The color of your graduation robe– Does it define you? It does in Greenwich, CT

WARNING: THERE WILL BE CURSING. If you’re easily offended you can leave, I’ll wait. Okay, last chance. Here we go-

I don’t blog often because quite frankly I’m busy as all hell. And when I do blog, it’s usually about something going on in the writing community but I have to address this local issue.

This past week there has been an absolute, all-out-shit-storm over the color of the graduation robes at Greenwich High School.

Greenwich Free Press

Greenwich Free Press

 

In the past, “Traditionally”,  boys have worn red robes and girls have worn white robes.

This is me the day I graduated from GHS and I can honestly say the last thing on my mind that day was the color of my robe. Any one who knows me, or knew me in high school, knows that I was just glad, and mildly shocked, to have graduated.

Class of '87

Class of ’87

It’s a different world now, as you can clearly see by my choice of hair style in 1987, which I totally and freely admit is hilarious. I wish this post was also going to be funny because that’s what I like to write, but it’s quite the opposite.

On Tuesday, Feb. 23rd, Head Master Christopher Winters sent out an email stating:

“In a break from previous GHS graduations, this year all graduates will wear the same color gown, Cardinal red with a white stripe on the sleeve. Why the change?” I’m going to paraphrase most of what he said to spare you from having to read for an hour.

“First, at Graduation, except for class officers and Valedictorian/Salutatorian, all students come in together and sit together as one unified class. It’s a day when we honor all for graduation.”

His second point for the change, and I think (just my opinion) this is the one that freaked people out, “Second, we are increasingly aware of student choices with gender orientation. In an effort to respect all students, we will cease using separate-colored gowns for males and females. We strive for GHS to provide a safe, inclusive, and welcoming environment for all. This small change of tradition demonstrates our commitment to those principals.  It is very common for colleges and high schools to have all graduates wear the same color.”

And by God, he was right…I found photos to prove it!

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I thought Dr. Wintters explained it all perfectly. I was very proud to be part of such a forward thinking school. Dr. Winters also said, in keeping with tradition, students would still be able to decorate their caps any way they liked to express their individuality. Brilliant! We are trying to get these young men and women to move to the next level and as a bonus we are all-inclusive.

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THEN THE SHIT-STORM.

I saw petitions about keeping our “traditions” and parents asking the question why do we have to change? I read people bashing Dr. Winters and his decision. In general–people freaked-the-fuck out.

So, on Thursday, Feb. 25th, Head Master Winters reversed his decision. You can read the entire story at http://greenwichfreepress.com/schools/gender-neutral-graduation-gown-policy-at-greenwich-high-school-graduation-stirs-controversy-59615/

Greenwich Free Press

Greenwich Free Press

I asked him via email how the change came about. Dr. Winters responded that he sent a poll/survey to the students with three choices: All red gowns, all white gowns  or a choice to wear red or white. Headmaster Winters said that 89% responded (in about 20 minutes) to the third choice.

Now this seems reasonable. But is it? We should be shouting, hooray, the majority wins!

Let’s talk about who loses; the 11%.

I can’t help but think about the fabulous words of Dr. Seuss, “A person’s a person no matter how small.” So I went to the small community that Dr. Winters was trying to be inclusive of… which I applaud you’re efforts, sir!

I interviewed several people from the transgender and nonbinary community. I explained I have two children, one girl, the other a boy, both heterosexual and have no gender issues, so I do not know any of the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender and Queer) struggles, or the struggles of their families personally. I wanted to represent them properly for this piece. This is what they had to say to me.

#1: “It’s not fair to any of the students, because they’re being forced to conform to traditional notions of gender just by being told what they can and cannot wear. Being fair and inclusive of trans-kids gives everyone more freedom to be themselves. There’s already so much pressure to conform in high school, and so much ridicule if you don’t.”

#2: “I feel like having all students wear the same color would be more trans-friendly as a means of not forcing people out of the closet before they’re ready. I feel like if students could choose red or white, many transgender males will stick with red and transgender females will stick with white, which would kinda out us back to square 1.”

#3: “Having one robe color is the absolute best possible thing the school could have done. ‘Allowing’ students to choose, isn’t really a choice at all unless the young person has come out about how they feel about themselves. Having one color robe doesn’t impact cisgender (people who identify with the gender they were born into) at all, but it does worlds of good for the trans-people. But that’s some how wrong.”

So, what we’ve done by keeping our precious “tradition” is we’ve made everyone who is part of this transgender/nonbinary community feel ostracized. Yay us!

I went on to research how exactly these young people feel at http://www.yspp.org/about_suicide/statistics.htm.

*At least 50% of transgender youth will have had at least one suicide attempt by their 20th birthday.

*More than 1 in every 10 high school students reported having attempted suicide; nearly 1 in 6 students between the ages of 12-17 have seriously considered it.

*More than 30% of LGBTQ youth report at least one suicide attempt within the last year.

So, you see for some it’s just upholding tradition. But, for others it may be the last straw, the icing on the cake, the final “you don’t belong.”

I also interviewed a PsyD (child psychologist) from another district who said, “Students should all wear the same color. Graduation should be a time of celebration as a group with your peers. This shouldn’t be a time to point out individual differences or to be put in a position in which you have to make a choice whether or not to expose your gender choice.”

Diversity means, variety, many different types. Aren’t we striving to be a diverse community? A diverse nation? Maybe that’s just me. But whether you agree with or understand or support the transgender community, ignoring them isn’t going to make them go away and could contribute to the sad suicidal statistics.

Compassion and empathy are not just politically correct words to use at parties, they are ways of life.

I’d like to point out the things I saw bouncing around on social media were not being said by bad people. They are people I know, people who may at this very moment be un-friending me, and that’s okay, but they’re good people. Maybe they’re just not considering how the other people involved in this are feeling.

Some of you know me as a CCD teacher. Isn’t this the “Holy Year of Mercy”, per Pope Francis? Past my being a Christian, I’m a human being, and I can certainly feel for those struggling with things I couldn’t possibly understand. And for me personally, I don’t ever want to be part of the statistics above. “Love everyone as I have loved you”.

