It’s Been Over Two Months Since I Wrote a Blog. You Can Thank All My Thankless Volunteer Work For That.

I have always had a love-hate relationship with blogging. I was told when I became a writer that all writers had to have blogs to help sell their writing; that an agent or a publishing house won’t take you seriously if you don’t already have an audience.

Well that didn’t – exactly – pan out as planned on the ol’ book sales, wouldn’t you say?

At the same time as all that, I did like having a place to vent or just ramble. But I also think that blogging is, in some senses, vaguely…narcissistic. Like people seriously care about my life and opinions and beliefs so much that they’d check in regularly about what I have to say, or how much I had for dinner, or whatever.. Really?

Well I don’t know. Maybe. Maybe really. Not saying people care about me, but I do think they (they being the general public that peruses the Internet) likes to hear they aren’t alone. In whatever it is they feel alone about.

So out the door of this blog post, this blog post that is my first in over two months, I’m going to commit to you guys to just do it, just write. Because maybe there are one or two of you out there who do give a shit. Or maybe you are family that are just waiting for something to gossip about me over, and here I’ve been denying you that, lo these last few months. I don’t know, but I promise I’ll do better.

Mostly I’ll be able to do that, though, because my brief hiatus from writing on this blog wasn’t so much about this love-hate relationship I have with blogging so much as it has been that I have been fucking busy. Fucking busy doesn’t even begin to address it, you guys. It’s been madness. My daily life has been a track towards the next thing on an endless list of to-dos.

Beyond just the typical mom life daily shit, though; along with other stuff I’ll get into over the course of the following weeks as I get back into writing here more often and fulfilling my commitment not to disappear for such long periods of time anymore…it’s my thankless volunteer work that’s been keeping me on the move.

Lucky for you guys (if there are “you guys” out there), I’m quitting all that shit.

Well, sort of.

Over the last year or so I’ve gotten heavily involved in two things: my local center for the arts, and the neighborhood watch program for my 3,000 resident, middle class community.

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My capacity at the art center is newsletter person (duh, I’m a writer) and then I volunteer to teach a class in drawing. It’s all fun and games, though, until you start helping more and learning about how much the president, vice president, and other leaders of the organization are criticized regularly by these old codgers that never come to a GOD. DAMN. THING.

Then the criticisms started coming at me. I made a suggestion – being the young, whippersnapper that I am – that we transition the newsletter from that age-old foldable thing that was being emailed out from my personal email account as an attachment once a month, to a digital, weekly, totally legit HTML email blast. I did the research. I provided statistics about how this could increase membership and involvement. The executive board of the place LOVED the idea. I, of course, was happy because this meant I no longer had to use my personal email account.

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The general membership, however, did not receive it quite as well. Since the switch, I hear nothing but bitch-bitch-bitch, gripe-gripe-gripe about people not liking the new way they they receive their newsletters. Some in the form of not opting in. A select few in constant emails and comments. They don’t like the format. They want something they can print and read at their leisure. About three people have this now as their mission in life to harass me over, and they will not LET. IT. GO.

But then today I was talking to the vice president of the place, and she said it perfectly: “every time someone has a criticism, I’m planning to ask what they’ll be volunteering to do if they don’t like it.”

THANK. YOU.

Dealing with some of this drama has taken far more of my time than I would have liked. I’ve spent more time responding to emails, answering phone calls, and more than anything just generally being annoyed by it than I should.

So I’m going to let it go myself. I’m not going to quit, no…I still love art and culture. I’ll still do the newsletter, help however I can…teach my classes…

But I ain’t wasting my time being upset about this anymore.

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Then there’s the more complicated volunteer thing I do: the neighborhood watch. I’m the coordinator. If you know anything about neighborhood watch, I’m like the crazy lady who gets interviewed by the local news whenever some shit goes down in her neighborhood. The one who spends the majority of her time encouraging others to spy on their neighbors.

Beyond that, I get the meetings together, I raise the money for our signs – which, I will add, I chose without the creepy criminal pictured on it – and I send out all the crime alerts.

