Thursday, May 28, 2015

What if Robin Williams Didn't Kill Himself?

Words matter. And I can't think of a time when they matter more than this:

A young man from my synagogue, Jason Arkin, died last week, five days before his 21st birthday. Jason's obituary, written by Mollie Chesis, notes that:

"Jason graduated from Blue Valley Northwest High School in May 2012 as a National Merit Scholar and he was currently a junior at Northwestern University studying electrical engineering. Jason struggled with clinical depression and ultimately passed due to his illness. Jason was one of many young adults suffering with mental illness in a time when mental illness remains stigmatized and misunderstood."

Mental illness is just that -- an illness. And, as is often the case with an illness, it can be fatal. The way we choose to describe suicide, the words we use, matter. Imagine the impact -- worldwide -- if we all had said Robin Williams struggled with clinical depression and ultimately passed due to his illness.

Puts it a whole different light, doesn't it?

I didn't know Jason, but I've been told by many in the community that he was a sweet, kind young man. Memorial contributions in his honor can be made to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.

P.S. Today is Mollie's birthday. And it is completely appropriate to celebrate this amazing young woman, along with her wisdom. Happy birthday, Mollie! Thank you for giving us the right words.

Thursday, May 7, 2015

#TwitterFiction Festival: I'm In!

On my desk, amid the clutter, you'll find this quote: "At the moment of commitment, the universe conspires to assist you."

The universe was apparently assisting when I sent an idea off to the 2015 Twitter Fiction Festival. I made the first cut -- and then the final cut! I'm happy to announce that I'll be one of the featured writers during the festival next week. Whoo hoo!

What story will I be telling? Here's the basic premise:

Tyler lives in Kansas. His parents (aka SpermDonor and M) are right-wing Kansans who faithfully support the First Baptist Church of the Lamb, going every Wednesday and Sunday. Tyler, days away from high school graduation, is ready to claim life as a girl. But it’s tough being a transgender teen in Olathe, Kansas, and Tyler doesn’t want to come out, horrify the parents and be all alone during the transition. So, before Tyler becomes Taylor (a simple switch from the current name and a homage to Taylor Swift), this smart, sarcastic teen decides to use Twitter to create a new support system – a new family. The question is – does Tyler2Taylor really want a new family or acceptance from the family of origin? Is it possible to live with people for 18 years and not know them? 

Tune in. Tweet on. Find out.

Yes. That's right. My name.
Right there with a few your might recognize.
Life, my friends, is good. 

Friday, May 1, 2015

A Poetic Present: Linda Penner

I know. I know. It's May. National Poetry Month 2015 is over. BUT, there were a few days where I didn't post. And it's Friday. So it's only right to wrap things up with one more poem!

And what finer topic for our final poem than love?

Linda Penner, our poet of the day, is one of the dear women in my Writers Workshop. She makes me laugh, she inspires me, she teaches me, she surprises me. And, when you read the poem below, don't think I made a typo. Her hubby's name really is Merv.

For Merv on his birthday
by Linda Penner

Seventy years --
darting away
like a hummingbird
hovering here for an instant
a smudge in a distant tree
the next

I've walked years
by your side
or ahead
or behind
occasionally crossed
(like our purposes)

Separate -- but
matched, curiously
as if posed
in tuxedo and slinky black
for a photo
at a formal event

or joined
by an invisible electric thread
that quivers
when you read my mind
when I read yours
like the tiniest marital umbilical
keeping us
when dark threatens
when one of us
floats away

Life novices,
we've bumped and stumbled
through four decades
threaded together,
generous you
feeding body and spirit
as if two arms weren't enough
to give all you wanted

So here,
let me give you something
Take this poem
my bouquet of words and love

It's your birthday