Charity Begins at Home (and with Demi)

I asked a WordPress friend to speak about charity. Here are her thoughts and answers.


Demi, known as The Lupie Momma on WordPress, is turning 27 this year. She is not disappointed about getting older, she’s planning a huge 30th birthday celebration. (Get it, girl!) But she is a little sentimental about her daughter growing up so fast. Demi has a sweet, little girl who is almost 4. Demi is a wife and mother by day, working gal by night.

She’s dabbled at blogging for a few years on a few sites, but recently she decided to finish her novel. While struggling with Lupus (autoimmune disorder), she’s been working hard on this memoir. Demi is right and brave when she says “…life is too short not to go after everything.”
What do you do to volunteer or donate?
I’ve always given my clothes that are in good shape, that I’ve outgrown, to people I think can use them. Now that I have a fast growing toddler, I have started giving her old clothes and toys to other families. We have been fortunate enough to be able to afford these things, but we realize that some people aren’t as lucky.


Demi told me more about her personal giving.
They have a friend, Brandon (name changed for privacy). He’s a single dad of triplets. The mother is not involved on a regular basis. Brandon has to provide for 3 children. On his own. Demi knows how expensive one growing child can be. So. She started helping in any way she could. Brandon’s children are just 6 months younger than Demi’s girl. 2 of the triplets are girls. So Brandon is fixed for “hand-me-downs”. Brandon is truly grateful for the regular supply of girl’s clothing that Demi gives every change of the season.
Right before Christmas, Demi was preparing for the incoming onslaught of new toys for baby girl. They found an unused toddler bed and chair. She messaged Brandon right away. A few days later, Brandon posted about bills and presents; how hard it would be to provide this year. Demi had thought about buying a few small gifts, but after the post, Demi’s husband went full-on Santa. Gender-neutral toys that all the kids would enjoy. Delivered to Brandon’s house just in time for Christmas Eve. They didn’t say a word, leave a note or want any attention for doing so. They did unto others as they would want for themselves. Unfortunately, Amazon shipping included the husband’s email and Brandon figured it out. Needless to say, he was very thankful.


Why do you volunteer or donate?

We donate to help those in need because we would hope someone would help us if the shoe was on the other foot. Whether it’s to Brandon and his kids or hurricane relief somewhere else. (The state of Florida thanks you, Demi!!)
How do you feel when you give?
It’s a good feeling. Sometimes I feel guilty that I couldn’t do more, but my husband reminds me that its better I do a little than nothing at all. (I agree with your husband! If we all do some, we can do it all. <—Has someone already said that? If not, it’s so true!)

If we all do some, we can do it all!


Are you Christian or other religious affiliation? Do you give for a specific reason?

We’re Christians, but not the “we think we’re holier than others” type. We aren’t going to spit out scriptures at you or chaste you for not going to church.
No specific reason we do–except for the Lupus Foundation as that is a close charity that I personally benefit from.
I don’t know if I was necessarily taught to donate or volunteer, I just think my mother instilled in us from a young age to help others when we can. I remember being out to eat as a kid and my mom giving me a few dollars to give to the homeless man sitting a few tables away. Since then, I’ve just always kind of done it. Giving money to a random homeless man, or buying them a meal, giving my clothes to someone who could benefit from them. And now that I’m a mother myself, I want to instill that in my daughter. That not everyone is as fortunate as we are, and that it’s good to help others when you can.
How do your kids feel about your helping?
I’m not really sure she fully grasps the concept yet. She’s only three. Occasionally when we’re packing up stuff she hasn’t played with for months, we get the “That’s my toy!” but we explain that you know you haven’t played with it in a while, and there is someone else who would enjoy it. After a few pouts, she usually just drops the subject, goes and plays with something else. Explaining the Santa to Seniors, and why we were getting gifts for “old people who weren’t grandma or grandpa” was a bit tricky. But she picked out the names of the women we got, ‘all E’s because her name starts with E’ and picked out the bags to put their stuff in, she even threw in some hot chocolate packets for them. I hope that as she gets older, she’ll admire us for it. And continue to do it as she grows up.


