first snow

(would have been more appropriate a week ago, but since it's still on the ground I can justify it.)

The snow
began here
this morning and all day
continued, its white
rhetoric everywhere
calling us back to why, how, whence such beauty and what the meaning; such
an oracular fever! flowing
past windows, an energy it seemed
would never ebb, never settle
less than lovely! and only now,
deep into night,
it has finally ended.
The silence
is immense,
and the heavens still hold
a million candles; nowhere
the familiar things:
stars, the moon,
the darkness we expect
and nightly turn from. Trees
glitter like castles
of ribbons, the broad fields
smolder with light, a passing
creekbed lies
heaped with shining hills;
and though the questions
that have assailed us all day
remain—not a single
answer has been found—
walking out now
into the silence and the light
under the trees,
and through the fields,
feels like one.
–Mary Oliver



If you decide to be an actor, stick to your decision. The folks you meet in supposed positions of authoritycritics, teachers, casting directorswill, in the main, be your intellectual and moral inferiors. They will lack your imagination, which is why they became bureaucrats rather than artists; and they will lack your fortitude, having elected institutional support over a life of self-reliance. They spend their lives learning lessons very different from the ones you learn, and many or most of them will envy you and this envy will express itself as contempt. It's a cheap trick of unhappy people, and if you understand it for what it is, you need not adopt or be overly saddened by their view of you. It is the view of the folks on the verandah talking about the lazy slaves.
There is nothing contemptible in the effort to learn and to practice the art of the actorirrespective of the success of such effortsand anyone who suggests there is, who tries to control through scorn, contempt, condescension, and supposed (though undemonstrated) superior knowledge is a shameful exploiter. 
  David Mamet, True and False: Heresy and Common Sense for the Actor

I haven't had to deal with this in awhile, but I will again, and it is a good reminder regardless. And it is applicable to all the arts (sub your own field in for "actor" at will).

Emphasis is my own.


skin care

I am mildly obsessed with skincare.

Some of this is not my fault - it turns out my skin has gotten progressively more sensitive as I've grown up. In middle and high school I got away with a cheap oil-free moisturizer with SPF 15 and a salicylic acid based overnight gel from the Clear Pore line. When those got discontinued I used the Biore Skin Preservation line, which then also got discontinued . . . and then I spent almost a year finding stuff that didn't break me out. I had pretty clear skin as a teenager, but my acne got progressively worse through my 20s, and I eventually figured out that it was because I was reacting to products.

There were a few clear turning points in my skin care. The first was finally caving to buying La Roche Posay's Toleraine Riche, which had been so universally loved on Into the Gloss that I risked the price tag (at that point, the most I'd ever spent on a product). A large portion of my skincare now comes from LRP, and even when something of theirs doesn't fit my skin, it doesn't make me react. The second was a facialist (Karen at L Spa, if you're interested - she's wonderful) telling me that my skin seemed more dry than combo like I'd always assumed from my shiny nose and acne, which lead to me trying out the Josie Maran Argan Oil. My skin looked better that first day; my acne immediately calmed down and I stopped getting a shiny nose. I think some of why I was breaking out all those years just because my skin was over-producing oil to try to compensate for the dryness. Plus I seem to have an issue with cheap oil in cosmetics - that and certain fragrances.

The third and fourth turning points are quicker to explain: washing my face better due to the Isabelle Bellis videos on ITG (here and here); and regular masking, specifically with Korean sheet masks.

I've basically gotten my routine down, and when I break out now it's usually because I'm trying something new out.


