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Archive for the ‘life’ Category

As I write this, I’m listening to a gentle thunderstorm pass by. There is the promise of stronger storms later, but at this moment, brief flashes and quiet rumblings are providing a cozy backdrop for the evening.

Twenty-five years ago, I would not have looked at this storm the same way. I would have been hyper-vigilant about checking the news, the weather channel (pre-internet days), or standing outside, anxiously scanning the skies. Because of a scary incident during a tornado warning in third grade, I was terrified of storms.

When I had kids, I made the conscious decision to face that fear so I wouldn’t pass it on to them. It was tough, but over time, I learned to appreciate the beauty of the thunder and lightning, I came to respect instead of fear.

It was the same way with other childhood fears. Spiders used to make me shriek. Years later, I realized that it was a fear projected onto me and while I’m not BFFs with any arachnids, I usually let them live peacefully in the house or put them outside. (Usually because shower stalking is a deal-breaker. Sorry not sorry.)

Dying in a fire was another one, although I blame THAT on the hellfire sermons I heard every Sunday. Telling a four-year-old that they could burn in a lake of fire for eternity does some damage, especially when it’s being screamed from a pulpit by a scary, sweaty, man. Again, it took some work, but that fear is (mostly) gone.

There are other fears that don’t go away so easily, one that my therapist is pushing me on a bit, but I trust her completely, so it’s swimming around in my head and won’t leave me alone. Why don’t I take my passions and put them out into the universe to try and help make them happen? I take steps toward that, to be sure, but I haven’t put my whole heart into it.

Why? I’m terrified.

If I fail, the thought of having to pick myself up is really, really, scary. I’ve been to that very dark place before, more than once, and I don’t ever want to be there again. It gets more difficult to crawl out every time.

So now, I have to decide. Do I continue on with things I’m passionate about as I have before, with enthusiasm but no serious commitment because of that fear, or do I throw myself into what I really want, put it honestly into the universe, risks and all?

Childhood fears are a bit more manageable. I have things to think about.

Peace be with you.

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Many years ago, when we were under the age of ten, my cousin Mike and I came up with a plan. Our mothers were taking us to the lake for a few days and I had learned in school, right before we got out, that the summer solstice was the longest day of the year. The very night we were going was, of course, the night of the solstice. Of course, I told Mike and milking any excuse to stay up later, we asked, no, begged, our moms if we could please stay up until the sun went down. I don’t remember our exact words, but I can assume that we were probably very pitiful in our pleas. We often were.

The moms giggled and said that yes, of course we could, but we had to go to bed right after. Excited, we agreed, only for them to tell us that the sun went down around 9:20 and our regular summer bedtime was 10:00.

We were, understandably, a bit put out, but gladly reclaimed our later bedtime. I don’t think I’ll ever forget that.

Happy Solstice!

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The school year just ended, so I’m using this time to write and to become more visible as an author. I’ve written two articles on Medium so far, please check them out. Heck, you could even become a fan if you really wanted to! Here are the links:

https://medium.com/@julieballantynebrown_68872/online-teaching-during-a-pandemic-aea0e159bf90

https://medium.com/@julieballantynebrown_68872/faith-426322259857

Thanks! You are all awesome!

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Now I lay me down to sleep

I pray the Lord my soul to keep.

Thy love go with me all the night

And wake me in the morning light.

Amen

My prayers when I was six are a lot different than they are now. I have a lot of questions for God these days.

Tonight, I pray to be better. To be a better friend, a better advocate, a better ally. I pray for the strength to be a better voice for those who need it, for Black Lives and LGBTQIA+. I pray for the courage it will take for change, real change, to happen and for justice to be done.

Now it’s time for action, not just prayers. We have to take a stand and use what voice we have. This blog is one avenue for me and I pledge to do more in my daily life to help, whether that means speaking up more, writing more, or going out to march when COVID isn’t so prevalent.

I hate confrontation, I would prefer to hide away in hole away from the unpleasantness but I can’t. I CAN’T. And neither should you.

To quote one of my favorite musical characters, “If I stay silent, I am damned.”

Don’t be silent. Stand.

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Today, on this episode of Quarantine Adventures, I decided to clean out my kitchen cabinets. Since we began sheltering in place, I’ve been completely unmotivated to really do much around the house, especially since Marty and I have been online teaching full time. It’s completely exhausting and by the time I actually finish for the day, around 9 or 10:00, I don’t want to do anything else. Seriously, we have assignments and questions coming in 24-7 and it’s a lot more difficult to grade online work than it is on paper.

