Reactivating Activism

June 15, 2012

Frankly, I thought my days of being an equal rights, women’s rights, human rights activist ended 35 years ago. Once I saw the wage gap close, I lost interest in the feminist movement; I figured it would continue to close, silly me. After all, feminine or masculine, we’re all the same in my mind. With the exception of the few years that I was married to an incredibly chauvinistic man from a part of the country that I always associated with gentlemen, a California girl like me had little exposure to anything akin to sexual discrimination, and so I turned my interest to the animal rights movement. All of my efforts turned in the direction of saving our animal brethren from misuse, mismanagement, and mistreatment by humankind.

Michigan Speaker of the House Jase Bolger changed all that when he censured Representative Lisa Brown for saying the word “vagina” during a debate on abortion.

Let me put this out here in print so there are no misunderstandings about where I stand. Abortion rights, in my opinion, need serious constraints. Again, this is JUST MY OPINION. A perfectly healthy woman carrying a perfect healthy fetus should not be allowed access to a late-term abortion. Unless she’s a complete idiot, a woman knows by the second month whether or not she’s pregnant. If she can’t decide what to about that pregnancy by the time she reaches the end of her first trimester, too bad. I sympathize with, understand, and feel badly for women who are faced with whether or not to carry a pregnancy to full term as they approach that 12 week mark, especially those women who were impregnated by rape, but after that I feel a woman has made her bed. Procrastination, denial, whatever – to me it doesn’t matter once you’re past that first trimester. You’re pregnant. You’re going to give birth. Deal with it like so many of us have throughout history. If the health of the mother is at stake or if the fetus has serious physical defects, that’s another story entirely – late-term (or “partial birth”) abortion might be the only viable option for many women placed in that horrible position. My heart goes out to those women and to their unborn progeny, poor things.

So now that I’ve made my own personal beliefs about abortion public, let me continue. Because my anger isn’t about the abortion issue per se. My righteous indignation springs solely from issues regarding the First Amendment.

Why can’t Lisa Brown say “vagina”? She has one, after all. Why shouldn’t her opinion on the abortion issue be heard? After all, when it comes down to where the rubber meets the asphalt, abortion is a women’s issue. Why aren’t more women on both sides of the issue speaking out?

Is it the fault of the media? I admit to ignorance here because I don’t follow mainstream news. Does the media ignore pro-life movements run by pro-life women? Why is it only stuffed suit Christian men who are speaking out on behalf of the pro-life contingent? Is the media silencing pro-life women by refusing to publicize their agenda? Or is the popular opinion true that pro-life women are sitting idly by like good little wifeys while their men (the ruler of the household according to at least two of the world’s major religions) do all the talking?

All we hear about are pro-choice activists. I think it’s about time for pro-life women to step up and voice their opinions in a way that can’t be ignored. Let’s get this discussion going between those who are the most impacted: Women on both sides of the issue. Conservative women. Liberal women. Women who stand somewhere in the middle like me.

Women, sisters, come on! Are we going to be silenced on this issue, represented only by the militant few? I cry bullshit on that. We did NOT come from a man’s rib. Mankind came into this world via our vaginas – one road in, one road out.

Let’s all be heard. Ladies, no matter where you stand on this issue, do not be silent. Now is not the time.

Deanna Glorious

May 8, 2012

One of my co-workers and my man Mickey are loosely connected through a serious of sad events that occurred to a mutual friend of them both. This friend lost his wife; the next day, his daughter died.

Mickey IM’ed me at work today to ask if I knew anything about the funeral for the daughter. Since she had been estranged from her father for many years and none of his friends knew her, no one was clear about the arrangements. I asked my co-worker who told me how Mickey could find out about the arrangements.

I IM’ed this message back to Mickey: “Shawnee News-Star obits, Deanna Something.”

I stared at that message a long time after I sent it. The local newspaper online obituaries. Someone whose name was unknown to her father’s friends. My heart broke a little and I cried.

To make matters worse, the newspaper posted the wrong funeral date. It listed the services as tomorrow, but they were actually today. So even the friends of this friendless woman’s father weren’t there to gather around her sad remains as they were consigned to the earth.

