Tuesday, January 19, 2016

The Magic Hats


On Monday night,  when I spoke at my Uncle Dan Haggerty's memorial, I told a version of this story, which captures what he meant to me, to all of us. 

Thanksgiving 1970. That's me and my cousin Tracey up front, Uncle Dan and our moms and Grandma looking on.
We were eight years old that Easter, Tammey and I. Tracey was ten, double-digits so she could hardly be bothered with us pipsqueaks any more, unless she was really bored and had no one else to play with. I was staying the weekend with my cousins, which I often did. Sometimes I spent a week, sometimes a month, or sometimes they lived at our house, if Uncle Dan and Aunt Diane were filming a movie out of state. Our mothers were sisters, so our families and homes were interchangeable.
What woke me that morning was his loud laugh. It was so unmistakable – high-pitched and almost maniacal, but in a good way that made you laugh with him. I had barely opened my eyes when Uncle Dan flew through the air and landed on us, knocking the wind out of us both. We screamed and protested but we were in for it. The ticklefest was on. He tickled us until we couldn’t breathe, then just as fast as he came in, he ran out in nothing but his Fruit of the Looms, his hair sticking out all over his head.
“Get up!” he shouted back as he ran down the hall, “We’re going somewhere.”
“Where are we going?” I asked Tammey, whose face was still flushed red from laughing. She just shrugged and started to get dressed.
 We threw on whatever clothes were on the floor from the day before, not bothering to ask where he was taking us because we knew it would be an adventure. Uncle Dan didn’t take you to places like the post office or the supermarket. He had no interest in the responsibilities that the rest of the world thought were important. He lived in Dan-world, where only Dan-rules applied.
I’d never known him to hold a regular job. In his earliest days, he was a body builder who played a muscleman in Annette Funicello/Frankie Avalon beach movies. Sometimes he was building motorcycles, or doing stunt work, but most of the time he was training animals for the movies. He used to keep wolves in the backyard, until one of them attacked Tammey. I was with her when it happened. We were about six. It was early in the morning and Tammey, Tracey and I were the only ones awake. Tammey ran out into the backyard in her little flannel nightgown, mistaking one of the new wolves for her pet wolf Akela. The wolf, who was not Akela, grabbed her by the head and shook her like a rag doll. My Aunt Diane heard Tracey and I screaming, dove through her bedroom window, and wrestled her child from the jaws of a wolf. Like one does. They took Tammey to the hospital and got her head all stitched back together. When they brought her home, they laid her down on the couch in the living room, and I sat by her side and held her hand all day.
Me and Tammey, always together.
Uncle Dan also had an owl that lived free inside the house. When I was a toddler, he had a pet lion that my cousin Tracey used to take baths with, but they got busted for that one and had to send him away.
Uncle Dan was completely uninterested in society’s rules. His friends looked like a ragtag bunch of reincarnated pirates, in fact, I’m almost convinced they were. They wore bandanas, had long hair and tattoos. They rode motorcycles and built custom cars and did stunt work in films. Some worked on the film Easy Rider, and Uncle Dan got a small part in the movie. Some were animal trainers. Uncle Dan was the king of the crew, sitting in his carved king’s chair in the living room, holding court, the owl often perched atop it.
His home was fit for a king, or maybe a wizard. He made it that way. On the living room ceiling he attached branches with little white lights woven through it, so at night it looked like fireflies. There were gargoyles staring down from the walls, animal skins draped over the sofa, and intricate brass statues of angels and faeries. The front door was a massive wooden arched door, with an iron ring as big as a dinner plate. It took two of us kids working together to get it open, or closed. I can still hear the loud creak of that heavy door, the sound of the iron knocker clanking against it (there was no sneaking in or out of that house) and I can still remember the particular fragrance of the living room: a mix of leather, wood, patchouli and pot.
Sometimes Uncle Dan would get a burst of inspiration and start drawing on the walls. He was incredible at creating imaginary characters like wizards, pirates and dragons. We’d watch over his shoulder as he sketched and the character came to life. He was obsessed with Rudyard Kipling’s The Jungle Book, and when the Disney version came out, he drew all the Jungle Book characters on one of Tammey’s walls – life sized. He also drew a mermaid in the bathroom, and began to paint her but never finished.
