Sunday, October 15, 2017

"Quote the Raven...

...nevermore".
This adorable handmade beauty is now available in my Etsy shop. It is one of a kind brooch, so hurry to grab it before it is gone!


Monday, October 2, 2017

Taking My Ex Back In (for His Own Good)

Art by Brian Rea

Tim was on the other side of the kitchen counter looking at a list I had written of what he should check on in the house while my husband, Din, and I were on vacation.
“What’s that thing on your neck?” I asked.
Tim touched the egg-size swelling below his left jaw. “I don’t know.”
Din suggested it might be a clogged salivary gland. He’d had one once, and the doctor had prescribed sucking on lemon drops.
I didn’t know whether Tim sucked any lemon drops while we were away, only that when we got back a week later, the swelling was the size of a half-orange.
Tim and I shared a daughter, though we had not been romantically involved for 20 years. I asked if he had seen a doctor. He said he had been to the Native American clinic, which had suggested an endoscopy to see if the growth was cancerous.
I drove Tim to the test. At 6-foot-3, he usually carried 215 pounds. He was now below 200 and looking dusky. I had known him since I was 24, the age our daughter was now.
We had met on a movie set in South Carolina when I jumped off the back of a production van and into the path of Tim and his father, Will Sampson. I recognized Will from his role as the Chief in “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest,” but had never in person seen anything like these two men: hugely tall, dressed in cowboy boots and Wrangler jeans, Tim’s hair black and lustrous, Will’s silver hair braided with red ribbon.
I said “hey” and was gone. Tim later told me that as he and his father had watched me run off, Will had drawled, “Not baaaad.”
Tim looked bad today. His hair seemed to have collapsed. Gone, too, was his enviable posture. He appeared caved in on himself as he walked from the waiting room to the lab, and I knew.
“There’s a hole on the back of my tongue,” he said later.
Tim had stage 4 cancer, an HPV-related tumor, the same type and in the same location that the actor Michael Douglas had. Tim did not remind me that Mr. Douglas had produced “Cuckoo’s Nest,” the stage version of which Tim later performed on Broadway, reprising the role his father had made famous.
Before long, Tim was living in our guest room. I had insisted he move out of the $250-a-month room he’d been renting in a rundown house where a childlike bearded woman from upstairs would knock on his door after midnight wearing a negligee, and a man in the room below smoked incessantly despite being hooked to an oxygen tank.
It was no place to undergo cancer treatment, which I had urged Tim to start.
“I’m going to use cannabis oil,” he said. He had a medical marijuana card to treat pain for ailments incurred over decades as a professional stuntman and active alcoholic.
I loved Tim deeply when we were a couple, but our day-to-day lives had been a wreck, especially after our daughter Tava (“feather” in Creek) was born and Tim and his friends kept brawling in our house after long nights of boozing, leaving clumps of hair — and once a tooth — on the floor.
I left Tim before Tava turned 3. He was 36. Later that week, he took his last drink.
Several months after the diagnosis, Tim was having trouble swallowing. The growth was the size of a half-cabbage, and no matter how strenuously Din and I pleaded with him to get traditional medical treatment, he declined. Where he came from in Oklahoma, he said, Indians went to the hospital for cancer treatment and died.
I said I appreciated his suspicion of white hospitals, but we were in Portland, Ore., home of some of the best cancer centers in the country. But I was not his wife and never had been. I could not force him to do anything.
Tim was lying on Tava’s childhood bed the day she was scheduled to fly home for Thanksgiving.
“I don’t care what I have to go through,” he said. “I only care about what it’s going to do to her.”