While Demi regularly donates old clothes and toys, she was moved to go above and beyond this holiday season. She said, “…it felt nice buying gifts for other people that probably actually deserve the gifts.” Every year, people feel burdened in buying gifts for extended family members as an act of obligation. Holiday gift exchange can feel like a pressure cooker of negativity and resentment, boiling over by Christmas. And at the end of it all you may, like Demi, wish you had helped someone who actually needed (not wanted) something.
Demi left me with this thought from John Bunyan:

You have not lived today
until you have done something for someone
who can never repay you.


Let us know how the book is coming, Demi. I can post a link in an update. Thanks for sharing!

Please consider donating to the Lupus Foundation or to Demi’s personal fundraising goal.
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Tell Me About Chris Churchill

I love interviewing people. I just wish I knew more awesome, famous people. 🙂 But I know at least one and he’s super awesome and almost famous. To me anyway. He’s brilliant, creative, fascinating, funny, talented, accomplished and so, so friendly. Embracing. Welcoming. Decent, kind, inspiring. He’s my friend, Chris Churchill.

He so kindly agreed to let me interview him. He has quite a few things out right now. Book, songs, documentary. Thanks for reading and checking out my friend, Chris. He’s the coolest. Thanks, Man! for letting me probe your brain.


Background about Chris:

I’m an artist of many types of art. Writing, visual art, music, comedy, film-making. But, of course, not many make a living doing these things. So, I give tours and have recently started teaching.
Where did you start performing?

Started performing in high school. School plays, etc. Also tried, here and there, to play in bands. Wrote a lot of stories and little plays. In retrospect, any shiny artistic object, pulled me away from the previous one. I saw a good friend in an improv show in 1992 or ’93. I thought, “That’s really funny. And I’ll bet I could do that.” So, I auditioned for Lighten Up Improvisation Company and got in. This is where I met your husband (Guy Maggio).

How did you get to Chicago? What led you there? Anything you miss about KC?

I miss everything about KC. Home is always home. When I come home, the wind is the right kind of wind. The birds and insects are the right kind. The sky is the right sky. The Chiefs. The Royals. And all the people of course. My whole family is
still there.

I got to Chicago because I met Adam McKay and David Koechner at an improv fest in Austin, TX (I was performing with your husband and others). They were teaching an improv workshop which I took twice when I was there. Once as a participant. The second time, I just sat in the back and watched. I had never had a conversation with a famous person before. And Koechner had this amazing, positive, “you can do it” energy. He told a group of us that if we were serious about this, we had to move to Chicago. Eventually, I did.

What’s the best thing about following your love of and talent in music? Improv?

The best thing is that you can go to a place on your heart that needs massaging, when it needs massaging and massage it. Flood yourself with serotonin when you need it. The finished product has never really gotten me too far. The process makes me happy, though.

What inspired you to come up with “Abraham Lincoln: The College Years”? What is just improv or something you thought about?
When I was recovering from a psych issue I’d had a few years ago, I finally got to the point where I could artistically express myself again and it helped me get back to “normal”. At this point, I just made up the worst ideas for television pilot episodes and wrote 12 of them. For fun. Because I was crazy.
Later, I decided to have staged readings at Second City for four of them. Well, obviously, they’d need theme songs. So, I made up these silly theme songs and recorded them. Originally, I thought I’d just play them at the live show but, since I already had an audiobook on Mint 400 Records, I asked them if they’d put out my “Doomed Pilots” soundtrack. As far as the Lincoln song goes, I started with the lyrics, searched within the lyrics for the rhythm and recorded that. I added the simplest of bass-lines so that when I sang the lyrics I’d be on key. Or at least I’d know where the key was. Then, from within that framework, I improvised the recording or the rest. The guitars, the backing vocals were improvised because I don’t like planning too much when I’m in creation mode. I think it worked out. It’s one of my favorite things I’ve ever recorded.
How did the project “Tell Me About My Mother” start? (check out the video here)

My siblings and I constantly find ourselves telling these old family stories over and over again about how crazy our mom was/is. After I’d had an internship at a video company and had begun to make more of my own independent stuff, my sister Deb said, “This should be your next project.” And she was right. It turned out really well. It’s been getting a lot of emotional responses from people.