That’s also a reason I haven’t been writing much lately; I’m at the computer all day long and by the time I’m done working, I just don’t want to type anything else. We do take breaks during the day, but it feels like we’re constantly working and we can’t step away for long. Hence, there is not much going on in the way of deep-cleaning at our house, except for the linen closet I emptied out a few weeks ago.

BUT! This is Memorial Day weekend and although I have a billion more e-assignments to grade (just the thought of that makes me want to cry), I’m actually taking a couple of days away from online school. I’m not even looking at my email right now. After reading for a few hours this morning (Delicious!!!) I decided that we needed chocolate chip cookies. I mean, when do we not need chocolate chip cookies?

While rummaging for ingredients, I noticed that there were a lot of items that had been there for a while. And when I say a while, I mean a really long time, so I started going through them.

Oh, my goodness.

There was a lot to see there, folks.

Our cabinets go back ridiculously far. I know I’m short, but one would need 6-foot-long arms to easily reach the back of these cabinets. That means that as we go shopping and add more stuff, items that don’t get used get pushed all the way back and out of the sight line. It’s a really stupid design. There were a lot of things pushed to the back. Undeterred, I got out my trusty step stool and tried not to dislocate my shoulder.

Here are some examples of things I threw out today:

  • Two boxes of cornstarch, one expired in 2014, one in 2016.
  • Lasagna noodles, expired 2015.
  • Cherry Jell-O, expired May 2013 (at first glance, I thought it said 2003.)
  • Club crackers, expired 2018.
  • Lemon extract, expired 2014. (That one smelled up the whole kitchen when I poured it down the drain. Mostly lemony, but also icky.)
  • Instant coffee that was technically not expired but had consolidated into, well, a solid.
  • Arborio rice, expired 2016.

And the oldest thing I found today: A box of chamomile tea that expired in 2010.

We’ve been here since 2001, so all things considered, it wasn’t horrible, but still. As I was cleaning, episodes of Hoarders kept going through my mind. (Do you know how old this is???) I mean, at some point before 2010, I had obviously done this before.

It was very therapeutic. I LOVE purging and throwing things away, I love the way things look and feel after it’s done. I’m proud to say that every food item in my cupboard is, for the moment, unexpired and all of the emptied boxes/jars/cans are in the recycling bin.

Guys, this was a major achievement today. I feel accomplished. However, it may be another ten years before I do it again.

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Today, my home theatre released a beautiful video called “Home” that one of our amazingly talented members (who is a wonderful friend) put together. The message is simple: we’re on hold now, but we’ll be back. You can view the video here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?reload=9&v=_yX-Oh_aFLg&feature=youtu.be&fbclid=IwAR0e8i063ZMv-rLsGH1seNfVpr7BggIaojtzyr-O4oN8HODr-TQ-Yn_jjHM

The thought is the same throughout the theatre community, worldwide. We’re all dark now (not open, for those of you who don’t speak theatre) and we’re all trying to figure out what to do next to stay alive, to thrive, to be ready to welcome our patrons back with open arms as soon as it’s safe. We will be among the last to reopen, and rightfully so. Putting hundreds of people in close quarters together for hours is a really bad idea right now. We need to think about this, to restructure, to figure out our “for now” reality, and we are.

It’s tough. It’s tough for everyone, I know, but theatre is on my mind right now, so there it is.

We’ve been calling our season ticket holders just to touch base and to see if they’re okay. Everyone I have spoken to misses the theatre. They miss our shows and can’t wait to come back, although they want to be safe and want us to be safe as well. They understand and they’ve been lovely, asking about my own family and all.

I love my theatre. It’s my second home where I can do what I love and they accept me for who I am. I can be me. I love my theatre family and I miss them like crazy; I’ve met some of the most amazing people there who will be lifelong friends. I miss performing. I miss doing hair and makeup. I miss the energy of a show, there’s absolutely nothing like it in the world. I ALMOST miss hauling a bat-on-a-string across the stage and having it malfunction in more than one show, but that’s a story for another day. In the past, my theatre has probably, quite literally, helped to save my life. While the selfish part of me would love to throw those doors wide open right now and just pick up where we left off eight weeks ago, I know we can’t for a while. My heart hurts so much about this  sometimes.

