So there I was, mindlessly browsing a podcast fan group on Facebook, when I noticed somebody looking for design help. I posted a link to my website, and a cool young dude, Korbin, reached out to me.
"I'm a professional spiritual advisor," he said, linking me to a Facebook page for Queer Tarot Visions.
Oh, hell yes.
There is so much cool iconography associated with tarot cards and psychic readings, so I was pretty pumped.
But here's the thing: Korbin isn't the kind of picture you get in your mind when you hear, "psychic." You probably think of a kooky old lady in a beaded shawl waving her long, bony fingers around a crystal sphere. No, this is a cool millennial psychic, a digital native's psychic. Someone who incorporates their personal identity in their work and specializes in social media.
So I went into this process with three words in mind:
I started out by thinking of ways to incorporate the rainbow when my eyes drifted down to the chunk of quartz resting on my desk. A ha!
So then I turned on some 80s new wave and made a second option that looks like Siouxsie and the Banshees met up with the gay illuminati at ULTA.
Korbin was into the second logo, but, understandably, wanted a more gender-neutral eye. While I might feel spiritually connected to a fierce cat eye, that doesn't mean that everybody else has to. He also wanted the eye filled in with white.
Voila! Modern, mystical, and queer!
Check out Queer Tarot Vision on Facebook: www.facebook.com/queertarotvisions/
There are a couple of reasons why lists that involve families or parents are challenging.
One, Minnesota has been on a lot of them: best state for kids, best state for moms, best state for dads, best state to have a baby, best state to raise a family. That's great for our state, but it can be tough to keep it fresh as a graphic designer.
There are also a lot of ways to be really, really obvious. If you google "family," you'll see what I mean. You'll probably find a stock photo of a straight, white smiling nuclear family. You'll definitely find those "man" and "woman" icons you see on bathroom doors with tiny versions on either side to represent the 2.5 kids. Oh, and just to mix it up, here's a thin, attractive mom and dad forming a chain of intertwined hands with their khaki-clad spawn, facing the sunset.
I'm gay and grew up with a single mom. The Minnesota family that I grew up with didn't look like that and the Minnesota family I'll have some day won't look like that. Minnesota families are gay families, immigrant families, single-parent families, blended families, rural families, and poor families. So how do you create something that celebrates Minnesota families in a way that allows for diverse bodies to see themselves reflected? One way to do it is to make those bodies into negative space.
I'm asking you, the viewer, to fill in the blanks here. You could look at this and see a young, conventionally attractive white mom and dad and two white babies. If you want to. You could also see a Hmong family or a Latinx family. You could see two dads or a single parent with a teenager in the midst of a growth spurt. You could see your five-year-old son who wears hearing aids or your daughter who likes blue more than pink. The only thing we know about the implied family in this image (besides the fact that they wear shirts) is that they're Minnesotans.
And there's no wrong way to be that.
Lights up on a small conference room in a modest office building in La Crosse, Wisconsin. CHARLA, a LaCroix executive leans back in her office chair and takes a sip of extra-milky coffee from her UW Madison Badgers mug. BERT, a sales manager, enters from stage right with a stack of papers. He sits at the table across from CHARLA and gazes at his papers one more time, as if stunned by the information they contain.
7/7/2017 0 Comments
Because ya girl does short form.
7/20/2015 0 Comments
A funny thing happened on East Lake Street the other day. I was on my way to Pham’s Deli to pick up a banh mi for dinner when I saw two cherubic, brace-faced teenage girls whispering to each other on the corner. They each had overstuffed plastic bags hanging from their arms and took turns glancing at me as I approached.
“Hey, do you have a second to talk to us?” The short one said, giddy.
“Sure,” I replied, “What’s up?”
“We’re actually on a mission trip!” The short one reached into her bag and pulled out a neatly wrapped ham sandwich and a bottle of water, the kind that suburban moms buy for soccer tournaments or long camping trips. “We’re handing out sandwiches and water.”
How nice, I thought, look at these girls, working hard, spending their Thursday night coming into the city to feed the hungry. How can I help?
