Resistance Reading List 1

 

My reading list since the election:

Ta-Nehisi Coates - Between The World and Me (MacArthur Genius Grant Winner) Lauren Gunderson - Silent Sky (play, made me cry) Lauren Gunderson - Emilie: La Marquise du Chatelet Defends Her Life Tonight (genius, play) Jessica Dickey - The Amish Project (play, made me cry) Jessica Dickey - Charles Ives Take Me Home (play) Lynn Nottage - Ruined (play, wow) Maria Semple - Today Will Be Different (funny) Suzan-Lori Parks - Topdog/Underdog (KY-woman, play) Joan Didion - The Year of Magical Thinking (play) Jen Kirkman - I Can Barely Take Care of Myself (funny)

This is why:

2016 has been an overachiever of a sh*%^& year (there aren't enough 4 letter words). Repeatedly, whether talking about personal stuff or politics I said it couldn't get worse, and then 2016 would go above and beyond and find new/creative/unpredictable ways to be an absolute cluster.

That being said... I am not letting this happen again in 2017. And I'm going to work hard to make sure next year is a better year for other people as well.

I'm paying more attention to the voices of women, minorities, LGBTQ, refugees, etc. With that in mind for the last month and a half of this bullsh*& I've been reading like my life depended on it. Maybe it does.

I would recommend any of the works above.

Please suggest more books.

Play "Appropriate" Picked 4 'We're Not Playing' Festival

My newest short play "Appropriate" being done as part of the #WereNotPlaying Initiative by Little Black Dress INK!

I couldn't be more proud than to be included in the event.

For those of you actively looking for something to do on January 20th, here's your chance to join civil rights hero John Lewis and #Boycott the #Inauguration while promoting art.

My play "Appropriate" will be performed in Galesburg, IL (friends in Chicago you have alternative programing if you want it).

Plays will be read free of charge. Donations will go to the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, and the NRDC to promote their vital work as they protect our rights. I told you they would defund Planned Parenthood over my dead body and this is part of the plan.

Los Angeles, CA: https://www.facebook.com/events/896844497118081/ Galesburg, IL: https://www.facebook.com/events/1173589386091488/ Prescott, AZ: http://mickishelton.com/…/…/01/were-not-playing-brochure.pdf Sedona, AZ: https://www.facebook.com/events/144417726057578/

They are adding venues daily so I will update as I get information.

Read More Here: http://www.littleblackdressink.org/were-not-playing-a-new-play-by-raegan-payne/

 

Volunteer Journal #103 - Sponsor A Girls Education

One of the coolest things I've done this year is sponsor a student through Razia's Ray of Hope.

RRH set up a girl's primary through high school in rural Afghanistan and now a college, which trains midwives. This is incredibly important since there were virtually no health professionals in the area before the school opened.

This week I got a little hand written note from the girl I'm sponsoring. Notice the penmanship and excellent drawings!

To sponsor a girl just go here:

https://raziasrayofhope.org/sponsor-a-girl.html

It will possibly be the most fun you will have this year. #educategirls #spreadtheword

Live More Own Less

Just writing I have set myself a new challenge this year - Live More, Own Less.

Simply, by the end of this year I want, at least, 1/3 fewer physical possessions than I have right now.

Why?

I want more freedom and mobility.  I want to be able to pick up and move at a moments notice.   I want to focus more on accomplishments and less on possessions.

Sometimes, (particularly if I’m looking through tabloids in the grocery checkout line) I think I may be one of the only people in the world who thinks walk-in closets, McMansions, and multi-car garages are grossly excessive. Bigger does not mean better.

Benefit of cleaning out stuff - finding a pic like this.

In the name of environmental activism and rational thought, I have declared a war on stuff. I am kicking materialism squarely in the nutz. I would rather be out in the world, experiencing it than trying to own it.

To meet my stripped down life goal I am giving away, or recycling one box of former belongings every week.  So far I’ve given away an estimated ¼ of my possessions - well ahead of target!  Goodwill has received most of the items because they also recycle textiles if they can't use them.

And here’s the really cool side effect– it feels great!

The more I’ve given away.  The better I’ve felt.  More liberated.  It’s become almost addictive. My tiny apartment looks better too.

