#WCW: Caro Brown

Image result for caro brown

Bouquet:

A kick-ass journalist who managed to take down a crooked political machine (that allegedly helped prop up LBJ) and win a Pulitizer all in a seven year career.

Palette:

In Duval County, Texas (between Corpus Christie and Laredo) in 1955 there was a political machine run by George B. Parr.  As with many such men of undue influence, he was convicted of tax evasion in 1932, but garnered a political pardon from President Truman through political maneuvering by allegedly ousting a U.S. Congressman who stood between him and his goals.  He, like his father before him, was known as the Duke of Duval County.  The gentleman who allegedly helped him receive this pardon:  Lyndon B. Johnson. And, allegedly in return, George B. Parr provided the votes necessary for Lyndon B. Johnson to win a senate seat in 1948.  In short, this guy was powerful. And he was also crooked.  His rule was characterized by fraud, graft, and violence.  Several of his critics met with violent ends.  Of course even among the graft and theft and violence, George B. Parr was apparently a Robin Hood for the Mexicano community, providing them kick-backs from amounts taken in taxes from oil companies and large ranchers.

But this powerhouse of a political machine was taken down by a woman often over-looked in the history books.  In fact, despite her Pulitzer Prize for her work in exposing this boss rule, she goes unmentioned in most articles about George B. Parr.

Caro Brown was born in Baber, Texas in 1908.  She attended Texas Women’s University, but was kicked out for “attending a function off campus without permission.”  One source reported she was spending time out with friends at a Fort Worth Night Club (I suppose she was always a rabble rouser). See Dukes of Duval County by Anthony Carrozza.  In 1948, she took a job as a proofreader for the Alice Daily Echo.  The same year the Duke of Duval County was helping secure Lyndon B. Johnson his senate seat.  At that time, Hispanic World War II veterans had returned and started their own political party, the Freedom Party, and began running candidates against the Parr political machine.  Violence ensued.

State investigators came to Duval to look into the violence and allegations.  Brown was assigned to cover the investigation when the previous reporter, Bill Mason, was killed.  After warning from the Texas Rangers, she kept a pistol in the glove compartment of her car.

Through her investigative journalism, she methodically assisted in dismantling the Parr family political machine.  The Texas Attorney General John Ben Shepperd said she “helped to bring 40 years of corruption and terrorism to an end.”  And in 1955, she received the Pulitzer Prize for “a series of news stories dealing with the successful attack on one-man political rule in neighboring Duval County, written under unusual pressure both of edition time and difficult, even dangerous, circumstances. Mrs. Brown dug into the facts behind the dramatic daily events, as well, and obtained her stories in spite of the bitterest political opposition, showing professional skill and courage.”  She was the first woman to win the Pulitzer Prize for Reporting.

But aside from the amazing fact that a woman whose journalism career spanned less than a decade won a Pulitzer, the anecdote that I think defines her character is the story of the day she saved the life of the man whose empire she sought to destroy.  It happened in the Duval County Courthouse.   Parr and his nephew were at the courthouse, because Parr had allegedly struck another man with the butt of his gun.  A fight broke out and Captain of the Texas Rangers Alfred Allee pulled his gun on Parr.  Brown, unarmed, stepped between them and calmed the angry Ranger down.  Even the Duke of Duval admitted she saved his life that day.

Pairings:

#FineArtsFriday: Anderson Fair

The Bouquet:

A historic down-home funky-town venue hosting a fabulous artist who ranged from sultry to classic to funky to country without breaking a sweat.

The Pallet:

Almost two months ago (yes, the end of year snuck up on me) I made the trek to Anderson Fair for the first time to see the venerable Ginger Leigh.

