Why do I like to hurt myself?

I have ugly cried in the mirror since I was young. Like since I was 10-ish?

I have made faces, had pretend conversations, made-up television interviews, fake arguments, indignant tirades, rousing speeches–all delivered to my own reflection. For over 30 years.

Does anyone else do that?

Is this a completely narcissistic exercise that sane people don’t engage in?

Or is this a honing of craft?

I have no idea. But I am compelled to do it. It’s not something I even consciously do. I just do it. I can’t help it. It would be harder to stop than changing my name.

In fact, call me Janet.

I have imagined being someone else for most of my life. Smarter, prettier, funnier, nobler. Stronger.

I have imagined being a surgical nurse on MASH, powering an entire corporation as a CEO, commanding WW2 troops on the beaches, dangling from the peaks of Colorado.

I don’t actually want to do those things. I just want to act like I’m capable of those things.

Most of the time, people walk around completely obtuse about their own power, capability or talent.

Who am I? What do I like? What can I live with? What can I live without? What am I really good at?

But I’ve known. KNOWN. For a large chunk of my life. That I can act.

I became good at acting because I was good at lying and pretending. I used acting to have a voice and power. I was so lost that I didn’t know who I was. I needed other people’s words to stand in the place of my own. Until I found my own words. I needed a voice for all the horrible feelings I had.

My superpower is acting. My salvation is expression.

I only acted like I cared about other people. Or myself. Until one day, I did.

Thank you, Acting. You saved me.

Gonna Wreck It!

I used to be an acting coach. We would put on classroom sketches to show what we had learned in class that semester for the parents. For our showcase, we picked Wreck-It Ralph and used themes from the show to connect acting, Christianity and Wreck-It Ralph. Here’s our opening intro music composed by my daughter, PenPrin, with video game sounds and my husband doing the voice of Wreck-It Ralph. Thanks, Kacey Moe. You should do radio or something. 😉

You know, Ralph sacrificed himself at the end for his friends. Just like Jesus. He was definitely a Christ-like figure at the end. We love you, Ralph. Can’t wait for the sequel!

Enjoy! Let me know your thoughts. Lilli loves composing music. She uses Noteflight. She has a whole bunch of songs.

Oh! And I edited this all together using Audacity. 😀


I started in a different role, so I was dressed as the femme fatale secretary. Ah, to be 25 again. I ended up in the starring role as Lily Piper. So fun!

This is me. At 25. I had just met my husband and we were starring in a college production of Busybody together. It was a brilliant time. No wonder he liked me. 😉
This is a face for the stage and screen! lol

And here’s my hubby. I think he was 28 or 29. We’re so lucky.

Harry Baxter, Detective-Busybody at Longview College 1998



I went with my friend and our two daughters to a suburban wine-and-paint night at Pinot’s Palette. I was a nervous wreck. Why? Because I skipped the wine part! That’s why. Bad idea. LOL

I am a former art student who failed at getting her graphic design degree from a two-year college. I am one credit away from completing my degree and I could never find a job in my field. I didn’t have time to go to a four-year university and continue my back-to-school-in-my-thirties-midlife-crisis. So, as with many other things, I gave up.

Health issues became a concern four years ago and pursuing very challenging coursework with no actual high-paying job at the end seemed less important than just getting healthy. I tried to find work on my own for freelance, but that was super difficult and competitive. I did a few things for friends, but the work dried up quickly. You have to do a lot of free stuff to get jobs. I volunteered for one year at a local magazine to try and gain experience. I got a few perks with my gig, but ultimately, it didn’t help land anything real.

Thank God for my husband. He’s supported me through this whole mess. Failed schooling, no job, no insurance, bankruptcy from medical and credit card debt, health trouble. He’s my hero. (BTW, we are working on our marriage and have made significant progress. Woot! Thanks for prayers and support.)

To my credit, I’ve had odd jobs here and there. I was even an acting coach at one point. A job that I absolutely loved. But I was not asked back in the fall. Too many teachers: not enough students, most likely. But who knows? Maybe I was a radical failure and they were too shy to tell me? Maybe parents complained. I have no idea. I just know, I wasn’t on the schedule last fall. Wish I would have known that before I made class plans. Thank you, Administration!

