Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Consider It Given

I was trying to avoid doing the usual "what I'm thankful for" posts that I've been seeing everywhere. It's not that I'm ungrateful, but I hate to be trite and really, I'm thankful every stinkin' day of the year.

But, here I am. Feeling thankful. Feeling doggone grateful and all squishy in my heart. So I'm letting it fly.

I have an amazingly wonderful life and I'm privileged to share it with an amazingly wonderful man. So much of what I am right now and where I am right now is because of him, and because of his love and support.

Yeah. I'm gonna be syrup-y about this.

Two and a half years ago my life was graced with this man. I've learned more about being loved in that time than I have my entire life.

I could list his attributes - he's kind, thoughtful, caring, generous, funny, intelligent, sexy. All of that is just who he is, he's completely unpretentious about it. He provides for me in a way that is completely supportive of allowing me to do work that I love doing; not just the brick and mortar stuff, but he makes sure I have the right tools and the time I need. He asks me about my day even though he knows that more often than not, I've just been here at home, dinking with artwork of some sort. After working long hours of his own in construction, he asks if there's anything he can help me with.

He's that kind of man.

Every day I wake up with this extraordinary beauty in my heart. Beauty that's there because of him, because of who he is to me and for me. Beauty that I've learned not to question, Beauty that I've accepted as something that is simply part of my life's grace. It blows me away. Every day.

So, while I'm thankful for all of the usual suspects - friends, family, health, and home - I am profoundly grateful for Steve and to him, for allowing me to give him all this love I have.

Now, all of you... please have a Happy Thanksgiving. Be safe. And when the turkeys start to get you down, put a little nugget in your mind that says, "What if this is the last time I'll ever see them?"

You get love when you give it.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

It Happened One Night...

I am 50 years old today. I'm saying that, rather I keep saying that, because I'm trying to get used to the flavor. In honor of my day, I'm rerunning one of my favorite posts. You've seen it a couple of times, but I like it. So, here it is again. Pass the cake and settle in...


And so, November comes 

Here we are in November. It's a mixed bag for me.

Weather-wise, I always feel like I'm coming into my own. Nothing fuels my creative went more than a blustery, cold day. The starkness of the newly barren trees only makes me want to fill the world with my own color. All my favorite fabrics come into play (fleece, wool, flannel...). I get to enjoy the warm ambiance of a crackling fire, the rich inner glow of a hearty soup or stew on a dark evening, the beautifully acrid scent of rotting leaves.

It is, in the Catholic tradition (and you can take the girl out of the Catholicism, but you can't take the Catholicism out of the girl) the Month of the Dead. It's also the month that ostensibly involves Giving Thanks. Cue the introspection. For me, Thanksgiving isn't about the parades, the meal, the football games, or even the family gatherings. It's about tallying up the events of my life for the past year and recognizing the beauty and treasure that's come my way, and voicing a commitment to continue a search for more - mostly by striving to be the best Who that I can be. It's the month in which I was born. I can honestly say that I've never faced the It's a Wonderful Life syndrome of having wished I'd been otherwise dispatched. Sure, there have been a few times in my younger days when I wished I was dead, but never have I wished that I hadn't been placed on this huck of dirt to begin with. So, I celebrate my day - not with presents and cake and parties - but with the acknowledgment that I was put on this earth for a reason, and with a grateful nod to the Universe that my life was allowed at all. I'm not daunted by the aging process or by the numbers, because both aspects only mean that each November, I get to be thankful for being offered the opportunity to continue this strange and amazing journey.

It's also the month in which my Father was born. This always makes me feel more sorrow for him than the month in which he died. As turbulent as our relationship could be, Dad and I share a love for the cold, crisp days and a crackling fire; we share the ever-present, often sardonic, sense of humor that others either delight in or find offensive; we share a deep appreciation for any natural beauty; we share a certain level of artistic flair. I also have the female version of his face (thanks for the great eyes, Dad!), and his bone structure. It's been nearly 26 years since he left this earth, and I find I miss him more with each passing year. I wish I could sit down with him, and tell him how beautiful my life is, tell him I love him, let him know it's okay. Therein lies the sadness of my November.

