Sunday, May 27, 2012

Charlie Brown - Not the Cartoon

Yesterday was the day one of my brothers died. Although his official date of death is tomorrow, May 28th, it was the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend in 2006. He was only 30 years old. His name was Charlie and most people called him Charlie Brown, among other nicknames he acquired during his life. In remembering my brother, I knew I had written something about him for the funeral. Although I didn't read it aloud because my throat closed and I couldn't speak, I knew I had something to share with those who came to the funeral. I found it and want to post this very personal piece on my blog in the hopes it may help others. Yes it's sad, yes it's profound, and yes it touches on drug use. Just as I helped carry my dad's casket to the grave, I helped carry my brother's too. I know, women aren't supposed to do that, but he was my brother and I felt it was only right! Read it if you want... P.S. Charlie is the one in the overalls!

My Brother Charlie

            Thank you all for coming.  Each of us deals with grief in our own way.  For some, they hold it in and don’t talk about it.  Others prefer to be alone with their thoughts, while others feel better by talking and being around people who have the same feelings.  For me, it’s a mixture. Sometimes I keep stuff bottled up, sometimes I want to talk, and other times I just want to be around people.  Today is very hard on all of us.  Hard in different ways.  So, thank you for listening, thank you for talking, and thank you for just being around us today.

            Charlie was known by many people and was called many things:  daddy, son, friend, uncle, cousin, nephew, and grandson, but to me he was a brother.  Even though he was the meanest brother, he was still my brother.  For those who have brothers, you know at times, they can be a royal pain in the butt.  But, siblings have a special bond that is hard to explain.  This is why I feel compelled to say something on the day we bury our brother.

            We do not know what happened to Charlie.  We won’t know for a few months.  We can speculate it was drugs, or we can hope it was a medical condition.  I won’t stand here and say my brother was a saint, because he wasn’t.  He was however, baptized as a child and knew Jesus, so I have no doubt that I will see Charlie again.  With Charlie, he was either your best friend or your worst enemy.  He had a temper like dynamite and a heart like a marshmallow.  If you didn’t know Charlie, he looked very intimidating.  Some of you here know many things and can share many stories about Charlie.  Stories that are probably not very good because he had a reputation for getting into mischief, even as a child.  Of all of us, he got the most whippings. 
            Yet as we come together today to support one another, we hope that Charlie did not die in vain.  We have always been taught that everything happens for a reason, and if the cause of his death is not a medical condition, if the cause of his death is drugs or is drug related, then some in this room need to pay attention because you are on the same path.
            If Charlie’s death is drug related please don’t put your friends and family through this.  Drugs not only destroy families, but they destroy your former self by taking your personality away and replacing it with a stranger’s personality.  Drug addicts lie, cheat, and steal straight to your face.  They place blame on others, they come up with the most off-the-wall excuses and stories.  Drugs turn people from Dr. Jekyll to Mr. Hyde, right under our nose and we, the family and friends, say nothing.  We “feel sorry for them,” we “hope they straighten up,” we “wish they could just do right,” we justify it by saying, “that kid sure has had a hard life.”  We are afraid to say anything.  Prescription or non prescription, it doesn’t matter, a drug addict is a drug addict.  Children suffer, spouses suffer, parents suffer, friends suffer, and siblings suffer. 

            I hope that Charlie had a medical condition, but if he did not, I hope his death serves as a wake up call for some.  I loved my brother, I always will and I will miss him.  Thank you for listening.  

Saturday, May 19, 2012

My Heroes: Heathcliff, Rhett Butler, and Edward Rochester

     I'm such a homebody, typing away on a Saturday night. Woo - hoo! What an exciting life I lead. Just a few minutes ago, as my husband flipped through the channels sighing "there's nothing on," I saw something I wanted to watch: the original Wuthering Heights from 1939 (adopted from the novel by Emily Bronte). I love the remake with Ralph Fiennes so much that I vow to see the original one day. Well, today isn't that day. After stalling for a few minutes on the black and white version, I told him he could turn it once I saw the bored look on his face. But, seeing just a few scenes reminded me of an old classic I DID watch the other day, Jane Eyre. This one is by Emily's sister Charlotte.
     I've always wondered what the big deal about Jane Eyre was. I don't wonder anymore. The romance is so nail biting that the hour and a half of the movie felt like days. (This is the 1944 version with Orson Welles as Edward Rochester and Joan Fontaine as Jane Eyre.) Oh, I wanted to be Jane Erye as soon as she walked into Thornfield. I'm not sure what it is about classic movies when men were honorable and chivalrous and women were feminine and demure, but I could watch these old classics all day and night. To watch as both Edward and Jane were secretly attracted to each other, but neither had the nerve to show it, is right up the romance meter with Scarlett and Rhett. Where are guys like Rhett Butler and Edward Rochester now-a-days? And Healthcliff for that matter?
     And, if you look closely in Jane Eyre, you can even see a very young Elizabeth Taylor as Helen. After seeing this classic, I now understand the big deal, why it's a classic. The Bronte sisters had it going on in the 1800s and in my opinion, they still do. Wonder what classic I'll get to watch next?
     If anyone reads this post, give me some good classics, romance not action. Still haven't seen Casablanca. I hear it's good though.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Wanting to be an Outsider

This piece was recently rejected, but I love it and am posting it to my blog.

