More Than a Feeling: Give Back to Sandy Hook Victims

The ability to hear my mother’s voice over the phone the other morning brought me to tears.  It was at that moment that I felt the tragedy lingering throughout the nation over the last few days.  My heart dropped for all of the families that suddenly became broken.

More so, at that time I became upset over the effect the Sandy Hook shooting has had on our society as a whole.  Once again, we have another reason to suffer from something one of our own has done, to question the actions or inactions of the government; another reason to point fingers, and another reason to become even more divided when we should put differences aside and come together.  Once again, mourning has subsided and outrage has ensued and  gotten the better of us – all of us except for the families who could give a shit less about anything but the fact that they can no longer kiss their child goodnight.

This holiday, many of us will put all obligations aside and enjoy time spent with our families, unwrapping gifts we don’t need and consuming calories we’ll feel guilty for later, all the while forgetting negative thoughts.  But as we’re enjoying ourselves, other families will have presents that will remain unopened, and will avoid sitting at the dinner table so they won’t have to look at the empty chair symbolic of the emptiness they now feel in their hearts.   This holiday, while our deepest thoughts will extend to happiness for presents we got, the only thing many families will be wishing for is to get their loved ones back.

Yes, we should enjoy ourselves this season, but we should not forget what others will be going through.  We should remember it and eliminate the anger and feel empathetic and compelled enough to give back.  Forget about pointing fingers, arguing about gun control on social networking sites, and do more than have an opinion.  When you are moved by compassion over anger you can make a bigger difference.  Hopeful thoughts and prayers are great measures of kindness, but taking action is some of the answer to your own prayer of finding relief for the families.

I’ve been to more funerals in the short 23 years that I have lived than I have weddings or baby showers put together.  I’ve known families who have lost their sons, daughters, and friends of mine, and there’s been little worse than watching them deal with financial burdens in the wake of their child’s death.  Organizing a funeral service, filing paper work, and putting a price on such an unspeakable tragedy seems like cruel and unneccesary punishment.

By writing this, my hope is to tug at heartstrings of those who were kind enough to share their concern for the families in Connecticut in the first place, enough to donate anything possible and make the financial messes of the families a bit easier.  Here are some ways to help:

How to help people of Sandy Hook and Newton, Conn.

How You Can Help: Memorial Donations for Sandy Hook Victims 

Five Ways to Help the Sandy Hook School Victims

6 Ways to Help Sandy Hook Victims

Sandy Hook, Newtown donations: Ways to help families, community after shooting

We can be an extraordinarily spoiled, all-consuming society, and our thought process is often clouded because of it.  We forget that we have the power to be selfless.  We can make a difference in someone’s life we never met.  Don’t separate yourself from the situation.  This holiday, take this opportunity to give back.

The Perks of Being a Real Life Wallflower

For my best friend, Valisity, on her birthday:

 She wasn’t exactly a wallflower – her laughter was a loud and distinct sound that echoed through a crowded room, but she was a resident of the island of misfit toys, and so was I.  That was the glue that kept us together for so many years.

 She was in theater, but more of a star than a geek, outgoing but not popular, stylish but not trendy, friendly but without many friends.  She was a series of conundrums that gave her no choice but to stand out like a sore thumb, for there was no one like her.  She was outwardly what I was inwardly, and she was the only one who could bring it out of me.  She was my best friend.

 Throughout high school we were experiencing everything about life within our reach, completely under-the-radar and without a care in the world.  While everyone else was at their high school gatherings we were at others so exciting we could’ve never dreamt them up, while they were listening to the newest pop song on the radio we were driving around aimlessly, sharing a pack of cigarettes and scream-singing to Rilo Kiley ‘til it hurt, and while everyone was talking shit about their best friends we were analyzing the complexities of life.  We didn’t stand a chance at being cool, but we didn’t want to be.  We were having the time of our lives.

People say everyone peaks at certain times in their lives.  They say it’s the popular ones who peak in high school since they were four-year legends, but for us high school was our peak of figuring out who we were and not being afraid of it.  Without her, I would have been afraid for a long time.

