Category Archives: important stuff

This is my house.

The greatest gift in the world is to grant a kindness to another. The amazing thing though is that the aforementioned gift is one you give yourself. It may be a small thing. Leaving a flower for the tired woman at the coffee shop. Telling a stranger that they have such kind eyes. Listening happily to a story told by an elderly friend or relative who has told you the same story a million times. Nodding in solidarity even when you don’t completely understand. Letting a friend or a stranger yell hurtful things at you because you hope it will help them let go of a small part of that anger…that it will open up room in them for the greater things that they deserve.

This is the way the world goes. Small, mean acts affect the next person who in turn amplify that anger or sadness and take it out on others who suffer as well. Then small, kind acts of grace work their magic and pull the world back into balance. Those acts echo into the world. They reverberate long after we are gone. And sometimes? Sometimes they bounce back to us in unexpected ways.

I’ve been writing for years and it’s only in the last year that I’ve let myself feel bad about what I write. Well, not about what I write exactly. I write about my life. I write funny stories that I hope make people smile. I write books that I hope make others laugh loudly and inappropriately in airplanes. I write honestly about difficult things I’m haunted with, like depression or self-harm. And occasionally I veer off into strange waters where I don’t quite know if I’m the best person to say something, but I know that I’m the best person to say the things that I think. You sometimes get small glimpses of those things but in such light amounts you could be forgiven for missing them. If you look closely you probably know that I’m a feminist. That I’m a big supporter of gay rights.  That I don’t believe in church but do believe in God. That I believe racism is institutional and exists far deeper than we see. That I don’t deal well with authority. That I have eternal hope in goodness. That I am quick to anger and quicker to forgive and that I don’t believe in picking sides because the world is flexible and moving and ever changing. The only side I pick is the one with less assholes, but even that is fluid because people change. Sometimes the assholes are later the people who have come so far, and who we revere for their ability to change. Sometimes we find that our heroes were undercover assholes, hiding amongst us until they let down their guard. Sometimes the assholes are us. In fact, if you aren’t prepared to recognize that occasionally you will look back at your life and think, “Wow. That was a real dick move. What the shit, me?” then you are the most dangerous of all the assholes.

This is a long post but in my defense I’ve been very quiet for the last week while I sorted this out.  I do have a point and I’m coming to it.

In the time I’ve been writing I’ve had thousands of people send me emails or links or tweets asking if I would weigh in on something, or support their cause, or ask everyone I know to donate to their personal fund or charity. I’ve read other blog posts by friends who tell me if I don’t write about their personal beliefs then it means I don’t care. Then I remind myself that if someone would potentially not know where I stand if I’m not screaming it on my blog then perhaps they aren’t as good a friend as I thought. I’m asked to stand up for people being bullied. I’m asked to stand up for the other people who are being censored and being called bullies. I hear:

“How can you not go to our Gay Pride parade when you yourself are bisexual?”

“Today is International Suicide Awareness day. Why aren’t you promoting it?  Don’t you care?”

“You’ve spent time in wheelchairs and hospital beds from your autoimmune disease so why aren’t you promoting our walkathon for chronic pain awareness?”

“If you don’t publicly take a stand against racism on every platform you have then you are a racist.”

“If you don’t write about 9/11 every year the terrorist win”.

“If you don’t write a post explaining that most Muslims are peaceful and lovely then their blood will be on your hands if they are killed.”

“If you don’t write about my personal version Jesus Christ then you’re sentencing your readers to everlasting hell.”

“If you don’t promote my kickstarter about my journey to adopt 56 Chinese orphans then all orange kittens will spontaneously lose all their legs.”

These are all real things said to me in the last year, except for the last one which I suspect is probably just stuck in my spam filter.

Here’s the deal.  I just can’t. I can’t use this blog to tell you that testing makeup on animals is bad or that if we don’t reduce our carbon footprint our children will suffer the consequences. I don’t have the stamina or willpower to denounce every shitty thing in the world that I assume everyone else here already agrees with. I don’t have the strength to write about ISIS and kidnappings and poverty and children starving and bombs and other terrible things because I know I will become fixated and depressed and unable to function.  I know my limits and I know that without self-care I will fall into those dark holes of depression where I’m no help to anyone.

And I’m okay with that because I don’t have to tell you that Nazis are bad and mass murderers are fuckheads and that racism is bullshit and suicide should be avoided and rape is shitty and water is wet and cats will scratch you if given enough time. This is all common sense. If I have to say this out loud for you to get those things then you are in the wrong place. Mostly because I’m typing and so I can’t say anything out loud, but also because if you know me, you already know these things. We may disagree on the finer points. I may have a looser definition of what it means to be a feminist. I’m in the middle ground when it comes to gun control so if I ever decide I’m educated enough to have a salient point of view worth sharing out loud we may disagree. I suspect I view racism as being more of a problem than the average American (or average white Southerner at least) and occasionally I’ll say something about it and lose followers…both those who are angry that I believe racism is systemic and deep-seated, and those who agree but who are mad that I don’t say even more. And that’s okay. Sometimes they come back, later, with open minds and less fear or anger. Sometimes they are replaced by others who are here to laugh and smile at the ridiculousness that comes out of my head. Sometimes (mostly) it’s read and then forgotten. Just one tiny voice in a world that won’t shut up. In a world so busy speaking that it can’t hear.