That beautiful dress has a new home

I’m also consuming less because a) I loath shopping b) I’m thinking about every single item I bring into my apartment. I only buy what I absolutely need and concentrate on quality. If it won’t last forever, then I don’t want it.

If you’d like to try the same experience I recommend starting with formal attire.  Purge your life of formality. All of mine is gone! I don’t care how sentimental  it seemed – I have pictures.

I found a group called Working Wardrobes, which provides clothing for people seeking jobs, but also helps girls in need find dresses for formal occasions like prom and homecoming.  Working Wardrobes got all my dresses. Including the one and only pageant dress I ever owned. Some of the dresses were great, some I would rather forget (pageant dress), but now all will find new homes.

What have I done with my extra freedom?

IMG_0655

I have some incredible plans before the end of the year, but for right now I’ve: written a full length play, gone to museums to see the Endeavor Spacecraft and an exhibit of original photography from Queen Victoria’s reign, found Monarch butterflies and snakes in my neighborhood, seen the desert bloom after the rain, played with new baby niece while teaching other niece archery, etc.. All fun.

Can you name the museum?

Next Live More Own Less Project:

I have to find a new home for my old mountain bike, perhaps with a kids non-profit, but it needs to be refurbished.

 

Volunteer Journal #100 - The Art of Elysium

The Art of Elysium True story:

There is a boy at a Los Angeles area hospital, we'll call him Robin, who is undergoing treatment for a critical and chronic health condition.  Maybe his parents have to work, or maybe he has other siblings… whatever the reason he spends many days alone in the hospital, having treatments done that would terrify full-sized adults.

Kids like Robin inspired the founding The Art of Elysium, which entertains hospitalized children, keeping their minds off the pain and loneliness.

Last week I performed with them for my 100th project at Children's Hospital Los Angeles.

When I showed up at the hospital I was greeted by some of Elysium's volunteer actors: Victoria Secret look alikes, and one guy we shall refer to as the smartest man in LA.

We had a few minutes to look over some simple holiday children's plays, including a very sweet one allegedly written by Harry Connick Jr.  We picked costume pieces out of a suitcase, constructed a curtain out of a sheet, and then show time.

Time to Say Goodbye?

Standing behind the sheet I took a moment to process the surrounding treatment ward: little beds, some of them cribs, little wheelchairs, a nurses' station, tiny legs in casts on the other side of the "curtain."  There are few things more jarring than to see a toddler with several broken limbs or hooked up to multiple IVs.

I refocused on the play.  We were instructed to race around the audience acting like we didn't know where we started.

On cue we raced about, hiding in the audience. "Do I start here?" We asked each child. "What if I start here?" I said crouching into a ball next to the children.

I've had a really good time doing TheGoodMuse!

I sat down next to a little girl, no bigger than a cabbage patch doll.  She looked non-responsive, too tired or weak to lift her head.  I doubted she could enjoy the show, but I put out my hand on her stroller as I asked my question. That's when she firmly grabbed my hand.

She held on tight. I had asked, "Do I start here?" She looked at me, and it was this wonderful, perfect, clear moment that few people will ever get in their lives. Yes, it's time to start.

My eyes watered as I went backstage, but before each entrance I collected myself. The children giggled and smiled throughout the performance.

After the show we stayed to talk with the families, some would be staying at the hospital through the holidays.

The little girl who had grabbed my hand sat still.  I went over and thanked her for letting me perform for her. She didn't reach out and grab my hand again. Perhaps too tired this time.

Why would I end TheGoodMuse with something sad? Well:

1) This is far from the end.

2) How lucky am I that I have gotten to run around Los Angeles, and the world helping people, entertaining kids like these, playing with animals, and cleaning up neighborhoods.  

I'm lucky because I’m healthy enough and have enough resources to do this work.  The greatest blessing is the ability to give back.  I've gotten much more in return.

It’s been a breathtaking experience.

I think I may be, in the end, the luckiest girl in the world.

Looking Down in Tree small

Volunteer Journal #99 - Reading to Kids

Can't take pics of minors so me laughing - sorries. I worked with Reading to Kids last Saturday, a group trying get underserved children to love reading. I love reading so much it's got to be contagious. Sold.

I checked into Magnolia Elementary, one of the more inhospitable buildings I've been in in a while, and was handed a rather ambitious 3rd grade book. It told the story of a girl who starts a lemonade stand to help her friend buy a new wheelchair, and the ripple effect of goodness that follows.