For those of you (like me) who are culturally unaware, Anderson Fair is a fun music venue that’s hosted music’s finest since 1969.  There’s even a documentary called For the Sake of the Song:  The Story of Anderson Fair.  The venue has played host to artists such as Lyle Lovett and Nanci Griffith.  And the place feels reverent. There’s a weight to the darkness as you settle into the rows of small round tables, staring up at the small stage.  Maybe it’s the decades of creativity (they require any musician who plays there to write their own songs), or the careers it has launched, or the wild block parties in the height of Montrose’s hippier days.  But being there, you know you’re steeped in history.

The artist I was there to see, Ginger Leigh, was someone I happened to meet at a wedding in Stratford-upon-Avon, and boy did I not know what I was in for.  She started up with a fast-moving southern rock number that had me ready to get up and dance a jig, and by the end of the night had cycled through a few numbers with a bit more soul, a funk piece that they retooled into jazz on the fly, a classical Italian piece, and a few covers.  But what else kind of range would you expect from a Texas-girl who spent many of her formative years in Italy and other places around the globe? She has ten albums, including her recently released Hey Funky You (the title track of which I’m listening to on YouTube while I write). She’s got soul.  She’s got range. She even has a few jokes.

The Pairing:

#MondayMotivation: The Work is the Reward

The Bouquet

I found a realization at the bottom of my personal development books and writing podcasts the other day:  There is no easy street; the reward for hard work, is harder work.

The Palette:

What do I mean?  My whole life, I’ve been working for the moment when things would get easy.  In grade school, I worked hard to get into a good university.  In University I worked hard to get into a good law school.  In law school I worked hard to get a good job.  At my job, I work hard to get more responsibility.  And in all of these things, I thought the end game was to get to the place where I could finally put it on cruise control and have some damn contentment.

But there is no easy street.

Your reward for all of your hard work, is just harder work.  The prize at the bottom of the cereal box is just more cereal.  Whatever your path.  You start the business; you grow the business; you sell the business; and you start again.  You finish the book; you polish the book; you query the book; you sell the book; you publicize he book; and you start again.  You hone your craft; you audition like a boss; you get the part of the lifetime; it ends and you start again.  The reward at the end of all of these things is harder work.  The trick is to get to a point where you love the work that’s consuming you, so that when whatever your doing asks more of you (more time, more money more emotional strength), you don’t begrudge giving it.

So if you’re drowning in work that isn’t feeding your soul just to get to that paradise at the end of over-achievement, beware.  Things won’t get easier.  Find the thing that feeds you, even if it’s just making a lot of money (no judgment), and put your energy to that.  Because otherwise you will burn out.  Life isn’t a sprint and it isn’t a marathon.  There is no finish line.  Life is a treadmill.  And if what you’re consuming yourself with isn’t giving more than it takes, you’re going to have to hop off, and it’s hard as hell to get back on.

Pairings:

  • Rachel Hollis: I recently read “Girl Wash Your Face” and I spend my weekday mornings listening to her Livestream on Instagram.  She’s doing something called #Last90Days, which is a challenge to end the year with the same intentionality we use for our New Year’s Resolutions.  It’s peppy.  It’s positive.  And it’s inspiring as hell.
  • Write Along Podcast:  The inspiration for this paradigm shift actually came out of left field while I was listening to a new Podcast from David Chen and C. Robert Cargill.  They were discussing Cargill’s career (he’s a film critic, novelist, and screenwriter, although there’s more to the bio if you’re a Junk Food Cinema fangirl), and how there aren’t king-makers any more.  And that’s when it hit me that all of my writing goals are leading me to a steeper climb.  Also, Cargill has that great whiskey voice that’s fabulous to listen to before bed.
  • The Ed Mylett Show:  Another podcast (I have an addiction).  I’ve only listened to the episode from February 1, 2017 and the episode with Rachel Hollis, but his insights are on fire.

 

 

 

How to Vote for Judges

The Bouquet

The most frequently asked question I get this time of year:  How do I decide which judges to vote for?  Well, here’s my answer!

The Palette

So we made it to election day!  Congrats on another awkward family Thanksgiving (I’m fleeing to Canada).  But I promised at the start that this would not be a political blog.  And it won’t.  Instead, this post is to address the question I get asked most this time of year:  How do I know which judges to vote for?

