Day 14-Friendship

Make new friends

But keep the old

One is silver

And the other’s gold

Day 7: Creativity

Been away from the posts for a few days, but I knew this was one I wanted to tackle.

Creativity has always been important to me. When I was younger, I thought I was going to be a fiction writer. I’ve had a bit of success, here and there, at short fiction. Thing is, there’s not much of a market for short fiction, and I’m not sure I’m a novelist at heart. I don’t have BIG IDEAS. I’m kind of lousy at plotting.

My creativity manifests in other ways, though. I’ve been doing calligraphy since I was in high school, and I maintain an Etsy shop where I sell my calligraphy and paper crafts.

Lately, though, it’s been coming out in the form of songwriting. Well, lyric writing. I’m not a musician, but I am married to one. 🙂 And being married to one has brought me into a whole community that has nurtured and supported this creativity.

The past two years, I’ve participated in something called February Album Writing Month. (That link goes to my profile.) The idea is to write 14 songs-an album’s worth-in 28 days. Now, I haven’t made it to 14, or anywhere near, but it’s been a useful exercise anyway. This year, I posted three things…one of them, a lyric that’s been around for a while that has finally been set to music. I ended up adding two lyrics that aren’t quite finished. In my drafts I also have a Peggy Carter song (tentatively “Do as Peggy Says”) that I’ve been trying to write this for a year now. I’ve made a little bit of movement, but It’s giving me a rough time. There’s also a chorus inspired by a FB post conversation that still doesn’t have a song, and two brainstorming lists that I’m hopeful will turn into something at some point. I call that a win.

All of this is moving toward an album that Rand and I are going to record this year. (eep!)

All of this is to say that, while I’m not doing what I once thought I would be doing, I’m really happy with my creative life right now. I love being able to create and collaborate and feel supported and enriched by it.

(The poster imaged above–designed by Karen Paddison–features lyrics from the song “Take it Back” by Kathleen Sloan. It’s based on a speech made by Barry and Sally Childs-Helton when they were inducted into the Filk Hall of Fame. I am proud and humbled to count these people among my friends.)

Day 5: Gratitude

The first time I listened to Hamilton, this was the line that most stuck in my head.

How lucky we are to be alive right now.

It’s an easy thing to forget. It’s easy to get bogged down in everything that’s wrong. It’s good to remind ourselves about what’s right.

Right now, I’m grateful for the love in my life…the love of the wonderful man I share my life with, and the love of my families–of birth, by marriage, and chosen.

(I’m grateful for a lot of other things, too. Like the unstoppable ball of joy that is Lin-Manuel Miranda, and all the beauty he has created.)

Look around.

(If you want to know what this whole theme post thing is about, check my first post here. And feel free to join in–there are no rules!)

Day 4: Humor

Back when I was planning my wedding, I celebrated 27 things I love about Rand on my wedding blog, for the 27 days leading up to the big day.

Day 23 was: He makes me laugh. (I don’t want to re-hash everything I wrote there, but click the link if you want to read it. It’s not very long.)

Rand’s sense of humor, and the way he knows mine.–whether that means telling a joke he knows will make me laugh, or showing me a cat video I haven’t seen yet, or rewinding the TV show so I can see that pratfall I missed while I was looking at my phone/computer–is such an important part of our life together. He just really gets me, y’know?

When I started thinking about this post, I wanted to make a YouTube playlist of some of my favorite comedians, but I got overwhelmed and distracted and moved on to other things. Maybe that’ll come another time.

Just recently, though, we saw one of those faves, Mike Birbiglia, live at Helium here in Buffalo, working out his newest material. This afternoon, we watched his most recent filmed special, “Thank God for Jokes.” Both were fantastic. (During the former, I learned that he had grandparents who lived in Hamburg, and so spent time in Western New York visiting them when he was a child.)  Birbiglia was an up-and-coming young comedian when Rand and I were dating and starting to enjoy comedy together…we both identified with his “My family isn’t real Italian; we’re more Olive Garden Italian…” bit that was part of his early act.

I was going to end this post by sharing a clip, but I couldn’t pick one…so if you’re not familiar with him, go to YouTube and type in Mike Birbiglia, or go to Netflix, and watch “Thank God for Jokes” or “My Girlfriend’s Boyfriend” or “What I Should Have Said Was Nothing.” You won’t regret it.

(If you want to know what this whole theme post thing is about, check my first post here. And feel free to join in–there are no rules!)

Day 2: Heart

(Yes, I am a day behind. I’ll catch up eventually…maybe…) 😉

I sometimes make fun of Heart a little bit for going all ballad-y (and less rock-y) in the 80s. But this song. Is. So. Good. The ultimate power ballad.

Day 1: Love

So, Michelle tagged me in on this writing prompt. I failed to post yesterday, so here I am, starting a wee bit late…

Anyway, love.

There were a lot of ways I could have gone with this, but here’s what I settled on: my morning coffee, in my Shakespeare love mug. Made with my favorite new coffee gadget, the AeroPress. The coffee is Equal Exchange organic Mind, Body, & Soul, sweetened with some Splenda and flavored CoffeeMate creamer.

