Tag Archives: courage

Redefining Beautiful: Courage for Authenticity and [Com]passion

24 Jan
A/N:  Images displayed for this post are not mine–Thank Goddess for Tumblr, Imagebam & Pinterest. No copyright infringement intended. Click the image to link to its origins. Playlist is working again (it’s probably playing RIGHT now)! Musical inspirations listed at the bottom of post. To open the player in a new window, clickity-click here—> http://pl.st/p/20984139787 Pre-read by a luminous team of Rebel Beauties, led tonight by @kate_suena . If you catch any remaining bobbles, they belong to ME.

“Courage doesn’t always roar. Sometimes courage is that quiet voice at the end of the day saying ‘I will try again tomorrow.'”

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HAPPY NEW YEAR, my Rebellious Beauties! It is my pleasure to skip vivaciously into 2013 bearing a couple more definitions for our Anthology of Otherness. I must tell you…well, no, I can’t even begin to articulate how stunned and honored I was at your responses to the last [first?] new Musings. 

In the comment section, on Twitter, Facebook and through emails, you showered the kindest and the most exquisite definitions and responses upon me, all in the name of my Royal friend Eeeby, and New Beauty, of Reigning Other Queen Kristen Stewart, and of #Otherness. I humbly bow down to you. Your warm welcome compels me to keep going and continue this… even while things have been especially challenging. . . 

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So let me introduce you to the contributing definers featured in tonight’s MOO. My friend Dee (@DeeDreamer16) is an OG Muser. Legit. I mean, I think she commented on the very first Musings ever written, two and a half years ago. A sage, articulate and thoughtful kind of gal, Dee is, and we connected almost instantly, through the magic that is the world wide web. Over the years as we bonded over our love of Kristen’s unrelenting badassery, Robert’s increasingly open admiration of aforementioned badassery, and the sweet seduction of the written word (fanfic and otherwise); Dee became a consistent, loving force in my life. She is a supremely gifted writer and has been unfailingly kind and supportive of me personally (read: she has listened to me sob into her ear via phone…several times) and in our celebration of Kristen and Otherness. I am honored that she felt inspired to have a hand in The Otherness Anthology. Annnnd I may or may not have highlighted passages that resonated with me all of it. every dang word. But above all, I count my lucky stars that she is one Majestic Misfit whom I call friend. 

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Definition: Authenticity

~DeeDreamer

Authentic, adjective. True to one’s own personality, spirit or character. Not false or imitation. Worthy of acceptance. 

“This above all: to thine own self be true.”  ~ Hamlet

When KJ first presented the idea for her Anthology to me, I immediately gravitated toward wanting to expound on authenticity. What does it mean to be authentic in this modern age of digital anonymity and online personae which may or may not accurately reflect the true character of the person behind each screen name? This question, especially after jumping into the Twilight/Rob/Kristen fandom four years ago, confounds me. In preparing the definition for this term, its true meaning in terms of Other nearly screamed at me: worthy.

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Aren’t we all worthy of acceptance? Don’t each of us deserve to live our lives without judgment from others, especially from people whom we don’t know? I think that’s the essence of being a beautiful person — knowing how to reserve our own commentary, teaching ourselves to put the filmstrips of judgment residing in our minds away on some dusty, back shelf of our brains so we can transcend. If we subscribe to this mantra and follow our hearts, we win — even when we are too blinded to realize it.

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I was too blind to realize it back in high school. Looking back even now, with so many years separating me from that girl I was, I still don’t really “feel” like I won at anything. In fact, back then I’d have argued that I was pretty much losing — as in being a total LOSER! — at least in terms of things like popularity and cool friends/boyfriends/parties/whatever. I made a lot of… unpopular choices. I removed myself from what my peers were doing socially because I never — not once — could make myself comfortable doing the things typical high school kids did. I didn’t want to be seen as a priss, and I certainly wasn’t doing anything to stop others from having their fun, but I just felt… Other. It made for some lonely days. Not gonna lie. 

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But then my senior year came to a close, and yearbooks were delivered. I flipped through mine and saw a gorgeous, half-page ad in the back that my parents, brother, and sister had taken out for me, proclaiming their pride, love and support. Along with their words, my mother had included my (still to this day) favorite Shakespeare quote. Reading it there in black and white, for everyone to see next to my senior picture, was somehow utterly affirming. 

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Scholars can argue Polonius’ meaning as he spoke these words, but to me, as an impressionable teenager, the words sang to me, echoing through my limbs. They were a calming salve on the raw wounds of teenage life, and I ensconced them in bubble wrap and kept them safely cradled to my heart. They gave me strength to stand by my beliefs. They gave me permission to be my authentic self. They gave me the confidence I sorely lacked and assured me that, indeed, I was worthy… just the way I was. Nowadays, so many years later… if I had an “Other” button, I’d wear it proudly. Even through the halls of my high school. (Hint, hint, KJ.) 😉 ~Dee

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So I guess I should pull out my old button-maker and while I’m at it, fire up the T-Shirt making process too?  It has been awhile since my last T-Shirt giveaway…See what I mean about Dee? Brilliant and so kind and spot on. 

You all, I’m pretty sure, have encountered the genius and gentleness that is my Katie (@kate_suena), the second contributor to tonight’s collection of pristine terms and definitions. She of course, has authored several gorgeous essays for @KSIBTU, and she is the scribe behind the sublime Lost In A Book Somewhere  (have you visited yet? If not, GOOOO); but she also is the biggest Other Anthology Supporter.  She was apart of the commencement post with a stunning definition of her own; she was the first of my friends to donate her words. Well…she’s back, y’all. Again, I may have highlighted bits that knocked my socks off…Have a seat and prepare to be inspired. 

Definition: [Com]passion

~Kate

[Com]Passion, noun. “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a great battle.” 

I sometimes feel as if compassion is an endangered quality. Especially in “Girl World,” where for whatever reason, some find it easier to focus on the negative and relentlessly tear things apart and each other down.

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But then there are those who are OTHER. They bring a refreshing change of pace to this antagonism. I see PASSION as a key part of compassion; if one feels ardently about something, or someone, this is reflected in the compassion they display.

By consistently recognising Other in the world, our view allows us to be aware of what is important and react accordingly, simultaneously disregarding frivolous non-concerns

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A tangible, important example that springs to mind is the response to the havoc that Hurricane Sandy wreaked. I find witnessing Mother Nature unleash her fury terrifying; there’s a sense of hopelessness as you watch natural events unfold (and I’ve never even experienced any such destruction firsthand!). But in the days following the storm, I saw an online show on compassion that restored the hope that Mother Nature had temporarily interrupted: one person donated to the Red Cross and ignited a spark.

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Soon my Twitter and Instagram feeds were FULL of people sharing how they were donating and therefore helping those thousands of miles away from them, subsequently encouraging [O]thers to do so as well. These compassionate people from all over the United States and around the WORLD were doing their part to assist people they had never even met.  

How beautiful is that? Queens of Other and Royal Rebels are unbeatable proof that caring and compassion are alive and well in this world. ~Kate 

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Definition: Courageous

~KJ

Courageous, adjective. Daring, steadfast, unswerving. I am frightened but I am unfaltering.

“Freedom lies in being bold.”
~ Robert Frost

Over the past six months, I have seen courage manifest in the most awe-inspiring of situations, and in gloriously royal people. After a hellacious summer, Our Reinging Other Queen Kristen proved her resilience and fortitude by stepping into the relentless spotlight and unblinking camera lenses to dialogue about a project of great personal significance to her. Despite the countless glaring gazes fixed upon her, and the judgments, diagnoses already conjured and proclaimed, Ms Stewart remained poised, and throughout even while vulnerable and exposed .

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So, she persisted. She moved onward (in perfect shoes).

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These days, I have been struggling to find my own valor… I realize the work I’m doing at my counseling agency and with The Red Cross has depleted my abilities to regenerate and provide compassion for my own weariness. My personal relationships are suffering severely and my physical body is run down. I know that getting out the door each day in the morning is an act of courage in itself, when all I want to do is huddle in a dark corner and weep. But I do climb out of bed and push through the door, regardless.

Now, that is little ole ME lamenting on the copious reserves of bravery I’m trying to locate within myself.

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I do not have swarms of vultures toting cameras circling outside my house, stalking. I do not have warring factions of “superfans” determining my worth based on a self-made (read: absurdly skewed) psychological theory touted all over Twitter.

But Kristen Stewart does. 

And excepting when she’s in SuperStealthNinja Mode, Kristen still. shows. UP. And she’s all beautiful and brainy and breathtakingly articulate when she arrives.

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Other Emerging

I believe it takes a tremendous amount of courage to be authentic and [com]passionate. As both Dee and Katie illustrated earlier, it is not the easiest of decisions to represent an idea or image that deviates from the conventional schemata. I have watched, awed, by Ms Stewart’s ability to remain congruent and grounded, even in the midst of extreme, incomparable challenges…It is why she is, after all these years, Queen Royal Rebel. She wears the shiniest crown.

Norman's Cloud Break

courtesy of (c)KinoPhotography

Soooo these are the newest definitions to catalogue in our expanding Anthology of Otherness. Thank you for rolling with me into this new year. Thank you for sending in your most incredible ideas and thoughts on what “Other” means for you. I will try and feature every contribution I receive, even–especially–those left in the comment section and emails. I maintain always that Musings’ readers are the most incandescent of souls. You continuously, wonderfully, confirm this.

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We are Other.

Kristen is Other.

Others are freed by their bold, [com]passionate authenticity.

Embrace Your Other.

*   *   *

QUESTION[s]: How has your relationship with authenticity, [com]passion and courage evolved over the year? How did you greet the new year?

A/N: Next time, which will hopefully be within just a few days, I will bring a few more essays to you. I’m pleased to tell you that the lovely Emma (@ItsAlwaysEmma) has contributed a definition to the Anthology that makes me weak in the knees…and the voraciously brilliant and funny CC of @KSIBTU and I are collaborating on a conversation about On The Road and #TheMadOnes that I am dying to delve into with you all.

* * *

Thank you, Katie. Thank you, Dee. Thank you Eeeby. Thank you @r_boncoeur.

CynicallyConvy and BeammeUp_00 check in on me regularly and I am beyond grateful for their thoughtfulness.

SOOO many pictures found on the tumblr so perfectly named: QueenKristen: http://queenkristen.tumblr.com/archive/2012/10

Playlist

Blue Skies ~ Noah and the Whale

Born Secular ~ Jenny Lewis (feat. The Watson Twins)

Til Kingdom Come ~ Coldplay

Letters To Muses (and Whoa, W)

11 Aug
A/N: This is unbeta’d per usual. Please forgive me the typos, grammatical slips and bobbles. I do not own the images featured in today’s essay, and I try to embed the links to their original owners/creators . Just click the pics…Bowing down to Tumblr and my newest addiction inspiration Pinterest.

Dear loveliest Rebel Royals and Majestic Misfits,

I have become a big filthy liar…yet again. Last time I said that I’d return to the Musings format that included both What The Fangirl Learned  as well as feature a new Royal Rebel in this post, and that is simply not the case today I’m afraid. Nope. Not when I woke up this morning and was greeted with such epic goodness in the form of a new joint Kristen and Rob interview for Breaking Dawn as featured in Entertainment Weekly (aka The biggest Twi FanGirls aside from @JoshuaHorowitz). 

As you already knew, since a lot of you are in a different time zone than I, EW included a 7 page spread in this Fall Movie Preview Issue (there are other movies released this Fall, not that you would know it) featuring the much-sought-after-though-rare joint interview with our Reigning Other Queen Kristen and her always illuminating partner Robert Pattinson. One of Kristen’s biggest supporters, director Bill Condon, also discussed insight and thoughts on the filming process.

I won’t rehash the interview with you all, firstly because I don’t have the magazine in my paws at this moment and I would like to comment and respond to something concrete (I’m all tactile and shit); and secondly, because this time tomorrow, you all will have probably already read, memorized and maybe created a gorgeous Tumblr edit featuring your own very favorite quotes from that interview. So this is me merely letting you readers know that I think you’re super-swell, and I’d like to ask you for forgiveness for not posting a timely Musings nor one that highlights the topics I had hoped to discuss with you. We can savor the lovelieness of the EW pictures and article together, though mmkay? I figured you’re all cool with it. Especially after glimpsing sputter-inducing pictures like:

Edward, LOOK at your HAWT new wife! And you're playing CHESS?

And zingy exchanges between Kristen and Rob such as:

Kristen: Now that I’ve seen parts of it [the final movie], Jacob and Bella’s chemistry in this movie is better than it’s ever been.

Rob: [Faux-glares at Stewart]. So uncool. 

Rob and Kristen, I mean, Edward and Bella enjoying a stroll

Kristen: [On finishing the final filming of the saga] It was oddly emotional the first time I got to set and saw everything and everybody.

Rob: Yeah, you were really sweet when you first showed up.

Kristen: Oh, shush. 

They would go on to “shush” each other, and speak of marriage and relationships and machinations of “chewing” through the brutal, bloody childbirth scene….It’s a fantastic interview. One of their very best in recent memory. Comfortable, light, playful and teeming with intimacy and admiration. Great enough to prompt me to rethink my topic of discussion for today’s essay.

I figured I would speak about the risks and benefits of participating in the work we love–our life’s work–as prompted by observing the joy and pride Ms Stewart invests and reciprocates within her own craft. As we witnessed her confident enthusiasm at Comic Con last month,

and rejoiced along with her when she arrived in London to begin production of Snow White and the Huntsman;

I  planned on discussing with you about how we can ensure such delight and pride in our own chosen paths and professions; to explore the tremendous courage it takes to embark on a new project as Kristen is, and to revisit our own steps taken to pursue our true bliss. Are you doing what you would like to, versus what you’re expected to do?  Are you settling? Are you taking the steps on the path that feels most fulfilling to you? It has been awhile since we’ve talked about following Bliss, hasn’t it, friends?

courage to be creative=following the bliss

My friend and fellow bliss-pursuer, @DeeDreamer16 linked me to an incredibly relevant blog post at–>> InOverYourHead.net . The author, Julien Smith, contemplates whether being lackadaisical is a major indicator that we are not following our bliss, not practicing and enacting our Life’s Work. Smith wonders if our nonchalant way of viewing our daily tasks in fact makes us useless. I gotta say, I tend to agree. If we’re not at least somewhat daunted by our goals, then why have them at all? The minute we become complacent with our surroundings, we lose the edge, the motivating elements that push us onward, towards the finish line…onward towards risk and and perhaps satisfying, glorious rewards that may include self-confidence, monetary security, a compassionate connection with others, meaningful personal relationships, pride in doing something for yourself, a contribution to humanity.