I think the “choice” for this year is a done deal, but I certainly hope Headmaster Winters revisits and reconsiders for next year and the years to come.

I welcome respectful conversation on this blog, but please know, if there is any bashing or attacking of anyone I will remove/block you from everything I am on. I have diverse followers who I am grateful for, and I will not have them disrespected on my site.

We are all wonderfully and beautifully different. Let’s embrace our differences. We all lose when we don’t.

 

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PEACE & ACCEPTANCE

 

 

 

JUDGMENT AND THE PURSUIT OF HAPPINESS

There is a ton; I’m talkin’ a mother-cluckin’ boat-load of judgment out there. And when I say out there, I mean on the Web, on the TV, on the street, at your job, your school, your neighborhood, in your own house, among your family. EVERYWHERE. We’re so quick to judge celebrities, authorities, teachers, parents, other people’s kids, our own kids, races of people, enemies, strangers, and even friends.

Why?

Is it because it makes us feel better? Not me. I’ve instantly regretted saying something negative about someone else the moment it left my lips. But I’m certainly guilty of it. I’ll admit sometimes my lips move faster than my brain and I speak with out thinking. SORRY if I’ve ever said something that has hurt your feelings! I am not a mean-spirited person and meant no harm. I’m also guilty of going up to complete strangers and telling them I like their shoes, haircut or fabulous outfit. My daughter says “it’s creepy”. Whatever.

So, is it because we’re stupid? Okay, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Is it because we’re ignorant to the effect our words will have? You say, well the person, be it online or on the street that you pass in a car, can’t hear what you say. What about the person we are saying it to? Does that encourage them to do the same thing or worse? Or does the negativity swirl and fester and carry on to other things throughout the day? I think it does.

How about self-judgment? Sometimes that’s worse than how we judge others. I know it is for me. My skin’s too pale, my hair’s too frizzy, I have ugly feet. Now don’t be checkin’ out my ugly feet the next time you see me in flip-flops!

So why are we so apt to tear someone up rather than build someone up, including ourselves?

Because it’s easier.

Anger comes quick and easy. I have a hot temper. I know right, who’d a thunk it! Anger is an easier emotion to handle. Anger keeps you from accessing a situation properly. I have found, with things that really matter that are out of my control, anger keeps pain from getting too close. But it has its downfall too. Anger keeps out love, peace and happiness.

It takes work to be happy. It’s a choice. Even when life sucks it’s still a choice.

I was recently accused of having a happy life. It’s crazy but I felt like I needed to defend myself. It’s true; I have an amazing husband that after 22 years of marriage I’m still stupid-ga-ga in love with. I have two teenagers who are not only NOT strung out on drugs but are A-students, healthy, beautiful loving people who I truly love to be around. My husband and I both have jobs, we own a house, cars, clothes and we can put food on our table. We usually get to take a vacation once a year. Is there room for improvement? Hell yeah! After three years we’re still renovating the damn house! LOL. I also have a crazy French Bulldog who had to see a psychiatrist recently—don’t ask—and there’s never enough time in the day to get everything done.

I am blessed and I am grateful but no one gave me this life. I’m not a trust fund-kid. It has been hard work. It’s still hard work. And I have skeletons in my closet just like everyone else. What’s that saying, “The grass is always greener on the other side of the fence until you get there and they have the same overgrown weeds you do and big holes that need filling and snakes in the Pachysandra and a deck that’s not done and huge puddles when it rains.” I actually may have just made that up, but just go with it.

There is, however, a real quote that a lot of people post: “Don’t judge me. You have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from.” Isn’t this true of all of us? I’m partial to the other version: “Don’t judge me. You have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from and I have no problem punching you in the face.” LOL!

When you look at someone, before the judgmental words tumble out of your mouth, think about this:

Are they struggling with an eating disorder? Do they go home to a mother that’s high on drugs? Are they being physically abused? Mentally abused? Do they have scars that you can’t see? Are they an alcoholic struggling to stay sober?

The kid that’s being a pain in the ass in your kid’s class… Is his mother working two jobs because she’s a single parent trying to provide for her children?

The check out person at the grocery store who’s a nasty bitch…Is her father a drunk? Is her boyfriend beating the crap out of her?

The neighbor that won’t talk to you or is just flat-out rude… Is he/she suffering from a mental illness?

The person that just cut you off…Are they rushing to the hospital or a job interview because they’ve been out of work for a year? Now, if they’re texting, and you friggin’ texter-drivers know who you are, by all means show them your finger. What? I meant thumbs down. HAHA!

We all face challenges in our lives. Trust me, I’m no saint, but I know from my own life; you have no idea what I’ve been through or where I come from. Don’t judge me. Happiness and the pursuit of it is a choice.

PEACE

NEW ENGLAND SCBWI SPRING CONFERENCE 2014

Create Bravely: Make Your Mark
PART 2

Whoa, phew and holy canoli! Shameful, just shameful!

Sorry it’s taken so long to get part 2 of the amazing SCBWI spring conference blog done.

Life got in the way, as it tends to do sometimes. Quick summation: It was bad (dad had emergency appendix surgery), better (dad is home healing), AWESOME! (Niece’s wedding), talented (both kids were in recitals/concerts and killed it!), mundane (day job, laundry, groceries, cleaning, cooking, and taxi driving). On a side note; a cleaning lady is first on my list when I can afford it!

Anyway… *trumpet blast* onward!

The keynote speaker for the second day was award-winning author Laurel Snyder; Seven Stories Up, The Longest Night, and Good Night Laila Tov, just to name a few! You can check her out at laurelsnyder.com.

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I was shocked to hear Ms Snyder say that this was her first keynote speech. She was eloquent, poised and honest. She appeared totally at ease, no matter what her insides were doing. I was immediately engaged and thought, this is a chick I’d like to have a cup of coffee with. Coffee is big in my world, so please know that is a HUGE compliment. LOL!

She spoke the hard truth: “It’s not enough to just produce something. The world is full of books. Produce something worthy of publication.” My interpretation of this is, don’t just write a bunch of crap. Don’t settle for “it’s good enough”. We writers need to hold ourselves to the highest standards. Good enough, is, well, NOT good enough.