After the reading we were suppose to discuss ripple effect with the kids, and then do a related art project.

I asked the little ones, "Does anyone know what a ripple effect is?"

"I would like to help animals"

Shy 3rd graders stared blankly back. One picked their nose.

Okay. Rephrase. "Who do you want to help?"

More staring.

"Like me," I offered, "I would like to help animals."

Little faces broke into smiles and they chimed in.

"I would like to help my dog."

"I would like to help my mom cook dinner."

We made Lemonade Stands

They all answered. No matter how small or grand the idea, they all wanted to help.

To celebrate their new chattiness we made lemonade stands out of construction paper, and wrote who we were raising money for on the signs.

The story reminded me of the Brownie Story I was told as when I was a tiny Brownie Scout.  It was about a helpful little magical creature named a brownie who did not, unfortunately, bring chocolate everywhere.

It's interesting the seeds of magic a story can plant in a child.

So the question of the day is, "Who would you like to help?"

Now realize that you can always help someone.

Happy Holidays!

Volunteer Journal #98 - LA Regional Food Bank

The trusty work boots at sunset. To my knowledge I have not been stuck in a freezer the size of a tennis court yet, so this was a first.

I was in the gleaning room of the Los Angeles Regional Foodbank, going through thousands of pounds of salvaged food from restaurants, grocery stores, and manufacturers.

Celebrating 40 years of service, the LA Foodbank has redistributed over 1 billion pounds of food to the needy. 1 in 6 people in Los Angeles are at risk for hunger.  Many of them have worked their whole lives, but are members of the working poor - those who must decide between rent and  food, or medicine vs. lunch and dinner.

Physically, the building is imposing, looking like a Costco with pallets of food stacked from floor to ceiling. And the gleaning room - is freezing. My infamous knee high work boots (see pic) and nano puff jacket were almost not enough. I needed a hat and gloves.

My group of volunteers was tasked with sorting everything, and throwing away any donated items without a clear expiration date and ingredient deck.

LA Regional Food Bank

Most of the mountain of food was salvageable, however I was not sad when I had to make the call to trash several hundred pounds of an unmarked butter substitute/margarine.  To be fair the margarine company probably didn't want to print the ingredient deck because it's nasty.

What was fun? Climbing on top of a mountain of food to pass packages down.  Hey, heat rises. I'm nothing if not practical, and a monkey-like climber.

It's tragic that we still need such a large facility because so many people live in poverty. However, I am eternally grateful that the LA Regional Food Bank exists, and that over 200 volunteers showed up, today and many days, to get food ready so many people in LA, including 400,000 children, don't have to go to bed hungry.

Featured In Ladies Home Journal Dec. 13/Jan. 14

Stare with purpose - Ha!I'm honored to be one of Ladies Home Journal's 16 Women Who Made the World Happier this year. Who doesn't like to make people happy?

Many thanks to the staff of Ladies Home Journal, who interviewed me several months ago, and sent fantastic photographer Ben Miller to take some pics.

I have attached some outtakes, which both parties generously let me have.  I'll probably be using them on more than a few posts in the near future.

 

 

One of the best smaller

 

 

I need help down, please?

Volunteer Journal #97 - Angel's Flight

Princess is standing in for the kids.  Or more like sleeping in... On Wednesday night, after a long day at work, I found myself staring over a hand of Uno cards at a runaway teen.

I had come to Angel’s Flight near downtown LA to spend the night playing games. I ended up in one of the most intense, war-like games of Uno ever.  To be fair my opponents were tough and sophisticated. True survivors.

Angel’s Flight is a shelter for homeless and runaway kids between thee ages of 10-18.  Many of the children are fleeing abusive families. The kids are given food, clothes, and shelter, appointed case workers and therapists to help them cope with what they’ve been through.

The Uno game went on for 2 hours, a time during which I forgot about my work. Which is priceless.

Trucker hat kid = me

I don’t feel comfortable taking pictures of minors, especially teens forced to escape unimaginable circumstances.  A can briefly tell you about them because they were exceptional and interesting:

A 16-year-old former vegan, wanna be guitarist, who was thrilled that I taught him how to “count cards” in Uno. He was very proud to be starting college level classes soon.