I’m sure it was difficult reliving the past, was it healing or just messy?

It was definitely healing. My mom needed validation for a lot of what she went through. It was nice to hear my dad’s side. Even though some might say he doesn’t come off smelling like a rose in this movie. And my siblings, as usual, served as comic relief when necessary. Some of these stories are pretty intense.

Do you think that your past/childhood set you up for how you live your life now in terms of music, improv, life goals, career choice, or creativity in general? Do you think it propelled you? Or do you think it was a detriment?

My childhood gave me both the artistic tools for survival as well as the need to use those tools to keep my sanity (most of the time). The problem and the solution are wrapped up in the same thing. My upbringing was alternately exciting and fun and sad and lonely. In terms of being able to make any money, it’s never really happened for long stretches. That is probably just a case of not having the right backing, connections, luck and also, let’s face it, I’m not making mainstream anything. I don’t know how to do that because I don’t feel the same way most people do.

What are you working on now or hope to be hearing about in the near future? What’s coming up for you?

Always working on something. Thinking about raising money so I can edit the rest of the story of me and my family and release the whole thing on DVD. Mixing an album for the label. Writing for an online magazine called Literate Ape. Teaching one college course and still giving tours of Chicago.

Thanks, Chris! You’re amazing. ❤

Trade?

Anyone willing to read my play and review on Amazon, House Full of Hope, can have a reblog on my WordPress of your favorite article or publishing of a new piece. The copy is free right now, you can download with no charge. The app to read is always free. You can download on your PC, you don’t need a Kindle.

Or I can create an article graphic for you, free of charge. I will use original graphics or my own photos with permission to use and text for whatever article you have planned and whatever graphic you want to see. I usually create all of my own article graphics from scratch. When you’re a graphic designer, it just makes sense. 🙂

Anyone down for the challenge? Thanks for doing me a favor!

If you’ve already read it, please go online and leave a review! I can still reblog you or design something for ya! ‘Cuz I’m cool like dat.

Monochrome Tetris Shirts

A Yin-yang pocket watch? Does it tell you if you’re having a good time? LOL Love it. And I love the monochromatic Tetris design. It appeals to the emo in me. Goth Tetris would be a game I would like to play. But what’s the point?? :/ LOL

This is my daughter’s RedBubble account with her designs, if you want to check it out. Any thoughts on RedBubble, Readers? Do you use a customized online shop for designs?

Pencil Princess

Hey! Tiny update about my RedBubble store. In addition to my regular Tetris design, I now have two other color palettes for it: a grayscale one and a camouflage one! Since I already touched briefly on the camo color palette in my previous post, I decided to make the monochrome one the main focus of this one.

These alternate color palettes for the Tetris design are only available on RedBubble – not on my CustomizedGirl! While my CG store has many more designs right now, RedBubble allows you to pick from a much wider variety of products, like stickers and tank tops. The designs available right now on my RedBubble shop are two variants of the Binary Love Heart (black heart and white heart), three variants of the Tetris pattern (default, camo, and grayscale), the Beach Lover Transparent Sun, the

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Prompt and Circumstance

Funny story: My husband and I formed an amateur improv troupe for a short time under the name–Prompt and Circumstance. Actually, that’s not that funny. Neither was our troupe. Ha! JK We only got to go a coupla times. We had other troupes–Elderberries (our format was called the Kevin, a long-form that was 6 degrees of scenes ala Kevin Bacon separation that looped around on itself, kinda cool), Sofa-King (two-person couch prov, scenes on or around a couch, yes, it’s that boring), but could never get anything off the ground. Maybe some day. We’re like garage-band improv wanna-bes.