This is significant, you see, because when I started blogging many moons ago, I didn’t drink coffee. It’s even in my 100 Things About Me post. This particular rabbit hole started for me with the Pumpkin Spice Latte. And now, I can’t start the day without it.

So on this chilly March morning, love is a hot cup of coffee. Mmmmm.

Kill the Beast

Back when I taught high school English, I did an introductory lesson for The Crucible that introduced students to the concept of a “witch hunt.” I used “The Mob Song” from Beauty and the Beast, in which the villain, Gaston, whips the townspeople into a frenzy so that they will help him kill the Beast.

The Beast will make off with your children! He’ll come after them in the night! We’re not safe until his head is mounted on my wall. I say we kill the Beast!

Gaston doesn’t really believe any of this. His reasons for wanting to be rid of the Beast are selfish ones, but he uses fear to manipulate the townspeople into doing what he wants.

And it works. Frightened people, it turns out, are easy to manipulate. Soon, they are marching–with literal pitchforks and torches–to help Gaston kill the Beast, who was never really a threat to anyone.

We don’t like what we don’t understand
In fact, it scares us…

The words are simple, but I think they get to something at the heart of human nature.

So, why am I talking about this? Well, I originally started writing this quite a while ago, because of something I saw posted to facebook last year…an article about an organized boycott of Target, because of Target’s announced policy in response to so-called “bathroom bills” like the one passed in North Carolina.

Since then, this issue has come to the forefront again, as the current administration has moved to roll back protections for transgender individuals put in place by President Obama.

As transgender people have become more and more visible in mainstream culture, I’ve been seeing increased fear and panic coming from ordinary people. That fear and panic is, I think, genuine…but I believe it’s being stoked by various Gastons at various levels of political and cultural leadership.

Gaston’s goal was to remove the things he saw as obstacles to Belle marrying him. I’m truthfully not sure what the goal is here. (I have some guesses, but I’ll keep them to myself for now….that’s not really my point.)

I am far from being an expert on trans issues, but I do have a number of transgender friends and acquaintances. I do feel entirely comfortable in saying that they want what everyone wants: to be allowed to live their lives peacefully and be treated with dignity and respect. That dignity and respect includes being allowed to use public restrooms without being harassed or arrested. (and trust me, they are far more likely to be harassed or assaulted in a public restroom than you are.)

Chances are good that you, and your children, have been sharing public restrooms with transgender people without incident for some time now. You haven’t noticed. I’m not sure why people think, now, that this will somehow open a door for perverted straight cisgender men to pretend to be trans women for nefarious purposes. (There is no evidence at all that this has happened/is happening. And I submit…if there are actually people doing or wanting to do this, do you somehow think the lack of a specific law preventing it has been stopping them?) Also, there are plenty of people whose appearances don’t conform to “accepted” gender standards, regardless of how they identify…I’ve already seen a number of news stories involving cisgender* women being thrown out of women’s restrooms for this very reason.

I feel like I’m wandering away from my point, so I’ll end with this: “the Beast” is not a danger. In fact, I submit to you that, in this case, the Beast does not even exist. Don’t listen to those who are telling you to be afraid.

If you want to read more about this, here are a handful of articles I’ve come across that I thought were informative and well-written.

Stop Using Your Children As An Excuse To Be A Hateful Human Being (Scary Mommy)

North Carolina transgender student asks to meet governor over ‘bathroom bill’  (Today)

Top 10 Myths About Transgender People (Everyday Feminism)

Transgender People: 10 Common Myths (Vox)

(Please share your suggestions for additional reading on the topic, if you’ve got them)

*cisgender just means identifying with the gender you were assigned at birth.

Album meme (expanded version)

So, I did the facebook “10 album” meme that’s been going around, but I had some additional thoughts. And I thought, “Oh yeah, I have a blog! So here goes.

First, a repost of the 10 (okay, 11) I posted to facebook, covering roughly the years 1987-1993.

True Blue–Madonna

Licensed to Ill–Beastie Boys (Yeah, I know the many ways this album is, uh, problematic. I also know it’s not the best Beastie Boys album. But I was 13, and I listened to it A LOT.)

Batman Soundtrack–Prince Well, y’know, Prince. 

Faith–George Michael

Appetite for Destruction–Guns ‘n Roses

New Jersey–Bon Jovi I loved Bon Jovi so, so much, you guys.

Hysteria–Def Leppard

Rhythm Nation 1814–Janet Jackson

Blacks’ Magic–Salt n Pepa

River of Dreams–Billy Joel

Bat Out of Hell–Meatloaf This obviously did not come out while I was a teenager, but my high school years were when I got into it. Also, It’s a miracle that it took me so long to figure out that the man responsible for these songs also wrote “Making Love (Out of Nothing at All)” and “Total Eclipse of the Heart.”