I had seen him cry maybe twice in 30 years, and never like this, helpless to not cause his child pain. I kept my hands on him until he quieted.
“Wow,” he said. “That felt good.”
We decided I would tell Tava. I made it simple. I held her hands and said her daddy had cancer, and that whatever happened she was going to be 
fine. I also told her he was being stubborn about treatment, and that maybe a word from her —“Daddy,” she said. “You gotta bust a move.”
Earlier in the week, Tim’s doctor had said, “Your window for treating this is almost closed.” Still, Tim had stalled. Now he wanted to do everything, and right away.
He set up the guest room so he had what he’d need within arm’s reach: meds, mouth swabs, TV remote. He would move from bedroom to bathroom several times a day, wearing scrubs not unlike the ones he wore when performing the role of the Chief, though they hung more loosely as the weeks went by.
We did not tell many people about Tim’s condition or that he was staying with us. Those who knew sometimes said, “It’s good of you to have your ex living with you.” Or, “That’s really cool of Din.” But Tim was in serious trouble, and helping him did not strike either of us as anything but normal.
In February Tim started nine weeks of radiation, five days a week. Chemo had worked him over — his weight dipped below 170, his hair was gone, his face spattered with chemo-related hyperpigmentation. But the toll radiation took was devastating; each day he looked more wasted.
He said he felt full of poison, made from poison. Even water tasted “like garbage.” I would sit him at the counter and scramble him an egg. He would look at it. I made him a portion of oatmeal a 5-year-old could finish in two minutes. It would take Tim 30, with me saying, “Come on, babe, one more bite.”
His weight dropped to 153; he looked as if he were made of sticks. He needed to rest during the three steps from bedroom to bathroom. I told Din I didn’t think Tim was going to make it.
I had been there before with Tim’s father. Nearly three decades earlier, Will was recuperating from a heart-lung transplant in a Houston hospital. While the transplant had been successful, he had been too ill from hard living and undiagnosed scleroderma to rally. Tim and I flew from Los Angeles to be with Will in the I.C.U. He was unconscious, but you could feel a spark zipping around the room. The next morning, the spark was gone.
Tim and I watched the blood pressure monitor drop from 9 to 6 to zero. They revived him, but only for 20 minutes. After they revived him again, a doctor pulled aside us and asked, “What do you want us to do?”
Tim looked as if the floor was falling from beneath him, and I saw that there was no way he could decide. I shook my head at the doctor: If Will’s heart stopped again, let him go. Within minutes he was gone.
I found a pay phone and sobbed to my mother that I didn’t understand how some girl from Brooklyn got to make the call for a man who’d had to break the back of the world to survive.
“Because you could,” she said.
“My dad liked you,” Tim told me then. “He knew you’d take care of me.”
I thought of this as I tried to get Tim to eat that egg, that oatmeal. Din was there with the assist. He and Tim had been basketball stars in high school; they had long watched N.B.A. games together in our kitchen, hooting and disputing calls and pantomiming overhead jump shots.
Now, no matter his other engagements, my husband was home with Tim whenever the Trail Blazers were on TV, Din sipping a beer, Tim struggling to breathe, his eyes above the paper mask showing he was barely hanging on.
Tim finished his treatments in May. Food still tasted like trash, but he could eat ice cream. I bought it by the half-gallon. His weight climbed through the 160s. He said his goal was to get his taste back by Thanksgiving. It was back by August.
He asked if I would make him my mother’s meat sauce. When Tava was home that month for a visit, she moved frozen containers of that sauce, and her father, to a studio apartment.
“You guys saved my life,” Tim sometimes says now, three years later.
“Yeah, yeah, that’s right,” we say, and go back to watching the game.

