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Life is Weird. People are Strange. Sing, anyway.

August 22, 2012 Leave a comment

 

Sometimes, things just don’t make sense. I’m not an everything-is-black-and-white person – so I get that. Things aren’t only good and bad, right or wrong, easy or hard. Life can be 47 different levels of weird and crazy, like the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, but dipped in crack.

I like things to make sense. Or, at least, to be somewhat understandable. Because even if I don’t LIKE something, I handle it much better if there’s a clear picture. I think most people do.

But today, my heart hurts a little bit for all the things I just cannot wrap my head around. I have to remind myself that people aren’t math equations, which is a good thing (because math and I don’t get along). People are more like short stories: open to interpretation, with meaning to be found in snatches. Except, unlike a short story, people don’t have to make sense. There’s no set structure. There’s no rules. Basically, it’s we’re a human case study in Faulkner, circa The Sound and the Fury (ie the book that made my soul bleed and nearly stop reading FOREVER).

I always want to understand things. That is both good and bad. You cannot drag meaning from silence, any more than one can coax blood from a rock. And yet…that doesn’t always stop us from trying, does it?

Lately, I am in no mood for uncertainty. I am not entirely myself. I’m not as strong as I feel I should be, but I’m trying my best not to show it. I am like a cat in that respect: when wounded or hurting, I hide. Very few people see me otherwise. It isn’t always deliberate. It’s just another kind of armor, I suppose. But to the point: I am still the brave idiot most people are familiar with. Even now. I don’t think that personal pain is an excuse for radical personality changes, though I can see how it could affect people that way.

One thing I know is this: life is too damn short. It’s too damn short to be scared or to hold back. It’s too short to be dishonest or less than forthcoming. It’s too short not to love and laugh. It’s too short not to ask questions, reach out, or dance. It’s too short not to sing every chance we get. It’s too short not to be a little crazy and ridiculous. It’s too short not to try.

That’s the crux, the difference between being held by fear and moving beyond it: trying. Goodness knows, come hell, high water, or complete insanity – I never let that stop me. Don’t let it stop you, either. Because most of the time, the things we strive for, the brass rings and bright things, are exactly what we need. We just have to dare to believe it.

Love and its Loss: A Vehicle for Change in Once Upon a Time

March 5, 2012 2 comments

There’s an old adage that can be both balm and menace, “it’s better to have loved and lost, then to never have loved at all.” If you’re in the middle of a tremendous heartbreak, that sentiment can feel like someone just poured molten lava into your chest cavity. If you’re heartbreak-free and smiling, it’s an anthem, a mantra. Something scrawled on a coffee mug.

Yet, despite living in the real world, the characters of Storybrooke seem to prove this quote to its last letter. Leroy (aka Grumpy, expertly portrayed by Lee Arenberg) falls in love with a woman he can never, ever have. Astrid’s a nun. The absolutely beautiful part of their interaction is how his face lights up whenever he sees her, and she seems to blush to the gills. But, as I said, it’s not a case of unrequited love. It’s a case of impossible love.

Cut to their counterparts in Fairytale Land: Grumpy (whose name, in the beginning, is actually Dreamy) and Nova. Nova’s an apprentice fairy, who is adorably bumbling. They fall in love, even though dwarves are not capable of it. Right there, that’s an interesting barrier to have broken. Just because something isn’t supposed to happen, doesn’t mean it can’t. I think, in the grander storytelling scheme, that is a major tenant of the show. Rules are always bent. Lines are blurred. Appearances and circumstances should not be believed. I keep thinking of the lyrics to “No One is Alone” from Into the Woods.

People make mistakes

Holding to their own

Thinking they’re alone

Honor their mistakes

Fight for their mistakes

Everybody makes

One another’s terrible mistakes

Witches can be right

Giants can be good

You decide what’s right

You decide what’s good

In the end, Grumpy sacrifices his own desires for her. He chooses not to run away with Nova, so that she can grow into the great fairy she was always meant to be. He gives her up for her sake. Although, I’m not entirely sure I agree with that kind of reasoning; she can very well make her own decisions. He walked away, taking that choice from her. But he did it with the very best of intentions, didn’t he? He gave up his own happiness for hers. Perhaps that was a mistake, but it was one born of love.