I had a point and I’ve strayed from it a bit but this is it: I appreciate the links and suggestions and tweets and probably half the time my posts come from something one of you has sent me because you know me and you know what fuels me. I read what you’ve sent me and laugh or cry or learn. Sometimes I write about it.  Sometimes I keep it for myself.  Sometimes there isn’t a better way to say it so I’ll just retweet it, or forward it to others who I think might need it or be inspired to write more about it. But I will never tell those people that it is their responsibility to write about what I want to read. And that is the difference.

Please keep sending me links. Tweet things you think I’ll want to see. Email me your thoughts, or posts. Or share them here. But there are two things you should know: One– I almost never share fundraisers because if I do one then a million people will ask why I don’t share their equally valid fundraiser and then I’d suddenly turn from a writer to a very annoying PR person who only tweets fundraisers.  No one wants that.  And two: I will never write about something because someone else is trying to shame me into it. I have plenty of my own shame and guilt over here myself, thankyouverymuch, so I don’t need you dropping yours on me. Not only is it shitty, but it also makes me question everyone else writing about whatever that current event of the week actually thinks, and that’s not fair to anyone. Are they just writing what they think people want to hear? Are they pandering because it’s fucking easy as hell to say “I’M NOT FOR MURDERING GAY PEOPLE” and “CANCER IS NOT WHAT I LIKE”. Not only that, but if you aren’t saying something thought-worthy then you are adding to the roar that is the world and while it’s a wonderful thing to have the nation rise up as a whole against bullshit, it sometimes has the unintended action of  making it that much harder for people who DO have brilliant and amazing things to say to be heard. People have a limited attention span and if they spend their lunch hour picking through posts that say nothing new or personal because they are written solely out of fear of missing out on the topic du jour are going to miss the chance to read the people out there who have something unique and intriguing and personal and brilliant to say. Those posts that make you say, “YES. FUCKING EXACTLY. THIS IS WHAT I WAS TRYING TO SAY BUT I COULDNT FIND THE WORDS FOR IT.” They are the posts that make you say, “Oh. Oh, shit. I get it. I get it now and I didn’t before and now everything has changed.” The posts that are so beautifully written that you immediately link to them on the Facebook disagreement you were having with your great aunt Agnes and she reads it and says, “Hmm. Well I never thought about it that way. I guess I’ll have to think about it.”

Those brilliant posts exist. I hope I’ve written a few. Probably not nearly as many as I’d like but I’m limited in my areas of expertise. I get humor because that’s how I survive. I get family because I’ve been blessed to have a dysfunctionally functional group of people who challenge me and make me laugh. I get mental illness because I survive it. I fight it as a regular demon and I haven’t a choice but to become a savvy warrior because that’s how you live. We don’t always get to choose our causes. Sometimes our causes choose us.

There is another thing I write about on the regular and that is kindness. Because we can’t live without it. Because it keeps us afloat. Because it keeps us worthy of survival as a species. Because it helps me forgive people who demand that I use my voice for their words because if I don’t it means I’m unworthy or low or their enemy. Because it helps me remember that that kind of anger comes from pain or fear or desperation that no one should have to feel. And because that same kindness is what I depend on and hope for from them when they read this.

This is my house. You are welcome here. You are wanted. You are allowed to leave links of posts or articles you think this community would say “Oh, I needed that” to. You are welcome to talk and visit and make friends and to realize that each of us is flawed and human and (in the grand scheme of things) knows nothing. Because I’ve come to know that the only thing I really know is we could all do with a little more kindness. Both in giving and getting.

Be kind to one another. And more importantly, be kind to yourself.  You deserve it.

PS. This post scares me a little to post because I know a thousand of you will think “Shit.  She’s talking about me” but I can assure you that 127 different people have asked me to share their stuff within just the last 24 hours (not an exaggeration) so I’m really not paying attention to names, and also there is a tremendous difference between suggesting that I write about something and demanding I write about something.  Still,  I feel a bit bitchy, because in a way I realize I’m sort of saying, “Stop demanding that I join you in your brave and valiant crusade, you well-meaning and good people with absolutely wonderful causes which I wholeheartedly agree with you on” and that’s not what I want to say at all, but it’s the closest thing I can say other than this:  I can’t always sing your song with you.  I listen.  I share.  I think.  But if I’m always singing everyone else’s song then there’s no room for mine.  I have a song to sing.  A terrible one about why Jesus is a zombie and the time I found a severed boobie on my lawn.  A song about horrible things and about wonderful things and mostly silly things that make the day a bit brighter for those twisted enough to appreciate it, or those offended enough to be able to use it as a terrible example to others.  A song that sometimes is out of tune and seldom rhymes and is sung loudly in the dark and in whispers when I’m not quite myself.  A song that sometimes overlaps with yours as we find ourselves unexpectedly sharing a chorus we never knew we had in common.  A song that sometimes captures minds and hearts and changes the world in good and bad ways…but most importantly, a song that is uniquely mine.  One that’s given silence to reflect and write, and information to grow, and that changes as I change.  It’s the same song you sing.  But different.  And all of those songs are beautiful…even the discordant ones of our enemies that inspire us to work harder to prove them wrong in hopes that one day they’ll find themselves accidentally humming a strange tune they’ve picked up along the way…a tune of joy and kindness and love and equality and acceptance.  Or at least something by Prince.  That man is a bad-ass.