Different states handle electing or appointing judges differently.  The Federal judiciary is appointed and confirmed (another topic I will not be touching on . . . ).  In some states, judges are appointed by the governor and then confirmed through an election without an opponent.  Some judges run without party affiliation.  In Texas, judges are appointed by the governor for the remainder of a term, and then they run in a partisan election.  This can cause . . . problems.  Especially in years where a party (or both) is (are) particularly fired up.  So before we all run out to vote straight ticket, I thought I’d take one last try to make a plea for moderation.

First, I think it’s important to understand what a judge does, especially a trial court judge.  Trial court judges don’t write judicial opinions, which means their decisions don’t have precedential value.  Meaning, in plain English, other judges (even the same judge), doesn’t have to use the same reasoning on every case.  They aren’t making law that will be binding on anyone, unlike say . . . the Supreme Court of the United States.  Instead, trial court judges make sure that trials are fair.  They make sure the lawyers follow the evidentiary and procedural rules (yes, it is as sexy as it sounds).  In my humble opinion, granted I’ve only been involved in half a dozen trials, the most important trait in a trial court judge is experience.  Democrats and Republicans aren’t going to preside over cases all that differently; it’s about experience.

Now, the trial court is all about trying to figure out what happened and how those facts match up with the law.  If one of the parties feels like they weren’t given a fair opportunity to present their case, or they believe the trial court judge messed up in applying the law, that party can appeal.  This next court level, typically referred to as the courts of appeals or appellate courts, look at the trial (or other rulings by the trial court), and decide whether the trial court misapplied the law or the rules.  This can sometimes require interpretation of the law, which can get political.  Judges from the right tend to stick to the actual words written by the state congress and apply it without expansion, whereas judges on the left tend to look at the spirit of what they think the state congress meant and apply the law with that in mind.  These ideologies aren’t hard and fast like they are for legislators, but there is some truth in the assumption.  And then, if one party feels like the appellate court has made a mistake, the matter gets appealed to what is typically called the state’s supreme court.  The state supreme court then gives the definitive interpretation of a law until the state’s congress amends it.

So now we understand the purpose of all of these judges (and how party sometimes is more about money for your campaign than actual beliefs), let’s talk about making your decision.  Judges will have bios like any other candidate.  They aren’t allowed to say in advance how they’ll rule on an issue, but you can find out their level of experience.  You can also find recommendations through your local bar association.  I know, I know [insert joke here].  But we do appear in front of these judges and deal with their rulings daily, and we practice with or against their opponents.  We know these people and their level of ethics and competence.  For the most part, lawyers would rather a good judge than an easy win on a case.  And lawyers also fill out surveys on the judges yearly.  You can Google your city name and “bar association” and probably find the results of those surveys.  Also, some groups of attorneys do issue lists of endorsements of judicial candidates.  For instance, the Harris County Association of Women Attorneys interviews all of the judicial candidates and publishes their recommendations.

So today, as you’re standing in line at the polls, consider Googling the recommendation of your local bar association.  Our justice system, especially at the trial court level, should be more about competence than political rhetoric.  Please.

Pairings

If you’re in Harris County, there are two great references I always recommend:

  • Houston Association of Women Attorneys:  Their recommendations are available here (https://awahouston.org/materials-temp-name/current-judicial-endorsements/).  I know people that have been on the committee.  They interview every candidate they can and make well-reasoned recommendations.
  • Houston Bar Association Judicial Poll:  The Houston Bar Association polls the attorneys that appear before the current judges, which gives y’all a chance to see our feelings on sitting judges.  The poll also includes opinions of their opponents, who are people in our field that we have interactions with as well.  It’s here:  https://www.hba.org/judicial-poll-results/.

 

#FineArtsFriday: Station Theater

The Bouquet

Station Theater is an off-beat refuge for positivity and hilarity — don’t let the bars on the door scare you.  