  • LRP Physiological Cleansing Gel - I used the Toleriane wash for a long time, but was never quite happy with how it smeared my eye make up around. This is better, and smells pretty, too. 
  • Almay Oil-free Eye Makeup Remover - to get the rest. 
  • Dermologica Antioxidant Hydromist - as a toner - until it runs out, at least. I managed to get it on serious discount through Amazon, and it's lasted forever. 
  • LRP Daily Renovating Salicylic Acne Treatment - benzoyl peroxide has never worked well on me; this does.
  • Argan Oil - right now I'm using this one because it's the cheapest I could find, and it's also one of the best I've used, texture-wise. I stopped using the Josie Maran pretty quickly once I found other organic options - even Target has some, now. 
  • LRP Hydrophase Intense Eyes - for now. I prefer a cream to a gel, but its hard to find one that isn't super expensive, super fragranced, or super good at smearing makeup. I got this one very on sale. If I can't find a cream I like, I'll go back to my Oil of Olay gel standby. 
  • LRP Anthelios 50 Daily Anti-Aging Primer - I've been using this for ages, now. The texture is great and the SPF wonderful. I can wear it swimming in full sun and it does fine. The packaging sucks, but I cut it open at the end and transfer it to a jar, and then I have another 6 week supply. (I always do that, by the way - although this primer is the worst about it, it's amazing how much product is left when you can't get any more out of the tube. This thingamajig helps, too.)
  • Jack Black Intense Therapy Lip Balm: Shea Butter & Vitamin E - if there is only one product you consider trying after reading this, make it this one. I hate chapped lips, and I've probably tried thousands of different lip balms. This one is perfect. It doesn't have petroleum, so it sinks into your lips instead of sitting on top of them. I put it on once after my shower in the morning, once at night, and maybe once more during the day, and I'm good. Plus SPF again! 
Night - Same as above without the primer, plus:
  • ROC Retinol Deep Wrinkle Correction Serum - it took me a while to find a retinol that I could use without my skin freaking out. I've been using this for a couple of months and am pretty sure I see a difference in my forehead wrinkles, though I'm not sold on the cheap-shampoo fragrance.
  • Leftover serum from the most recent sheet mask (see below)
  • LRP Toleriane Riche - to seal everything in. I could go on about this moisturizer even more than I already have, but Into the Gloss has done it for me. When/if my skin gets more dry as the winter progresses, I'll add this in during the day, too. 
Two to three times a week, some variation of a masking ritual:
  • LRP Physiological Scrub - I used to be good at doing this before a mask, but now it's just sort of whenever I remember.
  • Glossier Mega Greens Galaxy Pack - clay masks tend to freak my skin out (I think because they pull too much moisture), but I still want the pore-sucking powers to get the grossness out. This one is super gentle and I love it. Once a week I'll follow it with a Biore Pore Strip, which works so much better than the strip alone. 
  • A Korean Sheet Mask - so these are my favorite things. You can buy them all over now for exorbitant prices, but TJ Maxx or Marshalls always has good ones for cheap, you just have to be discerning. I only buy ones made in Korea (which is renowned for its skincare, by the way), and I'll usually search the internet to see how reputable the brand is before I buy one I don't know. Masqueology, BioMiracle, Karuna, and Leaders Insolution are all great and show up at TJ Maxx fairly often. I also bought a pack from Dermal Korea off Amazon and loved them. Their primary function is moisturizing, but they can be infused with all sorts of things, so you can choose what you want based on whatever your skin happens to be doing that day. They also come with the added benefit of making you look like a serial killer while using them. I always save the extra serum in a little jar so I can use it later, and while I have the mask on I spread the excess on my neck, decolletage, and the backs of my hands. I leave them on as long as I can, rub the serum in, and put the Toleriane Riche over it to seal it in (and leave out the rest of the stuff I usually use at night).
  • Freeman Rose Brightening Facial Mask - every once in awhile I'll use one of these if my skin is feeling lackluster. It's a mild (and cheap) AHA. 
  • Likas Papaya Whitening Soap - it's won all sorts of awards overseas. It seems to reduce the random pigmentation I get when I get razor burn or something, but mostly I use it because I like the smell. Tucson's Lee Lee Import Market had it for cheap, but somehow I doubt I'll find a supplier in Montana. Otherwise I just use Dove Sensitive Skin.
  • Curel Daily Moisture Fragrance Free - yay simple stand-bys. 
  • Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion with SPF - I put it on my neck, chest, shoulders, arms, and hands - anywhere that might see sun. Trying to avoid that premature aging thing. Arizona has trained me well. 
So if you add all this up, it appears I spend a shitload of money on it. Which is true, but I don't spend as much as it looks - I never, ever buy stuff full price. CVS has great, stackable coupons, so I can often get La Roche Posay stuff for nearly half price (or at least I could, when the location near me stocked it - the one in Missoula doesn't, so now I have to factor in shipping). I price compare across several websites (Sephora, Dermstore, Ulta, CVS, Target, Amazon) to figure out the best deal, and I'll wait until a good coupon comes up and stock up when I find something particularly cheap. I got my next bottle of primer two months ago on clearance at Target for $10 - a quarter of what it usually retails for. I end up spending about $30-40 a month or so, since I don't run out of everything all at once.

And if you've gotten all the way to the end of this and think I'm nuts, you're probably right - but keep in mind if I were Korean, I'd probably have at least three more steps


two billion beats

I wondered how many rooms there were inside me that I'd yet to explore, how many doors still clicked closed, how many palindromes, how many people, how many worlds, and whether they would all be as beautiful as the stone in the sky we call earth: this planet holding oceans and fields and so many human hearts, each with two billion beats in a lifetime. That's what we get, two billion beats, not much more and sometimes much less. All humans, our hearts hammering on until one day they stop, and the body gets buried, and we go back to being atoms with their spinning centers, microscopic flecks of enormous energy and light, as though packed with all our lifetime love--its curves and caresses, its sudden surprises, its real revelations, its long-gone losses, its mourning melodies, its coconut-soup comfort--all of it happening in two billion beats of the human heart turning on our stone in the sky. 

