Archive for the 'The CyberTribe' Category

Published by PaintingChef on 22 Sep 2015

Dusting this place off for the worst possible reason.

For people who never crossed paths with her, online or in real life, I’m sure they are saying to themselves… ENOUGH ALREADY about Stacy Fucking Campbell. But those people had a hole in their lives that they couldn’t possibly know existed. There will never be ENOUGH ALREADY about Stacy Fucking Campbell.

She was part of a loosely defined group of writers, bloggers, who had been around the block a time or two. Those of us who wrote just to write, when nobody was reading and then everyone was reading and then nobody was reading and most of us were still writing. And then… we stopped writing. Why did we stop writing? That’s probably one of the things that delights Stacy the most. That out of this, her people, her OG blogger family, her Indie Bloggers and then her IndieInk people, we faced down that taunting, blinking cursor once again.

So many hours of the last few days have been spent in reflection. Re-reading emails, chats, instant messages going back a decade. Mourning text messages lost to old phones…pre-cloud communication. The time we were going to actually meet in person in San Francisco as I was on the way to Napa and it just didn’t pan out. But every email, every message was just so full of Stacy. Seeing her endearing greeting of SUNSHINE to open an email, her adamant refusal to put up with the shit of what she called “girl on girl hatred against yourself” when I lamented not going to the gym and the changes I was seeing from fertility treatments. Her excitement at the start of a new project… Indie Bloggers, IndieInk, The I Survived Project. Every word from Stacy was something to treasure because words were just one of her art forms.

And then she would just disappear for a while. Facebook gone. Blogs gone. Radio silence. Emails sent just to check in would go unanswered.

I am forever grateful to Stacy for the beauty she introduced me to. Every few days, my inbox would be flooded with IndieInk submissions to review and I would sit and just drink in the incredible rawness that people poured into their writing. She had a gift to draw that out of people, to encourage us to look inside ourselves and find the beauty in all our shit. That’s the thing about Stacy… she found the most beauty in the things and places everyone else wrote off as broken and nowhere was that more evident than in her haunting photography. Abandoned buildings, closed amusement parks, trashed alleyways. They all became beautiful if you were lucky enough to view them through Stacy’s eye.

We can talk about the sad and the broken and beauty all we want but please, please never forget the humor. The completely irreverent, always inappropriate humor and completely wicked sense of humor. I was never lucky enough to witness it in person but it shown through every interaction I had with her online.

Far more beautiful, eloquent and artistic tributes have been written to honor this breathtaking woman who touched so many lives and mine fall short. But they are the words I have and I loved her so very much. She was always open about her struggles with depression, childhood abuse and the other demons she carried around with her. But she was also the person who pulled so many people back from the brink. Stacy was the one who was in your face (or at least your inbox) telling you that depression lies. That you are worth more. That people love you and need you.

Oh Stacy. So many heart are shattered that you weren’t able to hear your own words. I desperately hope that you are at peace now but I also hope that you are able to see these tributes, read these words bled by so many of us that loved you. You matter. You are important to us. We love you.

Fuck. This sucks.

Reach out. Ask people if they are okay. Check in on those you know struggle. Be a shoulder, an ear, an arm to hug. Sometimes it won’t be the difference but maybe, somehow, somewhere it will be.

Stacy Fucking Campbell

Published by PaintingChef on 13 Apr 2011

Elyse.

Okay. Brace yourselves because I am about to do a 180 like nothing you’ve ever seen before. Remember that time? Where I was all lah-de-da, internet friends are the bestest friends EVER and all is good and perfect and lovely and if you don’t like it then you are just wrong and stupid?

Guess what sucks about internet friends? When they die. And you don’t know one single person who actually face to face knew them. So all you know is that they are gone. They’ve been gone for over a week. But you just found out and you briefly wonder if maybe that is the secret reason you haven’t slept well unmedicated in the past week but maybe that’s just you being selfish and WHY DID SHE DIE? What fucking happened? I have nobody to call or email or show up on their doorstep.

Elyse. You were my very first internet friend. I’ve known you longer than I’ve been married. You were the only person I ever knew who loved live music like I did. We met on a 90210 website for fuck’s sake. You built my two little homes on the internet. You never failed to listen to me, comfort me and make me laugh my ass off. You were my introduction into this whole notion that your friends didn’t have to be the people you physically encountered every day.

