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Archive for the ‘Social Issues’ Category

My new article on Medium!

https://julieballantynebrown-68872.medium.com/the-very-short-history-of-anne-boleyn-c94bed473f54?sk=b018f0f0abb1e772c6b9a9722d7c76ca

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A year ago in November, I was cast in a new play. I was excited.

I studied my lines sitting at a high-top table with a too-hot cup of Earl Grey in a tiny, crowded, Starbucks on Woodward Avenue in Midtown Detroit while Youngest Child rehearsed at the DSO across the street.

I was getting ready for Thanksgiving, planning the food and getting ready to go on a cleaning binge in anticipation of guests.

There would be a break from school for a few days, our first since August, thank God.

My life was full and busy, just the way I like it.

Was I happy? In many ways, in most of the ways that count. Depression is its own ugly beast, but last November, from what I remember, was pretty good aside from my usual major stressors, i.e. work.

This November? I’m teaching from home. I have been, since March 16. While aspects of it are difficult and horribly tedious, I don’t hate it. No child has openly defied me in almost a year. Disruptive student? Remove them from Zoom. Problem solved.

My theatre has a good, solid, safe, plan to ease back into performances, streaming at first and playing it by ear. We’re so very lucky to have a nurse-practitioner on our board who gives us trustworthy advice and is heavily involved in our reopening plan. I am so very grateful that there is hope.

But… I want normal back. I want people to stop whining about their ‘freedom’, wear a damn mask, and socially distance. We’ve done our part, but others haven’t and I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t angry. Just today, as I was in the check-out line, a guy walked into Rite-Aid with no mask, smirking like an asshole, just looking for someone to say something to him. (Stronger language is called for here, but I will defer to the comfort of my more sensitive readers. Understand that, in my head, I have called him every vile name I can think of.) I gave him the dirtiest look I could, but didn’t say anything in the hopes that store management would. I left in the next few minutes, my transaction complete. In retrospect, I wish I had, even though he was a large man and I am… not. I’m ashamed, actually. I should have said something and not let his size, demeanor, or stupid arrogant face intimidate me. Something to work on. Maybe martial arts for self-defense is a good idea. I also forgot that I had pepper spray in my bag. Note to self.

We cancelled our Thanksgiving, so that we all had a better chance of being here next year. We’re dropping dinner off for Marty’s mom. Next year, we’re going to do it up right.

We also cancelled Christmas, outside the family in the house. It all kind of sucks.

I want to walk into a crowded restaurant again with no bigger fear than catching a cold. (I get my flu shot every year and I will damn sure get my COVID shot when it’s available.) I want hug my family again, specifically Oldest Child and Very Serious Girlfriend. I want to learn lines for a show that’s not rehearsed on Zoom/socially distanced. I want to perform on stage in front of an actual audience.

I want my life back.

Wear a (insert favorite adjective here) mask and don’t be a (adjective) jackass. You can probably guess my adjectives.

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Here’s my new article on Medium. Check it out!

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I need to work on practicing grace, especially in my own mind.

As this pandemic and this presidency, go on (and on and on and on), I find myself getting angrier at people who are unwilling to listen to reason and science, people who are unnecessarily putting others at risk because of their convoluted idea of “freedom”, and those who pass along ridiculous information easily dismissed on any fact-checking site.

I’ve learned that it does no good to comment. It’s just not worth the time and energy and only provokes juvenile insults.

If it weren’t so dangerous, I would laugh, but there are people dying, people out of work, people worried sick about the future. Our own military forces have been abusing citizens. The rest of the world is wondering what the heck is wrong with America right now, why we have so many people doing what they’re not supposed to do. It’s a rough time any way you look at it.

I honestly try to find the good in everyone, but right now it’s really difficult. I know, I know, that everyone comes from a different life experience and that colors their view of the world. I try to understand that. I was raised conservative, but after listening and learning, I’ve changed many of my world views that were based on evangelical religion. I’m still learning, I’m still trying to grow, and I, unrealistically, expect others to do the same. It’s really difficult for me to show grace to people who call themselves “Christian” who ignore the obvious and attack and hurl vile insults at anyone who thinks differently. I have to work on that.

I don’t insult people online. The closest I’ve come is to say that people who refuse to wear masks are acting like toddlers having tantrums. In my head, I think a lot of other things that I don’t post, don’t respond to.

I swear a lot. I always did, but never more than in the last four years, especially the last five months. It’s one way of venting my anger.

I need to work on grace, not wanting to bite someone’s head off for what they say or what they do, but responding to them with kindness. I know, but I need to try and see where they’re coming from before I respond or cuss them out in my head. Some people do this automatically and I’m in awe of that ability.

If God can show me grace after some of the things I’ve done, I need to show grace to others. I can’t educate through anger. I can be a better person.

I need grace. I need to show grace.

 

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This one is on mental health. Click to check it out.

View at Medium.com

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If you follow my blog, you know that I make no secret about my experiences with depression, anxiety, and OCD. This week, I began writing for a journal on Medium called “Invisible Illness” that deals with mental illnesses and issues. My first article for them, on dealing with your mental health during COVID-19, came out yesterday. Here is a link to my Medium profile, if you are so inclined. Thanks for reading!

View at Medium.com

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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, 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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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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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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