Driving home today, as soon as I pulled off the freeway I started to take in these beautiful arrangements of flowers on each of the islands separating traffic. I’m not talking one or two, but it’s like a dozen between my house and the freeway… And I’m only talking about along the path I drive. There are tons of amazing gardens separating traffic all over the city. Then there are all these amazing gardens all over the three college campuses near my neighborhood. The city pays for the maintenance on the majority of these meticulous lawns and colorful gardens.
Then I passed the park and as amazing as those island gardens were, the park put them to shame. Once I turned into the neighborhood leading to my house, I started to notice these beautiful old trees baring red leaves for the fall surrounded by these amazing flower gardens.
Then it hit me, what if instead of seeing all the beautiful flowers growing, it was vegetables and fruit along the side of the road. Instead of trees just giving shade to students during spring and summer, wouldn’t it be cool if those trees bore fruit they could snack on while studying?
Parks are public spaces. Wouldn’t it be cool to have vegetable gardens and fruit growing in all the places in the park there are now flowers. Wouldn’t edible plants serve a dual purpose? Not only would vegetables and fruit be beautiful, it could feed the public.
I started to get overwhelmed with this thought. Each street I turned down getting closer to my house, where I barely cut the grass but still grow mint and basil in pots, I saw potential to lower food cost and make it more available. As leaves fell in beautiful tree-lined streets, I wondered, “What if instead of leaves falling, they were apples, pecans and oranges… what if grapevines were winding their way up the side of our homes? What if the displays in front of our homes were arrays of different peppers, spices and tomatoes?”
Just a thought, I wanted to share.
Love Love Love
Eldredge Books is now accepting submissions for Fashionably Late, a collection of personal narratives by gay, bisexual, and transgender men who came out well into adulthood. The collection will offer an insightful look into the triumphs and struggles of coming out as gay, bi, or trans after years of living with an affected straight or cisgendered identity. The goal of this collection is twofold: to shed light on a large yet largely overlooked segment of the LGBTQ community, and to comfort older men who are coming out of the closet with stories that show they are not alone. Submissions are open to all gay, bi, and trans men who identify as late bloomers (this typically refers to men who came out after their mid-twenties). All stories must be true and the original work of the author himself.
We are seeking a wide variety of topics related to coming out late, written by a wide variety of men. Topics of interest include (but are not limited to) the following:
• Accepting yourself as “other”
• Dealing with the loss or change of longstanding friends and family relationships
• Reconciling your religious beliefs with your gender/sexual identity
• Reconciling your cultural identity with your gender/sexual identity
• Coming out as a transgender man
• Coming out to your spouse and children
• Coming out to your grandchildren
• Coping with divorce
• Navigating a mixed-orientation marriage when divorce is not an option
• Integrating with the LGBTQ community after years of being an outsider
• Entering the dating scene
• Letting go of false identities
• First same-sex sexual experiences
• Overcoming shame
• Mistakes you made coming out (and what you’d do differently) The submission deadline is January 31, 2015.
Skin to Skin is a coffee table magazine for women of the LGBTQ community. The publication mixes poetry, prose, essays, and fiction/nonfiction with the artistry of the female art form. It is a platform that promotes unity, freedom of expression and the sharing of ideas. Submissions are now open for Issue 07 until December 1, 2014. Poetry: You may send up to 4 pieces in one Word document. Prose/Essays/Fiction/Non-Fiction: No more than 2 prose / essays; not exceeding 2000 words. Illustrations, Artwork, and Photographs: You may send up to 5 art pieces in black-and-white and/or color format. Please include captions or brief descriptions. All forms of art welcomed. Visit here for more information on submitting your work.
Recently, I came across this picture of a black Confederate soldier. I’ve been reading extensively about the Civil War, Reconstruction, The Harlem Renaissance, Women’s Suffrage, The Industrial Revolution, The Great Migration and Jim Crow. This is the first I’ve heard of black soldiers fighting in the Confederate army.
I tried to force myself to put this research off and do the research relevant to my novel. I explained to myself, that I had books due back at the library in a couple days. I noted the books have already been checked out as many times as I’m allowed. I needed to focus on completing them and my notes. Still I couldn’t just walk away from this picture. Even though I’m sure I can’t use any of this information in my novel, I think. I started to fall down the research hole and decided to surrender.