The short one smiled a pearly, wiry smile and held the sandwich and water out toward me, expectantly. “...here!” she said, finally.
Wait, what? This is for me?
Hesitant, I took the items.
“All we ask for in return…” she continued.
Oh, I see. This is like a one-for-one kind of thing. You give me a symbolic sandwich, and I give you some money so you can donate food or pay for your church trip to a third-world country or whatever. Clever!
“...is that you pray for us.”
This seemed like the strangest, most counter-intuitive transaction ever. First of all, giving me food in exchange for prayers? Essentially selling prayers? I don’t know much about The Bible, but there has to be some kind of rule against that.
Second of all, why am I praying for you, exactly? For the success of your sandwich mission? But if the mission of your sandwich mission is trading sandwiches for prayers, I’d ultimately be praying for you to get more prayers for more prayers for more prayers! That’s a prayer Ponzi scheme!
Third of all, why me? You don’t understand, Sister Brace Face! I have a sink that dispenses potable water whenever I want it to! I have stocked cupboards and nobody to feed but myself! Heck, I was just about to go spend my disposable income on Vietnamese food! I am the last person on this block in need of a free sandwich!
There was a lot wrong with the picture. In the end, though, what I said was, “Okay.”
“You will?!” They both looked profoundly surprised, “Thank you!”
I stuffed the sandwich and water bottle into my backpack and went on my way, thinking about what in God’s name--perhaps literally?--I had just committed to. Do I eat the sandwich? Drink the water? It would be disrespectful to let it go to waste, but I would feel strange partaking. Do I pray for the girls? It would feel frivolous and cheap, but I told them I would, and I would feel guilty not following through.
Now, I’m not a particularly religious person. I’m not committed enough for regular observance, but I’ve had too many spiritual experiences to label myself simply agnostic. I suppose I’m in the trite, cliched “spiritual but not religious” camp that so many people in my generation have fallen into. Maybe it’s a cop-out, or maybe “spiritual but not religious” is the individualist’s answer to organized religion. We’ve got our own phones and computers all to ourselves, and now we’ve got our own faiths too. In both cases, some people would argue that too much time with either will rot your brain.
As part of my personal practices, I have a rule about prayer: I reserve it for special occasions. I would expand on what those occasions are, but I also have a superstition--much like Cinderella’s about wishes-- that if I say what I prayed for, it won’t come true. And so far my prayers have a pretty good track record. I can’t spoil that.
The girls’ request made me think of the diverse relationships that people have with prayer: staunch atheists who abstain, my host family from my year abroad in Mexico who ended every statement with “if God wants it to be so,” devout folks who pray before every meal, and others who only pray before meals on holidays. Girls who ask strangers to pray for them on inner city street corners, which I guess is a thing now.
I thought of a homeless man I saw under a bridge off the Midtown Greenway one morning, bowing his head in prayer with a can of Bud Light at his feet.
With that I finally decided: I would say a prayer for the girls, but I couldn’t keep the damn sandwich.
I headed down to the Greenway--with its makeshift bridge homes--to find a good spot to leave the meal for somebody else. I stopped in a community garden where, nearly every afternoon, I see the same man sitting on the same bench in the same dirty clothes. This would be a good spot to leave the sandwich, I thought.
But wait, how do I let the man know that the meal is for him? How do I let him know that it’s good? I don’t have anything to label it with, and even if I did, what would I write on it? “Free?” “Please eat?” Who in their right mind would go for that? What if he doesn’t come in time and some animals get it? What if it goes to waste anyway? What if the plastic bag doesn’t get properly disposed of and a bird suffocates inside of it?!
Aw, screw it.
I placed the sandwich and the water bottle neatly on the bench and tried to feel confidently about it. As I walked home, I thought about how a holier person might have waited to hand the sandwich off personally, which brings up the age-old question of whether or not we should be judged by our intentions alone. The missionary girls on the corner and I all had the best of intentions, but who knows if any fewer people went to sleep hungry that night? What is God’s work and how does one know when they’ve done it well enough?