PPS.  It occurs to me that I talked about those posts and stories and essays and books that make us yell “YES!  THIS EXACTLY” and that those lovely things are the things that it would be nicest to hear over the roar of kleenex advertisements and selfies, so I’m going to share a few of the ones that hit me personally because maybe you need to see them too.  And maybe in the comments you can share your own. A book, a song, a post, a quote that makes you strong or anything that makes the world a better place…anything that you keep coming back to as a reminder that you’re not alone or as an anthem to keep you going when it’s hardest.  Share your song.  Because I want to hear it.  And maybe, one day, we’ll find ourselves singing along together and you will know it’s because I am with you wholeheartedly, and not just because it’s the easiest thing to sing.

Okay, here are a few posts that stick with me:

This one is fairly recent but I used it so often recently when in discussions with people who didn’t understand why what Rachel Dolezal did is not okay and why it has nothing to do with Caitlyn Jenner ~ From Awesomely Luvvie:  About Rachel Dolezal the Undercover Sista and Performing Blackness

Someone sent me this years ago and it stays with me every day.  I even stop people in the middle of my next book to tell them to read this first:  From Christine Miserandino: The Spoon Theory

Which of you sent me this originally?  I don’t know but when I read it I screamed “YES!  YES, THIS!”  Boggle the Owl on surviving depression.  Boggle the Owl on Anxiety.

Okay.  Your turn.  Share.  Give me something you think needs to be heard.  Something that breeds kindness and makes the world a better place.  Sing your song.  We’re listening.

Toilet Leprechauns: Probably the Pandora’s Box of our Generation. (I added the “probably” so they can’t sue me for libel.)

David Sedaris once wrote that he often asks people waiting for his autograph questions like, “If you saw a leprechaun on the toilet would you run away or know that he meant you no harm?” and now that question haunts me.

Personally, I’d be pretty sure that anyone standing on the toilet meant to harm me because why else is he waiting to jump me in the bathroom, but I think I’d still stay because when else are you going to get the opportunity to hang with a leprechaun? Even if it murdered you it would be awesome. Not for you, I guess, but for your descendants. “DEATH BY LEPRECHAUN” it would say on my death certificate. I’d star in our family legends for decades.

The problem is that I don’t actually know what death by leprechaun looks like, and you never see a leprechaun fingered for murder so I suspect no one would know the magnificent sacrifice I made. My guess is that leprechauns just make your death look like a heart attack. We’re probably spending all this reasearch money on heart disease when really we should be focusing on leprechaun prevention.

In fact, my grandmother might have died from leprechauns. They said she died from hepatitis but who’s to say she didn’t get that hepatitis from a leprechaun? Who knows where diseases come from? Flu, hantavirus, yellow fever, leprosy, anthrax…we might have gotten the whole lot from infected toilet leprechauns.

That’s probably why my mom always made me put toilet paper on the seat before sitting on a public toilet. Because you never know how many infectious leprechauns just came out of it.

I’d like to think David Sedaris and I would be friends. Or that he’d put a restraining order on me.

Either way, we’d have a real connection, and that’s all that matters.

PS. Spellcheck is trying to tell me that “leprechauns” isn’t even a real word.  Nice try, leprechauns.  I don’t know how you infiltrated spellcheck but I’m not falling for it, assholes.

Please talk to your children. *mild trigger warning*

Yesterday Hailey came home terrified because of a letter sent home to all the kids in her elementary school.  It was meant for the parents but of course the kids on the bus read it and talked about it and made it more so much scarier, as children do.  And it is scary.

According to what I’ve read, an unnamed elementary school in our district has been threatened with mass violence by anonymous emails from someone who identified themselves as a serial killer.  It’s most likely a hoax (as most of these things are) and the fact that the emailer claims that it will happen on Thursday might indicate that it’s a student wanting area schools to close so they can have a four-day-weekend.  (Fiesta Friday is a traditional school holiday in our area.)

Still, it’s unsettling.  A few weeks ago I had to pick up Hailey at school because she got sick right after a lock-down drill designed to show children how to hide and be silent in the event of a school attack.  In some schools they teach the children how to barricade doors and what they can throw at an attacker that might slow them down.  I’m glad that they have these drills, but I hate that it’s necessary to have them.

This week the FBI and the police department will continue the investigation.  The schools in Hailey’s district will look more closely at any safety issues and will shore up any weak areas of security and make the schools safer.  And hopefully this will all go away.  But this is why I’m writing about this:  Lots of times when schools get bomb threats or threats of violence it ends up being a student who will brag about it to their friends.  Please talk to your kids today.  Tell them how important it is to let you know if they hear something like this.  So many of us don’t think about asking our kids about this stuff because we just assume they’ll tell us, but so often kids laugh stuff like that off as a silly prank without realizing the trauma involved for everyone else.  There’s a tip line that you can call if you’ve heard anything about this recent threat.  (210) 225-TIPS.

As for me, I haven’t decided whether to keep Hailey home on Thursday.  I’ll see what develops, talk it over with her and make a decision then.

I wish I had a better way to end this.  I wish I didn’t have to write this.  I wish you didn’t have to read it.  I wish a lot of things.