After about thirty minutes of research through Google, I found a few links. I’m going to post them here and come back to this.
I’ve read so many perspectives I don’t know what the truth is. I know from research there were laws barring blacks from being armed. I also know there was a huge fear of slave uprisings. On the other hand, there were blacks who owned slaves. Also, slaves didn’t have rights, so it isn’t impossible to believe that they were forced to support the war in some way even if they weren’t actually fighting or considered soldiers. I have also read several sites that note, after the Confederate South saw how successful blacks were fighting for the Union, they did change laws to force blacks into their army. However The South lost the war and it ended shortly after they made this change, so black men were never actually recruited and didn’t actually see combat. This last point about whether black men actually saw combat is debatable depending on what site I’ve read.
In the research, I was surprised that black women also went to war as cooks and other supportive services. I know that black femininity is often dismissed, but I’m always surprised when I find new examples.
Looking for information about black Confederate soldiers I found more pictures of black men in Confederate uniforms, so I decided to share them. I’d love any information on this subject. I’m totally intrigued.
Today a woman said she’d been waiting for an opportunity to tell me how much she admired my confidence. This shocked me because I struggle with my weight and self esteem issues. I recently decided to stop hiding from the eye of loved ones’ cameras. I’m sure there are other vulnerabilities, but in this age of recording every moment of life with cell phones, I feel most often the vulnerability of allowing others to take my picture.
I love selfies, because I feel in control of how people perceive me. Even though I’m aware that we cannot control people’s perception of us, it’s only recently that I gave up this battle. LOL! As a result, it looks like I actually have friends. Also, I get opportunities to see myself through others’ eyes. Thankfully, I’m not completely disgusted. In fact, I’m enjoying reliving moments through pictures even when I look crazy because it isn’t about how anyone looks. I feel embraced when I see myself and friends laughing or grinning at a camera glad to be alive and in each other’s company. Before, I felt distant from my own life events when I looked at pictures I attended but didn’t take any photos. Now I’m right clicking, saving and keeping memories for my own records. Like we were there!
I’m also finding myself beautiful these days. This is a huge deal, because I’m not slim, blonde, white or tall and my hair is nappy. Over the past few years I’ve been accepting that each body is a miracle, to be loved and appreciated like oak trees, oceans and summer rain. I still want to be tall.
The discussions I’m having about myself and other bodies are more loving. I see beauty everywhere. I don’t know when exactly, but a few years ago I decided to start forgiving others. In forgiving others, I found I was really angry with myself. The gentler I am with others, the more accepting and gentle I am with myself. I also find it easier to forgive others, while it feels like forgiving myself is going to be one of my life’s ongoing works, I’ve made a lot of bad decisions. Still, forgiveness has been the beginning of freedom.
One way I’m free, I don’t hold grudges so my energy is free to focus on what’s important. Another way forgiveness has been freedom, I’m no longer anchored at blaming myself or others, I’m free to see people as human beings navigating through life the best they know how. There is so much compassion in just that understanding. I relate to making mistakes. I relate to making decisions that seemed best at the time based on the information I had, impulse, fear or out of pure desperation, that in the end was harmful. I have certainly harmed myself through choices. Accepting that fact, I have to choose to either love me unconditionally or hate myself. Every time I choose me, I am able to see clearer.
Forgiveness has also allowed me not to be clouded by anger. I am able to see who and what is good for my life without the condition of expecting perfection. It also frees me to follow my spirit so my actions to distance myself from some people doesn’t need to be validated. It allows me to be loving while respecting my own boundaries and journey.
Freedom also helps me to see most people are honest and unfortunately wounded. Knowing people who don’t work at being better people but at being better deceivers are a minority allows me to grant people spiritual connection without self abandonment, or self doubt. Also, forgiving myself has allowed me to trust myself, my spirit and my ability to make choices. Which allows me to remain open and hopeful. I’m an only child, whose extended family is dysfunctional and disconnected. In forgiving them for not being what I think a family should be, I’m free to build my own family. I’m building my own family.
Another really important way forgiveness freed me, was it allowed me to forgive people for weighing me down with their disappointment. I was able to forgive people for their perceptions, expectations and lack of responsibility for their own happiness. I use to feel betrayed for how I was treated by family members and my parents after I came out. On some level, I’ve tried meeting other expectations, hoping they would I guess forgive me for not being straight. Forgiveness allowed me to see, even in denying my own happiness to reach whatever other goals were for my life, I was accepting something was wrong with who I was, am. Freedom, allowed me to see I couldn’t make anyone else happy and frankly that wasn’t my job. I forgave myself for being selfish, because that realization felt selfish and dismissive of everyone I loved.
