I have written twelve novels. This is the space where I share my stories with the world. There is so much to say in this life, and so little time...

Tuesday, June 14, 2016

The City Beautiful



I lived in Orlando for nearly four years.  My time there was filled with laughter, twinkling lights, and lots of Vitamin D.

I remember late nights at Parliament House and free concerts at Lake Eola. I remember "summer" poolside BBQ's in February, with temperatures already reaching the low 80's. I recall thick, juicy burgers at Graffiti Junktion and volunteering at the Ronald McDonald House with my coworkers.

I treasure those memories. Each one of them.

Every time a blizzard hits Denver, or I look at my monthly rent bill, or I make a futile attempt to find some decent Mexican food in the Mile-High City (I miss you, Garibaldi's on Semoran!), I joke that I'm moving back to the House of Mouse. Also known as O-Town. Also known as The City Beautiful.

That last nickname is my favorite. In light of recent events, it holds special meaning. Orlando really is a gorgeous place. The city's beauty lies not only in its majestic palm trees or colorful city lights, but also in the hearts of its residents, who are currently mourning a tragic loss.

I don't think any of us will ever understand the fury behind the senseless act committed last weekend, because we have souls capable of empathy and compassion. The gunman clearly did not.

In my opinion, this type of mass murder can only be accomplished by someone who has forgotten what it means to be human. Only when a person sheds his ability to empathize can he perform an act this grotesque.

The man who opened fire in Pulse caused so much unnecessary destruction. Yet he cannot distort my fond Orlando memories, nor can he remove the solidarity and hope still thriving among MCO's residents.

About half of my friends in Orlando are gay. They are amazing people. I love them for who they are...and they love me for being my dorky, loud, filter-less self.

Like the 49 victims of Sunday's heinous act, we often danced until the clubs shut down for the night. This shooting could have easily happened to my buddies. It could have happened to me.

Fortunately, my friends were not at Pulse the night of this heartbreaking tragedy. Unfortunately, 49 innocent people were killed inside the club. Their friends and families cannot say the same.

I sincerely hope my buddies never have to feel the sting of hatred, or question going to a dance club because of the possibility they'll be targeted by a psychopath. These hopes seem wildly unrealistic, though; the truth is, intolerance still exists in this world. I don't understand it, I don't condone it, and I will not allow it to be mentioned in my presence. But it does exist. Sadly.

Right now, I believe the best thing the LGBTQ community can do is use this horrific act to build strength and unity. Sure, some people might not stand behind you. But there are TONS of folks who do support you. Including me. I am so proud of the community's response to this shooting. Many people have spread messages of compassion and respect. They have shown solidarity, strength, and hope. The outpouring of love in the wake of this egregious act has been nothing short of amazing.

The response has been so powerful. Yet I have one special request for my friends: please, please hold your heads high. Do not live in fear. Sure, that's easier said than done...but if you let this unspeakable act deter you from fully enjoying your lives, then the bad guys win.

Orlando experienced a devastating loss this weekend; 49 souls left the planet far too soon. This shooting rampage caused so much destruction. However, if the gunman thought he would break Orlando's spirit, he was wrong. The City Beautiful will not be shaken. Orlando (and all the city’s supporters, worldwide) will emerge as strong and stunning as ever.

Love,
Lisa

Tuesday, February 2, 2016

My Brand of Love


In elementary school, I found an injured bunny. The tiny creature was shivering, uncontrollable shudders erupting beneath his blood-splattered fur. I tucked him in my lunchbox to keep him warm. My friends thought I was crazy for taking home a half-dead bunny. He could barely open his eyes. He didn't stand a chance, and we all knew it.

I could've cared less. All that mattered was keeping that bunny safe for the time being.

When I arrived home, I took the muddy, bleeding rabbit out of my lunchbox and cradled him in my arms. I asked my mom if we could bring him to a veterinarian. She sighed at my hopeless optimism, but reluctantly agreed to drive to the nearest animal hospital.

