Thursday, October 28, 2010

A blanket named Cindy

  I think, perhaps, I have overdone it a bit with my encouragement of the children’s supernatural outlook on life. I wanted to raise kids that see faeries instead of fireflies, that exclaim on our walks, “Look mama! The trees are dancing with the wind! Do you think they have special tree music?” And I have those things, and am grateful for them.
  Both children regularly came outside to say hello to the fairies/fireflies during the summer when they were most prolific. And my son is constantly finding things that he is convinced were left by elves or gnomes, and is a firm believer in the old adage that it is the gnomes that steal one of your socks when it’s laundry day.
  When they are having nightmares, they ask for holy water and sage to cleanse their rooms, and like to waft it around themselves, mixing traditional prayers with protection chants and pleas to their guardian angels.
  They even have their own little amethyst and rutilated quartz that they cleansed on their own and sleep with under their pillows. Or pillow pets, as it were (commercialism is still alive and well in my house). And my five-year-old daughter knows to use apophyllite to intensify the energy of other crystals to “pick out the best rock” at the metaphysical store.
  So I have raised these children with a healthy dose of respect for all religions, a vehement respect for nature and her gifts, and a conglomeration of many different viewpoints that make up our own eclectic beliefs.
  But now, however, it seems to have taken on a life of its own and extended into areas I never would have expected. I should have seen this coming. Let me expound…
  I spent the better part of the night before last searching for a blanket named Cindy. Yes, you read that right – the blanket’s name is Cindy. How in the world did my daughter decide this is its name? Well, she asked it, of course.
  This is a patchwork blanket made by a relative that is somewhat of a comfort object for my kid. Therefore, the fact that Cindy was AWOL at bedtime became a bit of an emergency. Especially since I had several episodes of Ghost Hunters to watch, and there was no hope of that until the children were sleeping. Self-absorbed, remember?
  Were there a National Blanket Guard, I would have called them. Were there a Scotland Yard of Covers, I would have sent up smoke signals from the roof of my house. But sadly, the efforts of recovery were left to my partner and I, who are apparently woefully inept at locating magical blankets named Cindy.
  We searched high and low, with my little girl trailing behind in a tizzy, declaring an absolute inability to sleep without this item, and her brother watching the whole thing from the couch, rolling his eyes as if to say derisively, “Psh, kids.” Of course, the eye-rolling was done whilst wrapped in his own requisite blanket, so its affect was somewhat diminished.
  Having searched the entire house from top to bottom, there was no Cindy to be found. At this point my darling daughter looked at me like I was a complete idiot and asked me, “Mama, why don’t you just call her?”
  I admit I was confused. I was unaware Cindy had procured a phone in her absence.
  “What do you mean ‘call her’?” I asked this sweet child who was cutting drastically into my DVR time.
  She rolled her eyes at me (notice a pattern yet?) and said in her best teenage-girl voice, “Mom, you know! Call her like Aladdin did, and she’ll just float back into my room!”
  Now I am faced with a dilemma. Do I tell her this is utter nonsense, ruin the open-mindedness and fantastical nature I have worked so hard to build in her, and settle down peacefully to my TV shows? Or do I call out loud to a blanket named Cindy, and ask it – her, excuse me – to please return to us now?
  My partner was no help at all at this point. She simply looked at me, shrugged, and said what she always says when the girl pulls diva-like things such as this.
  “I’ve got the boy.”
  My poor daughter is in tears at this point, and I am right behind her.
  “I can’t sleep without Cindy!” she moans, flinging herself across the bed in her best dramatic display.
  I find myself actually hoping against hope that upon my calling out to this blanket, it will, in fact, float through the door, and I can get to the safety of my couch and my remote. So I do it. That’s right – I stand in the middle of the room and call out to Cindy, the wayward blanket, to please come to us and help the child sleep. The child is frantic, watching the doorway with anticipation. I am frantic as well, because I know in my heart of hearts there is no blanket forthcoming, and I don’t know how I’m ever going to calm my daughter enough to get to sleep without bringing all her hard-won supernatural awareness crashing down around us.
  After several minutes of paging the missing party, I give up, looking down at my sweet little girl, expecting to see her tear-stained face give way to a full-fledged tantrum. That is not what meets my eyes, however. Instead, I see a half-asleep, dreamy-faced angel, lying underneath the blankie that I crocheted for her last year.
  Shocked at this development, I leaned down and told my child in the most sympathetic voice I could muster, “I’m sorry honey. Cindy doesn’t seem to be answering.”
  “That’s okay, mama,” she responds drowsily. “She’s probably sleeping. And I’m really tired. Can you turn off the light?”
  I look at my partner, who just shrugs again, points at herself, mouths the word "boy", and flips the switch.
  Psh. Kids.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Enough is enough...LGBT teen suicides