That’s not to say we were better than anyone.  We were just different — oddities, if you will.  We saw things and we understood.  We were out of the limelight so we could see life unbothered.  No one cared to take those memories from us because no one cared to know they were occurring. 

I know there are people who say these things don’t happen, I knew these things would all become stories one day, but back then we knew we were alive.

And in those moments, I swear we were infinite.

*I wanted to write something about my high school years with my best friend and was so touched by the movie adaption of The Perks of Being a Wallflower that I reflected our own experiences from that.  Though there were a few other close members of our group during those years (who are still in my life, mind you.  Hi Rachel and Julie and Steph), I feel she deserves her own recognition on her birthday.  To anyone who had a similar high school experience and has not yet read the book (which of course is better than the movie, but the movie version is directed by the author so it’s still damn amazing) or seen the film, I highly recommend it.  By the end I was drowning in tears and nostalgia and loved every minute of it because it reminded me of all those special souls who made my teenage years so memorable.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower trailer:

Memory Lane:

5 (+20) Songs Everyone Should Know: Halloween Playlist Edition

So you’ve started buying the big bags of candy, wearing the orange and black color combo, decorating your house and drinking Pumpkin Spice Lattes, now all you need is the right music to fully tune you into the spooky spirit.  Because of this, I’ve made a very special edition of 5 Songs Everyone Should Know compiled from what’s already on my iTunes and picks from this playlist.  Can you tell this is one of my favorite holidays?  Anyway, here’s a treat, no tricks necessary:

1. Psycho – Beasts of Bourbon 

2. Howlin’ for You — The Black Keys

I have a mixed relationship with The Black Keys right now.  If I fall in love with a band for their sound early on it’s hard for me to maintain that love when they change it (and admit to selling out).  And from Thickfreakness to El Camino, boy do they sound different.  But that’s neither here nor there, because in this case, their sound fits perfectly.

3. Buried Alive — Black Lips

4. Posture Pumpkin — Black Mamba

5. The Ghost Inside — Broken Bells

6. My Body’s a Zombie for You — Dead Man’s Bones

I’ve got to confess something.  I hate songs with kids who sing in them.  But this is Ryan Gosling’s voice we’re listening to here.  I mean, come on, he knows he can get away with anything.  Well-played, Gosling, well-played.

7. Bones — Electric Tickle Machine

8. Werewolf — The Frantics

9. Beautiful my Monster — Husky Rescue

Husky Rescue deserves an entire solo post another time because they are just so talented and Reeta’s voice is just as beautiful as she is.  I’ll work on doing them justice soon.

10. Eat Yr Heart — HTRK

I love this band.

11. Zombies — King Kahn & The BBQ Show

12. In the Cold, Cold Night — Meg White

Even though there’s nothing really Halloween-like in the title of this song, there’s something about Meg White’s voice that’s eerily alluring.

13. The Mummy — The Naturalist

14. Blood Gets Thin — Pete and the Pirates

15. I Remember You — Slim Whitman

House of 1000 Corpses.  That is all.

16. Cemetery Gates — The Smiths

Further proof that The Smiths are appropriate anytime, anywhere.

17. Halloween — Sonic Youth

No explanation needed.

18. Ghost Train – Summer Camp

19. Psycho Killer — Talking Heads

Oh how I love drunk dancing (the only kind of public dancing I allow myself to do) to this one.  Or pretty much any Talking Heads song, for that matter.

20. Skeletons — Tiny Masters of Today

21. Shakin’ All Over — The Guess Who

I don’t know why, but this song has kind of always reminded me of something zombies would dance to.  Is that weird?

22. Black Saint — Witch

My boyfriend is obsessed with this band at the moment.  Not so much me.  Still, great for Halloween, just not when I’m riding in the passenger’s seat of his car when he throws this on full blast at 11 a.m.

23. Lazy Bones — Wooden Shjips

Another great band to listen to on non-holiday occasions.