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I told you guys a few months back all about PeeGate. Where I posted in our group page on Facebook about how it is absolutely and without a doubt illegal for any human being to urinate on another person’s lawn; and the moms of my community came out in FULL FUCKING FORCE to tell me why I was an asshole. For doing my job.

Things got a little dull, quieter after that. Arguably that had nothing to do with the fact that the community had gone crime-less. Quite the opposite. For a middle class neighborhood with some homes going for 1.2 and 1.6 million dollars (*snort*…definitely not ours, though), I am flabbergasted by how much petty crime and general hillbilly shit goes on in this place.

Just the neighbors got busy, or something, because they weren’t griping in my direction for a while. They let me report the crime with little backlash. Occasionally they reported it themselves, though you dare to tell someone whose car is being broken into or whose bike is stolen to call the police and you’ll get a “will consider doing that next time”…

Then I had to go and say something about Pokemon Go.

The real problem with Pokemon Go from a neighborhood standpoint is this: kids milling around in a neighborhood that has a lot of petty street crime already makes it hard to distinguish between suspicious activity and just kids playing a game. The sheriff’s department sent out a neighborhood watch coordinator email about it, and so I shared in our Facebook group some tips for parents (tell your kids to be respectful, don’t touch people’s cars or property, observe city curfews, etc.).

Nope! The moms of Facebook weren’t having that one! How dare you tell us what to do with our kids! How dare you suggest an innocent Pokemon game could have unintended consequences in our neighborhood!!! You said don’t act like PUNKS in the comments?! PUNKS!? YOU are not doing enough to control crime in our community as is! I’ll have you know there are military families in this community, how dare you refer to them as PUNKS (wait…what?!). I saw it escalating quickly, as with PeeGate, so I shut it down before it could go any further.

Then tonight – I don’t know, three days later – not another word was said online or in public about it for days, and someone bring it up again by posting a comment on a two week old security video someone shared of their bike being stolen (think about this timeline for a minute, it’s as if this guy was just looking for days for a way to bitch about my Pokemon Go safety tips)…

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OH MY GOD – SHUT THE FUCK UP.

Within minutes one of the moms of Facebook had “liked” it. BECAUSE I posted some tips to stay safe, not get in trouble, and observe the law.

And that…that was the final straw for me. I always knew it would be over something really stupid, but fuck it. I do not get anything out of organizing this group of lazy complainers.

I’ll keep organizing them – for now. But just like with my local center for the arts, I ain’t taken the bullshit anymore. Don’t like it? ORGANIZE IT YOURSELF.

 

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Here is the bottom line that I’ve learned in all of this: people who do nothing are always the most critical. They sit on their lazy fucking asses and just bitch at the people that do everything. They refuse to call the police when a robber is breaking down their door. They do nothing to organize their own street, or to keep things under control or to even know their neighbor’s names. They see their local center for the arts struggling financially and they can’t even drop a dollar in the donation box.

Volunteer organizations seem to always end up this way: with a small number of people doing everything, in the most thankless and unappreciated positions ever.

And I get it now: this is why so many people don’t ever volunteer for anything. They don’t get involved because it ain’t worth the bullshit. Just think for a moment how great this world would be – how many problems would be solved, crime would be avoided, and lives even were saved, if only people felt like volunteering their time to the greater good was ANYTHING but a fruitless endeavor. It kind of makes you feel nauseated to your absolute core to think of it that way.

If only all the bitchy, whiny complainers of the world would sit down and shut up so the people that actually want to do good can do it.

Well I’m retreating, like I said. I’ll still volunteer, but I’m not getting tied up in all the drama and bullshit anymore. If anything, I’ll just write about it on this blog.

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I’m Having An Art Exhibit, and You Should Come

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Four years ago, I wrote a blog post about starting to paint again. It was really crazy, actually. I hadn’t painted or drawn or done anything artsy or craftsy in years.

I mean I wasn’t even a Pinterest mom at that point. Blasphemy, I know.

I literally wanted nothing to do with art, and the reason being was that I couldn’t handle the fact that I had given up art and drawing and painting and creating years prior to then when I changed my major in college to something more “realistic.” Only to do nothing with any of it.

A lot of psychological shit going on here.

