Birthday-ish post
kyljames
So, it was my birthday last week. My forty-third, to be exact. That sort of thing probably deserved some sort of big post, but it just wasn't a good week. I ended up working way too much both on my actual birthday and that week.

So, here is my belated gift or something to all of you. For each of the decades I've been alive, I pulled the most frequently played songs from my iTunes account. Admitedly it's sort of a random list, but hopefully you enjoy this.

1970's
Disco may have been king, but there's a conspicous absence of it in my top 10 tracks for this decade.
10. Fleetwood Mac - "Say You Love Me"
9. Etta James - "Take It To the Limit"
8. Fleetwood Mac - "Tusk"
7. Original Broadway Cast, A Chorus Line - "Dance: Ten; Looks Three"
6. Fleetwood Mac - 'Go Your Own Way"
5. Ashford and Simpson - "Is It Still Good To Ya"
4. Stevie Wonder - "Boogie On Reggae Woman"
3. LaBelle - "Lady Marmalade"
2. Stevie Wonder - "Higher Ground"
1. Fleetwood Mac Stevie Nicks- "Rhiannon"*
*Ok, yes, technically it was released by Fleetwood Mac, but I never think of this as a Fleetwood Mac song, I think of it as a Stevie Nicks song. So, there.

1980's
Pop music ruled, to be sure, even in my play lists. But there are some major surprises here. I routinely forget that Prince's "Sign O' the Times" CD came out during the 80's - it feels to me like it belongs in the 90's for some reason. And "one hit wonder" Jane Child is at the top of this list, besting the Queen of Pop?
10. Cher - "I Found Someone"
9. Joni Mitchell - "Big Yellow Taxi"
8. Cyndi Lauper - "Change of Heart"
7. Madonna - "Express Yourself"
6. Sheila E. - 'The Glamorous Life"
5. Madonna - "Into the Groove"
4. Prince - "Forever In My Life"
3. Prince - "AnotherLoverHoleInYoHead"
2. Grace Jones - "Love on Top of Love (Killer Kiss)"
1. Jane Child - "I Don't Want to Fall In Love"

1990's
This list feels more typical (Madonna is well-represented with tracks from four albums), and also feels like a good representation of the 1990's for me.
10. Madonna - "Frozen
9. Madonna - "Bad Girl"
8. Madonna - "Bedtime Stories"
7. Original Broadway Cast, Rent - "Contact"
6. Hole - "Celebrity Skin"
5. Erasure - "Love to Hate You"
4. Cher - "Tougher Than the Rest"
3. Pet Shop Boys - "New York City Boy"
2. Original Motion Picture Cast, Evita - "Rainbow High"
1. Garbage - "As Heaven Is Wide"

2000's
Apparently this is my Britney decade?
10. Fall Out Boy - "I Don't Care"
9. Heather Small - "Proud"
8. Cold Play - "Viva La Vida"
7. Madonna - "Erotica" (Live from the Confessions Tour)
6. Britney Spears featuring Madonna - "Me Against the Music (Rishi Rich's Desi Kulcha Remix)
5. Britney Spears - "I'm A Slave For You"
4. Madonna - "Celebration"
3. Garbage - "#1 Crush"
2. Madonna - "Music Inferno" (Live from the Confessions Tour)
1. Britney Spears - "Womanizer"

2010's
It will be interesting to look at this list again once the decade is over and see how many of these songs remain on the list.  There's a few I think have that kind of staying power (Rihanna and Kylie - especially this version of "All the Lovers") and others I suspect will drop off (Gaga and Britney)
10. Kylie Minogue - "Aphrodite"
9. Rihanna - "Only Girl (In the World)"
8. Scissor Sisters - "Let's Have a Kiki"
7. Icona Pop (featuring Charli XCX) - "I Don't Care"
6. Christina Aguilera (featuring CeeLo Green) - "Make the World Move"
5. Glee Cast - "Rumour Has It / Someone Like You"
4. Kylie Minogue - "All the Lovers" (BBC Live Lounge Version)
3. Cher - "Woman's World"
2. Lady Gaga - "Applause"
1. Britney Spears - "Work Bitch"

By the time I get this blog posted, as many as four kids will have killed themselves today because t
kyljames
 During September 2010, we learned of four young gay kids who killed themselves, two of whom were only 13 years old. All four of them were harassed and bullied just because they were gay.