Be spectacular! “You can struggle to make work that matters or you can struggle to make work that doesn’t matter. Either way, you’re going to struggle.” Amen to that, sistah!

She also said, “Don’t write a book about vampires because that’s what’s hot on the market right now. If you try to be something you’re not, it’s not authentic and it shows in your work. Everyone is unique with their own personality, voice and experiences. Become who you are. Figure out what is it that YOU have to say that no one else has to say. Make YOUR mark. That’s your book.”

Inspired yet? Wait, it gets better!

“Draw on personal emotions in your writing. Not that you have to write about every painful experience, but you can use those emotions in all of your writing. If you dig deep down you’ll find the things in you that make you brave. Be brave because it will put your best work out in the world.”

A bunch of years ago I had an accident and hurt my back. Now, I’m not going to write a story about how I fell on a treadmill and broke my ass. BUT, I am going to use those same emotions to write a scene where someone is in pain. The subject matter can be different as long as the proper emotion gets across.

Ms. Snyder made another good point; “Who are you writing for? It’s not just that you have something to say, but you want someone to hear it. Picture the person you are writing for. The listener defines the voice of the speaker. The listener will shape the way you write.”

Very true. I am going to use language when I’m writing for a middle school person that’s different when I’m writing for a senior in high school.

Then, Ms. Snyder cleared something up for me personally. Okay, I know she didn’t write it for me, per say, but it spoke to my heart.

“How do you know when to listen to yourself and when to listen to what other people say?”

When you’re a writer you have to have critique partners. You need an opinion on what you’ve written that isn’t from your mom, sister or neighbor; I don’t care how honest you think they’ll be. It’s great if they like what you wrote but their view is going to be tainted, slanted and sometimes just plain wrong. No one who loves you is going to actually tell you you suck.

BUT, what if you get some feedback from a crit partner that feels off to you? Ms. Snyder said, “You have to check in with yourself about how you react to what other people say, and ultimately you have to have the final say.”

For new writers, here are some fun facts that she mentioned:

– Kids don’t read down. A senior in high school is not going to read a middle grade book so when you write to an agent and you mention who your audience is, be mindful of this.

– Publishing shuts down in the summer.

– Querying during the holidays is useless.

FIRST WORKSHOP

Writing in 1st Person with Nova Ren Suma, author of 17 And Gone and her new book, The Walls Around Us, coming out Spring 2015. Congrats! You can check her out at novarensuma.com

 

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Ms. Suma spoke about some of the reasons writers use first person point of view. Sometimes it’s for story reasons; why the story can only be told through this character. It may also be to illuminate the character so that the reader can get up close and personal. “A writer should take advantage of the narrow scope in which first person tells a story. It should be used as a tool not a fall-back.”

The positive possibilities for using first person:

-The story can feel more real and authentic. The reader can know deep secrets only that character can tell. In first person you can “write with authority, bringing the character to vivid life.”

-Some of the challenges for writing in first person and things to consider:

-You have to be distinct not generic. You can’t write in generalities.

-If you are writing from more than one point of view, you have to make it clear who is speaking.

-You have to describe your character/narrator physically. Nova said, “NOT looking in a mirror! It’s been done to death.”

-Make sure your character knows only what they can know.

-Is your narrator’s voice likable?

Nova also reinforced what I’ve heard at all of the conferences I’ve attended: Show don’t tell. “Instead of having your character say, I’m angry, I’m hurt, I’m out of control—show it. She read an excerpt from Miles From Nowhere by Nami Mun to demonstrate this technique.

Ms. Suma gave us some tips on finding your narrators voice:

– Journal as your main character.

– Make a list of character’s stuff; room, clothes, music, images.

– List character’s painful memories, make a to do list, write a letter he/she would write.

SECOND WORKSHOP

Beyond OMG; Writing Authentic Dialogue for Teens with Sashi Kaufman, author of The Other Way Around. You can check her out at http://www.SashiKaufman.com and on twitter @sashikaufman.

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Ms. Kaufman said, “Writing good dialogue comes from hearing voices in your head.”

“Listen to the dialogue going on around you.”

I love to write dialogue! Here are some helpful suggestions from Ms. Kaufman on getting it done:

“The use of dialogue is to reveal characters, NOT to advance the plot. Remember that your characters are people first and foremost. Do NOT use dialogue for a plot dump!”

“Everyone needs a voice – Not the same as everyone needs a stereotypical role.”

“When you’re writing for teens realize they are one body in two worlds; not children any more but not adults either. Embrace the contradictions.” I LOVE this accurate statement! I have a sixteen year old and a thirteen year old…I live in contradiction-land 😀

“Make your dialogue do the work.”

“Dialogue reveals characters through conflict.”

If your characters are sitting around having coffee and everything is hunky-dory, your story goes nowhere. If your characters meet at the coffee house to discuss fictitional-Joe’s new head growing out of his arse, well now you’ve got everyone wanting to be at the coffee house.

“With dialogue, less can be more and remember you can never go wrong with IDK.”

“Don’t overuse dialogue tags,” she said knowingly. Dialogue tags, like adverbs, should be used sparingly and thoughtfully. (Love Sashi’s humor!) “Unless you absolutely need something for connotation or sarcasm, a simple he said or she said will usually do it.”

When slang works:

– It’s part of voice.
– It’s carefully researched.
– It’s originality.

When slang fails:

– It’s dated.
– It’s meaningless.
– It’s overused.

For those of us who write YA – How to stalk teenagers:

Starbucks, food courts and movies. Sit near them and listen.

 

Twitter    Instagram   

Google+       YouTube 

And other social media venues.

Drive a bunch of them some place. (I can totally attest to this one!)

It’s important to note that Ms. Kaufman takes no responsibility if you get arrested. LOL. 

A few Truths from Ms. Kaufman:
– Teens don’t stand still to talk. You have to get them moving.
– Teens are emotional creatures. They think with their heart first then their head.
– They are universally self conscious about EVERYTHING.
– Avoid stereotypes.
– When writing parents into the story, keep them clueless.

