Year 3

Every year for the past three years, I’ve neglected this blog, save for a few moments here and there. Some may call my neglect “Life,” but sometimes I wonder if it’s a neglect because of a fear of where creativity can take me — or worse, a fear of whether I’m still creative at all.

But I digress.

Regardless of how often I return to this blog, I always return on this day, May 15th. I return because three years ago, my father died on this day. At 8:00 in the morning on May 15th, 2013, I was getting ready to travel to Dallas. The plan was to go to Dallas, see my mother, celebrate my partner’s birthday with her family, and then travel south to Kerrville, TX, where my Dad was staying with my Aunt Ronda.

Instead, I got that phone call.

Not a day has gone by that I haven’t thought of him. I have a set of books I bought for him while he was ill — the last thing he asked of me. There was a mix-up with the post office, so the books were never delivered. I was going to give them to him when I saw him that week.

He loved to read. One of his last posts on Facebook thanked my Great Uncle or giving him a love of reading so that he could see a light in the darkness of his pain. He wasn’t rich, he wasn’t famous, he didn’t have much, especially in his final year of life, but he was important. He was kind.

He prided himself in his work — especially in protecting the people of the apartment complex I grew up in. He knew everyone’s name. He spoke fluent Spanish, and instead of assuming (as many in this country do) that people need to learn English to live here, he conversed with others in their native tongue.

Every time I became interested in something, he would find a way to share it with me. He read every Harry Potter book so that we could discuss them together. He even picked up video games to do the same. We had a tradition of seeing movies together. He even introduced me to my love of lattes (granted, that first latte was a “Snickers” latte, so I’m not sure how much caffeine was really in it), came over to my mother’s house to make me chicken broth when I was sick, and held a slumber party for me and my friends when I was a preteen, sleeping on his patio while we took over his living room.

Dan loved to cook. And when he met Shan, he invited us over for dinner and made her grilled eggplant with other Vegan options to accommodate for her dietary needs.

And last, of course, he loved dogs. So much. If he had continued living, I’m confident he would have a tiny home, living in the woods by a river with two German Shepherd/Akita mixes to share the rest of his life with.He was more suited to the kind of life of solitude created by J.D. Salinger.

When I visited Boulder this year, I visited the apartment complex he lived in when he was there in 1994. It seemed much bigger when I was a kid, but there are so many good memories. The kinds that outweigh the bad ones.

He wasn’t perfect. But he was my Dad.

I love you, Daddy. I’m glad you’re at peace.

Ideation and Creativity: Stop Riding the Struggle Bus, Self.

I’ve had a lot on my mind, lately. And frankly, I’ve missed writing in here so much, along with my other blog. [1]

It’s not that I haven’t had time, per se; It’s more that I haven’t had the…I don’t know, energy? Joi de vivre? There’s been so much going on that when I do get a moment to breathe, I’d rather just sit down and watch television or read a book.

Creativity

My biggest barrier lately has been ideas. And I don’t even know if it’s that I don’t have any new ideas or if the ideas that I am having are just disappearing in a puff of smoke.

What I wouldn’t give to have a fresh idea that I know would work. Is this something that happens as you get older? Do you gradually lose your creativity? I always imagined creativity to be more like riding a bicycle [2] — I would just hop right on, and all of the research and work would be done already. Like when I was in college, and everything was new and easy.

My biggest problem is that the illusion of creativity being simplistic is gone. And that’s completely okay! I just need to stop thinking that I need energy to start writing — no matter how much research is needed — and just do it. Writing is just like any other job out there. There are going to be things I’m not interested in doing and there will be things I love.

StruggleBus

For example, I love writing dialogue. And I really love the ideation portion of it (there’s that idea part, rearing it’s ugly head again). But I really fucking hate description. If someone could take all of that description and big chunks of text away, life would be grand. [3] But without description, how would anyone know what’s going on in a story? Even in playwriting, you need some stage directions to give the reader/actor/director/stage manager (and everyone involved in theatre, really) some semblance of what’s happening. There will always be some part of it that I’ll struggle with.