Uncle Dan already had the motor running that morning as we scrambled to get dressed and get our butts in the truck before he left without us. We jumped in the front seat, on our way to who-knows-where. Jazz was blasting from the car stereo -- always. We stopped off at a nursery, and Uncle Dan hopped out, leaving the truck running and music blaring. In what seemed like only minutes, he came rushing out with a cart full of flowers, vines and chicken wire, and loaded them in the back of the truck. Next, he drove to a pet store, but it was early morning and the store was closed. Nothing could stop him once he got an idea in his head. He always found a way to get what he wanted. He went to the payphone to make a phone call and before we knew it someone was there to open the store. Uncle Dan was persuasive. He wasn’t the kind of guy you could just blow off, and in fact, most people found it impossible to say no to him. He knew people everywhere he went and could always pull a favor. Uncle Dan strutted out of the pet store and handed me a cage with a tiny yellow and blue bird. “Here, hold this,” he said, and went back inside. I put the cage in my lap. The bird was only as big as my thumb, its eyes like shiny black beads. Tammey and I talked softly to the bird, trying to make it feel comfortable. We learned from Uncle Dan to be kind to animals. Only days before, there was a mouse in Aunt Diane’s closet. We helped Uncle Dan to catch it in a shoebox, then drove miles in the truck until we found a vacant field, where Uncle Dan set the mouse free.
Uncle Dan came out of the pet store and jumped into the front seat, handing Tammey a box. Inside was a baby bunny, small enough to fit in the palm of your hand. I had never before seen such tiny and fragile things.
“Hold these while I drive, and be careful with them, okay?” he said, revving the engine.
“Okay,” Tammey and I said, and then we tried to keep our little pets calm while Uncle Dan drove with all the windows down, his hair blowing, Miles Davis blowing on the radio.
When we got back to the house, he immediately got to work in the driveway, cutting branches and chicken wire, leaves and flowers flying everywhere. I asked what he was doing, but he seemed to be in his own inner world, and didn’t respond.  Everyone thought I asked too many questions, anyway. Tammey and I were hungry, so we went inside, scrounged through the cupboards in the kitchen, and ate dry cereal out of the box, then we wandered off to play foursquare with some of the neighbor kids. After an hour or so, Four Square became a serious game of Dodgeball, leaving Tammey and I sweaty messes with dirt on our hands and smudged on our faces. When we heard Uncle Dan’s whistle, we dropped the ball and ran home.
Uncle Dan sat me down on a crate in the driveway and tied a bandana on my head. He lifted a tall, pointed witch hat made of chicken wire, with flowers and branches woven through and shiny green leaves and magnolias around the brim. Inside he had fashioned a perch out of a branch, and my tiny bird was sitting on it, blinking its beady eyes. The hat was half the size of me. He carefully lowered it on to my head and suddenly I became one of Uncle Dan’s magical characters. Being chosen by Uncle Dan made me feel important, like the sun was shining on me a little brighter than anyone else that day.
Next, he held up Tammey’s hat - a giant sombrero they had brought back from a trip to Mexico. Uncle Dan had covered the brim with cabbage leaves and flowers. It was truly a beautiful masterpiece. He cut the top of the hat out and put a head of butter lettuce there, with the baby bunny nestled inside. He had Tammey try it on, and she and I stood together, bringing characters to life out of Uncle Dan’s mind. Uncle Dan crossed his burly, muscled arms, stood back and studied us. He seemed pleased with his work, flashing that huge trademark smile of his and said, “You guys look great!” He then lifted our hats off of us and carefully put them into the truck.
I threw my arms around him, “This is the best day ever!”
He hugged me tight, lifting me off my feet. Being held by him was the best feeling. He was as big and solid as a mountain, and we used to climb on him like monkeys when we were small. 
He rushed us toward the truck, “Now let’s go. We’re late!”
          “Late for what?” I asked.
 “I entered you girls in the Easter hat contest at the mall.”
Easter hat contest?  This didn’t seem like something Uncle Dan would care about. At all.

