Archive | Let's talk about me RSS feed for this section

The Pap Smear

9 Nov

A couple weeks ago, at my first meeting with a new improvisation class, we were invited to kick things off by each sharing one of our most embarrassing moments. The idea behind this exchange being that it’s easier to work and play in an uninhibited way once everyone has become vulnerable. As I sat and listened to some pretty great and sometimes-terrible stories, I racked my brain trying to decide which gem from my own life to share.

The time during high school when I peed my pants in a canoe?

When I was wearing a body mic for my role as Ado Annie in Oklahoma and the technicians broadcast the sound check through the theater and to the entire cast while I was on the toilet?

The time I tried to explain my request for diarrhea medication to my wonderfully earnest non-English-speaking German host family?

The time I accidentally referred to Barnes as the author of The Poetics?

Every meeting I’ve ever had with any kind of financial professional?

But then suddenly I had a moment of total clarity. “No. Today’s the day. I must tell of The Pap Smear.”

I’m not a squeamish woman. Nor am I easy to embarrass. But this experience left me feeling so deeply afraid of what else the universe might have in store for me moving forward, that in class a few weeks ago was the first time I ever told the whole tale.

I bet you’re really ready for this story now, huh?

It was a crisp fall morning and I had just started a new teaching job. I didn’t have insurance at this job, but I DID have discounted access to the school’s health services center, so I decided to book my annual lady parts spelunk. As I flipped through a copy of Highlights, I noticed the strange way that the examination rooms opened in toward the waiting area. “You usually go down a hall or something”, I thought to myself. My name was called and I followed the nurse to a room right across from where I had been sitting. She went behind a partition while I performed that most dignified ritual of taking off my shoes, pants, and underwear, jauntily hopping up on the padded, paper-covered examination table, and casually yet entirely wrapping myself in a paper sheet. I informed her that I’d assumed the position, and she returned from behind the partition. She wheeled the examination table on its casters so that the light could point toward my hot pocket (and incidentally with said hot pocket pointed right at the door) and she got down to business.

So you can imagine my surprise that quickly transitioned into horror, when, with speculum fully cranked, there was a knock on the door.

Everything that happened next was very fast and frantic. The nurse said something to the effect of “DO NOT COME IN HERE!” while my heart bulged so as to start oozing out of my eye sockets, and I opened my mouth in preparation for a soundless scream. But of course, the door opened. And like any woman would, I tried to close my legs. On a speculum.

Ladies, if you need to take a break with your right hand securely over your crotch, I understand.

But there’s more. Along with my new job came a very small office! And along with that office came a very surly gentleman officemate. And along with that very surly gentleman officemate who had apparently just sat down in the same seat where I had been waiting moments before, came a grade school-aged daughter. Fantastic. “Hello sir who has made it pretty clear that I’m too young and under qualified for this job! Hi small girl! This is the inside of my vagina! Neat, right? Okay! Talk to you later!” Except that all of that came out in more of a “primal scream” format.

We made eye contact. And the door slammed shut just as I caught a glimpse of him smacking his hand over his daughter’s eyes.

The rest of the experience is a blur. I vaguely remember the nurse profusely apologizing. I remember hustling quickly out of the office, and running into a different co-worker outside who exclaimed, “You look radiant!” to which I replied “Thank you! I’ve just come from a very disturbing vaginal exam!”

My officemate and I never spoke of it, and for this considerable kindness on his part I remain deeply grateful. I’ve considered the possibility that he didn’t even recognize me. I remain curious as to what he told his daughter that day. I wonder if she, too, thinks back on this experience during times of difficulty and humiliation in her life and is comforted by the fact that at least she’s not staring between her naked knees into the eyes of a male colleague, clutching the paper sheet, and trying instinctively to close up shop against a metal crank. It really does put things into perspective.

Health Services mailed me something a few weeks after The Pap Smear to let me know that the results were normal.

I beg to differ.