BUT… we will be back. We will perform again. We will make people laugh, cry, question, and feel, again.

We will be back. I love you, family.

 

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Sometimes, a song just sparks a whole memory and the feels that come with it. Here’s one I’ll share with you.

I like to listen to music when I make dinner and tonight, “Me and Bobby McGee” by Janis Joplin came on. I was instantly transported to the late 90s when I was working on Firestone Farm at Greenfield Village. There were a group of us young girls who were between 20-25 and a group of more mature women who were our mamas. We called all of them “Mama”, it was just that way then. We had a good thing going.

Anyway, one morning as we were getting ready for visitors, Mama Linda, a dear lovely person with children in high school at the time, just belted out, “Me and Bobby McGee”, beautifully. She stopped after the first verse, a little embarrassed, but we egged her on until she picked it back up again and finished out the song. We were blown away, this tiny lady perfectly channeling Janis while wearing an 1880s farm dress, her hair braided in a bun. It was amazing and I’ll never forget that day. By the way, those days were twenty years ago and I still call her Mama Linda.

These days, I’m grabbing onto whatever positive things that I can and holding them in my heart. Music comes from the soul and entwines with our memories for our life soundtrack. “Me and Bobby McGee” fits in nicely to mine. Tell me your story that comes from a song and a memory.

Much love to you all.

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zoom
/zo͞om/
verb
(especially of a car or aircraft) move or travel very quickly.
“we watched the fly zooming about”
2.
(of a camera) change smoothly from a long shot to a close-up or vice versa.
“the camera zoomed in for a close-up of his face”
noun
a camera shot that changes smoothly from a long shot to a close-up or vice versa.
“the zoom button”
exclamation
1. used to express sudden fast movement.
“then suddenly, zoom!, he’s off”
Google Dictionary
Two months ago, these were all of my definitions of the word zoom, but it has, in a very short time, become so much more.
If you work from home, you’re no doubt familiar with Zoom (capital Z), the video conferencing website. Companies and groups all over the world are using Zoom, and other video conferencing companies/apps like Google Meet or Facebook video calls, to conduct business and hold meetings while friends and family are using it to connect in this time of social distancing.
For this, I am profoundly grateful.
Now, I will stress this: it’s not the same. You can’t hug or kiss anyone, shake hands, fist bump, etc. You can’t whisper a secret in a friend’s ear or snuggle a new baby, but it’s better than nothing.
Here are some ways that I’ve been using video conferencing in the last 6 1/2 weeks.
  • An Easter video chat with Oldest Child and Amazing Girlfriend.
  • Weekly board meetings with my theatre. I’m not a big board meeting fan (even though it’s necessary), but it’s SO good to see and talk to my friends.
  • A long-overdue chat with my Italian bestie. We’ve never done that before, I’ve never been very comfortable with video chats, but we had a lovely time on Sunday. This will be a new normal, especially since she’s monitoring my work in Italian. ❤
  • Coloring (or whatever) nights with theatre peeps.
  • Sermon Chats with our church group, where we discuss all sorts of things theological and personal.
  • Check-ins with students. We were using Google Meet, but some students gave out their codes to others and there were some highly inappropriate things that went on, so we’re moving to a more secure platform.
  • Work meetings. I love my coworkers, they’re amazing people, and meetings that used to be a chore are now a joy.

This virus sucks, that’s for sure, but it would be a hell of a lot worse without this way to connect. I have had some dark times through this, to be sure, but I look forward to those times when I can have a semblance of normalcy.

How are you connecting these days?

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Exactly two months ago, the night of February 17, I was so excited. The next morning, I would board my plane to Boston and begin my mini-adventure in Salem.  I was packed and ready. barely able to fall asleep. I remember it well. At that point, COVID-19 was the furthest thing from my mind. Little did I know

Fast forward to now. It’s only been two months since my trip, but it seems like years ago. Travel isn’t even on the radar at the moment. There have been some really rough days, I’ll admit. Emotions have run the gamut: Fear, inspiration, hope, anger (this past week, especially), frustration, all ramped up due to the situation.