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I want to tell you, you Unconventional Beauties, that I’m pursuing a couple of projects for the Magical Little Practice and in some of my writing…and I’m absolutely quaking in my Chucks. I guess I haven’t grown too comfortable, as I feared I might when I was laid off from BastardNation two years ago. I’m a bit relieved to recognize  that I have not become useless and rote, while I easily could have. I’m freakin petrified. So I guess I’m on the right path after all.

Kristen, our Warrior Rebel, is moving onto her first high profile role since wrapping The Twilight Saga. She is stepping from the familiar perimeters of her co-stars (including her “never confirmed but obvious boyfriend” ~EW …WAT) and crew, from a character she embodied and inhabited for four years towards some unchartered territory. She is playing Snow White, Ms Badass Royal Rebel herself. She is shedding the comfortable skin of Bella Swan Cullen and embracing a new (literally) set of armor. Princess Snow is steadfast, precocious and full of conviction. She also, per Kristen’s report, is terrified. Except that instead of succumbing to the fear, Snow White is channeling it, using the uncertainty or doubt as kinetic fuel for her limbs and for her voice…She emerges empowered, confident and beautiful….and not at all surprisingly…This summer, so is Kristen Jaymes Stewart.

So here, my Other Warriors, is the reason why I cannot write anything more today about following Bliss and why I cannot find the words to illustrate my lessons learned as a fangirl…or why I cannot introduce another Royal Rebel this week. Because Kristen Stewart, our extraordinary and staggeringly stunning Reigning Other Queen, has arrived by way of a truly royal carriage: W Magazine. The photos and interview dropped online today, and after I picked myself off the floor from a dead faint, I realized I had absolutely no words. NO WORDS with which to construct a proper new Musings. And I’m typically a wordy, wordy bitch. So I sign off my letter to you MOO Readers requesting your forgiveness… but something tells me you don’t really mind. If you’re even reading these ramblings anymore. Because, yeah. Kristen looks fucking phenomenal. And she appears poised and ready. to. go. That’s all we really need to know right now.  That and how great I think you all are. You serve as my muses every day…just as our Reigning Queen does.

I would like to articulate to you one day soon how honored I am that some of you have chosen me to be a sounding board and guide as you pursue your own blissful endeavors. The talent you possess knocks my socks off. I will tell you as much personally if and when I get the chance…Until then, check you at the bottom for a couple of announcements, my Lovelies. Take care of yourselves and each other. Continue following the Bliss and embracing your Other. xo, KJ

And I fucking love the way you growled and sneered just a little bit there in your declaration of love, Ms Stewart. Anyhoo, the following letter is just a note of appreciation to The Muse Kristen herself..a muse for me, for MOO, for the masses….

Dear Kristen,

I don’t think you quite understand the profundity of power you hold. You have stricken myself and other extremely eloquent and erudite friends/bloggers/writers/artists/Intellectuals/KristenSupporters/OtherSupporters completely wordless. Stunned. And it’s not just because of the loving, yearning dynamic you and Robert exhibit in those Breaking Dawn/EW pictures nor the glam-vixen beckoning to us from the cover of W. Arguably, this new photo spread and interview (plus screen tests, please, pliss can we see the outtakes of this otherworldly shoot??) for featuring photographs by Mert Alas & Marcus Piggott; and Styling by Edward Enninful (bowing down) is your most spectacular to date. You invoke the spirit and ferocious beauty reminiscent of Bardot, Hepburn (Audrey and Kate), Fonda, Priscilla P, and Jackie O with your piercing, cat-lined, green eyes and tousled, voluminous bouffant; the leather, the fur, the pillow lips…

This is the most glamorous and unabashedly sexy version of you I’ve ever seen, but I believe that you have reached this pinnacle of smolder due to the collaboration of external assistance–your makeup artist and hair stylists are genius–with your luminous inner facilities. You are congruent and authentic. You are kind, but reserved; sensitive but guarded; Strong but not impenetrable; confident but not arrogant. We’ve watched you grow more comfortable and sure-footed in your own capacity to communicate your truth over the years, and it’s that quiet certainty that you exude that pushes you beyond the barriers of “lovely”, and into the realm instead of  resplendence. 

You tell W Magazine in your extremely cool and captivating screen tests what you were conscious of; your moment-to-moment awareness while growing up:

“I have….that so-called boyish quality was something that I was deathly self-conscious about when I was younger. I was, like, No, I’m a girl. Actually, I’m still embarrassed to say that.”

Uh. Yes. Yes you are indeed a girl. An astonishingly accomplished and genuine girl. You’re an excellent role model for anyone seeking an authentic guide…and an inspiring ambassador for #Other.

You said that upon filming your final, final scene for Breaking Dawn,

“I felt like I could shoot up into the night sky and every pore of my body would shoot light.”

I promise, you could…and you do. Thank you for providing some light, Kristen. Because now…You’ve sparked a whole new movement. Your supporters are pioneering, fierce, ambitious, genuine, confident, sensitive and uniquely gifted warriors, just like you. And we’re with you all the way. Keep going, Your Majesty, keep going. In awed gratitude, KJ

We Are Other.

Kristen Is Other.

Others exude light that can spark a new movement.

Embrace Your Other.

*   *   *

QUESTION(S):  Are you taking the steps along a fulfilling path? Are you settling? Have you recovered long enough from the shock of the W shoot and interview to share your reactions? 

A/N: I’m pursuing a couple of personal projects and business plans these next few weeks so I don’t think I will be able to write another full-fledged Musings for a little while. Quite possibly I’ll be back around Aug 23rd, but if Aug 28th rolls around and you haven’t heard from me, don’t panic. I’m leaving tomorrow for my hometown, to spend time with family, participate in some renovations and stroll down memory lane (could be traumatic, actually). I also will be seeing my gals from the KSIBTU Crew to celebrate Iris’s birthday in person. I will hopefully spend some time with my Cyber Soul Sisters @Mari and @RobKris13 as well (and maybe see Rob and Sam at the grocery store as they re-stock the kitchen?). Plus, I’ve some Red Cross projects I’m participating in, as well as an exciting writing adventure about which I’ll hopefully be able to elaborate on with you soon. Take care you gorgeous rabble rousers, and I’ll see you in a few weeks. Where we can talk Good Reads, Ramadan, the late Amy Winehouse, Sam Bradley, Cancer Bites and of course..Kristen Stewart and Otherness. Yours, xo, KJ

Shoutouts and SqueezieHugs:
My lovelies: @Kate_Suena and @MyCleverAlias
My sounding board and constant-cheerleader: Bouffant
My Aussie Posse: @Ophelia2010, @Justice_Aussie & @Mel452        
To sparks in the dark and my muses for words: @107_yroldVirgin and @TeamSmella23         
It’s my friend @TheRainGirl4’s BIRTHDAY tomorrow (Aug 12)!  Go and wish her love and schmexy thoughts for inspiration, and check out her fics: http://www.fanfiction.net/u/2185580/
PLAYLIST FOR TODAY’S ESSAY: 
Head Full of Doubt ~ Avett Brothers
The Funeral ~ Band of Horses
Gray or Blue ~ Jay May 
The First Day of My Life ~ Bright Eyes

A Light From Within (Part 2): Stories From Joplin

23 Jun
A/N: Most images seen in this posting are not the property of nor created by ©MusingsOnOther. Photos featuring ©Red Cross Disaster Relief in Clinton, MS and Joplin, MO, however, are owned by this author (KJN). Today’s essay, per usual, is unbeta’d and any typos or grammar bobbles are all mine. Also, for whatever reason, PlayList disallowed the Auto-start feature, despite my and Buff’s attempts at usurping.  If the music doesn’t start automatically, and you would like to hear today’s music Playlist, hit PLAY on the player in the right-hand column (below the Twitter Feed) —–>

This Special Edition Musings is my tribute to the incredible souls I encountered over my 13-day stint as a mental health therapist with the Red Cross Disaster Response Team earlier this month. There is an army of Otherness of Rebel Warriors cultivating and swelling in the south. Here are a few of their stories. I am but a student to their sage lessons in growth, faith, balance, compassion, reframing and perspective.  Make room on the Other Homecoming Float for these Rebellious Royals. NOTE: All names of people in the following stories have been changed out of legal/ethical practices of confidentiality…but moreover in a gesture of utmost respect.

“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” ~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

I already knew that in volunteering for deployment that I was going to emerge on the other side, changed. I’ve flown countless places in my life, but never with a mission like this. The three-and-a-half hour red-eye flight from my Cali city to Fort Worth, Texas was slightly uncomfortable as I was wedged in the middle seat between a young man who appeared to be heading on his own mission (I’ve seen dozens of SouthEast Asian men leave their home country to join the working ranks of hard-working Cruise ship staff; I recognized his running-shoes-encased feet and the Royal Caribbean pins attached to his hiking backpack) and an older gentlemen with a Jolly Santa-belly who immediately launched into snores as the plane leveled out at cruising altitude. It was midnight and every single seat on the plane was filled. My laptop was snugly packed away in my backpack in the overhead bin, so I couldn’t access all the fanfic pdf-documents I lovingly downloaded for my reading pleasure. But I did have my iPhone which was loaded with all my music, and I had my copy of Entertainment Weekly with Jennifer Lawrence as Katniss from The Hunger Games movie. I also had picked up a couple of actual BOOKS to begin reading in the off-chance I’d get some down time. Thank goodness I had these survival kit items because when I saw that the In-flight movie was Bieber’s Never Say Never I could immediately retreat, retreat, for the love of The Goddess, retreat!!!

I didn’t exchange more than a nod and a brief “hello” with my aisle mates, and I did not feel relaxed enough to sleep on the flight, so I remained awake until we arrived in Fort Worth. Now, you all know I’m a fairly talkative chica, but it wasn’t until my flight into and then a few days later out of Clinton, Mississippi that I was present enough and in the right mindset to actually hold a coherent conversation with anyone else. And oh, my my, those initial conversations were my first indicator that I was participating in something extraordinary.

I didn’t wear the Red Cross vest while on the plane, although my liaisons had insisted I do, so that we volunteers could represent the organization but also identify ourselves to other volunteers in the airports. I was too self-conscious to wear the bright red vest just yet. But I did wear my neck identification. And as soon as I slipped the identifier over my puffy, humidity-treated hair, people began to approach. And talk. And share. And hug. And cry. And change me with their stories.

Unfinished Business

“Hello,” he said to me. I glanced over to see a white-haired gentleman with brilliant blue eyes framed by attractive lines indicating countless moments of crinkling, winking laughter. He gestured to my badge and said, “Thank you”. I tucked my copy of One Day in the seat-back pocket in front of me and turned to my aisle mate at the window seat. Stunned, though I realize later I shouldn’t be, I only nodded my head in acknowledgement of his gracious statement directed at me. The lump in my throat that had been growing prohibited any speech from me just yet. The gentleman, who I came to learn was called Macwore a beige polo shirt with a patch over the left side of his chest. Avoiding any copious staring, I could just decipher the words “Fire Fighters”.

“He always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest. Now he finally is home.” 

Mac had answered the call and was going to Texas to tame the wildfires that had consumed the western part of the state. Retired for nearly six years, Mac donated his time and services with the volunteer fire fighter association. He and his wife were happy Illinois residents, but they were eagerly looking forward to relocating to the Pacific Northwest, Puget Sound, Washington, more specifically. His blue eyes twinkled when he heard I was a West-Coaster. Then those eyes teared up with an ancient ache when he mentioned his only child, a daughter, who lives in Bellingham, Washington with her 18-month old son. Mac’s daughter raised Mac’s grandson alone since his daughter’s young husband Bryan was killed in Afghanistan 11 months prior.  Mac and his wife hoped to move to Washington to provide support for their daughter and their grandson, and to carry on Bryan’s wishes. Bryan, a fairly new army recruit, had grown up in Chicago, Illinois, dreaming of a time he could live in The Pacific Northwest, near the ocean, the Olympic Mountains, amongst the evergreen trees. After his death, Bryan’s wife ensured Bryan’s ashes were scattered among the Snake River. And now Mac and his wife would move to Washington as well to ensure  their daughter–Bryan’s wife–and her son would thrive. It would begin once Mac returned from his mission to fight the fires of Texas. 

Bryan's home

If this was any indicator of the people and stories I was to encounter the rest of my deployment, I was in trouble. Deeeeep trouble. My plane hadn’t even touched down in Joplin yet, and I was wiping tears and my leaky nose on a paper cocktail napkin in the comforting presence and  kind face of this retired firefighter. “I didn’t mean to upset you,” Mac said to me. “I just wanted to thank you for what you’re doing. There are such good people out there.” Still unable to properly speak, I croaked, glimpsing his Retired Fire Fighter’s Badge: “Yes. There are such good people…everywhere.”

With My Hands

I alluded to it before in Part 1, and maybe in a few of my tweets. But I will say it again now. Nothing, nothing could truly prepare me for the physical destruction left behind in the wake of the Joplin Tornado. I felt better prepared to address and comfort the emotional wreckage, but when I walked through the neighborhoods my first morning out at what’s called The Footprint (where the Tornado actually touched down and carved 12 miles through the city), I was utterly speechless. Any pictures I’ve shown you, or that you’ve seen on the news are pathetically pale in comparison. And certainly, the tales told from the survivors will never, ever be properly conveyed by me, but I will try to the best of my abilities to grant the respect and compassion that these battered but resilient warriors deserve. Because I met a fair share of Other Warriors. Royal Hell-Raisers and Majestic Misfits are prominent in Joplin, Missouri. I was one fortunate little therapist to meet just a few of them. But I will never, for as long as I am included among this plane of existence, forget them.

My first day doing outreach was a scorcher. Approximately 95 degrees Fahrenheit (35 degrees Celsius) and the heavy humidity left me sweating, sticky and sunburned (which is a feat in itself. I can count on one hand how many times I’ve burned in my lifetime). I walked amongst the neighborhoods seen above, having conversations and impromptu storytelling sessions with anyone wandering around or cleaning up, or assessing the unfathomable destruction.

Eighty-three year old Mr. Leland was visiting a friend  just a couple blocks away when the tornado touched down at 5:41PM that Sunday evening. He attributes this visit as the only reason he is still alive today to tell us his story. His house along with his entire neighborhood was completely flattened. When he heard the warning sirens, he and his buddy, who was in his seventies, attempted to duck into the crawl space in the house. Mr. Leland pats his belly and says to me, “I’ve eaten too many fried suppers. I was too fat to fit in the crawl space.”  He held onto the banister along the stairs leading to his friend’s basement and prayed that his four cats were able to escape the violent funnel cloud ripping through his neighborhood.