The thing about my Aunt and Uncle is that they were always late, really late, to everything. If we wanted them to come to a party of ours, we had to lie and tell them it started an hour earlier so they wouldn’t miss it. Sometimes they still did. We zoomed in to the mall parking lot, Uncle Dan screeching to a stop and parking illegally.
 “Hurry!!” he said, “ the contest already started!”
We tried to run, but balancing giant hats with bunnies and birds on our heads was not easy. When we got to the center court of Sherman Oaks Fashion Square, there were hundreds of people watching the stage, and someone from the newspaper taking pictures. My stomach lurched. The girls on the stage were dressed in traditional Easter dresses with crinolines and little white gloves and hats with ribbons and bows. They wore patent leather shoes with heels, and stood posing for pictures with their moms.
As we walked up to the stage, everyone stopped and stared. I felt Tammey’s small hand grab mine and squeeze. The contest was already over, the judges had made their decision, but Uncle Dan talked them into letting us go on the stage to show our hats. I didn’t want to, but I knew how much this meant to Uncle Dan and didn’t want to hurt his feelings. So we walked across the stage, our little faces smudged with dirt and sweat from Dodgeball, wearing jeans and wrinkled t-shirts with these huge magic hats, and instead of recognizing how genius these hats were, the girls and their moms stared at us like we had just stepped off of a spaceship. I really didn’t want to stand next to the prissy girls and their moms, because even though I knew that Uncle Dan’s magic hats were better than theirs, I also knew that we actually were from another planet, one those girls could never comprehend.
The judges had a quick discussion on the side of the stage, then a man stepped up to the microphone and announced the winners. The prissy girls with the prettiest dresses and ribbon hats won the trophies and the money. The man said we had received honorable mention for “originality.” The judges gave us some cheap plastic bubble wand as a prize, and Uncle Dan looked crushed. I’d never seen the King sad before. It made my heart hurt.
Driving home in the truck, we were quiet. Uncle Dan stared out the window, not listening to jazz. The hats began to fall apart, the flowers and leaves wilting in the heat. We had to return the bird and bunny to the pet store. I slumped down in my seat, a lump in my throat, wishing I knew how to make this right. But I didn’t.

Forty-four years later, I would feel that way again, on a much deeper level, when I found out that my uncle was suffering with cancer. I had loved him more than life, and at times I had hated him. Throughout my childhood, I depended on him. He was strong, powerful, invincible. He took us in when my mom’s life was falling apart. My own father was in prison, but when I went places with Uncle Dan and my cousins, he introduced us as his three daughters. I loved that. When I moved out on my own and I was struggling, he showed up at my doorstep one night, without me ever asking, and gave me rent money. He took me on incredible trips to exotic places. 
But in the eighties, drugs changed him. My childhood belief in him was crushed. I struggled with how to forgive him for the things he had done, but the feelings were bigger than me and I couldn’t bear them.
I wanted to be at his side when he was sick, but I didn’t know what to say. I couldn’t pretend like nothing had happened – that our family hadn’t been obliterated, that my trust in him hadn’t been shattered, that my aunt hadn’t been devastated by the things he did, the choices he made, and the cold way that he left her. Just like the eight-year-old girl I once was, I wished I knew how to make it right, but I didn’t. And then he died.
On the day he died, I went to the mountains to let my soul rest. I spent an entire day working on a 1000-piece puzzle, because nothing else made sense and this was the one thing I could fix. That night I dreamt that hundreds of puzzle pieces were raining down on me, and every one of them had a different picture of my uncle’s face. I had no idea what to do with them.
What is the moral of the story? My god, I wish I knew. All I do know is that love is everything. It can heal you, and it can also break you. Family is so damned complicated. You can love someone with all your heart and they can hurt you without ever meaning to, and heroes, as much as we want to put all our faith in them, almost always fall from their pedestals.
Love is a risky business, but I’ll take the risk every time, because what other way is there to live? Would I have traded in my childhood with my uncle to save myself the grief I felt as an adult? No way.
It was a wild, heartbreaking, magical ride, and I’m so glad it was mine.


*****







Friday, January 15, 2016

Uncle Dan


It is with a heavy heart that I tell you my uncle Dan Haggerty has died this morning. Cancer.
Fucking cancer.

