audition...

This job is hard. I mean it. Most days I can be pretty philosophical, and let things roll (as much as possible considering that You have to sell Yourself every time you walk into a room).

Today, I bombed an audition that I REALLY wanted. I prepared, I chose music, I worked on it for a week, I transposed the "easy" version back into the original key, I arranged good cuttings. But my coach wasn't available, and my musical director didn't have time to do more than run me through the music...and I walked in and did a terrible job. I had to stop and start over because I'd transposed the chords but not the melody, and so I started in a different key from the accompanist. My previous coach, who was playing for the audition, sent me a message with two frowny faces in it. It was that bad.

I've had a good cry now, and I'm feeling less useless. It's bad enough to do a bad job when you really felt ready to go blow it away. It's worse when it was on an audition that really meant something. Actually, that's usually when I flub the worst.

So, I have to go into the theatre tonight for tech. And try not to spill my guts all over a room full of other actors. And try to get over the disappointment that I most likely won't be considered for a role I'd have been REALLY suited for.


Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Being Not a Pioneer Woman

I've had this phrase in my head for a while, as a self-description. Probably because of the television show with the same title: Pioneer Woman. But, from what I can tell from her cooking show and books, she means good ol' down home traditions. So, that's not quite what I'm feeling for myself.

I think that I'm a throwback to my Depression-Era ancestors.

The Great Depression was a terrible time, but the values our Great Grandparents learned is something we can aspire to. Every item was used until it was worn out, and then turned into scraps for quilting or scrubbing. The need to not throw anything away is similar to our reminders to reduce, reuse and recycle. In Seattle, this is made fairly easy - we can compost with our garbage pickup, and have cut our landfill waste in half with our recycling services, which are easy to use. Our consumer culture dominates our world, and we are constantly inundated with messages to BUY THINGS! I try, periodically, to put myself on spending freezes, to remind myself that I have plenty of clothes, plenty of crafty things to be creative with, plenty of pens and pencils and paper and shampoo - and that the desire to go out and buy "something" is more an impulse to be shopping based on a culture that equates acquiring things with happiness. I try to spend those times using up what I have already.

I've always had a pathological need to not waste anything. Not in a scary hoarder way. [I actually am not very sentimental about things, and can happily recycle or donate most possessions if I haven't thought about them or used them in a while. I have a few baby toys, clothes I can't part with, and pieces of furniture that travel with me, and many few file folders of letters and cards that I won't give up. My husband says that I don't buy clothes, I rent them from Goodwill.] My family are all thrifters. I can't remember not being aware that, if you take the time to look, you can find really nice quality things for a fraction of the cost of buying them new. It's partly economical (I can't afford a silk beaded dress in a store), but the more time my job sends me to multiple thrift stores in a day, the more I see just how many perfectly good items there are 2nd hand in the world. So why do we keep manufacturing things, when the world is bursting with good, usable items that haven't worn out yet?

This also extends to food. I'm not in my backyard composting and growing vegetables, but I am trying to "shop around the outside of the grocery store" to fill my diet with fresh foods instead of processed items full of preservatives. When I can, I shop at one of several farmer's markets for locally grown items. At home, I try to use up every scrap of food by transforming it as many times as I can into another dish. Right now my Easter Ham is bubbling away on the stove becoming "Ham and Navy Bean Soup." This, again, is partially economical. Foods that you prepare from scratch are better for you, yummier, and cheaper than pre-made anything. Case in point: If I send my husband (good man - shares the cooking, but shops like a guy) to the store to "get something for dinner" - he decides what he wants and comes back with two pieces of specialty meat, a tub of pre-made mashed potatoes, a tub of side dish or a loaf of garlic bread, and a bottle of wine. These items by themselves are frequently $35-40. In my mind, it's silly to spend that kind of money on food and STILL have to do the cooking. At that point, you may as well have gone to a restaurant. When I go to the store, I look in the freezer to see what meat we've frozen from the manager's special, check to see which produce is near spoiling, and see what staple sides I have in the pantry. Then, I do an ingredient search on and see what dish can be made from what's lying around the house. I then go to the store for any missing ingredients: usually a couple of potatoes to mash, some spices (if you don't use them frequently, you can go to the whole foods section and buy a teaspoon or so from the tubs there, instead of a whole jar), and walk away having spent less than $10 for the same meal. (And PS, if you're cooking for two - a whole loaf of garlic bread is dumb. Just buy a hoagie from the deli and DIY)

After years of stretching every penny because I didn't have very many, the habit to spend as little as possible to get the best quality has stuck. Here's some of my favorite ways to stretch my dollars

1. MAKE SOUP - Soup are incredible for using scrap foods. Throw anything that's leftover into a pot: veggies, beans, rice, meat - and add onion, stock cubes some spices and a bay leaf, and you've turned a few handfuls of nothing into as many tasty meals as you can freeze for later.