 

AFTERNOON WORKSHOPS:

Six Steps to a Killer 1st Page with Patricia Newman, Regional Advisor for SCBWI. patricianewman.com

 

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“Your first page has some heavy lifting to do. It has to be so compelling that the reader won’t put it down. Your first page is your thirty-second pitch to an agent.”

That statement is SOOOO true! Who hasn’t gone shopping for a new book, picked something up off the shelf, read the first page, and either bought it or put it down? Agents do the same thing. Ms. Newman surveyed a panel of agents for this workshop and shared her findings, which I found t be super useful.

Agents:      Scan the cover, read the submitted pages and IF they like the pages, they read the synopsis. The first page must communicate tone through language and style, character and plot, description and setting.

To accomplish what the agents wants, ask yourself these questions:

Who is your character?

Start with people. Show emotion. Focus on a single point in time; setting, relationships, action. Establish the main character’s voice and age. And the end of the page informs the beginning.

Agent Says:      Grab me! Intrigue me. Ground me. I can usually tell within the first page if it’s a yes or no.

Where are we?

Give a physical location. What’s the weather? Give a hint to the time period. Include senses; talk about textures to refer to touch, color to sight, and what does it smell like.

When I’m writing a scene I close my eyes and I ask myself, what do I see? What does it sound like? Is it hot or cold, wet or dry? What can I smell? Food? Cut grass? Cow poop? Whatever it is, I write it so that the reader can BE there with me. I have an interior design background so it’s a very visual process for me. BUT, at the same time, Ms. Newman said, “Don’t over burden the reader.” So for me, that means to hold myself back a little. She also said, “–ing words are passive. Get them off the first page.”

What engages us?

Unusual settings. Suspense. Mystery. Character’s voice. The time period. Artful prose (or verse). Read your first page out loud and record it.

I’ve heard of reading the page out loud before but I never thought to record it. I thought, hmm, how does it sound? Is it choppy? Does it flow? Does the voice come through clearly? Did I repeat anything? First page real-estate is precious. Don’t waste it by saying something you’ve already said!

Agent Says:      I have to be kidnapped by the language.

What is the Action?

Get your characters moving, put them in motion. Start with a plot point; conflict, question. Get your characters talking: Dialogue. Show vs. Tell. Skip exposition on your first pages. And remember that in YA and MG, parents stay in the background.

Agent Says:      Age? Who is this manuscript for?

Who Is Your Audience?

Know your audience. Picture your ideal reader. Do your word choices match the setting and time period? Know the word count for your genre. The child must solve the problem in the story. And lastly, white space is essential on page one.

Agent Says:    I want a sense of style on page one. Voice is key.

Does Every Word Count?

What is your language style; formal, conversational, regional? Is your use of vocabulary done well and more importantly, correctly? Use active verbs. Mind the white space! Find the words that suck and change them to ones that are FABULOUS! Every. Word. Counts.

“Make your language sing right off the page.”

Thank you Ms. Newman! LOVED your workshop!

 

LAST WORKSHOP:

English 101 for Authors with Professor Marvin Terban, author of a ridiculous amount of books! LOL. (see below)

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First I have to say, Mr. Terban is hilarious in his presentation. If you have a chance to listen to him speak, do it! You will be informed and entertained for the whole session. Mr. Terban said, “We write for children and therefore have a responsibility in doing it correctly.”

Three reasons why an author uses the best grammar possible:

1. The first person who reads it (agent/editor) does not want to fix it.
2. We write for kids and have a responsibility.
3. Modern day technology is ruining English.

If you send your work to an agent and she/he is looking at your query and someone else’s that is equally engaging, it may come down to grammar to make the decision on who to represent. It is extremely competitive in today’s market. Agents and editors want to work with authors that make their job easier. So even if your idea is good, but your paper is loaded with spelling and grammatical errors, they will pass on you.

 

Go here to see the top 15 grammatical errors that make you look silly.  http://www.copyblogger.com/grammar-goofs

 

English, and the learning of English, hasn’t changed. Look at some of Mr. Terban’s books, or all if you’re feeling confident your brain won’t explode from the awesomeness. Refresh yourself. Check on the things you think you know. Change all of the things that you have no frickin’ clue about.

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Schools can invite PROFESSOR GRAMMAR to visit their school by emailing him at mterban@verizon.net.

Like Laurel Snyder said, “It’s not enough to just produce something.”

Be magnificent! Be superb! Be brave!  Make your lasting finger print on the world. Be someone who wrote something that people can’t stop talking about. And then do it again, and again, and again…

Peace My Friends 🙂

*You can also find me on twitter @jeannieintrieri

 

Bullies. Mean Girls. Anger. Let it Go

Happy Hump-ish day! HA! Yeah, I probably can’t get away with that. I know I said Wednesday is my blog day, but believe me, you did NOT want to hear what I had to say on Wednesday. It would have been a lot of F-bombs and A-holes.  So… let’s dive right in. *adjusts bathing cap…3 steps…leap*

I was the victim of adult bullying Tuesday night. And ya know what? It still feels really bad.https://i1.wp.com/upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/d/d6/Taunting_0001.jpg

This is what happened. I needed to get my son to lacrosse. I needed to get him there on time because I got him there late on Saturday and he got yelled at even though it was my fault. I felt like shit. But I worked all day on Tuesday and I needed to go home to give the crazy dog his medicine so he could stop being so crazy and my mother-in-law is in re-hab for a knee replacement and I promised I would go to the library to get her Florence Henderson’s autobiography. Don’t judge. That’s what she likes to read. As a fiction writer it makes me a little nuts that she only reads about real stuff. Go figure.

