Claire & Company Winter Wallpapers

Happy Holidays, Horde!

It’s been a while since I’ve posted, but I thought I might share with you a little gift: FREE holiday wallpaper, featuring the characters from my very-occasional comic, “Claire & Company!” (also known as “Claire De Lunacy,” depending on the vintage!)

Anyway, here they are.  Consider them a lil’ “Thanks!” for being a reader.

Cheers!

Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow!

Oscar is what we call a "special needs" cat.

Oscar is what we call a "special needs" cat.

Advertisements

Awesome People to Follow on Friday!

Hey, Readers!

I know that The Twitter is not for everyone, but if you do indulge in the occasional tweet, then you’ve got three new friends you haven’t met yet, waiting for you over at the Awesommolier.

Today’s Awesommolier post focuses on three members of the Faithful Horde who are must-follows! Stop by, get to know them, and be sure to click on the SocialVibe link to help bring art to hospitalized kids. There’s no better treat you can bring a sick or injured child than the gift of art!

(By the way, thanks to you, we’ve already provided almost 140 art projects to kids in hospitals! Your participation is super important, and it is also SUPER appreciated. I may be highlighting three members of the Horde every week, but you’re ALL People of Quality™. THANKS! )

Out and About

So here’s the thing, kids:

It’s National Coming Out Week, and as I do every year, I pause to reflect on the general status of both the LGBT community and the larger world in which it must function. We’re all another year older, another year further down the road to equality, another year further down the road to an apocalypse starring John Cusack.

Rather than try to create something long-winded and deeply philosophical (for a change, cough, cough), I have created two lists this year: one contains hopeful signs that humanity will indeed embrace its angel and not its ape, learning at long last to love and cherish each other. The other list contains signs that God was a little too hasty in promising never to flood this blue rock ever again.

THINGS CONCERNING “THE GAY” THAT ARE PLEASING IN MY SIGHT IN 2009

1) Obama finally owned up to his promise on “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell.” Hurray! Barack remembered that he made a promise when he was campaigning to get elected! Now, if he can just come up with WHEN he will repeal it…

2) And speaking of politicians doing the right thing, Governor Schwarzenegger created Harvey Milk Day this year. It’s very encouraging to see the heroes and martyrs of our community being granted the same respect and honor as other key figures in American history. Also, bonus points to Arnie for not trying to shoehorn any catchphrases into the legislation.

3) A Trans-inclusive version of the ENDA (Employment Non-Discrimination Act) was finally introduced this year. At last, there’s a real chance that LGBT Americans will be protected from the discrimination millions of us face every single day of our lives. No one – NO ONE – should be denied a job, a home,  or a chance at a productive life because of their sexuality, and when this passes, it will be a huge stride forward for this country and for equal rights.

4) Even without an inclusive ENDA, we occasionally win the respect we deserve. Now, having been on the end of some not-so-subtle discrimination myself, I felt Diane Schroer’s pain when I first heard about this story. You don’t have to be Wile E. Coyote, Super Genius, to see that a job offer that’s rescinded when one reveals that they are transgendered is a little suspect. And yes, I know this is hardly Hollywood-movie triumphant – the administration’s refusal to appeal the decision isn’t the same as saying “Hey, genius, lay off the hatin'” but progress is progress.

5) Iran allowed its first Transgendered Marriage this year. I’m on the fence about this one, actually. Yes, it’s great that transpeople can marry, but Iran, a notoriously oppressive theocracy with zero tolerance for any sort of homosexuality, has embraced transgenderism because (in the case of heterosexual couples, at least), it conforms to the traditional male-female paradigm. And,  as the article notes, there’s very legitimate concern that not all of Iran’s transgendered people are transgendered; in fact, some may be lesbians and gays circumventing the law with what can only be called extreme dedication.

THINGS CONCERNING “THE GAY” OVER WHICH I WEPT TEARS OF BLOOD IN 2009

1) Violence against transgendered people worldwide is on the RISE. Iran may be all set to let us get hitched, but worldwide, it’s still a very dangerous thing for transgendered people to be honest about their identity. It can cost us our jobs, our familes, and, increasingly, our lives.

2) In fact, all LGBT folks are painted with targets these days. Violence is not okay. It’s not okay as a tactic to demean, to defile, to diminish anyone. It’s not okay to incite aggression and hatred for someone because you happen to disagree with their lifestyle.

Violence.

Is.

NOT.

Okay.

OK?