2. DONATE TO VALUE VILLAGE - Every time you donate, they will give you a coupon for $3 off your $10 purchase. Take one bag each time you go, and amass a coupon collection. Combine this with their sale tag of the week (50% off one color), and only spend $10 at a throw, and you can walk out with quite a few items for your $7.

3. USE COUPONS AT FABRIC STORES - You can find a lot of what you need as a crafter at thrift stores. The big chain stores are just bursting with people's donated stashes. (The little church run places aren't great for this - they have retired volunteers who take the donated scraps and make things for the store to sell) I find bags of quilting scraps, half skeins of yarns, knitting needles, and yardages of fabrics. When you do need to purchase new items at fabric stores, collect coupons from their mailers, the website, emails and auto text messages. As long as the numbers on the coupons are different, you can use as many of them at a time as you want. Use every coupon you can, even for small cost items like thread. Fill in with on-sale items if needed, but generally the full price item with a coupon will be better value than the sale item. The savings are huge over the long run.

4. MAKE POT PIES - another great way to use up scrap foods, anything tastes yummy inside of a flaky pastry crust. DITTO FOR QUICHES.

5. COOK FROM SCRATCH - That tub of mashed potatoes? $5. Two potatoes, some milk, butter, salt and pepper? About $1 to make it yourself, and you can make two portions to eat right away, instead of 6-8, half of which will be forgotten in the fridge.

6. THRIFT FOR QUALITY, NOT NAME BRAND - Thrift store employees are taught to recognize name brands that can be priced for higher sale - but mostly at the teen buying level: Gap, Old Navy, Banana Republic, XXVI Forever and H&M. These items will be more expensive than the silk blouse (no label) next to them, or the couture item (Cache) that they don't recognize. Running your hand along the racks, you can "feel" for quality (no mistaking wools, silks, cottons and linens compared to polyester blends) instead of shopping for labels, and walk away with a very expensive, timeless wardrobe for less than you would have spent on a Gap tee, and those Old Navy jeans.

This morning, I began my day reading This Article on Etsy, about building an eco-friendly business. I liked the scope of the article, because it wasn't too strictly defined - allowing for ANY combination of recycling, vintage, combination of used and new materials, or making completely organic products under the banner of "Eco-Friendly."
When you’re adopting eco-friendly practices, there might be trade-offs – and there often is not only one right answer. “It’s a direction, not perfection,” notes Andie of Andie’s Specialty Sweets.
My shop on Etsy, which I've finally started in earnest, is in that direction. I sell some vintage finds, some things handmade completely from scrap materials, and some combinations of new and used materials. There's nothing wrong with buying new, but I try to do it sparingly, and to only purchase things that I know aren't available second hand. I like that the article praises those who create new items with new, high-quality materials, as building the heirlooms of the future - valuing art of creating something new, and non-disposable.

I favor the idea of grass roots efforts towards being a less instantaneous, less disposable culture. Some people are called to drastic things like The Man Who Quit Money or Only Eat Local Food, but we can all make small changes in the direction of being more frugal, using things up, wearing them out, donating the unused, and even neater - being Creative in the way we live.

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

And, Now What?

This has been a frustrating and immensely fulfilling year. Six years into my five year goal of seriously pursuing my vocation(s) to see if it was possible to make a living in theater, I am seeing some results. I am getting steady, well-paying acting work from one of the "big houses," and starting to have other houses take interest as well. In 6 months, I will have done enough work to have qualified to join the Actor's Equity Union, and will have to make a decision on that sooner than I'd imagined.

On the design front, doing alterations for the Big Corporate Empire now pays most of my bills, leaving me a little freer to be a little choosy. I've recently had the time to take on an assistanceship with another designer in town, and had the opportunity to work on the ground floor of some major productions in a very small capacity.