24. Night Walkers — Xray Eyeballs

25. Heads Will Roll — Yeah Yeah Yeahs

An old love, but a true love.

Happy Halloween!

Halloween Costume Advice for Those who Want to Keep Their Clothes On

Yeah yeah, we all know Halloween is the one time of year women are aloud to dress scandalous and get away with it, but for those who aren’t into costumes that barely cover their naughty bits yet don’t want to look like, say Candy Heron from Mean Girls as a zombie ex-wife (see below) or something of that unflattering nature, there are alternatives.  However, they do require some creativity.  But in my opinion, a hand-made costume beats a $50 cheap polyester one you’ll only wear once any day.

Depending on the time and effort you want to put into your homemade costume, you can design something that’s not only sexy but cute, flattering, and most importantly, CLASSY.  Nine times out of ten, the look of your costume also makes more sense with more added to it.  For instance, you shouldn’t just slap a Crayola sticker on your red bikini and call yourself a sexy crayon.  Instead, pair some metallic red tights with a basic red dress and black shoes.  Then, get some black fabric, cut it into the design of the Crayola logo and sew it onto the dress.  That way, if you plan to wear the dress again, you can just cut the stitching from the logo off and voila! Good as new.  If you decide red is not your color for any day other than Halloween, then go ahead and stencil the Crayola design directly onto the dress.  Additionally, take a plastic cone water cup and glue red fabric onto it, then secure the cone to the top or side of a simple headband with a glue gun.  See?  You can still be cute with your clothes on.

 +   = 

Personal Costume Story 1: A few years ago I dressed up as a flower and made the costume with items similar to the crayon example.  All I needed was a pair of green leggings, a red tank, sparkly red fabric and a headband.  I left the leggings and tank as is, but cut individual petals out of the fabric and glued each of them to a thick string. After making two layers of these, I secured them to my waist with two safety pins.  For a finishing touch I added a headband with a red flower on it.

There are endless ways to draw inspiration for costumes.  You can either look up characters in movies, music, TV shows or history, or gain ideas from animals, nature or even inanimate objects (like the aforementioned Crayola.) To me one of the most exciting costumes are those that involve others, because not only is it another reason to stick with your friends during all of the Halloween parties, but you can also have SEWING PARTIES!  That’s right, sewing parties.

Personal Costume Story 2:  Two years ago, my girlfriends and I dressed up as all different kinds of birds.  Throughout the entire month of October, we would get together most nights and create our costumes from scratch.  Yes, all of my friends and I are 80 years old, but I promise sewing parties are fun at any age.  You can lend ideas and extra fabric to each other and basically just have an excuse to have multiple girl’s nights per week.

Once you finish your awesome one-of-a-kind costume, let’s not forget about the element to make or break it – your makeup!  Though it’s arguably the most exciting part because you get to paint your face with all of the colors you wouldn’t dare to wear during the day, you don’t want to overdo it if you don’t have to.  If you are the hypothetical red crayon, would you wear three shades of green eye shadow?  Not unless you want to be from the Christmas edition.  Instead try some bright red lipstick and maybe some fake eyelashes for the extra oomph you don’t aim for on a day-to-day basis.  However, if you decide to be something like a mermaid, then by all means break out the sparkles and blue lips.  On this special day, consider thinking even more outside the box and adjusting your features to be as realistic to your outfit as possible.  Mermaids have scales on their face, right?  Well, even if not you can pretend they do.  Check out special effects tutorials on YouTube.com (like the two Mermaid ones below) for step-by-step make-up instructions.

Personal Costume Story 3: The year we dressed up as birds, most of us bought feather eyelashes or directly added feathers to our face in addition to doing our make-up specific to the types of birds (my swan friend had a black band going over her face and I painted my eyes black because I was a cardinal) and painting the pout of our lips yellow to look like beaks.

HELPFUL STORES TO GET COSTUME PIECES:

American Apparel – They have pretty much all of the essential basics in an endless amount of colors.  Whether you’re looking for gold tights or a green leotard, they’ll most likely have what you need.

 Claire’s – Always good for cheap jewelry, headbands and hair accessories.