3) We still can’t get married…well, at least not everywhere. Canada, America’s Hat, has it. A sprinkling of US States have it: Iowa; Vermont; Connecticut; Maine; Massachusetts.   Many others allow domestic partnerships, or, as I like to call it, “Marriage Lite.” So what’s the hold up, people? The states where LGBT couples can marry didn’t sink into the ocean or disappear in flashes of light. It’s time to recognize that two people of the same sex can and do share loving, lifelong relationships (many with greater success than their heterosexual counterparts…I’m looking at YOU, Hollywood!).

As usual, I like my “Good” list to be longer than my “Bad” list. I could, of course, go on and and on about the injustices and indignities suffered by LGBT people in today’s world, but I’d rather focus on the triumphs and successes. After all, we’re not solely defined by our LGBT-ness; we’re parents, siblings, children, spouses and friends, and beyond that, we are all (regardless of color, creed, race, gender or sexuality) human beings.

Overall, I’d say things are looking up, and that in a lot of important ways, 2009 will go down in history as an important part of both LGBT history and history in general. If you are gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgendered, don’t be afraid this week (or any other week) to be honest with yourself and others about who you are…you owe it to them and you owe it to yourself.

And those of you who aren’t LGBT but have a loved one or friend who is, I encourage you to remain (or become) a supportive and loving part of their lives. Coming out of the closet can be a scary thing, and it’s always nice to be greeted by a friend rather than a fist.

Thanks, Easter Bunny! (bawk, bawk!)

A very Happy Easter to you,  dear readers.

The topic of today’s post is not, as one may infer from the title, this mess, but instead, the Easters of my misspent youth.

As a child growing up in the banjo-riddled fens and dales of SW Ohio, Easter was for me a day of sweet surprises and infernal discomforts.  The sun would usually be peeking through the clouds as I awoke, bleary-eyed and restless from a thin sleep (having been kept awake most of the night by excitement and anticipation of the basket awaiting me below, trying to figure out if the Easter Bunny, falling into one of my hastily-improvised traps, would be furious and smite me on the spot, or reward my ingenuity with an EXTRA batch of treats. Given that the Easter Bunny sounded a lot like my Dad angrily muttering “Now what the hell is THIS?”, I never descended to find out).  I would stumble down the stairs and, in the early years, try to find where my basket had been hidden.

Was it behind Dad’s Barcolounger? Nope. Was it behind the sofa? Wrong again. Was it in some way related to the large, basket-shaped lump behind the living room drapes?

Ladies and gentlemen, we have a winner.

To this day, I don’t know how my parents did it. My continued faith in the existence of both Santa and the Easter Bunny despite mountains of empirical evidence to the contrary was due, in large part, to the sheer bounty that appeared on Easter and Christmas morning. How could my parents, mere mortals that they were, provide such splendor? Here, nestled in a throne of whispy green Easter grass, was a giant Peep™, resplendent in his sunny yellow coat of tooth-destroying sugar, attended by a host of bunny retainers in blue and pink and green. Here was a book I’d been coveting but could not afford on my allowance of, y’know, NOTHING. Here was a king’s ransom of jelly beans, a veritable rainbow of deliciousness (this was before it became, ahem, “cool” for jelly beans to taste like something found on the floor of an especially dirty theatre). Here, in the center, was not one, not two, but THREE Cadbury Cream Eggs, each one heavy with the promise of creamy satisfaction (followed by oft-repeated and deeply-felt conviction that eating these things more than once a year would almost certainly be fatal). And, standing over it all, perhaps wearing a cheery bow tie or a saucy bonnet, was a Giant Chocolate Rabbit. Here, in short, was what every child EXPECTED to appear on Easter morning, and more. As an adult, I see my parents’ willingness to make do with old shoes, mended clothing and cheap (or no) nights out on the town as the sacrifices they were, but back then I could only think “Man, Dad and Ma need to ask the Easter Bunny for some new stuff!”

This solitary ritual was amended some years later when my sister KR was born. At first I was mildly concerned that another kid to visit would mean less loot for me, but instead I was amazed to discover that not only did I receive all my usual stuff, but there was a slight increase in the bounty, as if the Easter Bunny was saying to me “That’s right, it’s just like AmWay – the more people you bring in, the more you make!” My mother, wearing the same robe she’d worn since the early 70’s, and my Dad, gazing at us fondly through glasses that were cutting-edge when Eisenhower took office, smiled as my sister and I tore into our baskets like rabid wolverines, gleefully conspicuous in our consumption, blissfully unaware that Dad was working 80 hours a week not because he enjoyed calibrating parts to the billionth of an inch but because he enjoyed moments like these.

