Monday, May 16, 2016

Vacation, All I Ever Wanted

Last year my sister and her boyfriend were supposed to go on this crazy trip to the Caribbean – super sweet resort, all inclusive, turquoise water, and only 1 stop on the 3400 mile flight – with two of their friends. But between injuries, unforeseen issues, and other necessary delays, the trip was postponed to April of this year.

When they considered rescheduling back in December, Matt & I were first asked if we’d like to take the place of their friends. After having just taken a really long vacation around Thanksgiving there was no way we could do it. I mean, not only the issue of time off but the cost.

My sister told me to get my damn passport renewed anyway (something Matt and I had been putting off for too long) and so we did. And then promptly forgot all about it.

That was, until February when this question came our way:

“So, those guys just moved to Hawaii and can’t make the trip, you guys busy at the end of April or would you like to go to St. Lucia all expenses paid***?”

***(sort of, more on that in a bit)

And so I started thrift shopping for this trip of a lifetime that I never in a million, billion years would have expected to be taking.

Passports showed up, clothes were purchased, but I couldn’t concentrate on the trip. I had a party to plan this past spring.

Matt, my love, was officially joining the ranks of “old man” status with his 40th birthday. And I’d been planning his event since January. A surprise party. At a baseball game right downtown at Chase Field.

The sneaking around, the lies and deceit, the preparations for 24 people including his family coming in from 3 different parts of the country, friends who were kind enough to pay for their own tickets, meant get-togethers and taking cash from friends on the down low.

The last thing I did from January to early April was think about St. Lucia.

But then it was time to party at Chase with Matt’s mom, sister, all 3 nephews, dad, step-mom, SIL, MIL, BIL , friends. The euphoria was like Thanksgiving dinner – months to plan and cook, over in a matter of hours.

Pictures were shared, laughs were recounted, everyone went home. And then it was mere weeks away from our departure to the Caribbean. I still barely believed it was real.

In fact, if I’m being perfectly honest here, I still don’t believe that it actually happened. It was like I lifted out of my own body and watched someone who looked like me partying in an all-inclusive resort at the edge of the most beautiful water I’d ever seen for a full week.

Things like this just don’t happen to me and Matt. We aren’t wealthy people. We do okay and pay our bills on time and stuff but a trip like this? No. Never before and never expected. Ever.

To tell all the details would bore everyone, trust me. Our entire first day of vacation was summarily stolen by a number of problems with a number of airplanes and we spent 8 un-scheduled hours in Miami International Airport. That story might become a book someday.

After that debacle the week went by in a blurry haze of sun, sand, salt air, vodka cranberry, sunscreen, dancing, laughs, amazing food, and an overflowing level of gratitude that I could hardly contain. It forced me to notice everything, every tiny detail of every tiny moment we all spent together on that island. The people, the scenery, the vibe. Everything.

The trip revived my waning inspiration.

For the past 4 or 5 months I’ve been struggling with Reckless Mind, trying to get the story down but finding it difficult to see the next move, the twists. I’ve started and stopped the book 3 times. One of those times was a complete reboot from the first word.

Before we left I was stressed. So much had happened in the past few years both personally and professionally and no matter how many massages I wanted to get or essential oils I tried to meditate with, nothing seemed to take that stress away.

Some of us like to call it writer’s block.

I like to call it real life taking over the creative thinking process.

There have been so many people to see, things to do, detours that tried to convince me what my path should be when I actually knew all along what really needed to be done for me to find fulfillment.

I needed to write books. Period.

Not freelance blogs, not ghostwriting, not how-to guides or any of the other things I tried to convince myself would be smart choices. No. I need to write books.

Length? Unimportant. Genre? Unimportant. Story? The most important.

As Matt and I walked the beach for about a half hour on the last day (a moment that came way too fast of course), I shared my plan. And it basically encompasses one thing: I’m giving up being a perfectionist.

I’ve said stuff like this before about just writing and not caring. But I never had a clear-cut plan of what that really meant. While we were away I finally put everything together.

In this age of digital reading and the flood of titles out there that’s the number one thing I need – titles. The more you have the more your name is seen. And of course the more it gets seen the more it sinks in, people buy, review, send you to a best seller status.

I have so much work, at least 5 stories I can think of off the top of my head, that I started back when I was a teen or in my 20’s. Most are within chapters of typing “The End” and I finally realized why I might be having trouble writing Mind.

Because I have too many unfinished characters swimming around in my head pool and until I get them out I won’t be able to hear Shaw telling me what she wants me to say.

I told Matt out on that beach that I was looking forward to getting home and he looked at me like I had turned into a crazy person. Maybe I had become a crazy person. Crazy inspired.