The United States Department of Health and Human Services estimates that as many as 1,488 gay, bisexual, and lesbian kids kill themselves every year. That’s 4 every day.

I want you to think about that right now. By the time I get this blog posted, as many as four kids will have killed themselves today because they’re GLBT.

My heart breaks just thinking about this.

I remember being a teenager. It sucked. I had a great mom who loved (and still loves) me unconditionally. I had a roof over my head, I had food to eat, and I had clothes to wear.

I was also the fat faggy kid with glasses. Did I mention I was hopeless at sports and was a total bookworm? I should also mention I was really good at cooking. Now, think back to your school days. Exactly how many of the above made a boy popular? If you answered any number greater than zero, my guess is that you grew up in San Francisco or Iowa City.

I remember being taunted about being gay in junior high school. It was no better in high school. I remember being called “fag” and “queer” in the hallways. I remember opening my locker to find crude drawings of two guys going at it with the “no” slash mark through the picture. The picture was captioned “AIDS kills fags dead”.

What probably saved me from being beaten up was the fact that I was built like a football player. If you’ve met me, you know I’m a big guy who is tall with big shoulders. During freshman year the varsity football coach asked me if I wanted to try out for the football team. This happened at West Des Moines Valley, where football was huge. Maybe not Texas football huge, but still huge.

So, I was lucky. I didn’t get beaten up. I didn’t get shoved in the hallways that often. That doesn’t mean that I didn’t feel like shit every time someone called me a name. Did I think about killing myself? Of course I did. A lot.

Thankfully, I ended up discovering that my local GLBT center had a youth group. A group of people who were GLBT. A group where I wasn’t the token fag, the guy to snicker at in the hall. A group I was part of. A group where I could ask questions that actually got real answers. A group where I could talk about what I was thinking and feeling, and find out that other people were thinking and feeling some of the same things I were. A group where I was able to finally comes to terms with who I was. The truth is that youth group saved my life.

I consider myself to have been openly gay since 1990, when I came out to my family. That’s been almost twenty years now. Twenty years during which I’ve gone to college, worked in retail, worked in a factory, worked in food service, and worked in a professional office environment. Twenty years during which I’ve fallen in love, and had my heart broken. Twenty years of challenges, opportunities, dreams, and lots of fun times. That’s twenty years of amazing stuff I would not have had if I would have killed myself.

So, if you’re a young GLBT person reading this, I have these things to say to you. First, I know sometimes it sucks. Being a teenager was, so far, absolutely the worst time in my life. Without question. But life since then? So much better. So, be strong. You can get through this. Find something that helps carry you through, and cling to that when you need it. Maybe that’s music, or dance, or your faith, or a hobby, or even football. It doesn’t matter to me what that something is. If it helps you find your strength, then use it.

Second, find someone to talk to. Does your local GLBT community center have a youth group? Check it out. Does your school have a gay/straight alliance? Check it out. Maybe there’s a super cool teacher who has a rainbow flag or a safe space sticker on display. Talk with that person. If those resources aren’t available and things feel really bad, call the Trevor Project at 1-866-4-u-trevor. It’s free, it’s confidential, and it’s available 24/7.

Third, remember you are an important person. Your life has value, meaning, and worth. If you are in danger, please get yourself to safety and find help. That danger could be physical abuse, sexual abuse, emotional abuse...whatever it is, get help. Talk to someone you trust - a doctor, nurse, teacher, police officer, someone. You have so much to offer to the world, and we need you to be a part of the world for a good long time.

To the adults out there, my message is simple. We have to find a way to stop this. As decent human beings, can’t we come together at least to say that enough is enough? Can’t we at least all agree that our schools should be safe places for all of our kids? Can’t we agree that we need to find a way for every child, every young person, hell, every person, to be safe in their lives? Can’t we all agree to treat each other with respect and some kindness?

Because, seriously, we’ve got to find a way to prevent these kids from killing themselves. As adults, we’ve got the responsibility not only to lead the way for the kids, we’ve got the responsibility to create the kind of future they’ll want to follow us to.