And so, November it is. I will revel in it. In fact, I'll give myself to it with wild abandon. Come the 17th, should you spy a certain (self-perceived) gypsy girl dancing around a bonfire, tears streaming past a grin, hollering, "Thank you, thank you, thank you!" (and that could all happen literally or figuratively) That'd be me. Stop and say hi, give me a hug, wish me well.

Wednesday, November 16, 2011


Dear Fifteen Year Old Self,

Today is the last day we'll spend in our forties. Tomorrow we move on to the big Five Oh. I thought I'd share with you some of the wisdom we've gained. Thought I'd let you know that it's not all as desperate and bleak as it can seem to a fifteen year old girl, as I know it seemed to you.

Right now there's a big campaign going on called "It Gets Better." It does. It also gets worse, it gets mediocre and mundane, it gets beautiful, ugly, sadder than you can imagine, happier than you dare to dream. Point is, it changes. Constantly. Remember that line from Pippin? "There's one thing to be sure of mate, there's nothing to be sure of." That's how life is. But that's a good thing, a very good thing.

You're going to go through all kinds of stuff, both the pretty and the pretty horrible. Keep in mind that the phrase "go through" implies just that... movement. Every ending has a new beginning. Every beginning has an ending.

Relationships of all kinds will come and go. Friendships will deteriorate as people grow and change within their own lives, just like you will. People will die. There will be a lot of hurt. That's all part of life too. It'll be tempting to turn your heart into a rock and not let anyone in, but you have to. It's all about balance. You don't get deep joy without also experiencing crushing sorrow. The joy is so worth it. Besides, others need you just as much as you need them.

Here's possibly the most important thing. It's your life which means it's your life to live. Don't let anyone else dictate it for you. Don't let anyone else make you feel like you're less than. You got it - it's yours to allow or disallow. When you live to please someone else - I don't care who it is or what the relationship is, you'll end up miserably repressed, and you'll end up doing a disservice to everyone. Including you.

Don't be afraid of shit. Don't let fear block you. Don't just say, "I can't. I'm scared." Find out why. Then bust it down. You'll feel foolish when you look back and say, "That wasn't so bad at all." But that's okay. You learned.

Learning. Yes. Gather it up, as much as you can. This is one of those gigs where there is no such thing as "too much." Never ever ever dumb yourself down. Teach instead.

Because, guess what? The happiness you're looking for? It's in you. It doesn't come from anywhere, anyone, or anything else. Really, it's already there. Problem is, when you waste your time tap dancing around what you perceive that others expect of you, you don't do the dance you were called to do. So, listen to that distant drummer and boogie on reggae child!

Love big. Yes, it sets you up for hurt, but when you let it all out, that space expands and you get twice as much back.

There's a lot of fun to be had. Good, harmless, crazy fun. Let your laughter be infectious, let your smile be genuine, let your imagination run along any path it wants to.

That's about it. All the other stuff is just dandelion fuzz blowing in the wind. It will shift, drift and disappear into memory.

It gets better, I'll grant that. At the very least, it changes. Oh, but every now and again....?

It gets damned good. Stick around.

Love you,
The Gypsy

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Grimm Reality

The Grimm boys were on to something. I'm not talking about the watered down version of fairy tales that your mother used to read to you. I'm talking about the real stories, the stories as they were written. The Grimms knew that you don't get to happy-ever-after without a lot of hard work, difficult times, gruesome events, people who manipulate, lie, and let you down. They also knew that happy-ever-after isn't really ever after - everything shifts eventually, everything comes to an end at some point. Their stories were bleak and dark, meant to be warnings. They were meant to say, "Hey, think about how you're living. Think about what you really want out of life. Think about how what you do impacts others, and don't expect someone else to do the work for you. Don't rely on someone else to make you happy. And for fuck's sake... be careful what you wish for."

I like that.

But I don't think they were dour, unhappy men. I think, in fact, that they did know happiness. They also had a great understanding of reality.

That's why I think I'm living a fairy tale.

If you can't stand to hear people talk about being in love, or if it bothers you to hear someone talk about how happy they are, you should probably stop reading now.