Anyway. So I’m late. Again. I’ve got my son in the car giving me the worried eyes, the tension neck rub and the pained look. The look that says, “mom you’re screwing up again!” The look that kicks you right in the low belly and cuts you off at the knees. File:Anxiety.gif

I drive a little faster, not crazy fast, but a little faster. There is a big SUV in front of me going 5 miles below the speed limit. I’m checking my clock. Another two minutes ticks by. My son’s leg bobs up and down at warp speed. Panic tightens my chest painfully. I’m a little closer to the SUV than I normally would be. Everything in me is screaming, GET OUT OF MY WAY! No such luck. It takes every turn I need to take. Now my left leg is bobbing too.File:Nervous.gif

Oh, and as an added point of stress, I need to get my son to the field and get back to the house to take my daughter to an appointment, I’m just getting over the shingles so I’m not quite myself but still trying to do all the things myself needs to do, my mom is not well AND Ididn’t get picked for #PitchMadness.  So there’s that. *sigh*

The SUV is going to the same place I am but it takes the first turn into the parking lot. It pretty much comes to a stop as it’s making this turn. I look around it. No cars are coming. I go around and head into a different entrance. I park in a space and tell my son, RUN! Which he does. I’m catching my breath as I watch him get to his teammates when someone bangs their keys on my window so hard I duck because I thought the glass was going to shatter. I turn and the woman, who I happen to know, points a finger at me and yells, “I thought that was you.”

Now, because I know her, I roll down my window realizing she was the SUV in front of me, and start to say, “oh hey, I’m so sorry but-”

“You were right up my ass the whole way, Jeannie! What’s wrong with you? Right up my ass!!”

My mouth is stuck open in mid-sentence. She continues to walk away from me but mutters something, referencing a situation where her child was bullying my child, “It brings to mind bullying,” she spits out in a way that says she’s been waiting for the opportunity to say this to me. At first I don’t understand what the two things have to do with each other and then it dawns on me. They don’t have anything to do with each other. She’s got a problem with me because her child was bullying my child and was called into the principal. I had been backing out of my space. I pulled back in. Steam is shooting out of my head cartoon style. I’ve been known to have a bit of a hot temper. *family snickers in the back ground* My heritage is half Irish, half German, and, yeah, you get the picture.

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But I don’t get out screaming because I’m not thirteen any more and I’ve learned to contain it. Shaking yes. Screaming…not yet. I wait at her car. The muttering occurred as she was walking away from me, which, BTW, I friggin hate! If you have something to say, say it to my face so I have a chance to respond. Oh, and I’m gonna respond. You can bet your big fat left toe, I’m gonna respond. While I wait, I call my husband. Why? Because he’s my best friend and if anyone can calm me down, preferably before I get myself arrested, he can. And he does. He also confirms that there is a bigger problem going on.

While I’m on the phone with him, this woman goes over to two other women, who are now all staring at me because she’s got arms flailing and fingers pointing as she is talking to them. Grab your pitchforks and torches! Get her! Is what I hear in my head.

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There’s arm crossing and head shaking and I feel like I’m back in high school. Ironically, I’m standing in the parking lot of MY high school. I continue to wait. There’s more pointing. Now there’s a cop she’s telling her tale of woe to, who is also looking at me and I’m thinking, oh just shoot me now and put me out of my misery. But he doesn’t come over so maybe he thinks she’s crazy too.

I text my daughter we are going to be late for our appointment because there is no way in hell I am leaving with out talking to this woman. She sees me waiting but continues to rile up her “gang”. At this point I don’t know if she’s trying to wait me out or if she’s on a power trip, but frig it, I’m emotionally all-in now, there’s no turning back.

Finally, she comes to her car, because, well she has to if she wants to leave. I approach her and say, “Hey, so and so, I’m sorry if you felt I was too close to you and if I made you uncomfortable.” While I’m saying this she’s shouting about how I was “right on her ass” and some other crap about being on some committee, and blah, blah. I cut in, “Well like I said, I’m sorry about that, but there’s obviously a bigger issue here since you brought up the bullying, which clearly refers to the bus incident. So if you have a problem with me, I’d like to talk about it.”

Her: “I have no problem. You were on MY ASS! This close to me!”*fingers in my face to indicate the fictitious distance I was from her bumper*…BARK BARK BARK BARK!” because that’s basically what it sounds like now. So I put my hands up in front of me and lean back in a, woe, back-it-down-a-notch-sweetheart motion, and say, “Did you not hear the first thing I said when I came over? That I was sorry?”

Her: “Yeah!”

Me: “But you’re still shouting.”

Her: “I’m not shouting. This is my normal voice!”File:Scream crosathorian.jpg

Me: My eyebrows take flight up to my hairline. “Really? cause it sounds like shouting to me. I mean, if you feel the need, go ahead, but my driving and bullying don’t have anything to do with each other so there’s obviously another problem here.”

Her: “I’m on the committee for the safe zone! And I’m working with the police. And you were right on my ass!”

I’m not sure what to say to the “right on my ass” comment anymore so I just say, “Ahh..okay.” My staying calm made her outburst look even more ridiculous.

Her: “I’m late, I have to go.” And she storms to her car.

Me: “Okay,” I say as she goes. Mind you I’m still facing her. “But if you have a problem with me or the situation that happened on the bus, I’m available to talk about it.”

I turn to go to my car and as she’s getting in her car she mutters a bunch of crap at the BACK of my head! UGH!! Motherfrickafrackasaskasass!!!

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Wednesday. I wish I could say the next day I was fine and WHAT EVER, with a big finger W, but I wasn’t. It really bothered me that she besmirched my reputation, to two women that I don’t know, and possibly a cop, and there was nothing I could do about it. I hated being pointed at and God-only-knows what was being said about me. It made me feel powerless. That feeling sucks. Really bad.

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On any given day, I have a full time job four days a week, I have a second full time job as a writer, I am me, I’m a wife, a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend, a teacher, a cook, a housekeeper, a crazy-dog tamer because I’m the only one the little bastard doesn’t bite, the laundry chick and the list goes on and on. But hey, everyone is busy, that’s just life, it’s not an excuse. I’m not asking for special treatment but a little empathy would be great. And it’s not like I’m a constant screw up. For the most part I run a tight ship, even as I’m tap dancing a hundred miles an hour. But, admittedly, I am the occasional screw up.

