I’ll cry if I want to

Maybe we shouldn’t blame 2016 for all the celebrity deaths and general calamity that have occurred during the past 12 months. People die all the time, famous or not, and it has little to do with the calendar year or any superstitious nonsense. And maybe we should all spend a bit more time mourning the innocent lives lost in Aleppo and less time grieving over celebrities. Maybe.

But the heart does not always heed logic. So I’ll mourn those who have touched my life, even if their deaths were less than tragic. I think that is a rational, human response. And I’ll blame this shitty year for all the shitty things that happened during it. I don’t care much if that is a rational response or just a convenient one, I’m still doing it.

You never know which deaths are going to hurt the most. I’ve lost family members, friends, and acquaintances. Some personal losses hurt more than others, and it is the same with celebrity or public-figure deaths. I was sad when Alan Rickman died, and David Bowie, and George Michael. I am sad today, hearing of Carrie Fisher’s passing. I’m also sad to read on social media so many posts proclaiming the foolishness of feeling bad over celebrity deaths.

It made me think about “why.” Why am I sad about Carrie Fisher but not Zsa Zsa Gabor? I suppose for the same reason I’m sad about George Michael but not (as much) Leonard Cohen. It’s not about who was the more talented or important person, it’s much more personal. I enjoyed some Leonard Cohen songs, and Zsa Zsa always made me smile, but George Michael and Carrie Fisher influenced me personally. They were threads in the fabric of my life. Small pieces, sure, but they meant something to me.

I remember being a pre-teen, dancing to Wham! songs in my room on sleepovers. Those early songs, and the music that George Michael made in the 90’s, were the background music of my adolescence and young adulthood. Eventually, his sexuality became a big part of his impact on me. My friends and I were more than ready for an openly gay pop star, but his struggle to come out publicly proved the world did not share our enthusiasm. It was like a barometer of the world’s homophobia, the timing of that coming-out, and I learned a lot from it.

I’m a Star Wars fan, but when I saw Postcards from the Edge, that was when I fell in love with Carrie Fisher. I must have watched that a dozen times, (with my mother, who herself was a bit eccentric and often embarrassing) and it soothed me and made me laugh and brought me a kind of peaceful joy I can’t really put into words. Then, much later when I saw her perform Wishful Drinking, I felt that same thing again.

So when I see posts telling me (not really “me” but people who have posted their grief which is similar to mine) to get over it, or to stop being so dramatic, I have to just say: Fuck off.

I’ll cry if I want to.

Today I mourn Carrie Fisher, a feminist, a public figure who was unapologetic about her mental illness, and one hell of a funny lady. If her death does not sting you, that is fine. We all have our influences and our loves. All I ask is a bit of empathy and respect.

Peace ❤

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She drowned in moonlight, strangled by her own bra. 

Happy Memorial Day!

Today I will march with my Girl Scouts in our town’s memorial Day Parade. (Assuming the rain holds off and it’s not cancelled!) I’ve been going for the past five years or so, and I really enjoy it. It’s a small parade, not many vets, lots of kids (boy scouts, girl scouts, marching bands) and some local law enforcement and firefighters. Mostly the audience consists of the families of the marchers. A thin crowd, many of whom disperse immediately upon picking up their kid, so that by the time the mayor gives a speech honoring our veterans, hardly anyone is left to see it. I always stay, and I strongly encourage my girls’ families to stay, too. I am so disappointed and embarrassed by how few people are there to actually honor our local veterans! I wish I could do something to increase attendance.

A few people in my life have been surprised by how strong my feelings are about Memorial Day. See, I am a real “tree-hugging liberal” and I am always speaking out against war. So people sometimes assume I am not pro-military. Which, honestly, is dumb. I guess some people think military personnel just loooove fighting, and we should encourage conflict if we want to support them? Stupid.

Though lately, people seem to have a very warped view of what is “patriotic.” Wave a flag, sling some mildy-racist comments, and boom! Instant patriot. So strange and sad to me that in a country founded on tenets of religious freedom and open immigration we now have thousands cheering for xenophobia and religious persecution, and calling it patriotism.

