Tuesday, November 2, 2021

I Am Your Neighbor Episode 10 - Mimi Marks

Twenty-some years ago I began frequenting The Baton Show Lounge in River North with a group of gay women from The Closet, my local lesbian watering hole located in the heart of Boystown in Chicago.  I'd spent my early 20's hanging out in drag bars in Indianapolis, where I eventually forged friendships with many of the girls who performed there, so it was a natural step for me to keep that up once I moved to Chicago.

I don't know if it was the drama of the costumes, makeup, numbers, or the attraction to the performers themselves that initially drew me to the scene, but I know that I kept coming back because I felt comfortable there, among the various stages of transformation and expressions that butted against cultural norms.  I felt a sense of belonging and safety with these humans, despite not sharing the actual trans experience with them, as I had always worn the cloak of normalcy over my bohemian spirit, while living amongst a world of the Jones'.
Mimi Marks - StacySaysIt - I Am Your Neighbor
It made perfect sense to me that I ended up in a long-term relationship with a woman who also loved the women of drag, and she introduced me to the iconic Mimi Marks, whom I befriended immediately.  Our friendship has endured our combined myriad of life stages, and she is a constant presence in my family.

Her unique story of living her own truth is one I envisioned sharing when I was trying to conceptualize the idea of I Am Your Neighbor years ago.  A beautiful full life circle appears complete as I present her interview to you as my final show. 

I've enjoyed sharing with you my own wonder over the extraordinary ways people live their lives so authentically.  Both the enthusiasm and unshrinkingly candid way my guests have conveyed both their ideas and lives is infectious; I promise to carry on the torch for each of them in doing the same with my own.  Thank you for your support over the years.  

I am Stacy Snyder.  I Am Your Neighbor.

Monday, June 21, 2021

The Last Time

StacySaysIt - Stacy Snyder - The Last Time

I washed the familiar smell of him off my neck and shoulders for the last time this morning.  It pained me to think of his lips working their way down my body as his scruff implanted its scent into my skin.  It was less than a day ago - just a few hours really - that marked the last kiss I’d share with him.

I think I knew it at the time, even though we were passionately making out and he was teasing me to the point of craze before abruptly stopping to say “Later,” that it would be the last time I’d touch him.

The last time to feel his embrace, the last time to look him in the eye, wondering what he saw when he looked back, and the last time to wonder where this relationship was ultimately leading.

I’ve had a lot of last times this last few years.  Each time I learn a little bit more about men, about women, about the world, and most importantly, about myself.

The excitement of dating again after my almost 20-year marriage ended, now has become a little commonplace.  Having made the acquaintance of upwards of 150 people in the last few years through text, call, meeting, or dating, I saw my initial hope for sparks and mystery quickly morph into desire for realness, then the want of conscious living within diversity, and finally the NEED for emotional intelligence in another human.  

He embodied most all of that laundry list, yet came with a cigarette addiction, a snore that could wake the gods, and a geographical distance of 188 miles.  While any one of those things could have been a dealbreaker, I stretched myself wide open to the possibility.  What started as just a physical attraction transformed into thorough enjoyment of company, mutual admiration, dual personal growth, and respect for one another in just a few short months.

For the first time since the breakup of my marriage I could finally see myself trusting another human being enough to want another potential partner in life, instead of just a date, a casual fling, or a fun person with which to hang out.  I thought it could be with him.  We both moved mountains to see one another every few weekends, despite the distance and different lifestyles and commitments and priorities.

Long distance relationships come with issues, such as the pressure to enjoy every minute you have with one another, as the time spent together is far and few between.  Our 5th weekend together came with stress….a storm that cast a fallen tree on the roof of his house, his house that needed prepped for a Father’s Day celebration, a first meeting with his family, and my own get-together with my father.  

While none of those things got in the way, a few lifestyle habits of drinking and sleep schedules reared their ugly heads of difference and caused me much distress.  My hot buttons got stimulated and I ran and terminated, despite the potential of working through the issues.