 Forever 21 – See Claire’s.

 Jo-Ann Fabrics – Get any color/material of fabric here along with add-ons like glitter, rhinestones, etc. to customize your look.

Walmart – Duh.

Aside from the satisfaction of creating a costume all on your own, one of the best benefits from doing so is that it can fit anyone’s budget and in some cases, the parts can be reusable.  More than anything I just like knowing I can dance at a Halloween party without worrying about a nip slip or my butt showing.  But hey, if you like that sort of thing Party City always has some “Sexy Cop” costumes on hand.

Personal Costume Story 4:  The night we all dressed up as birds three of us placed in a costume contest and won a total of $150.  We spent it all on celebratory drinks because we figured we worked hard enough to earn them.

Personal Costume Story 5:  I did buy a pre-made costume once.  I was a Beer Garden Girl for a whole hour before the zipper broke $50 later.

To the Rollerbladers, Because Everyone Else Would’ve Had to be There.

Whenever I try explain rollerblading to anyone outside of that bubble I often don’t get very far before the confused looks set in.  However, over the years I’ve realized that there is so much that goes in to the lifestyle of skating that it’s almost too hard to put in to words.  Rollerblading is more than the sport itself — it’s the music, it’s the style, and most importantly, it’s the people.

Let me give you a little insight into my history with the people involved: I’ve been around rollerbladers since I was 14.  The first time I met the Ft. Myers group was a fluke accident.  I was with a few of my girlfriends and after one of them dialed the wrong number, a brief conversation ensued with the guy on the other line and 20 minutes later we had four carloads worth of boys, sweaty from a night session at what was then Sanctuary Skatepark, at my friend’s house.  That weekend we snuck out to go to our first party with them.  At first I was overwhelmed by everything around me — we were in a mansion filled with teenagers, some long-haired guy was standing in the living room wearing a tuxedo for the hell of it, a paint-ball grenade had just exploded all over and no one seemed to care, people were skating out back, and everyone just seemed so cool and so fun.  By 4 a.m. I knew that whoever these people were and whatever they had together, I wanted to be a part of it.  Nearly ten years later, they’re still in my life.

Over the years, I’ve gone to competitions, travelled, and met rollerbladers from all over. I’ve noticed that individually they’re extraordinarily different from one another, but they’re also wild, reckless, and passionate in a way that only people who are fearless enough to potentially eat shit and get back up on a daily basis can be.

Their love for the world of rollerblading runs noticeably deep within all of them.  That lifestyle remains a part of their core even when they move on to other endeavors.  Some of my friends have since turned into videographers and photographers, while others  still have some of the best editing skills I’ve ever seen, and every single one of them regard their days of rollerblading as the best times of their lives.  And for good reason — what other group would hold a prom-like event for other rollerbladers and friends who never cared to fit in well enough to enjoy their own high school prom, or climb to the top of a 24 story building just to film throwing things off, or demolish a car in the middle of nowhere (permissible by the owner, of course)?

But more than exciting times, perhaps the most alluring thing about rollerblading is the family that it breeds.  A rollerblader can move anywhere in the world, and as long as there’s another blader there, they’ll have a friend.  It is such a tight-knit group that just wants to rage and skate and have a better time than anyone else.  They are the only group of people I have ever met who still have that childlike ability to derive sheer enjoyment from everything.  Everyone else just forgets how to do that as they get older.

Even though I’ve tried countless of times, I can never fully explain rollerblading because it’s incomparable to anything.  It’s certainly not like skateboarding, because it was never meant to be.  It is still so underground that everything in the industry is run by rollerbladers themselves because it is not about the money, it’s about the passion, and only a select few people will ever find out how it feels to care about something that much.

I’ll read the comments following some edits from people complaining that most of it is just of them partying, but rollerbladers who add that in didn’t just run out of clips to show, they’re giving a small insight into the lifestyle of skating.  It is chugging a case of beer, it is the music that plays in the background, it is having a great time with your friends ’til the wee hours of the morning, it is everything wild parties entail, because it is everything most can only dream of doing every day.