Deanna, I’m so sorry. I’m sorry your sad life led you off of everyone’s radar. I’m sorry you died alone and troubled and friendless. Most of all, I’m sorry I didn’t know your name.

In my heart, I’ve renamed you. You’re no longer Deanna Something. Go with God, Deanna Glorious, and melt into the sun. Be bright. Shine.

A lady who is a friend of both my dearest co-worker and my sweetheart is dying tonight. She’s been under hospice care for some time and her family has gathered this weekend because the time has drawn near. I think it’s wonderful that she’s surrounded by love, surrounded by those she cares for and who care for her as she spends her last minutes on this plain. I know this is the kind of death most people (when they dare to think about their own deaths at all) aspire to. I’m not one of those people.

I’m not a bit afraid of death, but I have a genuine horror of lying sick in a hospital bed somewhere waiting for it to overtake me. I don’t want to go out like that. I can’t think of anything worse than letting death take me on its terms, at the time and place of its choosing.

If I have the misfortune of knowing that death is stalking me more closely than is requisite for my moral comfort, I want the presence of mind to meet that mother fucker on my terms. I want the strength to strap on my spiritual weapons and to meet death at high noon on a dusty street somewhere while tumbleweeds blow across the landscape.

“I heard you were looking for me,” I’d say.

“Looks like I found you,” Death would reply.

I squint.

Death squints.

I ease my hand down toward my sidearm, fingers flexing. “Are you sure you want to do this, Hoss?”

Death sighs. “Got no choice, Slim.”

I nod. “Okay, then. But I have only one question for you, Death. Do you feel lucky today, punk? Well, do ya?”

When death takes me, as he naturally will some day, I want him to come out of the fray with his robe torn, his scythe bent, and his faith in his own inexorability shaken. I want him to go home battered and bruised. I want him to sit in his recliner in front of the TV and pop a beer and say to Mrs. Death, “That was a rough one, honey.”

Yeah, I’m ready. I’ve been ready for years. But I warn you now, Death, it’s going to be a cage match. Better eat your Wheaties, my friend.

Living on Borrowed Time

April 6, 2012

And aren’t we all? From the time we’re born, we’re hurtling toward death on a non-stop flight, sometimes without inflight meal service or drinks. There is no way to divert this flight to another destination. This fragile thing we call life is going to end somewhere, someday.

Maybe I’m weird, but I’m totally okay with that. I don’t have any strong religious faith that I’m going to end up at the Pearly Gates with a harp in my hands. I only have the faith that I’ve lived my life as fully as I could and will continue to do so until my heart stops beating. The only advantage (if one can call it that) that I have is having looked death in the face and having had the time to do an internal tally of what my life was before that moment.

On April 4, 2006, I ended up in the local ER with cardiomyopathy. The left ventricle of my heart was ballooned out and my lungs were filling with fluid faster than I could cough it out. After the “sound and fury”, the rush of EMTs to get to me the hospital, and the concert of doctors and nurses, and the tests and nitro and more tests and consultations, I was left alone in my little curtained-off cubicle. But I wasn’t dead yet. I could still hear what was transpiring in the hall beyond, and I could see feet below the curtain.

I saw feet clad in what looked like shower caps. I saw those feet approach and stop outside my cubicle. Then I recognized my son’s unmistakable size 16 Nikes facing those shower-capped feet, and a pair of small battered flip flops that could only belong to my daughter-in-law. (Who else wears flip flops in April in Washington state?!?) And I heard the owner of the shower-capped feet say that my condition was tenuous at best.

Is it strange to say that, looking back, it was the best moment of my life? Not the happiest, of course, but the BEST. Because it defined who I was from that moment until now, and if I’m lucky until the end of my life?

Laying there in my ER cubicle, I had to do a quick review. I asked myself, had I made mistakes? Oh yes, indeed. Had I done wrong? Oh, you betcha. And that being the case, what kind of legacy was I about to leave behind? Easy answer!

I was going to leave behind love. No one I had ever loved would doubt my love for them. No one who knew me would doubt that I always did what I thought was best for them, even if it didn’t turn out exactly as I’d planned. I knew at that moment that I could go without any regret other than perhaps a few bucket list items that might entertain me but which would ultimately do nothing to enrich or diminish what defined “Debi” in the minds of those who loved me.