Leland's neighborhood

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my life. Never,” he says. Mr. Leland escaped with only the clothes on his back and the rings he accrued from long-ago visits to Mexico on his fingers. He reported that all of his cats survived and any thing salvageable in the rubble is packed in his beaten up camper. He settled on a sagging, cracked plastic chair to eat his breakfast–french toast and eggs provided by Salvation Army in a styrofoam takeout box. With a sigh he turns to me, his withered hands gripping a slender tree branch crafted into a walking cane, and muses, “We will rebuild this neighborhood,” and a moment later: “I’m hungry.”

I. Am. Done.

The Ultimate Fighters

“K, I need you. Can you help me connect with this young man here? He’s lost everything. His house, his car, his place of employment. He won’t talk. He…he’s still in shock.” A case worker, Carolyn, pulled on my sleeve, guiding me to a foldout table and chairs set up in a make-shift counseling center in the middle of a convention center/skateboard park. I didn’t know it at the time, but this first meeting with nineteen-year-old Scott would determine the constructs of my role in Joplin. I was named, “Cute Young Thing” by fellow Red Cross cohorts, some of whom were heading into their seventh and eighth decades of life. I became the go-to gal for the “young folks”. To say I was busy is a gross understatement. It became extremely clear, though, that the survivors and wounded of this disaster are not designated to one age group, ethnicity or family background. The grief and pain felt was a universally shared and understood language in Joplin. People who were once strangers moving anonymously side-by-side amid the community were now comrades and co-soldiers from the trenches.

Laura rested her head in her hands while she awaited the case worker to call her in for her interview. She closed her eyes and  began counting her exhalations out. This is how I found her. Slumped forward, murmuring numbers to herself. “Four…threeee….two…one…”

Laura can’t stop crying. She started as soon as she sat down in the fold out chair in that convention center where we Red Cross workers were administering counseling, case work and linkage to financial assistance, home associations, dry goods and medical help. She looked at me when I sat down next to her offering her bottled water and said, “It’s the first time I’ve been able to sit down. And I can feel it now. And it hurts. And I can’t stop crying. I can’t. stop. crying.”

I sat next to Laura and cried alongside her while she spoke of the nightmares that assault her every night when she tries to close her eyes. She simply cannot sleep. It was on her property, in her pond that the body of 18-year-old William** was found, to the heartbreak of a community and nation. Up until the discovery of his body, there was hope that the newly-graduated teenager was found alive, even after he’d been torn from his SUV while driving home with his father. Laura’s nightmares all centered around the discovery of William’s body, sometimes inserting twisted images of her own children or grandchildren’s bodies. Thankfully, her own family members (composed of four males aged 18 through 27 and their families including three grandchildren aging from 3 through 6) were spared, but their houses were not. Laura recounts the survival story of her three-year-old granddaughter and her parents. Granddaughter laid flat in the bathtub, beneath the body of her father as the twister removed their house from its foundation. All that could be heard in the silence after the roar of the storm was a three-year-old’s prayer:

“Please please please please please…Protect Mommy. Protect Daddy….Please please please please please….” 

While the chair holds her upright, and the grief and exhaustion settle over her, this day, Laura is confident that her fiercely brave granddaughter’s pleas were the powerful protectors for her family. She gripped the card with the local counseling center’s crisis phone number on it, counting through her deep exhalations. “Four….three….two…onnnnnnnne…”

My heroes: Search and Rescue

“I guess I fell in love with Joplin. I will rebuild my city. I will.”

Scott wore a thin white tank top and baggy jeans. His blonde, spiky hair was making a point: keep your distance. A bouncing knee, and shaking fingers were the only indicators of discomfort displayed. He tilted his chin up at me when I settled into the foldout chair across the table from him. “Thirsty?” I offered him a cold bottled water. The heat of the day hadn’t yet reached its peak, but it was climbing, and the skateboard park housing our resource center was packed wall to wall with folks seeking aid and resources for rebuilding. Scott waved me off, but not unkindly. He was a handsome guy, and his soft tone of voice and manners only enhanced his looks. He was not exactly sure why he was face-to-face with a stranger talking about the disaster that befell his work place (the twister had completely wiped it out–a casual dining house) and home (“I’ve nothing to go back to”).  I’m not exactly sure what the  catalyst was, but suddenly Scott felt comfortable enough to tell me his story.

He was driving into the parking lot of his restaurant when he saw the twister rip the roof off of the building where customers and several co-workers were inside. He spoke of the single thought that rumbled through his brain: “GET THEM TO SAFETY. GET THEM TO SAFETY”, and how adrenaline must have gifted him with strength to gather four or five co-workers and form a human chain via latched arms. He wound one of his arms onto the piping below the industrial kitchen sink, and held onto one of the line cooks with his free hand…until his vision went black. He later learned that he was knocked unconscious by a rogue brick.

A restaurant on Main street

When Scott finally smiled, I caught a great view of his chipped front teeth. “Is that from the tornado?” I asked.

Scott leaned back in his chair and shook his head ruefully. “Nah, that’s from a fight.”

He motioned to his ear that appeared to be missing a chunk. “So is this.”

He showed me several bruises on his arms, and a gash on his head, results of the flying tornado debris, and several pictures of his demolished restaurant  on his cell phone. It turns out that our young hero Scotty is originally from Louisiana, near New Orleans, where he was moving up the ranks in the Ultimate Fighting world. When he moved to Joplin two years ago, in an attempt  to walk a path less physically taxing, he never believed he’d grow so protective and prideful of this new city. Now, in the aftermath of the tornado, he is determined to rebuild his shattered neighborhood using his own hands. Since relocating to Joplin, Scott has grown fond of rebuilding cars and greenhouses. He had saved his co-workers on May 23 but he himself was also redeemed when he called his family in Louisiana to ensure them he was alive, and for the most part, unharmed. Because while he had felt aimless two years ago, leaving his family and Ultimate Fighting back in New Orleans, he realized he had finally found in Joplin a place for home, a place worth defending.

"No, Joplin is Home now for me," he assures me.

To Have Found Their Way Out

Elizabeth Kubler-Ross was a psychiatrist, activist and pioneer in researching grief and loss and dying. She founded the Kubler-Ross Model, otherwise known as the Five Stages of Grief in her seminal book On Death and Dying. The Five Stages explore coping mechanisms and raised sensitivity in the aftermath of great or impending loss, and I found that everyone in the community was experiencing elements of every stage of grief in Joplin, MO.

When I arrived in the city, it was a Monday afternoon, exactly seven days from the original disaster. People were just now shaking themselves out of the shock and numbness. They were feeling the crash after the burnout of adrenaline. While I settled into my sleeping quarters (my army cot was one of seven in a classroom within a large Baptist Church, with no working showers), I was given the orientation about the fiercely determined people that formed a community in Joplin, MO. Every day had been riddled with power outages, new medical emergencies, new discoveries, new losses, and many, many funerals. As you can imagine, there were moments of unfathomable, devastating, horrifying heartbreak…along with glimmers of miraculous, loving, compassionate light. I encountered reframing and perspective-changers with every single hour. I heard shrieking, rebellious yells. I was inundated by OTHERNESS and a wild, unconventional beauty.

While I was profoundly effected by every single person I encountered in my mission, including colleagues and other staff,there are two different stories in particular that I believe were the culprits for literally consuming and then altering my essence, my soul. Both events took place within 24 hours of each other, near my last days of deployment. I couldn’t speak of these stories to anyone for days, weeks afterwards, and not even my husband N understood the profundity of these tales until I shared them with him just three days ago. See, three days ago, I had received a wonderful gift of a massage, and the therapist had started working on my neck and upper back, accessing painful muscle tension that I referred to as “Joplin Knots”. Not at all surprisingly, I cried through the final ten minutes of the bodywork session, and through the time it took for me to redress afterwards.

Our bodies will hold onto grief and emotional unrest long before and after our brains recognize it as grief, for what it is. And while I was in the Grief Stage of Depression in the two weeks after my return from my deployment, I can say that the massage induced my dive into the fifth and final stage of grieving: Acceptance. Which is why I can  now share with you a little of what I saw in the fields.

Angela and Chris  are very young parents. She’s still in her late teens and he has just entered his twenties. They are engaged to be married, after Chris proposed to Angela a couple of months ago. But they will postpone the wedding until later, much later. When I met the young couple, it was under the most horrific circumstances I’ve ever witnessed. She was in a wheelchair covered head to toe in bandages and her right arm was wrapped in a splint and held in a sling. She had two metal pins holding her forearm together before her scheduled surgery in 5 days. He had an angry red gash, held together with staples, in the back of his head, and a swollen ankle the size of a grapefruit. They both came to the convention center for assistance since their home and their car had been completely shattered. They couldn’t come sooner because up until that morning, they were both hospitalized for their injuries. But the loss of their home and even their own physical wounds could not even begin to hint at their utter devastation.

Angela and Chris were at home with their roommate when the massive F5 Twister touched down in Joplin. It was just the typical Sunday evening for the household: Angela tossed around ideas on what to prepare for dinner, Chris watched  TV. Their sixteen-month old son S ** snoozed in Angela’s arms. Afterwards, Angela and Chris could only tell me about the sounds they heard (the roar of the wind) and the agony of impact (from the wooden planks that sliced through Angela’s arm, their roommate’s torso, and Chris’s head). They can tell me that Chris threw his body on top of Angela, the baby and the roommate in the only protective stance he could think of, when they heard the roof caving inward, on top of them. Chris did tell me, with tears streaming, that he saw his two beloved dogs crushed beneath the plaster and debris. But it is wordlessly, that Angela shared the depth of her grief with me. She silently showed me her cell phone, pressed a few buttons, and launched a slide-show featuring a smiling, cherubic, sixteen-month old Baby S.  It is then that I realized  I sat with the heartbroken, shattered parents of the youngest tornado fatality.**

Unbelievably, Angela and Chris’s story grew even darker before the dawn. Stories of ghastly “family” greed (in the form of looting and stealing) and another death of a family member issued an almost lethal blow to their fragility. I sat next to Chris and held his hand when he received the phone call  from the hospital advising him that their roommate had just died from her injuries. That’s about as far as I’ll speak of their experience because I cannot possibly convey how crucial privacy and respect is. However, I can tell you that I spent four hours with this young couple and I am absolutely certain that I’ve never met a more courageous, more beautiful pair of people in my entire existence. And I’ve never cried over clients like I did for Angela and Chris. After my time with the young couple was over, my colleagues Don and Ginny found me curled up in the fetal position, sobbing on the bench in the smoker’s area behind the skateboard park/convention center-turned resource center.

As Angela and Chris recalled the murky horrors of their week to me, there were tears, there were moments of anguish and fury, there was shock, sarcasm and desolation. There were, miraculously, a couple of moments of levity too: I asked Chris to tell me how he proposed to Angela, and it was slightly scandalous. She had another boyfriend at the time. And I can tell you that with the combined efforts of various social, governmental and religious organizations, this young family was able to create and hold a proper memorial service for their beautiful Baby S, they were able to link with housing assistance, and they were able to cover their medical bills including Angela’s impending surgery.

“There was never a night nor a problem that could defeat a sunrise or hope” ~Bern Williams

Quiet Moments of Majesty

Before I share the second story that stripped me down to nothing, I did want to inject a moment to breathe and ground. I know it’s intense. I’m at nearly 4000 words already and this is my edited version! I’m panting and aching along with you, believe me. This is the most difficult Musings I’ve ever written, and it’s taken me nearly three weeks to gather the courage to try sharing it with you. Do you see now why I groveled and thanked you so profusely in the last essay? For providing me with a little bit of lightness while I was away?

To protect the aching rawness I felt, I found myself withdrawing from nearly everybody when I returned from deployment. I was coming down with the flu, of course, and I had just spent about two weeks in the trenches of an emotional battle ground. The grieving process, as well as the time warranted to process the flooding of information can vary in presentation and behaviors, from person to person. We all have our own way of recuperating and recovering from adrenaline rushes and shocks to our systems. It’s crucial that we employ self-care to prevent any destructive propensities. Remember we’ve talked about self-care here? I pulled back from an online presence and began taking long walks in the park each day. I began reading books that I had placed aside. Our Reigning Other Queen Kristen employs self-care by withdrawing from the public eye to cocoon. I imagine she reads voraciously, tries out new recipes discovered on the cooking channels, plays guitar, listens to music. Indulges in her self-proclaimed obsession with her cat Max “Jella”. She hangs with her beloved family. However, when she emerges again, she is exquisitely splendid.

Although her grounding trumps anyone else's grounding.

Just two days after dazzling us in Balmain at the MTV Movie Awards, our lovely Rebel Queen Kristen surfaced in London, England in another strapless mini-dress designed by Balmain, to present GlamourUK’s  ‘Man of The Year Award’ to her On The Road costar and friend Garrett Hedlund. She arrived looking like this:

And then this picture of them:

Makes me almost unbearably excited for….

And while I nurtured wounds, and cocooned away these past couple weeks, the Ambassador of Otherness herself reminds me and everyone else how time away from the race and the chaos can be beautifully rehabilitating. She reminds us that while there are sadnesses and stressors in our world, life will continue to move onward regardless. And …also she reminds us to keep perspective. There are natural disasters of wildfires, tornadoes and floods; great losses as well as great triumphs happening every single day. Do we really have the time and energy to spend on set-stalking and online bullying? Can we instead appreciate that people (famous and otherwise) have a talents and gifts to contribute to the betterment of society without engaging in Twitter fights or online discussion-board-mud-slinging?

I think we can. I know we can. I know we can take a look around us and see the blessings bestowed upon us in forms of family, friendships, faith, work, play and rest. I know we can exist consciously, with an in-the-moment awareness; contributing to society by living joyfully and authentically and honestly.

Take a page from Ms Stewart’s book on Royal Otherness Etiquette: show support and build up your fellow Dreamers and Rebel Royals.

Chris and Kris. Mutual Admiration Society.

Take pride in encouraging Royal Rebels like Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson, Elizabeth Kubler-Ross and the battered but not-beaten Joplin residents for their pioneering, unconventional ways of being. Let’s stop picking apart how other people choose to live their lives, and instead encourage a little embracing of unconventionality (Otherness= Beauty) within ourselves.

I’m wrapping up now. This is the longest Musings on record, and I’m still planning on sharing one more sliver of Otherworldly Beauty that emerged from Joplin AND I wanted to show you the item for another MOO Giveaway. So hang with me just a leeeetle bit longer, yes?