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So I wrote a blog about it, and I started painting again. And drawing. Then I got involved in my local center for the arts. And joined the board of said center. Somewhere in there I decided to start teaching some classes in drawing and painting. And so when they said at the beginning of this year that they had a vacancy on their calendar, I figured – why not… why not do my own show?

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But I dragged along with my show so much more about who I am. As a reader and a writer. As a philosophy graduate student. As a lover of words. As obsessed with crafts.

The whole thing has turned into this unbelievable event. The show exhibits for the entire month of March, but the opening is this Saturday, March 5th. And because I love crafts but have little patience for them anymore, I invited other vendors to come and sell at my opening.

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Now it’s been in the paper and the local magazine and the city council has picked it up and some professor who loves my idea about sharing the books I love through my artwork is offering extra credit to his students to come and the vendors are selling shit I know I’m going to buy out myself (quilts, scarves, bags, homemade jams, jewelry……) and I’m freaking out because what if no one comes but what if there are so many people that we have to form a line or some shit, I don’t know I’ve never done this before…..

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You guys see I’m freaking out. As a writer and an artist, for all of this to be coming together, is huge.

This is my one and only plea…if you are in or around Southern California, you should consider coming. I would feel humbled if you came. I would highlight you coming on this blog if you came.

Please come.

Please.

Please……?

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The Pen Is Not Mightier Than the Sword If It Is Silenced Forever. (On Charlie Hebdo.)

Unless you live under a rock, or the only news you read yesterday was about how many models Leonardo di Caprio left a recent party with (the answer to that is 20…he left with 20 models), you heard about the coldblooded massacre at the Charlie Hebdo office in Paris yesterday.

For those even further under a rock, or who have been living on the planet Mars for the past five or so years, Charlie Hebdo is a satirical newspaper that routinely prints comics that are, for lack of a better term, brazen. Other terms that have been used to describe the paper have been: offensive, over the top, outspoken. While not exclusively religious satire, a fair amount of its sentiments are focused on religion. Most recently, Islam.

Back in 2011, the old headquarters of Charlie Hebdo were attacked by fire-bomb and website hack, presumably in response to their prior special edition of the paper which named the Prophet Mohammed as “editor-in-chief” of the paper, with a cover depicting Mohammed. If you know only one thing about Islam, it’s this: caricaturing their Holy Prophet is considered passe. Actually, it’s not even passe (that would imply it was at one time OK to do) – it has never been accepted, and in fact is considered to be of the utmost insult to the core tenants of the religion.

Muslim leaders and lay people from around the world had two responses to the fire-bombing: (a) we do take offense to the Charlie Hebdo caricatures, (b) we don’t condone violence in any form.

No religion really has been spared, though – several years back the Pope was drawn on the cover holding a condom, which is when I (a cradle Catholic who never goes to church out of frustration with the Catholic church) even started to question just what is going on with this paper.

When you get down to it, the artists and editors at Charlie Hebdo are – yes – expressing their political and religious sentiments, and moreover describing for the world where their own self-professed atheism lies. Beyond that, they claim to be calling out and setting the stage of shame for the extremest of extremists within religious groups.

Now that we’ve caught up on our history, we can get down to the aftermath of this terrible, ideologically-charged, coldblooded murder yesterday. For the pen is not mightier than the sword if it is silenced forever.

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In the immediate aftermath, candlelight vigils with people holding pens up in solidarity, as well as signs that said Je suis Charlie, were held in support of the 12 individuals tragically slain.

And this is when I started to balk at how people are handling this. On one hand, the murder was an act of terrorism, with no terrorist or religious group taking the credit. On the other hand, it is the terminal silencing of 12 individuals. 12 individuals who I would not say were “asking for it” – I would never say that; but it is undeniable that they were routinely fanning the flames with not only fans, but buckets of gasoline.

The statement Je suis Charlie – I am Charlie – implies that we all are those working at the headquarters of Charlie Hebdo. Fan the flames with buckets of gasoline. We all – artists, writers, cartoonists, editors – are just trying to get our message out there in the most effective way we know how. In a way that will appeal to people and make our point, and leave a lasting impression on the world.