  Today I am not writing to entertain, but to educate. Not to be funny, but to facilitate understanding and compassion. There are thousands of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender youth in America, and sadly…there are fewer of them than there were only weeks ago.
  The recent epidemic of LGBT teen suicides is both shocking and heartbreaking. One has to wonder why, when we have come so far as a nation (albeit with miles to go still), did these children think that death was their only option?
  Some will say it was just typical youth, being overdramatic and attention-starved, trying to make a statement and not realizing the ‘forever’ consequences, and that it has only made headlines because they are gay. To those people I would say you have not been paying attention.
  A 2009 study by Dr. Caitlyn Ryan of the San Francisco State University showed that LGBT teens who were rejected by their families for simply being themselves were 8.4 times more likely to attempt suicide. 8.4 times. And this is a year ago, before this new rash of incidents and ignorance engulfed our media.
  This has risen disturbingly from the 1999 study done by Dr. Robert Garafalo of Harvard Medical School, which stated that suicide attempts of LGBT teens were 3 times more likely than those of heterosexual teens.
  I am not dismissing the horror of heterosexual teen suicides, or trying to push that issue to the wayside. But looking at the trends in today’s society, and seeing that there has been an over 5 point jump in the incidence of LGBT suicides, anyone can see that there is a problem, and that problem needs to be addressed. Now.
  Try and remember your middle school and high school days. Looking at it from an adult’s perspective, you can see how childish and short-sighted we all were, living in that little microcosm of society. But if you can put yourself back there, you will recall how it seemed that your life would end with every friend’s betrayal, with every breakup, with every bad report card. But it didn’t. For anyone reading this, we got past it, got through it, and made a life for ourselves devoid of that near-sighted drama. But these children who have taken their own lives do not get that chance.
  They will never know what it is to find someone who loves you enough to share the rest of their lives with you. To hold their child, rock them to sleep at night, commiserate with their partner over having to do 3rd grade math again. They will never be able to grow into themselves and serve as a voice in the community for rights, or fairness, or education. And it is because of ignorance, plain and simple. And I say it stops now.
  Talk to your children, talk to your neighbors. Understand the difference between tolerance and hate; between believing in the right to a ‘lifestyle’, and being actively supportive of it.
  You do not have to like what we are. We are not asking for your approval. We are only asking that you allow us to live our lives the way we believe is right, and to see that we are mothers and fathers and brothers and sisters and husbands and wives and partners and lovers and neighbors and PTA members and soccer moms and human beings. And children.
  We do not all of a sudden ‘turn’ this way as we get older. We may become more aware as we age, but most of us would tell you that looking back we knew something was different. These children who have chosen death were the bravest of us all – they knew what they were, and they didn’t try to hide it. And it cost them their lives.
  Enough with the hate. Enough with the judgment. If you don’t like gay people, then don’t be gay. But leave those who are alone to live their lives the best they can. Talk to your children about bullying, talk to them about the repercussions of spouting rhetoric at their gay classmates that they, in all likelihood, don’t even understand and are just repeating. There is an awesome YouTube video out right now that addresses the issue of “choosing” to be gay. The link is here, and I think you should watch it and discuss it with your friends and family. Whether or not you agree with what it is saying, it brings up an interesting point.
  And to that end, learn to watch your own mouths. Even a seemingly innocent joke can push an eavesdropping emotional teenager over the edge, and any kind of nonchalance about LGBT issues can send the wrong message to your own children. And I am not saying we have to be serious all the time. Gay people make fun of themselves quite often. Hey, we’re funny, and we do stupid stuff like everyone else. But now is not the time for off-color humor – too much is at stake. No life is worth losing over someone else’s ignorance. Ever.
  We need to grow a generation that sees what lies inside of us all is the same color, the same orientation, the same human-ness, and that it needs to be respected, regardless of what package it is presented in. Educate yourselves; educate your children, your neighbors, your family and friends. Help them to cultivate a spirit of compassion. They may not understand or support what LGBT students are going through, but they can always choose to just say nothing at all, and let them go on with their lives.
  Because that is the goal here – to let them go on living, not dangling from a tree or overdosing on pills. We want them to grow up and out of high school, to form loving partnerships and circles of friends and family who support them, to become contributing members of society and continue the cycle of education and awareness.
  Please, talk to your kids, talk to your students, talk to your friends and family. There is a saying on many LGBT campaigns that has always put it best to me:
“Be careful who you hate, it just might be someone you love.”
  You can never know what someone is struggling with, you can never know what kind of battle they are facing within themselves. So let us be a compassionate and educated people, allowing all to live a full and purposeful life. That is a goal we can all achieve, if we only take the time to reach for it.