Not gonna lie, when I began to write this blog in my head I planned to M-F that woman all over the page. But in the same way that I wanted her to think about what might be going on with me, stand in my shoes for a moment, I started to think what might be going on with her. Maybe her day sucked so bad that she was just looking for someplace to unload her emotions and I happen to be in the wrong place at the wrong time. Or maybe she’s just one of those holier-than-thou mean girls. I really don’t know. But what I do know is that being mad at her was friggin’ up my mojo. I don’t have time for that (see list above).  I don’t have time for high school nonsense or mean girls.

Forgive and forget? Come on now, I’m not a saint. And did I mention the hot temper? But letting it go for my own good? Yeah, I can definitely do that.

What bag a crap are you hangin’ onto that’s messin’ up your mojo?

PEACE. Keep it and keep your mojo in tact!

images http://commons.wikimedia.org/

Done with Snow? Nervous/Excited about NYC SCBWI Conference? How about a Laugh just for fun!

Hi all. Frickin’ snow. ‘Nuff said. SCBWI NYC Conference *squeee*…Holy Cow, my first!! So excited. So nervous, but that’s just how I roll. I figured out, approaching this conference, that I could use my flaws to help me. There is so much going on in my life and with people I care about that my nuttiness went into overdrive this week. Then yesterday, instead fighting it, I dove in, over the mountains of fear, past the sea of nervousness, through the vise grip of anxiety, above the clouds of perceived impending rejection to a place where I could breathe… and think…and write. I wrote this Adult Contemporary Fiction about a year ago but put it aside for the YA Paranormal Contemporary I’m just now querying. This is exactly what I needed…to laugh out loud! I hope it makes you LOL too…  PEACE OUT!