-- Lauren Slater, "Her Over Him," Elle


on missing Tucson

a list of things I wish I could have shipped to me from the Old Pueblo
  • sunsets
  • weather warmer than 35 degrees in the morning
  • tortillas from the Anita Street Market
  • a drink from the St Charles Tavern and a whole bunch of Pillsbury Wine
  • Brooklyn Pizza . . . but the garlic knots even more
  • half the contents of Trader Joe's, but specifically the flower section, the frozen ready-to-bake croissants, and the pumpkin body butter 
  • the Buffalo Exchange outlet (technically that's Nogales, but . . . )
  • my chiropractor, my mechanic, my hairdresser
  • the entire production (including hippie hill) of Love's Labors Lost
  • the All Soul's Procession
  • all my blues dancers
  • all the friends' babies I haven't gotten to kiss
  • all my dinner friends (you know . . . friends you invite to dinner). 

We love it here, but there are some things I miss an awful lot. 


on moving

a series of observations and anecdotes, roughly chronological, written with a gin & tonic in a crystal wine goblet in hand, one week after arriving in Missoula

About halfway through the loading the truck process, both the husband and I decided, entirely separately, that next time we are hiring people to pack and move our stuff, regardless of the cost. And despite the fact that we had ten lovely people helping us.

When you come to visit us (you are coming to visit us, right?), and if you drive (why would you? Allegiant flies out of Mesa for ridiculously cheap), do NOT stop in Salt Lake City. There were plenty of lovely Mormon hamlets all through Utah that provide cute roadside inns. Salt Lake is quite possibly the ugliest, jankiest downtown I've ever seen. We were offered meth, and were quite surprised when both our car and moving truck were not broken into overnight, if that gives you any idea.

Except for some boring parts in Idaho, the drive was quite pretty.

The Budget truck we rented kept tripping the "stop" mechanism on the gas nozzles, unless they were long enough/had a complete enough seal. We had to drive around looking for a nozzle that would work at every single stop. We have several $0.72  gas charges as a result. The company refunded us $108 and chastised us for not calling roadside assistance.

Utah apparently doesn't know how to set up road cones/barrels for construction purposes. We encountered one north of Page just sitting in the middle of the lane, its brothers all in a proper line on the shoulder. Both of us barely avoided that one. Later that night, with no warning or signs whatsoever, they took about four barrels to narrow the two lane road down to one. Colin (driving the truck) made the choice to sideswipe two barrels instead of jerking the truck too quickly. One of the barrels' rubber feet came flying toward the front of my car like an enormous frisbee, solidly hitting the bumper (though thankfully causing no damage). The entire night we were in Salt Lake, I dreamt over and over of watching Colin swerve in front of me, and then realizing that whatever was in the road was coming toward me too quick to avoid. Swerve, panic, brace for impact. Swerve, panic, brace for impact.

Once we made it into town, we unloaded the truck with only one other adult for help in three hours. It was like a Christmas miracle.

Missoula is unbearably gorgeous, even under the haze of smoke from all the nearby fires. We've eaten out for every meal thus far, and had a ridiculous amount of fantastic food, some of which I've posted. Tonight's, which I didn't post, was Brazilian bowls of rice and meat and toppings like chimichurri.

The Mexican food situation is not as dire as I feared. I have had a decent huevos rancheros, and look forward to trying several more. Most places have something reasonably spicy on the menu, and we have tried the most highly recommended Mexican food place in town. The salsa was reasonably hot, the food delicious, and will definitely serve to satisfy cravings. However, due to the town's weird liquor restriction laws, they don't have any tequila at all . . . and thus make their margaritas with something called "agave wine." (Luckily this failing is easily remedied, because the best margaritas are made at home.)

I had, stupidly, thought that the loading and driving would be the hard part. I was not anticipating the complete pit that the previous tenants/the management company had left our house for. The quick rundown: mouse feces, rotting food, and fruit flies in the kitchen; dog shit, maggots, hobo spiders, more mouse feces, and general filth and trash in the basement  & garage; hobo spiders all over the outside as well; filth in more corners than you can count. We have been so occupied cleaning that we have not yet unpacked anything except our clothes.

Nonetheless, we live in a section of town Colin keeps calling "the Shire." There is a fruit/veggie stand in the yard of a house just a block away. We saw a kid with an actual lemonade stand the other day. Most people don't even bother to fence their yards. Our neighbors all came out to say hi to us the second night we were here, and they're all great people.

That said, people here are weird. They drive weird, they move their carts weird in Costco, a large number of them have very large, bulbous noses. And they are weirdly almost entirely white.

I was not expecting things like just driving around town to be stressful. It's exhausting. And I have gone the wrong way down one way streets twice now.