You might remember him as Grizzly Adams, the character he portrayed back in the late '70s, but to me he was the only stable father figure I ever had - the only one who stayed. As a child, I sometimes lived with my Aunt Diane and Uncle Dan, and spent countless weekends, Christmases and summers there. Uncle Dan's world was filled with magic and art and jazz and unending possibility. He was an incredible artist, and would draw and paint mythical characters. He was an animal trainer, so there were often wolves in the backyard, an owl flying around inside the house, and for a while, a pet lion. His friends drove motorcycles and had long hair and tattoos and there was a never-ending cacophony of revving engines in the driveway. He was never happier than when he was at the Renaissance Faire. He and his friends would build a structure, dress in authentic costumes and embody their characters. It seemed to me that he wanted to actually live there, to stay in that time, because he was the true Renaissance man, born in the wrong era. He was the sun in the solar system of my family, around which the rest of us revolved. He is such a huge part of what formed me.

In the mid-80s, he struggled with addiction, and that was when I lost my magical uncle. His struggle changed him, and caused a rift between us that I was never able to heal. I saw him last year at my cousin Tammey's funeral, and it was good. We reminisced about old times, and laughed. And cried.
I got the message late last night that he was dying. I couldn't get it through my head. I kept thinking he'd rally and we'd all say, "Whew, That was a close one." My uncle was always larger than life. He was invincible. Unbeatable. He had already survived drugs, a near-fatal motorcycle accident, and melanoma. I planned to see him this morning. I wanted to say goodbye. I lay awake at 5am, thinking about what I would say when I saw him: I would have told him that I loved him, and that I knew, I really knew, how much he loved me and my cousins. I would have told him that I knew his heart's intent was good, and that he never meant to hurt anyone, even during the dark days when he had lost his way. I would have thanked him for the magic he brought to my childhood. And just as I was thinking that, my phone alerted me that I had a text from my aunt Diane. "He's passed."

I love the photo above of me, my mom, my brother Christopher, my cousin Tracey, and Uncle Dan. Uncle Dan had such a huge bright spirit, you could "feel" him enter a room before you saw him. All eyes were always drawn to him, but this was Christopher's birthday party, and Christopher was clapping his hand over Uncle Dan's mouth, basically saying, "Can it, dude. This is my day!" Uncle Dan laughed and laughed about that. We all did. There are many unresolved issues in my family, pangs of regret we all must carry, but this simple memory of a birthday party in the park, when we had no idea what lied ahead, and how we would be torn from each other ...this was a good day. This is what I want to remember.

I have written so much about him, but never published, and I probably never will. But this is the end of an era, one that is almost impossible to capture in words but I worry that if I don't write it down, it will fade away and it will be as if it never existed.

I loved him. I was angry at him for a long time, but I loved him. There is so much I want to say, so many unresolved feelings in my soul. I know I have a lot of work to do. I'm not ready to say good bye.
Uncle Dan with my brother Christopher. One of the rare times he didn't have his beard. He was so handsome.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

How Americans Contribute to the Culture of Gun Violence

Last night, I took my ten-year-old son to see the PG-13 rated movie The Martian. We had just been reading the book, and were thrilled to see something so full of science and math and innovation come to the big screen. We put on our 3D glasses, snuggled into our plush recliner seats with popcorn and got ready for a fun ride. Instead, I was horrified as my child was subjected to the blood-soaked previews of three movies that were nothing but guns, guns, guns—and all of them to be released on Christmas Day. And why is it that the studios will release these bloody films on Christmas Day? Because they’ve done the research. They know that even though we scream and yell at Congress with outrage after every mass shooting, school shooting and theater shooting, moviegoers will still pay big bucks to sit in a theater and accept this gory violence as holiday entertainment, right after having slipped “Call of Duty” and “Grand Theft Auto” into their kids’ stockings.

Hollywood gets no pass here, either. While major studios have weighed in on war and politics and racism and every other societal ill, they continually perpetuate and glorify gun violence and vigilantism, even while their fans are gunned down in theaters. But are we boycotting? No. They dish it out and we keep on buying it.