I know it’s the right decision, despite my sadness.  The last time hurts.  It pushes feelings to the surface.  It prompts internal conversation.  It makes me doubt my choices and reconfirm my values.  It also makes me recognize that I’m a human in constant growth and that ends are necessary in order to have new beginnings.  I miss him already.  But I would miss myself more if I compromised my needs.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

I Am Your Neighbor Episode 9 - JBird Art

Jay Sterling, Jason Sterling, JBird...they all lead back to the same talented soul that has been decorating the streets of Milwaukee with his art and murals for 40 years, both individually and in tandem with other artists. Jay was lucky to get his start as a youngster helping established local artist Reynaldo Hernandez, learning the depth and creativity of mural painting.  

I Am Your Neighbor - JBird Art - Stacy Snyder
He's supported himself through art ever since, sometimes in corporate endeavors, but more often than not, as a working street artist. Jay's passion for creativity bleeds into humanity, as he seems not to know a stranger in Milwaukee. It makes sense, as he's partnered with small business owners, artists, and youth, to promote commerce, community, and mental health with his work.

I Am Your Neighbor - JBird Art - Stacy Snyder
I Am Your Neighbor - JBird Art - Stacy SnyderIn addition to showing us his mural depicting the 12 steps of AA in the meeting room at the MKE Alano ClubJay 
took us around the city and showed us his wares on storefronts, buildings, and even on bottles! The coolest thing about Jay is that his art depicts what's in his mind. He thinks in the same way that he draws and paints and curates, which makes for a super unique human. Check out his story in I Am Your Neighbor Episode 9 - JBird Art and view his collection on Instagram.

Thursday, March 11, 2021

Get Back To Class

As I read through the email from my daughter's calculus teacher, alerting us that our teen didn't seem to be present during her 7th period calculus class each day, despite being physically logged in to the online class, as she has been each day for the full year of classes, I couldn't help but recalling the old-school riposte of No Shit Sherlock!  

Stacy Snyder - Get Back To Class

Nearing the end of her 3rd quarter as a senior in high school, she has yet to step foot into the classroom, not whispered about the cute new kid in class, nor complained about the crappy food in the cafeteria.  She has not attended a club meeting, decided whether to go to a sporting event, nor hit up the local coffee shop on the way home from school.  There's no senior memories, camaraderie or competition.  She's plum out of motivation and I'm proud of her for sticking it out as well as she has.

I sent my youngest off to school today after 1 full year at home.  While I was so stoked for her to have social interaction and eye contact and live instruction, I couldn't help but worry about my eldest, who will not be returning to school this year at all, despite being in the same school district as her little sister.  Not only will she miss out on the in-person interactivity, learning, and stimulation, but she has also lost her ONLY touchable interplay during the school day, her younger sister.

It's been a rough year for everyone, yet most detrimental to my eldest daughter in our household, not necessarily because she's been hit harder by it, but because she's of an age, 17, where she's supposed to be out there with her ride-or-die friends, annoying classmates, pain-in-the ass-teachers, random people she's never met but may, and adversaries, figuring shit out and trying to make sense of the world.  Instead of "coming of age" in color, she's doing it in black and white at home by herself; it sucks. 

But she's freakin' doing it.  She's getting the school work done, living a colorful life at work by getting the socialization she needs, and pushing her family to see and hear her.  Bit by bit, she's teaching herself how to work the system, when to stretch the boundaries and how far she can actually roam before upsetting the apple cart of life.  She's learning how to advocate for herself, push her agenda, and make herself known.  She's discovered that her presence matters; she's part of the world.

We see you girl!  We're overjoyed with your growth.  Your teacher sees you and is throwing out a life preserver.  The world sees you too and it wants you to live.  

Now get back to class!

Saturday, November 14, 2020

Are We Having Fun Yet?

Every evening after checking in with my girls on their remote study days, one of them usually asks how my day at work went.

“It was busy and I got a lot done,” I told Maddy, my 12-year old, when she asked last night while we were at dinner.

“Did you have fun?” she asked, “and did you play on the rolling ladder?”

I had to smile as my industrial design office sports a huge floor-to-ceiling rolling ladder across one full wall, used to post drawings, designs, and ideas on the felt surface to keep us all motivated and on track.  When Maddy comes to the office with me on the weekends when I have to finish up work, she climbs the ladder and asks me to push her back and forth across the floor for a ride.  It’s her favorite thing at my office, next to the killer sound system that blares out music from her iPhone to any room in the office with the click of a button.  She is free and happy on that ladder and having fun.

No, I didn’t play on the ladder.  But I do have fun at my job most days.  I feel fulfilled with my work and contributions, I enjoy my co-workers and usually find a way to bust a laugh or two during the day with at least of few of them, and I respect my boss and his mission for the company.