UPDATED:  The police and FBI  haven’t been able to identify who sent the death threats so I talked to Hailey and she said she’d rather stay home on Thursday, which is a bit of a relief because I’d rather she was home too.  As one of my amazing readers pointed out, Thursday also happens to be Take Your Daughter To Work Day and so I’m going to spend the day showing her what it’s like being a real writer, but with less booze.  This means we’ll rewrite the same paragraph all morning, then eventually scream “I CAN’T DO THIS.  NO ONE CAN DO THIS.”  Then we’ll give up and watch Doctor Who and take pictures of the cats to distract us from a looming sense of failure.  Later we’ll wake up at 2am with the perfect idea of how to finish that chapter we’ve been struggling over and will feverishly write until it’s all out of our head and then we’ll fall asleep at our desk and wonder the next day why we’re always so exhausted.  And it will be awesome.  And terrible.  Just like work should be.

Accidentally doing good things.

You know how every year we do some sort of fundraiser for Christmas/Hanukkah/Kwanzaa in hopes of getting my taxidermied boar head canonized by the Pope?  Well, I was just thinking that now that we have a new, slightly-less-creepy Pope, James Garfield might finally have a chance at sainthood.  But then I started looking at Hanukkah and turns out it ends day after tomorrow.  I yelled at several Jewish friends for not letting me know this earlier and they apologized, saying “Um…we’re busy with Hanukkah, bitch.  Maybe get a fucking calendar.”  And one of them said something in Yiddish that I think translates to “YOU SHOULD LAUGH WITH LIZARDS“, which is an actual real insult and makes me want to take Yiddish classes.

Regardless, if you’ve been here long enough you probably know all about (or were a part of) The Many Miracle(s) of James Garfield.  The first came in 2010 when we all accidentally came together to raise over $42k to help get presents for kids who would not have otherwise gotten any.  It was awesome, and the next year tons of people who were helped in the past asked if we could do it again because now they were back on their feet and wanted to pass on the gift they’d received, but I couldn’t do it because I was so exhausted from running it that I got really sick.  Sorry.  I’m too shitty to be successfully philanthropic.  So instead, in 2011 we decided to help Project Night Nighta program that donates over 25,000 free packages to homeless children (containing  a new security blanket, a book, a stuffed animal and a tote bag) every year.  With our help they were able to donate the 750 packages they needed to hit all of the kids on their December list.  And in 2012 we donated a shitload of oxen to India (which seems weird, but awesome) and helped Project Night Night hit their goal of getting packages to 1,427 children affected by Hurricanes.

This year we’re going to switch it up and give 1,427 oxen to small children.  Or maybe we’ll just do what we did last year again. Because homeless kids being trampled by oxen seems slightly less festive.

It’s crazy simple to donate.  An entire package for Project Night Night only costs $20.  Plus, you can donate packages as presents in the name of all the people that you don’t want to send real gifts too.  Or you can donate bees in the name of people you don’t like.  For real.  It’s probably the worst present ever.  “For Christmas I bought you a big bag of angry bees.  Happy holidays, asshole.”  Except the bees go to needy people who’ll actual use them for pollination and honey and stuff.  But you could probably put one live bee in the “I donated in your name” envelope if you wanted to.  Or just put poison on the card.  Whatever.  I’m not here to judge you.

Want to donate?  Of course you do.  Just click here and you can donate directly to Project Night Night or here to donate to Heifer.  I’m starting it off by donating a llama in your name.  Yes, you.  I also bought 20 Project Night Night bags in your name in case you can’t afford to donate this year.

PS.  Don’t sweat it if you can’t afford to donate this year.  You can always share the Project Night Night page online or with friends to help spread the word.  Every little bit counts.

PPS.  I’m ccing the Pope on this one.  I’m pretty sure he needs to know about this shit.

James Garfield cannot tell a lie. He's like George Washington, but with his original teeth.

Happy holidays, you guys.  Thank you for being awesome.  You are worth ALL the llamas.

PPPS.  I have a ton of James Garfield holiday cards in my desk.  I’ll pick a bunch of people to randomly send them to in the comments.  Just leave a comment letting me know something nice you’re doing for someone else, if you can.

PPPPS.  Just a small update:  The Project Night Night folks emailed to tell me they received over $12,700 in donations in just the first day this post was up and donations are still flowing in.  They wanted to say thank you and so do I.  I don’t say it enough…I so adore you people.  Thank you for letting me be part of this amazing community.

PPPPPS. Just got an email from the very surprised Heifer people, who said to say thanks and that “the spike in numbers from your website was really impressive to the tune of more than 1K visitors and over $4K worth of bees!”  BEST ANGRY BEE CHRISTMAS EVER!

Wow.

24 hours ago I published the hardest post I ever had to write.  I’m pretty open about my struggles with depression and anxiety disorder, but yesterday I finally decided I was ready to write about my issues with self-harm.  I can’t go into details because that’s a trigger for me (and for most people who self-injure) but I’m not sure what I expected.  I think I expected my hard-core friends and readers to say something supportive and then sort of back away slowly out of not knowing how to respond.  Instead, thousands of comments poured in.  All of them supportive, understanding, and so many relieved and hopeful that one day they could come out of the closet about their darkest secrets.  I was flooded with DM’s and emails from people who weren’t ready to come out but suffered from things I never would have imagined.  Many were from friends I’ve known for years, and I found myself wanting to say the very thing that I dreaded hearing myself.  “But you seem so normal.”  And the truth is that they are.  I once sarcastically said that “crazy is the new normal” but it’s not sarcasm anymore.  We’re all different.  Each unique.  But that uniqueness that sets us apart is also what brings us together.  Some people call it “the human condition.”  I call it “amazing.”