I have no idea what happened. Were you sick and never mentioned it? Was there an accident? Did you succumb to the darkness you fought every single day? I have no idea. I just know that I loved you and that you are gone. You are gone just when it felt like you were finding a little light. Farewell my friend. I love you so very much.

Published by PaintingChef on 11 Apr 2011

The person for whom the phrase “sisterfriend” was invented.

I’m not so terribly good with dates. I know my birthday. My anniversary. I’ve had my sister’s due date wrong in my head for like 6 months resulting in my getting her some emerald jewelry which is now just pretty and probably not birthstone-appropriate. But I’m good at getting it… close.

I was talking to my BFF Zube the other day and we were like… Hey! We’ve been friends for a while and we’ve never met! I wonder how long that’s been? We figured out it has been like 6 years. And that it was around this time, 6 years ago, that we crossed paths and things haven’t been the same ever since.

So that made me kind of want to talk about friendship in general but specifically what having her in my life has meant. But because you are probably sick of hearing from me, I thought I’d let her tell you about friendship instead. (And in case you are curious… I’m doing the same thing at her place so please check that one out too!!)

Once upon a time in a land far, far away, I decided to stop bombarding my poor family with e-mails of stories I thought were amusing. I had a penchant for baring my soul, though, so I chose, instead, to start telling my stories to no one in particular on the Internet.

And so, on March 22, 2005, a blog was born.

I wrote and wrote and wrote, and felt all smug about sparing my family the nonsense of it. Little by little people started reading what I had to say, and vice versa.

It was a bloggy little community. My village on the Internet.

Then one day, lo those six years ago, this chick e-mailed me after reading something on my blog (I was pretty tickled that SHE would e-mail ME because I’d read her blog and thought she was funny as shit and really, truly did not feel worthy!). I wish I still had the e-mail but I remember the gist of it. It said something along the lines of ‘Holy shit, dude, me too. We should be friends.’ I remember replying something like, ‘What?! You too? I’ll totally be your friend. Also? Let’s make out.’

And ever since? Susannah has been one of my best friends.

I think it’s kinda wild that I’ve never met my best friend. But only when I stop and think about it. When I’m not thinking, which is often, it doesn’t seem odd at all that when something momentous occurs, like people being stupid (right, okay, so even non-momentous), I run to gmail to share every juicy detail with Susannah.

We’ve laughed, we’ve cried. We’ve virtually hugged and virtually kicked ass. If you’ve ever had the intestinal fortitude to cross either one of us? Rest assured you have been torn to shreds on google chat. And that shit’s like voodoo. I bet your head hurts.

Everything about me? Susannah knows. And if she doesn’t know it? It’s because it isn’t there.

Well, except that I don’t know if she knows I am shoe-averse. And have only three pairs. I’ve stuffed those shoes way in the back of our friendship closet behind my 10,000 hoodies because I am, like, the anti-fashionista. And wielding that info would have Susannah turning on her adorable little heels, hopping on the next flight to Denver and kidnapping me for an afternoon of shoe shopping.

Hm, on second thought, not such a bad idea. See you in a few hours, chica.

Here’s the thing I adore about blogging. It’s like, better than a book. The characters and the stories are real. Susannah recently wrote about some of her favorite characters from childhood books and wondering whatever happened to them. And I? Do the same. Did Meg Murry ever get contact lenses and marry Calvin? Don’t get me wrong, I know now that glasses are hot, but when I read A Wrinkle in Time I was suffering from Four Eyes Syndrome, and so, so wished she would lose the glasses. Pre-teen angsty projection, y’all.

Ahem. But with blogging, I’m able to follow the characters throughout their trials and triumphs. There is no end. No storyline to stick to. The unexpected lurks at every turn. And for me, the unexpected was that I would come to love someone so dearly whom I’d never even had the opportunity to spend an evening with, dizzy on tequila and brownies. Our guts hurting from laughing too hard. And maybe one too many a shot.

Blogging has changed a lot since I’ve returned to it after a crushing three year Writer’s Block. It has been replaced, it seems, by short snippets on Facebook. Bits of stories. I miss the longer stories and the sense of community I used to feel. But, for all of the change, what I found six years ago when I started is still there. And I am always on the lookout for someone I might love. I’ll never forget that love can be stumbled upon in the most unexpected places when you’re in the habit of baring your soul, as writers do.

And Susannah, you are likely boarding that plane. Brownies are in the oven and tequila is on the table. Can’t wait to meet you, love.

For the record Zube… I TOTALLY knew about the shoes…

Published by PaintingChef on 10 Sep 2010

Fine. Just like a volcano.