So, I’ve been doing something lately that really boosts my productivity in writing. I take a picture, or use an old picture, and write a poem.

It doesn’t have to be Shakespeare. But it’s an almost-daily exercise that’s really stretching my creativity and discipline out.

It’s not really a goal I stated out loud or even in my mind. It just sort of moved from “small, indulgent poems that are fun to write” to this amorphous, intangible idea/question of “Can I write a poem every single day using a photo prompt?”

Well. You can. You most definitely can. You have to let go of the well-crafted poem and everything-I-write-should-be-published ideal, but it’s fun. It definitely disciplines and increases one’s productivity.

If you don’t have a prompt, or a picture, you can certainly use mine.

bird in flight.jpg

Here’s my poem that I wrote months ago, prompted by this photo:

Wings wide.
Feathers flying.
Riding high.
Going hard.
Beating the air with all my strength.

Simple. Un-Shakespeare-like. But a blurt of a thought and stimulating of those writer-y muscles. To see the world and set it down, even for a moment.

I would love to see your poems, prose or thoughts on this. Leave in the comments or tag me in your post? Thanks! Love your brains!

Also, what’s your process?

Also, would you like to start an improv troupe with me?? LOL What would you call it? 😀

We Are the Lost Souls

My daughter Lillian wrote a song last year. I think it’s one of the most brilliantly written songs I’ve ever heard. I know I’m biased, we’re related. She’s the fruit of my loins. But dang! It’s cool.

She recorded the music using a computer, multi-track digital recorder and singing her own lyrics. She sang harmony for her own voice and laid the tracks down together. I’m really proud of her effort here. She’s only 13 and I can’t wait to hear what she will do in the future. She also did another song for talent show this year too. Imaginary Friends

She also did a funny little parody with Dad and I helping out. Baby, It’s Cold Outside

This next song is about the Terracotta Army. Really meaningful look and unique perspective of those soulless sculptures. Her teacher covered the Terracotta soldiers in history last year and Lilli was fascinated by the topic. So, when she’s obsessed with a subject, she gets inspired and writes songs. Like ya do.

I love the modern sound and well-thought out words. I helped with some minor editing, but she did all the hard work composing, singing and recording. Without further ado, here’s Terracotta Souls by Lillian Maggio. Really cool, hope you enjoy it.

Trapped

This is another story my daughter wrote. She won an award for this one. PTA Reflections 2017 awarded her honorable mention at state level for Missouri, junior high division. Really proud.

“What is Your Story?” was the theme this year. Lilli’s story is a little sad, but truthful and daring. Her piece is a great perspective on writing and art creation, in general. A true reflection of how many artists feel about revealing their work. It’s risky to put your heart on the line. But brave to try!

lil award.jpg
Here she is walking across the stage, accepting her award!

“Trapped Inside My Own Mind” by Lillian Maggio

Isn’t it strange? I love to compose music, and I love imagining the way it will sound. I take joy in writing the lyrics and listening to my accompaniment played with clunky digital sounds, but I absolutely detest my own voice. In addition, I can’t play any instrument, so I have hardly any idea how to write music for another person to play. I hate the concept of someone else singing for me, because I know in my heart that they wouldn’t do my song justice. I’m afraid to ask a musician for help because I don’t know if my songs can even be played. So I compose scores which I am proud of and rejoice in, yet no one really ever hears my music but me.

I love thinking up beautiful and magical characters with complex and wonderful designs and personalities, but I hate the style in which I draw, so their appearance remains a mystery. I’m so petrified that I’ll make a mistake or portray them wrong that I can never portray them at all. I long to use my art to bring light and wonder to the world, to tell a story that hasn’t been told before, but I’m so afraid that my story will be incomplete and riddled with flaws. So my characters are never brought to life, never see the light of day.