The Roskilde Festival edit below is probably one of the best depictions I can offer about that crowd as a whole, because I can only describe a feeling well enough before I  just have to settle for a shoulder shrug and say “you just had to have been there.”

I’m not Happy and I’m not Sad

I’m spending my Thursday night watching Prozac Nation, a film about a journalist trying to exist and write throughout her depression.  I noticed all the posters on the character’s bedroom wall, hung up by a girl whose passions ran as deep as her sorrow.  It’s no wonder the people in the posters were of musicians who mirror that same feeling in their songs.

Joy Division was pinned up on one side, Patti Smith and Lou Reed on the others.  The Joy Division poster was my favorite.  Though his story’s a tragic one, I love how close you can feel to Ian Curtis’ mystification with life and death through his voice during his periods of comfortable depression. His sound rough around the edges, but still hauntingly beautiful.  Hearing a song of his is like looking up at a sky full of dark clouds that are about to evolve into a brutal storm, but still being able to see the fading beams of light before it all.  It’s almost as if light came through in the dark enthusiasm of his voice to prove his own pieces of life were broken so severely that if they were ever put back together his beauty and wisdom would’ve be impossible to handle.  He ended it all before that feeling was impossible for anyone else but him.

 I’ve been waiting for a guide to come and take me by the hand,
Could these sensations make me feel the pleasures of a normal man?
These sensations barely interest me for another day,
I’ve got the spirit, lose the feeling, take the shock away.

-Joy Division, Disorder

Surprisingly, The Smiths were not on her wall, yet I feel Morrissey was arguably the best at explaining the kind of music I’m trying to relate these artists with — artists who are able to provide you with a happy, soothing melody, all the while letting their lyrics swell deep in your heart.  The music is made desirable to all because its beat is catchy enough to be played on many an indie bar’s dance floor, yet you’re able to appreciate the lyrics when you feel anything but the yearn to sway back and forth.  The first time I heard The Smiths I thought my heart was going to pop because I heard it all at once.

 A shoeless child on a swing
Reminds you of your own again
She took away your troubles
Oh, but then again
She left pain
So, please save your life
Because you’ve only got one

And I’m not happy
And I’m not sad

-The Smiths, This Night Has Opened My Eyes

There’s something about that happy melancholy that’s so enticing.  Perhaps because the two words itself are none that could seemingly be acquainted with such intimacy, yet somehow, these lyricists make it happen. The Cure, of course, is another band that mastered this.  However, their revolutionary 1980’s goth style was what mostly played up their dark side that contrasted their overall sound.

 So I try to laugh about it
Cover it all up with lies
I try to laugh about it
Hiding the tears in my eyes
Because boys don’t cry

I would tell you
That I loved you
If I thought that you would stay
But I know that it’s no use
That you’ve already
Gone away

-The Cure, Boys Don’t Cry

What makes me love all these bands so much is because of the way they resonate with you.  They tug at heartstrings you outwardly wish to repress, but secretly, like a begging child, you ache for them to be pulled for affirmation that you are not alone, that someone understands.

 There she goes again 
She’s knocked out on her feet again 
She’s down on her knees, my friend 
But you know she’ll never ask you please again 

Now take a look, there’s no tears in her eyes 
Like a bird, you know she would fly, what can you do 
You see her walkin’ on down the street 
Look at all your friends that she’s gonna meet 
You better hit her 

-The Velvet Underground, There She Goes Again

Because of the melodies, their songs are like a secret being screamed so loud it’s almost deafening, yet their feelings and meaning remain only decipherable by the most tender, fragile ears. 

Feel it closing in
Feel it closing in
The fear of whom I call
Every time I callI feel it closing in
I feel it closing in

I feel it closing in
As patterns seem to form
I feel it cold and warm
The shadows start to fall
I feel it closing in 
I feel it closing in

I’d have the world around
To see just whatever happens
Stood by the door alone
And then it’s fade away

I see you fade away
Don’t ever fade away

-Joy Division, Digital