Sometimes starting out is the hardest part. No matter what I’m trying to say about it, nothing comes out right. I sit here and stare at a blank screen and my heart is bursting to tell you about this amazing person and her strength and courage and her just all-around bad-assery but I don’t know where to begin. Do I start with my story? Hers? No, I can only start with mine as that is the only story I know.

Or maybe a statistic. Every 2 minutes, someone in the US is sexually assaulted. Here’s another one… another one that relates directly to me. 60% of sexual assaults go unreported. And yet another… Approximately 73% of rape victims know their assailants. All three of those statistics include me. But here’s another one…

I’m a SURVIVOR.

I never really thought of myself that way until all-around-internet-badass, Stacy of Jurgen Nation (among many other things) told me about a project she is working on. A documentary she is making about the survivors of sexual abuse called the I Survived Project. (TONS of great info at that link, by the way).

Years ago, I was the victim of a very brutal sexual assault at the hands of someone I knew. Someone I thought I trusted and considered a friend. And more than anything in the world, I was ashamed. I was humiliated. I was… a victim. And because of that, I didn’t tell anyone. I never reported it. I didn’t tell my parents. I didn’t tell my friends. And when, about 8 weeks later, I realized that I was pregnant as a result of this attack, I remained quiet. I had an abortion. I tried all I could to just sweep it under the rug and for years and years, I thought I was FINE. I shrugged it off as a footnote in the history of me. What, that? No big deal. I’m good.

But you know what they say about fine…right?

I was a volcano. I was so full of rage and hurt and blame and humiliation, all these unchecked emotions and I spent the better part of a decade trying to erase them with any drug I could get my hands on. While trying to blot out the black hole inside me, I nearly killed myself.

But I was fine.

Before I go on, let me be very clear on one thing. I have NEVER, for a single millisecond, regretted my decision to terminate that pregnancy. And I never will. It was the right choice and I’m so very lucky that that CHOICE was available to me. I would make it every time given the same situation. And should I ever have a daughter in that situation, I hope will all my heart that it will be a choice available to her as well, it may not be the one she takes, but I beg that it will be there for her.

I moved on. I went about my days, my weeks, my months. I tried to forget, block it out, erase it… who knows. And to this day, I can go for weeks without thinking about it. But last year, as I was trying so hard to have a child, the attack kept finding a way back into my mind. Not the pregnancy or the abortion, oddly enough. But the attack.

I would lie in bed at night and if I closed my eyes, I would find myself caught in that moment. That one second where you realize that your life is about to change. Forever. Victims of assault know that moment. It’s a flash where you realize that this is about to happen. You have been overpowered. You are the victim. You have lost. I remember that I just went slack. I tried to feel all the air leaving my body and just shrinking into nothing. When that didn’t work I tried to imagine myself completely full of cement, a rock, impenetrable, for lack of a better word.

As he slapped me and forced me to open my eyes and look at him, I tried to imagine the ceiling falling and crushing him to death, the fact that it would have crushed me too seemingly trivial. And then it was over. As quickly as it had begun. Some people say that their attacks seemed to make time stand still, mine was a blur. Perhaps that’s a good thing. Maybe that makes me lucky.

These are the things I buried deep inside myself. But today I face them. Yes, he got away with it. And yes, I’m to blame for that. I’ve not seen him since that day and I have no idea what I would do if I were to catch a glimpse of him somewhere. I don’t even know if he still lives here. I don’t know if he ever did that to anyone else, I can only assume he did. And to that person or those people, I am sorry. I am partially to blame for you being a part of this horrible secret society. In no small way, I took your hand and walked you personally to your point of no return. I hope that you were stronger than I was, I hope that you were brave enough to speak his name to someone, to point to him and make him acknowledge and pay for what he did to you. And if you did that, you are MY hero.

We hold these things in. We wait for them to erupt. They are a living and breathing thing inside of us, something that, whether we admit it or are even aware of it, they color every relationship we have. They affect our ability to love and trust. We may never be fully healed but we can be there for each other. We can be stronger than the people who hurt us. We can pool our words and our stories and our tears. And maybe we can give someone else the courage to speak up. Or at least to know that they aren’t alone.

I’m a survivor.

(Deep breath, eyes shut, hit publish.)

Thank you so much to Stacy for being so full of strength and courage and beauty and taking on such an overwhelming project. Please, if you have a story to share or are as moved by this project as I was, go to the I Survived Project website to learn more.