We never made it there.

The bunny died with his head tucked into the crook of my left arm. I then sobbed over an animal I'd known for approximately two hours. My dad helped me bury him in the backyard, because I couldn't fathom tossing the furry little guy in a garbage can.

As an adult, not much has changed; I still choose to love, even while staring into the face of impending doom.

Truth be told, I don't know how to love differently. To me, the outcome is far less important than the bonds established along the way.

If I connect with someone, then I don't need the guarantee of a "happy forever" with that person. I just need a few moments to extend my arms, offer an embrace, and hopefully leave some sort of positive impact.

I've given my heart away several times, knowing full well it would get broken in the process. Walls make no sense to me; I cradled a dying bunny and subsequently mourned the loss. At that time, preserving my own heart seemed silly. Much more important was the task of ensuring the bunny's comfort and safety in his final moments.

Some people don't understand this type of love. It confuses them. Apparently, it also causes them to draw hasty conclusions. I suppose that's natural; human beings seek to justify situations within their own minds. We want easy answers. We crave logical explanations for things that don't make sense to us.

So when I've discussed past relationships, either verbally or via my writings (which I thought nobody actually read, by the way! Surprise!), people have reached their own conclusions. I recently learned of these theories. Unfortunately, they are malicious and destructive. Not to mention completely untrue.

Even worse, these folks have shared their false assumptions with others. People with whom I work, eat, converse, laugh and travel have been poisoned by hurtful gossip which has zero basis in reality.

I refuse to describe, detail for detail, my actions over the past few years. I shouldn't have to. I've already been placed under a (broken) microscope against my will and deemed unworthy...so nothing I say at this point will change that verdict anyway.

All I can do is hold my head high and prove to everyone, through my actions, that I am not damaged or selfish or scandalous just because I choose to love uniquely and without regret. I won't apologize for my choices. I did nothing wrong. And I certainly haven't participated in the activities I've been accused of partaking in.

The next time I find a bunny, I will love him the same way I always have: fearlessly, wholly, and unconditionally. If people assume I'm committing crimes because I choose to speak fondly of someone who exited my life, then that's their choice. They are allowed to think whatever they want to think. They're even allowed to spread hurtful lies to whomever they choose.

But this is my kind of love. I won't alter it, and I certainly won't apologize for it.

I won't stop loving my way just because I've received backlash for it. Matted fur doesn't scare me, nor am I afraid to get a little dirt on my hands. Love is worth any & every price, in my opinion.

To all the people who have heard, believed, spread or perhaps even enjoyed the rumors, I'm not mad at you. Get to know me and I'll gladly prove these accusations false.

My brand of love is idealistic and infinite. It's bigger than the small, restrictive box that these rumors have attempted to place me in. Much bigger, in fact. Let me show you.

Love,
Lisa

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Fill Power


My mom teaches fourth grade. On countless occasions, my mother has witnessed classic bullying among her students. While I believe nine-year-olds should know that tormenting one another is wrong, I can understand, on some level, that these kids are still growing, learning, and exploring this vast (and sometimes scary) world. Unsure how to cope with uncertainty and/or jarring self-discovery, some children resort to cruel comments. It certainly is NOT justifiable behavior, but hopefully it's temporary. Experimental. Short-lived.

Recently, however, I've heard people my own age (and older!) comment on strangers' alleged "flaws." From clothing to hairstyles to body size, everything is apparently fair game for jokes, judgments, and jeers--the three j's of bullying, in my opinion.

This concerns me.

I've heard people label others trashy, tacky, and fat. This last one is perhaps my personal pet peeve. I don't carry extra physical weight on my 5'10" frame, but you better believe my emotional weight could rival the physical mass of a sumo wrestler. And I'm not alone in that respect. Life can get tricky, and we all undoubtedly have scars from previous battles. I'm just willing to display mine. And own them. And continually strive to better myself without denying my cuts and nicks and bruises.

