Category Archives: Writing

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.

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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

 

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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.

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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?

Mullets, lesbian bars, forbidden love, oh my

imageshl3fdmtxI’m participating in National Novel Writing Month this year. The goal is to write 50,000 words in 30 days and have a first draft for a novel. Kick-off is today.

“What’s your book about?” my editor asked.

“Lesbian romance set in the 80s. Big hair, big love, something like that,” I wrote back.

“I’m feeling nostalgic,” she wrote. “But mullets.”

So, that’s my story, and I’m sticking to it. If you don’t hear from me in November, I’m busy writing about the 80s and lesbians and quoting lyrics from songs sung by the big hair bands. “And, baby, talk dirty to me.” Like that.

Because lesbians rule and the 80s were the best and if you’ve never rocked a mullet you’ve never really lived.

If you want to help a writer out, I still need a name for a really great, fictional lesbian bar. Best answer will find its way into my novel.

Anything else that needs to be in there? Trivial Pursuit, Pac-Man, a Rubik’s Cube …

Oh, and if you’re doing NaNoWriMo, e-mail me and we can be NaNo buddies.

Happy trails

W and I are going away for the weekend.

It’s our anniversary month. We celebrate the entire month of October because we have an October 1st commitment ceremony to celebrate and an October 11th wedding ceremony to celebrate. We figure we are owed that much for not being able to legally wed when we wanted to.

Early tomorrow morning, we are headed to Philadelphia, which is less than an hour away. It’s not a big trip or a far trip or a long trip, but still being away from home overnight is usually enough to make me feel anxious and out of sorts.

Plus, we are taking a train into the city and then busing and Ubering from there to wherever we need to go.

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Just added to my T-shirt collection.

I like to pack a big duffle bag for a weekend away. I like options. I like my Wonder Woman chucks and my Dr. Martens. I like a T-shirt worn over a thermal shirt for walking around on a fall day. I’ll need a sweatshirt for the morning. I hate being cold. Plus, I’ll need a change of clothes for dinner. A crisp, button-down dress shirt to wear over a clean tee. At night, I can’t sleep without my fleece pajama bottoms and a fresh T-shirt. On Sunday, we’ll be attending a pride event. Do I want to go with traditional rainbow or something more cheeky? My new Hooters T-shirt or the I Love My Awesome Wife tee that makes W smile? Gosh, I need so many T-shirts. We haven’t even gotten to books–I always bring at least two–or writing paraphernalia. And ball caps. Penn State for Saturday, Steelers for Sunday and Phillies for just in case.

 

But that’s too much stuff to take as we traipse across the city. Saturday morning, I will wear the versatile combo of jeans and Dr. Martens (also known as standard butch uniform). I will bring a small messenger bag. I will pack lightly: underwear, socks and a T-shirt for Sunday; a toothbrush, one book, one small Moleskine notebook, one pen that fits in my pocket. I will sleep in my boxers.

I will be glad for the small load, the light burden as we go places and see things and remember what it felt like to fall in love all those years ago.

* * *

What about you? Are you a light packer or not? And yes, I am aware of how that sounds. What can you not live without, even for one night?  

 

Happy

images[1]I attended a creative nonfiction conference this past weekend in Lancaster, Pennsylvania. W and one of the kids came with to enjoy my big, fancy hotel room.

I left the hotel room early in the morning while the two of them slept in. I popped in from time to time to use the bathroom or check in on them.

“You look so happy,” W said.

I couldn’t lie. And I couldn’t stop smiling. I was in my element. I was with a bunch of other people nerding out on using white space in an essay or the ethicality of composite characters in memoir. There was a entire panel discussion on truth in creative nonfiction.

We were all fangirl/fanboy when memoirist Mary Karr delivered the keynote Saturday evening.

Before we left for the conference, I was having second thoughts about attending.

“I’m not good with peoples,” I told W.

“You’ll be fine,” she said.

And I was. I had two of my writer group friends with me, which made things easier. I didn’t have to assume wallflower mode. Which is a good thing because none of the walls were flannel covered.

Plus, many writers are introverts, which meant we could all be awkward with one another without judgment. (Looks at floor.)

My writer tank has been filled.

And I’m still glowing from the weekend.

* *  *

What about you? What lights you up?

Ahem. Announcements and stuff

Guys, here I am. It’s been way too long. I think I was still wearing flannel the last time I posted. We’re stuck in what they’re calling a “heat dome” here in the Philly burbs, so no summer flannel for this butch. 

I’ve been busy, folks. I haven’t been ignoring you because you think Cindy was the best Brady ever. Everyone knows it was Jan. Or because you’re a Yankees fan.

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Maybe a crown AND a cape like professional wrestler Jerry “The King” Lawler wore back in the day.

You’re looking at one of the newest authors to sign with Regal Crest, a powerhouse in the world of lesbian literature. I’m sure I’ll get a crown or velvet cape any day now, but it hasn’t arrived yet.

I just finished the manuscript for the new book.  

Remember when you were a kid and you were playing outside and the whiffle ball got stuck in the gutter or the kickball landed in the creek? You always got a do-over.

This book is a lot like that. I had a chance to go through the current version of Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender and make edits. Tighten it up. Really, that’s every writer’s dream–one more chance to edit. I know, we’re weird creatures. 

Plus, the second edition, which is being billed as an author’s cut, has added content. New stories I wrote this past year specifically for this project. You’ll get to learn more about Middle-age Butch when she was big butch on her college campus and didn’t even know it. And of course, the book will include more of the those butch-tastic tales everyone loves like the hunt for the perfect buzz cut and the time-honored tradition of the clandestine butch nod. If you turned your head just now, you missed it.

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My trophy looked like this except it was invisible.

Also, Leaving Normal: Adventures in Gender was short listed for an award in creative nonfiction by the Golden Crown Literary Society. It didn’t win, but I still feel like a winner.

While I’m making announcements, I should mention that I’ve started my next book. The working title is Love Is Like Tiny Cheeseburgers: Essays from a Butch Romantic. Basically, it’s about me and W sitting in a tree and other stuff that makes your heart beat faster.

Hope you all feel like winners these days. Because you are. Big, beautiful winners. Now go hoist your invisible trophy over your head and shout out that you’re number 1!

* * *

Ok, I told you what’s new with me. What’s new with you? Share one new thing. A new movie, a new book, a new place you visited. Anything. Go.