By the time KM came along, my sister and I not only hoped for great Easter baskets, but expected them. We’d long since worked out a system for redistribution of loot – I would take all the licorice jelly beans off her hands in exchange for anything with a discernable head (Peeps™, not having really distinguishable features, were exempt). Whereas I adamantly refused to eat most things with a head (biting the head off anything, even a candy bunny, made me feel like either Ozzy Osbourne or George C. Scott in Firestarter), KR positively relished the act, happily chomping into their defenseless bodies with zeal not normally seen outside the lion cage at the zoo.  I’m not sure if she enjoyed the act itself or the discomfort it caused me more, but either way, the candy community remains utterly terrified of her to this day, whispering stories about her to their tiny candy children in order to get them to behave.

That’s right, my sister is the Cucuy of Candyland. There – I said it.

But I digress. Sitting here, a woman in her early 30’s, trying to figure out if the Peeps™ I contributed to the groaningly overloaded Easter baskets my nieces and nephews received this morning will even register in their awareness as they whip themselves into a sugar frezny, I find myself taking a moment to reflect on the rest of Easter morning. Ma, her hair and makeup expertly applied and coifed, elegant in her Easter best, sitting me down to comb my hair with water, struggling to keep herself dry and my unruly hair in order. Dad, obviously uncomfortable but very handsome in his suit, checking his watch for the hundredth time, every fiber of his being focused on his Easter mission, which is strikingly similar to every mission wherein Swiss Family Jackson must travel anywhere on a schedule:

1) Get to church at least an hour early, as parking takes forever and you know that bastard Williams will take the shady spot by the trees just to spite us

and

2) Get home as soon as possible so that the suit can go back in the closet where it belongs and a man can sit down to a decent dinner, damn it.

Church was a necessary and solemn component – the reason for the season, as they say, and the contemplation of one’s faith and the notion of triumph through resurrection certainly whetted one’s appetite for Easter Dinner.

Oh, Easter Dinner…I’d describe it, but you’d never eat again, saddened by the fact that anything you eat will not, cannot be as exquisitely delicious.

What the hell, you’ll learn to live with disappointment.

My parents, having spent the night before skulking around planting Easter baskets in various locations, trying to not make any noise that would disturb our gossamer-thin sleep and cause us to leap from our beds to discover they were, in fact, the providers of our basket bounty, now went about their remaining duties. Dad went into the living room to watch television (aka, fall asleep immediately but retain sufficient awareness of his surroundings that changing the channel was impossible) and Ma, already tired, set about serving up the Easter feast. Magically, the banquette filled with steaming delicacies. Salad picked at the height of freshness, dewy with rinsewater…ham  studded with cloves and pineapple…chicken fried crisp and tender…corn dripping with fresh golden butter…pie exploding with cinnamon and apples….

See, I told you.

After dinner, we’d all crawl to our respective lairs to recover for a while, then reconvene to play a game of cards or a board game (and, inevitably, after mild but completely insincere protest, more pie).

That’s Easter to me. It’s not so much about the things anymore, but about the togetherness and the tradition. These days, Grammy and Grandpa are doing well enough that the grandkids’ baskets don’t beggar them for months to come, but I know my Mother, despite the fact that the kids aren’t at her house until mid-day on Easter, is still up late, setting out baskets so they’ll be the first thing my nieces and nephews see when they arrive. There’s usually a note or a story from Grandpa about how he almost shot a bunny for dinner but decided he would let him go since he dropped off so much loot for his bratty grandkids. KR, KM and I have gone from basket-receivers to basket-givers, and for the most part, we’re okay with that. I certainly don’t need any candy laying around the house, and if I need a Peeps™ fix, I can trot off to the Kroger and buy some for myself. KR has (mostly) gotten over her love of decapitating helpless foods, but she usually catches my eye long enough to chomp down on at least one rabbit every year, her face a chocolaty rictus of triumph when I turn green around the gills (to nobody’s surprise, The Little Emperor inherited this trait from her, and now I must contend with two serial candy murderers mocking me with their crimes).

I wish you and your family a very happy Easter, friends. Whether you’re Pagan, Christian, Jewish, Muslim, Trekkie or something else, I hope you have a chance to celebrate the renewal of the Earth, the renewal of life, and the renewal of your family for the year ahead.

Presidents’ Day: Suggested Reading for My Fellow Nerds

It’s Presidents’ Day, kids, and while many of you are no doubt off of work or school, savoring the deep discounts at JC Penny or attempting to convince Obama to make it rain candy, some of us are trapped at work, toiling for minor ducats under the thumb of employers unmoved by the celebration of our nation’s great leaders.