**If you know of an at-risk LGBT teen, please tell them to call The Trevor Project. It is a 24 hour rescue hotline for suicide prevention. 1-866-4-U-Trevor (1-866-488-7386)**

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Postman Said What?

  Okay, I don’t know how many of you actually use the US Mail anymore to send packages. Frankly I don’t care, either. This story is about me, after all. Writers – we’re all self-absorbed. It’s in our DNA.

  So as I was saying, today I needed to mail a package to some friends of mine. They are starting their foray into the metaphysical, and being that they live somewhere right outside BFE, TX, there is sadly no metaphysical shop near them. I have heard, however, that there are quite a few cows. But I digress.

  I spent the morning traversing my favorite shops, Silver Pyramid and The Labyrinth, enjoying the energy around me and gathering all the necessary items. Well, what I thought were the necessary items. They weren’t here to say one way or the other. And again, this is about me. You think you’d learn.

  Packing up these wonderfully decadent little pieces of paraphernalia in a Wal-Mart sack (don’t judge), I marched into the post office in search of a box for my treasure. After locating said box and a horrendously overpriced roll of packing tape, I went to work.

  I can’t be sure, but I think I frightened off one old woman, two bearded men, and a teenager as they watched me pack. The old woman and the bearded men I could understand. This is the bible belt, after all. But the teenager? With the piercings and the all-black clothes and the Adam Lambert eyeliner? Really


  So let me paint this picture for you…here is this chick that looks like your average soccer mom, who just arrived in her red minivan (again – don’t judge), carrying a quite normal looking Wal-Mart bag. She then proceeds to remove charcoals, drams of oil, bagged herbs, a sage stick, a journal, and some rocks, which she is lovingly packing so as to avoid breakage.

  What about this makes people uncomfortable? Is it that I seem so normal, and then out comes the witchy-looking stuff? Or is it just the stuff itself? Of course, it could have been the tiny little iron cauldron that went in last. The world may never know.

  What I do know is that they walked around me whilst I was packing, giving me quite a wide berth and quite a few what-the-hell stares. Between them and my children, I’m beginning to get a complex.

  Anyway, I taped up the box and waited patiently behind these people who were most likely thinking about stakes and fire until the underpaid, terribly bored postal worker said that magical word. 


  Grateful to be almost done with this little adventure, we went through the normal addressing and such until he came to that all-important question.

  “Are there any liquids or harmful substances in this package?”

  Now, I want to pause here, little readers, and ask what seems like a very stupid question. Has anyone ever answered ‘yes’ to this? Do terrorists regularly look at the postal worker and say, “Aw, man! Yeah, you got me. There’s a bomb in there. Thought I might get away with it this time, but you guys are just too good!” I mean, seriously.