I am an activist. I have had four incidences of gun violence affect my life. My little brother, at seven years old, was shot in the head by a troubled teenager down the street, and has had to live with the fallout of traumatic brain injury and PTSD. My best friend was shot five times by the father of her children, and lives with a body full of shrapnel. At fourteen years old, I witnessed my neighbor commit suicide by gun right in front of my house. Two years ago, my husband’s childhood best friend, a police officer, was shot and killed in the line of duty, along with his partner, by a maniac wielding an assault rifle. I do not live in a third world country. I didn’t grow up in Afghanistan or Somalia. I grew up in the very suburban San Fernando Valley in California. But I am not sheltered. I don’t have the luxury of thinking that gun violence is something that happens to other people. I know it can happen to any one at any time, and I don’t want it to happen to you.

After every shooting, I watch the news, the talking heads, the politicians who make their media appearances and send their “thoughts and prayers” tweets out, and still nothing gets done because we all sit comfy in our homes, pointing the finger of blame at them. But while we are pointing our fingers at Congress, there are three fingers pointing back at ourselves. If we were so upset about Sandy Hook, why didn’t we show up at the polls to vote out those NRA-backed politicians? Last year our voter turnout for midterm elections was the lowest in seventy years, and most of those who showed up to vote were conservatives who favor gun rights. As a result, we got more NRA-backed politicians voted in to office.

Every week, my friends post articles and memes decrying the horrors of American gun violence. In response, I post simple things they can do to prevent gun violence,  like signing a petition or making a 1-minute call to Congress. But these action posts get little to no comments, very few clicks, and almost no shares. The truth is that as 33,000 people are dying every year from gun violence, very few Americans take any action at all.

We’ve gotten lazy, America. If Martin Luther King were alive during this generation, and the civil rights movement were happening right now, would you show up to march, or would you just “like” his facebook call to action, repost a few memes, express your outrage about racism in a tweet or facebook post, and call it activism? Congress didn’t make change happen during the Civil Rights Movement. The people did. Where are the people today?

For far too long, the work of gun violence prevention has been on the shoulders of the grieving parents of murdered children, and those who have survived being shot. This is not their issue alone. This is not an inner city issue. It’s not a racial issue or a gang-related issue. Gun violence is an American issue, and if it hasn’t touched you directly yet, unless we do something about it, it soon will.

Brave New Films recently did a PSA pointing out that between 2001 and 2013, over 400,000 people have been killed due to gun violence. That’s equivalent to ten terrorist attacks EVERY YEAR. It’s more than one hundred thirty-five 9/11’s. We are at war with ourselves, and we are far more deadly than any terrorist. See video here:  https://www.facebook.com/bravenewfilms/videos/10153051431607016/

Are we okay with this? Are we going to accept this as “just the price we pay for our 2nd amendment rights”?

Albert Einstein said it himself: “The world is a dangerous place to live; not because of the people who are evil, but because of the people who refuse to do anything about it.”

TAKE ACTION:
Here are three simple actions you can take right now to help prevent gun violence. You can click on one, or just keep scrolling. It’s up to you.
Sign up here for a weekly email of three things you can do to prevent gun violence: http://wagv.org/get-involved/

Join a gun violence prevention group in your state. Find one here: http://www.ceasefireusa.org/page/join-state-affiliate

Make sure your House Rep supports Universal Background Checks on all gun sales! HR 3411 expands background checks on all gun sales and stops criminals from getting guns online or at gun shows. The list of co-sponsors for HR 3411 is here: http://ow.ly/T8rWC . If your Representative is on the list, thank them. If not, remind them that 90% of Americans support expanding background checks – and if they don’t represent the people by supporting this bill, they don’t get your vote.
Thank you for doing your part to change the culture of gun violence.

Saturday, September 19, 2015

Why I Turned to Planned Parenthood


I am pro-family and pro-choice, and I stand with Planned Parenthood. It’s reprehensible for the men of the Republican party to attempt to cut health care funding for women. Many times throughout my life, when I was unable to obtain health insurance, I have relied on Planned Parenthood for my medical care.