Luckily, some of us have plowed through so much work today that there’s a momentary gap in the river of unrelenting tedium, and so have the time to create things like lists of books you should be reading today instead of giving Lincoln a purple beard.

American Lion: Andrew Jackson in the White House Arguably the most populist President of all time, Old Hickory could take a beating and keep on bleating, as they say. Whether tearing it up in N’awlins even after the war was won or slapping down the veto whoop-ass, Jackson was a fiery and charismatic man who nevertheless scared the bejeebus out of the elite with his rough-around-the-edges, “Le etat, c’est moi” ways.  Sort of like someone else we know from the past 8 years – only not, you know, out to destroy the world.

Truman Oh, Harry. Sure, you dropped the nuke. Sure, you saw Reds in every corner coffee shop. But, you were a stand-up guy, and you backed up your talk with the walk.  At 1,000 pages, this looks like a bit of a paper anchor, but McCullough knows what he’s doing, and trust me, you’ll be finished before you realize it.

The Essential Book of Presidential Trivia Come on, nerds, you know you want it. Besides, what could be more fun than discovering the facts, figures and foibles about our nation’s storied leaders? Well, besides that complicated scenario I’ve concocted involving me, Robin Meade, a tanker-truckload of Peeps and several bottles of Patron Silver?

So get out there, citizens, and learn a little about your forefathers! You’ll be glad you did!

That’s The Way The Cookie Crumbles

A story for you, my beloved readers, on Valentine’s Day:

The time: Just after last bell on a chilly Valentine’s Day in 1983

The place: Cookson Elementary School.

The shame: Enormous

I am in second grade. The girl who is sweet on me (a girl we shall call Myrtle) is in third grade. We’ve known each other since daycare, and while Myrtle is great, I’ve got bigger things to worry about, not the least of which is why everybody seems to think I’m a boy. Lately, Myrtle’s been making what I will later recognize as flirty gestures, and I am confused by the shift in her behavior. However, since Myrtle also does things like eat orange peels and call me “Potato,” I chalk this up to Myrtle-centric oddness and not some sort of burgeoning romance. Consequently, I am totally surprised when, in front of everyone at the bus stop, Myrtle walks up and presents unto me a heart-shaped cookie – a cookie she has, naturally, baked and decorated herself. It is large and heavy in my hand. As she hands it to me, eyes wide with hope and excitement, she says “Happy Valentine’s Day” and then stands there, looking at me expectantly.

The world goes silent. Looking down, I see the afternoon sun glittering off the red sparkles that cover the cookie. I can smell the sugary crispness, feel the gritty abrasiveness of the colored sugar. And then, overcome with feelings I don’t want to think about, let alone process, I look around, see my friends giggling, and before I know what I’m doing, I raise the cookie high above my head like one of the apes from 2001: A Space Odyssey with a Valentine jawbone and smash it to the pavement at our feet. Then, without a word, I stomp the chunks into dust, grinding my heel before turning and running away to my parents’ car, trying to ignore Myrtle’s sobs receding into the distance.

Years later, I still occasionally talk to Myrtle, and she still occasionally asks me to dinner or dancing. I’ve moved on from smashing confections into glittering dust, but I always decline. And because I’ve never been able to bring myself to apologize, or to acknowledge that first act of rejection, I am a woman cursed to be alone on Valentine’s Day (even when I’ve been in a relationship, I’ve been alone on this day). Myrtle’s shadow hangs over me every year, a pint-sized phantom whose offering I cannot accept. Perhaps, in rejecting her schoolgirl affection, I was rejecting love itself, having decided even then that I was too different, too strange, too broken to deserve love.

Or maybe I was just in second grade, and embarrassed by such an open display of affection in a cootie-sensitive climate, and I should find a way to forgive myself for something that happened over twenty years ago in the dark ages of my childhood. Maybe it’s not a curse, but a reminder that hearts are fragile, and that people who mishandle them end up without a treat to share. Maybe, if I’m lucky, someone will offer me their heart with that kind of open honesty again one day, and I will be strong enough to take it.

Maybe I’ll even break off a piece of my own to share.

UNACCEPTABLE!!! (Holiday Edition 2008)

Dear Readers:

With the holidays just around the corner, you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed by the season. To help you make sense of this time of both joy and insane busy-ness, our planet’s top minds (Actual number of minds: one. Actual proximity to the top: eh, up there somewhere between home schooled kids and that Ken Jennings guy) have declared the following things to be immediately and irrevocably unacceptable for all eternity.