On the negative side, one job that I'd had for several years suddenly evaporated when they hired another designer to take over. Admittedly, it was a good move in the end. It was a job I had less and less time for with a very long commute for the pay. I hear the new designer has managed to convince them that the job isn't possible as a part-time position. Also, this summer I finally said goodbye to the waitressing job I'd had for five summers. The money was excellent, but the work environment was very poor. On a day when equipment had broken down, and a busser was sent home afterwards, we were forced to run food up and down the hill from the lower kitchen. The boss came in and told me I was the worst server ever (not true - I'd outlasted every one of my co-workers), I finished the day, but called in and quit. Both jobs were a relief to let go, in the end. After a lifetime of happy employment at most places, it was strange to leave two jobs within weeks of each other.

The luxury of choice is a new one. Suddenly, after being geared for years to take any gig for any pay just for experience, I'm finding 2-3 shows per year to be plenty, without needing to pack in extra things during my down time. Admittedly, doing five month runs of shows instead twelve performances does make the evenings at home a nice change for a few weeks. This year I will have only 16 weeks off from doing 6-day-per-week runs. Design-wise, the houses are getting better and better. The pay has stayed in a similar spectrum for now, but the professionalism of the company is improving so much that it's suddenly a shock to go back into the places that are badly run and perpetually short on cash when contracts come due.

All of this isn't meant as a brag. Many people who begin working in this town at about the same time are experiencing similar upward motion. Actors that I've done the audition rounds with are having similar success in the same houses. Designers graduate upwards, leaving space for new faces in the medium places. I used to look longingly at the clique-y groups in the middle of the room at callbacks, wishing for a friendly face. Now there's very few places I go where there isn't someone I've worked with before. The theater community is a very small group.

The better pay coming regularly has left room for some musing over where I'd like to go, and what I'd like to do, now that I have the luxury of some breathing room instead of the constant flurry of production.

I've realized that I'd like to keep striving to work in my dream houses, but I've lost the need to be perpetually in show after show. The few weeks of breathing room to pursue some hobbies, enjoy the at-home night life, cooking, and seeing my spouse is very nice for a while. My design portfolio is now full on every page, forcing me to rip out pictures and glue over top for new additions. I keep trying to take on one new theater per season. This season, I already have three.

This leaves time for a personal life again. What a strange feeling. I'm trying to work out once a week again this year. I've started making a conscious effort to add healthier foods to my diet, especially in the gaps between eating-on-the-go. I've mostly removed pop from my diet, replacing it with juice at home for my sweet beverage. After some success designing my own line at an antique store (I sold enough things to feel it was a profitable experience), but discovering at the time that I needed a more secure way to make money, I've decided to try again on Etsy. Alan and I had time for church last week. (That sounds bad, but Sundays are work days for actors) I've starting making dates with friends from past shows to try and cultivate a teeny social life. I'm looking at taking tap dancing classes again.

There is much still to do, but I'm getting better about pacing myself. It's nice to have moments to breathe.

Wednesday, January 01, 2014

Another Year, Another Resolution

It's a new year. I'll admit to having forgotten to kiss my husband at midnight, as we were in the final minute of a Doctor Who episode. There was champagne. We kissed at 1am.

I completed my first ever serious New Year's goal from 2013. I wanted to try to get a little healthier and more toned by working out 52 times last year. With a couple of hour-long segments towards the end there, and three workouts in a row those last few days of December, I squeaked it out at the end. I've decided to make the same goal for next year - and am contemplating adding another 25 home yoga sessions. I made my new kindergarten-style workout chart complete with stickers for every workout completed. It's VERY motivating. Everyone, at heart, is 5 years old. Getting to color in a progress chart or checking a box works, too.

Today I have first fittings for The Nerd at lunchtime and then my family is celebrating a late Christmas together with Miles and Becky. I managed to finish the gifts last night after dinner. With the run of Les Miserables going through the holidays, I had anticipating hours of backstage time. However, in this show, my free time is sucked up by costume changes, and I have only about 45 minutes of crafting time per show. So, all of my carefully planned homemade Christmas gifts, plus Alan's amazing birthday gift (just learned to knit with it - and I'm SOOOO close to finished!) took up more time than I had, in the end.

Doctor Who is a new obsession. Everyone backstage is geeky, and I finally got on the bandwagon. Up until midnight last night, every episode of the reboot was On Demand. But Comcast giveth, and Comcast taketh away. I'll have to sign up for Netflix.

I'm sure there should be more reflection on the old year, and the new one to come. Last year was a good year. This year is shaping up to be a good one. I had an interview for a job I'm very excited about - we'll see if it comes to pass. Alan also has had a surprising job prospect, which is a much longer shot - but came out of the blue. This may be an exciting year, and if none of the "special" options come to pass, we'll at least have a busy and productive one.

Happy 2014 everyone!