Advertisements

Spring

25 Apr

run to the lake

sleeping bags nest next to the spangled underpass walls

I should really buy some special shoes

next to the Jewel the sidewalk says “everything is made new”

pass under a tree turned out and I hear a steady voice

a dot-scoll-sign reads behind my eyes

“you’re blossoming”

 

At the time, I was feeling pretty high on life and possibilities.  I was about to jump off some cliffs – nothing major in the big picture, but I made some moves toward things I’m interested in.  I reached for some things I’ve never reached for before.    I was hopeful, and that feeling always gives life a special shine.

So next, a thing that hasn’t happened for a long time happened – my luck came in.  I felt so happy –bursting , even.   I felt a little proud of myself.  Not big-deal stuff, but new stuff.  Challenging stuff.  Exciting stuff.

Now here I am.  Lucky, but not totally prepared.  I have to show up and learn how to do some things that, as it turns out, are hard for me.   There are new people who don’t seem to appreciate my special brand of awkwardness and quietness – my trying too hard (and I still don’t understand how that’s even a thing).

I liked the flower part.  All by myself with a brand-new idea.  I liked the liminal space – the hopeful shine as I ran for the third day in a row.  But I ran under that tree yesterday – in the new shoes I got, – now a couple weeks in and still running – and the flowers were gone.  Now it’s just gnarly little buds trying to make fruit, I guess.  I can’t really tell.   And they just keep being kind-of ugly, and small, and the same.  The gnarly nubs are just relentlessly there – being – doing something – becoming – but not in a satisfying growth-chart sort of way.  They just keep showing up.  Not even showing up because they never leave.  They’re just there.  God.  This is taking forever.

What’s that called again?  Oh right, spring.  I forget what spring feels like every time.

Alert! Latte!

19 Apr

A very specific group of potential readers may recollect a joke that this title is based on.  Namely, “ALERT!  WAFFLE!” – a phrase that was coined on a think/dance collective tour of the midwest and refers to, what else, waffles.  We would (for some reason) announce this boldly when the waffle machine would ding in the lobby of the hotel while we breakfasted.  I’m sure we were a real treat to fellow hotel patrons.

Anyway, what I’m here to tell you might not change your life the way it’s changed mine, but I think it’s still worth sharing:  I have discovered a way to make a perfect latte at home.

In the May issue of Martha Stewart Living, there is an article about a day in the life of food editor, Lucinda Scala Quinn that reads like a strange series of facebook updates.  I particularly cottoned to a tidbit I read about Ms. Quinn making herself a cappuccino in her kitchen each morning.  I assumed that since she’s probably very fancy, she probably has an even fancier machine to achieve this am cap, but NO!  A small seed of hope began to unfurl in my latte-loving heart.

Upon further reading, I discovered that she brews espresso on the stove and then (this is the awesome part so get ready) she heats some milk in a cup and, using a whisk between her palms and moving her hands back and forth to swiftly turn it, she froths the milk.  I suspected that, like most helpful tips in MSL, this would probably completely backfire in my apparently success-averse hands.

But the seed of hope remained and for several days, I pondered these things in my heart.  I was so intrigued by the potential to enjoy my all-time favorite treat at a fraction of the cost and with no fancy equipment, that I tried it.  While this usually results in my cursing Martha Stewart and her awful enticement of my hope and subsequent despair, this time was different.  Liz: 1, Martha: not this time, jerkwithexcellenttaste!

I first tried the Quinn Method (a genius deserves her due) a few days ago with whole milk.  That did not work.  The milk did not really foam nicely.  But then, I remembered from my barista days that it was always easier to make a good stiff foam with skim milk, even when I was using the industrial steam wand.  When I applied my whisk with vigor to a microwaved cup of skim milk, magic began!  Foam!  Legit foam began to multiply in the cup!  I seriously cannot remember the last time I was so excited.  I completely understand if you need to get up and try this without delay.  The rest of this post isn’t as good as your homemade latte will be, so go with my blessing!

Anyway, upon having this ecstatic success, I brewed some espresso using my aero press, and poured the milk and foam on top.  It was a revelation of such magnitude that among my first thoughts was that I should share this with the good people at TCoWHRN.  I hope you enjoy!