I can’t respond to all of the comments and emails and DM’s but I am reading them and I can’t tell you how completely unburdened I feel.  More importantly though, I want you to know what you’ve done for others.  I had a lot of emails telling me how much my post helped them.  I had many, many more telling me how the response to my post helped them.  So many people listened, frightened, in silence to see how the world would respond to something that so many think of as shameful or an aberration.  They waited for the condemnation or the silence but it never came.  Those comments you left changed lives.

Last night an email came in from a woman whose twin daughters had both committed suicide because of depression.  One had died only a few weeks ago and her mother made sure her obituary explained that depression had taken her child’s life, because she wanted people to know that it was okay to talk about it…because the more we admit these things the less we hide them away from the help we need.   Then I got an email from a girl who was contemplating suicide.  She said that after she saw the response to my post she decided that she wasn’t as alone or unfixable after all and she started the process of getting help.  You did that.  You saved someone with nothing more than the power of words.

During the night twitter exploded with #silverribbons tweets and I loved how many people made their own, or painted them on their own bodies to show support.  A lot of people asked me to offer them in my shop, but honestly you can make them for free if you have a nickel’s worth of silver ribbon and a safety pin.  If you do want to buy one though you can buy them here and here.  Any profits will go to donating new red dresses for The Traveling Red Dress Project (A project designed to celebrate women in their strongest and weakest moments).

immortal bird Tomorrow I’m off to New York to do something that terrifies me, but I somehow feel more confident now, and it’s so amazing that that could come out of such vulnerability.  Thank you.  Thank you for not crushing me when you could.  Thank you for making me stronger so that no one else can.  Thank you for saving me and for saving each other.

PS.  This post wants a picture so I’m borrowing one from the fantastic Brooke Shaden.  I don’t know what she meant it to symbolize but it’s how I feel right now.  Still broken.  Still stuck.  Still fighting.  But feeling almost weightless from having this secret lifted off my chest.  Thank you for helping me carry this.

PPS. I promise my next post will be back to sweetly-raunchy and unhinged, irreverent glory.

No one makes cards for this. But they should.

Conversation I just had with Victor:

Victor:  What the hell are you doing?

me:  I’m watching Scandinavian horror movies.

Victor:  I see that.  Don’t you have work to do?

me:  Um…this is awkward.  It’s National Mental Illness Week?  I’m guessing this means you forgot to get me a card.

Victor:  What the hell is wrong with you?

me:  Um…I have mental illness.  Remember?  And this is National Mental Illness Week, so I’m taking the week off since it’s a recognized holiday.   It’s like Rosh Hashana, but for crazy people.

Victor:   Mental Illness Week is no holiday.

me:  Well the other 51 weeks are no picnic either.  And that’s why you have to really force yourself to celebrate the one week when people give you gifts and cards for being kinda fucked-up.  Or, at least, they should.  But then everyone forgets, and that’s depressing, and then you have to watch Scandinavian horror films to distract yourself from the lack of “YOU ARE THE BEST KIND OF FUCKED UP” cards in your mailbox.

Victor:  Wow.  It’s like this holiday was made for you.

me:  IT IS MADE FOR ME.  THAT’S WHAT MAKES IT SO AWESOME.

Victor:  I was going to say “baffling.”

me:  It’s both.  Which is what makes it even more amazing.  Even the holiday is bipolar.

Victor:  I’m going to go hide in my office now.

me:  Don’t stay in there too long.  I got a pinata to hang from the ceiling fan.

Victor:  Is it filled with prozac?

me:  No.  Because that would be illegal.  Plus, we’d end up with drugs knocked under the couch and then all the cats would all from drug allergies and overdoses.  Also, you can’t really make those jokes.  Those are our jokes.  It’s in our charter.

Then Victor left.  Probably to buy me an apology cake.

PS.  Happy Mental Illness Awareness Week from me.  To celebrate, take the rest of the week off.  Also, you can take a free, online screening here.  I just did all of the tests and it told me I have depression and anxiety disorder.  Which I do.  It’s like a Magic 8 Ball that actually works.

PPS.  They don’t actually make cards that say “Happy Mental Illness Awareness Week!” but they should.  I just made one for my store, but you might not get it before the end of the week, so I’m putting it here if you want to print it out for free.  Because awareness is half the battle.  The other half of the battle is getting people to help you hang up pinatas for holidays that no one recognizes.

For Japan

This post isn’t really a funny one and I apologize for that but it needs to be said so just bear with me a minute, okay?

I love Japan.  I’m not much of a traveler so it’s the only far-off place I’ve ever been and it holds a special place in my heart.  If you’ve read here long enough you know about the time that a young girl named Chicako volunteered to show me around Japan for free.  She didn’t know me and had no idea I had a blog but the people of Japan have such a strong feeling of civic duty and politeness that they regularly sign up to escort strangers around their city so they can practice their English.  She took me to her favorite local dives and sat patiently while sweet make-up artists made me into a prostitute (long story).  I met so many amazing people in my time in Japan and was almost embarrassed by how generous and selfless they were to a total stranger.  That’s why the earthquake and tsunami that struck there this week really hit home for me…because so many people I love are struggling there now.  And chance are, if you read this blog regularly, they’re people you love too.

You can’t always tell, but a lot of our regular commenters are in Japan.  They read.  They laugh.  They interact with you and me.  I usually have several hundred Japanese readers stop by on average.  In the past two days there’ve been only 40.  I hope to God that they’re all alive and well and are busy helping others and I wish I was there to help.  But I can’t be.  The only thing I can do is to donate to the Red Cross and Doctors without Borders and to encourage you to do the same.