The 11-year-old who had arrived at the shelter the day before.   He was tiny for his age and scrappy. His clothes were 3 sizes too big.

Playing games.

A girl in her final year of high school who couldn’t bother to play games because she had to finish her homework on the center’s tattered couch.

The 13-year-old who hid the fact that he started crying when, in the heat of Uno battle, another kid called him stupid (a crime that was reprimanded).

The only picture I took at this event are the Uno cards. I think you can understand.

Volunteer Journal #96 – An Extraordinary Senior

How many men? "All women should be married 2.5 times. The .5 is the most fun. If you know what I mean" - Sara, 93, Cheviot Hills, Los Angeles

Saturday morning I went to hang at a Cheviot Hills retirement center.  I was helping set up various games & activities when in rolled a 93-year-old-ball-of-female-awesomeness the size of a 50 lb. bag of sugar.  After she expressed her disdain for BINGO we agreed I would do her nails.

She picked a shell pink polish mentioning that "they" had just recently brought her here without letting her put on makeup or do her hair and nails. I am from the south - taking a woman above the age of 50 from her home without allowing her time to do hair and makeup is egregious. I had to ask questions.

LA 1929

The story that unfolded during Sara's impromptu manicure was extraordinary:

She was born in 1920, and moved to Los Angeles with her parents at the age of 9.  They took a train across the country from Washington D.C. and when they arrived in Los Angeles it was so tiny “it was a village” (see photo).

Sara's family lived in the Hollywood area and did their grocery shopping on Hollywood Blvd. They didn’t need a car because they rode the street cars everywhere.  I've only heard about these cars or seen ghostly remains.  The electric cars ran down the center of massive roads like Venice and Wilshire with passengers disembarking in the middle of the road.

Her family went to Santa Monica Beach on the weekends.  She says it was beautiful with no trash mucking up the view.

Rosie the Riveter

During World War II she went to work for Lockheed.  She was a riveter.  Yes, like Rosie.   She drove a Cadillac to work every day.  Meanwhile, her brother served in Europe, his last stop was Berlin before being shipped safely back home.

She was twice married but her husband had passed. She said that her second husband had been a good man.  The first one was not so much.  She told me that “All women should be married 2.5 times. The .5 is the most fun! Do you know what I mean?" Yes ma'am.

I finished her nails. She now had long beautiful elegant fingers with shimmery tips.

She asked me what I did.  I told her I was a writer and when she asked what I was working on now I told her about my new full length play.

She's hilarious!

Before I left she leaned over and gave me a kiss on the cheek.  Her eyes lit up and she said softly, “You must promise me you will keep doing what you are doing.  If you do you will be very successful.  And you will say,  'See Sara was right.'"  Then eyes twinkling she wheeled herself out of the rec room.

She had told me that she was the last of her family, so who brought her to the nursing home without her makeup?  The mystery is unsolved.  I'm simply going to have to go back.

Volunteer Journal #95 - Alexandria House

At war with the fridge Sometimes, when you walk into a volunteer project, whether it be a polluted creek, flooded house, or barren piece of land, you think:

“I can’t fix this. I can't. It's too much."

"It's not my responsibility."

"My apartment is a disaster, I should be cleaning that."

"I have work this afternoon, tons of it."

"I can't do anything to make this better."

Then you must get calm and Zen, because this is where you physically are, and if you're not going to try  to make it better in that moment who will?

Ick Smoking Nun Apartment!

I had to get Zen the Sunday morning I worked with Alexandria House, because the apartment I was helping restore was... for lack of a better word - gross.

Alexandria House is a much needed transitional home for single women and single women with children. To create more space they were renting some recently vacated apartments from the nearby Catholic church.

The apartment in question had belonged to a retired nun.  The nun had trashed the place, during... a dirty bender? Or many years of smoking and poverty.  I'm guessing the latter.

Alexandria House

And that is always my game changer… thinking how hard it would be for a single mother to ask for help. How much help you would need to get back on your feet, with children in tow. Tackling a grimy room seems small in comparison.

I focused on the kitchen. I'm comfortable in the kitchen, and being in one usually makes me happy. However, removing year old stains from the fridge was not happy (see pic at top).  I started to not like the smoking nun.  I liked her less when I was wiping soot from the walls.  Yoga breath. Peace. Go with God smoking nun.