The Palette

#FineArtsFriday comes early this month, because of TRILL COMEDY FESTIVAL!

Three years ago this December, I found myself in front of a small theater in the First Ward.  The building was covered in bright murals, there were thick bars on the doors, and a short and squat Santa Clause was smoking a cigarette out front.  I had no idea that I had just found my tribe.

Station Theater is an improv theater just north of downtown Houston.  They have shows Thursday, Friday, Saturday, and (most) Sundays. Typically the shows are long-form improv (think unscripted SNL sketches), but occasionally there are also sketches or short-form improv (think Who’s Line is it Anyway).  Tickets are cheap. Talent is rich. BYOB.

But there are also classes.

You can show up on Friday night for a free intro to improv class where they teach you the basics and, if you’re brave, you can join in the opener of the early show that night.  That’s how I started. My co-worker and B-Law (that’s Bestie in Law . . . because we’re lawyers) dragged me to a Level Zero class. And it was everything I missed about the stage.  I’d been fairly certain that once I started working for a law firm, I’d never be able to perform again. I’m so grateful to have been wrong. B-Law and I took the Level Zero class most Fridays for a couple of months.  

And then I met Wanda.

As I say, there are classes.  One February evening at 8:00 p.m., I piled into a room of approximately 18 strangers.  B-Law had started classes a few weeks before, so I was on my own. We were spread out throughout the room.  No one really mingling. Some people drinking. It was . . . awkward. Jessica Brown, one of the owners of Station (and resident improv kindergarten teacher), taught our level one class.  And a funny thing happened: we learned to play together.

Improv is a different type of art form.  It’s vulnerable. You’re operating off of your first instincts and hoping that the people around you join with you (instead of staring blankly with those judgy eyes, you know the type).  But somehow from week to week, we learned to break down those walls and trust each other. To play like an eight year old on the playground again. I remember vividly on week three or four, the exercise was to act as though you were cooking something.  I think we were working on object work (essentially mime without the face paint and general ookiness). That was the exercise. Standing there, pretending like you’re cooking. But slowly, one-by-one, we started cooking together. Different people brought their dishes over to one another, explaining what they’d made.  And then we’d created a whole scene at a house party with different characters. It was this magical bonding experience where we all just agreed (without words) to be all in. The class name was Wanda the Pumpkin Baroness (Wanda if you’re nasty).

Wanda is still one of the most important relationships in my life, especially now that B-Law has joined our ranks.  Wanda kept me on my feet when life started throwing punches. A contingent of Wanda went to England to watch one of our members get married.  We play on stage, at the bar, waiting for a bus, hiking through the woods. And there’s a mystical quality to it. A spirit of yes. No matter the adventure, no matter the struggle, no matter the matter, Wanda remains.

But I digress.

So why have I told you this sentimental tale of my quirky improv family?  Because this weekend is the Trill Comedy Festival. It’s a great opportunity to head out to Station Theater and experience a community of people that have learned to say yes, and lean into joy and laughter.  The comedy is great. There are troupes from around the United States, and some of my favorite hometown troupes. There will be food trucks and beer and lots of laughter. And, if you’re brave, workshops (so you too can do the improv).  Shows started last night, but they run through Sunday. Check out the Facebook page for Trill Comedy Festival or Station’s website (https://www.stationtheater.com/) for more information, or purchase tickets on eventbrite (https://www.eventbrite.com/e/6th-annual-trill-comedy-festival-tickets-50339259079?aff=eac2).

Say yes!

Pairings

  • Other shows:  If you can’t make Trill, check out Station Theater’s other improv shows.  Friday night at 8pm Station’s most famed house troupe — Supernova — interviews a wide array of guests from political figures to authors to actors and creates scenes around them.  Tickets are $10 at the door or $8 online. The late shows, 9:30, are pay what you want. You bring the booze, they’ll bring the laughs.
  • Podcasts:  One of Station’s best improv troupes (in my humble opinion), called Can’t Tell Us Nothing, has a great podcast where they hilariously shoot at the breeze.  Improv4Humans is another podcast with some great content.
  • Books:  The Upright Citizens Brigade has an Improv Manual that is amazingly useful.