Everyone make mistakes. No one is without flaws. The important thing to remember, here, is that everyone has a story. No one is exactly as he/she appears to be. A smile can be a disguise. A surly attitude can be a suit of armor. (Btw, this speaks to everyday life, outside of the show. Who hasn’t smiled through a difficult day or time?) It’s important to remember that the population of Storybrooke is filled with people, instead of characters. It is rife with flaws, instead of perfectly formed fantasies. But it seems like everyone is after one thing (with the possible exception of the Mayor), even if the pursuit is misguided: Love. Love is the thread that connects, or disconnects, people – both in Storybrooke and in Fairytale Land. It is, in my opinion, the reason Emma stuck around (she loves Henry). It is the reason Mr. Glass helps Regina (he’s foolishly besotted. He’s so smitten he cannot actually see her. He just feels. That is a dangerous pursuit, like cornering a viper. Or a Snake of Agrabah as the case may be.).

But back to the quote I mentioned in the beginning: it is better to have loved and lost, then never to have loved at all.

At one point, after a particularly terrible day, Leroy and Mary Margaret end up drinking (scotch?) together at the diner. She’s had to deal with some pretty heavy shunning and shaming, because of her relationship with David. (Side-note: this blogger pointed out something pretty neat. There’s a can of red paint in the Mayor’s desk drawer. It is highly possibly that SHE spray painted TRAMP on MM’s car.) Mary Margaret is clearly in pain. She misses David. She is hurt that the town would turn on her. She is drinking to forget, which is impossible, as anyone who’s ever found their heart lying smashed on the side of the road knows. Leroy, who loves someone he has no hope of having a relationship with, reminds her that life is all about collecting moments. It is about making memories, holding onto those during the bad times (when I can, I will get the exact quote). If the memory of love were a flame, it would stay through the darkest winter night. This realization catches Mary Margaret by surprise, and she seems to acknowledge that maybe she’s lost perspective. This exchange has an interesting parallel in Fairytale Land, because Grumpy encounters Belle in a tavern – presumably after Rumplestiltskin threw her out – and she basically explains love to him. Even hurting as she is, because it’s clear that she’s still carrying a gold-spun torch, she espouses the virtues of love. It is better to have lost and lost, then never to have loved at all.

Which brings us to the problem of Kathryn’s, David’s estranged wife. She was her way out of Storybrooke, but her car was abandoned on the side of the road, and she’s nowhere to be found. Technically, it didn’t look like she’d ventured beyond the borders – so what happened? Only time will tell. In the end, Emma is forced to bring David in for questioning. Mr. Glass, still playing both sides to a tricky middle, provided her with Kathryn’s phone records. Unbeknownst to the Sheriff Swann, those records were procured by Mayor Regina, who is about as trustworthy as a singing siren.

As Emma puts David in the back of the police car, Mary Margaret sees it happen. Her face falls, and her heart appears to drop into her shoes. You know, of course, that she hasn’t stopped loving David. There’s no magic “I don’t love you anymore” switch. There is no forgetting potion, as there was in Fairytale Land. No, in reality, there’s love – and the beautiful agony when it’s lost.

That look, when she sees he might be in trouble, is a turning point. You see, she hasn’t truly lost David. He’s very much right there. And he’s very much in trouble. Now, she’s confronted with the very real possibility of losing him for good.

This episode wasn’t just about the backstory of Grumpy, whose pie-in-the-sky disposition is damped by losing Nova — thus turning him into Grumpy. This episode reinforced the central theme of the show: love is force for change. Love is what made Belle return to Rumplestiltskin, after he offered her a way out (that offering, in itself, was a gesture of love). Fear and self-doubt crept in – the thought that one is unworthy of love – and tore that glimmering passion apart.

