Sunday, September 29, 2013

To Carly Simon's Subject: It is.

My flesh tore wide open, and I didn't know.  Or maybe I didn't want to.  Because the road was long, and I was tired, and that suffering was enough for the day. 
But when your flesh tears open that way, nothing will stop the blood from flowing, at least for a while, with every pulse of a tired heart. 

But I didn't feel it then. I didn't see it.  Someone else raised the alarm.  Then the unsettling warmth. 
Then I had to function again.  Stop the bleeding.  You must stop the bleeding. You can't ignore the bleeding. 
Pressure. Apply pressure. Force it to stop. Will it to end.

It's not stopping.
Why won't it stop?

Now your pulse is rising, now the blood flows faster because you're scared.
It figures. 

Go. Fast. Do something. Now.

But then it stops. Just...stops. 

You step out into the summer sun, white and unfettered. 
Every day you walk a little farther.
Look down, and you see.  One little filament, one tiny crystal web.
From one side of that carved canyon to the other. 
Then another.  A lattice forms. A bridge of new flesh.
Time heals. This is good.

But wait.
Now it burns again.  Now when your blood boils, it itches and nags.
It begs you to claw it wide open again.
After all, it didn't feel like anything.

Now fight it. Try to ignore it. Stay in the sun.
So I wait.
Now a sun-baked clay crust forms.
It's sealed. 
Safe. Nothing can get inside.

And one day, you give in just a little.
You scratch at it.
It falls away, revealing a fresh scar and raw flesh.
Relief rushes in, hot and sticky. 

But you can't fight that force forever.
New filaments.
New clay hardens. Sometimes you scratch it off, sometimes you let it stay.
Sometimes you give in to the bleeding and raw flesh just to feel anything at all.
Sometimes you hide in hard earth. 

This is healing. 
This is bleeding.
I hope you understand why my hand trembles when I reach for your hand.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

When you GISH upon a star...


This is about a time when the bologna wouldn't stick to the trash bag without threatening the integrity of the mustard slogan scrawled on it.  
It's also about the time I was too tired from all the mayhem to spell the slogan right, because it should say GISHWHES, not GISHWES.

You read that right.  That's really what I'm here to talk about. 

It's an international scavenger hunt that's organized by Misha Collins, an actor on the show Supernatural, which I confess right here and now to having only seen once or twice. I heard about the scavenger hunt on a Nerdist podcast where Misha was being interviewed.  My first thought was "That sounds like"

Then I heard Chloe Dykstra, Chris Hardwick's girlfriend, talk more about the hunt, and she sounded so personally touched by her experiences with it, and it intrigued me. I'm pretty sure she said it was life-changing. I'm a skeptic, but Chloe always struck me as a genuine, sweet person in anything I happened to hear her in, and she seemed really emphatic about it.  

Many of you know that this year has not been easy on me, and if you didn't, then...let's just keep it short and say: Trust me on this. 

Anyway, I signed up.  I forgot about it for a while, then when it started to get close I started to worry, and to feel alone, because one of the things that made this year hard was not having as many friends around anymore.  I didn't know how I would do or what I would do or if I'd even click with my team.  So I thought "If nothing else, I can make things.  Maybe I'll just make things."

When the list came out, the very first thing I did was build a Sears Tower out of books. Every book in my bookcase and some that were stowed elsewhere til bigger bookcases can be used.  And it was fun, and it was not supposed to be built on carpet, and I jumped around excitedly when I realized it was done, and then realized again that it shouldn't be on carpet, and tiptoed to my camera to take pictures. Thing 1 was down.  That wasn't as hard as I'd thought. But it was as ridiculous and fun as I'd hoped. 

Part of what GISHWHES is about, a lot of what it's about, is random acts of kindness. These were blueberry muffins I made for my coworkers with a special GISHWHES message.  It was supposed to be a covert act of kindness.  I had to catch my coworkers on film discovering it.  