By: Nancy Rommelmann
Source: The New York Times


Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Monday, September 25, 2017

Who's allowed to hold hands?

Art by Brian Rea

On our first date, I dared to give her a lingering hug on a crowded subway platform on West Fourth Street, an unusual display of physical affection on my part, which I blamed on the wine. It was the start of spring, the city in bloom.
Charmed by the hug, she agreed to see me again.
We wandered the city, strolling through the Upper West Side and Harlem. Smiling her shyest smile, she told me she dreamed of living in Harlem and starting a family after finishing graduate school. I began to visit her at her studio in Washington Heights, where we would spend hours.
She would make us dinner, mostly pasta sprinkled with Parmesan cheese — the only thing she knew how to cook. We spent evenings watching CNN and debating politics, whether or not Obama would win the election. By the time she laced her fingers with mine and kissed me as we sat crisscrossed on her carpeted floor, our mouths reeking of garlic and tomato sauce, it felt like we had known each other all our lives.
During one of our evening strolls, our hands brushed. It never crossed my mind until then to hold hers in public. I felt a thumping in my chest when I did. She took my hand without question or pause, as if she expected it.
It felt so right. No one blinked an eye. Then one sultry day that summer, I felt comfortable enough to lean in and kiss her in Central Park where we were sitting on a beach towel. I never knew something inside me was transforming until the L-word slipped from my lips and she smiled.
I wasn’t always like this. I hadn’t been around displays of affection growing up. My stepfather and mother were in love but showed it only with a subtle smile across the room or a vague innuendo that passed as swiftly as a breeze rustling the mango trees.
At 17, I moved to the United States from Jamaica, where I had felt as if I were the only lesbian in a country in which police turn a blind eye to mob violence against gays and sex between men is punishable by law. When I arrived in New York City and had the opportunity to date women, I was still glancing over my shoulders.
At first, I kept my romantic affairs with women casual, never getting too invested. Though I was out about my sexuality, I never felt the need to display affection in public. But when I met my future wife, things changed. We wanted to hold hands everywhere. We kissed goodbye on the subway and put our arms around each other in the theater to keep warm.
This might seem like nothing for a straight couple. But I’ve noticed that there is a strange hierarchy of handholding that dictates who gets to express physical affection without repercussions. For straight couples it’s fine, of course. For white gay couples it’s a little less fine. For black lesbians like us, it can feel like a radical act.
Two years into our relationship, I convinced her to move to Brooklyn, where I had been renting. Bedford-Stuyvesant was more affordable than her Harlem fantasy.
We also fit easily into the scene on Fulton Street, with its mostly African-American and Caribbean population. A place where the bass of dancehall and reggae merged with hip-hop and old-school R&B; a place where one can smell curried goat and jerk chicken alongside fried chicken and catfish. A place where summer months mean block parties, people-watching on stoops and strolling through the neighborhood to another backyard barbecue. A seemingly urban utopia populated by well-dressed transplants and those born and bred in the “do-or-die.”
But I would soon learn that it is one thing to be black and lesbian in this urban utopia and another thing to act on it.
The man was no taller than 5-foot-7. Yet he seemed to hover over us, with shoulders spread like the wings of a falcon. In his eyes were the flames he swallowed, his pupils hardened into something we couldn’t break. “No Rasta woman do dat,” he said with a sneer.
He gestured wildly at us with our dreads, our hands intertwined, me in a summer dress and her in cutoff shorts and a tank top. Surely he was not talking about our outfits but the fact that we were holding hands. He flung his condemning words into the sudden soundlessness of busy Fulton Street.
This had happened to us many times since moving to Brooklyn, but this time stood out because of his insistence on causing a scene.
My wife glared at him. “Only a coward picks on women,” she said.
He came menacingly close and repeated his words. But before my wife could say anything more, I tugged her arm and said, “Just keep walking.” My chest tightened and I felt helpless, reduced to a position of surrender like I would have been back home.
Gone from my mind in that moment was the fact that I was on American soil. I may have been able to flee the intolerance of my homeland, but it turns out that intolerance moved to New York City too.
Now there are times when my wife and I walk out of our building without reaching for each other’s hand, already too weary of the reactions we may get. Too weary of the gestures or comments that may ruin a night or an entire day.
Some Jamaican men seem to take it as a personal affront to their manhood when they see us together. After we pass, they spit words at our backs like chewed-up cane husks: “Sodomites!”
From the sides of my eyes, I can see them adjust themselves, getting ready to rise from their squatting positions and haul themselves onto soapboxes. I squeeze my wife’s hand, chilled by the hostile stares, angry that I let them get to me.
We’re married, I remind myself, holding on tighter, my wedding band pressing uncomfortably into my flesh.
By the time the man with the loud mouth hovered over us, I had almost given up fighting. Days before, we had encountered another black lesbian couple. We knew them — they are part of the large yet still mostly familiar population of black lesbians who seek asylum in Bed-Stuy because of its affordability.
When the couple saw that we were holding hands, they said, “You two are brave! We don’t hold hands around these parts of town.”
While a white lesbian couple could walk holding hands or even tongue kiss in the middle of the street, lesbians of color, particularly black lesbians, have a hard time doing the same. I felt outraged when this became more apparent to me, as an open femme, who can pass as straight — the ultimate trigger for men who have a hard time accepting that women like us are out of reach.
The fact that we could not openly love each other as black women without some men presuming ownership of our bodies shook me to the core. Something had to give. I had not left a homophobic country to continue living in fear in America.
But on that bright evening, as the man lambasted us on the street corner, I relapsed and pulled my wife away. “You don’t know what he’s capable of!” I snapped, surprised at my words and ashamed that I’d turned my fear into rage toward her. But I did not want to lose the woman I love to someone who appeared to have nothing to lose.
I clenched my teeth to steady my words. I could hear my heart pounding between my ears. Meanwhile, the man stared us down. He shook his head, baffled; our public display of our love appearing to cut him deeply, causing rippled lines across his dark forehead.
“My girl,” he whispered with a hint of possession, of familiarity. “How can you embrace dat lifestyle?” He clutched his chest in pain, looking at me as though I was the one who needed to be reasoned with — as though I had lost my mind in this foreign land with this foreign disease. “You know bettah.”
That evening, my wife and I walked home without holding hands, and I had never felt so robbed. I became angry at the world, at myself, at my wife. I grew so angry, in fact, that I could not be angry anymore, especially when I realized that I could destroy our love with my pent-up rage.
Walking down the street holding my wife’s hand is perfectly normal, I told myself. And I have become determined to fight for this love and our freedom to express it. Gays and lesbians before us fought for this, and we would too. We would dare to find a home, our place, on Fulton Street, as we have found a home in each other.

By: Nicole Dennis-Benn
Source: The New York Times


Saturday, September 23, 2017

Perfect fall accessory

This vintage leaf brooch is a perfect fall acecessory and is still available in my Etsy shop! 

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Adorable bunny butt brooch


This cute one of a kind little bunny butt brooch is now available in my Etsy shop!