So when we got back, after the jet lag wore off, I extracted the first journal out of my big box of languishing work that I’ve been toting around since age 14 and started transcribing.

That story? It started out as character development and about 600 words. Now? After 4 days of non-stop work it’s almost done and hovering around 6,000 words. Just shy in fact. And I already have cover art in mind.

The title. Locked in.

After that one I plan to start with the 5 stories that are long and close to done. All of them, every last one, will be released this year.

My sister was shocked that I’d gotten over my need for perfection but I told her that wasn’t exactly true. I still want the stories to be terrific. I’m still going to edit like crazy. Because the basis for the work might have been okay but I was also 15 when I wrote some of that stuff. It will need major polishing.

But polish I will. And you want to hear a pretty cool side benefit? Since almost finishing this first one I’m hearing the main character, Carol, less and Shaw just a tiny bit more. I even got a bit of her story developed at the same time. That book will see light this year too.

My resolve for what I do has been 100% revived. I’m in love with my job again. So I guess it’s time I got out of here and did it, huh?

I’ll keep you posted as titles drop.

Like rain in the tropics.


***the larger percentage of cost for this trip was fronted by a fantastic person who I will not name here on this blog, but none of it would have been possible without them. My sister and her man also fronted some cash for the trip. So Matt and I are splitting that cost. That was the deal we worked out with the original friend who couldn’t go, because that person just wouldn’t hear it about paying them back for anything. I literally feel my heart swelling with thanks every time I think about how grateful I am to have had this once in a lifetime opportunity. Saying thank you seems a weak sentiment but I feel so thankful, it’s all I can seem to say! Thanks again to all of you amazing people in my life. I am a lucky girl indeed!

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Friday, April 22, 2016

"Like a Bird without a Song"

Okay, I’ll say it.

Knock it the fuck off 2016.

Seriously. This, taking all the artists in the same year thing is just cruel. I get it that people are born every day, that someone else will eventually grace us with the pleasure of their artistic contributions. I also fully understand that I didn’t know a single one of the magical beings who have left this earth since this calendar year began.

But it doesn’t matter. I knew many of them inside and out. Because they all gave pieces of their souls for the entire world to share. The characters they played, songs they wrote, all become the fragments of the part of the life we in the public get to experience.

So yesterday, 2016, when you just couldn’t resist robbing us all of another entertainer, I will admit that I absolutely lost it.

Prince actually brought me to tears.

Yes, I sat in my house, listening to Purple Rain, and I cried.

It might sound weird because, like I said, I didn’t know the man. Thing is, I don’t think I’m really crying for him. Which, again, might sound really weird since the guy just died.

What I’m mourning for more than anything is the loss of what we’ll never get to hear him produce in the future.

And, that sadness? Is something that can never go away.

I can listen to all 39 of his albums back to front, the songs he helped with for The Bangles, Sinead O’Connor, or Stevie Nicks, but it isn’t enough. The world was essentially robbed of future brilliance and that’s just wrong.

A friend of mine shared something yesterday and I’d like to share the text here because it essentially says what I’ve been bumbling over for 300+ words now:

For people who don't understand why others mourn the death of artists, you need to understand that these people have been a shoulder to cry on. Our rock. They've been family, friends, leaders, teachers & role models. Many have taught us what we need to know and what to do when times get rough.They've helped us move on.They've pushed us out of bed.They've helped us live when nobody else had time to.Artists have inspired us in endless ways and have been with us through stages in our lives. We've made memories with them.So when they die, a part of us dies.

And that’s really what it all comes down to. It doesn’t matter to that person, they’re gone. It’s everyone left who have to grapple with that. Loss and mourning aren’t rational.

When something or someone leaves a lasting imprint on your heart, mind, soul, but then leaves the world far too soon, we long to find other people to surround us so we can share in the broken pieces and somehow try to put something whole back together.

I never had the pleasure of seeing Prince live. When he first hit big in the ‘80s I was a bit too young for a show like that. Hell, as I spent the day listening to Purple Rain yesterday I realized just how much I probably shouldn’t have been listening to that album on my 11th birthday.

At age 43 I still blush at a few of his lyrics.

Okay, many of his lyrics.

But I digress.

When I was old enough to take myself to a show, I was mostly broke. And then I just sort of moved on into different music. Never away, because I always liked everything the man put out there, just on to something different.

But I still have this:


You’ll notice in the upper right hand corner is a puffy Santa sticker, indicating when I got the album back in 1984. Also, you’ll notice Apollonia’s face is missing. Yeah, I was an 11 year old girl, that’s the kind of shit we did when we were jealous of the beautiful woman on the album cover.