  But this honest little author, what does she say? I’ll tell you. I said, in the sweetest, most soccer-mommy voice I could, “Well, there is a dram of oil in there.” Hey, I had no desire to get arrested if they found it and I hadn’t told them. I have a book to finish, people.

  Stopping what had been (up until then) a by-the-book transaction, the postal worker looked at me over his little bifocals with much the same expression as his customers had, and replied in his best whatchu-talkin-bout-willis voice.
  “A what?”

  “A dram of oil.” At this point I’m getting nervous. Can you send oil in the mail?

  “What kind of oil?”

  Now I’m panicking. Do I tell him? Should I just say motor oil, or fish oil, or olive oil? What if those are ingredients for a bomb? Damn this middle-class upbringing! I decided to be honest.
  “Protection oil.”

  He looked at me as if a third boob had suddenly popped out of my forehead. No, that’s wrong. That would have been a friendlier look. But you get the idea.

  “Protection from what?”

 The solemn postal worker asked this as if he were truly interested, but having watched a plethora of true crime shows, I didn’t fall for it. I looked him straight in the eyes, and lied my ass off.

  “I have no idea,” I replied, shrugging. “That’s just what it said on the bottle. My friend wanted me to mail it to her. People can be so strange, you know?”

  He stared so hard I was pretty sure my face was about to burst into flames, but he either bought it or he was just too bored to care. I’m betting on the latter, truthfully. And then the package was off, without further ado.

  So there you have it – my little adventure for today. And if you’re reading this, you know who you are, and the package is on its way, loves. Sorry I had to lie about you, but it was necessary to save my own skin.

  Writers can be so self-absorbed.

Monday, October 11, 2010

Out of the Mouths of Babes

Children are evil. No, seriously, hear me out. Put that phone down, little readers – there’s no need to call CPS. I still love the little buggers. It’s not like I would try to sell them on the street to gypsies or anything. They’d give ‘em back anyway.

  Okay, okay…maybe evil is too strong a word. We’ll settle on ‘children are honest’. Honesty is a close cousin of evil. They have lunch at least once a week.

  I have an 8 year old and a 5 year old. Now, my 8 year old has Aspergers, so he has a mild excuse for his cruelty. But his sister? She’s just downright bad. And I’m not talking about normal, flush-the-action-figure-down-the-toilet-to-the-tune-of-$130 kind of bad. Oh, no. It’s much worse than that. They have become my own personal self-esteem deflators.

  To wit – at our last Thanksgiving dinner, whilst surrounded by all those twice-a-year relatives I don’t really care for (the feeling is mutual, trust me), trying desperately to figure out an exit strategy, my darling, beautiful, adorable little daughter looked at me with the sweetest smile and said (rather loudly) “Mama, you’re fat!” She then fell into a fit of giggles while the rest of the family shifted uncomfortably in their assigned seats.

  Now, I am not a supermodel, little readers. Far from it. But neither am I Jabba the Hut. I prefer the term “Voluptuous Goddess”. It speaks to my greatness, so I’m cool with it. Besides, my partner prefers me a little fluffy, and I prefer not to weigh and measure the amount of salad I eat – or raw cookie dough, if we’re being honest – so it works.

  The beauty of this moment was not in the terrified looks of my uptight relatives at her remark, but instead in the fact that my training of said child had apparently took. I grinned at her and replied, “That’s right honey. And how did mommy get this way?” With that same beatific smile, she answered, “Because of me and my brother!” She got an extra slice of pie.

  In another installment of much the same story, my son had become fixated on the term “junk in the trunk.” Now, as I have mentioned, this is the child with Aspergers. So when he becomes fixated on something, it’s a permanent part of his repertoire for at least a few months. One fine summer day in Texas, when the temperature was somewhere near 450 degrees in the shade, I was moseying around the house in a t-shirt and undies. I’m sure there are thousands of you gasping right now at my choice of attire in front of my children, but with all due politeness, unless you have suffered through three months of triple-digit heat and $600 electric bills, you may stuff it. Politely, of course. I am a Southern woman, after all.

