Category Archives: Writing

Finding your tribe

I woke up early this morning with a nervous stomach, which shook loose this memory:

I’m in college.

I’m wearing a black sweater and a pair of black and hunter green checked pants that have one of those funny hook and button things like men’s dress slacks.

I’m sporting a pair of black penny loafers, a shiny penny looking out from the center of each like cooper eyes.

The campus is cold and dark and still at this time of the morning. A group of us are boarding a small yellow school bus that will take us to our student teaching assignments.

I don’t want to be a student teacher, but my parents are pushing for it. Besides, what else do you do with a degree in English?

I feel sick in my stomach those weeks that I teach. Sure, part of it is plain old nerves. But there’s something else. That feeling of not belonging that I can’t seem to shake.

This weekend, I’m attending a creative nonfiction conference. This weekend, I’m speaking at a creative nonfiction conference.

Along with the founder of my writing group, I’ll be presenting How to Find Your Tribe or How a Writing Group Saved My Life.

A little dramatic, I know. But we’re writers, folks.

So, that’s where the nervous stomach is coming from.

IMG_1911

Me and my magical mullet circa 1985. You know you want to run your fingers through it, ladies.

But I know I’ll be okay. Talking about my writing group is a passion of mine. And I’m no longer that 20-some-year-old mullet-headed kid in the penny loafers. Did I not mention that magical mullet of mine? Must have slipped my mind.

I’ve got a tribe. A tribe of writer friends who make me feel like a cross between Dorothy Allison and Alison Bechdel.

A tribe of blogging buddies who make me feel like a flannel-covered rock star. A little bit of Melissa Etheridge and a little bit of Joan Jett and a little bit of Xena Warrior Princess because she is a bad ass, too, and this is my blog so I can write what I want. And anyway, she could play a helluva lute, at least when she was inspired.

On my last post, my catsup-versus-mayo-on-fries post, Family Values Lesbian replied that “mayo on fries is as butch as glitter.”

downloadI laughed out loud then smiled real big on the inside, sorta like the Grinch when the corners of his smile almost touch the sky and his heart grows three sizes that day.

“What?” W asked.

“My peeps,” I said. “They get me.”

And that’s my hope for everyone–the writers I’ll be speaking to on Saturday at the conference, all the LGBTQ folks out there who might not have built-in support systems and the rest of the world, too. People who get you. A personal cheering section. Folks who support you like a really good bra and tell you to keep going, you got this, you can do it. Even if the road ahead is paved with glitter. Or whatever it is that’s your kryptonite.

Thanks, guys, for always being a part of my tribe.

 

Advertisements

Llama drama

W and I cleaned our bedroom a few weeks ago. We organized and dusted and vacuumed and purged ourselves of three garbage bags full of crap.

We had been having problems sleeping and felt that a clean, uncluttered room would help with our insomnia.

In the spirit of refreshing my side of the room, I decided to buy a new lamp for my beside table. I poked around at Target and then started looking on the web for something functional and whimsical.

IMG_1688Through a bizarre series of events, I ended up with a llama lamp.

“What’s a llama totem mean?” W asked.

“I didn’t think to check,” I replied.

From Spirit Animal Totems

Llama is here to remind you that only through hard work and perseverance will your dreams be realized. Know that you have the ability to adapt to any situation you find yourself in. Know that whatever loads you are carrying right now you will be able to manage and see them through. Alternatively Llama could also be reminding you that your biggest focus should be yourself and that personal growth and your connection to spirit should be your highest priority at all times. Insisting on following your heart rather than your ego will bring you all the rewards you are seeking.

These days, I am overscheduled and overworked and overwhelmed.

I have an upcoming speaking engagement. And commitments as president of a local book-related nonprofit.

I have committed to a January deadline for my new book, My Mother Says Drums Are for Boys: More Adventures in Gender.

It feels like there are a million things I need to do. And never enough time.

Plus, Wentworth. We have to finish Wentworth.

I will trust in my little gold llama that with hard work all things are possible. And will remember to take time out for myself when I need it.