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I hope whatever your Memorial Day entails, you take a few minutes to remember the reason for the holiday: those who lost their lives in service to our country. Also please remember these fallen are men AND women, of ALL races, ethnicities, religions, and sexualities. People from all walks of life, who entered service for many different reasons. Many fought our nation’s conflicts for reasons they personally might not have agreed with or even fully understood.

I will never support war, but I have immense respect and gratitude for our warriors. Happy Memorial Day ❤

69 is the new 27?

The 27 Club” was the name given to the group of musicians who died when they were 27 years old. Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix, Janis Joplin, and Kurt Cobain are some of its members. But now we’ve had a few notable deaths of 69 year olds. David Bowie. Alan Rickman. Leading a few people to comment “69 is the new 27.” I’m not much of a believer in that sort of thing, but just in case… On the watchlist: celebrities who are currently 69 years old. (It seems this kind of thing only applies to celebrities. So if you are just an average person who happens to be either 69 or 27, I think you’re moderately safe. But be careful anyway.)

When I was a kid my grandmother used to flip the TV channel whenever an actor or performer who had died came on. She’d say “I don’t watch the dead ones” and I never understood why it mattered. To me, being an actor on television or in a movie, or a musician who was famous enough to be recorded preforming, that was like being an immortal. Someone who would remain frozen in time at their peak. No death could touch that. But my noni did not agree, and seeing her idols preserved in such a way was not acceptable.

I still don’t share that mentality, but I think I can understand it a bit better now that I’m almost an old lady myself (not even close to 69 yet, don’t worry!) Maybe they were like ghosts to her: shadows of what once was. Maybe they reminded her of her own mortality. Or maybe it was just a reminder of their deaths, and that made her sad.

I got a little sad today, watching clips of Alan Rickman. Sad to think I will not see any new performances by him, sad to think he will never get to be that 80 year old in a rocking chair reading Harry Potter. But I’m not too sad. I mean, he had a wonderful life. A great life! And he did so much with it to be proud of! A fantastic legacy. He made people smile, he made them shudder, he made them cry, he made them think. He changed the world. So did David Bowie. But so does everyone, in their own ways.

And hearing news of their deaths will NOT make me shout “fuck cancer!” on their behalf. I’ve lost enough loved ones to cancer. I don’t need a celebrity death to fuel that passion.

But…”69 is the new 27.” That made me think about this in a different way. People love patterns. Predictability makes things easier to deal with, less scary. But life is scary! And I think life is supposed to be scary, and uncertain, and fleeting. That is the point. We are guaranteed nothing, and if you really accept that then you will understand that every moment of life is a gift. It doesn’t really matter if you squander your gift at age 27 by doing too many drugs or committing suicide, or if your gift is stolen from you at age 69 by disease or accident. The point is: you got an awesome gift! Your life, the lives of those you love, and the lives of those larger-than-life characters who inspire and entertain us, are ALL precious gifts. Be grateful. and enjoy them while you’ve got them. ❤

dumb plots

So I’m listening to this old song, like over and over and over:

All Cried Out as performed by Lisa Lisa and Cult Jam with Full Force, circa 1985.

My poor kids are probably having nightmares because they’re sleeping and I’m sitting here belting it out like an idiot.

Fist of all, a moment of appreciation for the GOLD that is this video. Seriously check out Paul Anthony (I think?) with the bathrobe belt around his forehead. And Lisa Lisa’s outfits!! This whole thing is fantastic. 80’s gold.

Anywhoo… best I can tell this is a song about a very short lived romance, where apparently the couple shares a night of passion, and a (short?) time later, the chick tries to get the guy’s attention, but due to noisy traffic (or cheating/distraction? it’s unclear), he doesn’t hear her and she freaks the fuck out, taking it as a rejection. She then spends the remainder of the time span crying into her pillow until she is literally “all cried out,” and by the end of it, he is, too. Dumb plot.