They aren’t strangers.  They’re us.

PS. One of the easiest ways to donate is to text the word REDCROSS to 90999, and your $10 donation will just show up on your phone bill.  It’s crazy-easy and after you do it you’ll feel technologically savvy and philanthropic.

PPS.  We go back to the funny, fluffy stuff tomorrow.  Promise.

PPPS.  I’m including an old video of me eating Japanese boobie pudding as a small “thank you” for donating.  It’s really long because it was before I knew how to edit properly.  You totally have my permission to skip it because I realize my Minnie-Mouse voice clashes with my online persona.  Also, yes, my books are organized by color because that’s what normal people do.  Stop judging me.

UPDATED: My heart grew three sizes and now I have an enlarged heart. WORTH IT.

The past few days have been a whirlwind and I’m exhausted  and have given myself hives so please forgive the typos.

A few days ago I put up a post offering $30 gift cards to the first twenty people who didn’t know how they were going to give their kids Christmas gifts this year.  They went frighteningly quickly.  When I got to the twentieth person I saw that there were still a few more people who needed help and my heart sunk.  Then a few comments in one person said “I’ll take care of the 21st person”.  Then another person offered a card for the 22nd.  Then another.  Then it avalanched.

In the past few days that post has gotten over 500 comments and so many heart-breaking requests were from people who need a small hand-up to buy food for Christmas dinner or from people who are planning on telling their children that there is no Santa because otherwise they wouldn’t understand why he didn’t come.  You can’t read the comments and not ache a little because so many of us have either been there or see how easy it would be to be in their position one day.  But here’s the amazing thing…every time someone would leave a comment asking for help someone else would leave a comment asking to help.  And that’s why as of Friday morning, every single person who asked for help here is matched up with at least one person who will be sending them a gift card.  In fact, so many people offered to help that we were able to give out multiple gift cards to people who had a greater need.  And when things seemed dicey and I was about to call for an end to comments a wonderful man emailed me and told me that he’s so enjoyed the community on this blog that he wanted to donate $1000, no questions asked.  So, ten people who were really struggling woke up this morning to $100 in their paypal accounts.  Another reader offered $250 to a family in desperate need.  A doll-clothes store owner sent sent seven beautiful Madame Alexander/American Girl dolls to wait under the tree for seven little girls who truly needed a single happy surprise in their lives right now.  People getting the gift cards are vowing to pay the gift forward next year.  Emails are flooding in from people in shock, in tears and so grateful.  And the funny thing is that half of those crying, grateful people are the ones who are donating.  They’re so happy to have finally felt something warm and true that they’re feeling a Christmas spirit for the first time since they were children.

I know exactly what they mean.

Thank you.  Thank you for donating and thank you for sharing your story.  Thank you for asking for help so that others can feel like miracle workers.  Thank you for kind words and thoughts and for being you.  Thank you.

I’m going out of town for the weekend to pick up my mom and bring her here for Christmas but if you’ve asked for help and haven’t received it by Monday then just leave me a comment next week and I’ll see if I can find another donor to help you.  And if you still want to help leave a comment too.  There are still people trickling in and we may need some angels to swoop in on Monday in case any of the matches flake out.

PS.  I just want to point out that my traffic the last two days has been exactly the same as usual.  What that means to me is that the people donating and the people receiving are all part of the usual community of people who regularly read and comment here.  That.  Is.  Amazing. And I’m so proud to be part of this community.  You guys are the best minions ever.

UPDATE: So many people have gone on their own blogs to offer up their own gift cards to people in need and it’s amazing.  Thank you!  One of those people is the amazing Maureen Johnson who helped a ton of people herself but still has twenty more people in dire need.  If you still want to donate I have their addresses and I can set you up to perform a small Christmas miracle.  Just leave a comment.  I’ll be here for the next two hours at least if you can donate.

UPDATE AGAIN: A lot of you have asked if you could just paypal me money to give to the people in need.  You totally can but I’ll have to pay taxes on that money since it goes into my account so it’s not as ideal as you getting matched with someone and sending them the card directly, but if you’d rather just give money you can paypal me at jenny@thebloggess.com.  Don’t spam me or I will stab you.

SATURDAY UPDATE: As of right now (noon Saturday) I have emailed hundreds of donors and over 500 gift cards are scheduled to go out to people who need help.  If everything goes as planned (Please, God, let it go as planned) everyone who has asked for help as of this moment will get at least one gift card and many will get several.  Some got cash for medicine.  Some got money so they could keep the electricity on and buy food for Christmas dinner.  Some only asked for help in buying presents for their brothers or sisters so their moms wouldn’t be so worried.  Some received help and then got more help than they needed and decided to turn around and become a donor themselves.  I wish I could tell you what this has meant to me but there aren’t words for it.  The emails and comments coming in from people who got a Christmas miracle are incredible but the ones from people so thankful to be able to help are even more moving.  Right now we still have a few more donors available and another 20 are standing by in case someone who asked for a donation hasn’t heard anything from their donor by Monday.

That’s one hell of a Christmas miracle, y’all.

This calls for a theme song.

Thank you for making me believe again.

UPDATE (10am Sunday morning): As of this minute (barring any mistakes) we’ve matched everyone who asked for help with at least one donor and we still have a few donors on standby for emergencies. So far over 600 gift cards have gone out to provide a Christmas miracle for strangers in need. If you wanted to help but haven’t heard from me please leave another comment. I’m sure by Monday we’ll need more to fill in any gaps. Now if you’ll excuse me, my hands are about to fall off.