An Anonymous Grace 

Joanne and her husband Bill were in the grocery store parking lot when the lethal funnel cloud descended upon them. The couple looked forward to sharing dinner at home together, and had stopped at the market to pick up the ingredients needed for their meal that evening. The darkening skies were ominous and there were the warning sirens, but the couple wondered, were they perhaps more about precaution than true urgency? The sudden deafening roar of the winds encompassed the middle-aged couple, and before Joanne knew what was happening, Bill shouted at her, “GET DOWN, ROLL UNDER THE TRUCK! ROLL. UNDER. THE. TRUCK…NOW!” Joanne, stunned and frightened, froze and didn’t  feel the slap of concrete on her shoulders and arms when her husband shoved her to the ground.

“He didn’t know me. He just held onto me.” 

She didn’t have to be reminded to roll under their truck, because the 200 mile-an-hour gusts of wind had already blown her beneath it. She felt the jolt of her own body hitting what she thought was a wall. However, “The Wall” grunted, “OOMPH“, and wrapped an appendage around Joanne’s midsection. He did not let go. Joanne suddenly realized that the “wall” she had hit was really another person. A large man with a huge expanse of a chest had hooked one of his biceps around the front axle of the truck, and wrapped his other arm around Joanne like a vice. And he held on. He held onto Joanne as she screamed and thrashed  in the wind; as she called out to Bill, needing to know his whereabouts…

The Wall held onto Joanne so tightly that her ribs cracked. The Wall held onto Joanne even as they watched Joanne’s husband flip and toss away into the funnel cloud. The Wall hung onto Joanne as she sobbed beneath that truck, after the winds died down and only an inconceivable horror and silence hung in the air. And somehow, that stranger, The Wall of a Man now known as The Man Who Saved Joanne’s Life, learned Joanne’s name, and attended the funeral for Joanne’s husband Bill, five days later. 

So there you have it. This essay was a tribute and love letter to a few of the many Royal Others I met, fell in love with, cried with, and changed with in my little journey to the South. This is me brushing aside pettiness, snark, sarcasm and blame, all components interlaced with fear. This is me bowing down in awe, humility and deep gratitude for the reminders of grace, compassion, resilience, strength and courage in our moment-to-moment living.

We are Other.

Kristen is Other.

Others’ true beauty is a light from within.

Embrace your Other.

*   *   *

An Epically Long A/N including GIVEAWAY Deets: 

**William is the one name I kept as is for this essay. Will Norton was 18 years old, having just graduated from Joplin High School when the tornado winds pulled him out through the sunroof of the Hummer he and his dad were driving. After nearly 5 days missing, his body was discovered in the pond of my client “Laura”.

**Baby S was the youngest Joplin Tornado victim. He was ripped from his mother’s arms during the storm. CNN did a special report on his story.

A NEW MOO GIVEAWAY

A few months ago I found a local mom-and-pop T-shirt making business. As an experiment I made a couple of shirts with a few MOO-inspired phrases on them. I sent one to Ms. Kristen Stewart, Ms Queen Other herself as a birthday gift (A burgundy shirt that said “I AM OTHER“). That leaves just one One-of-A-Kind Musings Tee (made on uber-soft American Apparel fabric, in Women’s Size L) that I’d like to give away to one of you Majestic Misfits.

You can enter to win the drawing for the T-Shirt by leaving a comment answering at least one (or all) of these questions:

1. When did you know you were Other?

2. How do you embrace your Other in your daily life?

3. Have you encountered moments of quiet majesty in unexpected places? 

4. How do you employ self-care? 

I’ll announce a winner in a MOO MEMO posting Thursday, June 30.

*   *   *

Specific shout outs and vice-like hugs to: 

My sister Puss for letting me cry. CC for texting check-in requests. Mari-Pai for asking if I’m ok. Bouffant for talking me through some dark, dark moments.

To PrimaryColors1 and Beammeup_00 for your generous offers of shelter and supplies upon the word ‘Go’.

To MyCleverAlias, Kate_Suena, JRollin5, Mel452, That_Bitch86, DeeDreamer16, ThistleandFi, TakeMeToBliss, Buff_82 and KStewsBtrThanU for checking in on me and cheering me on.

Last but never, never least: Thank you to my CYBER SISTERS & READERS  You provided the most powerful web of support by being your brilliant, compassionate, witty selves.

TODAY’S PLAYLIST (PUSH PLAY)

Look For Me As You Go By ~ The Innocence Mission

Satisfied Mind ~ Jeff Buckley

Price Tag ~ Jessie J feat B.O.B.

I Feel Pretty/ Unpretty ~ Lea Michele & Dianna Agron of GLEE

After The Storm ~ Mumford & Sons

Fix You ~ Coldplay

A Light From Within (Part 1)

20 Jun
A/N: Most images seen in this posting are not the property of nor created by ©MusingsOnOther. Photos featuring ©Red Cross Disaster Relief in Clinton, MS and Joplin, MO, however, are owned by this author (KJN). Today’s essay, per usual, is unbeta’d and any typos or grammar bobbles are all mine. Also, for whatever reason, PlayList disallowed the Auto-start feature, despite my and Buff’s attempts at usurping. To hear today’s music Playlist, hit PLAY on the player in the right-hand column (below the Twitter Feed) —–>
Whatever day this is that I actually post, I imagine it’s not my usual Thursday. I hope to get back on schedule soon. I thank you for flowing with me.   
“People are like stained – glass windows. They sparkle and shine when the sun is out, but when the darkness sets in, their true beauty is revealed only if there is a light from within.” ~Elizabeth Kubler-Ross

*Takes deep breath* There you are, and here I am. Hello, you beautiful, Majestic Misfits. It has been over a month since I’ve posted a New MOO and I am admittedly nervous and shaky. I feel out of practice, super raw and tentative but at the same time eager to reconnect with you all. SO. MUCH. HAS. HAPPENED. And on so many different levels. In the name of confidentiality, and sensitivity to trauma that folks have experienced, I have spent the past week weighing the options of what to share and how to share. . .I am not even quite sure where to begin, so I guess I’ll …just…jump in.

It was ‘A Time’

So, the last MOO essay  I penned posted on May 15. We talked about the Twirling Other Goddess Stevie Nicks, and we explored what it meant to MOther, even if it was against society’s definitions (We’re Others. It’s how we roll). We also surveyed how we women can be both supportive and simultaneously destructive forces out there, especially towards fellow women. Then I shared with you all that I was a few days away from leaving for my first national Red Cross assignment as a licensed clinician on the Disaster Response Team.

I do not think I will ever truly have enough (or appropriate) words to justifiably describe the people, the agonizing pain of loss, or the brilliant strength and faith of humanity I encountered. But I will try and share a few stories with you here (and that’s what PART 2 of this post will be).  In the seminal TV show My So-Called Life, Angela Chase (portrayed by a featured Royal Rebel Claire Danes), Rayanne and Rickie ponder the glory of connecting with other people for a larger purpose outside themselves, and they simply refer to that process as “A Time”. Bear with me as I attempt to begin recalling the people and the moments that comprise the most life-changing, profound ‘Time’ I’ve ever had the honor of witnessing.

I left May 23 for Clinton, Mississippi to offer relief and counseling support to the men and women who had already been out providing food, shelter and Psychological First Aid to the survivors of the storms and destructive flooding out in the communities near the Mississippi River. What I came to find out later was that this Disaster Relief Operation (DRO or DR) was winding down. I had been called in to debrief and support the volunteers and Red Cross staff, some of whom had been in the trenches for 4o days already.

Here’s what I was struck by, while in Mississippi, other than the sheer elation it was to spell out the state’s name voluntarily, and not because I was in a spelling bee:

It’s beautifully green and lush in the most mundane places. Tree-lined highways (empty of traffic) greeted me on the drive from the gas station to Headquarters; and, to the market and to the shelter where I met with clients. See, I grew up in L.A. County, California, where any greenery, if not in protected parks–or smoked–is a rarity. Concrete utopia shrouded in brown air. Even where I live now, any lush growth and flowers are reserved for the national park.

But really, what blew my mind were the PEOPLE. The people–strangers to me–were so very warm, generous, welcoming and open. People looked me in the eye and said, “Well, HELLO THERE!” on the street, in the grocery aisles, at the gas station, and of course at restaurants. There is something so refreshing and comforting about Southern Hospitality and I am so thrilled to have experienced a little sliver of it. If I appeared too alien or unusual, too OTHER to anyone in Clinton, Mississippi, I never knew it. I was welcomed and embraced warmly and lovingly, regardless.

ahhh is THAT what human interaction looks like?

An Other Application

Of course, I got to musing, because that’s what I do, and reflected on how I’m jostled by kindness, etiquette and “common courtesy”. Why is it surprising for people to be kind anymore? Why does eye contact or a friendly passing greeting feel like such a novelty?? I suppose in this time where we spend the majority of our days deciphering words on a computer screen or texts on a phone, its not terribly surprising that the messages conveyed through eye contact and tone of voice are no longer considered integral or necessary in “communication”. Which is a shame. Those nonverbal factors including pitch and intonation of voice, eye contact contain powerful messages. Clues to a person’s intentions, beliefs and identity.

One topic in the newly conceived “What The Fangirl Learned” feature for this blog, pertained to the rise of Cyber Bullying and Online Confidence. It is notable that people present themselves assertively and cruelly as long as they maintain anonymity behind an avatar image and moniker. Would these same people be as blunt and hurtful if they shared their opinions directly with their target? Would Kristen Stewart’s Bull Shit People and Critics ever share their low regard for her if they were in the same room with her, directly to her? I must take a moment to tip my fedora to the brave and brilliant warriors at @BecauseWeAreNot for wading into the mucky secretions from the Nonsensicals and BullShitPeople… and simply holding up a mirror. Yes, Haterade Drinkers, you are that vile and we SEE YOU. My hope is that all of us still experience an instant or two of remembering the human being on the other side of the camera lens, the computer screen or discussion board. It would certainly benefit our Reigning Royal Rebels for us to remember this. . .

She Shines On

Speaking of Royal Rebels and public appearances…. When we last met here in Headquarters Other, we celebrated our Reigning Other Queen’s Best Actress award from the Milan International Film Festival for her stunning work in the powerful film Welcome To The Rileys. We hadn’t seen our lovely Queen for some time, as she was implementing her usual NinjaRebellion and flitting all over the world undetected, un-stalked. YAY. She would continue to fly under the radar until June 5, the day the MTV Movie Awards occurred. And looking at Ms Rebel Royal herself was like seeing the sun for the first time after a decade-long rainstorm. Hole-eeeeee freakin hell.

Where were you all when this stunning fashion DreamTeam of Kristen and Balmain debuted? Kristen wore a scarlet red (YESSSSSS. Red is my favorite color on Ms Stewart) strapless mini dress covered in shimmery grommets and SAFETY PINS, MOFOS!!  The dress, in my opinion boasted one of her–if not THE best–red carpet looks of all time.

Kristen was positively glowing. Blindingly luminous. She emanated pure joy and lightness, and she was giddy and playful for the duration of the whole night. I loved how happy and grounded she appeared. I loved her interaction with Rob and Taylor. I loved her dress. LOVED. IT. Loved it all. I get why Rob stared at her the whole night.

dude. we know.

June 5th, the day of the MMAs was an interesting day for me. I was on my tenth day straight into my deployment assignment for Red Cross, and for the first time, was back from work before the sun set. The day before had been the most heartbreaking day that I can recall in my “grown up” life, certainly my entire psychotherapy career, and I was feeling pretty weary. I had stolen away in one of the tiny preschool classrooms in the church that served as my sleeping quarters. I hadn’t seen my husband in 2 weeks (he was out of town at a work conference when I left for Mississippi) and I hadn’t had a decent night’s sleep nor a proper hot shower in…a long time. I needed a huge steaming bowl of The Pretty to soothe the ache. I sought a reminder of all the blessings in my life that came from musing about Rebel Queens and Warrior Poets. So there I was, hunkered down in a tiny toddler-sized chair watching the live feed on my laptop, which was placed on a tiny toddler-sized table, bursting with exultation over little clips such as this:

Can watch this pure joyfulness on loop forevah

It was a night in which GiddyRob (my Fave Rob) was front and center (yes, Rob just dropped an F-Bomb on live TV that the censors didn’t catch in time; yes he just presented an award to Reese Witherspoon as more of a ROAST; yes, he just made out with Taylor Lautner before gently kissing his hand and forehead), and Eclipse swept all categories brightening an otherwise nearly unwatchable show. After countless moments of “WHAT THE FUCKs?” over the course of the 2 hour awards show, our ReigningOther Queen capped off the night when she accepted her Best Female Performance award graciously (gratitude to the fans who voted) and wittily advising Oscar-winner Natalie Portman:

“Sorry, Natalie, The Popcorn is mine!

So she gets it. Though Kristen Stewart has always gotten it. She knows that her Golden Popcorn statuettes from the MTV Movie Awards are not the Academy Awards that her peers are earning. But she also knows that she wouldn’t be in her fortuitous position as an actress if it weren’t for her devoted supporters. Kristen is gracious and grateful for every single person who sees her work as inspiring and enjoyable and she has more than once publicly thanked the Twilight fans for their incomparable passion. Very classy and…royal of her, yes? Just another reason why Ms Stewart resides atop the Royal Court Float.

O_O

 A Way Out Of The Depths

While sitting there, in the Preschool/nursery room at Calvary Baptist Church watching my live feed of the MMAs, I found it almost impossible to reconcile the extreme paradoxes that comprised my reality on June 5.  I had just driven my pimp rental car (a tricked-out 4×4 SUV, the exact opposite of the car I own in real life) through the little that remained of a Joplin neighborhood in order to get to the air conditioned church that housed a hundred of my fellow Red Cross workers and I. The day before was my brother’s birthday, and when I called the house to wish him birthday happiness, I nearly fainted with exhaustion and grief, and was barely coherent. My mind simply could not wrap around the idea that the scenes I’d encountered earlier my day existed at the same time that the other folks in the world were moving through daily tasks, pushing through another work day, or planning the evening’s dinner, studying for tomorrow’s early-morning exam. That while a four-year-old  girl asked her mother if “The Tornado will come again and take me from you?” in Joplin or Alabama, at the same time, lighting technicians and camera crews were setting up for the red carpet arrivals for another MTV Movie Awards.  I could NOT reconcile these vastly different happenings in my head. It’s taken me over 2 weeks since my return to even begin understanding.

thank you, my Possum @Justice_Aussie for this

A summary for those who hadn’t read about it or seen the news: On Sunday, May 23, 2011 at 5:41PM a tornado with 200 miles/hr (approx 312 kilometers/hr) winds touched down on the city of Joplin, Missouri. Over the course of 19 minutes, the loud, violent funnel cloud measuring one mile wide ripped a 12 mile path through the city (population 50,000). The level of damage, destruction and fatalities left behind in its wake earned the tornado an F5 category rating, the highest on the scale. As of June 14, the death toll was at 153 people with approximately ten people still unaccounted for. The Joplin Tornado destroyed 75% of the city and is now ranked the deadliest singular tornado in decades, and among the ten most deadly tornados in U.S. History. Joplin’s tornado came on the heels of a series of destructive storms and tornados that effected at least five other states across the South and Midwestern U.S. including Mississippi  (the first stop on my deployment) and Alabama where an estimated 195 people died after several tornados touched down. People will tell you that pictures on TV or on the computer will not appropriately depict the destruction. TRUTH. It looked like the Apocalypse had occurred. It looked like a wasteland. It looked the way I imagine it sounded. Absolute obliteration and desolation.