Then I was free to ask myself, what I think should be one of the first questions a spirit in this realm should ask themselves: “What will make me happy right now?”
In 2009 when my grandmother transitioned, it was the first time I realized I didn’t want to just exist. It was the first time I asked myself “what will make me happy.” I was very unhappy and mostly because I was taking life for granted. The passing of my grandmother showed me that time was finite, I could go anywhere I wanted and do whatever I wanted. All I had to do was pick a direction. That’s freedom.
I love creating. I love being viewed as an artist. I love being viewed as a writer. I love poetry and performing poems. I’ve not found any other feeling I enjoy as much as relating to an entire room of people in five minutes or less. Or the moments after a poetry reading when people come find you to tell you how a poem moved them and then sharing their stories. It makes me happy to relate. It makes me happy to write more, draw more, share more and love more. I’m compelled to be this way.
So when the woman, came to tell me how she just couldn’t imagine putting her work out where people might judge it. Or how she felt that I was so confident because I created and shared without fear, I thought about how interesting it is that we can’t control people’s perspective. I thought about how even though her perception was positive, I guess, I couldn’t disagree more. Until she mentioned her own fears, I honestly hadn’t considered that people might reject my work. When I sit to write, plot, draw or paint I don’t even consider how my work will be received.
Recently, I’ve been working on a poetry book and a historical novel. In the poetry book, I’m trying to share what I’ve learned about life, love and writing. I won’t release it until it feels right in my spirit. With the novel, I’m focused on each step in the process of just finishing the first draft. I’m concerned about doing adequate research for a time period so heavily documented and keeping accurate notes. I also want to weave a story that interest me. I’m also praying over finding the balance between telling a well written fiction in a historical context. I’m finding it particularly challenging to forgive myself for including only facts that move the story along, while omitting major events. I’m seeking peace to move through that… I don’t feel confident at all. I am trying to be present and pay attention to social and physical cues and when there are none, I’m praying for spiritual cues.
Anyway, I actually came to blog a couple lines about someone thinking I was confident. At the time, I denied that I was confident, but she was adamant and went over all the reasons she felt I was confident. Then there wasn’t enough time to really discuss it. So I came to blog about how people’s perception of us can be so different than how we actually feel and got on this tangent about forgiveness…
I decided recently I would attempt to blog more. I hadn’t really processed earlier, or so I thought, but I have been thinking about it ever since she said I was confident. Here I am a thousand words in or something… Forgiving myself for blogging this long when I should be working on my novel. 🙂
Love Love Love
First, I want to start this post by thanking all of the writers who showed up to my first online writing session. I want to thank them for all the positive energy. I want to thank them for being and for accepting that initial invitation. If it weren’t for them agreeing to come and being excited about an online writing session I would have slept this Sunday evening until it was time for me to get up at 4am for work tomorrow. I am so grateful for each one of your smiling faces on Google chat.
I am also grateful the confident woman writing her dissertation, who initially gave me the encouragement to just set the date. She said she planned to finish her dissertation in a year. She said people thought she was crazy. She also said that she writes for three hours a day religiously. As soon as she shared that I remembered Bell Hooks saying that she also writes for a set period of time daily. Then I wondered if I just sat down daily to write, would I write?
Anyway, before anyone agreed to meet me for an online writing session this PhD student asked when did I want to do it. She also wanted to know what time zone was I operating in. Things that seem like they would naturally occur to me, but didn’t. It was her questioning that helped me finally nail down a day. It was her saying that she would meet me to write whenever just post the time, that made me set a date and show up.
She had an assignment due by midnight Sunday, and couldn’t do the writing session, but the group existed in that space and time because of her. I appreciated her taking the time to email me about when it was happening again, something else I hadn’t considered, mostly because I wasn’t sure if anyone other than me was up for JUST WRITING.
Just about writing:
For a moment a few weeks ago, I couldn’t write enough. My hands couldn’t keep up with the pace of my mind weaving this story. I didn’t question why it started to flow. I am a new “productive” writer and I haven’t figured out my rhythm. I don’t know if I’ll eventually write a book a year or a book every other year. From reading my favorite writers, I learn not to judge my process or try to force creativity.