* * *

What’s your animal totem these days?

 

 

Pretty

IMG_1455

Me and Dorothy.

“Hi, Pretty,” Dorothy Allison says to me in a southern lilt that could melt three-feet of snow in Philadelphia in February.

I have my book opened to the title page of her memoir and hand it to her to sign.

“You’re another tall one,” she says. Her eyes sparkle.

Allison has just headlined the “Literary Adventures at Sea” program on our Olivia cruise to Alaska where she talked about feminism and lesbian literature and liking the tall butches because they’re fun to climb.

“It’s an honor to meet you,” I say. “I’m a writer, too.” I try to play it cool–Dorothy Allison … no biggie–as butches often do.

When I catch up with W back in our room, she asks how the signing went.

“It’s a good day when Dorothy Allison flirts with you,” I say.

Later, I can’t stop thinking about the word “pretty.” Allison hadn’t used it as an adjective but as a noun.

“Hi, Pretty,” she had said.

I’ve never liked being described as pretty. It always carries with it a feminine connotation.

pretty: “pleasing by delicacy or grace,” the Merriam-Webster definition reads.

I like the concept of pretty as a person or object, especially when the word glides from the lips of Dorothy Allison.

Pretty.

A sunset.

A tree-covered mountaintop.

An eagle soaring in the ice blue Alaskan sky.

A butch still trying to come to terms with her appearance in this pink/blue world of ours.

 

 

 

Watch

Describe an object that describes you:

IMG_1192A vintage Timex wristwatch, circa 1970 with a stretchy metal band.

Dependable.

Consistent.

Comfortable.

Casual.

Plain face.

Stylish in its own way with a flash of silver like a crooked smile.

Always moving forward. Sometimes second by second, other times making bigger leaps until time is lost and I wonder how I ended up here.

At times, a know it all.

It’s 10:30 a.m.

It’s Tuesday.

It’s May 16.

The cold metal on my wrist reminding me I’m alive.

* * *

What about you? What object are you?

 

Leaving the center empty for God

 

downloadI’m still reading Maggie Nelson’s memoir The Argonauts. This story about Nelson’s relationship with her “fluidly gendered partner” Harry takes a look at the hot button topics of sexuality, gender and what it means to be a family.

It’s been taking me longer than usual to get through this slim book of less than 150 pages. It’s a heavy read, packed with thoughts and insights that seem best suited for slow, meditative pondering.

In the pages I read last night, Nelson writes about a lecture she attended given by poet and professor Anne Carson in which Carson spoke about the concept of leaving a space empty so God can rush in.

imagesNelson said she had heard about this concept from a boyfriend who was into bonsai. In bonsai, people often plant a tree off-center in the pot to allow space for the divine.

“But that night Carson made the concept literary,” Nelson writes. “I went home fastened to the concept of leaving the center empty for God. It was like stumbling into a tarot reading or AA meeting and hearing the one thing that will keep you going, in heart or art, for years.”

That’s what I’m thinking about these days. Leaving the center empty for God in my writing and in my life.

The Argonauts is a terrific read. Dense and intense but worth the effort.

P.S. I’ve been sleeping better.

I find that when I’m focused on social media and the news, I have a bad day,” I told W yesterday at dinner.

“And when I stay away from social media and the news, I have a better day,” I told her.

“Then stay away from social media and the news,” she said like a Sapphic sage.

images-1

Night, night, you big butch.

That’s been helping, plus W has been rubbing my face with lavender butter before bedtime. She rubs the thick cream on her hands and then smooths it on my forehead, my temples, the back of my neck and a little under my nose.

It smooths over the jagged edges of the day. I have been sleeping like a baby these days.

Plus, it makes me feel like I’m being taken care of, which is a nice feeling right before bed.

We just ordered a new batch of butter. Check out Renaissance Lavender on etsy if you are in need of a magic sleeping potion.

Compassion dammit

I can’t sleep at night. I’m up worrying about what’s happening in my country. I keep reading tweets in my feed until there are no more new ones. Then I refresh the top news stories. I switch back and forth between Twitter and the news until there is nothing new to see and it’s as safe as it’s going to be to go to sleep.