I arrived in Joplin, MO, directly from Clinton, MS, on May 30, on the one-week anniversary of the tornado’s touchdown. People have  different coping mechanisms and timelines in dealing with grief and loss. So by the time I arrived in Joplin, I felt the stirrings of recognition. The numbness and shock was wearing off, and people were slowly growing aware of their feelings about what they just lived through.

Within minutes of arriving in this pummeled and stunned town, I encountered  the electric thrumming of passion, strength and ferocity. And there is promise.

Gratitude. 

Faith.

Resilience.

"I will rebuild", he says.

Beautiful People Do Not ‘Just Happen’

I will delve more personally into the phenomenal stories of the people I met and counseled in my time in Joplin in the second part of this post. Part of the reason for the delay in publishing this essay was my struggle in telling the stories of the Royal Rebels I met in a sensitive, respectful, confidential manner. Another reason for the late posting is my own body’s delayed reaction to my assignment. On day 12, I awoke with a sore throat and sniffly nose, unsurprisingly. By the time I flew home a couple days later, a doctor’s visit had provided me a diagnosis of a “very bad cold-flu”. Additionally, my heart was bursting with stories of loss and sacrifice and dazzling acts of LOVE. Not even I, Miss Ramblelicious, could piece together a coherent sentence. I needed my own brand of therapy to soothe my wounds. Which is where you gorgeous, pulchritudinous, glimmering Rabble Rousers came in. You provided an antidote.

Thank you. THANK. YOU. THANK YOU.

I burst into tears when I was sent the link to the love letter and Birthday Celebration you all participated in, at the generous and gorgeous prompting of my girls CC, Buff and Bouffant. Already I was shocked at the kind words my Team Other Captains bestowed, though I pay them a lot of money (currency is made up of poking, prodding, annoying texts and rambling emails) to say nice things to me and about me, but I am beyond astonished at the loving words and generous wishes you all shared as well. CC was not kidding when she told you all how hard I love those of you on this journey. I do. I love you like a full-body board check in a hockey game. I go big or go home in my gratitude and adoration for you Readers, Sisters and Friends. In addition to check ins with Bouffant and CC, and occasional tweet-exchanges…lines of poetry  and words of encouragement began to filter in while I was away from you…Reminders of #BEAUTY and #RebelRoyalty and #OTHERNESS. . .

From my girl J (@That_Bitch86) who also provided me an anchor long before. #QUEEN

From Katie (@Kate_Suena) who shows me #Other and #beauty in book recs

You could not possibly know how you healed me on June 3, when you chimed in to wish a Happy Birthday/Anniversary to my little blog about Beauty. You did and do. YOU. HEAL. ME. As do sights such as this:

Giggly, LondonStew will ALWAYS Win.

annnnnnnd….ohhhhh mah Good Goddess…just a day or so after the MMAs…Are you KIDDING ME???!?

Well, so. There really isn’t much to say to follow up that, other than that time away for NinjaStew only further proves to be GLORIOUS….So it’s a perfect place to pause until I post Part Two later this week, hopefully Thursday, to get back on Regular MOO Programming. I know I’ve droned on about my gratitude to you all, but you cannot possibly know how much you have provided joy, comfort and cure for me while I crawled through this month’s Other-worldly events. Thank you for your patience as I re-acclimate and try to find my grounding again…Thank you  for tolerating me while I fangirl a month late over the beautiful sightings of our Reigning Other Queen. Thank you for reminding me that no matter where I travel, who I meet, how deep the struggle is to see it…that OTHER. IS. EVERYWHERE. 

We are Other.

Kristen is Other.

Others’ light shines on, shines far.

Embrace your Other.

*       *      *

A/N: Later this week, Part 2 will introduce you all to the pristinely beautiful Rebel Royalty I met while abroad…And we’ll talk more about Kristen’s GlamourUK appearance, because it’s too beautiful not to. And…There’s another MUSINGS GIVEAWAY!!! Until then, be well, be kind to one another.  See you soon. Yours, KJ 

I have numerous people to thank individually, but I’ll wait til the second part of the essay before doing so. Just know that every single person reading this: I felt you. I know you’re there. And I am indebted to you.

PLAYLIST: (PUSH PLAY) 

Look For Me As You Go By ~ The Innocence Mission

Satisfied Mind ~ Jeff Buckley

Price Tag ~ Jessie J feat B.O.B.

I Feel Pretty/ Unpretty ~ Lea Michele & Dianna Agron of GLEE

After The Storm ~ Mumford & Sons

All That She Is

19 May
A/N: Images seen here are not owned nor created by (c)MusingsOnOther. Today’s essay is unbeta’d per usual. Forgive me any mistakes or imperfections you may find. But that is how I roll. This post is a long one. Make yourselves comfortable.

“You’ll never get away from the sound of the woman that loves you”

~Stevie Nicks, Silver Springs

I hope this new MOO finds everyone well. Did all you incredible Mothers, Parents, Aunties, Mentors, Providers, Caretakers and Grandmamas have a lovely Mother’s Day? My hope is that you did. I was able to pull off an impromptu visit down south with my own Mother, spending treasured time with my immediate family in the same city, which is a first for us, in a very long time.

In Royal Rebel news, it has been a pretty quiet, sighting-less week of our Stealthy pair, our NinjaQueen and her Royal consort. And it makes me happy. Between his punishing world promo-tour for Water For Elephants, the six months of international gallivanting for Breaking Dawn filming, plus recent birthdays for both of them, any quiet, unduh-covah time they can grab right now is probably sweet, sweet salvation. And it probably isn’t long enough, this break. Rob returns to work, starting the gritty, raw film Cosmopolis at the helm of esteemed (and frankly, in my opinion, really cool) director David Cronenberg (History of Violence, Eastern Promises) on May 23rd in Toronto, Canada (where he and Kristen have been spotted walking the infamous puppy dog Bear on more than one occasion).

I’m ridiculously eager to watch this project unfold, if anything for its stark difference in roles for Rob. Hello, apathetic billionaire-business man seeking connection through increasingly self-destructive ways….How fun does that sound??

Ok, how ’bout now?

My name is Eric Packer. I need a haircut. And financial advice.

We’ll talk more about this film as it progresses, okay?. . .The little “break” time that Kristen may be enjoying now isn’t all that much longer for her either. She is scheduled to begin her work on the small film K-11 soon, as well as preparation work for Snow White and The Huntsman. We received the great news that the titular role of The Huntsman was finally cast (well hello there, Thor) last week, but also the nice surprise that the film will be released six months sooner than originally projected. Filming begins in August, and the premiere is scheduled for June 1, 2012. A summertime kickoff by our Reigning Other Queen! So while our Royal Rebels are under the radar, hopefully grounding and recuperating in privacy, we are not lacking reasons to celebrate their growth and successes and remember why we began admiring and supporting them as artists in the first place.

Oh, for Pete's sake, that's just ridonk pretteh.

 What the Fangirl Learned

“Did she make you cry, make you break down, shatter your illusions of love?” ~Stevie Nicks, Gold Dust Woman

For today’s topic, as the first discussion in this new feature, I had planned on discussing a woman’s incredible capacity to love wholly but also to acknowledge her capacity for destruction (sometimes intentionally, sometimes not) in her passionate wrath. I was going to explore some of the themes I saw in our own community, in our fandom, because I’ve met the most incredible women, brilliant women, as a result of being a Kristen and Robert supporter. Conversely, I’ve observed in public venues no less, the most shocking behaviors emerge from my fellow sisters.  *This was the last section (the Fangirl Learned) I needed to complete today (I write MOO in all kinds randomness…the Muse visits when she is damn well ready, y’know?). But since receiving a phone call that I’m detailing down below, I may re-work how to address this topic…

The (M)Other Within

*ANNOUNCEMENT*  

Remember when I told you lovelies that while I have no money, I do have time and skills to contribute in these dire hours? I literally received the phone call right now as I’m finishing up today’s post. I have been cleared for and accepted onto the Red Cross Disaster Response Team as a therapist. I’m deploying out to the Tornado/Flood Zones back east (Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, North Carolina-esque areas) next week to administer frontline counseling and emotional support to the tornado and flood victims. Its looking like  it will be Tues or Wednesday when I fly out. I will be gone for at least 10 to 12 days and could potentially remain out in the field for up to three weeks per cycle. *side note*  Even if I leave on Tuesday morning, I’ll still have been able to see SAM BRADLEY perform the night before. PHEW! A girl still has a couple of #priorities.

The American Red Cross

So while I’m away for potentially the next 2 to 3 weeks, I’ve asked my fellow Team Other Captains (CC, Buff and a behind-the-scenes technician Bouffant) if they wouldn’t mind keeping an eye on MOO and perhaps contribute some of their brilliance to continue the support of Otherness in my stead. The wonderful gals that they are, of course, all stepped up immediately and exuberantly. So I’m going to thank you amazing Readers in advance for welcoming them warmly and wonderfully as you have in the past when they’ve contributed. And besides, CC and Buff already have their own mass followings (because they’re geniuses and I kinda hope to be a little smarter just by associating with them). My friend Starlust may contribute a written piece as well. She has been my  good friend since the very beginning and I trust her with heart and soul. You will too when you meet her.

This leads me to discuss what I had hoped to, even before learning that I was going to deploy. Look back to one of the earliest Musings ever. I wrote an essay called Aphrodite and Kristen Go Against Code  <—–click it to check it, yo. I responded to the Entertainment Weekly preview of the roundtable interview that Kristen, Rob and Taylor did in promotion for Eclipse.  Remember this hotness??

The Musings  written in response was almost one year ago, on June 24, 2010. What did I see at the bottom of the brief EW preview back in June 2010? Within moments of going viral, the preview had already garnered nearly one hundred commenters’ reactions to the excerpt and these comments were quite criticalNo, worse. The majority of comments were cruel and hatefulI won’t go into specifics because I don’t have the energy nor do I want to taint this supportive Kristen and Rob site with anything remotely negative. But I will share my observations. The majority of commenters both critical and supportive, presented themselves with female monikers. And the harshest, most cruel of the comments were from women. Women who reported they were mothers, professionals.  Also, I noticed that most comments were disproportionately supportive and defensive of Rob, but were incensed and enraged towards Kristen. She was torn down for anything from her physical appearance to the way she phrased her responses. In those commenter’s eyes, those predominantly female commenter’s views, she could do nothing right. The need to tear others down to feel imposing and powerful and bigger has perhaps been an evolutionary trait, leftover from our earliest days on earth–survival of the fittest…but the way that women attack is especially fascinating and …disturbing. 

Today, in 2011, when I watch my Twittah timeline and scan the PMs filled with updates from around the fandom, I notice that the anger and resentment towards our Reigning Queen has become more specific and therefore illuminating about the folks who spew the Haterade. After witnessing success after success for Kristen as a professional and as a woman, her Critics–the Bullshit People as she dubbed them last year in an interview–grapple with any new angle from which they can attack.

Their options are becoming pretty limited.

Criticizing her relationship with Robert as publicity-driven holds little weight since Kristen’s professional and critical success has only increased in the past year, what with the ovations from film critics and audiences flooding in for her work in stellar performances in The Runaways and Welcome to the Rileys (Example: MIFF Award–to be addressed in a bit).  Plus there’s Robert’s direct statements in interviews that his relationship with Kristen is in no way calculated or “nefarious”. So the anti-Kristeners focus on…her abilities to walk young Bear…??

This gangly, awkward, beautiful creature caused major damage to the Bullshit People's campaign. Powerful little guy.

 And instead of calling Ms Stewart some of the degrading and hateful names they’ve given her over time, many Nonsensicals simply refer to her as “That Girl”, which in the scheme of things isn’t the most horrendous, not compared to what they’ve called her before. Also we have identified some of the boldest of the BullShit People in the past year. Kristen and Robert have names and information about the particularly heinous of the Unhappy Ones. When attackers are no longer faceless, offensive plans can be created. Kristen and Rob’s incredibly good-looking effective security teams have been quite active and occupied this year.

Another shift I’ve noticed over the year, is a growing, greater compassion emerging in this fandom. Perhaps it’s because we have been in the trenches together now for several years. We have created friendships and support networks and camaraderie. We have faces and voices to names…This again, is in that universal movement to remove the masks we wear, and efforts made to consciously embrace our Otherness. We’re finding we have so many more commonalities than differences.

Last year, my Welsh Muse Kathryn wrote me a poignant letter detailing her journey embracing her Otherness and it was in embracing her abilities to be a new M0ther. It was in her exploration of what motherhood meant for her that she realized she was truly embracing her authentic self, quirks and oddities and all, that she already had the propensity to accept herself in all that she is. She was similar to me, in that she hadn’t planned necessarily on having children, opting instead to focus on pursuit of bliss and career and expression. And yet now she’s all of those things: beautiful, kind, compassionate, artistic, and a Mother. (I miss you, K).

When we sit down and examine all the ways someone can be “motherly”, we conjure up feelings and associations with universal, human qualities such as:

LOVINGNESS…DEVOTION….PROTECTIVENESS…CREATIVITY….COMPASSION…SELFLESSNESS…KINDNESS

When I survey the descriptors above,  I don’t feel as defensive of  my near-certain decision to not have children. Believe me, society and peers are pretty critical (i.e. harsh and judgmental) about people who decide to not have children too. One of the most incredible things a couple of my Cyber Sisters Nail and Mari have said to me in the past few months involved the employment of my favorite strategy: REFRAMING. They said,

“You are mothering and providing, even if you’re not technically a child-bearer. You give nurturing and compassion and protectiveness to your clients, to your friends…and to MOO Readers.”

See? We all gotta do a little reframing sometime. And I can see this next step on my path in my work for Red Cross is an extension of that concept. I do carry a wish that as we each evolve and thrive and stumble and then pick ourselves back up again that we are finding, that there is less of a need to deconstruct or tear Others down coasting on fear or ignorance. Because we’ve gotten to know each other a little more. Our (M)Otherness has kicked in, perhaps?