Frankly, I’ve been struggling to have fun when not at work.  Some of the things I used to do for sheer pleasure - playing volleyball, making music playlists, hanging out with my kids without agenda, writing, socializing with friends, producing a YouTube show, and dating, have all been turned on their end and I’m hustling to make appropriate adjustments.  I’m so busy focusing on filling the empty time I now have at home without plans, games, dates, and interview schedules, that I’m not enjoying the things I could still be rocking:  writing, making playlists, chilling with my girls, and taking time to just be.

In my rush to try and replicate what always has been, my busy life, I have inadvertently made it even busier than usual.  I have a hard time slowing myself down, and usually the universe and/or higher power remind me somewhat roughly, that it’s time to slow down.  
Two weeks ago it was a 3-day migraine that forced to take time off and work from home.  Last week it was a twisted ankle that forced me to take time off of both work and physical activity, which led to taking time off of socializing.  What will it be this week?  I’m hoping nothing, as the less-than-gentle reminders have me putting my life in focus, at least for the moment.  

Having time to think and pay attention to those things around me - my home, kids, friends and self - I’ve realized that I’ve been ignoring them all in my wind tunnel of activity.  I had not been guiding my youngest in her technology usage, her navigating relationships within groups, nor tracking her physical whereabouts throughout the day when I was at work.  I had not noticed that my eldest was worried about her job at a restaurant that may soon shut down, which has become her entire social lifeline in the last few months.  I’d been neglecting myself in regards to healthy eating, necessary downtime, and creative outlets.  What I was putting out into the universe came back to me tenfold in the form of potential dates that were treating me with the same disregard.  

This past week I chose to consciously focus on my kids and make time to do what they consider fun.  The rewards of that decision have slayed me.  The conversations that come about when playing cards, walking the dog, making dinner together, and hanging out with my older daughter’s boyfriend with her, are fun, even though the topics are sometimes not so light.  The sharing of school projects and college essays without critique lended creativity and sparked conversation on concepts and ideas.  The pointed conversations about politics and national healing allowed us to recognize our humanity.  The carefree movie-watching allowed us to simply exist in harmony.  

The change bled into my personal life as well.  The phone calls I’m having with my friends and family when I set the phone, remote, and laptop down to really listen to what’s being said to me so that I can respond with intention, are fun.  Allowing myself time to consider the type of humans I want to incorporate into my dating life and then only focusing energy on those individuals, no matter how rare their existence in the world, is fun (and I can’t help but add empowering).  Lounging in the hanging chair reading a book and sipping tea or wine while watching the leaves fall from the top of the trees outside of my 3rd floor window is fun.  Writing is fun.

Thank you world for yanking me off of my hamster wheel and allowing me to focus on the beauty around me that I call fun!  Are you there yet?

Monday, May 11, 2020

Ain't Nobody Got Time for That

I can't imagine how I ended up reading this old blog post during this pandemic, when I have all but taken myself off of social media for just the reasons listed below, but here we are.  I don't remember writing this, but I am super familiar with having these thoughts every day of my social media-based life!  Whatever you do, you MUST watch Sweet Brown video! I recently handled down my coveted "Ain't Nobody Got Time For That" T-Shirt to my eldest.  Enjoy!

Reposted form April 6, 2013

Everyone needs an outlet for their frustration.  While some find it in healthy avenues like exercise or sport, venting to friends, family, therapists, or strangers, or purging their belongings, others tend to cleanse their angst in negative ways, such as taking it out on the bottle or in drugs, or by over- or under-eating.  Some folks neutrally address their irritation by writing hateful letters or emails that they never send, or expell their aggravation via creativity, be it art, song, dance or what have you.   

And then there’s the Facebook folks.

You know who you are.  You’re the Wendy Whiners of the social media age.  Anything that could go wrong or negatively affect you or the people you love, DOES.  Life is always kicking you in the ass and you can never catch a break.  If it’s not the car dealership screwing you over, it’s the big boss at work trying to make you look stupid.  You always get cut off in traffic, left off the delivery route for your new purchase, and your local utility company has a picture of you on their #1 Enemy photo page.  If anyone's going to get shorted a burger in the drive-through window, it's gonna be you.  The world is out to get you one fucking annoying day at a time.