There are very few chain stores, which is awesome, but the ones that exist are almost entirely concentrated into one part of town and seem to be forced into direct competition. The traffic in this area of town is the absolute worst.

There is no restriction on casinos, so there are tiny gas station/restaurant/casino hybrids everywhere. I always thought it was dumb that gambling was restricted so much, but the tiny casino things seem so trashy. And it's a stark contrast to the puritanical restriction on liquor sales. I'll take liquor over casinos any day.

The cats seem to have become closer as a result of the trauma of moving, and both they and the kid seem ecstatic to be here. I am waiting for the other shoe to fall.

The thrifting here is amazing.Think good thoughts for me about finding the perfect bike.

The first day we were here, it was in the high 90's. Since it has been 70s-80s. J keeps waking up, thinking it's cold, and putting on long sleeves and gloves.

Yelp and Zomato have been fantastic resources.

Our house will be amazing, once it's done.


on discourse and friendship

I remember the moments when my opinions on healthcare changed. There were two.

The first was early on in my teaching career. I avoided talking politics with my students - certainly current politics - but for some reason I was sitting at my desk and a student asked me what my opinion was on universal healthcare. I was slightly distracted, checking grades or something, and as she was right there and the class was doing something else, I answered honestly (and mostly parroting what my father believed): that I didn't know, that I was worried about what it would do to taxes and that I didn't trust the government to do a better job than what we currently have. My student, sharp as could be, said, "Miss, that's because you've never had to go without health insurance."

The other moment was not much longer later, when I was talking online to a friend that lives in Canada. He pointed out what I didn't know at the time, that the US is the only first world country that doesn't have universal health care.

These things gave me pause. They were major contributing factors to my changing my mind and the way I thought about the issue.

I have spent the last eight years teaching students how to think critically: how to take evidence as a whole and build a rational, logical argument based on that evidence, and how to determine what counts as quality evidence to begin with. I am routinely appalled by how many adults seem to have zero understanding of this process.

It used to be that when I disagreed with someone, particularly in the areas of religion or politics, I said nothing. Public conflict tends to make me deeply uncomfortable, and I told myself that there was no use discussing these topics - no one would change their minds and it would only succeed in making people angry.

Teaching taught me otherwise. (It is remarkable how much one learns by teaching. Sometimes I think my students taught me more than I ever managed to teach them.) Most people have never had their thought processes challenged. Most people don't automatically check to see how valid a source is. Most people don't stop to ask themselves how much bias they have on a topic, and they don't stop to consider how their privilege or social standing is affecting their beliefs. Most people can't point out logical fallacies, and even if they can, they don't seem to understand that a logical fallacy means an argument is objectively invalid. And the only way to get most people thinking rationally is by pointing out when they are not, and hope that, in return, someone will do the same for you. (The way to fix this is by systemic, high-quality public education, but that's a topic for another post.)

Put more simply: teaching taught me that if stupidity and ignorance isn't pointed out and something done to correct it, it grows exponentially.

There is a balance, though. It works best when the topic discussed is one that neither person is deeply emotionally connected to, as emotion essentially cancels out the rational thought processes of the frontal cortex. The problem is that the biggest social issues and the greatest founts of stupidity tend to be in places where people are deeply emotional. So you have a choice: you can either attempt to engage logically anyway, and hope that the logic triumphs once emotions have cooled, or you can not say anything on the big emotional topics and only start discourse on smaller issues. Sometimes thinking logically about something you're not emotional about can transfer over to things you are emotional about. And regardless, often the people who are watching the exchange benefit from it more than the ones involved.

I believe, strongly, in public discourse. I believe that, for us to move forward as a species, we have to have discussions on topics that affect us deeply, or we are doomed. I believe that refusing to engage or sequestering yourself so that you only hear opinions that mirror your own is a sign of weakness - an inescapable tragic flaw.

And yet there are times when I choose not to say anything, because the person has expressed something so horrifyingly ignorant (and usually hateful) that I cannot trust myself to avoid the ad hominem attack. Sometimes I have enough history with a person that I am not willing to risk our entire relationship just to make a point. Sometimes I know the topic is so entrenched in personal identity that there is almost no hope of change, and I let it slide. Sometimes I hope that someone else will have the courage to say what I don't.

I agonize over those moments. When a cis-male spews hate about a MTF transperson, or when a missionary says that adults should pay for their own food and health care, I cringe. I write out possible responses. Sometimes I hit delete, and I wonder if the point where discourse seems impossible is the point when it is no longer worth remaining friends.



They're not resolutions. I hate resolutions. They're more like . . . guidelines.

From now on:
More dancing and walks
More water
Better food, less of it
More tea before bed
More time with people I care about
More baths
More breathing
More of the things that make me happy, and less of the things that don't.