Anyway, in light of the somewhat unexpected events occurring in this moment, I won’t delve further today into the reasons why, psychologically or emotionally, women behaved in appallingly harsh ways over the past year. But I certainly can appreciate some of the improvements and changes that have occurred …and I can pin some hope that the changes have made due to steps closer to embracing Others’ Otherness.

And lets take some time to get to know and then celebrate these incredibly brave Unconventional Beauties, shall we?

 Featured Royal Rebel: Stevie Nicks

Stephanie “Stevie” Lynn Nicks, called everything from eccentric, legendary, a gypsy, a witch, a sorceress, and a poet, since her debut in the music industry forty years ago, is the epitome of Other to me. I have my own fascination and adoration of her, have since the early 1990’s when I accidentally stumbled upon a music video on VH1 called “Gypsy” and then later heard songs from the Fleetwood Mac live reunion tour “The Dance”. I didn’t know it then, but with a few bars of the haunting song “Silver Springs” soaring from my car radio’s speakers, I had encountered music’s Other Royalty.

A little background: Stevie’s grandfather Aaron was an aspiring country singer, and from the moment Stevie could speak, she was singing country ditties and picking out melodies on a guitar which was handcrafted for her by said proud granddad. Stevie credits her grandfather for teaching her to love music and for inciting her passion for songwriting and musical crafting. It was at a northern California high school that she met a singing-songwriting-guitar-playing boy named Lindsey Buckingham. Stevie and Lindsey immediately forged a strong bond which would ultimately prove to be an outrageously productive musical and intimate partnership. Stevie tells The Guardian (UK) that she believed joining the band Fleetwood Mac in 1975 was predestined, but that upon reflection, she ventures that Lindsey Buckingham feels the opposite.

You have NO idea how loud I screamed when I snagged this vinyl off Ebay years ago. Yeah, and they're nekkid.

At the start of the year 1975, Stevie and Lindsey (apart of the rock band Fritz) had already been cultivating a small, devoted following in San Francisco, CA. Their time with Fritz granted them once-in-a-lifetime opportunities to observe and learn from rock legends Janis Joplin and Jimi Hendrix, both for whom Fritz performed opening sets. When Fritz disbanded, Stevie and Lindsey became the duo “Buckingham Nicks” and recorded their one and only debut album by day, and worked as servers, house cleaners and carpenters by night. The album did not meet commercial success, and the duo was dropped from their record label. Meanwhile, British blues band Fleetwood Mac had just parted ways with yet another guitar player and as the now-legendary story entails, Mick Fleetwood, the group’s co-founder and drummer approached Lindsey and invited him into the band. However, in a serendipitous exchange, Lindsey refused to join without Stevie, saying, “We’re a packaged deal”. So the California hippie kids joined the British Blues Crew.

And so it began. Fleetwood Mac 1975

Ok, novels and ever-expanding Wikipedia entries can barely cover the expanse of this Majestic Gypsy’s forty years in the music industry, and I will not attempt to reiterate the glorious peaks and valleys of Ms Nicks’s life here today (but sit down with me in person and I’ll happily chatter on with you about my adoration for her). But I can try to highlight a few reasons why she, for me, is a true Rebel Queen.

Of course we cannot overlook Stevie’s distinctive, raspy-growly voice, her whimsical, journal-entry intimate lyrics, and her propensity for flowing, ethereal dresses. And it’s quite a testament to her artistic influence when she can count among her legions of fans some musical greats such as Billy Corgan, Tom Petty, Sheryl Crow, Courtney Love, Adam Levine, and Taylor Swift to name a few.

In days long preceding concepts like Stalkerazzi, Twitter and Celebrity Rehab, Stevie Nicks navigated the pitfalls and customary practices of a Rock-and-Roll lifestyle in an extremely human, relatable manner. There were the drugs–she had a ten-year cocaine dependency stemming from early days with Fleetwood Mac, and then in the late eighties through early nineties developed a harrowing addiction to prescription medications, namely Klonipin which she weaned from after a painful near-fifty day course of rehab. There were personal tragedies, including the death of childhood best friend Robin Snyder who succumbed to leukemia two days after giving birth to Stevie’s Godson Matthew; and there were the emotional and physical illnesses such as Chronic Fatigue Syndrome, depression, anxiety and weight fluctuation (which was relentlessly criticized by critics and “fans”). And then there was the love. Always the love.

“In ’75, ’76, we were beautiful, fast,  sexy, love was everywhere and we were moving from person to person. That’s it. Love was around every corner”

Of course there was/is her musical and personal soul mate Lindsey Buckingham, with whom she shares an “Edward and Bella-like” love, but there were many other lovers and inspirations famous and not-so-much (including her Fleetwood Mac band mate Mick Fleetwood, Eagles rockers Joe Walsh and Don Henley; music industry legend and current American Idol mentor Jimmy Iovine). Her relationships with these men informed and influenced her songwriting and musical creations engendering some of rock and pop music’s most famous songs…ever. We’re talking songs that have permeated our collective consciousness. For instance: Landslide has been remade or covered by everyone from The Smashing Pumpkins, Tori Amos, and The Dixie Chicks, to, recently, Gwyneth Paltrow on an episode of Glee). Last week alone was a Nicksapalooza with Glee dedicating an entire episode to Fleetwood Mac’s seminal and legendary album Rumours (which detailed the band’s scandalous divorces, break-ups and affairs with each other and as a group).  Also, my new favorite TV show The Voice featured competitors singing Stevie’s song Leather and Lace and in conclusion Maroon 5’s frontman and Voice Coach Adam Levine reverently declared, “Stevie Nicks is The Greatest.”

At 62 years old, the woman is showing no signs of stopping. In fact, she just released her newest solo album, her first in a decade to the highest reviews of her career. She admits to an obsession with The Twilight series and even wrote a couple of songs on this new album inspired by Our Reigning Queen Kristen’s portrayal of a broken Bella Swan in New Moon. Ok, seriously. How do you not LOVE that???

Stevie Nicks has your back, Bella!

Ms Nicks is about to embark on a tour to support the new album titled In Your Dreams, but also a world tour with Fleetwood Mac in 2012. Perhaps my admiration for Stevie Nicks stems from her grace in managing conflict and life while in the public eye. Perhaps it’s because Stevie struggles with body image, insecurities, relationship concerns, and anxiety, channeling angst into catharsis byway of songwriting and musical performance. Maybe it’s because the tambourine-shaking, leg-warmer-wearing, spinning, whirling songstress never compromises her beliefs or ambitions when all of society pressured her to.

Stevie’s new album sounds more like vintage Stevie than ever, recalling early Fleetwood Mac rocker sentiments while also preserving her poetic whimsy. Admirably, she rebuffed traditional gender-specific expectations when she was younger (she was a lady of rock in an arena of men) and later regarding marriage and motherhood in order to pursue “freedom in following [her] art.” I can relate on such a basic, visceral level to this decision, as I’ve shared with you all earlier today. Because Stevie twirls through very personal and genuine tribulations gracefully while wearing 4-inch platform-boots and diaphanous dresses that Couture designers have tried to emulate since 1975, she forever is a stunning Queen of Other.

Offenses of Otherness:

*Emphatically celebrates her feminine divinities: love and beauty

*Invites an intimate and realistic connection to her personal heartbreak and struggle

*Opted out of the gender role expectations of marriage and motherhood

Reigning Other Queen: Kristen Stewart

While we may not have seen Ms Rebel Queen herself in a while, we have been gifted with a few wonderful events that are pretty spectacular all the same. From the interview that keeps on giving, i.e. Uk Elle, we have some more “outtakes“…And good gracious, I do not envy the photo director who had to make the final cuts on these beauties…

The prestigious Cannes Film Festival is wrapping up this week and while this landmark annual event is designed as a showcase for new and developing films, it is a coveted  forum for filmmakers to exhibit and sell projects based on their artistic quality to distributors from all over the world. This year, a six minute trailer from one small but mighty film was shown to a Cannes audience of potential buyers.

According to attendees, after watching the diminutive six-minute trailer, buyers rose to their feet, passionately clapping. With the warm reception of the highly anticipated Francis Ford Coppola-produced project, On The Road has emerged as prevalent and desired today. Now. This adaptation from the book about restless souls seeking the elusive “It” to soothe post-war disillusionment has been anticipated for something like 30 years. Director Walter Salles and his outrageously gifted cast wrapped filming in the fall last year, and the news of positive reactions to the short film teaser gives us one more reason to hope that we will be seeing Sal, Dean, and Marylou on screen very soon. I cannot tell you how excited I am for this movie. If I did, it would sound something like this: $#!(*$*@#@&!@#!)&%//!!

nope. Not even close to getting old.

Hmmm, what else? Our Reigning Other Queen has had quite the week, as we’ve said. Even though we haven’t laid eyes on her since we saw her in New York, we have had plenty o’ reasons to rejoice. At another International Film Festival, Milan this time, another one of Kristen’s films, or more specifically, Kristen herself was the toast of the town. On May 11, we learned the news that Ms. Kristen Jaymes Stewart received the coveted honor of being named Best Actress at the Milan International Film Festival (MIFF) for her portrayal of the electric, vibrant, almost “feral” but vulnerable teenage stripper, Mallory in the effecting Welcome to the Rileys.

Congratulations, Kristen!! 

ICU dedicated actress with the bruised up legs and arms

One might observe that being called “THAT GIRL” as almost complimentary…? That Girl has been named Elle’s Woman of the Year…That Girl has a Young Hollywood Award, several MTV Movie Awards and a BAFTA. This same lady has the respect and love of legendary colleagues and filmakers. Ms. Stewart may very well be one girl who doesn’t really need introduction. She doesn’t need a label to garner praise and respect and prestigious awards. She does after all, make a living dressing up and portraying everybody else other than Kristen Stewart. But it’s still wonderful to watch as the authentic, grounded, intelligent, witty, kind, dedicated, compassionate, articulate and talented woman named  Kristen Jaymes Stewart continues to follow her genuine path, and embrace her royalty and Otherness.

Offenses of Otherness:

* Celebrates her feminine divinities: compassion and protectiveness.

*Unapologetic about displaying confidence, assertiveness and independence.

*Spurns the idea of downplaying her intelligence or genuine emotional response.

*  *  *

Stevie accepts all that she is. And is Other.

Kristen accepts all that she is. And is Other.

Others accept themselves and all that they are.

Embrace your Other. 

*  *  *

Notes: 

Wellllll. This one was long and it was all over the place, I realize. There were a lot of Royal Rebel events that occurred, on the sly, as well as over the course of the WFE promo tour….And in tying it up here, I struggled to organize and address all the goodies as well as the Otherness stuff.

Thanks for hanging with me, everyone. It’s been a crazy few weeks and now it’s gone outer limits with this new Adventure I’m heading on in a matter of days.

I don’t know exactly where I am going to be stationed on this assignment. I don’t know exactly how long I’ll be there. I don’t know where I’m sleeping. I don’t know if there’s a consistent stream of electricity and I doubt there will be steady internet connection. I don’t have a good set of work boots since I gave my Doc Martens away last year. But I will communicate as often as I can with my girls on Team Other, and maybe through Twitter if I can get a signal. I’m  @MusingsOnOther . . .

I DO know that this has always been my life’s hope–to combine humanitarian work in the fields. Its why I became a therapist in the first place. I am ecstatic and nervous and proud and scared all at once. I totally told @DeeDreamer16, @Kate_Suena, @KStewsbtrthanU and my CyberSisters today that I “want to vom right. NAO.”

Oh. And I also know that I kinda love you all. Madly.

The pristinely talented and lovely author @PrimaryColors1 (Firefly in Summer) is already out there on site in Alabama donating, transporting supplies, giving water to workers and folks in shelters on a daily basis. Consider donating time or money to assist the victims of the Tornados and Floods. Every little bit helps, especially to folks who have lost everything.

Talk to you laters, Lovelies. Until then, be well and be kind to one another. We’re really all Other together.  Yours, xo, KJ 

More:

This Essay’s Playlist

Trampled Rose ~Robert Plant & Alison Krauss

I Shall Believe ~Sheryl Crow

Starlight ~Muse

Gold Dust Woman ~Stevie Nicks

Winter Winds ~ Mumford & Sons

For What We’re Worth

21 Apr

Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not~ Ralph Waldo Emerson

A Confident Beginning

Ohhhh, boy… *blows a long breath out* Hello my Rabblerousers and Majestic Misfits, how goes it? Things have been insane in the membrane since we last convened, right? Not in a bad way, but in a really, busy, joyful, Ohmahgawd-I-can’t-believe-how-beautiful-yet-how-involved-I-am-in-all–of-this sorta way. You know what I mean. Since we last ruminated together, Our Reigning Other Queen celebrated her 21st birthday,  which involved Twilight co-stars and friends, her good buddy Taylor Lautner and his pretty girlfriend Lilly Collins. Also included an adoring, attentive Robert ….and a motorcycle…

ok, so maybe not THIS motorcycle...but the boy was there

And she inspired folks to raise nearly $17,000 for charity. . .Bowing down to all who contributed to this incredible cause in the name of Kristen, and with the hopes of eradicating the very serious issue of teen homelessness. Also, such gratitude to those who contributed to other charities in support of Kristen’s philanthropic wishes. All of you are truly incredible.

Well, let’s see…Our Majestic Misfit managed to make a profound statement of support and confirmation in New York City this Sunday. And she did it all without saying a word. She quietly attended Rob’s Water For Elephants premiere, looking almost obscenely stunning in a J. Mendel dress. She did not walk the red carpet–she would never want to overpower or detract from Rob’s moment. Because that’s what would happen if she had set just one toe out there on the carpet. She never intends to, but unwittingly, unknowingly, she compels us to look.  She is charismatic and magnetic, and would undoubtedly cause an epic frenzy if she had chosen to walk in the front door of the theater instead of the undercover side entrance. Because..uh, LOOK. AT. HER.

It’s criminal how insanely sexy these two are together. Look at the pandemonium inspired even as she remains in the background !!!

…and within a mere twelve hours later she surfaced in Vancouver, BC for stunt work for Breaking Dawn.  She flew back and forth across the continent between Rob’s movie premiere and the film set…so she could run on a treadmill while wearing a hot blue dress and black sweatpants. Because kick-ass Bella Cullen will run in a dress, dammit, but our girl is smart enough to know her legs might suffer in the cool Vancouver air. I won’t show the pictures of her on the vamp treadmill, mostly because I cannot tolerate the camera hound who took the pictures and I don’t want to endorse his stalking and opportunistic tendencies. But I will  illustrate that nonverbal communication for which I adore Kristen and her protectors.

