Looking Back With a Grateful Heart

The journey back from 2015 to now has been a long one. I’m not a great blogger. Never have been. I love to share inspiring, intelligent things I learn. I love to pass along what other bloggers/writers have so generously shared. But sometimes life sucks. And when my life sucks I withdrawal. I’d been in the suck zone for a while but I was recently reminded of some wonderful people I needed to thank and draw your attention too, you know, if I’m not the only one here on this blog 🙂 Some times I think it’s just me and the crickets…

There is a contest that happens in October  called PitchSlam (also happens in March). It’s an amazing Twitter contest. Go check out Kimberly VanderHorst @Kymburleev. She was the Pitchslam Captain in 2015 when I was involved… yep, I said it was a long journey. Just a word or two about Kimberly, who I only just met through this contest. She was so enthusiastic and helpful and I wasn’t even on her team! Another fabulous lady, Leatrice McKinney, find her on FB or follow her on Twitter @ElleOnWords. She is a no-bullshit kinda gal, a wealth of knowledge, extremely generous with what she knows and funny as hell. Read back into her posts and be enlightened. I did not get the chance to work as closely with these ladies and the rest of the Harry Potter crew (that year’s theme) because I was chosen for Michelle Hauck’s team in Nightmare on Query Street, another  twitter contest. I was so sad to leave Pitchslam after my initial feedback but also so thrilled to work with Michelle Hauck and Michael Anthony, the co-host. Find Michelle @Micheleel4Laughs and Michael @RavenousRushing. I had an absolute blast with them!

Just a few other names, Jamie Corrigan, Laura Heffernan, C.M. McCoy, Caitlin LaRue, Melyssa Mercado, Cindy R. Wilson, Kirk Kraft, Kirsten Carleton, Eric Smith, Michelle Richter, Stacey Donaghy, Patricia Nelson, Danielle Barthel, Nina Haberli, Tegen Wren, JodiG and Karen M. McManus who you may recognize from the NYT Bestselling list as the author of One Of Us Is Lying. Which by they way, if you haven’t already read this book, and you probably have cause it’s been on that list for like 44 weeks now – but OH! So much to love about this book! And Karen is just so nice, and so normal. So yeah, go read it.

Some of these people have cheered me, read for me, helped whip my query and first few chapters into shape. Became my friends. Some of these folks are agents I really admire and when I asked them questions didn’t treat me like a leper. Thank you all!

Here’s my advice. If you’re not on Twitter, get on it. Follow these people. Follow the links to their blogs. Then search who they follow. Follow them and their blogs. You’ll make friends, gain CP’s (critique partners) and learn the business of writing and selling your work. It’s like going on a little treasure hunt, one link leads you to the next, and then another to another and so on and you will be amazed at all the greatness you find.

So to all, thank you. Most humbly, thank you.

I would also highly recommend following Brenda Drake who created Pitch Wars. Go to http://www.pitchwars.org for more information.

All of my experience with these contests has been extremely positive. I have learned so much and since I’m a writer, in for the long haul, learning something new everyday is what I need.

I’m not a post-every-time-I-go-get-a-coffee or take a pee type person,  although if I find a latte that is the bomb-diggity, I will shout it out.

When disaster strikes, I disappear. Even in public, I’m very good at hiding. Most people don’t usually know anything is wrong with me. Well, they probably think I’m a little strange, but that’s different then wrong. My life was undergoing construction I didn’t authorize.

I just didn’t want any of my writer friends to think I’d forgotten about them or that I’d just totally flaked out but life went to utter crap in November 2015.

I had back surgery four days before Christmas that year which was super duper bad timing but a cyst was causing nerve damage down my leg into my right foot so it couldn’t be helped. Then our family dog bit me two weeks after surgery and I really messed myself up getting the dog off me. I ended up with seven stitches and then had to put our dog down. He’d already bitten everyone in the family several times and we’d tried EVERYTHING before our vet convinced me there was no other alternative. I loved that dog. It broke my heart. I ugly cried for months after that.

But then we rescued Hershey and that helped heal my heart.

So my plan had been while my back was recovering I was going to get so much writing and reading done. HA! I had a bad reaction to one of the medications they had me on. And when I say bad I mean F’d up. It’s like when you’re trying to say cup but you can’t think of the word. It made me slur the words that did come out and lose other words in my head. Just as I would have a sentence, it would burst like a soap bubble and be gone…THE worst kind of medication you could ever put a writer on. So if you had spoken or texted with me at that time, I promise you I wasn’t drunk.

It took some time to crawl out of that dark hole. But I made it. My back is awesome now thanks to Dr. Abbed and I’m writing as full time as some one who has a day job can 🙂

2016.  I went back to work. I was on the mend and my friend Melyssa Mercado encouraged me to enter PitchWars. So I did. And the way it works is you enter to work with a mentor before the agent round. I entered the mentor round and then we lost my mom August 16th and life went to crap again for a while. I was with my mom the day she died. It was one of the hardest things I’ve ever gone through and yet I wouldn’t have it any other way. I’m not ready to share that story yet but one day I will ❤

2017 – Present 😉

I’ve almost finished writing my fourth book. Yay me! Took a creative writing class with author Vance Briceland that I loved! It was offered at our local high school. That’s another avenue worth looking into. You never know where you’re going to find gems in the industry. Be open to learning everywhere! I learned a lot about people over this last year. Some of it was good. Some not so much. Some situations and people were bringing me down. So I changed them. Will Smith said it really well recently. He said, “Look around you. Who is pissing on your fire and who is fanning your flame?” What that means is are you surrounding yourself with haters or people who build you up and make you a better you? Some times you have to take inventory of those you keep close to you. Make sure they’re fanning your flame. If a person or situation is causing you grief….change it. You can not change another’s actions. You can only change your own. Surround yourself with awesomeness. Fan your flame. So that’s what I’m doing…fanning my flame. How about you? Maybe it’s time to do some of your own spring cleaning 😉

And that’s just how life is… a roller coaster ride. Sometimes you’re up. Sometimes you’re down, but it’s always interesting what’s around the corner. Okay. Enough rambling, but I did have three years worth. LOL.

Until next time. Be kind. Be well. Peace and love my friends.

Advertisements

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!

Unsplash free images

Unsplash free images

Unsplash free images

Unsplash free images

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.

Unsplash Free Images

Unsplash free images

 

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.

 

Unsplash Free Images

Unsplash Free Images

PEACE & ACCEPTANCE