So when my coworkers comment on a stranger's so-called lack of will power, I am no longer going to remain silent. "Will power" is such an elitist term. It implies a lack of something crucial...a deficiency that is both deliberate and also somehow offensive to others.

I think this verbiage needs to be tossed in the trash. "Will power" didn't propel me to get healthy when I was climbing into an early grave during my college years. "Will power" didn't keep me in the trenches during my toughest, most frustrating moments at AmeriCorps. "Will power" didn't help me follow through with the most difficult decision of my romantic life (which, by the way, was also the morally correct choice).

In fact, will power is divisive and insulting. Why don't we instead offer folks a little "fill power?"

That's a term I coined to describe words of encouragement and inclusion. These are the deeds, ranging anywhere from minuscule to massive, which inform another human that he/she is valued. Relevant. Important.

Fill power changes lives for the better.

When my best friend held me as tears streamed down my face, he added to my fill power.

When my roommate listened patiently as I expressed my financial and romantic woes, she gave me fill power.

When my boss told me that my writings had provided comfort to those desperately seeking help, he boosted my fill power.

I am a product of many amazing people who have encouraged me over the years. My father is perhaps my biggest hero, but numerous other people have influenced my life in ways I could never describe. Although I will definitely try...by showing that same respect and compassion to others.

Including overweight people. And disgraced folks. And impoverished ones, too. Ones who are struggling with mental health issues, relationship issues, self-esteem issues.

The next time my coworker refers to someone as a "cow," I will speak up. I'll point out that insults are wildly unproductive; they tear others down without offering any opportunity for improvement. Furthermore, they lack grace.

In the words of my roommate, who is wise beyond her years, "a little grace can go a long way." Let's focus on fill power. Let's make an effort to empathize with others, instead of rushing to criticize them. That wasn't acceptable when we were in fourth grade. It is downright reprehensible now that we are adults.

So let's intentionally offer a little more love, a little more often.

That's my plan, anyway. And if you fly/drink/eat/sit/travel/talk with me, I'll gladly prove it to you.

Love,
Lisa

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Joy, Unfiltered

 

Far too often, I attach quantifiable terms to unquantifiable things.

“I’ve been a flight attendant for five years,” I say, followed by the hasty explanation (as though this topic needs an asterisk): “But within ten years, I hope to get my books published so I can fly less and write more.”

These statements reduce my life to a series of chronological achievements. Turns out I'm an expert at that! When recalling the diploma I received, I always state the year and the subject. These basic descriptors fail to acknowledge the friendships, global adventures and philanthropic endeavors that paved the way for that piece of paper.

As a writer, this bothers me. Immensely.

My appreciation for words and emotions should, theoretically, make me more sensitive to the fact that some things are timeless. Nameless.  Ubiquitous.

To those I have loved, and lost, and loved again: you were not just a moment in time, a gasp of air. Whether we spent two decades or merely two weeks together, you changed me for the better.

You were your own symphony.

I hear you at night, when I can’t sleep. You also slice through the silence during the day. You provide the perfect soundtrack as I navigate this crazy/beautiful world.

You inspire me to treat others well, and love myself, and choose good…even when the bad is so much more appealing and easily accessible.

There’s no erasing the footprint you’ve left on my heart.  There aren’t enough rulers or stopwatches in the world to measure the impact you've made.

I can’t hold you anymore, can’t lean into you. I can't weave my fingers through yours. Your arms don’t wrap around me as I’m drifting off to sleep.

Yet you’re still relevant. I promise you this: you’re as real as shivers that crawl down my spine on a chilly evening. You are everything. You’re my lifeline.

So, moving forward, I will make a concerted effort not to talk about you in terms of time. You’re so much more than the minutes we spent together. You’re a huge part of who I am...and who I hope to become. You are my joy, unfiltered.
 
Thank you for loving me. Thank you for defying the barriers of time and space. I’ll love you, in my own unique way, as long as there’s blood pumping through this silly heart of mine. 