I love to write, and I would love even more to be recognized for my talent. I write based on my own experiences, sometimes even making up fantastical worlds all by myself. Still, I can never bring myself to actually try and publish any of my works. I tell myself that I don’t have a chance, that I’ll never become popular and that no one will ever read, let alone care about, what I have to say. Or, even worse, that someone will see my work and copy it, claiming my creation as their own while I can do nothing. So I hide everything I do, far from where anyone could see or hear it.

I’m trapped inside my own mind. My worst adversary is, in reality, myself; my own fear. I can’t show everyone all the amazing stories I’ve been dying to tell. And it’s because I’m holding myself back, preventing myself from sharing my thoughts and ideas with the world.

So I can’t tell my story. I’m far too afraid.

Unfunyuns

Guest post: Lillian Maggio

My daughter wrote this. I helped edit. It was for a Ray Bradbury contest. Exactly 451 words (Fahrenheit 451). Entrants were to choose a word from a noun string. Bradbury often used strings of nouns to compose his stories. Lilli chose “crowd” from one of the lists the contest provided.

Bradbury also used onomatopoeia. She tried to imitate his style by using unconventional sound and description. I really like the way it turned out.

She is only 13, but she’s already a great writer. She’s read my stuff and watched me for years. She has a lexile score (reading level) of a senior in high school and tested as a genius in Kindergarten. To say I’m proud would be an understatement. I’m overwhelmed, humbled, thankful. She is beyond reason. She is my undeserved grace in a world full of punishment. She is intelligent, charming and kind IN SPITE of me. I deserve very little credit in her astonishing achievements. I’m just glad she’s my friend and daughter. I’m glad I get to be on the sidelines, cheering her on. I would like her even if I wasn’t her mom, but I’m so glad I get to be here on the front row.

Proud of you, Lil. You’re already a world-class writer. ❤ Thanks for letting me post.


Class. I am sitting at a desk. I am reading a book. Everyone else is in various stages of trying or not trying to read. The girl to my right is unfocused and sloppy. The boy behind me does not make an effort. An unopened book demands his attention as his head rests on the desk.

These are the only people I observe. At first.

The girl has a bag of Funyuns in her greasy grasp. She slowly takes out one Funyun and brings the ring to her lips. The entire circle won’t fit. She breaks the extruded cornmeal between her teeth and dried bits of fun sprinkle onto her already-stained shirt. She is loudly slapping her lips together. No one else notices. I notice. I can no longer process my walls of text. I look up, glare at her, but she does not sense my exasperation. One Funyun. Two Funyuns. Three. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

The boy behind me yawns. The natural conclusion to a normal yawn would be now. But he continues. I count three extra seconds. He is trying to distract me. It’s working.

Funyun Freak sends another snack to certain destruction. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

I’m not completely sure what my book is transmitting. I’m looking at the words. I’m reading the words. But the words stop somewhere in the small space between my eyes and neurons. I might be reading the same paragraph multiple times. The truth of that matter is insignificant. History repeats itself. No difference is made.

More Funyuns. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

A boy, near the door, turns a page of his magazine. Fwip. A girl, two rows ahead, shifts in her chair. Squeak. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

The boy behind me yawns again. Two extra seconds. Crunchcrunchcrunch.

A backpack zips open.  A crumpled paper jumps. The tile explodes in a thousands pops from the paper bomb. Nobody hears that. There’s a war zone just outside my ear. Inside, a thumping noise. My heartbeat. Thumpthump.

I look over at the teacher. She is composing an e-mail. Clackclackclack. She is oblivious to the chaos of her classroom. I’m the only one awake here. Crunch, thump, clack, thump, fwip, thump, squeak, thump, yawn, thump. Thumpthump.

I give up. Slam my book shut. Sigh and lean back. Staring at the ceiling. But Funyun Freak can’t take a hint. Crunchcrunchcrunch. Thumpthump. Thumpthump.