I had my writer’s group today and we wrote to the prompt of “hope.”

“I hope the world doesn’t end tonight when I close my eyes and pull up the covers,” I wrote.

Everyone laughed a big, loud nervous laugh as if to say, ha! isn’t that funny because I’m waiting for the world to end, too. Like minds and all.

I’ve been trying to work on a bunch of stories. I start them but am having trouble finishing. I’m having trouble focusing.

These things come easier: stressing, blaming, feeling angry.

I try to remember that everything can be boiled down to two things–love and fear.

And if someone is acting out of fear, we should treat that person with compassion. Even though I want to throw a bucket of fire ants on them. Or make them watch Ishtar ten times in a row.

But I’m not there yet. I’m back at hey, get on your knees and apologize for what you’ve done. And, we told you so (while blowing a big, fat raspberry).

Right now, I need to unplug for longer periods of time. And be kind to myself so that I can be kind to others. Don’t forget to strap the kindness mask to yourself before assisting others. It’s a saying, people.

I wore my new Superman socks today and they gave me the courage to get through the day.

I treated myself to a pizza for dinner, but the cats knocked it on the floor before I could finish it. Because they are assholes and obviously part of whatever alt-right, fascist conspiracy is going on right now.

I had lunch with my writer friends.

There were donuts at writing group today.

Tomorrow is a new day. I have more Superman socks (it was a three-pack). After Thursday, all bets are off.

What I’m trying to say is that you’re not the only one feeling nervous or anxious or stressed.

Don some superhero gear, drink your favorite beverage, order takeout (unless you have asshole cats). Get together with friends. Read a good book at night. Howl at the moon. Take hot showers until your skin turns pink. Whatever you’ve got to do to get you through. Beer, too. And flannel sheets and dirty haikus.

And then compassion, folks. So much compassion you need extra napkins.

Until then, I’ll be here on my ipad typing more words.

What to bring to a march

A pocket-sized notebook and pen to chronicle the day’s events.

Dr. Martens

These boots are made for marching.

My brown Dr. Martens eight-eyelet lace-up boots. Sneakers would be a bit more comfortable, but years from now I want to be able to point to my feet and say “these are the boots I wore to the march.”

Soft, warm socks.

My outside voice.

My wife. “Remember when,” we’ll say all those years from now when we are slower but wiser and counting our shared adventures on our crooked fingers and toes.

One clenched fist to raise in the air.

Men's underwear

Protest (under)pants

Clean underwear. Aren’t we always supposed to be wearing clean underwear when risk is involved? Just in case. Because what if and what would your mother say? But I wear men’s boxer briefs, which will only embarrass her. I’ll wear clean underwear anyway! Because hygiene. And as a symbol of my individuality! Statement underwear! Protest underwear! No one can make me wear women’s panties! Underwear knows no gender! Power to the boxer brief, people.

Jeans.

A T-shirt emblazoned with an appropriate message.

Cash.

An endless supply of head nods for the other butches in attendance.

iPhone to take pictures.

A copy of my big butch memoir in case I run into Leia Delaria, the world’s most famous butch.

Wonder Woman

Thanks to Wonder Women everywhere!

Thoughts of those whose deeds and words and music have gotten me to where I stand tall and proud today … Susan B. Anthony, Gloria Steinem, Betty Friedan, Wonder Woman, Anne Lamott, Melissa Etheridge, the Indigo Girls, Ivan Coyote …

Anger, frustration.

Hope.

Possibility.

Pride.

* * *

Did I forget anything? What are you bringing?

Stupid fortune

 

img_0933

Which one are you?

I made up these little bags of inspiration and handed them out at my writers group this week.

They are loaded with things a writer needs like a mini notebook, tea, chocolate and mints, which are supposed to stimulate brain activity.

I also included in each bag a piece of Mookaite Jasper, a crystal that promotes creativity.