Basically, it’s time to get off the struggle bus. If I really want to be a writer, all I can do is take on some discipline.

 

1.It’s not like I’m the only one out there critiquing issues with women in the media, but the practice of doing the critiques myself helps me discover what my own thoughts are. It’s my way of having a healthy discussion with someone.

2. Not that I would know — I haven’t successfully ridden a bicycle without training wheels since… well, ever.

3. I really am a product of my generation, aren’t I?

Lessons I’ve Learned in an Interracial Couple Since Ferguson, MO

When Shän and I started dating, I would joke that we were the opposite of everything a couple was supposed to be.

She was 33, and I was 19.

She grew up poor, but I was Middle Class (sometimes on the lower end).

I’m from Texas. She doesn’t eat meat.

She was initially my boss. I was her employee.

We were both women.

I’m fantasy, and she’s science fiction.

All joking aside, I never expected that we would run into the most issues because of our difference in skin color. In case you didn’t know, she’s black, and I’m white. We’ve been together for 6 years, moving beyond the barriers that others placed upon us — those who thought we would never last because I was too young or she was too mature.

But I can grow. I can empathize with the fact that she grew up in the projects — I knew others who weren’t far from it themselves. We no longer work together, and we trade off between Sci-Fi and Fantasy. I’m not afraid of gaining knowledge. I can even embrace meat alternatives.

As a white girl, though, there’s still a lot I have to learn.

We live in Saint Louis. Home of Cardinals Baseball, Toasted Ravs, Provel Cheese, and, oh yeah, Ferguson. Not sure if you’ve heard of it. You might not have, if you decided not to use a computer, watch television, listen to the radio, or converse with anyone in the past year.

The Beginning: Ferguson

I didn’t know what I didn’t know about racism until I had to. Until last year. Until Michael Brown’s body was allowed to rot in the middle of the street. (No matter where you stand in the Michael Brown Debate, you have to admit that no single person’s corpse should have been left in the street. Where were the medics? Why did no one move his body? Did anyone even attempt to stop the bleeding? Why was he left there for four hours? Who thought that was okay?)

I remember the first night the protests began — the first night they got really bad. It was a Monday. It was actually the same day Robin Williams was announced dead, from an apparent suicide. Why is this significant? Because my partner, due to the circumstances of the life — of the racism, classicism, sexism, and heterosexism (AKA homophobia) — that she has to live, has severe depression and PTSD. It was bad enough for the day to be surrounded by the suicide of a national icon (a man I love and look up to, as well). But then she tried to leave the apartment for fresh air.

There wasn’t a single place that she could go to. Everything was closing early for fear of the rioters (not protestors — learn the difference). She felt self-conscious, daring to go to the mall while Black. She was forced to return home. We stayed inside for two straight days, working from our sixth-story loft while we stared at Social Media, watched the news, and checked police scanners. This was an issue with racism. And this was an issue that was way too close to home.

South Grand is probably our favorite neighborhood in Saint Louis. Shän is vegan, and many of the restaurants in that area have something other than a Veggie burger or a salad for her to eat. Plus, any neighborhood with a bookstore gains an “A” from me. We watched as that neighborhood began a peaceful protest and ended with broken windows, tear gas, and the arrests of people we knew. People we spoke with often.

I was confused. I had seen the racism in Saint Louis. There were places Shän and I simply didn’t travel to because it was not the kind of area that would welcome an interracial couple. I heard stories from friends about things they encountered. The Delmar Divide was a common STL topic. But I’m part of the ColorBlind Generation. Television taught me to ignore the differences and accept everyone for who they are.

That’s what we were taught to believe. That doesn’t mean it’s right.