I realized during that train of thought that I had almost forgotten to pray. I said a few words for the girls, which led to a few more words for every sick or hurting person I could think of. I wondered if this was the girls’ secret master plan: to ask for prayers for themselves in order to catalyze prayers for others. Maybe they had planned all along to hand sandwiches out to the privileged among us to make them consider their own blessings. Maybe they were the puppet masters in a grand operation founded in selflessness and gratitude. Who could look down upon that?
Or maybe they just saw a twenty-something white woman walking across the street and, for whatever reason, decided, “yep, she really needs a sandwich.”
In the end, God only knows.
-------On the bargain wall at my local used book store, I found a thin book titled "MONEY" that asks the reader to respond to a lot of questions. The previous owner left lots of notes and marks in pink highlighter. Here's what they had to say--------
CHAPTER 2: BELIEFS, JUDGMENTS, AND CONSEQUENCES
LIST SOME BELIEFS YOU HAVE CREATED
Example: I do not have enough money
1. I always have enough money for the basics, but never anything to accumulate or do something BIG with.
2. Food makes me fat.
3. My family are difficult to be with.
4. People are disappointing.
5. I'm a "tough fat"
LIST SOME FEELINGS YOU HAVE ABOUT EACH BELIEF
Example: frustration, disappointment and shame
1. Frustration, self-hate
3. Judgment, shame.
5. disappointment in "others".
LIST OF OTHER JUDGMENTS YOU HOLD
Example: Some people have too much money and some too little
1. Stupid people run my country
2. I'm smarter than 3/4 of the rich people on this planet
3. I limit myself again & again.
4. I am a loser for being locked in limitation and knowing what I know!
LIST THE FEELINGS YOU HAVE ABOUT EACH JUDGEMENT
Example: annoyed and angry
(I see a pattern...)
LIST CONSEQUENCES YOU HAVE CREATED FOR EACH BELIEF
Example: People do not respect me
1. I feel negative feelings about Govt.
2-4. I stay stuck in low-paying work--my "pay" is always tied to performance
TRACE A BELIEF THROUGH DIFFERENT PARTS OF YOUR LIFE AND FIND THE COMMON ELEMENT
Example: I do not have enough money. I am not smart enough. I am not successful enough in my career. I am not good looking enough. The common element is "I Am Not Enough"
Other people (who are not as smart as I am) are more successful than me. Why not me? I've gotten close lots of times. If I'm so brilliant, why am I so stuck?
The common element is:
I compare myself to others and hate us both.
CHAPTER 3: MONEY IS ENERGY
LIST BELIEFS YOU HAVE ABOUT MONEY
1. I never have enough..
2. I struggle with every dime.
3. I've never saved money.
4. I spend money on things I don't care about.
5. I don't spend money on things that matter to me.
6. If I have it, I spend it.
LIST FEELINGS YOU HAVE ABOUT EACH BELIEF
4. Stupid. I feel stupid.
5. I feel stupid.
CHAPTER 9: THE GIFT OF SELF-APPRECIATION
LIST QUALITIES YOU HAVE THAT YOU APPRECIATE
Example: loyal, dependable, honest, talented
LIST QUALITIES YOU HAVE THAT YOU DON'T APPRECIATE
Example: lazy, rigid, timid, unfocused
1. Bad with money.
3. pissy attitude/Competitive
Are you willing to embrace in unconditional love those qualities you don't appreciate each time one of them cones to your attention until they become creations you consider worthy of appreciation?
CHAPTER 16: THE PURPOSE OF BELIEFS, EVENTS AND CIRCUMSTANCES
LIST CREATIONS YOU CONSIDER WONDERFUL
Example: Had dinner at your favorite restaurant
The Denver trip.
LIST OF CREATIONS YOU ARE UNHAPPY ABOUT
Example: Did not receive a raise in pay
- a few "extra pounds"
- not the best hair cut.
- too little money.
- not enough time
-too many deadlines
Observations: it seems like this book is only half about money and half about God. All of the lines that this previous owner highlighted are about God.