Love guided Prince Charming to pursue Snow White, and she him. It is what she sacrificed in order to save his life. Love, then, is the gateway to extraordinary things. The loss of love is what drove her to drink the Forgetting Potion. Love is what drove David and Mary Margaret together. But what, curiously, drove them apart? It’s not the absence of love. Instead, it’s mistakes. Perhaps if David had been able to read the letter that Kathryn had left (telling him to be with Mary Margaret – that they have real love), things would be different. But it’s the Regina’s lack of love that spoils things. She took the letter and burned it.

Here’s the thing, though, about love lost: it can be recovered. Hopes can be dashed. Circumstances can rip two people apart. Mistakes happen. And yet, all of those things can be forgiven. You can lose love, like breadcrumbs dropped on a trail. You can run away out of fear. You can turn your back and walk away. Those are all choices. But what cannot be chosen? How one feels. You don’t choose who you love. You can choose what you do about it. When push comes to shove, we (as people) fight for what we believe in, for those we love. Even when it seems impossible – perhaps especially then.

Love, real love, is never easy. But the things in life worth having? They are worth fighting for. They are worth sacrificing everything for. Everyone has a story. Perhaps it is one that sings of passion. Perhaps it is one that sings of heartbreak. Perhaps it is a harmony of both those things. Regardless of which, love is the most powerful force. It doesn’t merely alter how the game is played; it changes the landscape of life itself.

Love lost isn’t the end of the story. Because what’s lost can always be found.

Pretty Things and Awesome People

January 12, 2012 9 comments

 

I feel like we all need some positivity. It’s been kind of rough few days, and today comes with a sick cat – and an impeding vet visit. So, without further ado, I’m going to talk about some people I admire and some awesome things.

1. The Strange Brew. Best coffee, ever. I’m not kidding. I NEVER joke about coffee. (Or money, right Vivian?) I am hopelessly addicted to the lovely Toni Carr (aka Joan of Dark, Derby Girl and Kickass Woman – seriously. She is training for the craziest thing ever. Check it: Tough Mudder ) If you love coffee, buy yourself a bag. SHE SHIPS. Which is good, because if she didn’t, I’d have to move to Indiana.

2. The one and only, Fabulous Lorraine (aka Quiche Me Deadly) – or Lorraine Garland. Lorraine is badass. She is also a Derby Girl, a musician, a Bengal Cat rescuer (have you SEEN the Leopard Lounge? You MUST.), and veritable Jane of All Trades. If you’re looking for a new blog to add your reading list, add hers. Not only is Lorraine smart, wise, and awesome – but she ALWAYS has wonderful stories to tell, things you will admire, and a ton of tidbits that will inspire you. Trust me. Plus, the community there? Well, it’s pretty fantastic.

3. Tea cups made from recycled book pages (link courtesy of the fantastic Gabriel Rodriguez). These are GORGEOUS. I am so very impressed by the talent it takes to make something like that. And, I’m guessing, the patience. Beautiful art.

4. For anyone not already addicted, BEHOLD – The Lipstick Queen! For all the ladies, of course – or Executive Transvestites. ;-) I cannot say enough good things about her lipstick and gloss. They are so fabulous. They stay put. They are not sticky. The colors are divine. And her brand is responsible for all of my awesome red lip color. Go forth and ADMIRE. (Deanna Raybourn, you are responsible for my addiction to her products. For which, I offer you a thousand thank yous.)

5. Janet Reid, literary agent, whiskey drinker, and Shark of the Book Realm. While I don’t know Janet personally, I can tell you this – she is out to help writers. She wants to clarify, encourage, assist, and HELP. Her blog entries (also at Query Shark) are one of the best resources I’ve found. Plus, she is agent to some pretty amazing writers. Speaking of…

6. Sean Ferrell. Sean is a wonderful writer. (Have YOU read NUMB? No? Remedy that.) He writes things that resonate so well with readers. His wonderful turn-of-phrase (is there a plural for that? Turns of phrases? No, that sounds wrong…) evokes admiration and minor cases of jealously. Often, I find myself saying, “I wish I thought of that phrasing…” But Sean is more than just another pantless, scotch-drinking keyboard monkey. He is smart, and he is encouraging. If you don’t believe me, read his blog. Hell, read his blog, anyway.