Anyway. My whole point is this. I love art. I have been involved in some art form from a very young age. Illustration was my first love. How did I learn? From tracing my brother’s sketches that he doodled and discarded. You can call it cheating. I call it, learning. What better way to promote muscle memory than to trace a drawing over and over and over until you learn the way the lines should go? I don’t call it cheating. Drawing’s hard!

Also, I started acting when I was 17. LOVED IT! Still doing it when I can. And you know what, I’m pretty darn good at it. Just ask me. But because I was overweight, I started writing for myself. No parts for fat ladies. Well, not enough parts to go around.

Through acting, I started writing. And through writing, I started blogging. Cool. I’m very artistic, crafty, love to create. So when I’m challenged with a painting class in Suburbia I freak out. Naturally.

No, not naturally. Because, I have never taken a painting class other than the class I took to learn color theory. My professor required acrylics and painting on some projects and I sucked at it. Like hard-core sucked wind on painting. But to be fair, painting with acrylics is like trying to forge a Picasso with crayons. To me, anyway. So, why would painting come naturally to me and why would I freak out over it?

I guess with nearly an art degree and stamping my foot about being an artist, I kinda think…that other people think–I should be automatically good at any art project. But I’m not. So, hence the freaking.

My daughter is the same way. She has a genius IQ and everything comes naturally to her. Most things. And when they don’t? She freaks out. Totally normal for a genius, BTW. Even if she’s never done it before, learned it before or even seen it before, she has anxiety about failing. Something I unintentionally birthed to her. BTW, I’m NOT a genius. 😉 Anxiety is the one thing I regret having given her. I did it subconsciously, over years. And I hate myself some days for having willed her my neurosis. Monkey see, monkey do.

But. We’re here. The best I can do is help her, and myself, through this hairy forest of feels. Here’s a great online resource we found to help us. PTSD and anxiety tools! Try it!!!  Better than anything I’ve ever heard about, read about or paid $70 an hour for a therapist to recommend. (We’ve both been to a therapist and they verified that I have PTSD and she has anxiety. Duh.)

But last night, we were both feeling anxious. We wanted so much to go, enjoy, relax, have fun, create and totally CRUSH our paintings. We’re super competitive. Not with each other, but with other people. We want to be the best at what we think we’re the best at. And things started out rough.

Lilli is only 13 and is still developing skills in everything. Hand-eye coordination. Thinking. Feeling. Talking. LOL Her frontal lobe is not done growing and neither is her body. She’s advanced, but not done. Obvs! So when her body or hand can’t catch up to her imagination, she gets frustrated. Although, she’s never lived inside a box. She’s always made her own way and blazed trails. That’s her genius showing. So, last night, she felt hemmed in by trying to imitate another’s painting. It wasn’t going like she wanted it to.

Thank God, it was break time. We all had to let our backgrounds dry. She was upset with her moon and how it turned out. Remember, trying to blend acrylics is HARD! This is not oil or watercolor. Dries super fast. She kept wanting to mess with it and I recommended letting it dry, so she could fix it. She got frustrated. Mucho. She was quiet for a moment and then I noticed.

She was slumped. Tired and defeated. On the verge of tears. The opposite of the intention for our gals night. I asked, “Is there anything I can do?”

Through soft, pale lips and big, watery eyes. “No. I’m praying. For patience.”

Oh! My heart jumped! My oh-so nervous heart jumped in a swell of pride and thankfulness. A heart-shaped fist pump of delight it was!

She’s praying! Thank God!

We’ve been trying to practice anxiety-reduction techniques and this was the most awesomest thing she could have done! And I should have been reminding her, but she remembered on her own! I forgot and she remembered! YAY, friggin’ YAY! I failed, but she figured it out!

And just minutes after our break, Lilli started dancing in her seat to the overhead music. Swiping heavy paint across the canvas and painting to the beat of her own drum. She didn’t follow the directions and she enjoyed every minute. (They said at the beginning, “Don’t have to follow. Do whatever you want! Make whatever you like.” And she did!)