What does that mean, “not to try and force my creativity?” I mean, books don’t write themselves. You do have to give yourself some goals. I hardly ever meet my goals in writing, but I show up most of the time and I write… So right now, I’m thinking the point is not to meet the goal but to have a goal to strive towards. I enjoy writing, all the phases of it and there are many phases.
Still I want to complete books, regularly. On the other hand, I don’t know when my next book will be done. I tried forcing myself to have one done by September but I learned in that uphill battle that’s not how I write. Going forward I won’t give a date in the project being released. I will simply note what projects I’m working on. A lot of people were disappointed this September.
What I do know is, I won’t ever release anything until I know in my spirit it’s time. Even in that I’m worried, I have questions. Does that mean I will be done with the first draft in two months or two years? Then there is a long editing process. Does that mean there will be a few years between books?
If I wrote formulaic books I could write a book a year. I want to be prolific. I want to be relative. I want to write classics that will be studied in college. I want to leave my books behind when I transition. I don’t mind taking my time to reach my goals, but how much time?
For some reason I haven’t really sat down to write in Daughter of Zion for a couple of weeks. Yesterday I worked on a script for a video I’m putting together with friends. About a week ago I laid out all the chapters I’ve written so far to see where to go next. Life has been happening, but you have to make time for writing. So I decided I would be proactive and write with others.
I invited all the writers in every writing group I’m in on Facebook to do a writing session. It was kind of scary. Some of the groups for whatever reason only wanted certain kinds of posts. Even though I was promoting my books and doing what I thought was helpful, Admins told me I wasn’t allowed to invite people to write. In on of the groups, I received a notification that said someone responded to the post, but when I went back and said I couldn’t find the post the Admin told me it was deleted then read me. It’s weird, writers want to talk about writing, critique writing, reading, promoting, editing, book covers or share open submissions but no one wants to just meet and write. I found it interesting that I was met with so much hostility for asking to meet to do what made us all who we are. I ended up deleted at least one of the invites.
After days of responses, I was able to re-evaluate all the groups I’ve joined. I removed myself from several, just because they were dormant or didn’t serve a real purpose in my life. I turned on notifications for some I realized were great resources I’d been missing out on because I was overwhelmed by all the groups I’d joined or was added to.
Anyway, of those groups I only had three people actually say they wanted to join me writing. Mostly people wanted to talk about other things writing groups should do outside of writing. I specifically called it “WRITING SESSION” but people wanted to know if we would be reading each other’s work. Another person wanted to know if we would be doing critiques. Another person wanted to know if we would be networking. Some of them added they already belonged to writer groups where they met to have dinner and network. I spent hours answering questions, but mostly saying, “we are just going to write.” Or, “I’m not looking for more work, so I’m not critiquing.”
I’ve never been someone who likes to say no, so it was difficult saying this is not the group for you, we are not addressing those needs. Some writers wanted to know if we would be posting prompts or teaching writing. All the questions actually helped me figure out what the guidelines are, and I didn’t want it to have rules or guidelines. Maybe for anything to work you need boundaries…
At some point during the session seven of them showed up. Four showed up in the first few minutes of me signing into Google chat. None of them came from the groups, they were friends. None of them needed guidelines. In fact, I thought I would have to apologize for leading the group but wanting to write with headphones on… But all but one of them came on screen with headphones in. We did introductions, talked about our projects and learned how to get in contact with each other through Google. About twenty minutes in we went to our respective projects and started to work.
I did check FB to see if I’d missed anyone. One writer/friend hadn’t set up Google chat, so she said she would still observe the window as a writing time. One guy from the group came in late and I didn’t realize it until after the two hour window. For me it was a huge success. The goal was to commit to writing today, which I did.
Today was a long day and if it were not for the writing group I would have slept after I got off from work. Then I would have eaten and prepared for work tomorrow. I wrote almost two thousand words today, which is amazing for one two hour period.
I didn’t know when we would meet again, initially. I was thinking a couple times a month. I was excited when the other writers said it was not only helpful but they’d be interested in meeting every Sunday evening. So we’re meeting again same time, next Sunday evening.
*Productive- creating products for sale to readers and building a career in writing.