7. The Pioneer Woman. Ree Drummond is a goddess. A cooking, camera-wielding genius. I get a lot of my recipes from her site (and her cookbook!), and you will not be sorry. Of course, if you peruse her archieve of reicpes, don’t do it on an empty stomach. Otherwise, you will find yourself surrounded by dirty pots and pans, snarfing down cinnamon rolls, pasta, and cheese grits. I…may be editorializing a bit. Delicious, yes – but not exceptionally pretty.

8. Etsy.com. This site is a magical world of homemade crafts, ranging from jewelry to furniture. I love supporting handmade creations and businesses. I have never been unhappy with a purchase, and there is so much there to love. Check it out.

9. Anastasia Traina. This lovely lady is as smart as she is funny, as witty as she is wise, and as artistic and she is wonderful. Aside from her Zingers blog, she also is founder and CEO of A FUNNY BUNNY PICTURE. Ana is a brilliant photographer and drawer, and there is always a recipe or two to be found on her blog.

10. Lastly, I give you The Confrontation Song (from Les Miserables) sung by Neil Patrick Harris and Jason Segel. This never fails to make me laugh.

Being Stubborn and Singing it Out

December 7, 2011 Leave a comment

 

When I was a kid, I couldn’t sing worth a damn. I’m not being modest. I’d sing, and the neighborhood cats would flee in terror. Blood would trickle from people’s ears. Earplugs would be needed. My family would cringe. GLASS WOULD SHATTER.

Okay, not quite like that, but close. I have a very distinct memory of a) not understanding that I was tone deaf and b) not understanding why my absolute genius wasn’t appreciated by my family.

With the encouraging of my mother (who, by the way, also encouraged me to learn how to play the trumpet. Upon getting it for Christmas, I entertained this notion for a few weeks, until I stuffed a purple crayon in it, thus rendering it useless. This was not my mother’s fault. I do not know WHY I did that. Moving on…), I got a cassette recorder and began to record myself singing. It was a smart suggestion on her part, because then I could train my ear to hear how terrible my caterwalling was.

In the beginning, I didn’t. I couldn’t hear it. I sang song after song from NEWSIES. (“So, that’s what they call a family — mother, father, daughter, son…” Frak, I can still rattle off a bit from that musical. I’m pleased as hell that it’s not just a movie, now. Although, it Christian Bale were in it, again, it would make my life.) I trotted out every PHANTOM OF THE OPERA song known to man, which was probably not the wisest choice for a tone deaf person. At the time, I was also completely obsessed with the musical CATS, specifically Mr. Mephistopheles. And every Disney song ever created.

Anyway, after lots of practice, I finally got it. I could HEAR when the notes when wrong, when I was straining, when I was trying to hit a note that wasn’t within my rang. After patient coaching from my mother, and a lot of stubbornness, I WON. I mean, I learned how to sing.

Since then, I was in chorus, did a few open mic nights, and generally can carry a tune. I don’t sing as much anymore, because I don’t have the time. I don’t read music, although I want to learn how to play the piano — but first, I’d need to actually GET a piano. Minor detail.

This morning, I recorded two songs a cappella (next time, I promise do something awesome from Broadway, just for Jessica). The first is Daydream Believer. The second is Angel by Sarah McLachlan. (daydream believer and angel) Angel didn’t come as well as I’d like, but the weather’s wretched, and when I recorded it, I was trying not to wake up people. So, they are not perfect, but they are proof. Proof that limitations are just obstacles to be overcome. Proof that you can learn anything that you want to learn. Proof that stubbornness can be useful.

Whatever your dream is, figure out how to follow it. Put the time and effort into it. You may discover that you can do that Thing after all, even when others scoff and say you can’t. And you don’t lose anything by trying.

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