I'll never forget the day Planned Parenthood gave me the
happy news that I was preggers with this beauty.
When I was young and newly married, my ex-husband and I had our own business. (Isn’t that the American dream, Republicans?) And while we were building our dream, struggling financially and without healthcare, I turned to Planned Parenthood for care. Planned Parenthood was where I went for my first pregnancy test, and where I got the happy news that I was carrying my daughter Cristen.

Planned parenthood is where I had my annual exams, where I got my birth control, and where I went when I had medical problems.

In my late thirties, I would once again find myself without health insurance, due to a pre-existing condition. (My pre-existing condition? I had seen a therapist for depression and anxiety after my house burned down.) Every insurance company denied me, even after I appealed annually and wrote numerous letters.

I turned to Planned Parenthood for my annual checkups and breast exams during those six long years that no one would insure me.

And now, in a shrewd political move leading up to the Presidential campaigns, the House Republicans voted to cut funding to Planned Parenthood, claiming that tax-payers are funding abortions. Abortions are only 3% of the care that Planned Parenthood provides, and taxpayer funds do not pay for them. But yes, Planned Parenthood does provide abortions- and unless you are a woman who has been in the excruciating situation of having to choose, you have no right to judge. (A very close friend of mine was raped at gun point and got pregnant with the rapist's child. Should she have been forced to be further violated by carrying the rapist's baby? Or should she have gone to court to prove the rape, so she could have had permission to have an abortion?)

Republicans: How is cutting life-saving screenings for women all over this country "pro-life"?

If you are going to call yourself Pro-life, you ought to walk your talk.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

I'm Hitting The Road- and Might Be In Your Town!


Counting my blessings today for the wonderful readers and book clubs who have been supporting Fire Season since its launch in April. It's been a fun whirlwind- from events in Arizona and L.A. to radio events, a Huffington Post Live interview and a great night speaking at the American Red Cross Gala about fire safety ...whew!


Changing Hands Bookstore, Phoenix AZ

Barnes and Noble, The Grove, Los Angeles


This Sunday I'll be at BookStar in Studio City from 2 to 3pm, thanks to my good friend, the awesome bookmistress Lindy Michaels. I'll do a reading from Fire Season, then I'm open for Q and A, to talk about memoir, writing the scary truth, to alternatives in publishing...Meet me there and let's talk books!

After that I'm packing up my car, and heading up the beautiful Pacific Coast toward San Francisco. Troy and Evan are coming with me because they love San Francisco, and we have a #BucketList wish to ride our bikes across the Golden Gate Bridge.

Here are the latest book tour dates :
June 28, Studio City, CA Book Star
July 1, San Francisco, CA: Book Passage, She Writes Tour
July 14, Northern New Jersey: Reigniting Your Creative Spirit: Workshop
July 16, Dingman's Ferry, PA
July 18, Woodstock, NY: The Golden Notebook, reading and Q and A with Hollye Dexter and Amy Ferris
September 9, Canada: Book Club
October 15, Emeryville, CA: Barnes and Noble
October 17-18 Berkeley, Magic of Memoir Conference




New events are being added all the time. I've got a tentative date in Vegas in September...stay tuned. I'd love to come to your town to visit with your book club, do a workshop or a bookstore reading- invite me!  See my website for all details: http://www.hollyedexter.net/events

 

Sunday, May 17, 2015

What To Do With a Rejection Letter

In Stephen Bishop’s guest bathroom, there is a framed rejection letter from Apple Records, saying that they found his compositions “unsuitable” for their catalog.

When you exit the bathroom and walk down the hall, however, you’ll see this -- walls lined with gold records that followed in the years after that rejection letter, as well as Grammy nominations, and an Oscar nomination for his song Separate Lives (performed by Phil Collins). Stephen has performed on Saturday Night Live, the Midnight Special, and in concerts around the world. In addition to his own top hits with “On and On” and “Save it For A Rainy Day” (with Chaka Kahn) his songs have been performed by Phil Collins, Eric Clapton, Barbra Streisand, Art Garfunkel, Steve Perry, Stephanie Mills, Kenny Loggins, Johnny Mathis, Phoebe Snow, David Crosby, The Four Tops, and Pavarotti. Apparently, his music was more than suitable.