P.S. another hot tip – if you don’t have a thing that makes espresso, you can easily just use brewed coffee and have yourself a steaming mug (or bowl in the french style) of cafe au lait.

It’s (almost the) Weekend Update! With Liz Joynt Sandberg!

13 Apr

Dream on, lady.

So anyway, here’s what’s been keeping me from posting around here lately:

I went on my first improvisation audition!  It was, in a word, terrifying.  Now, you need to keep in mind that I have absolutely no training whatsoever in comedy improvisation.  I’m in the writing program at Second City, and have never taken a performance class.  Ever.  I do a fair amount of performing and improvising for my art shenanigans, but I very rarely talk during these doings.  Improv comedy is mostly talking (says the lady who doesn’t really know what improv comedy is).  What possessed me?  It’s hard to say.  But I stared at an audition posted by a member of a company I swoon for (Improvised Shakespeare at iO – thou should dost get thee there at thy earliest convenience – thank me later)  for weeks and finally decided “screw it, I’m going to find out what this is all about.”  I applied, they said “uh, ok we guess…” And you know what?  It was pretty fun!  Or at least it was after I stopped feeling like I needed to explode diarrhea, and throw up and re-apply chapstick and change my outfit and get a new face.  I think the secret to succeeding in this endeavor is that I am completely fearless about looking dumb.  I’m a 6-foot-tall dancer, you know?  I spend a lot of my time looking ridiculous.  I didn’t get that job, but…

I DID get cast in a Second City Training Center show!  What the?!  Riding the high of my fearlessness, when I got an email about an audition for a show my writing teacher is directing I said “heck yes!  I’ll sign up for this!  Another chance to learn!”  A pal took some new headshots for me on the weekend, I printed ’em out along with what I will optimistically call a James-Franco-esque resume, and off I went, to goof around in a room full of other aspiring goofs.  We introduced ourselves, did some improvised two-person scenes (inspired by a one-word directive – mine was “dragon!”), read a script, did some more improvisation, and sang a little ditty of our choice (I sang the intro to Someone to Watch Over Me.  I may be an idiot, but I am classy, goddamnit!).  What I really want to know is if the kid who sang Wu-tang Clan was also cast. The next day, I was waiting for a redline train downtown with Ida after seeing a friend dance at the library.  There was a man singing Gershwin standards so loud and beautiful I thought my heart would explode when I heard snatches of a voicemail:  “offer… part… our show… you… great… yes… call me back.”   I felt like a million bucks.  I know it’s not really a big deal, but it’s kind-of huge to me.  The show runs for 5 weeks in one of the small theaters at The Second City in June and July.  My mom is so proud.

What else… keeping a 2-and-a-half year old alive.  Which, if you’ve never had the pleasure, is no fucking joke.  Ida is at turns delightful and kind, and at other times does things like (true story) comes into the kitchen while I’m cooking at the stove, punches me in the butthole as hard as she can and exclaims “POW!  There’s a hole right there” and runs away.   She’s got several imaginary friends (e-ah and grandfather – whose grandfather is still unclear), and a job at a store called Be-Toe that sells lollipops and meatballs and has, from what I can gather, limited hours.  She has developed an alter-ego, “Rope-ie” who is to blame for any misbehavior.  He/she looks exactly like Ida, so you can understand our confusion at times.  She was given a baby Rapunzel complete with flowing hair and a very frilly dress for her 2nd birthday and she has since named him/her (fluctuating) Frank.  I love that kid.  She makes me nuts.

In the mix has also been  some dance performing, some shows I helped curate around town, some other fun adventures with Ida, and many evenings starting into the fridge and thinking “why is there never stuff to make dinner?”

Cinderella Re-write

13 Feb

And now for some more sharing of my homework!  Last week during my (super-fun, seriously – I cannot shut up about it) writing class at The Second City, one of our homework assignments was generated by us each choosing a well-known fairy tale and suggesting 3 peripheral characters that might have been involved but weren’t mentioned in the original story (ex. the 3 little pigs’ neighbor).  Then the class voted on which character they’d like to hear more from, and we each wrote a monologue from the perspective of that character.