Here’s why:

Being colorblind allows us to ignore the experiences of others. To say “I’m sorry that happened to you, but I’ve never run into that before, so I don’t think it’s real.” Because if we’re colorblind, we can’t accept that someone else has experienced racism. “You and I aren’t different — anything you’ve experienced, I should also experience. I should at least be able to see when it happens. And I’ve never seen it happen to you.”

ColorBlind ignores the color and focuses on the “blind.”

So when I saw the destruction of this city that I was still new to, I was shell-shocked. But I didn’t know that it would only get worse as time moved on.

Black Lives Matter

After the riots calmed down, the rest of the city pretended to fall in suit.

*Before I move forward, I’m going to quickly say that the protests that followed Ferguson, the murders across the country, were not sudden — they were normal for people of color. They are normal for people of color.  The only difference is that people are speaking up about it, and others are backing up their voices.*

On a personal level, however, things got worse for us as a couple. Going out to restaurants, waiters would turn to me to ask for the bill and avoid contact with Shän. People stare at us as we walk down the street or go to cultural functions. And don’t get me started on the amount of people on social media who have revealed their true selves.

But these seem small, right? People staring. Waiters ignoring her. People who don’t know anything about racism making comments about People of Color.

But when you’re a person of color, these types of microaggressions happen every single day. I experience them as a woman — men speak over me, people backhandedly compliment my weight, people are “proud” of me for choosing salad or wearing makeup. But imagine having those microaggressions, plus ones from people who will blatantly ignore you because of the color of your skin, people who will talk slowly to you because they assume that you don’t have the same level of education as you, and people who look for reasons to move your otherness to another room, company, or even city. They compound. They weigh a person down. They ruin a person’s outlook on life. They lead to depression. Anxiety. PTSD. They are not okay.

We experienced the world as the Black Lives Matter movement came marching forward. Saint Louis painted billboards that read “Blue Lives Matter.” Posts were made stating “All Lives Matter,” demonstrating how badly the majority cannot recognize the minority. Shän continued to communicate with people who didn’t understand the difference.

Black Lives Matter does not mean that other lives don’t. But what we encountered as a couple is still nothing compared to other cities. Nothing compared to the murder of people with darker skin than I. Black Lives Matter because no one cared about Black Lives until now. Black Lives Matter because they are endangered in this country. Black Lives Matter because if a young white man was left dying in the streets because of something illegal he’s done, his portrayal on television wouldn’t include the word “thug.” Maybe his cop would have been indicted.

The most frustrating thing that has come out of this is the white fragility that has popped up. There are so many people who seem to think that people of color deserve what they receive (because no person of color was ever wrongly arrested or given trumped up charges) and that the same thing would happen to white people. It wouldn’t. Sorry. I started to tell people this — to find my own voice in the “new racism” — but I was afraid of my privilege.

I can use my privilege, once I’m brave enough to recognize it. I can use my privilege to help other people. To stand up for Shän and show others that she’s a human being as well. I can use it to demonstrate that my friends are people, too. But I’m going to be honest. I had some white fragility. “I’m NOT RACIST,” my mind wanted to shout from the rooftops. That colorblindness was creeping up on me again. “I DON’T HAVE WHITE PRIVILEGE.” It wasn’t possible. I grew up lower middle class, mostly. I went to school that was majority latino and black — I was even the only white person from 4th-6th grade. My best friends were black. Every meaningful romantic relationship I had was with a person of color. How could I possibly be privileged?

But I am. I am privileged because I was allowed to interrupt my teachers growing up. Because every ticket I could have gotten in this city turned into a warning. Because I was able to easily change jobs. Because I can speak my mind at work and not receive any consequence. Because when I walk into a room, I can see a sea of faces like mine and not a single like my partner’s.

But I shouldn’t see a sea of faces like mine in a city where the population is mostly 50-50.