I survived, obviously, and I survived with an amazing gift. Because I know how deeply the love in my life has touched both myself and those around me. I’ve been richly blessed with extra time to build on that legacy, but I can totally look forward to death without a qualm.

Funny thing about love. You take it with you when you’re staring death in the face. I learned that in 2006 and I’ve lived it every day since. I’m the luckiest person I know.

In Defense of Grandmothers

February 29, 2012

I read a blog today on that absolutely blew me away. I wish I could find the link because I’d like to give credit to the blogger and also to show my blog followers that, as incredible as it sounds, I’m not making this up. The blog was regarding today’s grandmothers.

The blogger wrote how she often hears from her friends that their mothers (today’s modern grandmothers) aren’t at all fit for the job. They’re too busy getting plastic surgery or gadding about town or engaged in other pursuits of a purely selfish nature to be bothered with babysitting their grandchildren. The ladies who posted comments seemed divided into two camps: Those who said grandmothers are under no obligation to be built-in babysitters and those who felt modern grandmothers fall egregiously short of ideal. To the later category I’d like to point out just a few things.

1) Women in my age group (50s and 60s) have raised our children. Now it’s your turn to raise yours.

2) These gadabout grannies you’re so unhappy with are the same generation of women who opened up unheard of avenues for ourselves and for you, our daughters. There has never been a time in American history when women had more independence, controlled more personal wealth, or enjoyed greater professional esteem. We were not happy with career choices of teacher, nurse, secretary, or stay-at-home-mom. We’re CEOs, we’re astronauts, we’re doctors, professors, truck drivers, policewomen, soldiers, working moms and stay-at-home-moms. We’re not just secretaries – we’re Secretaries of State. And thanks to our battle for equal rights, you’re free to choose to be any one of those things also. We fought for what we have against odds that you will hopefully never have to face, usually juggling the role of wife and mother at the same time. And now that these women have reached an age when they can finally exhale, you want them to suddenly turn domestic? Do you really expect this generation of smart, strong, educated, determined women to suddenly be happy in the role of nanny for your convenience? Surely you’re joking.

3) We’ve worked hard all of our lives to raise our families while most of us maintained careers outside of the home. We’re tired, okay? Now we’ve reached an age when the amazing loads we’ve carried for decades have finally started to lighten. We’ve seen our children become happy, wonderful adults with families of their own. We’d like to go to the day spa once in a while without being judged as uncaring or distant from our grandchildren.

4) There are now more grandparents with legal custody of their grandchildren than at any other time in American history. If we’re generalizing, your argument that we’re uninvolved can be rendered invalid on that fact alone.

I’m not a grandmother, but most of my friends are. I know how much they adore their grandchildren. Yes, there are bad grandparents – and bad parents and bad aunts, uncles, cousins, ad infinitum. There will always be weaker, more confused, or perhaps just plain unfit people involved in the lives of children. But if your definition of “bad” consists of not allowing ourselves to be your unpaid domestic workers, well…

We’re strong and empowered, making more money, living longer and looking better than ever before. We fought to get here and we fought to get you here, too, because we never want to see you subjugated, castigated, and cast down because of your gender. It’s all out there for you, honey, for your generation, because we wanted a better world for ourselves and for you.

No need to thank us.

In advance of this blog, I’d like to point out that writing it is my punishment. It’s the recompense my other half, Mickey, demands in light of some rather heinous behavior on my part. All over a griddle. A stupid $12 griddle.

It began innocuously enough. I came home from work, kicked out of my shoes, caught up a little on Facebook, then headed to the kitchen to make dinner. Grilled cheese sandwiches and soup. Mmmmmmm. I took the griddle out of the lower cupboard and placed it on the stove top. Then I turned and got four slices of bread, and placed them on the cutting board. Then I went to the refrigerator to fetch the cheese, the butter (I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter, actually), and a slice of ham for Mickey’s sandwich. He still refuses to give up meat. He and the dogs will apparently cling to the death to their decomposing pieces of flesh hacked from the corpses of tortured livestock animals. Not that I harp about it. Much.