This is a good crew. I see why she will miss them.

This morning (Wednesday), our extremely dedicated and well-traveled Royal was spotted, thumb brace still in place, at Vancouver International Airport, having wrapped the principle filming for the role of Bella Swan Cullen. *sniffle*

Only Royalty looks this good at 5AM

It’s a bit bittersweet to watch Kristen fly away from The Breaking Dawn set, as we’ve been on a journey alongside her while she created, crafted, shaped and injected a compassionate, endearing spirit into a girl who had merely lived on paper and in our minds’ constructs. Kristen loves and passionately defends Bella’s decisions and actions to the very end (did you listen to the Eclipse Commentree?). She personified, sympathized with, and injected confidence into a restless and pretty young thing, perhaps because she found personal truths in common between herself and Bella… And perhaps this is just another glimpse of Kristen’s brilliance as an actor. She inspires our faith in a character that we may struggle to identify with…Or, conversely, over-identify with. Kristen granted the strands of conviction to those who merely viewed Bella (or themselves) as a too impulsive, too naive seventeen-year-old girl with an infatuation.

With considerable skill, Kristen Stewart took a vague caricature amongst a less-than impressive screenplay (sorry, Rosenberg, you and I are not besties) and produced a determined, complex, and impassioned young woman for whom we cheer on. As there will be reshoots and voice work, and two more movies to promote through 2012, we have not seen the last of Kristen’s Bella, but there still is a lingering sense of melancholy as we watch Breaking Dawn wrap, the actors and crew flying away from Vancouver and dispersing. Thank you, Ms. Stewart for all that you have done to create a fierce, relatable, unforgettable Bella Swan.

Playing The Game

So while Kristen has quietly (as a roar) displayed her propensity for sparking near-riots I finally did it. I finally sat down and read The Hunger Games. I hadn’t read them up until this point not because I resisted, but because I’ve just been busy and boast a bedside table bowing beneath the weight of the 208,371 books I already am reading (in addition to my fanfics). I finally sat down and read Hunger Games and within 36 hours had devoured the three books as if I were a wild raccoon ransacking a campground dumpster (check it: opposable thumbs are fierce). However, since I was late to the party in reading this magnificent series, I’ve made up for it by becoming wholly and utterly consumed these past two weeks, reliving, re-reading, basking in the genius that is Suzanne Collins’s tale of war, our society’s obsession with appearances and the healing profundity of loyalty and love. My reading of The Hunger Games Trilogy coincides with the casting of the film adaptation scheduled to release in March of next year.

This is REAL.

WARNING: An Oncoming Other Teachable Moment: Because of the amplified scrutiny of the casting process, and the passion of my fellow readers, there are strong reactions and declarations emerging. It is very, very reminiscent of the casting process for a one beloved young adult series called Twilight. I won’t launch into a full feature of defending Otherness today…but I want to say that I have complete faith in the actors Jennifer Lawrence and Josh Hutcherson, who have been chosen to play two of the three leads in the film.

I don’t put too much stock into any discrepancies of physical characteristics, because a.) We as OTHERS know more than ANYONE that our external attributes are only one slice of our Misfit Majesty and b.) becoming someone else is what actors do for their jobs. Both Jennifer Lawrence (Ohai Oscar Nomination) and Josh Hutcherson exhibit proclivity in their craft, i.e. MAD SKILLZ. I say we sit back and witness what these talented folks bring to the table before judging them. It’s the least we can do as fellow Others, long recipients of preconceived notions and unfair judgements ourselves.

We of the askance tiaras SEE you. We get. IT.

And to highlight two very significant events: Remember how dubious folks were when Robert Pattinson was cast as the iconic Edward Cullen almost four years ago? There was a freaking petition circulating in which thousands of people signed, proclaiming extreme dissatisfaction and doubt in Robert’s abilities: to act..to be sexy..to be beautiful. Um. LOOK AT HIM NOW.

Things didn't turn out so badly, did they?

Secondly: At the risk of being skinned alive by my peers, I note, in the case of Josh Hutcherson, that he has pretty solid cred in the business (did you see The Kids Are All Right?) AND, most importantly, our own Reigning Other Queen Kristen, she of the infamous BULLSHIT DETECTOR, and “incredible instincts” (per Sean Penn and Jodie Foster) deemed Josh as Good People years ago when they were costars in the film Zathura. According to Josh, he nursed a pretty serious crush on our Rebel Queen (ok, that right there implicates the kid’s supremely good sense), and she bestowed a baby turtle on him for his 13th birthday. If Kristen Stewart is gifting baby reptiles to this dude, I venture it’s safe to say he is not the devil incarnate. I guess I just ask us to hang back and reserve evaluation. . .And I’ll deftly and sweetly change the subject….nao.

I get it. And I like it.

She’s Got Skillz 

Other than procuring a new obsession with a book about teenagers brutally killing each other, I’ve been extremely busy since we last checked in. A sweet friend from Australia, Miss @Mel452 and I spent a couple days exploring my beautiful city…and hanging out with The Beats (we may or may not have gotten drunk where Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund hung), and introducing my Aussie friend to the wonders of IN-N-OUT. Partaking in Italian food consumption, smokes and “Jack Kerouacs” cocktails?  In short, it was divine.

I’ve been cultivating time and lessons learned with my clients. I’ve attended traffic school, the first part of  training for the Red Cross Disaster Relief team I’ve signed up for…I’ve been hanging out with N in the rare moment he has time off work–we have our wedding anniversary approaching next week– and I’ve been gathering courage to take the next step. The last activity has been the most challenging for me.

In a nutshell: I’ve been trying to accept the good. I’ve been digging deep and trying to take my own advice and look in the damn mirror. I’ve made the decision to expand the Magical Little Practice, not shut it down (see, Buff, I won’t give up, I won’t!). Without delving into too much detail, I have been constructing a curriculum to broaden my connection with the community of folks out there who seek empowerment and direction. Also this means I can finally, finally do what I’ve always felt I am meant to: teach, present, consult and collaborate. With the assistance of my business-minded manager-sister, I am trying to take back and own my accomplishments by channeling my skills into creating the perfect job. The job that I was chasing with other companies, outside of myself. I realized after a consultation with a colleague therapist that I can CREATE MY OWN PATH using the tools I’m already equipped with. One problem: I don’t quite have a Rebel Queen’s Confidence. #ReframeTime. Rather, ok, if I do have it, I have a hard time remembering I do.

“Letting circumstances or others determine worth gives them inappropriate control and power,” ~Anonymous 

grounding.....grounding....breathing

My Manegent (the term my brother dubbed my manager-agent) Leon began making calls to agencies and organizations to begin spreading the word of my expanded services, and we have been met with enthusiastic and promising options. Now all I need to do is present myself as capable and skilled and confident in my abilities.

*Commence knees shaking*

Leon asked me to piece together a bio so she could present a quick and direct introduction to folks who don’t have time to check my gorgeous website or peruse my flyers and business cards.

Guise…??? I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t tell Leon a thing about me that I found marketable or desirable. Not. A. Word.

“But what about your Masters degree?” Questioned Leon.

Nope.

“What about your certification in parenting, group leading and clinical supervision?” pushed Leon.

Nuh-uh.

“You make a connection with people. You provide comfort and kindness.”

Me, blushing, stuttering: “Ummmm.”

“What about the three thousand face-to-face hours you put in for your internship and licensure over three years?” She pressed.

“Eh, I paid my dues like everyone else who goes into this field. We’re not doing it to be rich or right,” I say, ever placating.

Exactly,” replied Leon. “You. Have. Worked. Your. Ass. Off. And because you chose to, not because you had to. And not for the accolades and great monetary rewards.”

*crickets*

Why? Why is it so difficult for us to hear and accept the positive attributes we have but so easy to believe the criticisms? Why is the bad so much easier to acknowledge than the good?  Dr. Glen Shiraldi, psychiatrist and lecturer, cautions us that mistakes and past traumas, external criticisms and chronic seeking approval from outside sources all deplete our confidence and abilities to see ourselves as worthy.

We lose our ability to accept the good, and accept that we’re good the minute we forget to realize that our core worth already exists. We were born unmarred, pure, untouched by externals (money, physical looks, status, possessions). See it’s when we begin to listen to our Detractors, The Vultures, The Nerdy Bloggers, The Bullshit People when we go astray. Rob and Kristen have it right in ignoring these loud critics and asking for the focus to be on their work. What they do. 

Our internal strengths are essential, unique, eternal and unchanging in value. Our internal strengths are what comprise our Royalty. 

Our Otherness. Annnd, I begin writing a bio for the business presentations. . .

 When I thank and admire and muse about the Royal Rebels that serve as our models, (please see EACH AND EVERY FEATURED REBEL IN THE HISTORY OF MOO), I actually am thanking them for delving deep within and finding that internal compass, that core self which implies we are still, in the scheme of all the chaos–traffic school (I have a clean record now!), final exams, job stressors,  movie premieres, the unemployment claims…. doing all right.

Our Rebel Queen Kristen consistently provides graceful examples of how to transcend the landmines that are externals:

  • She disregards the clamoring about her attendance at her partner’s work events and goes–while wearing a slinky dress, a bold red lip color and a thumb-brace that red carpet cameras will not capture. She didn’t dress up to be” seen” except by who matters most: herself, and Rob. I think he’s appreciative, yes?

Yeah, I'd smile that hugely if I were you too.

  • She returns to her base, her craft, to complete her journey as a girl named Bella.
  • She peers in front of her, eyeing the next project that highlights her talents (her goodness)..That could mean filming K-11 and Snow White and the Huntsman;or, promoting her next movie On The Road (breath stutters in excitement), and maybe perfecting the recipes she’s tweaked from The Cooking Network.

It doesn’t really change the fact that whatever she chooses to do next, it’s her call, not anyone else’s. I’m pretty confident in her confidence.

These past two weeks, while our Reigning Other Queen has steadily taken steps towards her blazingly bright future, quietly but fiercely casting off the criticisms and judgements shoved onto her, I am following her lead. I am tentatively placing my feet on the road before me, re-learning how to forge onward as well, still wearing my Chucks and a (slightly askew) tiara.

We are Other.

Kristen is Other.

Others do not let externals determine their worth.

Embrace your Other.

* * *

Question: How have you let externals inform or derail your chosen path?

A/N: I plan on returning to the usual MOO format of highlighting a new Featured Rebel next time.

Thank you to everyone I’ve had the pleasure of connecting with this week in those quiet moments of uncertainty.

Thanks to Leon.

Love to Reb and love to my longtime Bestie S who I miss madly.

Thank you also for everyone I’ve spent time rejoicing in Otherness with:

@Mel452

My HG Girls–Beanai, Webby, Kris, Peri,  Sail, Brothaa

Thank you for musing and contemplating with me: @ThistleFi @PrimaryColors1 @MadamThang, @DeeDreamer16  @edmett @robkris13

Long Hugs to: @beammeup_00 @Kate_Suena @MyCleverAlias        @Justice_Aussie @Ophelia2010 

As always, my constants: My Cyber Sisters & Readers

**Are you going to see Water For Elephants this weekend? Puss and I are hitting the matinée tomorrow. We’re coming with tissues and waterproof mascara (along with snack money–nachos and popcorn are a MUST). Let’s meet next week to chat WFE, ok?

I’ve updated the Resources For Beauty Page  as well as About KJ, but will probably run another sentence completion before this weekend.

See you next time. xo, KJ

Homage To The Firsts

24 Feb

Well hello there, my loves! I hope this essay finds you well and healthy and warm if you’re in the freezing cold part of the world, and cool if it’s hellishly hot where you are . It’s rainy and stormy here in my neck o’ the woods, and I’m happily bundled up while writing and listening to the sublime Adele (check the playlist. I’m slightly obsessed this week) sing of love and redemption. Today, we’re having a bit of a Rainy Day Pow-wow!  It’s a bit different than how I usually structure Musings, and we will not highlight a Featured Rebel today. However, I hope to reinstate weekly postings next week, and I will commemorate this by highlighting the deliciously unique and glorious Other Queen, Helena Bonham Carter. Sound good? Soooo without further adieu, lets get on with our Otherness Kumbaya, shall we?

Happiness is when you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~Gandhi

After I had finally, finally decided on a major in college, I enrolled in a class that was a graduation requirement for my field of study (counseling psychology), the start of my junior year. I had just turned 20 (Kristen’s age now).  For MOO’s purposes, we’ll refer to the class as Communication and Collaboration or C & C for short. Though I didn’t know it at the time, I had enrolled myself in the most catalytic, revolutionary class of my life. What was this class? Can’t be categorized, as it drew from teachings in various disciplines: sociology, psychology, criminology, business and…. Kindergarten. No, seriously. I sat in a circle with eight other people and caught a refresher course on the basic essentials of socialization and etiquette: turn-taking, sharing, listening before speaking and cultural sensitivity. If we had a designated “snack time” and “nap time”, it really would be like Kindergarten.

Arts and Crafts Time

Each week, nine of us fellow academics along with two co-leading peers would discuss and share our thoughts, concerns and reactions surrounding a myriad of topics including: career, relationships, love, loss and ambition. We all derived from different backgrounds, cultures, ethnicities, and fields of study but once a week for 2+ hours we would convene to share a piece of our personal value systems with each other. I suppose it’s similar in concept to group therapy, but with more of a book club vibe. However, instead of discussing the latest best sellers, we’d  trade stories about our experiences and ideas that shaped our personalities. I always believed that we (the world) could live in a peaceful utopia if everybody  participated in two events: One, attend and work through a C & C class; and, two, work in customer service, preferably in the restaurant business. Because let’s face it: people just don’t know what it’s like until they experience it for themselves. And even then, people don’t quite see how to apply the newfound knowledge to others’ situations….

Is it really wise for you to antagonize the one who brings your food to you?

So why am I telling you about the life-changing class called C & C and encouraging you all to get food-serving positions? Well, I’ve just basically shared my core motivator for writing Musings. I wanted to create a place, like C & C, in which people from differing backgrounds, ages, and experiences could come together and  share different interpretations and reactions to events that are important to us, i.e. Royal Rebelliousness, Bliss Pursuit, Kristen Stewart’s Steeze, and have a respectful dialogue regardless if we share the same opinions or not. When we realize that we all have differing perspectives  but on universal, common themes, it removes the stigma of the “Unknown” (Demonized Other, Alien) Factor.  Perhaps it eliminates the reason for insulting, bullying, tearing down of others…? I learned that we have filters through which we view everything. Our childhood experiences, our current interactions, our culture, our family, all shape how we view and respond to situations. It’s our conditioning. See, here in the land of MOO, we’ve talked about perspective before. We’ve acknowledged that no single one of us has the exact same reaction to a certain situation, and we certainly recognize that we have very strong inclinations towards protectiveness when it comes to our Reigning Queen Kristen.