#FineArtsFriday: Miller Outdoor Theater

Bouquet

Relaxed outdoor locale perfect for picnics and the arts.

The Palette

Nestled in the midst of the sprawling gardens and swanky golf course of Hermann Park is the imposing monolith of Miller Outdoor Theater.  During the year, Miller is home to a multitude of FREE entertainment, including my favorite Houston arts event: Shakespeare in the Park.

Miller is comprised of a towering amphitheater with stadium seating.  The seats beneath the amphitheater roof are paid seating and great for all those summer showers.  The majority of people, however, sit on the spacious hill overlooking the stage. It’s a great place to spread out a blanket and make a picnic, or play with the kids, or expose your dog to some culture.  Personally, I have great memories of rolling down the back side of the hill with my normally very stuffy grandmother. If you want to lay out your spread on a blanket, sit to the right of the stage. If you’re too good for the ground, chairs go to the left.  And don’t forget the wine.

My favorite Miller event, however, will always be Shakespeare in the Park.  For two weeks every year the University of Houston Theater Department brings to life two of Shakespeare’s plays.  They alternate night to night between the tragedy and the comedy (much like real life, let’s be honest). This past year was a wonderful rendition of Hamlet where the titular character was played by a woman to emphasize Hamlet’s youth and indecision, and Comedy of Errors.  If you missed it, fear not, it will be back around next August.

Pairings

  • Other events:  Check out Miller’s website to see all the upcoming events:  http://www.milleroutdoortheatre.com/events/month/.
  • Restaurant:  If you need a pre-show meal, I highly recommend Lucille’s (5512 La Branch St, Houston, TX 77004).  Lucille herself is also an amazing character (http://www.lucilleshouston.com/herstory.html) who invented the puff pastry used in Pillsbury rolls.  If you’re curious, I highly recommend the Famous Chili Biscuits.  
  • Podcasts:  If you’re newer to Shakespeare, University of Oxford’s Approaching Shakespeare is a great podcast that explores one question for each play to delve deeper into the play and learn the basics of criticism.  Folger Shakespeare Library’s Shakespeare Unlimited is a great podcast that talks about all things Shakespeare, from the views of seasoned actors to an interview with a gentleman turning pop music into sonnets.  And Slate Magazine’s Lend Me Your Ears uses Shakespeare to discuss current political ideologies.

Woman Crush Wednesday: Myra Bradwell

Image result for myra bradwellThe Bouquet

Myra Bradwell:  The United States Supreme Court told her it was rational to bar her from being an attorney because of the presumed female frailty, so instead she made laws, changed laws, and became the voice of the profession that spurned her.  So much for fainting on the courthouse steps.

The Pallette

Myra Bradwell is a name that few people have heard, unless those people have been to law school (granted, do lawyers really count as people anyway?).  For us few soulless corporate monsters or idealistic pauper do-gooders that suffered through a semester of constitutional law, Myra Bradwell is the woman who was denied the right to practice law in Illinois, because “[t]he natural and proper timidity and delicacy which belongs to the female sex evidently unfits it for many of the occupations of civil life.”  That’s an actual quote from the concurring opinion of the Supreme Court of the United States ladies and gents.  Just FYI.  

That name and that quote often follow me into the office or the courtroom or wherever I’m called upon to be a zealous but dispassioned advocate for whomever is paying my bills.  She was denied a right that I now have by the United States Supreme Court, which agreed with the Illinois Supreme Court, in 1873. And that is why I know the name Myra Bradwell. That is why I decided to write this blogpost about Myra Bradwell.  But that should not be the legacy of Myra Colby Bradwell.