I’m trying not to let my OCD and anxiety run away with those negative emotions, going round and round in my brain for hours without stopping. It’s times like these when I seriously rethink my therapist’s offer of medication. I’m not going to lie, Wednesday was really difficult, watching people completely disregard safety regulations, getting out of cars and clumping together, with such ugliness, waving Confederate flags and white power signs that had nothing to do with what they were supposedly protesting. Just for the record, I believe in the right to peaceful protest; I do NOT believe that we have the right to put other people in danger by potentially exposing them to a deadly disease (including children, OMG!!! There were several children there!), clogging up streets and honking horns for EIGHT HOURS around a Level 1 trauma hospital where there are tons of sick people, children, and a maternity ward. WTF??? Seriously, what is wrong with people? Just because you can doesn’t mean you should. That’s all I’m going to say on that matter, so trolls, step off. Don’t even try to defend that mess,

That being said, there are many positive things about this social isolation episode that I am focusing on. Such as:

  • Family time. Youngest Child is a brilliant musician and he’s been teaching (forcing) me to learn piano chords. I can already read music, I sing and play the flute/piccolo/tin whistle, but my piano experience has been limited to very simple tunes. Now, I’m learning some really cool stuff. He’s also helping me with learning ukulele. I always wanted to play and, of course, he knows how. We’ve been watching a lot of movies as a family, eating dinner together every night, and playing games. Yes, we get tired of each other and need some alone time, but for the most part, I love spending more time with Marty and Youngest Child. (Oldest lives on his own now, two hours away, and Middle is in his apartment at school since he has better internet and still has an active lease.)
  • Sleeping in. We’re working, Marty teaches, too, but no more 6:00 am wake-up times for us. School starts when we want it to. We’re honestly working a lot of hours, more than we normally do, but we have sleep. Yay!
  • I’m writing regularly. I finished the yet-unnamed sequel to Traveler, began another book, and plan to begin editing (and naming) the sequel this week. I’m also writing a lot more blog posts, in case you haven’t noticed.
  • Languages. I’ve dusted off my Italian and French and am going full-force on Duolingo. It’s awesome. Future plans…
  • I’m starting my Shakespeare garden indoors with seeds. See my Shakespeare Garden post for more on that. It’s so cool, watching everything sprout!
  • Zoom meetings. Two months ago, I couldn’t have told you what Zoom was. Now I use it every day. It helps me to stay connected to my theatre family and my church family. I truly don’t know what I’d do without it. I even get to have my therapy appointment online, which is very much needed.

Now, with things looking a bit better with this stupid virus running its course, there’s a little light shining at the end of the tunnel, if people don’t screw it up and start a giant second wave. We (myself included) need to focus more on the positive, not to ignore the problems, but to keep things from getting very dark.

In the comments, share a positive with me, some bright spot in this dark time, no matter where in the world you are. I want to celebrate with you!

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Right now, everyone wants to know when we’re going to get back to normal, myself included. The short answer is: never. Of course, we’ll get back out there eventually, open the economy, hug people, travel again. Of course we will. The world has been through pandemics before and will resolve itself at some point. To quote one of my favorite movies, “Life finds a way.”

However, we will never get back to the normal we knew. We never do after catastrophic events. Think about life before 9/11 and the subsequent bombing attempts soon after, if you’re old enough to remember. In February of 2001, a few months before the attacks, I went to Ireland with a group of friends. Going through airport security and customs was really not a big deal. If I remember correctly, we just walked through metal detectors. When we landed in Shannon, we did have to walk across a mat soaked in disinfectant to kill the germs on our shoes because of Mad Cow disease. That was it. Since then, air travel has definitely changed as we know it. Shoes and belts come off, cuffs get unrolled, and we get full-on body scans. Heck, I even got a pat down at Detroit Metro this past February, and I was just on my way to Boston. We suddenly had a new normal. Traveling by air will never go back to the way it was before, and neither will a lot of things when COVID-19 is done with us.

I don’t know what will change, exactly. Perhaps grocery quantities will always be limited, or stores will keep one-way aisles. Maybe we’ll all have to have our temperatures taken before we’re allowed on an airplane. It’s hard to imagine what the new normal will be. Maybe the changes will be positive. A better health care, system, anyone? More respect for workers that we now know are essential?

Whatever happens, life won’t be the same as it was before. It will be interesting to see where we are in a year or so. All I know is that I can’t wait to hug people again.

Stay safe. Stay home. Wash your hands.

 

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