I challenged everyone to think positively about their writing and writing goals as we start 2017. We talked about keeping a gratitude journal to stay in a positive frame of mind.

And here I sit. Stuck.

img_0935

Ugh.

“Begin … the rest is easy.” That was my fortune from New Year’s Eve. It’s sitting here on my desk. Every once in awhile it disappears beneath a pile of papers, but it always surfaces, mocking me with its overly simplistic advice.

“I already knew that,” I say to the fortune. I glare at the small, smug strip of white paper.

White like a priest’s robe.

It sits there absorbing the red lasers shooting from my eyeballs. It taunts me with its exaggerated stoicism.

“I’ll begin anytime I want,” I say. “I’m the boss of me. Not you. You’re just a scrap of paper. Made in China.”

Still nothing. The fortune is quiet as a ninja. I assume it’s deep in meditation on the meaning of life or how to best piss off a stuck writer

“I’m not ready yet, stupid fortune,” I say.

The fortune sits patiently, waiting for me to begin.

* * *

Wishing you all great success in 2017!

Book launch!

leavingnormalNew year.

New book.

New look. (Seriously, how cool is that cover?)

Today’s the big day, folks. The second edition of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender has launched with my new publisher, Regal Crest.

The book has added content. Count ’em, nine new chapters.

And while I’m bragging, the first edition was a Golden Crown Literary Society award finalist in the category of creative nonfiction.

A big thanks to everyone who has supported me along the way by liking my posts and reminding me that I have a voice and that my words are important. You guys have always made me feel like a big butch rock star.

If you bought a copy of Leaving Normal last time around, thanks! Consider picking up a second copy for the added content or donating to your local high school or LGBT group.

A bunch of you have been patiently waiting for the second edition. You can order a print copy or e-book through most online book vendors. Here’s a link to the book on Amazon and Bella Books.

If you’d like a signed copy and maybe some free butch swag, you can send $16.00 via PayPal to rae.r.theodore@gmail.com. The book costs $12.95, plus $3 for shipping.

Also, reviews are so important. They help with visibility on sites like Amazon. If you’ve read the book, please consider writing a short, honest review. It will only take you a minute or two and this butch will be very grateful.

Rich

imageslp1bxi04Rich.

That’s the word that’s been in my head and in my heart for the past few weeks. Jingling around like gold coins in a drawstring pouch.

I’ve felt rich in life. Rich in love. Rich in friends. Rich in my writing life. Rich in everything I need.

I have a weekly routine and friends and my writing and enough special days and events to keep everything interesting.

It’s a rich life.

I think about love and how that makes everything richer. How things seem more special when W’s there. The way I can’t wait for her to get home at night so I can tell her about my day and experience it all over again through her eyes.

Of course, my life isn’t perfect. The house is usually a mess and the cat puked under the dining room table and shouldn’t I be due for a pay increase and when will those damn kids get jobs.

But my life is rich. It’s cheesecake and a hot fudge sundae with extra whipped cream and a $20 bill that I found in an old pair of jeans.

And then last night happens, and I am sad and hurt and broken inside. If you read this blog, you are probably feeling the same way.

imageszgi58iwpStill, I remind myself of the richness of my life. Of love and friends and the way they swirl around me like stardust.

This morning, W tells me everything will be okay and that she loves me.

A friend invites me to a drum circle. Other friends share kind words and blog posts they have found to be soothing and encouraging. A friend who runs a local LGBT group sends an e-mail about working together to protect the rights of those in our community. I will attend the steering committee meeting they are holding on Monday to find out what I can do to help.

W will be home soon. We will have dinner together and watch Luke Cage on Netflix. She’ll fall asleep first. I’ll write and read and then turn in for the night. If I can’t sleep, I’ll settle in close to W and the cats piled up at my feet.

Tomorrow, I’ll try to get out of the house and write in the little coffee shop in town. Maybe I’ll see some of my friends there. I’ll be kind to myself. I’ll be kind to others.

And when things seem hopeless or scary or pointless, I’ll take refuge in my rich life.

* * *

What makes your life rich?