The city plaza was dense with tourists as the warm smells of cocoa and charred sweet corn filled the autumn twilight. On weekends like this, all the buskers emerged early to stake claims on their corners.
On weekends like this, Galatea made her best tips.
She was a human statue whose real name no one knew. She never spoke--rarely moved her lips, even--and slipped away quietly at the end of every night in her powder makeup and stiff ivory clothes, back to who-knows-where.
She kept so still, up on her makeshift pedestal, with the patience and stamina of a wild cat in position to pounce. Only when a spare dollar found its way into the vase at her feet did she stir, extending her arm to blow one sweet, graceful kiss to her latest donor.
She was beautiful. Very beautiful. She was the most beautiful woman in the world, according to PJ.
Another reclusive local, PJ would sometimes watch her for hours, fixing his gaze from cafe windows, distant balconies, and the backs of undulating crowds. Wherever he could get the best view, without himself being seen. Maybe he imagined it, but she looked most electric when he stopped to watch her, as if his infatuated energy flew like a cupid’s arrow to her core.
“I’m doing her a favor,” he thought, “She’s better when I’m here.”
“She’s better because of me.”
One night, PJ decided to show himself, confess his adoration, and collect his thanks. He carried a dozen snow-white roses through the plaza to place before her, his heart beating heavily in his chest as he walked.
The world appeared to play in slow motion around him. The crowd appeared to part like the seas did for Moses, showing him to his love without obstacle. Then, ah! There she was. Close enough for PJ to see the cracks in her glistening ivory paint.
Her back was to PJ as he dropped the roses in front of her tip vase and cleared his throat.
“I adore you, Galatea!” he said, “Kiss me!”
A few tourists in the crowd swooned at the gesture. “How sweet!” one of them said.
Galatea turned her head slowly, cautiously, and met his gaze.
There was a pregnant pause.
“I know you’ve been watching me,” her eyes appeared to say.
She turned her whole body, awkwardly, apprehensively. “I see you every damn night,” her chest seemed to scream.
She did not speak, but her tense, deliberate gestures spoke volumes. She touched her right hand to her quivering, pursed lips. Her eyes stayed on PJ, with a decade of rage and bittersweet memory pouring like lasers from each one.
She removed her hand from her lips and extended her arm to the smugly smiling man. Then she held her pose. PJ, still expectant, did not move.
Caught in a game of chicken, PJ waited hopefully while Galatea stared disdainfully, possibly waiting for something herself. They stood for so long that they may have both become real statues if they had waited any longer.
Eventually, though, she’d had enough. She silently began to mouth a message, using the same sweet lips she had used for so many kisses, both true and forced.
“YOU.” PJ’s heart rose!
“KNOW ME.” Higher!
Galatea’s lips quivered harder and a single tear began to fall from her right eye.
Then she whipped her body around to sweetly greet a child dropping nickles at her feet.
It was funny, the way I found out about Robin Williams’ passing. I was sitting with my boyfriend on the front steps of his house when Tom “the tall white guy with the afro who goes to every show ever” walked by, dragging his baggy sweatpants along the sidewalk.
“Hey, did you guys hear that Robin Williams died?”
“Yeah, it looks like it was a suicide.”
“What?!” “Oh, my God.” “That’s awful” etc.
“Yeah, so… I’m just walking around. Trying to shake it off. There was a cat on the corner. I’m gonna go check on it.”
And he was off.
It’s funny that, in 2014, the news came to us through such an ancient avenue. Rather than a midnight ride, it was an eight o’clock stroll. Rather than a horse and a lantern, it was a pair of worn out shoes and oversized headphones. Sure enough, when I checked Facebook later that night, friends were mourning the entertainer’s passing left and right.
Confusion. Sadness. Trending articles. Nostalgia. Tearful emoticons. Sadness again.
The linkstorm made me think of Ned Vizzini’s passing in December of 2013. I heard about from an A.V. Club article on my facebook feed. A message from the Internet with only the Internet to scream to.
