Sister

I wish I had a sister.
I have two of my own.
But they were always busy.
I was growing up alone.

I wish I had a sister
Who took the time to teach
How to love myself,
How to aim beyond my reach.

Or even how to brush my hair,
Set makeup on my cheek.
I wish I had a sister
Not a rival, so to speak.

I wish I had a sister.
One that loved being my friend.
I wish I had a sister.
Someone to count on ’til the end.

Someone to value me.
Someone to hold me close.
Someone to pull me up and in.
Someone who let their feelings show.

A woman to show the way.
A friend to hold my hand.
A person who deeply cared.
Someone to understand.

I never had a sister
Until I finally went through birth.
My daughter is all I could ever want,
Best sister on this earth.

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Kathryn, Rachel, Irma & Torrence

This will be the second in a series of 5 short articles.
Rachel was one of my closest friends in high school.
When we were seniors, she was probably my best friend.

Here’s the first article, if you missed it. Kathryn

Rachel-#2


Rachel is short. Really short. I’m very tall for a girl. We are friends. We are oddballs. In every possible way. I’m overweight. She wears glasses. I have a two-tone mullet (okay, maybe I was the oddestball). But we both like Duran Duran in a small town where Country is king.

Rachel has an athletic build and powerful legs. Small face and, impossibly, the same metallic eyes as my grandmother. It might be the glasses, it might be the hardened edge against a chaotic life. It might be the soulful stare of a mind that’s lived ten thousand lives before this moment. It might be she’s a guardian angel or ancient shaman and no one, not even her, knows it.

It is worth noting that Rachel is the only African-American girl in a Midwest farm town. Not because she’s different, but because it’s the late 80s and the middle of the country. We are only 30 miles east of Kansas City, but we might as well be in the Ozarks. We grow up with red necks and racists. Bigots and brutes. Ignorant sons of bitches who say mean things, do mean things. Inherited thoughts from an even more unenlightened generation of drunks and dullards. Alcoholics give birth to alcoholics. Idiots give birth to idiots. Mean people give birth to mean people. Ignorance begets hatred. Not always, but a lot. Not everyone in this small town is a bigot. But a lot.

I remember meeting Rachel’s mom. She was so funny. One of the nicest moms I ever met. She started telling me about the bias they encountered. Over and over. Walking into the local bingo parlor and every white face whipped to see who just opened the door. (They probably would have done the same to any outsider, honestly. The bingo crowd was a small enclave of smoker gamblers. Hell, I was shot some looks in the bingo parlor for talking over the number call. But I’m sure it didn’t help that they were black.)

“Do I have chocolate pie all over my face??” she quipped. I died laughing. So did Rachel. No one had ever been so open and direct with me. That’s the kind of mom I want to be. Drop-dead honest and funny.

Rachel was smart. Whip smart. Just like her mother. She was clever, full of jokes and laughter, and worldly. She knew and cared about the things that I loved. Or the things I didn’t know I loved until I met those things.

She let me borrow her Rich Hall Sniglets compilation and I almost lost the book in study hall when I burst out laughing at one of the entries. The Sniglet in which Hall (et al) describes someone sharpening their pencil. Specifically, the movement and perfect synchronization of the Sharpener’s butt to their hand as they crank the tiny handle. (Can’t find the actual entry, so I forget the word. 😦 Ack! Please comment if you remember!)

I believe I spit all over myself and almost peed my pants in a totally silent room. I nearly lost all bodily fluids and control. I shook violently at the stifling. My face contorted. Flushed with blood. Anyone who couldn’t see what I was holding might have thought I was having a seizure. I was definitely shot a look from the study hall teacher attendant, much like those bingo hall side-eyes. Although, this look had also a small touch of concern for my well-being. I was embarrassed and hysterical all at the same moment.

Rachel always knew about the coolest thing. She was the coolest person I knew. She changed my idea of people. She stood everything I knew on its head. She taught me to be confident in the face of fear. She taught me to be fierce. Loyal. Brave. Nice to those who weren’t. Assertive to those who required it. And honest. Even when it’s difficult or embarrassing. Not by lecturing me, but by example.

She taught me I could be myself without having to apologize for it. She accepted me. I accepted her. For whatever we were.