Anyway, I emptied two cans of soup into a larger bowl and placed it in the microwave before preparing the sandwiches. Then I opened the lower cupboard to get the griddle. It wasn’t there.

“Honey,” I said, “I can’t find the griddle.”

“It’s in the cupboard,” Honey responded.

I dug deeper. “Sweetheart, I can’t find it.” That’s what I thought I said, but if we had a security camera with sound in the kitchen it might have come out more along the lines of, “The fucking thing isn’t down here.”

“I know I put it down there,” Mickey said.

I don’t know about the rest of you tall folks – anyone over, say, 5’2″ – but I despise lower cupboards. They’re useless and awkward. The only reason for their existence is to hold up the sink and the countertop. They shouldn’t even have doors on them, that’s how useless lower cupboards are. But I digress. I started pulling pans out of the cupboard. Two cookie sheets, a large skillet, a muffin tin that I didn’t even know we owned, a couple of glass lids, a second surprise muffin tin. Still no griddle.

“It’s not down here,” I snapped.

“It has to be.”

By that time I was on my knees on the dog-hairy, cold kitchen linoleum. “Don’t fucking tell me that, I’m not blind. It’s not fucking here.” I’m sure my tone sounded accusatory. How could it escape sounding so? In my mind, I was accusatory. In my mind I was castigating Mickey for his careless misplacement of our one and only griddle. He works from home, he’s here all day, and he can’t keep track of a fucking griddle? These are the things that were going through my mind.

Mickey came into the kitchen at that point. “Oh, you’re right,” he said. “It’s not down there.”

“Ah ha!” I exclaimed. I jumped to my feet, basking in the self-righteous glow of my angry triumph.

“It’s not down there,” he continued, “because you already put it on the stove.”

Oh. Oops.

Mickey Mills, writer extraordinaire, software god, technical genius, and all-around long-suffering partner of mine with, thankfully, the best sense of humor ever, I am so sorry. I’m so sorry that even the dogs are sorry vicariously, although they have no clue why.

Mea culpa, darling.

It’s coming…wait for it

December 19, 2011

In a few short days, Winter arrives!  This is my season.  This is my time.

As a child of Southern California, I never knew anything about winter until one year when the boy I loved at that time drove us up Mt. Palomar and into the heart of winter.  Cars were stalled and stuck all along the highway, and the chains my boyfriend had in the back of his Ford Pinto Wagon were too large for the vehicle’s small wheels.  Still, we stopped and helped push several stranded travelers out of the drifts, then descended the mountain to have hot chocolate at a tiny local cafe.  I’ll never forget that evening.  People stared at me.  People always stare at me because, frankly, six foot women aren’t all that common even in Southern California.  But I knew they were staring at me that night for a reason that had nothing to do with my height.  They felt – as I did – my oneness with the season.  Surround me with snow and ice, and I’m in my element.  My inner fire glows.

There’s a blizzard warning on part of the Southern Plains tonight and, oh, how I wish it was headed my way.

Come Winter!  Come snow and ice and chilling winds!  I embrace thee, as you embrace me.

This is MY time.

Sacred fires

December 9, 2011

I really hoped that I’d have one evening this week that wasn’t spent in tears, but the moon is full and grief runs high among my loved ones.  And so, realistically, I suppose tears are the norm this week.

When I was young I thought there was nothing worse than my own personal afflictions.  Now that I’m a middle-aged (if I live to be, say, 120 or so) woman, I know better.  As a mother, an aunt, a great-aunt, a lover, a woman who put in the years necessary to nurture friendships throughout a long adulthood, I realize how wrong I was.  The worst affliction is that which our loved ones suffer.  Lay it on me, I scream to the gods.  Send it my way, I have the knowledge, I have the experience, I can handle it!  If I could take all the pain away from those I love by bringing it on myself, I would.  But it doesn’t work that way, does it?

My son, my thirty year old “baby”, posted on Facebook this week that he was standing in fires of his own making.  I wrestled my mom-self into submission and responded as the crone I am, the aging woman with the cauldron and intimate knowledge of the Old Ways.  I told him that those fires are sacred.  They burn away our illusions.  They leave us standing here naked with nothing – nothing – except the realization that we surround ourselves with illusion every chance we get.  We cloak ourselves in illusion as if it was cloth of gold instead of the mind-numbing crap it really is.  Illusion is comfortable.  It keeps us from examination of reality.