BODY BAGS/ ADULT CONTEMPORARY/HUMOROUS

CHAPTER 1

     As the rain pelted my face, I wondered why I took this job. Oh, now I remember, because I wanna eat and have somewhere to live. No work equaled no food, no apartment, no cable, no phone, no gas, no nada. I sat with my back against the second floor as lightning cut across the sky and thunder shook my perch on the porch roof. It’s August in Cos Cob, a small town in Connecticut. It had been 98 degrees today, humid to the point of not being able to breathe in the shade, and my long auburn curly hair was showing every bit of it, in frizzy protest. Purple bloated clouds churned in the sky as a storm rolled in and darkness settled quickly around me. When I arrived, I had climbed a tree that overhung the back porch roof and waited in a tight squat position for about an hour for my mark, a cheating husband. My ass was throbbing and my left foot fell asleep about twenty minutes ago.
Dressed in an army green rain poncho I gathered up my bag loaded with my camera, recorder, pepper spray, and stun gun, tucking it underneath me to keep it dry. The camera had night vision capability and the recorder could pick up a dog fart a mile away. The other stuff I kept just in case. Just in case the person I was watching got a hold of me and decided he didn’t want to fess up to what I captured on tape or camera. I’m not a hero or a cop. I’m a private investigator with long legs that I use to run like the wind when necessary. The stun gun or spray would give me a chance to run like hell and call the cops, the real heroes. I had no idea that I would ever be a private investigator. Not to take anything away from the cops, hell I come from a long list of them, but my heroes growing up were Walt Disney, father Mac at our family parish, and whoever wrote the song “Tomorrow” from Little Orphan Annie. Walt Disney created Tinker Bell and I wanted to fly. That put Walt at the top of my list, plain and simple. Unfortunately when I tried to fly off a swing set at age five I broke my arm. I didn’t hold that against good old Walt, but it did put the ki-bosh on the whole flying thing. Father Mac, a Catholic priest, taught me that all Catholics have a get out of jail free card called ‘reconciliation’. Basically whatever you do wrong during the week can be swept away at confession on Saturday afternoon. Of course the catch is you have to be really sorry, and I always am, burdened with a conscience the size of Texas and a strong aversion to the fires of hell. Then there’s the guy who wrote the song ‘Tomorrow’, well that was pretty much my motto, what ever happens today, as crappy as it may be, the sun will come out tomorrow. Now, I’ll be the first to admit that doesn’t always happen, because, shit happens, but I’m always hopeful. Most days I’m just a private investigator trying to be like Walt Disney, spreading smiles everywhere, but usually ending up in confession prayin’ for another tomorrow.
A crack of lightening lit the sky and the rain came down harder. I pulled back trying to become one with the siding and get some cover from the gutter above. The wife on this particular case had contacted my boss, Josephine Carlucci, owner of Carlucci Investigations, last week to set this up. Being a PI was not my life’s ambition. After high school I took some classes at a community college and bounced around in a few dead end jobs not really knowing what I wanted to do with my life. Seriously, who the hell knows at eighteen what they wanna do? So, at twenty-six I sort of fell into private investigating. Jo was hiring, I needed money, and it seemed like a good fit. Jo’s in her forties, five-feet tall, two hundred pounds of robust woman, with a lot of black curly hair and a Minnie Mouse voice. She carries a .38 revolver in her purse that she’s not afraid to use. She’s a pretty good shot, too, unlike myself who carries a .22 handgun and is not so great a shot. If I’m shooting at you, I’ll be aiming for your leg, but more than likely it’s gonna end up in your ass. If you happen to be unlucky enough to be facing me instead of running away, well, you could probably kiss your balls goodbye. I’m working on my marksmanship. I carry a .22 because I don’t actually want to kill anyone, I don’t need your dead soul friggin’ up my karma – thank you very much- but wounding I’m okay with. I’m still not very good at this PI thing but what I don’t have in experience I make up for with common sense and my mother’s temper. The rest? I’m learning as I go and hopefully I won’t get killed in the process.
I checked my watch. One hour and forty-five minutes waiting for this douchbag like a jackass in the rain. PJ Benedillo, the husband in question, was possibly doin’ the neighbor, a college senior with a great body and, if she was doing anything with PJ, not too many smarts. He of course denied any thing was going on, he’d been down this road a bunch of times before. I went to school with most of the people in Cos Cob, including PJ and his wife Nelly who are two years older than me. Nelly’s a simple, no frills kind of gal. Back in the day she was prom-queen beautiful; now, not so much. Not that she was ugly, she looked beaten down, a little overweight, wore no make-up, and hid behind shoulder length blondish brown hair. Everyone knows her husband’s a cheat, but she needs proof. Glad that she finally asked, I jumped at the chance to show her what scum PJ is. Another burst of thunder exploded in the sky and shook my heart in my chest.
“Oh the hell with this.”
I inched up the screen to an open window behind me and climbed in. Nelly had told her husband she had to go away over night for work. She was actually with Jo at the office waiting to hear from me. I was soaked, a puddle instantly formed at my feet as I closed the screen. I pulled off my hood, hefted my bag on my shoulder and started to walk down the hallway looking for the stairs down to the first floor, my sneakers squishing as I went. Soft moaning came from someplace in front of me. Damn, how’d I miss them coming in? Cool. Not cool that PJ was the scumbag I thought him to be, but maybe tonight wasn’t a waste of time after all and the sooner Nelly knew the quicker she could kick his ass to the curb and get on with her life. Quietly, I located my camera and looped it over my head. Next I turned on the recorder inside my bag. The house was pitch black. Looking out the front windows I could see all the houses and streetlights were dark. Power outage. The night vision camera looked like binoculars and helped me find my way. I followed the noises that now sounded more like stifled whimpering. A new feeling of apprehension prickled and settled at the back of my neck. My instincts, my ‘oh no you fuckin don’t’ attitude, told me something was wrong. A man’s voice, I recognized as PJ’s, started to get louder. It was coming from my right, the door ajar about an inch.
“Look, I’m going to take the gag off, but no more yelling. Okay?”
I waited holding my breath. Next I heard a woman; a very pissed off woman on the verge of hysteria.
“You mother fucker! Untie me right fucking now!!”
PJ made a tsking sound and continued in a condescending voice.
“Now look here, you’re in no position to be making demands. You can’t tease me like that and then change your mind.”
“The hell I can’t! I never promised you anything! You said you were taking me to dinner. Dinner!” She spit the words out angrily but her voice shook with fear. The thunder crashed and rain hammered against the windows masking the sound of my opening the door a little more. A dim battery-operated lantern was set on the dresser. A young woman was tied to the four-poster bed in only her black bra and underwear. She had a bruise on her left cheek and her eyes were red, brimming with tears yet to fall. I backed up a bit and sent a text to Jo, 911-0. 911 Was for help; the zero meant come in quietly. I didn’t want to spook PJ with sirens blaring and have this situation get any worse. PJ had obviously lost his friggin’ mind. This wasn’t just cheating. I moved back into position at the door and clicked a few pictures.
“You knew this was going to happen between us-
“No I didn’t, you fucking pervert!”
“-you were sending me all the signs, wearing short shorts and low cut tops.”
“That’s not an invitation, you asshole!”
“Then when you stopped at my table last week…
“I was just trying to be friendly, nut bag!”
“-well then I knew you wanted it too,” PJ moaned.
Oh, yeah, PJ had definitely left the reservation and was currently residing in crazy-town. As he paced back and forth at the foot of the bed I realized he was standing in black tight underwear with the words ‘THE MAN’ written in white across his ass. I almost laughed. He was a little pudgy guy with way too much hair, especially by his crotch. The hair escaped in puffs out the leg holes and over the top of the waistband. Vomit came up the back of my throat. He took a few steps towards the bed and I hoped like hell Jo was on the way with the boys in blue. I opened the door a little more and took a few pictures for the cops and Nelly.
“Now look, this can be easy or it can be hard.” He took a moment to stroke himself at the word hard.
Eewah! A shiver of disgust rolled up from my toes and I swallow back the bile that rose in my throat again.
“The choice is yours. But this is gonna happen,” he moaned in a low rasp that was meant to be seductive but sounded just creepy as all hell. The next thing I knew I got a face full of ass as PJ bent at the waist and slid his underwear off to the floor. He straightened and stood with his feet braced apart and his hands on his hips. It was the weirdest thing. He had absolutely no hair on his back or butt. He definitely waxed back there. I took more pictures, afraid no one would believe me.
“I’ll call the cops you freakin sicko!”
“Ahem,” I cleared my throat from where I stood. “That won’t be necessary, they’re on the way,” I said and opened the door the rest of the way. “You probably should get dressed, PJ.”
He turned around to face me. “Oh, hi Jessica, how are you?” He said like he wasn’t standing there bare ass with a woman tied up behind him. Koo-koo! I tried so hard not to look but I couldn’t help it. In the middle of his wild afro-like pubic bush was a tiny uncircumcised penis that looked like a thumb. I squeezed my eyes tight trying to remove the image. Oh, God! It was seared into my brain; I’ll be scared for life.
“Now isn’t really a good time. My girl and I were in the middle of making love.”
“Oh make me gag! That is sooo not what’s going on, lady,” the neighbor said to me.
“Yeah, I know, just sit tight,” I said back to her around PJ’s shoulder.
“Jessica, I don’t know what you think you heard but I can assure you this was a consensual adult act.”
“Bullshit!! You hit me and tied me up!!”
“Come on now, it was just a little foreplay and you loved it.”
Woe. Could he be any crazier?
“PJ?” A small uncertain voice came from behind me.
“Sweet heart! This slut took total advantage of me,” he pointed an accusing finger.
I could not believe the balls on this guy, nor could I see them for that matter.
“Oh puleeze! Will someone untie me?”
“Oh yeah, sorry,” I said and walked over to the bed. I dropped my bag at the foot of the bed and started undoing knots tied with panty hose that held her captive.
“How could you?” Nelly said in a small defeated voice and sank to the floor at PJ’s feet.
“Baby, I promise it’s not what you think,” he said bending at the waist putting a hand on her shoulder. Ugh, again I got an eyeful of some crap I did not want to see. Ever.
“Yes it is, Mrs. Benedillo, he’s a total perv!!”
“Shut up, you whore!” PJ, still naked, took an authoritative stance and tried to explain.
Jo yelled from down stairs, “Cops are on the way, Hun.”
“Good to know, thanks, Jo,” I yelled back and continued untying.
“Now this is ridiculous,” PJ started to say, his hands back on his hips. “Involving the police is totally unnecessary. It’s just all a big misunder eeek!” PJ jerked around, screamed in a high pitch voice, his eyes rolled to the back of his head and down he went in a loud thump on the hardwood floor. I froze. With her hands free, the girl went to the task of freeing her ankles. Nelly stood with my stun gun still in her hands and looked down at the crumpled pile that was her piece of shit husband.
“I’m sorry, what did you say, dear, I couldn’t hear you past all the lies!!” Nelly screamed and she zapped him again right in the crop, which caught on fire revealing he had balls under there after all. His nuts instantly swelled to the size of grapefruits and the fire singed itself out. The room smelt of burnt hair and ball sack. Ugh.
“Oh yeah! Now that’s what I’m talkin’ about!” The young woman leapt from the bed. “You piece of shit! I hope you like it up the ass in prison!” She yelled and kicked him on her way past, grabbing her clothes off the floor and running out the door. I took the stun gun from Nelly.
“I’ve been so stupid,” she said her eyes filling with shameful tears.
“Not stupid, maybe just a little blind.”
She took a deep breath. “Well no more. That ends today.” She brushed the front of her dress off and headed out the door to join the others down stairs.
I’m Jessica Marco, and that right there, is a typical Wednesday night in my life as of late.