Maybe even after that.

Love,
Lisa

Thursday, July 23, 2015

The Storm's Appeal


There may be a devastating drought in California, but you would not have known it that day.

I awakened to a pitch-black apartment, silent except for the rhythmic symphony of raindrops collapsing against my concrete porch. Gone were the homeless folks typically resting on park benches across the street; they'd vanished in search of shelter, of course.

Digital numbers on my once-functional microwave informed me that I had missed the bus to work. Which would've been no problem on a typical partly-cloudy NorCal day. Today, however, I was in a bind: I certainly couldn't afford to pay a taxi driver $40 to drive me to a restaurant where I may or may not earn that money back over the next nine hours, depending on the clientele awaiting me at the bar.

With a sigh, I began the trek on foot. My umbrella lasted two blocks before rebelliously flipping inside-out. I raised my hood in a sad attempt to protect my hair, and continued along with rainwater seeping up through the holes in my well-worn black boots.

By the time I reached Geary Street, I was drenched. By the time I reached Sutter Street, I was more water than human. By the time I reached Broadway, however, the clouds had rolled away in defeat. Out of nowhere, the sun appeared.


Standing there, on top of a hill which overlooked Fort Mason and the Golden Gate Bridge, I had to pause. It was too stunning of a view to ignore or bypass.

I arrived at work a few minutes late, apologized to the owner, and fixed drinks for half-soaked customers the remainder of the night.

Although nearly four years have passed since then, I remember every detail, down to the ripped tights I wore with my jean miniskirt.

I most clearly recall being mesmerized at the top of the hill, as sunlight lapped against my damp skin. An iconic bridge, inspiration for songs and books and countless romantic photos, stretched before me. Water shimmered and pulsed toward the shore. The hills of San Francisco were dotted with quaint little houses which looked like a tribute to a different era.

In that moment, I vowed to always be grateful.

I vowed to never, ever take this world for granted.

I made an oath to enjoy the violent rainstorms which often lead to dazzling, sunny views.

For many years, I was successful; I made people laugh with my ever-present optimism. I exuded pure happiness. I was grateful for a job I adored, an opportunity to live in the tropics, and an amazing network of friends within a five-mile radius of my apartment.

A buddy once asked me it I ever wished I could "have it all." He was, of course, referring to a plush paycheck and the upscale clothes/cars/vacations which accompany that. I immediately responded that I did have it all. Money was irrelevant. I was content, peaceful, satisfied.

All of that changed last year.

Money became very relevant once I went into debt.

More importantly, I relocated for work...and the network I'd spent nearly a decade constructing began to disintegrate. I was alone. As a single 30-year-old, my friends were my family. My whole world. They always had been. Suddenly they felt so distant; I was in a new city...on my own...again.

In addition, work was more demanding than ever before. The fun was gone; I became a zombie, flying around the entire country without noticing or appreciating the ride.

The city with that spectacular view of the Golden Gate Bridge transformed into my enemy, my aggressor. In search of a comrade, I befriended a loneliness I'd never known before.

Several months ago, my best friend told me that we can either "get bitter or get better." That catch phrase caused something to shift inside of me. I had slipped into a state of despair...but I began to claw my way out.

My friends helped me rekindle some sort of hope for my future. Self-pity is dark enough to be oddly enticing to someone already at a low point. But once I allowed myself to enter that mournful space, escape became difficult.

Yet I managed to find the exit.

I credit those around me, who helped every step of the way...and I can't think of a better way to thank them than by spreading hope to others. Every day, any chance I get.

Things are still far from perfect. Sometimes I cry when remembering how life used to be. There was simplicity and balance before. My social circle was strong. I had a place.

I'm still unmarried, still finding my literary voice, still wondering if I'll ever discover my "forever home."

But I now hope to wade through all these uncertainties with grace and, yes, laughter.

The thankful girl on Fillmore Street is not dead, she just needed a moment to relocate and solidify her misplaced optimism.