Myra Bradwell was born February 12, 1831 in Manchester, Vermont.  She married James B. Bradwell, and in 1855 he became a lawyer.  She worked in his law offices.  And, like so many to come before and after her, she thought “hmm, I could do that.”  So she sat for and passed the Illinois Bar Exam (trust me, it’s so much more than a test), and applied to be admitted to the Illinois Bar.  They said no. So she sued and took it all the way to the Illinois Supreme Court. They said no. And so she appealed that to the United State Supreme Court.  And you guessed it, they said no (actually they said Illinois had the right to make its own laws and women weren’t guaranteed the right to be an attorney by the 14th Amendment — legal semantics most of you won’t care about).  I’m sure the court case was salacious. I’m sure an entire country was up in arms as pro or against. But did Ms. Bradwell sit on her tuffet and wait to see if she’d be granted the right to perform a job she was perfectly qualified for?  No.

In 1868, Myra Bradwell founded the Chicago Legal News.  It was the first legal newspaper edited by a woman. It soon became the most important legal publication in the American west.  She continued its publication even after the offices were destroyed in the Great Chicago Fire of 1871. The publication was so important that legislation was passed allowing courts to take judicial notice of it (which in non-legalese means essentially that courts could take it as evidence without requiring proof that it was accurate).  So a legal journal edited by a person denied the right to practice law changed the landscape of the profession that spurned her. So much for fainting on the courthouse steps.

But that’s not all.  Myra Bradwell helped organize Chicago’s first suffragette convention in 1869, and helped found the American Suffrage Association (her husband helped).  She helped draft and pass a bill giving married women the right to retain their wages. She even represented Illinois at the Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia (which was the first World’s Fair), and helped Illinois win.

And, in a truly strange turn of historical events, Myra Bradwell assisted Mary Todd Lincoln (yes, that Mrs. Lincoln) in freeing herself from a mental institution after her son had her committed without due process following the assassination of this nation’s 16th president.  

Eventually in 1890 Myra Bradwell was admitted to the Illinois bar on their own motion (i.e. she didn’t reapply, Illinois decided she should be admitted), and was given the right to practice before the U.S. Supreme Court months before her death on Valentine’s Day 1894.  But she didn’t wait around for the door to open to follow her passion. She snuck in windows and down chimneys, effectuating change all around her and impacting the legal profession more than most admitted attorneys.

So now, when I’m sitting in a courtroom full of attorneys, all of whom are white males (honestly, still not that uncommon of an occurrence), I’m not thinking about the court case Ms. Bradwell lost.  I’m thinking about what she did with the rights she had.

Pairings

Photocredit:  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Myra_Bradwell

#MotivationMonday – The Blog that Saved Me

BSYFor this first #MotivationMonday, we’re going to talk about the blog that saved me:  Big Strong Yes.

The Bouquet

Big Strong Yes is a brave and life-changing podcast where an academic with a poetic soul, and a brilliant and empathetic narrative theorist who have both risen from hardship work their way through three challenging books to learn in real-time how to fall, how to rise, and how to fly.

The Palette

A little over a year ago, as hurricane Harvey was forming in the Gulf of Mexico, I found a podcast that literally changed my life.  I’m not one to get too personal on the internets (I may have to face a Senate Confirmation Hearing someday), but suffice to say, this podcast gave me the tools to realize I was in the burning house, the strength to get up off my butt, and the courage to walk out the front door.  

It all started with me listening to a podcast by two literary agents that I followed on Twitter.  They recommended a podcast by two narrative theorists who were analyzing Buffy the Vampire Slayer — be still my heart.  I hopped on over and fell down the rabbit hole . . . until one day the podcast stopped. There was a note from the inimitable Lani Diane Rich (learn more about her podcasting empire in the “Pairings” section below) leading the way to her new media company.  At first I tuned in out of curiosity to hear more from a woman who had taught me more about literature and criticism and art than any of my classes in school. But what I found was what I needed to hear.