To wit:

1) Slanket: SNUGGILY UNACCEPTABLE!!! Yeah, yeah, I know, it was part of my Giftstravaganza Guide. That’s because we all need something we can buy on a whim and give to the person who would otherwise be receiving Hickory Farms products from us. But Slanket (and its insidious, low-rent doppelganger, the Snuggie) are forces for evil in this world, encouraging slothful, couch-based living and, more terrifyingly, ensconcing their victims in cozy warmth that will lull them gently into slumber – a slumber that will prove most unfortunate when they are captured by the aliens who created Slanket and taken off-world for menial labor and the entertainment of the alien masses.

FEEL MY TOASTY WRATH: Henceforth, all Slankets will be used to pacify violent offenders in our nation’s maximum security prisons. Alternatively, they may be turned around and used as bathrobes for giants.

2) Christmas in October: ANACHRONISTICALLY UNACCEPTABLE!!! OK, so I can understand that retailers don’t want to set out their holiday wares on December 22nd. But do they need to start bombarding us with Christmas cheer the same week as Halloween? Hello, there’s a whole ‘nother holiday in between the two! And I, for one, think National Cake Day deserves a little more respect.

TASTE MY TIMELY JUSTICE: From this day on, anyone caught displaying a Santa and a Jack O’ Lantern concurrently will be forced to watch “A Christmas Story” on mute while listening to Vincent Price’s soliloquy from “Thriller” on a loop.

3) Novelty Christmas Music Performed  by Animals: ANTHROPOMORPHICALLY UNACCEPTABLE!!! You know they’re out there, waiting. During the rest of the year, you feel confident you can avoid them. Oh, sure, you might be exposed to the occasional Billy Bass or analogous Chthulu-level horror, but overall you have an excellent radar when it comes to people who enjoy watching animals sing. Then along comes Christmakwaanzukkah, and suddenly you can’t open an e-mail or a white elephant gift without being exposed to – God help us all – Jingle Cats, Bark the Halls or whatever the hell this is. What in the name of all that is good and holy happened to Silent Night?

MY BITE IS WORSE THAN MY BARK: The degree of unacceptability involved requires the harshest treatment: offenders will henceforth be locked in a room with Bob Barker, a tarp and pruning shears, and will only be released when they have been spayed and/or neutered. It’s for the good of the species, people.

4) Delivering a Flawless Rendition of Steve Martin’s Christmas soliloquy from My Blue Heaven and Receiving Only Dull, Cow-Eyed Stares in Return: ENSEMBLE-COMEDICALLY UNACCEPTABLE!!! You spend years perfecting your craft (i.e., practicing in an offhand manner and relying heavily on your brain’s inability to forget anything it’s been exposed to, ever), and these are the thanks you get? Do you think that accent happens by itself, people? I put GEL IN MY HAIR, for Pete’s Sake! GEL!

WHAT’S ARUGULA? IT’S A VEG-A-TAB-UL: You are all hereby ordered to watch this movie and love it as I do, or I will be forced to reveal my hitherto-hidden infinite mental powers and wish you all into a cornfield.

5) The Following Conversation, Held Annually: PARENTALLY UNACCEPTABLE!!!

<RING, RING>

MA: Hello?

MOI: Hey, Ma. What does Dad want for Christmas this year?

MA: Well, you know your father. He’s impossible to buy for.

MOI: What about a tool? I think I saw a Deluxe HeeberJeeber 2000 on sale at Sears. Does he have one of those?

MA: Oh, honey, who knows what he’s got out in that garage? I haven’t been out there since 1978, and I don’t plan to go back. You know the socket wrenches went feral back in the early 90’s!

MOI: OK, well, what about clothes? I saw a very nice sweatshirt/flannel lumberjack thing/Cleveland Browns hat at the store the other day and…

MA: <noncommittal noise>

MOI: What?

MA: Well, I already got him one of those.

MOI: DAMN IT!

This is why my father has received a wallet from me every year for thirty-two years. They’re stacked up like cordwood.

I’M NOT A FREAKING PSYCHIC: Let the clarion call go forth, to the four corners of the land! Whoever invents a device that will detect the three tools my father does not already own at Christmas time shall receive a bounty of gold doubloons and, it goes without saying, several nice wallets.

Ignore these tips at your peril, my friends, because at any time, anywhere, you could find your stocking filled with a lump of coal we like to call…UNACCEPTABLE!!!