The song is still so pleasurable to me, though! It reminds me of Junior high sleepovers: singing it into a hairbrush while dancing on a girlfriend’s bed. And school dances: slow dancing under a disco ball in the gym on a Friday night. I love it.*

But it got me thinking about the ludicrous story lines we tolerate. Even enjoy. God, such ridiculous turns of events take place in books and songs and poems! When you break them down, like in this song, they are so crazy, often even laughable.

Kind of like life, I guess.

The stories we hear from our friends, those we see on the news, and even the things we experience are sometimes “stranger than fiction” too, aren’t they? Sometimes it’s the stupidest things that set events in motion. And many times people behave in surprisingly idiotic ways.

I’m thinking about this because I am currently plotting out my next book, and I’m trying to add in enough twists and coincidences and conflicts to make it interesting, but still keep it believable.

It’s all in the delivery, I think. That ridiculous song is a hit because of the music, the singing. Honestly some artists could swap out their lyrics with a grocery list and still sound fantastic, still make you want to dance or cry or just smile. Same with books. Some author’s writing is so fun to read, so pleasurable, they could really tell you any story and you’d enjoy it.

If I only knew the trick to that! Because while I can write a lot of truth, and write honestly, and raw, and all that… I can’t really make it as pretty as I’d like. I can’t make it as addictive as an eighties power ballad. I’m working on it, though! That’s totally my goal 🙂

*note: If you plug “All Cried Out” into YouTube/Pandora, the accompanying  recommendations/channels are fantastic: Klymaxx, Atlantic Starr, The Jets, Pebbles…seriously fun mid-eighties music! Highly recommend.

grasshopper pie

In the early eighties, my mom used to make it a lot. I’m not sure if it was a popular dessert then, or if my mom just liked it. She did love mint… But either way, a grasshopper pie often sat on the dessert tables of my childhood.

When I was a kid, I never liked it. Too strong, with it’s teensy kick of creme de menthe, it had an aftertaste I didn’t like much. And mint was much less tempting a flavor than the chocolate or even sweet fruits of other desserts.

I never really thought about it much as an adult. My mom still made it, rarely, for holidays. I’d have a piece once in a while, but I always got the feeling my mom made it for herself. No one else was a fan of it.

I’ve been feeling a bit low recently, and I don’t know why but out of the blue I remembered grasshopper pie. So I made one during the last snowstorm, and turns out in my family no one but me likes it.

I’m slowly working my way through this nostalgic pie, one slice a night, and I can’t decide if it is a comfort or tragically depressing.

grasshopperPie

International Dot Day

Is today!

I admit, I am a sucker for picture books. And every time I read “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds, I cry. If you are not familiar with this story, I recommend you give it a read (it’s a children’s book, it will take you like 10 minutes, seriously.)

I’ll give you a very brief synopsis: A girl thinks she “is no artist,” yet her art teacher insists she “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” So she makes a dot. The teacher’s response is beautiful. The dot is hung up and celebrated, and with that small bit of encouragement, Vashti (that’s the girl) is transformed into an artist in her own mind. Eventually, she becomes an artist in truth, and traces her success back to that one act of support from that one elementary school art teacher.

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At first glance, that might seem like an “everyone is special” story line. But I think it is so much more. The gift that art teacher gives Vashti is something so precious and magical, yet so simple that many of us do not even realize it is a gift. She values her work. To a child, a teacher (or a parent, or an older sibling, or a coach) is a person of great wisdom. To receive praise & acknowledgement from someone we respect is such a powerful thing. But often, the person who is in that position does not realize the power they hold.

I think we all hold that power and influence over someone. Maybe to our children, or to the people who work for (or with) us, maybe to our loved ones or friends. We should all remember the impact our words can have.

99% of the time, encouraging someone will not result in them becoming a successful artist. That takes hard work, skill, dedication, and luck. But 100% of the time, encouraging someone will make them happy. It will make them feel better about themselves. It will help them to keep trying. And that is enough of a reason to do it.