Empathy is not the same as being black (I.E. Diversity matters).Yesterday, I encountered someone who I thought was a real human being, but he was probably just a troll. He claimed to be empathetic to people of color, but still felt that an organization he was part of didn’t need any leaders of color. “I can be empathetic to people of color and make the right policies for them. I don’t need any people of color on my board.” I’m sorry, what? You’re going to make policies that affect people of color without any people of color as decision-makers in your organization?

We need more people of color in leadership positions to create change. Just because you’re friends with someone who’s black does not mean you have an “insider’s view” and can make decisions for people of color. Just because your partner is black, that doesn’t mean you are black. Just because you “empathize with their situation” that doesn’t mean that your policies will do anything to help them. The policies that are currently harming people of color were already made by people who empathized with them. Let’s not forget that Segregation was initially meant to be a “good thing.” At least black people were allowed to go to school now, right? (See how that logic is skewed?)

I love my partner  — I wouldn’t trade being with her for anything in the world. But I will never lie and say that it’s easy. Relationships are hard enough without extreme differences, but learning is half the battle. And racism is our biggest war. The least I can do is demonstrate that I’m on the right side.

November Writings (Favorite Kitchen)

Pale Blue
Morning Sky
Streaming through an open window

Dark cabinets hold
Mysteries of the universe
Such as Why Oreos

Never last more than three days
Or where Thanksgiving went after
All was said and done

A rug
Is where it has always been
At Mom’s
Here

Some things never change

Chocolate and red
Meet in an entangled web
Where you cook breakfast
Lunch

But never dinner

Welcoming Myself Back to the World

You could say I was on a hiatus from writing. You would be 100% correct.

For the past year, I’ve been gone, sucked into the monotony of a life I didn’t like. I felt stifled in my work-life balance, unable to tear myself away from the work I was doing long enough to fully enjoy my life as woman in her 20s. My previous employers aren’t to blame – I just wasn’t ready for the work that I was doing. This also lead to frequent disagreements with my partner, and since we were already going through some major transitions (*cough* humble brag *cough*), home-life was extremely stressful.

But I recently found myself in a new job, and with it, surprising moments of clarity and…a feeling of home.

My current job is (slightly) along the train route. Enough so that I can walk from the train station. While it’s a 20 minute walk, I don’t mind the exercise, nor do I mind the time to myself to think about…well, anything. On top of that, I love public transportation.

Yes, you read that correctly. I love it. Or, I should say, I love taking the train. (I took two buses to get to my previous job, and both were in less-than-stellar neighborhoods, frequently equaling awkward conversations with older men first asking if I was pregnant and then telling me that I look good. Um. Okay.) I love not having to worry about where the next stop is, that I can stick my nose in a book without consequence, and not fearing how close that bus just came to hitting that cyclist (seriously, I’m not sure if there’s anything more panic attack-inducing than watching a bus driver turn a corner with oncoming traffic approaching.).

But you can learn so much from public transportation. On the train yesterday, a young woman with a learning disability smiled wide as she looked at my bag. She laughed and exclaimed, “I love your bear! Did you make it?” When I said, “No, but thank you.” She wasn’t disappointed. She didn’t judge. She only said, “It makes me happy.”

You make me happy. Thank you for helping to welcome me back to the world.

Waiting

Yesterday, I re-potted a couple of plants and decided to plant a few herbs. They are being grown from seed (as opposed to me purchasing a couple of already grown plants to re-pot into my planters), so patience is a virtue I must have at this moment.

Life has been busy, but similarly, I must be patient for what I need to happen to fulfill what I want. A couple of things that I’ve experienced since I last wrote: Shan and I took the last week of February/first week in March to drive from Saint Louis to San Francisco. It was two and a half days of driving, sometimes in the snow, in the mountains in the snow, in the dry desert air, in the fog, and in the rain. We went through several different terrains and saw sunsets in several different states. We fell in love with San Francisco and cannot wait to go back in the future. This is one of the things I’m waiting for – I really hope we get the chance to move on, there.