I. Am. Charlie.

So will you be publishing this on your blog, or your magazine; your newspaper, or on the corner space you have of your community group newsletter, next week?

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Will you spread your message like this?

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When people criticize you, threaten you, entreat you, implore you, or even sit down with you  calmly – your most trusted advisors and best of friends – and have a conversation about whether or not you are effectively getting your political and religious ideas out there, would you still print this?

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Or when readership is dwindling and the funds are running dry, as was the case with Charlie Hebdo, would you just continue to print again and again these types of images, rather than doing a little bit of personal reflection and market evaluation, to see what will get you out there, rather than silenced?

And more importantly than that: do you really believe this is the best way to express your beliefs?

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The Charlie Hebdos of the world are not what you will ever get here in in the United States. The Wall Street Journal and the New Yorker will never run anything quite like the satires of Charlie Hebdo, for many reasons above all which includes wanting to get the message out there without losing readership.

Does that make the artists and cartoonists and editors at those other papers – not even just American, but all around the world – censored and less real in their statements, because they don’t run caricatures of the Pope giving Mohammed a blow job?

With dwindling circulation and constant pleas for fundraising coming from actual Hebdo headquarters, combined with criticism from virtually every aspect of society – even staunch atheist groups – you have to wonder just how effective Charlie Hebdo’s message was. I’m not talking about whether or not it was right, everyone is entitled to an opinion. I’m talking about how it was said.

Some have even gone as far as to call out the paper for its flagrant hypocrisy, as if the term “freedom of speech” can be used conveniently, even when describing a situation that was previously considered unacceptable – even for an opinion.

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Readership and funding and circulation and whether or not you would actually publish any of this stuff is not the point. Because you are not Charlie, just as I am not Charlie. And in reality, none of us can ever be Charlie Hebdo or the Wall Street Journal or Jim’s Neighborhood Circular if our pens are silenced, for whatever reason.

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More baffling is that people seem to have lost the meaning of “the pen is mightier than the sword.” Suddenly cartoons, again in solidarity, are being published like the one above: of the pen stopping the gun. As if the pen can literally stop violence – stop the madness, stomp out the crimes, and outlive the violent actions that tried to take it down.

That’s not what it means at all.

To say that the pen is mightier than the sword is to say that written words and other passive, expressive art forms are more effective in stating a message than the use of direct violence or malicious attacks. It doesn’t stop violence. It’s just a better way of making your point (presumably because people are left to continue making it, rather than all dead and gone).

I won’t argue that the Charlie Hebdo drawings are on par with coldblooded murder. But I would say that they are more than merely expressive works of art. I might go as far as to say they are malicious, and I would certainly say they are not passive.

So where does that leave us?

Well, it leaves us with 12 people dead. Gone. Their pens broken and silenced, forever.

It leaves us reminded that we live in a terrible world in which killers don’t even care about what they are fighting against, or who they are killing; just how many they can take off before getting caught. Coldblooded, psychotic murdering done just for the sake of murdering.

It has left us confused. Bewildered. Unsure of anything.

We are left with soundbites and snapshots to remember the victims. (“I would rather die on my feet than live on my knees” – a religious sentiment from the slain editor in chief, that has now gone viral and will be applied to every out-of-context situation imaginable.)

There are statistics we have still. Like the Charlie Hebdo circulation: roughly 50,000. Versus the other leading French satire paper, Le Canard Enchaîné: 500,000.

Versus the publicity of this coldblooded murder: millions.

And we are left with the reminder that sometimes it isn’t about what you say, but how you say it.

The pen is not mightier than the sword if it is silenced forever. It is a travesty that those 12 pens, and the countless other pens in recent and ancient history, have been silenced. May they rest in peace, and may their deaths be not in vain but rather in a reminder that expression of your beliefs is effective only if it is heard.

A Portrait of the Artist as a Young B(itch)

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Some of you may or may not know this (depends on how much you pay attention to my blathering), but I am quite the educated lady. I don’t mean that I’m smart or wise or know shit, though. I mean I’ve had a breadth of education.

In spite of approximately a decade of higher education, I still consider myself pretty much an imbecile.