Big Strong Yes is hosted by Lani Diane Rich, a self-proclaimed preacher of story (and y’all, she has earned that title), and Dr. Kelly Jones, a professor with a doctorate in learning theory who will make you define your terms and do your homework.  Together, they led a bookclub of sorts where they read “Rising Strong” by Brene Brown, “Big Magic” by Elizabeth Gilbert, and “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes.  Their goal — embrace “courage, creativity, and the call to adventure.”

The books are of course brilliant and inspiring.  Brene Brown is a professor of social work at the University of Houston (Let’s here it for the Hometown!), and her book talks about what it’s like to take a fall (figuratively speaking) and learning to rise again.  Elizabeth Gilbert is the author of “Eat, Pray, Love” and her book is about finding your creative magic and leaning in to the trickster magic of the universe. And Shonda Rhimes is the creator of shows like “Grey’s Anatomy,” “Scandal,” and “How to Get Away with Murder” (as if you didn’t already know), and her book is a memoir of her learning to stop hiding from her life and say yes.  I commend these books (and they’ll probably be subjects of future #MotiviationMonday Posts), but there is a reason I’m starting with the podcast. Listening as two incredibly intelligent, capable, funny, beautiful women work their way through some of the most challenging material will change your life.

Each week there’s a reading assignment from one of the books, and adiscussion focusing on three things → the Big Idea, the Strong Challenge, and the Yes.  Lani and Dr. Jones discuss the portions of the reading assignment that resonate with them, the portions that they resist and didn’t want to face (and thus needed to face), and a homework assignment inspired by the reading (sometimes self assigned, sometimes assigned by their partner-in-podcasting — honestly those were the best).  

The first book was Rising Strong.  They worked through the shame-triggers and the skill set necessary to learn to rise.  They wrote shitty first drafts and said the things we’re all afraid to admit we feel.  It was a slog. They cried. I cried. My dog whined. Hell, I wined. But we all grew together.  

The second book was Big Magic, and y’all, it was candy.  It re-awoke my belief in the trickster magic of the universe and blasted its way through the hard coating of my pain right to my melodramatic, passionate, emotional center.  I felt again. I remembered what it was like to feel something other than fear and shame. I felt alive.

The third book was Year of Yes, where we all had to put our money where our mouth was.  In Year of Yes, Shonda Rhimes talks about her struggle to stop numbing and start living.  To say yes to the things that scare her. To get out of the comfortable, workaholic, food-numbing bliss that is the fear cocoon.  Our fearless podcasters busted out of that cocoon right with her. They shared their real life stories of trauma and began the unfuckening (this blog will be PG13)– the perfect word created by Lani Diane Rich to describe the process of not necessarily forgiving, but also not letting someone who had hurt you control your emotions any more.  

All in all, it was the journey I needed when I felt like I’d come to the end of my rope.  And wherever you are in your journey, it’s the podcast for you.  Do you feel like you’ve hit rock bottom and you don’t know where go to?  Start at episode one.  Do you feel like you’ve lost touch with your creativity and it’s a dried up raisin of your soul?  Start at episode twelve:  Big Sloppy Wet Kiss.  Are you stuck feeling like life is . . . just meh?  Start at episode 22:  The Naughty Bits.

So here’s the thing, the podcast was all about bravery.  They shared their stories so we felt less alone in ours. They showed us how to work through the tough times, so we at least knew it was possible.  In that spirit, I suppose I should share (a little) too.

In August of 2017, when I first ran across Big Strong Yes, I was working in a toxic environment.  It wasn’t actionable under Title IX and no one physically beat me, but it was snuffing out the essence of who I was a little day-by-day.  When it first started, I thought I was crazy or overly-sensitive. But then the coincidences got less and less believable. And I talked to others who’d left the same position and realized it wasn’t just me.  Y’all, if you’re one of those people who don’t know the word cry and suddenly start crying daily at your job, you should probably change jobs. I had a great friend at that job who kept me sane . . . and honestly probably kept me alive.  But I felt myself become less and less me. I closed in. I became afraid of people — I’m an extrovert! it was terrible. I’d been doing improv for a year and a half, but suddenly I found myself frozen on stage. I lost hair. I gained weight.  And all the while, I blamed myself. My own weakness. My own frailty. Until something happened that I couldn’t take the blame for, couldn’t ignore. That even the people that laughed off my horror stories and treated me like a child that didn’t know her own mind couldn’t ignore.  And I would’ve fallen, hard. But because of the process I went through with #BSY, I had the skills to stand back up, find a better path, and leave.