Toxins Kill Everything

Toxic: Poisonous

Toxic chemicals ( Draino, Rat Poisin) when ingested will kill you.

Toxic Gas (Carbon Monoxide) when breathed will kill you.

Toxic Material (Acid) will kill you when handled improperly.

We know these things and most of us will take precautions not to end up dead. You bastards slipping it to people because they cheated on you or whatever… my advice is simple. Success and happiness are the best revenge, your soul stays intact and you don’t have to go to jail. Jail is bad. Living is good. Go get some “revenge”.

But what about the toxins that mascaraed as medicine; prescription pills, street drugs, and booze? I include street drugs and booze because that’s self medicating. It’s so easy to get lured into “feeling better or good”. Who doesn’t want to feel good, right? But at what cost?

Philip Seymour Hoffman, God rest his soul, died too soon at age 46. I look at this brilliant actor and think how could he let this happen to himself? From the outside he seemed to have everything, a loving family, three beautiful children, a successful career gaining him oodles of money and yet he’s gone now like so many before him. I guess he was far from having a charmed life with demons only he knew. I pray for his family and the long hard road ahead of them.

Addiction shows no prejudice. The lure of “feeling good” does not take age, race, gender, religion, financial status or geographic location into consideration and once it’s got you, it is a fierce lover, driving itself into and in between everything in your life. It may start off slowly or full blown but the end result is the same. Death to everything.

Death to the life absorbed with it and death to all the lives connected to the addict in some shape or form. The addict thinks of only one thing: the next fix. The people around the addict have many thoughts mostly in the form of worry, sadness, anger, and helplessness.

“Cut all toxic people out of your life.”

I’ve heard this, hell I’ve said this, but it’s not so easy if the toxic person is a family member. “You should cut him or her off, tough love style.” It sounds so easy but to actually slam the door, figuratively or literally, in the face of a loved one is far from easy. Some people would argue cutting off their own arm would be easier. So what do you do?

Talk to the person? You’ve done that like a million times giving ultimatums and pleading speeches.

Intervention? You’ve done that too and maybe it even resulted in a period of sobriety…until sobriety slips away and the ugly clawed monster of addiction is back.

For the people who are stuck watching the addict go down, because there is no up in addiction, it is horrendous, and that description doesn’t even begin to do it justice. It is days and nights filled with frustration, anger and an impending funeral.

For the addict? It’s a lonely, secretive, horrible life intertwined with a vicious beast that has its teeth clenched around their neck waiting to deliver the final blow. Sounds like fun, right?

Of course, these are not the people who get help. These are not the people who claw their way back to life. Because, thank God, or whoever you believe in, that those people do exist. But the ADDICT has to WANT to do this. The people on the sidelines, no matter how much they want to FIX it, and I totally get it, I’m a fixer, a doer, but the ADDICT has to want it.

The other kind of people are the lost ones, the ones who were gone years before you actually attended the funeral. The addicts, that for what ever reason, chose to stay sick. And then there are the people connected to them like a root to a tree, who were forced into a life of addiction even though they were not the addict and it was never their choice. It sucks on both sides of that fence. No one wins in that life.

Don’t ever give up on your loved ones but you don’t have to end up in the ground next to them. Realize that you only have control over yourself, you can ONLY change you. Set up boundaries and protect yourself. Learn how to handle the toxic addict properly. Seek advice from professionals; counselors and doctors. Be very careful in your own life. Pain that equals pain pills, booze or street drugs can very easily turn into addiction.  Peace my friends.

This poem is for a lost one.

I’ll Miss You

I miss the person you used to be, the one who loved life so much.
I miss the person who kissed all the boo-boos away.
I miss the person who made scrambled eggs and toast for anyone who was sick.
I miss the person who was strong and protective.
I miss the person who helped make me what I am today.

I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

I’ll miss the conversations that we have.
I’ll miss my children never really knowing the real you.
I’ll miss your laugh.
I’ll miss the support shown brightly in your eyes.
I’ll miss your fingers gently playing with my hair.
I’ll miss the fights that only you and I have.
I’ll miss the cups of coffee that we share.

I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

I’ll miss your voice on the phone, but never in the morning.
I’ll miss your pretend stories to the kids.
I’ll miss your outrageous outfits, gold shoes and all.

I’ll miss you when you’re gone.

I’m angry that you’ll leave me too soon.
I’m disappointed in myself that I can’t make you stay.
I’m sad that there won’t ever be an intervention that will work.
I’m sorry that you won’t change.
I’m sorry for the pain that brought you to this place and then stole your will to come back.
I wish I could help you but this is not up to me.
I will never give up on you but I will protect myself and mine.
I love you so much, and I’ll miss you, with all my heart, when you’re gone.