UPDATE (2pm Sunday): With no marketing, no push, and no fanfare, somehow hundreds of willing donors have  come forward to send 650 gift cards to people in need.  Many people who wanted to contribute a $30 card came back and told me that instead they gave $50 or $100 or $200.  As of right now over $22,000 has been sent out in small electronic chunks all over the world to make Christmas a small bit brighter for a complete stranger.  People have contributed in (and have been helped in) America, Canada, England, Germany, Australia, Asia…and they continue to help.  Every time we get down to our last donor someone else steps forward.  I wish I could share all the emails from people who felt that this gave them the hope to get through the next year and the strength to keep looking for a job or a place to work because they now had faith that people cared.  There were even some who admitted later that they were considering suicide until this gave them hope.  Some of those people considering suicide?  Were the donors.  Some felt isolated and depressed in the holiday season and being able to have someone somewhere count on them made them feel connected and less alone.  I know just how they feel.

Thank you for letting me be a part of this.

UPDATE: (A few minutes from Monday morning): Wow. Just…wow. In less than an hour it will be Monday morning and so far pretty much everyone who asked for help is going to matched with at least one donor. I still have another hundred emails to mail out before I can go to sleep but it looks like well over 800 gift cards will be sent out if everything goes through as planned. I’ve been running on adrenaline and caffeine for the past 4 days but I can tell I’m about to crash so I’m going to call this as of right now and say that this has been the most successful, unplanned, disorganized celebration of awesomeness that I’ve ever accidentally been in charge of.

If you still want to help then please leave a comment because we’re about nine donors short right now.   I wish I could do more and I’m sorry that I can’t but I’m so incredibly proud of the fact that we were able to help hundreds and hundreds of people (both givers and receivers) make Christmas magical. If you were matched with someone as of comment 1033 and you don’t get a response from your donor by 11am Monday morning then leave me a comment. We have a few donors on stand-by to help people who may have fallen through the cracks. With any luck by noon tomorrow we’ll be done and I can finally sleep and shower and actually maintain eye contact with my family for more than five minutes at a time.

Thank you. To the donors and to the recipients and to the people who came to cheer on both. Thank you.

You’ve made all the difference.

Final update:

Done.  It’s Monday night and over 900 gift cards were sent out to people needing help.  I’m sure we didn’t get everyone but hundreds and hundreds of people were helped.  Some got enough to buy their children new books.  Some got money to put food on the table on Christmas.  One 9th grader asked if anyone had a used laptop for her disabled mother before coming back and asking to delete the comment since so many other people needed help.  That young girl will be surprising her mother with an ipad from one of our amazing, regular readers.  One woman emailed to say that because of the support she got they were able to save their house from foreclosure.  I wish it could go on forever but I have to stop before I get sick.  If you don’t get an email from me matching you with a donor by midnight, please donate to your local food bank.  There are still so many people who need help this year just putting food on the table.

Some small miracles happened here in the past five days and I don’t know exactly how I fell into being involved but I’m so glad I did.  It may be the lack of sleep but I’m finding it hard really understand what happened here and why it feels like such an important thing to have been a part of.  It was just a series of small gifts sent one by one to perfect strangers in need.  It doesn’t change the world.

Or maybe it does.

Thank you for changing mine.

PS.  Final tallies: Over 900 gift cards were sent out by 689 people who were so thrilled to help.  450 people who needed small Christmas miracles received donations for medicine, food, or presents under the tree for their children.  No large corporations got involved.  No one only offered to donate if they got something out of it themselves.  With no sponsorships, no ulterior motives and with only a simple need to reach out and help a perfect stranger, 689 everyday, normal people (Jewish, Christians, Atheists, Muslims and more) sent out over $40,000 worth of donations to make sure Christmas came.

You did this.

Thank you from me, Victor, Hailey, Anderson Cooper and James Garfield

UPDATE: Wow.  That went heartbreakingly fast.  But there are other people out there who have so sweetly offered up gift cards that they don’t need or who’ve sent emails about wanting to help so keep leaving comments and I’ll do my best to match up donators with those of you needing help.  I’m sure we won’t be able to help everyone and I’m sorry for that but every little bit counts.  Also, consider contacting Toys for Tots if you need presents.  It’s easy (aside from the line you have to wait in) to get new presents for your kids that way and there’s no one there judging you.  And I hope that everyone reads the comments and it spurs you on to donating, even if it’s only a few dollars or to just remember how lucky we are.  The world is both darker and brighter than we think.

**********************

I’m about to ruin your image of me but it’s for a good cause.

In my family we have one Christmas tradition that we never, ever skip.  Every year at Christmas Victor and Hailey and I go out and buy my parents the best Christmas present that they never actually get.  This year we’re gearing up for the same thing (and I totally recommend it to anyone who has some extra cash to share) but we’re also doing something different.

This year was hard for so a lot people and so many people I know are struggling.  They’re looking for work or for places to live and suddenly the things that you take for granted, like buying Christmas presents for your kids, become a luxury you can’t afford.  I’ve had my years of struggling and borrowing and getting the water shut off because you couldn’t afford to pay it but this year we’ve been really lucky.  We aren’t rich but we’re blessed and so much of that is because of you.  Whether you left a kind comment or nice email or supported me by buying ridiculous James Garfield holiday cards you made a difference to me.  And that’s why we’re taking all the money you gave me for James Garfield cards and we’re giving it back.