At the end of the morning the home was in decent condition.  It would not be an sparkling oasis, but it would be a haven for a mom in her kids.

I heart Victorian Homes!

My reward for a mornings work - the requisite donut, and a tour of the Edwardian/Victorian headquarters of the Alexandria House, which was next to the apartment. Many families live in the headquarters.

I hearted the tour much. I LOVE VICTORIAN HOMES. Love the individual craftsmanship, the Dr. Suess like architectural details (like multiple staircases), and proper basements.

That’s one of the many fantastic things about the variety of volunteer projects I've done – sometimes I stumble across something I love and remember why again.

 

Volunteer Journal #94 – WriteGirl

WriteGirl There was a time when female writers were discriminated against and forced to change their names to George Eliot.

Unfortunately, that time is now.  Women are still the underdog in the writing world. For example, between 2010 and 2012 in Hollywood female writers made up only 9% of the scripts (written on spec) sold.

My parents chose the name Raegan so no one would know if I was a boy or a girl on a job application.  Out-of-date anxiety?  Nope, that choice has proven monumentally important time and again in my career. My personal experience is backed up by this Princeton study that found that female playwrights are more frequently rejected especially by... wait for it... female artistic directors!

So I’m going to support any group that encourages more young women to write.

More than just a 1960s Secretary

That's why I was thrilled to stumble across WriteGirl. WriteGirl empowers young women by matching them with female writers who mentor them in creative writing.

A large cafeteria had been commandeered for the WriteGirl workshop at which I volunteered. Among the areas each girl had to visit was a college counseling section, different brainstorming/writing prompt tables, and the greatest catering table I have ever seen at any volunteering event. I signed in, got a brief tour where I met many of the fellow mentors (all impressive credential female writers) and then was sent to one of the writing prompt tables to help.

At my table the girls, all in high school, were required to look at a map of the world with highlighted pictures and pick a location.  Even if they had never visited that country they were then to write everything about that area they could imagine. i.e. What's the temperature? What does it smell like? Who's there? What do you see? What do you hear?  How do you feel being there?

The Girls Plan Their Villas in Tuscany

The girls worked with very little prompting.  When they seemed stuck I just did what my teachers had done for me - I showered them with questions and encouragement reminding them, "There is no right answer.  You are the master of this little universe you are creating, so don't be self conscious.  Just write something down."

Again. Don't be self conscious.  There is no right answer.  You are the master of your universe. Just write something down.

100% of WriteGirl graduates go to college, but more than that it's important for girls to have female mentors who have played the game, written the words, and succeeded. WriteGirl infuses young women with confidence and teaches them that their opinion matters. So, for God's sake, Lean In Ladies!

And remember, as the women of WriteGirl say at the end of every meeting:

"Never underestimate the power of a girl and her pen."

 

Volunteer Journal #93 - Shoes For The Homeless

Shoes for the Homeless! This one was super easy!

Mission - Help get 1000 pairs of shoes to LA's homeless population.

Time commitment - 1 hour on Saturday.

Using my new LAWorks membership and their awesome events calendar (which I highly recommend every charity adopt) I found Shoes for the Homeless, Inc. in my area.  They needed volunteers to sort new or gently used shoes for the homeless on a Saturday.

Shoes for the Homeless was founded by Ira Goldbery, a Los Angeles podiatrist who has been in practice for 30 years. Ira works with the homeless regularly, and has seen many injuries caused by the lack of proper footwear.

My Shoes!

Ira is extremely organized. I got two emails confirming my involvement with the shoe sorting. When I showed up to sort shoes he gave me a quick 1 minute briefing.  That was it.  Then the 15 other volunteers, and I matched shoes, rubber banded matching pairs, and then sorted them by type.

In truth a bit of a ruckus did break out over whether certain types of ladies shoes were work appropriate or more suited to evening wear. I tried to stay out of it because I'm known to be inappropriate often.

It was over in a flash, and the shoes ready to be distributed to the estimated 58,000 homeless in LA via shelters like the Midnight Mission.

Side note - The number of homeless Veterans in LA surged by 23% last year.  I need to work with a homeless veterans group.  If anyone knows one please send suggestions through my Facebook page.