Sorry, Apollonia.

When I went to my iTunes yesterday and pulled up the soundtrack to listen straight through the entire thing (when I should have been writing), I pulled the vinyl out of the dusty recesses of my closet and smiled as I held it.

Our little family of three was still living in the apartment in east Arlington when the album and movie came out. My sister and I shared a bedroom, slept in bunk beds surrounded by the clutter of two tween girls, and shared a record player.

In the constant rotation? INXS, Jack Wagner, Toni Basil, The Police, The Stray Cats, Huey Lewis and the News, Duran Duran, Culture Club, The Grease soundtrack, Madonna, and Prince and the Revolution.

According to my record collection, 1984 was the year I discovered popular music.

In those days music was heavy on the synthesizer. Prince’s Purple Rain is very likely responsible for the first shredding of electric guitar I’d ever heard. Few could do it like he did.

And in honor of that guitar genius and eerily poignant songwriter, Rogers Nelson, I share this as my sign off, thanks, and Kiss to the Purple One.

Thank you for reminding us all back in 1984 that life is short and to strive to be the most excellent version of ourselves that we can be.

Every. Day.

 

Let’s Go Crazy
By Prince and the Revolution

Dearly beloved
We are gathered here today
To get through this thing called life

Electric word life
It means forever and that's a mighty long time
But I'm here to tell you
There's something else
The after world

A world of never ending happiness
You can always see the sun, day or night

So when you call up that shrink in Beverly Hills
You know the one, Dr. Everything'll Be Alright
Instead of asking him how much of your time is left
Ask him how much of your mind, baby

'Cause in this life
Things are much harder than in the after world
In this life
You're on your own

And if the elevator tries to bring you down
Go crazy, punch a higher floor

If you don't like the world you're living in
Take a look around you
At least you got friends

You see I called my old lady
For a friendly word
She picked up the phone
Dropped it on the floor
(Ah, ah) is all I heard

Are we gonna let the elevator
Bring us down
Oh, no let's go!

Let's go crazy
Let's get nuts
Let's look for the purple banana
'Til they put us in the truck, let's go!

We're all excited
But we don't know why
Maybe it's 'cause
We're all gonna die

And when we do (When we do)
What's it all for (What's it all for)
You better live now
Before the grim reaper come knocking on your door

Tell me, are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let's go!

Let's go crazy
Let's get nuts
Look for the purple banana
'Til they put us in the truck, let's go!

C'mon baby
Let's get nuts
Yeah
Crazy

Let's go crazy

Are we gonna let the elevator bring us down
Oh, no let's go!
Go crazy

I said let's go crazy (Go crazy)
Let's go, let's go
Go
Let's go

Dr. Everything'll be alright
Will make everything go wrong
Pills and thrills and daffodils will kill
Hang tough children

He's coming
He's coming
Coming

Take me away!

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Don’t Forget, we’re supposed to be Free and Brave

I had a conversation a short time back with my mom. It went something like this:

"My hair is a mess so I’m wearing a hat to the game, I just hate taking it off for the Star Spangled Banner."

"But they say: gentlemen remove your caps, so you don’t have to because you’re a lady."

"I always take mine off. Why wouldn’t I? Just because I’m a girl I don’t think that should allow exemption."

She replied with a thoughtful, “huh, interesting point” and that’s where the conversation ended. But I was still wondering about the significance for a couple weeks so I started looking into the issue. Turns out, I can’t seem to find a concrete answer as to why we take off hats during the anthem other than it allegedly signifies respect.

But I can’t seem to uncover who, whom, what we are all respecting by letting the world around us see our hat head. Soldiers who died for freedom? The flag itself? The singer of the anthem? Winning a war?

I’ve never really questioned why I sing the words, why I take my hat off, and perhaps that’s a good segue into where this whole conversation of country, people, and respect is going.

Is it perpetuating a double standard for gentlemen to remove hats but not ladies? I’m a lady at the same sporting event. I’m singing along with the national anthem too. If I’m wearing a hat I don’t think it matters if I have a penis or not, out of respect – like I was taught as a kid – I’m taking it off.

And that’s the crux of what I want to talk about today. Double standards.

I’ve been mostly quiet on the whole NC bill that made it almost scary to be anything other than what those lawmakers want people to be. Which I believe is nothing more than “figured out” and has everything to do with fear, and nothing to do with getting to know who those people are.

But I’ll get back to that.

What I want to discuss is this whole Curt Schilling debacle. Before I go any further, I need you to understand that I fully support the communities which were negatively impacted by what the man wrote on social media. I also have a certain level of respect for Curt because of what he did in Boston in 2004 and beyond.