His death was also a suicide. Learning that paralyzed me for a moment.
Ned Vizzini wrote a couple of novels that saw me through some rough and formative years. It’s Kind of a Funny Story was the first place I learned that suicidal ideations/attempts are considered cause for medical intervention as the story’s protagonist, Craig, calls the suicide hotline. Sometimes I wonder where I would be if Ned, through Craig, hadn’t told me that.
Robin Williams, similarly, meant a lot to us, collectively. He was a beloved figure who entertained and delighted generations of people with humor and poignance. He made the world smile year after year and he will be sorely missed.
He, like Vizzini, battled some very sad demons.
The conversation surrounding Williams’ passing has gone in a few different directions. Many people wondered how such a kind, funny, successful entertainer could have taken his own life. Others recounted times when Williams personally touched their lives: a cell phone photo in a rural Dairy Queen, a comforting conversation in a doughnut shop with a family after a funeral.
The sad truth is that plenty of ebullient and generous people die by their own hands. Robin Williams was a giver, and givers too often hold sadness like parasites on their warm hearts.
You probably have a giver in your life. At least, I hope you do. A giver is the person who brought you wine and a mix CD to comfort you after a breakup. She’s the one who makes a point to ask you how you’re doing when she sees you at work and always hopes for an honest answer. He’s the friend who walked you home from a party at three in the morning just to make sure you got in your bed safely and without freezing to death. She’s the one who made you cupcakes and watched a cheesy movie with you after a bad day. Your giver is exceptionally empathetic and, somehow, can always tell when you’re upset. A giver is an attentive listener who asks good questions and gives personalized advice whenever and wherever you need it. Your giver is kind without expecting anything in return. You trust your giver because your giver’s arms are always open. Maybe somebody’s giver is you.
In the conversation about Williams, some sent a succinct and clear message, “if you are depressed, get help,” which is, without a doubt, an important message to send. But here’s the thing about givers: they’re really good at faking it and really bad at asking for things.
A giver you love might be struggling with depression. They may have struggled with depression for years. Your giver may be very very sick in their mind or their body, but they still show up and fight their hurt every single day. They may have problems with their family. They may struggle with money. They may have faced trauma and tragedy that you can’t even begin to imagine. They may have an addiction. They may have lots of addictions. They may stare death in the face every time they get up in the morning, thinking, “maybe today is the day.” They may have tried to kill themselves already but, for whatever reason, still find themselves in this world, awake and breathing.
A giver you love may be in pain, even if they don’t show it.
When Ned Vizzini died, I thought of an unfinished letter I had planned on sending to him when I was 17. It’s probably still hidden in a spiral notebook somewhere in my bedroom. I forgot what it said exactly, but a big portion of it was probably “thank you.” Now he’s dead, I never sent the letter, and that makes me very sad.
Would a letter from a 17-year-old in Minnesota have prevented Ned Vizzini’s suicide? Probably not. A similar gesture probably wouldn’t have prevented Robin Williams’ suicide either. That’s not the point. The point is that thanks and gratitude and reciprocal kindness aren’t things that can be effectively asked for, especially when mental illness is in play, but they are things that can be infinitely given. By you.
If your giver is depressed, you can’t expect--or even hope--to “save” them. That’s a very self-indulgent thought. Hoping to be some kind of hero puts you at the center, and kindness should be selfless.
Right now, I’m asking you to be selfless. I’m asking you to give to your giver. To a person in your life who gives so much without expecting anything in return, give them something anyway, even if that’s just “Thank you.” Even if that’s just encouraging them to get the help that they would never ask for on their own.
To Robin Williams, thank you for, among other things, the way that Mrs. Doubtfire touched every child of divorce in some goofy, bizarre way.
To Ned Vizzini, thank you for penning the novel that made depression feel like less of a one-woman battle.
To all the givers in my life: Thank you. I love you and appreciate you. Help is out there, should you need it.
Asking for help is hard, but if you are considering suicide or want more information on recognizing warning signs, go here.