So today, make a mark and see where it takes you. Try something new, that you think you cannot do. Try to create, to draw or write or sing.

And make a mark on another person’s life by offering your support and encouragement. You never know where it will lead. Happy Dot Day 🙂

is it summer yet? (blog hop)

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Queer Town Abbey asked for “My best summer memory” for this blog hop… prepare yourselves, sweet readers!

(To avoid my over-sharing of personal memories, scroll to the end and click the link to enter their awesome giveaway.)

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It might have been the worst summer of our lives. It should have been. But now, over twenty five years later, when I think back on my summers it is the one I remember most fondly.

My mother’s second husband was an asshole. He was wealthy, and powerful, and smart… and dangerous. He made us walk three paces behind him when we went out, we could never run ahead. He controlled everything in the house: what kind of food we ate and what music we listened to and what we wore. He was easily offended and quick to anger. The first time he hit my mom, she forgave him. He bought her a full length mink coat a few days later. The next time he hit her, we left. We drove around and my mom cried, but it was late and there was school and work the next day. It was cold too, the middle of winter, and so we went back. That time, along with his apology, he gave her a gold pin in the shape of a bumblebee with sapphires for the body and tiny diamond eyes.

For a year we lived with him. I had my own room which had been professionally decorated just for me and everything matched, even the wallpaper. It was the nicest house we’d ever lived in, with cable television (and MTV!), a maid who came once a week, and a huge lush yard at the edge of a forest. That year my mom got a lot of bruises, and a lot of expensive gifts.

I was eleven. I was old enough to call 911 when he hit her, and old enough to testify against him in court. And I did.

So when school ended and the divorce was final, we left that scary-beautiful house and my mom rented us a beach cottage while we hunted for a new home. It was a three room shack, in the middle of an RV park, right across the street from the beach. It was tiny and run down and dirty, and it felt so safe to me. I could hear the conversations of people in RVs around us, the laughter of other kids and the late night beer fueled talk of their parents.

All the residents of our dusty little temporary trailer park were pretty much like us: families on vacation. The beach was a busy one, and the street separating us from it was lined with bars, nightclubs, restaurants, hotels, and tourist shops. The world was hot, crowded, and loud, in the happiest possible way.

Every day that summer we walked across the street to the beach, and swam in the ocean, and stretched out on our pink paisley beach blanket in the sand getting golden tans. My little brother played and my mom read, and I did a bit of both. And at night I cooked, because I loved to cook, and my mom supervised with half an eye on me and most of her attention in a paperback.

The tiny kitchenette had no fancy appliances, and I learned to do things the long way. I had to keep washing the one big mixing bowl and the one good knife. I struggled to bake cookies and cakes without a hand mixer. But I felt powerful. I felt grown up. I was making things, and helping. And when my mom bragged that her fingernails were long and pretty because she hadn’t had to wash dishes in weeks, I was so proud of myself. Like I’d helped heal her, even if only in that one tiny way.

We had no television in the little cabin, no phone either. There was a payphone by the street, and my mom used that when she had to call the Realtor or the lawyer or my dad. We played cards and board games, we read books, and we talked to each other. For two solid months we lived in that tiny house, the whole thing no bigger than the perfectly decorated bedroom I’d left behind. We laughed a lot and we argued a little. We sang along to the top 40 radio station on my boom-box. We peeled big flakes of sunburned skin off each other’s shoulders. We shared clam cakes and ice cream and frozen lemonades. We made up our own jokes and coined new code-words to add to our private family language.

In two months we undid a year of damage.

That summer we rebuilt ourselves. That summer I learned I can make my own happiness. Because of that summer, I know there is strength in my frequent tears and my goofy laughter. I know that what is most important isn’t a fancy house or expensive things: it’s time and family.

And so although it isn’t sexy, or fun, or even all that interesting – that is my best summer memory.

 

Enter the rafflecopter giveaway by visiting Queer Town Abbey! Click the link below, and leave a comment there about YOUR best summer memory to enter:

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