  Anyway, as I made my way across the living room, my son screams out “Hey mama! You’ve got junk in your trunk!” Being used to a child that has no real ability to read social clues and/or exhibit proper social behavior, I laughed it off, and told him he was right. Just then, that darling little pixie of mine came dancing into the living room from the kitchen, complete with fairy wand and wings. No, seriously. She was dressed up as Tinkerbell. You know, because it was Tuesday. She smiled that smile that lets me know something terrible is about to exit her little mouth and said “Yeah. You’ve got junk in your legs too, mama.”

  While I am pondering which boarding school might be able to keep her the longest, my partner walks in from the back of the house. She had heard the whole thing. (My children’s inside voices are much like the general population’s outside voices.) Lovingly, she guided both children to the couch and counseled them in complete seriousness.

  “You guys,” she said, “you need to understand something. The only thing you ever tell a woman – ever – even if she’s covered in warts and boils and hairy moles – is that she’s beautiful. Understand?” They nodded solemnly, and I was moved that she would try to instill that kind of compassion in them. That was until she leaned in closer and whispered, “Anything else could get you killed.”

  Ah, well. Such is life. At least I know that while she may not always think it (although she swears she does), she will always be there to lie to me and tell me I am beautiful. Because I’ll let you in on a secret, little readers – all women, thick or thin or in-between – we don’t want the truth. Even if we say we do. We’re lying. Get over it.

We want you to look at our cellulite, our didn’t-have-time-to-wash-it-today hair, our no-make-up face, our stretch marks, and tell us that we are the most beautiful thing you have ever seen. And to do it with a straight face. You might want to practice in the mirror first. As previously mentioned, failure could be fatal.

  So while I have resigned myself to the fact that my children will be brutally (and loudly) honest with me for at least the next few years, I also have the comfort that comes with the “I love you’s”, the “you’re the best mommy’s” and the like. And then there’s my personal favorite, spoken once again by my little girl while we were cuddling at bedtime.
“Mama, I love all your squishy parts. You’re the softest mama in the world.”

  To this day I don’t know if that was a compliment or an insult. Kids. Whatcha gonna do?

Friday, October 1, 2010

They've done it again...

My characters have done it again. They keep running off with my story, changing it into something I had no intention of it being. I cannot begin to describe the weirdness of having a story that you are authoring being hijacked by the imaginary people you have created. It is surreal, at best.
  I tried. I tried to finish out a chapter that I had so carefully outlined and fleshed out on paper to keep the ball rolling. But before I knew what was happening, those little scamps grabbed my storyline and took the hell off.
  “Wait!” I cried. “Not that way! This way! Over here – like we planned! Guys! Come back!”
  But it was no use. Their giggling little selves had made off with my plot yet again.
  So I tried to work the deviation into the stream of the story. I’m the author of this thing after all, right? And I’ll be damned if they didn’t laugh in my face and re-double their efforts.
  In the immortal words of my author friend Kait Nolan -  “But…but…”
  It was too late. They had control.
  And let me tell you another thing, I write adult paranormal romance. So all kinds of weird shite can manifest when you’re not looking…sometimes when you are. I have been absolutely appalled at some of these characters’ behavior, and I find myself switching into mommy-mode.
  “Absolutely not. We are not going there. You cannot behave that way and expect people to read you. That is just so wrong. Naughty, naughty characters!”
  At this point I can only assume they commune with my children as well when my head is turned, because their only reaction was to stick out their little imaginary tongues and keep going.
  So like a plump marshmallow over a campfire, this thing has just kept growing in exponential proportions, splatting its sweet sticky goodness all over my plotline.
  Mmm…I think I taste a trilogy.

  In other news, I started following a hilarious blogger named Rob. You can find his page here. I’m not sure if I did it because he made me laugh, or he made me feel slightly less embarrassed of my own non-linear insanity. Either way you should check it out. And send flowers to his girlfriend. I don’t know the woman, but damn. She deserves flowers.

  And now I’m off to try and clean up the sugary goo that has coalesced on my beloved story. Wish me luck!