And you’re out to document your plight, one fucking miserable post at a time.

I know you too.  You are my friends, family, and neighbors.  You’re people I don’t know and sometimes I’m you as well.  Some of us ride the wah, wah, wah train infrequently, but make a big production when we do, as it’s just like riding a bike….you never forget how to do it.  Others of us live permanently in poor me-ville, like an old-school country western song where your dog dies, your truck is repossessed, your wife leaves you and you’re arrested all just in the refrain. 

Do you ever wonder how you got to this place?  This shitty, horrible juncture where the school’s sole agenda is to screw with your kids:

FB Post:  Does anybody know why the school keeps doing X, Y, and Z?
74 Comments and 43 Likes

And the city’s got your number now, 'cause they keep issuing you parking tickets:
FB Post:  Can you believe I got a ticket today for arriving back at the car less than 2 minutes after my meter expires?
22 Comments and 15 Likes

And let’s don’t forget Facebook itself and its quest to steal every ounce of privacy (Catch 22) that you own:
FB Post:  If you don’t want FB to steal your pictures and identity, like they did mine, make sure to change your settings to X, Y, and Z.
57 Comments, 56 of which are asking you how to walk them through step by step of making the changes, and 44 likes.  

We all know misery loves company, which has to be why people feel the need to post and commiserate with such negative comments instead of actually doing something about the supposed injustices of the world.  I’m here to tell you:  Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That!   

Before you hit that POST button, or jump on the bandwagon and comment on someone else’s bullshit complaint, check yourself.  Everything you put out there on Facebook can come back to haunt you.  Friends, family, acquaintances, prospective employers, schools, and people you don’t even know are out there reading what you write.  And they remember that junk.  You’ll be much better served by a run around the block, a quick bitch session to a friend, or even to stuff your face with a ding-dong (oh woe is me, they don’t make those anymore!)

Sunday, May 10, 2020

Memories Suffice

Stacy Says It - Memories Suffice - Stacy Snyder
Shutterfly regularly sends me emails with the memo ‘Your memories from this week 11 years ago.’ It pulls me in every time. If I uploaded photos to Shutterfly, it meant I was documenting our lives of joy.  

I don’t know why I've made so many photo books over the past decades. Maybe it’s my version of scrapbooking, or new photo albums since no one really prints photos anymore, or possibly I just wanted to record life in anticipation of one day not being able to remember it.

Whatever the case, I’m so glad I did!

On Mother’s Day, I am reminded of the love I have always felt for my girls with these pictures. As if it was yesterday, I remember the attachment I felt to my youngest since the day she was born. I had lost 2 pregnancies before her birth and was so thankful for her existence that I was never going to let her go. I found the joy in her every action. The losses actually helped me become a better mother to both girls by cementing my appreciation for life.   

Stacy Says It - Memories Suffice - Stacy Snyder
I’m taken back to the little mother role my eldest grasped and still wears with pride to my youngest. She took on not only the responsibility of protector to her little sissy, but also that of a teacher of love and friendship. They fight and carry on like all siblings, but when asked, they each site each as their best friend. To this day they play together and hold one another’s attention for hours on end. 

The pictures call to light the gusto we all naturally feel as children and a lucky few of us carry on into adulthood. The way my youngest is attacking that banana is the way I feel about my life: I just want to get to it, taste it, and digest it! It’s also the way I’ve prided myself on teaching my girls to live their own lives on their terms. On a recent road trip, my eldest told me she described my parenting style to her friends as a fictitious scene from The Lion King, where Mufasa holds his baby cub high above the lions below as an introduction, then drops the baby Simba into the pack to fin for itself and learn the ways of the world. I took that as a compliment.
Stacy Says It - Memories Suffice - Stacy Snyder
These memories give me faith that even when I’m at opposition with another or when life’s valleys seem deeper than the peaks, love has always existed within me. I got it from my mom who got it from hers, and in turn I pass it on to anyone that will take it! Love permeates into the world through my relationships with others. It shines in my connection with my kids and it amoebas out through their external relationships. It holds a place marker for family and friends I can’t actually touch, and it serves as a beginning point for every new person I meet. It always comes back to me tenfold, but it often avoids the beaten path and shows up in unexpected bearers. 

Thank you Shuttferfly for such an important visual reminder of my gifts on Mother’s Day!