I love that he framed this rejection letter for all his guests to see. It made me want to do the same. Last week my book Fire Season received an ugly, negative review on Amazon. Inspired by Stephen,  I posted it on facebook for all to see. (Maybe I'll frame it, too.) Having just been in Bish's bathroom, I  decided to laugh these negative words off. Just because someone doesn’t understand your art, your music, your writing -- doesn’t mean your work has no value.

When I first started sending Fire Season out, my own agent, at that time, passed on it. “It’s not a universal story. People won’t relate to it,” she said.
Another agent said, “No one reads memoir. Memoir doesn’t sell.”
A publisher said, “You’re not a celebrity, we can’t take a risk on it. Good luck, though.”

Just think, if every artist, writer, painter, poet, musician, inventor, comic, etc. listened to the voices of the “critics,” there would be no art in the world. No music. No books.

I believe every one of us should do our art, whatever form it takes. Write. Paint. Act. Invent. Brainstorm. Build. People will tell you it’s impractical, and a waste of money. People might think you are crazy, lazy, or irresponsible. You might even say these things to yourself (the inner critic is the worst). Do your art anyway. Do it, because it’s in you and no one else can do it like you can. Do it for no other reason than the joy of doing it. Do it, because in spite of the critics (who are most likely frustrated artists lashing out at others), the world needs your unique fingerprint.

Frame your rejections, and put them on the wall. I agree with Stephen, a bathroom is the most suitable place to hang it.

For Fun: Here are some rejection letters received by very famous, very successful artists: http://mentalfloss.com/article/55416/10-rejection-letters-sent-famous-people

Stephen Bishop is still writing amazing songs. Find them here: StephenBishop.com 




Friday, May 8, 2015

Love and Miracles

 
March was the month from hell. It really was. I started to backslide into old negative belief patterns that I was unlucky, that this was my fate – had always been my fate, that bad things just randomly happen to me, etc…But then I stopped myself and said, “No, that is an old story. The new story is that I am open to love and miracles.” Even though I did not really believe this, I wrote it out, and posted it on my bathroom mirror. I looked at it and recited it to myself every day, until I started to feel it. All I can say is that if you make a commitment like this to yourself, buckle up.

April has been my month of dreams coming true. My book release events, both in Phoenix and at Barnes and Noble in L.A., were beautiful and meaningful. That same week I got to sing in a concert for my friend Jeff Jones, standing behind rock legends. I attended/spoke at four fancy gala events including Women Against Gun Violence  and The American Red Cross. My friend Amy said to me yesterday, “I’m exhausted from following you on facebook this month.” I laughed and said, “How do you think I feel? I’ve been in Spanx and heels for a month!”

Recently a facebook friend posted that she wouldn’t post any more pictures from her trip to paradise because she didn’t want to be obnoxious, and I said- PLEASE KEEP POSTING. Yes, there are people suffering terrible losses, losing jobs, reeling from depression. But for me, when I am down and I see people posting about wonderful times, it reminds me what is possible, for all of us. I find it so encouraging.

I posted a lot about my shitty month in March -- the funerals, the flood, the bugs, the ER trip --but I also wanted to post about all the good things, and hopefully it isn’t annoying or obnoxious to anyone, because my intent is to remind myself, and hopefully remind my friends who are suffering, that good times lie ahead, even when you can’t possibly imagine them.

I have lived through my Fire Season. I have walked through my dark night of the soul, and I know when you are there, how hard it is to find even the tiniest spark of light. If you are in a dark valley of your life, I ask you to open yourself to LOVE and MIRACLES. Repeat it to yourself even when you don’t believe it. Look for it every day, and notice the tiniest gifts…a bird on your windowsill, a rainbow, a meaningful song on the radio. Those are your stepping stones out of darkness. Open your heart to love and all the goodness life has to offer. Receive it with open arms when it comes…

Love and miracles beyond your wildest imaginings are in your future. Believe it. 

Here is something I never could have imagined years ago, when I was depressed and suicidal and wondering why I even existed.

Dreams Come True...singing backgrounds with Howard Jones, while raising money for my sick friend Jeff: