Day 2 of Writing Class: List

These are the choices:

  • Things I Like
  • Things I’ve Learned
  • Things I Wish
  • Things You’re Good At

I wrote a whole draft of a list of Things I’ve Learned, but I decided to do something different with the same topic.

Things I’ve Learned about My “Writer” Identity:

  1. I’ve been hiding in the writer “closet” for years, at least 30 years.
  2. I was struggling with this beast back in 1985 in my writer’s journal for an English Creative Writing class in high school.
  3. It’s always been, “What do I write about?”, “What do I have to say that people will want to read?”, having this urge to write but not having anything to write or write about, least of all fiction.
  4. I try in every way possible to destroy my thinking of myself as a writer or at least place obstacles in my pat. I left the 1985 writers journal on a subway two weeks ago. I was terribly upset and angry at myself. I had lost a big clue to who I was, not as a teenager, but as a budding writer back in 1985. When I first discovered that journal in the spring, I felt like I had been given a time capsule to this person that had been me, at least, what she wrote and how she thought about writing. I found it at this point where I had started writing a lot more again, so it seemed so just right that it fell into my lap.
  5. Did I lose that journal to tell myself that I can’t write or to make things hard for me, did I lose that writer in me, or that key into my mind as a 17 year old, or, did I lose that journal because I don’t need it and have already incorporated that writer inside me and need to focus on what I am writing now or my writing process? the Maybe both are true. The reason I was carelessly carrying around this old green covered Meade notebook was that I brought it to my therapy session that morning to show my therapist. This is a new therapist I am working with after several years hiatus from therapy. One main focus of my therapy is my struggle to be ok with being a writer and with my writing. It seemed even more of a message from the universe that the last event with that journal was for that very purpose. I texted my therapist about it right after I lost it. I seemed to need for him to know that he was the last person to see it and hear it.
  6. The more I write, the more I delete my writing and sometimes edit it but no longer just look at a first draft as finished. I used to write posts for this blog and fling them out there. Now even for the blog, I write many drafts I never post.
  7. I started writing something new in the spring that was a new kind of writing and a new sort of genre I tried out, some kind of  personal narrative. I did not know until then how much my work as an art therapist from the past especially was going into my writing. The other thing I discovered was writing and my daughter, writing about being her mother and writing with her. I already considered her a good writer back when she got excited by writing in second grade.
  8. The whole writing issue, beast or monster is intricately connected with my  GraphicNovel, started in 2000, which is a sort of memoir of the mind. This graphic novel has been torturing me for the past 16 years, most of which have been “writers block” years. It was started with the goal of publishing it; that goal has always been there despite my success in squashing it.
  9. My writing and my art have been coexisting with my Graphic Novel illness. I only realized it with writing recently when I saw that the more I write the more likely I am to get back to the graphic novel, and that whatever I’m writing somehow seems to be an act of avoiding working on the graphic novel, but sometimes seems to get me back to it. The art coexisting has been going on since the beginning. This last project involving cartoons, Bathroom Art Only, is the first series of work where my art directly connected to the graphic novel and sort of spilled into it and the art work threw me back into it after a long block. Then the door closed a few months until my writing flung me back at it. At other times, my art has seemed to focus on being as different and far away from the graphic novel as possible, as if it is trying to keep me away from it.
  10. The graphic novel has become a strange realization of my personal “Pictures and Words” struggle. More on that another time. End of list!


My Solo Art Show in Brooklyn!

#Bathroom Art Only is the name of the exhibition of my art in Williamsburg at the gallery of the art therapy clinic, New York Creative Arts Therapists. The opening reception was at their Open House on Saturday, October 29.

Somehow, with Halloween and the pre election events, and the election and post election events and reactions going on and ongoing, my show event got lost in all that, and I neglected to post photos on this blog, my Facebook page, Twitter and everything else. I am still trying to sort out how this very important event in my career seems to have been pushed to the side by me, the artist. Another post can address that complicated issue…

The show is still up through the end of 2016.

I wrote some posts about my art project, #bathroomartonly (#Bathroom Art Only), which was created to address the rights of transgender identified people, as well as gender non comforting, gender fluid and every gender in between, to equal access to public bathrooms. I started the project in the spring and over my summer road trip, I posted photos of public bathrooms I “visited”, as part of my whole project, which I think of as going beyond just having this exhibition of my work.

The work in the show is meant to be provocative and humorous and to use the comic strip medium to address how we construct gender and invite people, whether cisgender or non conforming, transgender, and all others, to look at gender in a different way. The show is organized in categories of “characters” that typically are not viewed in terms of gender, office supplies, cats, heads with non gender bodies (self-portrait collages), toilets and poop all talking. Not all are directly talking directly about gender, some are more subtle ways of thinking about gender construction. Here are photos and you can see the messages without me explaining it:


Cupcakes still on my mind

I must add as an afterthought, that I just realized during one of my Guilty Internet Window Shopping Black Friday weekend experiences, I put a cupcake watch in my cart. I put things in carts and then get off quickly after having spent too much time figuring out the 35% discount.

That cupcake watch, I thought about it today and sensibly told myself, you certainly don’t need another watch, another Bestsey Johnson watch, after all you have the sugar skull, that Alice looking one, the cat one, the Marilyn face one…

Writing this list, I realize I already went into the too too much so much that you can get more because the muchness has already gone over the top, so it’s again so tantalizing to think, after writing this Ode to Cupcakes, don’t I need to reward myself with that cupcake watch, if its’ still on sale of course. Oh no. I will try to resist it.

Cupcake watch

I confess I have a small “cake” wristlet bag that was one of those I must have this, things, It says let them eat cake on the bottom. But still, cupcakes are better…

Everyday Inspiration Day 1

This is a topic, “I write because”, where I am excited to say that today, I wrote because my 9 year old daughter was writing; I have a love hate relationship with writing, but when we write at the same time, I enjoy writing and don’t feel all the usual crazy stuff and insecurity and everything else that comes with torturing yourself writing and in between writing.

The prompt was a great 4th grade prompt: Cake or Cupcakes, which do you prefer? A very important question that I have pondered quite a bit.

It just so happened that we went to get cupcakes today with her friends and friend’s babysitter Heidi. I already knew my daughter was writing in favor of cake.

So here is my writing that I did in the 20 minutes that she did her piece. I’d also like to say that writing for 20 minutes is great because you enjoy it and have fun but don’t go too much into it and get caught up. For the ADHD writer, it’s great. No time to get bored or distracted except within the topic.

Ok, here it is. I have to add that my daughter asked me to put it in this blog!

Actually it is probably more fun to read as a post on its own, so I will make a separate post right now, write now!

we can sketch it out.

I love these quotations and how they are placed in these great portraits!

malcolm-yelloThere is nothing better than adversity. Every defeat, every heartbreak, every loss, contains its own seed, its own lesson on how to improve your performance the next time. — Malcolm X

leonard-cohen There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in. — Leonard Cohen

tawakkol-karman In our hearts, we are just human beings who want a dignified life. Is that too much to ask? -Tawakkol Karman

bill-murray-yello The last time doesn’t exist. It’s only this time. And everything is going to be different this tie. There’s only now.  — Bill Murray

coetzee We are not by nature cruel. — J.M. Coetzee

mother-teresa Peace begins with a smile. — Mother Teresa

tim-gunn Life is not a solo act. It’s a huge collaboration.  — Tim Gunn

shermanWe are all products of what we want to project to the world. — Cindy Sherman

henry-jamesThree things in human life are important. The first is to be kind…

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there is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

Great! So sad to lose Leonard Cohen.

We lost singer-songwriter-poet-artist-novelist Leonard Cohen, one of my personal heroes and the mentor I never met. Here’s my little tribute.

leonard-cohen There is a crack in everything, that’s how the light gets in.

cohen-color Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.

leonard-love Love is the only engine of survival.

cohen-yesterday-colorHow can I begin anything with all of yesterday in me?

cohen-trainingBTW, I’m training mediators in New Orleans this week, and Mr. Cohen was my co-trainer.

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What kind of American are you?

People are trapped in history and history is trapped in them. James A. Baldwin
Newly edited: what I’ve learned from this Election Process:
1.) Shut up and listen.
2.) Act, don’t react.
3.) Edit yourself.
5.) slow down and breathe.
6.) Be grateful.

I mostly turn to literature and writers and some other wise figures for explanation and important things to consider. American Literature is a place I go to to see how people answered this questions on what it is to be American. Here are quotations from them.

This passage in the Great Gatsby is etched in my brain. It comes up often when you work with oppressed people…

They were careless people, Tom and Daisy — they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money of their vast carelessness, or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.”

In just a few sentences you see the complexity of American History since it was born starting with “smashing up” Native Americans, slavery…

James Baldwin has written so much about all of it that resonates today, it’s hard to choose what to put in here:

It is certain, in any case, that ignorance, allied with power, is the most ferocious enemy justice can have. James A. Baldwin

Here is a quote that speaks to a part of myself I certainly don’t like. Baldwin is talking about taking responsibility. When you are born or choose to become an American, you are agreeing to participation in its history and learning from it, I’m quite not sure how to say that; Baldwin articulates it well:

Nobody is more dangerous than he who imagines himself pure in heart; for his purity, by definition, is unassailable. James A. Baldwin
This one really gets at what is happening in this moment of our collective history:

I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain.

Here are some from Leonard Cohen, whom I think about today and thank him for his magic.

“Act the way you’d like to be and soon you’ll be the way you act.”
This one above speaks to me as I remember many times when I’ve tried to figure out how to emulate someone’s behavior and it seemed like I needed to wear this person on me to be like them; you can strive but I get weary of chasing buses.

“We are ugly but we have the music.” this short sentence seems to sum up how it is to be an artist made in America.

Last one:

“Everybody knows that the dice are loaded,
Everybody rolls with their fingers crossed,
Everybody knows that the war is over,
Everybody knows the good guys lost.”

American women writers:

Here are some words for today and tomorrow: Audre Lorde

There’s always someone asking you to underline one piece of yourself – whether it’s Black, woman, mother, dyke, teacher, etc. – because that’s the piece that they need to key in to. They want to dismiss everything else.

Only by learning to live in harmony with your contradictions can you keep it all afloat.

There are no new ideas. There are only new ways of making them felt.

In other words, I would be giving in to a myth of sameness which I think can destroy us.
Emily Dickinson:

In other words, I would be giving in to a myth of sameness which I think can destroy us.
Here is a provocative one that speaks to the last year and last few days:

People need hard times and oppression to develop psychic muscles.


America will never be destroyed from the outside. If we falter and lose our freedoms, it will be because we destroyed ourselves. Abraham Lincoln

Here is Malcolm X with a prescription for all of us people asking today what to do, what can be done:

“I for one believe that if you give people a thorough understanding of what confronts them and the basic causes that produce it, they’ll create their own program, and when the people create a program, you get action.” — Malcolm X

I will end with this. I always fantasized about just reading for the rest of my life:

“My alma mater was books, a good library… I could spend the rest of my life reading, just satisfying my curiosity.” — Malcolm X



Writing = Cutting Lemons

Writing has become quicksand filled at the bottom of the well. You take Alice potion to get to the size to go down to the water in a bucket, and there’s no water, it’s quicksand at the bottom. I’ve always wondered what it would be like to be in quicksand and holding someone’s hand desperately pulling me out; like the Twilight Zone little girl stuck int he 4th dimension with her dog, her dad half in the wall reaching out for her, frantically pulling her back in to her bedroom.

I have wanted to go to the 4th dimension, to escape all the dirty corners of living, the things you like to pretend are not real inside you. It’s ok to imagine killing someone, that’s a clean piece of evil I’m familiar with and can enjoy, but there are dirtier secrets that pretend they aren’t there.

If you want clean water and clean air, writing is still some kind of curse, you throw a pebble in a pond and see the ripples of water. Each ripple is 4-10 pages of meandering writing, that starts out excited and full of clean water inspiration and goes to drinking out of a dirty glass that went through my dishwasher and still has pieces of dirt stuck to it.

My therapy homework is to find and read The Third Policeman. There is a different third policeman policing my writing; he is disgusted with it. When I was a kid I dreamed I was walking down a road and getting spanked by a policeman standing waiting for me. He’s back and he’s spanking every meandering piece of prose that gets saved, the names for the files are:  ProcessElection.docx, NewIdeas.docx, SmallPottatoes.docx, I have spent my life figuring out what books.docx, HilaryLemons.docx…

The Hilary lemons, the lemons is connected to cutting lemons the wrong way, somehow it was connected to something in my mind about Hilary, I don’t even want to read it. The lemons were what was important, not to do with the election or Hilary, buthey were about me and this maze of writing stop starting, how I must be the same me in some way with the me of my fifteen year old self, who got yelled at by my chef expert brother for cutting lemons wrong. He was right, I had shamed these poor lemons, messed them up, disrespected and disgraced them. There is something about lemons, and if you cut them wrong, it better not be for anyone else, just your own glass of water which if it would talk would yell at you too. Lemon cutting shaming. Cutting fruit wrong permeates my personality. My daughter is not please at my butchering her granny smith apple. My mind refuses to fall in and get the facts properly placed and numbered.

Trying to get a container thing you use to put electric things in the light socket, I go to that row in Home Depot, where inconsiderate customers have put all the different iterations of this box like thing in the wrong boxes, where the person helping you is jumping from box to box, pulling these boxes out, some have wings on the side to screw in, some are hexagonal. On a different day, I might have done something with this panoply of boxes for light to go to the switch you flick, enjoyed their strange shapes and sides, aluminum box trolls. I am too confused, my mind goes into words about 2 by 4s and tops without the holes, there are tops with circles that mean you punch through them. My daughter noticed this difference. Making decisions when FaceTime doesn’t work and you can’t take ten photos of these things to make sure you got the right ones. How important is it? The first time round my mind turns into quicksand. The stress of connecting words to sentences to actually getting the right ones. I thought it was 3 each of 2 and 3 inch ones. But it was 3 each of one and two light switch things. Lucky I caught that one.

I told my daughter I am learning the English language of real people all over again. It’s not my language at all. Off to the paint department, an island of my language, colored swatches and fantasy walls, where you can find the paint color errors and spend 50 cents to get some pink color you won’t use at home, but maybe I could paint my studio closet door with this. It’s a small container of random paint; of course it’s going to be useful.

What’s in the Hidden Box: Being a Writer

I have loved writing since I was a kid. I got more into it in high school. At the time, I wrote poetry. Recently, I dug up an old journal out of a box in a cabinet in my studio. It was there alongside my two failed Road tests.

I couldn’t even remember the notebook, a green Meade wire bound notebook. I started reading it. It was a strange time capsule to 1985, 11th grade. I will copy some entries and post them here soon.

Very bizarre to be in my high school self. There was also the teacher in the notebook/writer’s journal. I didn’t remember who she was, then I had an inkling that it might be a certain English teacher. Her presence was there as the reader and her gentle encouragement was woven through the journal

This writer I encountered was trying all kinds of things to get that key to open the door to the land of writing. It was like trying all different sizes and being the wrong size to get the key. And then transform again to get the key and the door in the same size match.

I wrote some things about people I knew. I made up some things too based on prompts, like a few paragraphs told from the point of view of a 38 year old father on the day of his birthday. The journal was a search, a frustrating, exciting, sometimes magical, erneast and sometimes desperate search for what writing is and most perplexing: WHAT TO WRITE/WRITE ABOUT.

I even wrote a sort of ode to writing itself in that journal. What do I write about? Do I write about the things I know and are familiar with and see them from a writer’s point of view? Do I make up things about stuff that I’ve never experienced and see where it leads? Do I take a prompt and try to get me pushed off? What is so important about my experience that anyone else would be interested in reading it? What is the secret key to the garden of writing well? Even if you are your first and/or only reader, what do you want your reader to be reading?

On to college, 4 years of wrestling with the same thing, along with, which things I write are in pursuit of writing and becoming a better writer? Again, who am I now as a writer?  I still write poems, which seem easier but much harder to like or find good enough. Somehow poetry was easier because it was shorter. I could hardly read any long poems even though I was assigned them. With reading, I could read long things and feel dumped and disappointed when they ended. With writing like in high school, I could take off and do the first moments of getting up in the sky, some turbulence and then to the point of taking off the seat belt sign.

That is where I will end this post. I hope to investigate further my quest to be a writer or at least someone who writes things that can be read. Words have always been my friends. Topics and content still enemies.

New try at Shaping My Story with New “Topic”: The Green Umbrella

The green umbrella was not mine.

I did not buy it the New York Rain Day way: It’s raining. Of course you didn’t bring an umbrella to work or wherever. You ran out the house without it. Maybe you noticed a few minutes into the rain, Damn I need an umbrella. There is always some kind of sidewalk person who sells an assortment of things: weird stuffed animals, Dora paraphernalia, iPhone cases with cats and other animals on them, cheap head phones, sunglasses of course, rain or shine, snow or sun, and other random items. This person will definitely have a few types of 5$ umbrellas: the small black ones with the old fashioned curved handle that last one shower and end up skeletons peaking out of the street garbage can where an angry person sick of the umbrella going the opposite way finally lost the struggle and stuck it there, looking like an upside down Barbie doll with one leg. This guy also sells bigger ones, maybe a few more bucks and some others. You buy one. If it doesn’t end up driving you nuts with the wind added to the rain, you will leave it in a restaurant soon.

I have a thing with umbrellas. I’m not sure how to describe it. I love looking at everyone else’s umbrellas, it’s like tattoo watching in a swimming pool; a total smorgasbord of colors, patterns, sizes and styles; I only have a temporary tattoo but I love seeing real ones on other people. Sort of like with umbrellas. I didn’t used to let myself spend more than 5-10$ on an umbrella for the obvious reason that I’d break it or lose it soon. Now I have a great rainbow umbrella that was cheaper than the red Ikea with white pattern that died a quick death. I was wanting a rainbow umbrella for quite a while. Like most things you yearn for, I found it when not looking. The kind where each segment is a different color. It’s a large one, also something I used to deny myself. There are umbrellas that do their job reluctantly and badly, keeping you from getting soaked but popping out with the wind so you have to hold it the other way to get it back to it’s shape. You forget that a useful umbrella needs to be shaped a certain way to avoid this back and forth thing and to keep you more dry than just somewhat dry.

I have other umbrellas. There is the pink one from Duane Reade that refuses to get broken or used up or lost. It’s just a small retractable one, not too tiny, probably cost 5-7$. There is always some cheap umbrella you hardly notice you’ve had for so many years; the survivor umbrella. This pink umbrella is a cat with nine lives.

Umbrellas for children. That’s a whole other category. I used to think cheap, but first it was: don’t get an umbrella for a child, just use yours with them; those dinky little kids umbrellas with annoying Dora or Disney characters on them – I refused to surrender for a long time. I relented and changed my philosophy to: get a really cheap tacky one made for kids in Chinatown at one of those places that sells that again strange assortment, where you could get a live turtle or this umbrella. Then recently, I finally got the concept of a child having an adult umbrella, and getting to start a whole relationship of their own with umbrellas and rain. It could be the making of a young pluviophile.

I do know a child who loves to be inside looking out her window and watching people outside getting wet in the rain. It’s that sadistic pleasure of watching others suffer and feeling extra cosy and not wet.

Last week I was in a New York kind of storm, the kind where you surrender and just get completely wet. The kind you can’t wait out under an awning crushed together with others. The kind where you have to pick your moment to just get in the wind and rain and take your chances.  I noticed that still, an umbrella seems useful, after you’re soaked to the point that your sneakers are full of water. Then you get to be soaked but no longer frantic and watch other people frantically holding things over their heads or fighting with their umbrellas or hiding under scaffolding waiting it out. By that time, you’re having fun finally getting to admit the real thing about rain: it’s water. It will get you wet and maybe cold.

This green one was just a symbol of my day to a terrible point. I took it by accident instead of the dependable pink one. Actually I confess I left the house with that pink one and stupidly gave my child the pink one and took the green one, a quick exchange that I didnt notice would shape the rest of my day and cause me to write this.’This innocent looking light yellow green umbrella came from someone who was moving to Berlin from Brooklyn and had the kind of extra stuff you take to your house and are both grateful and annoyed by more stuff you might need or maybe you didn’t know you needed it. Did I need another small collapsable umbrella? Maybe. Probably not. I had already forgotten my last battle with that damn umbrella. I took it out  for the first time and tried to open it but the sliding thing didn’t’ stick to the top, so I wrestled with it while getting wet and got so annoyed I was ready to throw it out, thinking it just doesn’t work and wondering why it was even existing there for me to get angry at.  I even walked with it open holding it at the top, very annoying way to use an umbrella Finally by luck or chance I put the umbrella up and it stayed. The trick was it had to be all the way down, then you push the button and it opens fine in one burst. You can’t push the button and push it up. I don’t know how I missed the simple way to open it. I figure it out a second before I was going to throw it out in a fit of fury that only exists when it’s raining and you’re pissed off at an umbrella.

Of course today i had the same problem, and again even more absurdly couldn’t figure it out. This time I had the added torture of knowing it was not broken, and that I was fighting with it because I couldn’t remember the simple way to get it open.

I actually yelled at the umbrella. I was already in a bad mood so the umbrella seemed right to take it out on. Nobody would think it was weird to see someone having a nasty fight with an umbrella on a street in NYC.

This umbrella with its secret simple way to open it represented my tussles with life. I even had seen a 9 year old open it fine, adding more fuel to the fire. This fight was saying, on a daily basis you waste extra energy fighting facts and the physical world, refusing to admit that not only are you doing it wrong, the right way is so much easier and less histrionic.

Why does this always happen to me? was the usual useless thought pattern. I fight and frustrate and struggle against the forces of my own brain’s inability to do simple tasks, then it makes sense to get angry at the object that has a superiority complex like that umbrella. It was saying, “You can’t remember the obvious way to open me. You’re again almost breaking me trying to figure it out. Just a while ago a child had no problem opening me. It was laughing at me and thumbing its nose at me.

I persisted, as I do these days with such struggles, because my mind says, if you can’t figure this out, your’e doomed; the whole rest of your life will be one endless struggle like this with everything and everyone, so you better figure it out now. Finally through chance I realized: it’s the button that says open/close on it, push it. My umbrella fully cooperated, laughing all the way up.

Well the next time today I was back home and left, I took my rainbow umbrella. It isn’t raining, but when it does, I will have my pride back and my ability to function like the other people who manage reality just fine; I can walk down the street holding my happy rainbow umbrella and pretend I know how to navigate the physical world.