So many of my friends have endured struggles far greater than mine. I would like to remind anyone dealing with loss, displacement, or failure that they are not alone. Strong arms carried me through my saddest days, and I'm steadily rebuilding my arm strength so I can do the same for others.

Love,

Lisa

Sunday, May 10, 2015

Cold Comfort


 
The snowflakes in Denver last night were not the fluffy, light, quick-dissolving type but rather heavy, clumpy ones. They accumulated quickly, coating my car, balcony, and eyelashes. Covered in snow, I darted inside a bowling alley. My neighbors and I laughed at the springtime blizzard while tossing 12-pound balls down our lane. I lost by a significant margin. Somehow, it still felt like a victory.

In terms of weather, Denver is the antithesis of everything I’ve ever wanted.

July 4th has always been my favorite holiday, mainly because it conjures memories of sparklers, backyard barbecues and fireworks culminating a brilliant sun-soaked day. I'm a summer baby; my happiness is directly linked to the climate. Heat is my love language.

Unsurprisingly, I spent twelve years of my life chasing the sun. From Florida to Trinidad to Phoenix, I sought one thing: warmth. I deliberately chose the path of radiance and balmy wonder. Every street was lined with palm trees. Sandals covered my feet…when I wore shoes, that is. Half the time I ran around barefoot, like a wide-eyed child determined to enjoy those fleeting months of searing summer temps.

Denver is the coldest climate I’ve lived in since high school.

I came here by accident. My California dream morphed into a California nightmare; after wading through hopelessness for several months, I decided to make a change. Denver fit oddly into my schedule. I started exploring the base and the city. In spite of the chilly climate, it appealed to me.

So I trusted my gut, loaded up my Mazda with all my earthly belongings, and quietly drove toward the wintry unknown.

It’s been nothing short of amazing.

In two months, Denver has provided me with countless opportunities to write, listen, sing, paint and basically pursue any artistic talent I want.  Friendships have been forged. Fried pickles have been devoured, then re-ordered, then comped because the bartender apparently adores my airline. Songs have been composed. City streets have been trekked at odd hours of the night and odder daytime hours.

Snow-capped mountains (and cars) are now a very real part of my life. Weirdly enough, I’m ok with that.


Love,
Lisa

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

Wings




She calls me from inside a closet. Only within the confines of this dark, hidden space is she able to truly open up. Let loose. Express her feelings.

Which, at the moment, are a toxic blend of exhaustion and devastation. With some regret thrown in the mix.

I collapse onto my leopard-print bedspread and listen. Eventually, my eyes fill with tears. I'd hoped to avoid this type of unwanted waterfall, yet I can't stop it any more than the lady on the other end of the phone can stop her life from unraveling.

"Thirty-three years..." she murmurs.

I exhale slowly.

Lyrics flash across my mind: take these broken wings and learn to fly. Sometimes the music playing in my head is random, but other times it's eerily appropriate.

Tonight, the soundtrack and the featured film align perfectly.

"You are strong," I assure her. Although her wings are bent, she was born to fly.  That much is clear.

She sighs, then tells me I am an angel.

This makes me laugh. I misplaced my halo several years ago. In my younger days, all major decisions were made with care and concern. Now, I sometimes choose the path of greatest destruction...almost without remorse.

Almost.

"Hardly!" I respond. "I'm just a girl who cares about you and refuses to let you go through this alone."

She continues talking, her sweet Southern accent pouring through the phone. I roll over on my bed, wondering why life is so cruel to those who don't deserve it.

When we hang up an hour later, "Blackbird" is still floating through my mind. I want to take a paintbrush and splash the words across my wall. Or a nearby basketball court. Or perhaps the brick facade of this apartment building.

I promise myself I will call her tomorrow. And the next day, and the one after that.

I'll keep calling until she learns to navigate the skies with a new set of wings. And a singing voice loud enough, lovely enough to be heard even as she soars toward the sun.

Love,
Lisa