Published by PaintingChef on 11 Jun 2010

On checking in and getting my ass kicked.

Call it a check-up. An open up and say “ahhh” sort of moment we’re going to have here. When you work full time and don’t have children, other than the weekends, summer kind of loses its luster. But in spite of that, I feel like the summer kind of kicked off my whole “New Attitude” (and if you don’t hear Patti LaBelle right now in your head, you are dead to me) and much unlike, um, pretty much everything else in my life, I’m trying really hard to make this one stick.

Surprisingly, it wasn’t the being healthier or getting motivated to not be quite so ass on the couch-y all damn day even when it’s perfect and gorgeous in the out-of-doors that had me shaking in my boots. And that’s because despite my lack of self-motivation, I KNOW how to do those things. I KNOW how to swim and walk and run and work in the garden (oh lord… what a fucking fiasco THAT has been. The veggies are good, so are the herbs, there are just so MANY of them. And its not even that there are tons of vegetables, its just that these plants grow so many damn leaves for a few pieces of squash or peppers. Good grief!) I KNOW how to cook healthier and live actively. Those are things that I’ve done before and are ingrained somewhere in my subconscious buried deep under layers of cake, chocolate frosting and sourdough bread.

No, the one thing that terrified me more than anything else was telling myself that enough was enough. It was time for me to stop making excuses and empty promises and just get up and rediscover the artist side of me. I remember the feeling I used to get working in my sunny kitchen studio nook painting and grooving to the music on my ipod. It was the most blissful, free feeling I can think of. I would be just enchanted by the swirls of colors on my paper plate palettes (I tried so many things, wet palettes designed to make paint last, those cute wooden ones you see in photographs, but nothing works like a good old oversized paper plate! I blame the lazy housekeeper in me…). It was like this electric current of creativity and passion was flowing through my entire body.

I think that in procrastinating my return to art, I’ve been afraid of not being able to recapture that feeling. I tried to tell myself that it was because I’m scared that I’ll stand there in front of a blank canvas and nothing will happen, nothing will come out. In my previous artistic life, I called my work “happy art”. It was all bright colors and whirling dervishes and abstract shapes that were meant to do nothing more than evoke a smile and brighten a wall or maybe even the day of someone who saw it. But, in general, I live my life in a slightly darker place now and while maybe that very fact is part of what I’m trying to change, I don’t think its going to ever go away. There is a side of my psyche that, over the past 2 years or so, has been designated to house the loss and disappointment that has managed to sneak into my life. It doesn’t go away, I still miss her every day and that emptiness has just become part of who I am. I dream about her so often. She tells me that she is fine and when I try to explain how I miss her, she tells me that there isn’t a second of the day that she isn’t right by my side. But still… she’s gone. She’s gone and I can’t have a baby. These are my realities and they’ve changed me.

So I’m scared to try and create something because I don’t think I’ll recognize what comes out. But… scared or not… I think I’ve finally received the kick in the ass that I’ve needed. One of my FAVORITE internet girl crushes, Lindsey Smolensky (whose name I can’t even say without having to take a breath and be in awe of her balls-out creativity and dedication to making her art infuse itself into every area of her life, she is… her work leaves me speechless, I can’t even explain it, I ADORE her) has started a project that runs alongside Bravo’s “Work of Art” reality show and I’m taking a deep breath and diving in.

There are a group of artists, of which I am one, who are challenging themselves to follow along with the challenges on “Work of Art” (think Top Chef, Project Runway, the standard and HIGHLY addictive Bravo reality show format) and create one piece a week. Then we will post them online and share them with each other and have a discussion. No winners, no losers, nobody gets voted off. This is just a great way to be involved with other artists. She modeled the challenge off of Becky Cochran’s AMAZING Project Runway/Barbie project. (You must check that one out… it is GREAT! I think most everything is under the “fashion” tag).

So… long story longer… (I know, are you exhausted, if you are even still reading, I so applaud you.) The project is going to be pretty fantastic. The first challenge is a portrait and I have to have it done by Monday. I am, of course, doing my grandmother but the coolest part? SO IS LINDSEY!! Hers will kick mine’s ass but they will both be beautiful because they will both be full of love and honesty. I’m scared shitless about this project. But I’m also totally grateful to Lindsey for coming up with it and asking me to be involved. If you want to follow along, I’m going to add a link in the sidebar somewhere at some point but for right now… you can find it here.

Wish me luck!!

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