Shan is a mega-super-star in the Saint Louis Tech World! That’s fantastic and I am incredibly excited for her. She recently got the chance to meet President Obama! If you haven’t heard of the new initiative TechHire, get on it. It’s important and it is going to change the way people hire. But in the meantime, here’s a video (I’m totally embarrassing LaShana right now, but I’m still so proud!)

While she’s running around going to meeting after meeting – and she’s giving amazing speeches, by the way – I’m standing on the side, supporting her. I’m so happy for everything she’s going through. For me, I’m still feeling like a chicken with her head cut off, but I did just turn 25. And in television, no one has their shit together at 25, right?

Although, does anyone really have their shit together at all?

For mile-marker 25, here’s a list of all of the things I’m grateful for (for as much myself, as for you – what are you grateful for? What do you need to remember that’s in your life, that nobody else has?)

1. Shan/Her Support
2. My Family
3. Pets! What would I do without Pachi?
4. I live in a beautiful loft
5. I have a running car
6. I have enough money to go out and enjoy myself
7. As much as I love my Mother, I’m happy that I’m in a space where I don’t still live with her at 25, and can support myself.
8. In order to read all of the books in my apartment that I haven’t read, I would have to stop buying books for the rest of the year. Pretty proud of this.
9. I have a working phone/computer. There are plenty of people who don’t.
10. I have access to clean drinking water.
11. My credit score is increasing.
12. We have fairly decent furniture – even with a slightly broken bed, we could have worse.
13. Going to the movies – I love going to the movies.
14. Television/Netflix. Seriously – If I didn’t have these to escape the world from every once in awhile, I would never know what to do. Not to mention that TV is my genre of choice.
15. That I can still audition for theatre whenever I want.
16. As a Woman, I can have a blog like http://thestrawfeminist.wordpress.com and not be penalized. I can speak my mind, even if we’re still not being treated on the same level as men.
17. Sunrises and Sunsets.
18. Driving cross-country with my Lady-Love
19. Knowing that there are cities that we can move to that won’t look at us like we’re freaks because we happen to be an inter-racial lesbian couple.
20. Small Town events, like Coffee Crawls. Yesterday, we both spent several hours walking the Maplewood neighborhood in Saint Louis and experienced several coffees that were roasted and brewed right here in STL.
21. Shan and I have tickets to see Neil DeGrasse Tyson speak!
22. That I get to write everyday.
23. Music. I am thankful for music.
24. Every single book and comic book I’ve ever read – even if it’s awful.
25. Seeing the stars at night.

Being Sick And Accepting Help Does Not Compute

I’m going through a triple whammy right now. I’m sick, my mental health is being affected by my sickness, and I started my period today.

I worked from home today to attempt to feel a bit better, but in all actuality, if I had a choice, I would have gone to work and continued my day as per usual, coughing up a lung either way. My partner, Shän, made me stay home. Well, she didn’t make me so much as strongly suggest it multiple times until I conceded her point. I conceded and I stayed home today.

I’ve had the same cough for over three weeks now and it looks like bronchitis. Most days I’m able to work passed it and ignore it, but something that I didn’t know was that she couldn’t ignore it. The same way I can’t ignore when her back hurts or if she’s limping. Relationships are new for me – at least in this iteration. My former relationship was in High School and didn’t include living together or taking care of one another.

So, when someone demonstrates some level of care, my first response is not to accept it. I keep thinking of an episode of Living Single where Khadijah (Queen Latifah’s character) was sick. She was frustrated and easily angered and at one point threw a peanut butter and jelly sandwich against a wall because the crusts were not cut off. A bit extreme and played for laughs, yes, but true for many of us. I don’ want help. I want to take care of myself and take care of everyone else at the same time in order to prove that I’m fine.

Weird, huh?

And when I’m sick, my mood is also way way way down. Bad moods, plus sickness, plus period? Forget about it. Shän should have run when she got the chance.

So, today was not the best day for us until I told her that I would accept her help. Which is really difficult to do, by the way. We hugged, we kissed, we accepted each other. And we’ll keep working on it along the way.