What you discover when you see someone walk to their desk first thing in the morning and notice a note saying that they're awesome, and a big ol' muffin, is genuine smiles.  And they're sweeter when you're not supposed to see them.  I got to watch people read the note, and watch the corners of their mouths curl up into a smile.  I could have been more covert, because people figured out it was me from use of neon sharpies and the fact that I bake things for work a lot, but this was something different. Not telling them in advance, getting to see their reactions BEFORE they realized it was's something different. 

That's where I got the enthusiasm.  I started to do research on the big stuff on the list- skywriting, and one nobody thought they'd get- to get someone on the International Space Station to hold up a sign for your team, with GISHWHES on it. 

So I found out two of them were on Twitter.  And I asked nicely.  And they let me know it's against International Space Station regulations.  So I politely thanked them.  

And at first, I didn't realize what I'd just done. Took me a little bit to figure it out. 

You guys. I *talked* to someone on the International Space Station. space. IN SPAAAACE. (I couldn't avoid the Portal moment, sue me.)  
And crazier than that?  Crazier than just having talked to someone in space?  They talked back.  FROM SPACE.  From a space station.  In space.  (that time it wasn't intentional. but space!)

That's when it got life-changing.

That's when I started asking people crazy questions, and burning holes in shirts, and wearing beans on my head, and writing a letter to the CEO of Groupon to ask him to dance to Single Ladies in a suit because it was for a good cause and they were down.   No answer yet on that one...but I asked.  And my team, MY TEAM...encouraged me, laughed with me, shared their silly crazy experiences with me...and yeah, they were in Madison and I was in IL, but they were MY.TEAM. and the alone thing was out the window...

And me, who HATES being the center of attention, especially when in public with people I don't know, wore charred clothing, a tiara, black eyeshadow all over my face to look like soot, and sat at Red Top Plaza panhandling with an ACTUAL PAN and a not-so-actual dragon, with a sign that said "A dragon burned down my castle!"

That's half the story of this picture. The crown on my head is from a coworker I have become friends with who I asked for help.  The donor is my friend Juli who I roped into this prior to dinner plans I'd made with her.  The photographer is my new friend Kelly, who has met me all of 3 times as of the staging of this picture, but has been a kayaking buddy and a really fun friend.  My friend who owns the camera shop let us stage it in front of her store and her business partner took pics of the silly trio after.  We laughed til we nearly died.

My boss offered advice on how to duct tape toast together to make toast boxers.
One of my new friends at work tried to help me set up with a semi truck. 

I helped hug the world, including hugging an awesome awesome bicycling friend from New Mexico who I was SO happy to hug.

I got my whole department hugging each other, and the photo team watching in amusement.

One of the big goods I still can't mention, but letters were sent to soldiers and superhero capes were made for people in wheelchairs. Our team changed lives, and so did every team.

Annnd I made a safari animal out of...well...out of..feminine hygiene products.  

Life is fun, and weird, and crazy, you guys.  It's about doing good and connecting with people and making things.   "Stop pretending art is hard."
(let's not pretend that that' it's something!)

Stop pretending doing good is hard. You don't have to cure cancer, y'know?
Maybe just reach out to someone you know is hurting.  
Or hell, reach out to someone in general.
Tell someone why you like 'em.
Learn to like someone new.

Here's the best part. The epilogue here will blow you away.
Because shortly after GISHWHES ended...
I read some twitter.
And that tweet said that a Fine Arts/Gallery writer was needed for this publication I read

And before I'd have passed it up. I don't have a Bachelor's in Journalism or Creative Writing or...anything, you guys. I just love to write. I'd have convinced myself that doing the blog was good enough.
But I thought...what can it hurt to send an email?
I was just talking to the INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION!

And I did.

And here's the results:

Check the byline. 

That's me. 
It's mine. Even one of the pictures is mine.
That's...a dream come true.
Because I went after it.
Because I talked to space. What's hard after that?
Because GISHWHES really, really did change my life.

This weekend I went to the city alone to go see the Jazz Festival.  Because I'm on byline 3 and 4 already, guys.  Pinch me. 

And thank you, GISHWHES.

Stop pretending art is hard.