“When I stepped out into the bright sunlight from the darkness of the movie house, I had only two things on my mind: Paul Newman and a ride home.”  S. E. Hinton

            What better things to illuminate a reader’s imagination in one sentence than the words sunshine, a movie, Paul Newman, and a car. Adding a hint of mystery is that we don’t know who the narrator is from the introduction. Is it a man, a woman, a boy, a girl? Is the narrator happy, sad, confused, or excited? What is going on with him or her? What is going to happen? From twenty-nine words, an entire world opens up. A world we all wished for at one time or another. It was a world where adults were not allowed. It was a world for teenagers, a world only for The Outsiders.
            As I stare at the 1967 worn hardback, which I just somehow “forgot” to return to the Sam Houston High School library, complete with yellow highlights that correspond to movie lines, vivid memories of being sixteen years old flood my mind. I remember thinking as I read page after page, “Man, this writer is good.” After I finished it, I even inscribed inside the front cover, “This is the best book I have ever read.” I swear I did. The date reads January 24, 1987. Fast forward 25 years, and I feel the same. 
            The way James Dean embodied confusion, rebelliousness, and identity for teenagers on the screen in the 1950s, The Outsiders paralleled the same feelings for a new generation of teenagers. We were confused, mad, misunderstood, friends were everything, and the world seemed life-and-death serious. It was as if I my secret fears of not fitting in, my insecurities of not having much money, and my own desires to be grown up jumped out of the pages at me. 
            Reading of Cherry Valance, I wanted to be her. She was pretty, cool, rich, confident, and outspoken. Secretly, she liked Dallas Winston but they ran in different circles. Exploring her self-doubt in wanting to get to know Dallas, someone different, mirrored my own insecurities of wanting to talk to the new boy on the school bus that smelled great but was quiet and kept a low profile. He later actually became my boyfriend, but that’s another story.
            Before reading The Outsiders, posters of Matt Dillon and Rob Lowe plastered my bedroom walls. After reading the book, and seeing both Matt Dillon and Rob Lowe in the movie, my fascination with the actors, the book, and the movie grew into an obsession. 
            As I read how the Curtis brothers survived on their own, without the watchful eyes of their parents, who were deceased, inspired me. Teenagers cooking, having jobs, bathing, living, going to school, and being self-sufficient was new. I was amazed as I found myself stuck in their world. Yet, underneath their unconventional circumstances, an inner fire glowed for the family unit, just as it secretly burned inside of me. Despite my thoughts of, “I can’t wait to be on my own,” burned against shameful thoughts of never wanting to leave the comfort of my family. I really did, and still do, love them.
            Each character, from Two-Bit Matthews, to Darrell, to Johnny, to Dallas, and even Steve, seemed to be different aspects of my personality. For example, Two-Bit was my silly side that seldom emerged. Darrell represented the responsibility that comes with being the oldest of five children. Johnny was the part of me that stayed quiet and shuffled along with others, even though he didn’t want to, just so he wouldn’t be alone. Dallas represented the wild side I longed for. Steve represented the loyal friend to all. All those facets of my character summed me up pretty well at sixteen. At forty two, they still do.
            Over twenty-five years ago I buried myself in the world of the Greasers. Although it was a work of fiction, it was real. It was real because I related to so many things the author described. It was real because she wrote on my level. It was real because I felt other kids were going through the same crises as me and I wasn’t alone.
            S.E. Hinton made me want to be an outsider. I wanted to sit on the Curtis brothers’ couch and eat cake for breakfast. I wanted to work at the gas station with Sodapop. I wanted to sit in front of Dallas Winston at the drive in. I wanted to visit Johnny in the hospital. 
            I wish I could meet her and thank her for describing my thoughts, feelings, confusions, and hopes. The Outsiders should be mandatory reading in high schools. For this is not only a book, it’s literature to me.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

My Celebrity Interview

After over 100 published pieces, guess my determination is paying off. For those who don't know yet, and unless you've been living in a cave on Antarctica, the new issue of Southern Writers Magazine came out on May 1st and guess who is in it? ME! Yes me, the diligent, determined writer with an interview with none other than Viggo Mortensen! Yes, you read that right too THE Viggo Mortensen. So, check out the website at and subscribe to read his excellent advice to writers.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

And the Winner Is...

The right answers to my contest are:

1. I
2. D
3. H
4. G
5. B
6. A
7. C
8. J
9. E
10. F

So, with half of the answers correct, Keaghan is the winner. Thanks again for playing, Keaghan. I'll have a book for you the next time we meet.