I don’t know how I made it out of that one-song town. I don’t know how I had a black friend.

My dad was an alcoholic, a racist. Not always bright and definitely crazy. He would come home and complain about the n****** at work. He said he even stabbed a black man at work one day with a screwdriver. I don’t know if that’s true? He said a lot of crazy things.

He said the man attacked him first. He had a stab wound in his leg to prove it. (That could have been from anything! By his own hand even.) I was personally ill and deeply concerned by the description, but you just didn’t question the man. It is humiliating to even hear this story, relay this story or be related to someone capable of this act. To know someone who is willing to hurt another human being physically. It’s disgusting to me. It is humbling and worrisome to be powerless in changing your life, the life of your loved ones or the world. You would think my father would lose his job if that actually happened. But in this culture? I don’t know now.Β  I do know this: my dad was completely capable of stabbing anyone and the meanest human I personally knew.

And Rachel was the nicest. I’m glad I had Rachel. She changed me. She taught me something my dad couldn’t. Or wouldn’t. Embracing something or someone different than what I grew up to know wasn’t difficult. If all you know is pain? The first person or opportunity that looks like something other than pain is welcome. Appreciated. Loved.

We understood each other. I was understood for the first time by a smart person. For the first time I loved someone different. If I did nothing else for anyone ever? I at least did not carry forward the burning torch of racism for myself or my daughter. And I’ll never forget Rachel’s eyes.

Mini Canvas Shell Art

So, on my medical courier route, I met this really nice young woman. She’s a lab tech/nurse. She has a family, husband, young daughter, possibly more than one child. I don’t know her that well, but she’s been one of the kindest people I’ve met in Florida. Her birthday was earlier this month, but I just found out. She mentioned it in passing on another topic.

So. I made this for her.

mini canvas shell art.jpg

Do you think she’ll like it?

The size is only like 2″ x 2″. So those are tiny little shells.

I bought the frame for under $5? Possibly even $1. I don’t remember. Had it forever. And I found the shells on our beach. Painted the picture black (because it was hideous little, weird cacti in orange and green and brown, and not the good kind, gag!), epoxy’d shells to the canvas/cardboard insert backing thingie, and made a button hanger for the top. So this project was $5 or less. Crafty Beaver on the loose!

I hope my new acquaintance likes this small gesture and I hope I make a new friend! πŸ™‚

Even if she is just my nicest route client (and we are never friend-friends), it’s nice to be nice to nice people.

How could you not want me as a friend? When I make cool stuff and give it to you? LOL πŸ˜‰

Hope everyone has a great day and a great weekend!! Love you, Friends!

Tell Me About Chris Churchill

I love interviewing people. I just wish I knew more awesome, famous people. πŸ™‚ 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 β€œAbraham 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 β€œTell 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. ❀

twilight

this was siesta key beach (sarasota, florida) when Lilli was only 4 or 5. i took this photo with a throw away camera. sometimes, those are the best shots.

she had just made a new friend on the beach, but the day was winding down. it’s always a thrill to meet someone new, but tragic knowing you only have a few minutes with them. you wish you’d known them the whole day. or your whole life.

as a kid, i remember the feeling of meeting someone so amazing and the panic of realizing, “I’ll never see this person again.” :/

6 haikus for temporary friendship


ran around today
endless chasing after play
at the end, it’s found


just made a new friend
but the sun is going down
twilight never end


the sun is tired
but my will and joy are up
time to rise and shine


the water sparkles
with new feelings of friendship
and tears fall from fear


don’t go, Sun. please, stay.
if you go, my friend will, too.
and I’m not ready.


nice to meet you, friend
let’s vow to always meet here
at least in our hearts

People (Sometimes) Suck

You don’t see me.
You never call.
You say you love me,
But you let me fall.

We’re friends, “You’re the best!”
Kisses. Hug!
But you trash and slash me
Like a common thug.

When my back is turned?
You’re no friend.
You tear me down
To absolutely no end.

I built you up.
And you stole from me.
Just a hanger-on.
That’s all. YOU’LL. EVER. BE!

This is my show.
Get your own.
Hard to be a star
When you’re all alone?

One day, you’ll wake up
And know you’re wrong.
But it’ll be too late,
I’m already gone!