I am crazy, head-over-heals, heart and soul in love with my man, and I'm happier than I've ever been in my life, or ever even imagined was possible. However, (and this is for those of you who are rolling your eyeballs and saying, "Yeah, right... you get everything you want..."), however, this place in my life didn't just happen. I didn't just wish it and *poof.* I went through a lot of shit and I worked hard, mostly on myself. And I got lucky. Because he really is as amazing as I've always wanted a mate to be.

Here's the thing though, before I met him, I was going to be happy anyway. I was going to enjoy my life regardless. That I get to share it with him is a celebration of everything I've worked for. A celebration. Nothing more, nothing less.

I'm at the good point, the lovely point of the fairy tale right now. I'm at that place where the birds always sing and the meadows are green. I'm not so naïve as to think it's ever after. I know that eventually there will be a new page, there will be giants, curses, darkness. C'est la vie.

But for now, I get this chapter. It's mine and I won't forget it. It will stay with me, whatever comes.

I am loved. That is more than enough.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Fanning the Fire

Today my blog is four years old. Yessiree... we've passed that pesky toddler stage and run full-on into constant curiosity and wide-eyed wonder.

Reading over the past four years, I'm impressed (again) at how fast and how much life can change. Four years ago, when I typed my first word here, I was in a dark place filled with ghosts and shadows. No one could have convinced me that in four short years I'd be where I am today - in a beautiful relationship and doing work that I love doing.

It wasn't where I pictured I'd be. I thought maybe I'd just hit the road and never land. Obviously my escapism voice was talking loudly then. Plus, the walls of the house that I'd shared with my late mate John were pushing in on me. I was suffocating and needed air. Badly. This space was where I came to breathe.

I didn't know what to expect from this blog. I just knew I needed a place to ramble, a place where friends and family could check in and see that I was... coping. Or not. I never thought I'd end up with readers who didn't know me. I never thought that if I didn't write for a week or two, people would contact me and not only ask if I was okay, but ask if I was ever going to write again. Because for whatever reason, they'd come to need that (almost) daily dose as much as I.

"Life sure has a funny way of working out, huh?"
"All the time."
~Lonesome Dove

You, My Wonderful Readers, have sat with me through tears, laughter, ranting, anger, banality, threats, cajoling, preaching, mundane, sarcasm, self-pity, self-loathing, self-love... all of the rocks and bits I've sifted through on my path. You've hung with me while I discovered my artistic path, while I (finally) acknowledged my aesthetic longings. You've watched while I auto-didacted my way into my own intelligence. I'll never understand what makes me such a fascinating specimen to you, and I don't need to. These days, I simply enjoy the company. It's nice to have both familiar and unfamiliar faces around the campfire.

You comfort me. And even content people like comfort.

I hope that my world continues to make you feel welcome, and curious, and inspired. I'll keep throwing logs on the fire, and I'll keep brewing the good dark bean.

Because while we may not be able to walk the exact same path together, ain't nothin' that says we can't pull up for a spell, warm our bones by a fire and share come good company. Right?


Friday, November 11, 2011


There was a time when the only news that came into any given home was via the 6 o'clock evening news, way back when news anchors were always men. Y'know... eons ago when Walter Cronkite ruled the airwaves. That was it - no CNN, no MSNBC, no internet and youtube and constant stream of information fed our lives. If something big happened, we found out about it at 6 pm. And that was okay. In fact, that was fine. I kind of miss those days.

For my father, the 6 o'clock evening news was gospel. It was as much a part of our daily lives as was supper.

Although I was still mostly a toddler, I clearly remember hearing about a strange, distant land called Vietnam. I remember when the combat troops were deployed, thus beginning the war that was not a war.

Right around that time my dad, who had been sober for nearly four years, began drinking again. Thus began the war that was not a war in my own home.

I'm not saying my experience was anything like that of those Vietnam vets. I'm only pointing out that there was a strange parallel in my universe. Both filled my formative years with turmoil and uncertainty.

The Vietnam war ended a few months before my fourteenth birthday. The Black war ended when my father passed away just after I turned twenty. The two are wrapped together in my mind.

Even as a kid, I fretted for the welfare of our troops. The nightly images of battle, of injured or dead men, left me with an aching heart. When "our boys" began coming home, I watched as shells of men returned, men who were scared, angry, confused, and lost. Broken men. Men who had become outsiders in their own home. I had my own experience-based understanding of those feelings. In my own limited way, I could relate.