Back to the Beginning

According to a Psychology Today article entitled “Heartbreak and Home Runs: The Power of First Experiences”, our first experiences are formidable enough to shape our whole character, our  adult personalities. Elation and heartache we encountered in our younger years may hold the key to why and how we react the way we do as adults, why we make the decisions we do, why we’re fascinated with whom or what we’re fascinated with (clears throat)…

So today’s Musings is dedicated to the exploration of Firsts: ours, and Other Queen Kristen’s. A reason for a stroll down memory lane? Well, for one thing, my incredibly brilliant Cyber Sister Readers and I were exchanging  our own stories of first loves and first kisses, prompted by particular fan fiction stories we’re reading (taking a moment to rec and love on the story A Quiet Fire by @Magnolia822) and with 3D happenings in our families.

Another reason for the nostalgia: our Majestic Misfits Kristen and Rob have returned to British Columbia this week, to complete the final months of filming for the last installments of the Twilight Saga. Not only am I struck with moments of, “remember when K and R were in Vancouver the first time two years ago?” and reminded that Vancouver is one of my favorite cities in the world too, but I’m also aware that I’m more irritable and have an increased need to preserve and safeguard Kristen, Rob and their cast mates against the Vultures and overzealous critics and “fans”. See what I mean? I’m influenced by what I witnessed and experienced from Vancouver before…

Oh that's right. They're so THRILLED to be hunted down.

Baton Rouge, from where the cast just returned, served as a quieter, less-intrusive backdrop for our Queen Other and her Ninja partner Rob, and while we didn’t receive minute-to-minute commentaries on their every move, I was infinitely happier because I knew that Kristen and Rob had semblance of privacy, which is not necessarily the case in Van City.  Amongst VulturePapz fighting re: the order in which the actors disembarked from their airplanes, also bonafide set stalkers and the resurgence of Nerdy Bloggers and pretentious “insiders”, it isn’t any mystery that the only glimpse we’ve had of Kristen is one pic of her running to her car with a jacket over her head.

I’m not sure what first experiences justifies how the BullShit People and obsessed gossip bloggers can harass our girl, why they cannot seem to grant Kristen the space to acquaint herself with her own adventures. Were they picked on as children? Did they never have a moment of wanting privacy, of silence? I humbly request that we Others all reflect, C & C -style, upon our own journeys before we lose the capacity to be compassionate and nonjudgmental. Before we lose our own personal connection with the meaningful experiences in our lives. Shall we take a stroll?

FIRST FALLINGS

Some of these Firsts are featured in the Sentence Completion Section on the About KJ Page. If you feel moved to do so, answer the prompts with as much or as little detail as you prefer…

First Job: Our lovely Reigning Other Queen was working at age nine. What were you doing at age nine? Kristen had her first role (non-speaking) in the film Thirteenth Year. Next up came a supporting role opposite Patricia Clarkson in The Safety of Objects.

Of course, it was her first starring role as Sarah Altman, daughter to Jodie Foster in director David Fincher’s (The Social Network) Panic Room that earned Kristen praise from critics and created a friend, mentor, protector and advocate of Jodie Foster. It was Foster who ultimately recommended our lovely Queen Kristen for the pivotal roles to the filmmakers of of Into the Wild and The Yellow Handkerchief.

So while our Beatific Rebel was making business contacts and earning fans among the Hollywood Elite in her first jobs, most other kids her age were enjoying the wonders of being able to write cursive for a year (in America, we learn cursive in 3rd grade, approx eight years old), and maybe, maybe  celebrate participation in a junior soccer league or ballet (my brother Chew was the former, I was the latter).

My first job was at a sporting goods store. Yep. I was seventeen years old, a senior in high school, and helping folks pick out their ideal first pair of rollerblades (and subsequent knee pads and the crucial but overlooked wrist guards). Lookie here, I’m like Bella Swan working at Newton’s Outfitters! Minimum wage was maybe $7/hr which meant I could satisfy my newest obsessions: vintage Levi’s and tickets to Tori Amos concerts.

First Public Acknowledgement/Award: With the breakthrough role in Panic Room, Kristen received the first of four nominations for The Young Artist Award. It was for her role in the aching and beautiful Into the Wild for which Kristen won the award.  She was sixteen years old and enjoying critical praise from colleagues and journalists for her solid, “sensitive performance” in the film. And she unwittingly attracted the curiosity of a certain British musician named Robert. This would be an essential development in Kristen’s professional and personal timeline.

When I was sixteen, I was pretty stoked to be a licensed driver and a junior in high school. I did receive special accolades for my ability to string words together in English classes, and I was extremely proud to have won a scholarship for my essay on an encounter with a drunk driver.

First Encounter with Separation of Self And Other: Ah see, this one is pretty heavy, I think. First realization that we are Other…The understanding that we are “supposed” to adhere to structure and conform to predetermined norms based on our age, our gender, our culture, our school…our family, can be especially shattering. It’s the moment when we realize that we have an idea of who we are, and that idea is challenged by someone or something else. This realization can have such a profound effect at times pushing us into almost existential questioning. It’s the basic acknowledgement that there is judgment, there are structures, and there are rules, and that we don’t want agree. Also, we learn that people can be harsh. This is the time period–commonly in early adolescence, though really it could occur any time, any age–when our bodies, our beliefs, our relationships, our chemical makeup undergo significant changes. Gasp! Suddenly we’re aware of the opposite sex..and body odor..It’s puberty and it can be brutal.

Things can swing from THIS…..

Rainbows, Unicorns and best friends forevsies

to this….kinda quickly

Our lovely Ms Stewart herself spoke once about the cruelty of her peers at her school when she finished filming Panic Room. Classmates snubbed her, made taunting remarks to her and kept her on the periphery of acceptance. Certainly, since Kristen would be away on such long breaks to film, the separation from her peers didn’t foster opportunities to create the bonds that could be there if she were in regular attendance . Hence the beginning of her separateness, The Otherness. She eventually chose to receive home schooling to complete her education.

How anyone could alienate or snub this lovely girl, I do not understand. Oh wait. It's STILL fucking happening!

I first understood this shift from obliviousness to uber awareness of a social order  in the summer between before sixth grade. I was on a week-long trip to Washington D.C., away from my family for the first time, across the country. I realized I had developed a fascination with one of the older boys in our tour group, and he had a “girlfriend”, since, you know, he held her hand as we walked through The Smithsonian. He had darker skin, like I did, but his girlfriend was fair and light skinned, and the contrast in coloring was simply beguiling to me. Remember, I had been raised by a Swiss/German family, so I was used to seeing the exotic contrasts of light and dark when I viewed family portraits. I just hadn’t seen it anywhere else outside of my own situation.

Well, after staring at this lovely boy and his lovely girlfriend for goddess knows how long, the jig was up, and I was about to get yanked out of my self-centered revelry. BAM. It’s not just me anymore. The boy loudly hissed at me, in front of the entire tour group:

“WHY DO STARE AT ME SO MUCH? WHY?”

And when one his buddies joked that it was because I must have wanted to “go around” with him (is that what you called it when you were 10 or 11? Going around? Going Steady?), to my utter humiliation, the boy threw back his head and guffawed. Laughed his stupid head off.

“EWWW. SHE’S YOUNGER…AND SHE’S NOT CUTE”

To add lemon to the paper cut, the following year found me grappling with an assortment of  Yearbook Honors (Most Ambitious, Class Clown, Cutest, etc). A yearbook misprint placed the title of “CUTEST” over my picture instead of “BEST PERSONALITY”–the award I preferred and had actually won. The final weeks of school were filled with people whispering and blatantly disputing the vote. Ah yes. Good times. See a little bit more why I declined the Other Homecoming Queen nominations to follow? I should have known then and there at the tender age of 13 that I could not trust the media and to harden my skin. Goodness. I have so much admiration for what Kristen does every single day of her life. My pain has consisted of having to contend with minor misunderstandings and whispers at my back. Kristen must dart away from Stalkerazzi and is aware through Google that people really, really dislike her outfit from last night, this morning and right at this moment. Kristen Stewart is SO MUCH BETTER THAN ME. #KSIBTM #KSIBTU

First Love: While I’m not versed in Kristen’s personal life, because she’s asked for her personal life to remain private, rightfully so, I feel safe enough in saying she has been a prominent feature in the idea of First Love at least since the casting news was announced that the iconic role of Bella Swan would be portrayed by the seventeen-year-old indie actress… Whether it’s because we’ve witnessed her embodiment of the the quintessential EveryGirl Bella Swan falling in love, or the evolvement of her very unique bond with Robert Pattinson over the years, Kristen Stewart has, for me, represented love in a very relatable, genuine way.

I had crushes that came and went, starting with my 7th grade boyfriend (he was The Edward Cullen of Middle School with otherworldly beauty and charisma) all the way through high school and my first year in college in which I pined for a boy who pined for my oblivious best friend. Of course as soon as he realized I’d do anything to be the recipient any fleeting attention he tossed my way, I set myself up for a world of pain. The less about him the better, perhaps. My brother still holds a grudge against him, and I’m pretty sure the boy reads Musings. As does, occasionally, the boy who I would qualify as my First Love, or more accurately, “The Boy I Think Is Love” because he looked good on paper, but didn’t make much sense anywhere else. I was eighteen when we started dating, but I actually broke up with him once I figured out my shit with the help of that C & C class I took. One more endorsement for introspection and clarifying values, I guess?

First Philanthropy: With the help of the recent stunning Vogue article, we know that Kristen has philanthropic goals that are profound and inspiring. But long before her hopes for building a halfway house network were verbalized, our Royal Rebel has displayed her charitable and compassionate nature byway of her endorsement of raising awareness of sexual assault when she was quite young, age 13, as she portrayed Melinda, a selectively-mute date-rape survivor in the movie Speak.

Courtesy of the brilliant Tumblr by absofreakinlutely

In a move foreshadowing more philanthropic work, Ms Stewart took time to film a public service announcement in 2009  for Security On Campus (SOC) designed to encourage awareness about sexual assault, drawing attention to the frequency it occurs on college campuses. The statistics are pretty sobering: Every 2 minutes someone in the U.S. is sexually assaulted, and 1 out of 6 American women has been the victim of an attempted or completed rape. Knowledge and awareness of these facts is powerful, and I admire Ms Stewart for contributing her voice and time to the promotion of knowledge about sexual assault.

>>>Click this pic to see Kristen's PSA Video<<<

I’ve watched with growing amazement at the generosity and creativity of Twilight Fanfiction communities in their efforts to raise awareness and funding for charities for relief (Fandom for Floods, for the recent Australian floods; Fandom Against Domestic Violence) and for health and spirit (Alex’s Lemonade Stand for Childhood Cancer; Fandom Fights Mental Health Issues, Autism Awareness, among many). I wanted to take a quick moment to highlight a charity event that is taking place now, one of personal significance as well as a larger importance society. In honor of Sexual Assault Awareness Month (April), led by a friend of mine, @Aylah50, and another lovely author @ColdplayWhore are hosting a fandom event which serves to educate communities and individuals on how to prevent sexual violence. This primary prevention approach helps to create environments where people are safe in their relationships, families, neighborhoods, schools, work places and communities. Check out the website (click the badge below) for more information on how you can contribute and lend your voice, as our Other Ambassador Kristen has, to the sharing of knowledge.

Fandom4saa.wordpress.com

First Falling For Kristen: I alluded to first falling into Kristen in earlier posts and on the Origins of Musings page, but I haven’t really spoken to how she became my Reigning Other Queen. I had first seen her in Panic Room but I didn’t realize it was her. It was summertime 2008, and I knew Twilight was being adapted to film. I heard that Kristen was cast in the lead female role, but I hadn’t made the connection yet. I caught maybe 30 minutes of In The Land Of Women on HBO one afternoon, and I remember being struck with the beauty and passion of Kristen’s character Lucy, but again, I didn’t know. Seriously, I should probably have my KristenFan Card revoked right now with that admission.

I didn’t truly get it until I caught a glimpse of the famous Larry Carroll MTV Interviews  (Twilight Tuesdays) in which she carried herself with poise and a grounded-ness that was so refreshing. And then I read the Vanity Fair Q & A and fell in love with her direct answers and her obvious intelligence. Of course, pictures like this, depicting her lightness of spirit and chemistry with Rob…I was breathless.

My championing of this Royal Rebel only increased by leaps and bounds as Twilight was released, as well as the backlash of criticism of Kristen’s interviewing skills, her frenetic energy, her refusal to participate in media training. As I heard all of these “offenses” I was thoroughly convinced that she is the coolest. chica. evah. Uncompromising. Unapologetically genuine. Steadfast. . . .And you? When did you First Fall for Kristen?

Well, as I cautioned, today’s MOO was going to be slightly different in structure and tone. Maybe I’m inspired to chat with you all on a more personal level because I’ve felt further away than usual, with my staggered posting schedule, or maybe it’s the rainy weather. Perhaps the return of Kristen and Rob to Vancouver, wrapping up a film project that has been so influential and integral in our lives these past three years is the trigger. I was curious also how the people who stalk and bash and hound Kristen and Rob in Vancouver can justify their behavior–have they forgotten what it was like to be a young person on a new job assignment? Have they lost their abilities to empathize? Do their encounters with First experiences influence their current actions, or have they forgotten the significance of their Firsts altogether? Just wonderin’…..Or maybe it’s the introduction of AmishRob that has sent everyone into a tailspin? *shrugs*

(c) absofreakinlutely tumblr

Meanwhile, my hope is to continue to remind myself and my fellow Others that as we continue to blaze forth on our paths towards integration and bliss, that it’s a good thing, a healthy practice, to revisit our beginnings. Today’s Musings is the forty-first essay. I’m simply amazed by that. Forty-one essays celebrating Unconventional Beauty, awkwardness, rebelliousness and Otherness…of rejoicing over the epicness that is an actress and Rebel Queen named Kristen.

We are Other.

Kristen is Other.

Others do not lose sight of the significance of Firsts.

Embrace your Other.

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Question: I’ve tons of ’em here and in the Sentence Completion portion of About KJ. Tell me about your firsts…

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A/N: For Fandom For Sexual Assault Awareness Info, visit the website: http://fandom4saa.wordpress.com/

See you next week, my lovelies. Thanks for all your tweets, emails and kindness as I was recovering from what felt like Typhoid. xo, KJ

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