If you’re struggling for money right now and don’t know how you’ll give your kids presents then leave me a comment.  You don’t have to use your real name or leave a url or prove anything.  Just leave me a comment and your email address (always hidden and never used) and I’ll email a $30 Amazon gift card to the first twenty people who leave a comment explaining why it would make a difference in their lives right now.

Thank you to everyone who made a difference to me.

PS.  My guess is that with so many people out of work right now these will go fast so if you’re in a place where you’re lucky enough to have money to share then please donate to Toys for Tots.  Or if you’d like to help by doing your own gift card giveaway (even giving one can make a huge difference and you can do it all online) on your blog then just leave a comment with your url below and we can keep this going until we help as many people as we can.

PPS.  I’m so grateful I’m able to do this and I wouldn’t have had the money to do this without you.  Thank you. You make the world go ’round.

PPPS.  I promise to be less sappy tomorrow.

The Traveling Red Dress

My friend (Sunny) is an artist.  She writes and paints and makes beautiful, whimsical dresses out of found objects and magic.  One of my favorite dresses of hers is the red poppy dress and I wanted it the first time I saw it but I knew I’d never get it.  For one thing, it’s not sensible.  It’s impractical.  It’s bright red and vibrant and shocking and “inappropriate for a woman my age”.  And I have no shoes to go with it.  And I have no place to wear it.

And I want it.

I want, just once, to wear a bright red, strapless ball gown with no apologies.  I want to be shocking, and vivid and wear a dress as intensely amazing as the person I so want to be.  And the more I thought about it the more I realized how often we deny ourselves that red dress and all the other capricious, ridiculous, overindulgent and silly things that we desperately want but never let ourselves have because they are simply “not sensible”.  Things like flying lessons, and ballet shoes, and breaking into spontaneous song, and building a train set, and crawling onto the roof just to see the stars better.  Things like cartwheels and learning how to box and painting encouraging words on your body to remind yourself that you’re worth it.

And I am worth it.

And last week…?

…I got my red dress.

I didn’t have shoes, or a party to wear it to, or even a valid excuse to own it, but I had the dress.

And it was everything I thought it would be.

But here’s the thing…you are worth it too.  Which is why this week the red dress will begin a journey, traveling from city to city so that other people can wear it and love it and feel as special and vivid and dynamic as they already are.  Because sometimes we all need a little red dress to remind us of that.  So today, think about what it is you need and were too embarrassed to ask for.  And then go fucking do it. Wear a ball gown to the grocery store.  Invite the neighbors to have a picnic on the front lawn.  Get that novel out of your sock drawer and publish it yourself.  Stand on a bus stop bench and belt out a song for the waiting strangers.  Find a playground swing and remember how it felt to fly.  Find your red dress. And wear the hell out of it.

The Devil-and-the-Details:  This dress was custom-made by Sunny Haralson of Rubypearl and was specially made for this project.  Photographs taken by the amazing Karen Walrond, a woman who knows me so well that she’s become unfazed when asked to meet me in a graveyard with her camera and bail money.  (She *did* hesitate briefly when I mentioned that I’d be in my pajamas and that I’d have to get naked in the graveyard because I can’t actually put on the dress without someone cinching me up but then she just sighed and nodded and reminded herself to renew her license to practice law.)  Click here for her whole set.  Also, I’m bringing the traveling red dress to Blogher in August so if you’re going to be there and you want to get photographed in it then just come find me.  It’s totally worth it.  And so are you.

Comment of the day (although you should really read all of them because you people are fucking amazing): I can only hope like the “Traveling Pants”, the “Traveling Red Dress” is magic enough to make it fit my size 18 self by mere magic.  Honestly, being able to see it.. to touch it and be near it will be enough to prove I will be living my own Red Dress moment. I’m going to Blogher! I’m going to fly (!!!) to New York in 70 days and I’m completely and utterly terrified. But I’m doing it anyway dammit! This is a nerve-racking trip for most people, but for me? It’s so much more than that. For me, this trip will be a catalyst to take my life back from the ruthless clutches of agoraphobia. Sort of extreme exposure therapy. Today I can’t drive to the next town on my own, I can’t be alone at home, I can’t even take my daughter to the beach. I’m so much better than the housebound puddle I was 10 years ago, but I’m stuck. I’m so tired of CAN’T. In 70 days though (god help me), I CAN and I WILL.

That red dress? Home plate. The finish line. And also new beginning.

Thank you. ~ Karen

Updated:  The red dress has traveled to so many women celebrating miracles and overcoming struggles but this is a favorite. 

Also wonderful?

It’s a good kind of weird.

Wear the hell out of it.

Fighting cancer with friends. No mirrors necessary.

Jami, celebrating an amazing, personal transformation.

A summary.

There are tons of other stories…women bringing the red dress to retirement homes or to dying friends or just wearing it to celebrate life. It’s a good thing. Vivid, wonderful and amazing. Just like the women inside.

UPDATED 2012: The red dress is now years old and is a bit tattered but it’s still filled with magic and is currently on the road visiting people who need some magic in their lives. Ideally, we would have 15 red ball-gowns in various sizes all traversing the globe at the same time but I just can’t afford it. If your company is interested in donating red ball gowns, just drop me an email at advertising (at) thebloggess.com.