2015: Something More

It’s 2015! As if you didn’t know and have been living under a rock. Or, you’re currently in an Asian Country waiting for the *real* new year to begin.

On this third day of the year, Shän and I have been resting. Or, she has been and I’ve been OCDing the apartment up, cleaning and hanging portraits on the wall, pretending it’s spring all while fog seeps over the city and the cold creeps into my apartment through porous concrete and bring walls. If you don’t remember (don’t worry, I totally forgive you), we moved into a loft back in August. We got rid of the final boxes in December, in time to donate to Goodwill for the Holidays.

Donating to Goodwill, along with the cleaning and organizing rituals that I’ve been committing, as Shän attempts to sleep off the same cold she and I have had for the past two weeks, have been calming. I guess, like many North Americans, I’m pretty much a resolution junky. I shouldn’t be. The promise to change is often difficult, and many of us wind up disappointed to learn in a couple of weeks that we’ve dropped our goals and have returned to who we truly were before the New Year began.

I have some disdain for all of the “Lose Weight!” “Look Better!” “You Need to Change!” books that are out right now. From my experience working in Barnes & Noble, I can tell you right now that there is probably a front display, most likely the octagon where you seek out the latest bestsellers, that is covered in diet and weightloss books. I try not to fall into fads, so I avoid these like the plague.

But I did love Yoga once upon a time, so on Friday I got up a few minutes early and did a 15-minute Yoga workout (mostly Sun Salutations), wherein I didn’t use my Mat because it’s currently in my “attic” (our bathroom has a dropped ceiling that’s maybe 8ft, where the rest of our apartment has, like, 15 ft high ceilings, so we have a storage area) and I forgot to leave it down when we moved in.

Pro Tip: It is a bitch doing Yoga on Hardwood Floors. Also, using a towel in place of said mat is impossible.

But on top of the Yoga, I’m obviously here, back to writing. And I’m reading more again. 2014 wasn’t a good start for Shän and I. We were told to move out of our apartment (because a University wanted to turn it into dorms) in less than two months, which put a lot of our plans on hold for the year. Shän’s depression was the worst it had been so far, in the five years we’ve been together. She had to take time off of work. I adjusted to a new job and so did she.

However, I am happy to report that things are becoming steady. She now works for a major corporation, in a job that makes 1 1/2 times more than her previous job; we have a beautiful new loft; my new job allowed me to work during the week (instead of weekends all the time!) so we could spend more time together; and our bunny is still pretty happy and healthy, no matter what he may tell you about how few treats he receives (because that would be a lie!). Her depression has started to level out more than ever, and we’re falling back into a routine as a couple.

Because of this, we both have more time to write and do what we want to do.

Cheers to a new year!

Nanowrimo: Or, Why I Stopped Participating in the Challenge and Learned to Love My Abilities

This is pretty obvious (based on the title), but I stopped writing for Nanowrimo.

I know, I know, I know, but hear me out. This “50,000” word challenge thing? A novel in a month? Totally not my thing. It’s not the challenge, so much as it’s the form. I don’t write novels. I write dialogue, poems, journals, etc.

I love books, but writing them just isn’t my thing. *Right Now.* I’m not going to knock it off my list of things entirely, but I just love writing dialogue and action. There’s a reason why I never took a Creative Writing: Fiction course at the University. It’s because I was busy taking Screenwriting and Playwriting and Theatre classes. I was busy loving Drama.

Now, I will say, my book idea was pretty good. But in terms of visualizing it? Hello, Final Draft (a scriptwriting software for those of you who don’t know).

So, thank you, Nanowrimo, for reminding me of what I love to do. I think it’s time that I return to such writing. My creative juices are flowing and that’s all that matters. Are there more cliches I can add to this about finding my creative self again? I’m not sure, but I’ll let you know.

Bye for Now.

SoTuachair