So here’s your call to “embrace courage, creativity, and the call to adventure.”  If you’re stuck in the numbing cocoon you’ve built to protect you from the pain you can’t face and you need someone to show you how to walk through, this is the podcast for you.  If you aren’t quite as melodramatic, but you’re still looking for coping skills or skills to find that creative spirit that never seems to sit down with you when you’re ready to create, this is also the podcast for you.  

 

Pairings

The books!  Rising Strong, Year of Yes, and Big Magic, are all masterpieces.  I highly recommend them.

Chipperish Media → This is the media company created by Lani Diane Rich and it has something to offer for nearly everyone.  Still Dead and Still Pretty are podcasts analyzing Angel and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, respectively, through the lensof narrative and character theory.  Bonus! Dr. Jones is the co-host of Still Dead.  How Story Works is a college-level class on narrative theory and advanced literary criticism in podcast form.  But beware, I’ve lost so many nights re-writing works-in-progress based on the knowledge I’ve gained (it’s a real pain). And then there’s Listen Up A-holes where LDR and superhero scholar Joshua Uhnrue analyze the Marvel Universe.  Joshua is a comicbook aficionado who makes Marvel’s world-building accessible for us fan-girls who really just showed up for Tom Hiddleston.  There are other podcasts too!

 

BEWARE THE BLOG

The world is dark y’all.  And it’s scary. But it’s also bright and brilliant!  I’ve spent the past few months finding passion again in my life and I want to share it with you.  So here’s the plan:

Each week I’ll have a blogpost about something exciting or inspiring.  

The first Monday of the month is #MotivationMonday, where I’ll write about something I’ve found inspiring or motivating — a podcast, a book, a painting, a person.  You name it, let’s get going!

The second Wednesday of the month is #WomanCrushWednesday.  A little over a year ago a friend of mine (Melissa Lehnhardt, author of amazing Feminist Westerns– check out her stuff, seriously) shared a post on Twitter about the absolute dearth of female historical figures being mentioned in social studies class.  What? Did women not exist in old–times? No, they just weren’t recognized. It’s time to celebrate the women who rocked the olden-days, corsets and all!

The third Friday of the month is #FineArtsFriday.  Houston is the most international city in the United States.  It’s one of only 4 U.S. cities with a standing theater company.  It has a world class opera and ballet. And yet, no one knows about it!  This post is dedicated to all the amazing artsy-fartsy bullshit in Clutch City.  

Finally the fourth Sunday of the month is #SundayStories.  I plan to share a short story of my own or a review of another piece of literature that lights up my personal muse.  

So here we go.  This month: a podcast that saved my life, a woman who inspires me to step into the courtroom even when I’m scared shitless, the one Houston event I look forward to all year long, and a short story of my first (and probably only) true love.  

If you want to be in the know from post to post, click on that wonderful Follow button, and I’ll keep you entertained.

So come on kids, let’s fly.  

A Pragmatist Takes Flight

Greetings and salutations internet!

I’ve been hatching the plan for this blog for a few years now, but honestly the whole idea has seemed pretty scary y’all.  I mean, what if it comes up in a Senate confirmation hearing someday?  But I spend my day job steeped in worst-case scenarios and painful pragmatism, and I’m ready to have some fun.

So, if you want in on the secret magic of Houston, or to learn fun tidbits about ladies from history, or to get a little inspiration on a Monday morning, or to hear a short story on a lazy Sunday afternoon, come on back y’all.  I’ve got something to say.