My taste in music could best be described as “mainstream.” 🙂

Here are some albums that were important to me earlier in life:

Annie–Original Broadway recording When the movie version of Annie came out, I had been listening to this album for a couple of years. I was kind of a tiny hipster, annoyed by how different it was. The songs that were left out. The songs that were created/added. I still prefer this version. Oh, and as a side note, we’ve been re-watching 30 Rock, and it tickles me how much Tina Fey (or someone in the writers’ room) loves Annie. The songs come up rather frequently.

Grease soundtrack (movie)

Just Sylvia–Sylvia My mom had this album, and I was obsessed with the song “Nobody.” I would pretend that I was going to sing it on a gameshow. (which I think might have been the 80s version of The Gong Show?)

*honorable mention: “Eye in the Sky”–Alan Parsons Project…it doesn’t get a full spot because I only bought the 45, but it was the first music I purchased with my own money*

Air Supply–Greatest Hits  I had originally stayed away from including greatest hits collections, but this one was a huge part of my childhood. My mom had it on cassette…in my memory, it was a copy, and it had Bonnie Tyler on the other side.

The Other Side of Life–The Moody Blues My dad was a huge fan of The Moody Blues, and I remember listening to many of their albums on cassette, in the car. I know not everyone is a fan of this record, but I liked it quite a bit (and was kind of obsessed with the single, “Your Wildest Dreams.”)

Hi Infidelity–REO Speedwagon I really, really liked this album when I was 9. In fact, I got in trouble for bringing it to school once, due to the risque cover.

She’s So Unusual–Cyndi Lauper

Hangin’ Tough–New Kids on the Block I went on a trip to the beach with my friend Heather and her family the summer I turned 14. We had a tape that had Hangin’ Tough on one side, and Appetite for Destruction on the other. It’s really kind of hilarious.

Dirty Dancing soundtrack So, who else can sing the Kellerman’s anthem?

And a few later (college/after college) offerings:

Pop! (The First Twenty Hits)–Erasure This is just one of the greatest hits albums that was a very big thing for me when I was first building my CD collection–which didn’t happen for me until early college. Billy Joel. Journey. Styx. Queen. REO Speedwagon. etc.

Jesus Christ Superstar–Original London recording

Les Miserables–complete symphonic recording

I never would have discovered my love for these musicals if it hadn’t been for my roomie/bestie Jen…

Jagged Little Pill–Alanis Morrissette I admit, I wasn’t on board the Alanis train right away. I was, in fact, kind of put off by the aggression and what, at the time, I felt was vulgarity of “You Oughta Know.”  Then, I don’t know, a year or so later, I went through a bitter breakup and was all “AND I’M HEEEEEEERE TO REMIIIIIIND YOU…”

Shakespeare My Butt–Lowest of the Low This is the quintessential album for surviving your 20s. It’s about being broke, getting fired, falling in love, breaking up, and trying to figure out your place in the world.

OVFF 2016 (with a brief history)

I’ve told the beginning of this story before, but I’ll tell it again, (briefly) for the sake of those who need catching up.

Once upon a time, a long time ago, I met this nerdy guy named Rand, who was in a nerdy rock band. This nerdy rock band played at Comic and Science Fiction conventions, but they were also a part of this thing called filk. (Here’s a Wikipedia article about Filk; and Debbie Ohi’s Filk FAQ)

I’d been introduced to filk as a concept by my close personal friend Amanda before meeting Rand, but Rand brought me to my first filk convention in 2005. And (I know I’ve said this all before), while I was immediately taken with the community, I did not think I would ever sing in front of other people. Or write a song. Or sing a song I wrote in front of other people.

Well, slowly but surely, I was proven wrong on all counts. This community can be, uh, very persuasive.

pegasus-concert
(photo courtesy of Sunnie Larsen)

And this year, you guys, I (along with that nerdy guy of mine) was nominated for an award. (we didn’t win the award, but that doesn’t matter so much, really…) I got to perform that song in a concert with all the other nominees. And if you’ll forgive me for going all Sally Field for a minute (even though it didn’t win), people liked it. They really liked it. The response from the audience during the performance was amazing. And then, all weekend, people I knew, people I didn’t know, and people I’d just met made it a point to tell me how much they enjoyed it. Here’s a link to Cliffs of Insanity as performed at FilKONtario in 2013. (I’d absolutely love it if someone shared video from the Pegasus concert…)

It was a tough ballot all the way around. I mean, it usually is, but it was a really tough ballot. In multiple categories, there were at least two nominees I’d have loved to see win.I think I congratulated most of the winners in person, but if I didn’t, congratulations!

I have a lot more to say about this convention in particular, and this community in general, but I don’t think I have the brain cells for it at the moment. I’ll leave it at this:

This community means the world to me. There are infinite reasons I’m glad I met Rand, but you–the people I’ve met through and because of him, this found family full of acceptance and support and guidance that has helped me to find the courage to do things I never thought I’d do–I wouldn’t be who I am right now without you. Thank you. I love you.

(I didn’t prepare an acceptance speech, but if I had, it would have been something like that. And who knows…I might still get to say it someday. ;))