My childhood was filled with such despair. I remember thinking... there is so much hurt everywhere. So much destruction in so many ways. Who will listen? Who will make any of it better?

As intelligent and, dare I say, even a bit fey as I was back then I was still unaware of the impact I could have on the world, or on anyone. I wasn't quite clued in that I could play a part in making life better for anybody, let alone for myself. It's forgivable now. I can recognize that I was just a kid. I was not an outspoken kid either. I feared retribution of any kind from any angle.

But that was then. This is now.

I hate fighting. I hate conflict of any kind. Still, I wouldn't change those years of my life for anything. They made me. No, they honed me. I think the reason I'm as tuned in as I am is because of those years - because at a very early age, I began absorbing the feelings of others, identifying the feelings and identifying with them.

I remember an afternoon, I was about counter top height, so I was probably about seven years old. I recall asking my mother, "Why do people have to fight? Why can't they just talk?" It was a bold question for me. Questioning The Way Things Are was not encouraged in my family. Even so, my mother sighed and paused in whatever task she was doing. She turned and looked me in the eyes for a moment. Then with a slight smile said, "My dear Barbara... you are wise beyond your years."

I don't have an easy resolution or conclusion for this post. The fact that I'm writing about this stuff is because I'm still haunted by... all of it.

But. I think this is my way of saying thank you to our veterans - especially to our Vietnam veterans. Years ago you made a huge difference in the life of a little girl growing up in Kentwood, Michigan. Years ago she worried about you and cried for you and hoped with all her heart that you'd be okay.

She still does.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Bought and Sold for Free

It got away from me somehow. That's about as best as I can say it.

Lately not just a few readers have asked me if I'm ever going to post again. One dear soul even threatened self-injury (something to do with jumping out of a single-story home window) if I didn't post again soon. I thank you all for your support and your faithfulness to my blather.

I needed some time away from this space. Because it got away from me somehow. The reason for this space, I mean. When I started writing here, it was a selfish endeavor. It was my very "Horton Hears a Who" way of screaming out amidst the chaos my life had become, and a way of asserting that I didn't die along with John.

For some reason it worked, that selfish, self-indulgent slant. Those of you who read regularly seemed to identify with that voice - something that has never failed to astound me. Although I write (here in this space, at least) for others to read (I mean, duh... it's public), mostly why I write anything at all is because I need to get shit out. I need to cast off old, dusty garments. I need to sing like nobody is listening. I need to weep and laugh all at once until there's a snot-fest on my face and not care about who sees it.

And that got away from me.

I began to pay attention to stats, to who was "following" my blog. I worried if no one left a comment. I started writing with an eye toward what my readers would want to read. Ask any writer, that's the top wrong reason to write. I even went so far, on a few occasions, to go trolling amongst my readers for topic suggestions. I got greedy and I sold out.

Yeah, you can do that even when it's "for free."

Would Jackson Pollack have painted daisies in a vase just because someone told him that's what they wanted to see? Would Man Ray have contented himself with taking pictures of cute puppies just because others mentioned liking pictures of cute puppies?  Would Hemingway have turned his pen to children's stories, or would Buddy Guy have strummed hymns without ever picking out a bluesy riff?

No real artist does what they do to satisfy others. They do it because... because shit needs to get out. Good shit and bad shit. For those of us who do creative stuff, there's a certain level of intensity to what we feel. And if that sounds snobby or selfish to those who haven't experienced it, I can't make any apologies. It's just what it is. Every gift comes with a dark twist.

Back in the day when buildings were heated by huge boilers (steam heat generators), they often had to be "dumped." Dumping meant opening a valve to let out the build-up of steam so that the boiler wouldn't rupture or erupt, thereby destroying anything in its path.

Writing, for me, is my way of dumping the boiler on my burbling mash of soul gunk. It keeps me even. So, yes, in that way it is a selfish venture. Selfish, yes, but there's no room for arrogance and ostentation. Humility, with respect to being gifted enough to create anything at all, is key.

So, I apologize. I am sorry that I lost the vision.

But I think I've got it back now.