I fantasize about taking her filthy Funyun feast and knocking it to the floor. Crunchcrunchcrunch. My feet dancing over her fragile, yellow, onion-flavored treat. Crunchcrunchcrunch. And then. Tossing the crumbles into the air over her head to celebrate her unwavering stupidity. Thumpthump. She has taken any lingering sanity that I still possessed.

Riiiiing. And this was only first period.

Not Just Community Theatre

My beautiful, talented friend, Becca Stabno, wrote this heartfelt piece about our time in Women of Lockerbie presented by Summit Theatre Group. It was a wonderful show, full of talented people that I want to know all my life. Thanks for letting me post, Becca. You’re a terrific writer, singer, actor, wife, mother, daughter, person. Glad to have met you here. Glad to have acted with you. Glad to be neighbors.

By Becca Stabno

I have never been able to cry on stage.

In 18 years of community theatre musicals and plays, I have never been able to quite produce an actual tear. I have come close a few times-when I played Tzeitl in FIDDLER, and Papa Tevye wanted me to marry Lazar Wolf, I almost managed it. In SOUND OF MUSIC, as the Baroness saying goodbye to the Captain, I felt a twinge. But mostly, no tears.

That all changed last fall when I was cast as one of the WOMEN OF LOCKERBIE with Summit Theatre Group. Lockerbie tells the story of the aftermath of the crash of Pan Am Flight 103 in Scotland, and how the women in the town wanted to turn the terrorists’ act of hatred into an act of love and compassion by washing the clothing of the victims and returning them to the families of those who were lost.

It’s an emotional topic, and an emotional script, with an added story of a couple whose only son, a college boy on a school trip, perished in the explosion and whose body was never recovered. Their grief, even seven years later, was ongoing and as strong as the day they heard that their son would not be home for Christmas. The women interact with the couple, and try to encourage healing by sharing their own stories, and their own pain.

I was thrilled to be given the chance to do this play. It was exciting and fun to train with a dialect coach to learn the correct Scottish accent, and it drove my children crazy because I practiced on them all the time. It was also only the second straight play I had done since college, so I was eager to explore that genre some more. But something about this story just grabbed me and held on.

Lockerbie changed me. We immersed ourselves in this little Scottish village, in these people and their relationships with one another. We experienced their loss every single night in rehearsal. And it was so very real, that night after night, I cried. Real, actual tears, not just “it’s my character’s feelings and I am supposed to cry now” crying. We were so involved in the story that the tears were a natural part of our experience. So when the mother shared how she found out about the crash, when the father shared about how he can’t get his wife past her grief and had never been able to grieve himself, when one of the women shared how she lost her family when the plane came down on her house, those things felt real. And I cried.

And then, we washed the clothes. The director, Betsy Sexton, asked us each to donate our own clothes to be bloodied up for the props, so we were washing shirts that we had once worn, or that our children had played in, and they were stained and torn, and it was so real. Tears flowed freely, because this was powerful and moving, this was our way to show the world that hatred will not win, that love can overshadow the anger, and the light will come when the sun rises tomorrow.

The cast of that show became very close. Experiencing something that emotional night after night, as a group, really brought us together. The relationships we forged as we created this story are life-long and special and enduring. One of the other cast members was a friend of my parents in college and through their young adulthood, and so she knew me as a young child-now we have bonded as adults through this show. My cast mates have a place in my heart now, and I believe that will be lasting.

Community theatre did that. It gave me a new family in the people who worked together on this play. It gave me challenges in learning a new dialect; it gave me a chance to try something new with an emotional drama. This play was so timely-even though the crash was 20 years ago, the message is so very relevant today, with all the hatred and anger and pain in the world. Sharing the story of Lockerbie was a chance to show a different response to acts of hate. It was important. It mattered.

Being in community theatre gives me opportunities to meet new people, experience new characters, and tell new stories. I am so grateful for the chance to tell such a powerful story, and to have spent a brief time in Lockerbie.


Oh, aye, Becca. Well said, Lass. 🙂