I chose Cinderella.  The three characters I pitched were:

  • Cinderella’s living grandmother (why wasn’t C living with her?!)
  • The wicked stepmother’s boyfriend
  • Cinderella’s feminist best friend

My class voted overwhelmingly to hear more from the perspective of the wicked stepmother’s boyfriend (side note of sadness – the class voted overwhelmingly to hear from male characters in 7 out of 8 instances.  Sigh.  Rage.  Mandate to be part of fixing this).

Anyway, below is what I came up with.  I was trying to do a few things here in addition to just completing the assignment:

  • Give the character a specific voice that wasn’t my own (so here I tried to create a white, late 20s, washed-up frat boy).
  • Transform some aspect of the story
  • Crack some jokes that are specific to the story.
  • Write something with a clear beginning, middle, and end.
  • Push some aspect of my own agenda/point of view

Again, admittedly not the greatest thing ever, but I think I’m learning how to do some stuff (and no matter what, I’m having so much fun in a space where I am not in charge of managing whining – my teacher does that).  So here-a we go:

 

I mean, I knew she wasn’t, like, a good person.  So, you know, I’m-a be straight about that.  But you get to be a certain age, and you’re still cleaning moats, and like, whatever, a man does what he’s gotta do.  And for me, bro, that was, like, I gotta do Karen.  You probably know her as Cinderella’s stepmother, but to me, she’s just, like, a nasty cougar with a dead rich husband that I bagged on the job to get at that cushy life.  I’m not bitter – it’s not so bad.

Now that you’re asking me though, actually Cinderella and I have some stuff in common.  I don’t want to ruin the fairy tale or whatever for you, but, like, I know a fellow hustler when I see one.  We’re both just doing what we do to keep our meal tickets happy and off our backs (in my case like, for seriously because that hag is into some weird dirty shit.  (shiver))  Life pushed us into a corner and we’re, like, scrapping like whoa to work it.  Bob and weave, baby.

She had the short end of the stick, though if I’m being real. Like, I know it’s the 17th century and everyone is all, like, “equality” and shit, but I mean, I still know on the real that stuff is easier for me because I’m-a dude.  I mean, I was basically all “buy me a fucking lute” and Karen was all (low gravely voice) “oh, here’s your lute, baby.”  But the Prince – there’s no way he would be cool with that.  Cinderella had to play it smart, er, dumb, er, fuck man, even just talking about it, –  that shit’s complex!  Cinderella was all like (wispy, space-y, girlish voice) “I’m shy, oh, my shoe fell off and I can see it, and like, I have time to longingly make sexy eyes at you but I don’t have time to bend over for my shoe, because I’m late for my pumpkin car – it has limited magic, oh, oh”  Like I don’t even understand the reasons behind her weird-ass decisions, but whatever – that girl knew exactly what she was doing.  Tough as fucking nails – wearing that insane dress that was covered in mouse poop.

She did it though – bagged her a comfortable life.  In a different, like, circumstance or whatever, we could have really been something maybe – two star-crossed hustlers selling fake tonics on a cart or whatever….  Cinderella, wherever you are, I wanna say that I hope that prince is gone a lot, and that you get some time to yourself to just, like, read magazines, or eat breast cancer research yogurt, or just, like, do whatever regular girls like to do.  And Cinderella, more than anything, I hope you don’t have to do weird sex stuff with your lute.

 

For next week, I pitched several sketches and the one that was chosen is about a rebellious Christian fundamentalist daughter trying to talk her liberal agnostic dad into throwing her a purity ball for her 16th birthday.  I’ll be sure to let you know how that goes.

Have a great week!

file under “didn’t make the fridge”

12 Jan

Oh the shame of wanting so badly to be good at something and being so…. badly at it.  See?  See what I mean?