Way to go, Lil! What an awesome demonstration of God’s power and glory. Answered prayer and rejoicing! Recovery and relaxation. Thank you, God! For my amazing child, all the things she teaches me and the bountiful gifts of your Holy Spirit! Thank you for moving last night in our tense, tiny tangle.

The picture looks like a stormy sea of feelings and expression, but God was on top of those waves and in our boat!

Not Just Community Theatre

My beautiful, talented friend, Becca Stabno, wrote this heartfelt piece about our time in Women of Lockerbie presented by Summit Theatre Group. It was a wonderful show, full of talented people that I want to know all my life. Thanks for letting me post, Becca. You’re a terrific writer, singer, actor, wife, mother, daughter, person. Glad to have met you here. Glad to have acted with you. Glad to be neighbors.

By Becca Stabno

I have never been able to cry on stage.

In 18 years of community theatre musicals and plays, I have never been able to quite produce an actual tear. I have come close a few times-when I played Tzeitl in FIDDLER, and Papa Tevye wanted me to marry Lazar Wolf, I almost managed it. In SOUND OF MUSIC, as the Baroness saying goodbye to the Captain, I felt a twinge. But mostly, no tears.

That all changed last fall when I was cast as one of the WOMEN OF LOCKERBIE with Summit Theatre Group. Lockerbie tells the story of the aftermath of the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 in Scotland, and how the women in the town wanted to turn the terrorists’ act of hatred into an act of love and compassion by washing the clothing of the victims and returning them to the families of those who were lost.

It’s an emotional topic, and an emotional script, with an added story of a couple whose only son, a college boy on a school trip, perished in the explosion and whose body was never recovered. Their grief, even seven years later, was ongoing and as strong as the day they heard that their son would not be home for Christmas. The women interact with the couple, and try to encourage healing by sharing their own stories, and their own pain.

I was thrilled to be given the chance to do this play. It was exciting and fun to train with a dialect coach to learn the correct Scottish accent, and it drove my children crazy because I practiced on them all the time. It was also only the second straight play I had done since college, so I was eager to explore that genre some more. But something about this story just grabbed me and held on.

Lockerbie changed me. We immersed ourselves in this little Scottish village, in these people and their relationships with one another. We experienced their loss every single night in rehearsal. And it was so very real, that night after night, I cried. Real, actual tears, not just “it’s my character’s feelings and I am supposed to cry now” crying. We were so involved in the story that the tears were a natural part of our experience. So when the mother shared how she found out about the crash, when the father shared about how he can’t get his wife past her grief and had never been able to grieve himself, when one of the women shared how she lost her family when the plane came down on her house, those things felt real. And I cried.

And then, we washed the clothes. The director, Betsy Sexton, asked us each to donate our own clothes to be bloodied up for the props, so we were washing shirts that we had once worn, or that our children had played in, and they were stained and torn, and it was so real. Tears flowed freely, because this was powerful and moving, this was our way to show the world that hatred will not win, that love can overshadow the anger, and the light will come when the sun rises tomorrow.

The cast of that show became very close. Experiencing something that emotional night after night, as a group, really brought us together. The relationships we forged as we created this story are life-long and special and enduring. One of the other cast members was a friend of my parents in college and through their young adulthood, and so she knew me as a young child-now we have bonded as adults through this show. My cast mates have a place in my heart now, and I believe that will be lasting.

Community theatre did that. It gave me a new family in the people who worked together on this play. It gave me challenges in learning a new dialect; it gave me a chance to try something new with an emotional drama. This play was so timely-even though the crash was 20 years ago, the message is so very relevant today, with all the hatred and anger and pain in the world. Sharing the story of Lockerbie was a chance to show a different response to acts of hate. It was important. It mattered.

Being in community theatre gives me opportunities to meet new people, experience new characters, and tell new stories. I am so grateful for the chance to tell such a powerful story, and to have spent a brief time in Lockerbie.

Oh, aye, Becca. Well said, Lass. 🙂