In the midst of psychic and emotional fire we burn away everything superficial and stand naked before ourselves.  Pain is dreadful, pain is awful, but it strips us of everything except the knowledge of what’s really important in our lives.  It gives us the chance to step out of the illusions and into the reality of life.  It gives us a rare and sacred chance to see what’s worthy dieing for, what’s worth living for.  And in passing along this ancient wisdom to my son, I think I might find a lesson for myself.

The fire doesn’t hurt any less just because the flame belongs to someone else.  I’m standing in the fire also – the fire that is the pain of my loved ones.  In this vicarious fire I find my own illusions stripped away and I find myself face-to-face with my own naked self, and I wonder:  Is this my rite of passage also?



Another warrior in Valhalla

November 16, 2011

Of all the arguments I’ve embraced regarding why living to 80, 90 or 100 years old is a bad idea for me, I didn’t anticipate one:  Burying the young.

Why are we never prepared to bury those who are younger than ourselves?  Yet, in retrospect, this is obviously part of outliving our own youth.  Recently I’ve heard of or seen babies buried while their 20-something parents struggle to understand the depth of their own loss.  I’ve seen teens die by gunfire.  It’s horrible, really.  In what way does life prepare us for this?  I wasn’t prepared, that’s for sure, and I never knew how unprepared I was until today when I learned of the death of a young cousin by marriage.

Tall, blonde, scarred.  Heavily tattooed and pierced, Chris was a rebel.  He’s gone now, leaving behind three little daughters, a wife, and a family torn by grief.  He also leaves behind one tired middle-aged witch who wonders, did he ever know how much I admired him?  Did he ever know that every time I saw him I thought “Viking”?

Well, he’s in Valhalla now, and I’m left without any words of comfort for his family other than telling them that he made a difference while he was here.  He was fierce and gentle and strong all at the same time.  I noticed. I saw.  How could anyone not see?  He carried himself like the warrior that he was.

The world is short one warrior tonight and just at the time when we needed him the most.  But the fires in the Great Hall are brighter for his presence.

Continue to burn brightly, Chris.  We’ll see your glow from here, I promise.


POV: To jump or not to jump

November 6, 2011

Any one who engages in creative writing these days, be they student, amateur writer or novelist, knows the term POV, or Point of View.  It’s the term which means, whose eyes are we seeing the story through while we read?  Which character’s head are we in?  Modern literary experts and novices alike would have us believe that we can only subject our readers to one POV in any given story.  To do otherwise is called “jumping POV” or even “head jumping”, and it’s regarded as a capital literary crime.

Can anyone tell me when jumping POV became an offense?  When did maintaining one POV become “The Law”?  When did jumping POV fall out of favor, leaving readers to slog their way through too many novels that had the potential to be brilliant if only their authors hadn’t been so timid?  Seriously, when did we stop taking a chance with our art and fall victim to the mundane rule of one POV?

One of the world’s best loved books is Pride and Prejudice and Austen is considered one of the finest authors of all time.  Yet, in P&P, which many consider her master work, we spend time not only in Eliza Bennett’s head, but also Mr. and Mrs. Bennett, Charlotte Lucas, and to a lesser extend Aunt Gardiner.  We even get to view the world from Mr. Darcy’s eyes from time to time.

Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina is another example.  The book is purposely divided into segments of Anna’s POV and Lenin’s POV, yet within these segments we jump heads into Vronsky’s arrogant, narrow little mind, and also into Kitty Levin’s and Stephan Oblonsky’s.

Stephen King is another great author who doesn’t tell a story from one POV.  He head jumps and also offers the omniscient POV from time to time for good measure.  I’d hate for one of the POV Nazis that I see on many online fiction sites take a blue pencil to ‘Salem’s Lot.

I will continue to write from whatever POV I choose, and if I decide to jump, I respect my readers enough to believe they’ll be able to follow me.  And to my fellow authors who might be reading this, feel free to jump POV all you’d like.  I’m pretty sure I can keep up.