As I’m sure you know (since, let’s face it, you’re here and are tracking the minutiae of my life in this season for whatever reason), I’m a student in the writing program at The Second City.  Big whup, right?  Right.  I completely agree – as I have made clear previously, I have no delusions of grandeur.  Oh, er, in case The Secret is reading, I’M AWESOME!  I CAN DO IT!  I’M VISUALIZING SO MUCH SWEET STUFF!  I’M WEARING GOLD UNDERPANTS  (unfortunately yes, that is the first idea my brain generated from the prompt “life of luxury and success.”  I think we’re finding some clues here, guys).  So, with that out of the way, do you want to see what I made at my first class?  I thought so.

I’m not sure how proprietary the teaching techniques are in this course, so I’m not going to go into detail about how our instructor got us to this point.  But know that it was AWESOME.  It kind-of blew my mind.  Based on week 1 alone, I recommend that if you have some disposable income/a sugar-daddy, you should definitely take a class.  Anyway, I’m sure I can share that using two different but similar writing exercises, we created two characters and then took 5 minutes to write a 6 line dialogue between the two of them.

This is what I wrote:

Celia:  I guess more than anything, I just don’t understand why you care so much about me saying “thank you” every time the server refreshes my water.

Shannon:  Celia, it’s because I’m trying very hard to help you become a more palatable person.

Celia:  You’re saying “palatable” to me, at La Senorita.

Shannon:  Honey, if you say “thank you” at La Senorita, I promise I won’t say another goddamn word.

Celia:  Nice, mom.

Shannon:  Celia, please.  Just do this for me and stop being so awful.

Good?  Nope.  Something I’m proud of?  Not especially (other than that I did, in fact, sit there and write it despite the fact that I could feel it sucking as it happened).  But I’m starting something.  I’m learning.  And goddamnit, I’m going to get better.  I’ve been trying to write dialogue all week during snatches of free time and let me tell you, it’s hard, yo!  Another way to say that is “I’m bad at it!” but I’m trying hard to be optimistic and positive – suppressing all of my instincts is another new years resolution that I’m half-heartedly working on.

I also engaged in this dialogue today with Jack, an internet troll who likes to terrorize my friend’s (very excellent) blog.  As loyal readers may recall, Jack and I go way back.  My pal is a badass journalist, and an all-around swell human being, so I feel a sense of duty to try and irritate Jack, since he’s such a prolific dick.  I usually have a rule against meanness in my writing/jokes (I like how this implies that I write enough to necessitate policies), but Jack provides a justified exception. Again, probably not my finest work, but you know what?  They can’t all be winners.  Or productive.

If you want, any of y’all that are in Chicago (or have road-trip fever) can come see me dance to a text that I wrote that I actually do think is kind-of a winner here.

Rehearsal Today

5 Jan

This morning, Ida accompanied me to rehearsal.  I am working on a piece that I presented for the first time a few months ago called Best Wishes.  It will be presented in a couple of weeks as part of Rhino Fest in the Food and Performance Cabaret.  I get to do it on 4 consecutive Mondays in January and February.  As I planned my rehearsal schedule for this show, I decided that it would be loads easier if I just took Ida with me.  I like to work early in the mornings, often, and for short periods of time, so coordinating childcare is nightmarish.  I also decided that Ida would probably enjoy these outings, and would probably be a very nicely behaved companion.  I congratulated myself on making a well-reasoned decision, and for not putting off the planning until the last possible minute.  Being organized feels so satisfying.

We woke, I gave Ida breakfast and got her ready, and then I rushed around trying to get myself ready (abandoning breakfast and a semi-urgent shower in the fray) and gathering our supplies.  I was feeling harried and irritated that I hadn’t just arranged for someone to look after her.  I felt the injustice of living with a two-year-old’s sense of time and urgency.

  • Use toilet:  5 minutes
  • Put on shoes, coat, gloves, hat:  2 minutes
  • Negotiate and broker willing participation in the above activities:  45 + minutes

We got out the back door, me having just eaten a fist-full of cold spaghetti for fortification, and briskly hustled down the alley and to the train.  I swiped my transit card, ushered Ida through the turnstile, yanked on the stroller-handle to fold it up, and dragged us and our baggage up the two flights of stairs to the platform.  We just made it onto the train that pulled in as we rushed up the last few steps and instantly knew who in that train car has done this before (look of solidarity) and who has/will not (irritation upon getting banged in the shin with stroller – not that I really blame them, but what exactly do they suggest I do?).  We sat.  We exhaled.  We watched as neighborhoods came and went.  Ida and I both love riding the train.