November is coming, November is coming
kyljames
Hmm, it's less than six weeks to November.  

Crap.  And yay.  All at the same time.  

For those who don't know, November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, for short.  You can learn more about it at www.nanowrimo.org/.  Basically, there's a bunch of us who sign up to write an entire novel of at least 50,000 words from start to finish during the month.  Yes, you read that right, 50,000 words in a single month.  For some people (yes, I mean you heidicullinan ), writing 50000 words in a month is, while certainly not effortless, not a big challenge.  For others of us, it feels like a Herculean effort.  I think it's like climbing Mount Everest, or doing a triathlon (you know, because I'm an expert on either of those), it's something you do to prove you can do it.  At least that's how it is for me.  

So, I'm here with less than six weeks to go.  On the plus side, I know what I'm going to write.  It's the first novel in a series I have planned about a family with some psychic abilities who are hired by a client who thinks her son was the first victim of what's now been identified as a serial killer.  I've had the two main characters in my head for a while, so it's getting time to set them loose.  

On the other hand, I'm still working on my "Gianni".  He's been away at school studying to be a priest when his father dies.  He returns home for the funeral.  While he's home, he's forced to question whether or not priesthood is the path God has really chosen for him.  This is a story I've been working on for quite some time - it's actually the one i set aside before NaNoWriMo last year because I wanted to take the time with Gianni to let him tell his story, his way, at his own pace.  I really like him as a character, and this piece has given me an opportunity to think about some things in a different way than I used to.  I like when that happens.  

And yes, I still have the story I wrote for NaNoWriMo last year that needs massive editing.  And the one from the year before.  Plus the 10 or so novels I've taken notes on that still need to be written.  

So, instead of working on any of that, I'm writing this.  :~)  Actually, I did work on Gianni earlier tonight, which I guess was technically yesterday now.  But I did make progress, and that's the important thing.  

Now, back to something productive.  By which I mean sleep.  Night!

Why do I write?
kyljames
The short answer is because I have to.  

Artists are called to create.  We are called to explore our worlds through our art.  We are called to document our worlds through our art.  We are called to change our worlds through our art.  To be an artist is absolutely a calling.  It's not for the faint of heart, nor is it for people who want the quick way or the easy way.  The act of creation is painful.  It takes time, your energy, and perseverance.  Being an artist means self-doubt, sore body parts, willingly subjecting yourself to criticism and rejection time and time again, and living, at least to some degree, outside of your culture. 

I can't explain why I was called to be a writer.  It's just a part of me.  When I don't write, I don't feel well.  I get moody when I don't write.  To quote the character of "Elaine" from "Ally McBeal", I get "snappish" when I don't write.  I wake up in the middle of the night with characters and stories.  Sometimes I wish that weren't the case, but it is.  So, I dutifully take down as many notes as I can, promise those characters that we'll have a deeper conversation some other time, and then try to fall back asleep.  Sometimes my notes provide the springboard for the next piece I'll be working on (or the piece after that), other times I read them over and think they're garbage.  But I never get rid of them.  Who knows when they might be a catalyst for something really interesting?  

What I have learned is that these notes, these dreams, and these random ideas are all part of my process.  I work in corporate America to pay the bills.  This means that I spend 8 to 12 hours, five days per week, of my time not writing.  That's my energy, my creativity, my brain activity, all going to something that is not writing.  To something that does not renew me, or speak at all to who I am or what I have to say.  That can be incredibly frustrating.  Sometimes that means I have to be very opportunistic about my writing.  I have to take advantage of thoughts and ideas when they happen, as much as I can.  I also have to be smart.  Just because I have a great idea at 4 in the morning does not mean that I should get out of bed and write 10,000 words of this story.  Sometimes it just means I need to write a few hundred words summarizing that idea so I can come back to it.  Later.  

But, at least for the time being, that's my reality.  Which means I have to make time to write.  I have to find and take opportunities to create, to write, to express myself.  I have to do this.  I have to write.  I have to create.  It all boils down to one simple truth:

I am a writer.  Writing is what I do.  

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