When I first moved to California, I had just graduated high school. I went to community college for two years, where I did what I always planned on doing – majoring in studio arts. But as time wore on, the obsessive nagging of my parents to “do something more realistic” got to me so I changed my major to political science and philosophy. After earning a bachelor’s degree, I went on to graduate school in philosophy, became terribly disillusioned with the entire process, left graduate school and have since been floundering around.

To some degree, I’m pretty happy with my current life. I homeschool, which in a way is teaching – it just isn’t a room full of college kids, or (for the most part) philosophy that I’m teaching. And I get to have the time to be a writer, which is cool.

But something in the back of my mind (heart, soul, whathaveyou) has not been satisfied in all of this. I miss being an artist.

Semester after semester has gone by that I have attempted to take an art class at the local college; or to start drawing and painting on my own – neither thing I have done in over 10 years. I thought that after I renounced majoring in studio arts, I really needed to renounce art altogether to be comfortable with doing that. And so it has been a struggle to get back into it. I find excuses not to draw or paint on my own. Classes I have signed up for have been canceled, or I have found a reason not to take them in the end.

Then last night, I got passed into a class that was full at the local community college by my former studio arts advisor and teacher. He remembered me. He was happy to add me, in spite of the fact that the class was already filled to capacity. Today the class began.

But there are things that come along with going “back to school” that strike me as odd, maybe annoying – even when I’m just going for fun.

#1 Student Parking = State of Nature With Cars

I never used to have problems parking at school. There were always spots, and where I wanted to park. I never had to get to class an hour or two early just to have a place to put my car. Now it’s different, though. Now you have to very carefully manipulate yourself around the parking lot to get a spot.

You have to defend your prized place with everything you have in you too. After parking my car today (something that took twenty minutes and an hour early to class to do), I saw two guys get out of their cars and begin to fist fight for a spot. As I walked to class I heard someone screaming obscenities out their window.

Student parking is like the state of nature with cars. It’s nasty. It’s brutal. But if you don’t hold your ground, you won’t get a spot and you’ll miss your class. With a student body of roughly 12,000, it seems like the college could work to have better and more adequate parking availability. But then again, maybe this is a part of weeding out the weaklings. Only the true warriors will survive in this community college.

#2 Artists Have Too Much Freedom

I realized today a big part of why I have avoided doing art on my own for so long – there is too much freedom in it. After I changed to a political science and philosophy major – and especially when I went to graduate school – I fell into that groove of doing exactly what I was told. Papers could be about one topic, and one topic only. And it was the topic you were told. Essay length was no more and no less than what the professor told you as well.

You can imagine, then, my response today when my professor said “projects this semester are entirely based on you and what you want to do … it will be your topics, your ideas, and whatever medium you wish to use.” I almost passed out. Choice? Freedom? My ideas? These are concepts I abandoned a long, long time ago.

#3 There’s Always That One Asshole…

Something I absolutely despise about community college classes is there is always that one asshole that has to show off to the teacher. It’s as if they designate this person in the registrar’s office in the beginning of each term. “OK, we need some total jerk off that will interrupt the teacher, try and impress everyone with facts, ask way too many questions, and share a plethora of personal information no one else in the class wants to know.”

It never fails. Every single damned class I have ever taken has been like that. These people in community colleges – no matter how old, how seasoned, how experienced they are – just don’t know when to shut the hell up.

This class is no exception.

This lady in the class (and I call her “lady” using the term loosely, really I just want to signify that she is clearly older than me), will not shut up. She asked no less than forty-five questions today. She talked and talked and fuggin’ talked over the teacher. She rambled when her name came up during roll. She rambled when other people’s names came up. And just when the class was about to dismiss, she asked a detailed question that absolutely required a detailed answer.

Ugh.

So our first assignment to kick start all of this free-will-do whatever you’d like-stuff is to do a self-portrait. Of course even that is loosey-goosey: we can do something that isn’t even an image of ourselves, just what we think of when we think of “me.” I started snapping photos of myself today to see what I could come up with, and this photo below is my favorite. It really depicts all the levels of my psychosis. I think I’ll call it A Portrait of the Artist as a Young B(itch). Or – alternatively – Psychotic Nosepicker, a Study.

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