We arrived and walked to the rehearsal space.  More stairs.  More schlep.  I tried to focus my attention on being grateful that my strong body could move and haul with relative ease.  It helped.

Ida was nervous to enter the rehearsal space.  She’d been there before to see me perform, but something about it made her scared this morning.  She took my hand and was, like always, very brave.  We set up our stuff.  I explained again what we were doing here.  “Mama is going to do some dance work now.  We can share this space for the next hour – you can play with your toys, eat your snacks, or you can do some dance work if you want to.  Please don’t touch the stereo or my laptop.  And please don’t yell.  There are going to be sometimes this morning when I won’t answer you if you ask me a question or need help – I’ll be able to do it in a few minutes, but sometimes I am going to be busy even though I’m right here.”

I started warming up.  Ida watched for a few minutes and then joined me – walking around the room, rolling her head, moving her arms.  It was beautiful and so much fun.  For the rest of the rehearsal, she would alternate between snacking/playing in a spot in the folding chairs set up in the back, and dancing with/near me.  It was peaceful, and easy, and even better than I imagined it.  It worked.  More than that, I loved it.  I really like being alone, but sometimes being alone in rehearsal feels endless in the bad way – empty and cold.  Ida provided warmth and accountability.  She would know if I just sat there staring off into space rather than dancing like I said I would.

Later in the hour, it was time for me to do a run-through of the piece I’m working on.  I explained this to Ida and asked if she might like to draw.  She said yes.  I started and had a (predictably) rough and frustrating go of it – this piece has been sitting unattended for a long time and I knew it would be tough to get back in, having had this same experience the last time I worked on it.  “This is why I’m rehearsing” I reminded myself.  Although, that makes having to perform shitty run-throughs only marginally more palatable.  Improvisation is no joke – the idea of “making it up as you go” seems so care-free and easy, and it can be, but, in my experience, it only becomes easy and fun after you’ve worked really hard at it – turning the possibilities inside and out, tearing out seams, adjusting, calibrating feelings/presence – basically just being tenaciously bad at it until you start being good.  Showing up.  Laying your self out for it.

Anyway, I’m thinking about all of these things, and slogging through this run-through that just will not end, and doesn’t seem to ever be going well, and suddenly Ida is standing in front of me.  She’s holding up a granola bar and she says “Please open this Mama.”  I know what I said, and I’m a big believer in consistency, but it was exactly what I needed, so I did it selfishly.  My own recorded voice was reading this overly emotional thing about baking bread and then my daughter was right there and I was already so far tangled in the weeds, so I reached out and opened the granola bar.  I did it improvisationally.  I did it with my full attention.  Ida took a bite and then offered me some.  I took it and the moment deepened and became even more perfect.  And I finished the run-through – breezed through it – coming to the end feeling grateful to have been in it rather than grateful that it was over.  More than anything, I finished feeling grateful for Ida.

In a minute after I finished, and before I needed to start hustling Ida into her winter gear and out the door so that the next artist could get into the space on time, I wrote this about our morning:

1/4

Ida with me at rehearsal.  She walks in circles, rolling her head – just like i walk in circles, rolling my head.  We’re warming up.  This is a huge success.  She is engaged, interested, and free – sometimes participating as a mover with me, sometimes as a watcher.  She claps.  I realize, at one point, that I’m sick of working on this, and she offers me a peeled clementine – the first time she’s done this without help.  I start the run-through – the thing we – I – came here to do.  She watches for a while, and then I catch a glimpse out of the corner of my eye.  She’s entered the dance space, left her folding chair surrounded with notebook, pencils, charlie brown and her dustpan and broom.  She is bringing me a granola bar as I hear my own voice recite a slick/sweet thing about baking bread.  And all of a sudden, a shift -we share the granola bar, performing, eating, blurring even more the lines between us, our work, our roles.  Wednesday morning.  We are learning.