I would also like to point out that, in response to all of this, there are about a million people out there saying things like:

“Grow up, stop being offended by everything, we didn’t used to have these problems…”

And to those people I say, that is the problem. Because the reason we didn’t have these “problems” in the past can be summed up in a few facts:

  • Many people who were outside the “normal” way people “should” be, were afraid to be themselves for fear of persecution or in some cases, even death.
  • Submission was the key element we were all taught – children are seen and not heard, do as I say not as I do, loose lips sink ships – and then some.
  • A grown adult tries to be who they know they are and then is told they’re not allowed to do that, no matter what the reasoning, if you aren’t offended by that kind of oppression then you’re part of the problem.


And probably a charlatan because I guarantee when it comes to your own crap you’ll be the first to yell and scream that you don’t get to do/say/be what you want.

Just like every human being. Welcome to your wake up call, we’re all oppressed by something. Take a number and get in line.

Consider this: I’m a pretty embracing person. I don’t care who/what you are just don’t be a jackhole and we’re probably cool. Maybe not BFFs or anything, but cool. But I shake my head when I remember that back when I was a kid we ran around using words like queer, gay, retarded, as insults. And why? What do those labels really tell us about a person? That they’re “different” than we are? Why does different constitute insult?

If we don’t pay closer attention to our freedom of speech we’re likely going to offend someone.

Because the entertainment industry is a good place to take a stand, a lot of those people are swinging so far in the other direction to show how “tolerant” they are that nobody is considering how both sides are coping. I think there has to be some kind of line.

I don’t agree with what Schilling posted. I think it skates down the razor blade of intolerance and ignorance. But who are the rest of us to tell him he isn’t free or brave for speaking his mind? A right afforded to everyone in this country.

Right?

Because that’s my point – does it matter who faces the wrath of intolerance? Because while we’re all busy lashing out at Curt for something he chose to publish in a public forum we’re missing the part where we’re all just as bad as he is for yelling at him for doing it.

Because, isn’t that backlash against the man nothing more than, well, intolerance, too? Intolerance of his potential ignorance?

What makes it any better when we persecute one person because of what they said about a specific group of people?

Consider this: we’d yell at someone for leaving a hat on during the national anthem but then start cheering and clapping in the middle of the song. Everyone thinks their way is right. The internet gives all of us a platform to say whatever we want (hell, I’m doing it right now).

Curt Schilling allegedly did what he did in response to the NC HB2 law that was recently passed (for a brief explanation read this article, for the full text go here). The meme he shared and comments attached were too much for ESPN to bear. He was promptly fired.

And he did share something truly awful (in my opinion) but, let’s be honest, ESPN knew exactly who the guy was before they hired him. It isn’t like this is his first offense on social media. Google his name and any or all of the words – evolution, buttclown, nazi.

But, yeah, this is the one that gets him fired.

Why is it okay in today’s society to all but light a flamethrower on one person who perhaps makes a mistake in his wording (or not) but his freedom of speech is somehow supposed to be limited for the sake of the general public because he works, essentially, as an entertainment reporter?

How else is a conversation supposed to begin? How else can a person learn to tolerate if they’re told they need to be perfect from the start, that if they make any mistake at all they’ll lose their job?

Nobody is perfect but we sure do expect a lot more from our public figures don’t we? And we have zero tolerance when they fuck something up. So instead of helping someone learn the benefits of tolerance we treat the person like they need to be voted off the island.

We’re a bunch of hypocrites.

Schilling is a public figure. So is ESPN. So are all the transgendered people who spend their days and nights trying to live how they feel they were meant to live. Nobody should bring discomfort on purpose. But then again, my question is this:

Who wins?

If we’re not allowed to speak our mind anymore (no matter how reprehensible some people might perceive the words coming out of it) then who really wins? Isn’t it the freedom of speech that makes this country a terrific place to live?

I mean, I don’t agree with what the guy posted but I also don’t agree that he should have been fired for what he said. ESPN missed a glorious opportunity for inclusion and a lesson in tolerance with this one.

Because, suppose for a moment the internet goes into full-on tizzy over his post, but, instead of firing him ESPN uses the moment as an opportunity for teaching. Teaching Curt as well as their television viewing audience that it’s okay to be who you are no matter what profession you work in or state you live in.

Get an openly gay player in the studio. Male. Female. Both. Talk to a team full of transgendered people (I’m sure they’re out there somewhere).

Bring awareness. Celebrate differences. Teach. Learn.

Division of people is what’s gotten us into this mess to begin with. It’s time to embrace, not disgrace.

• • • • • • • • • • •
In addition to this drivel I also write books, both fiction and non-fiction.
Learn more on my author page.