With Nana and Papa

With Nana and Papa
Family Times at Flathead Lake

Wednesday, October 31, 2018

From Scary to Light

I receive an email per day from Writer Unboxed - you guessed it - on the topic of writing. Today's Halloween edition was composed by novelist Brunonia Barry and it deals with scary places. Barry writes that her agent challenged her to write a scary novel, and that she leaped at the challenge, only to find it more difficult than she originally anticipated. Here's her explanation:

"The first draft of my WIP [work in progress] started simply enough. The story was initially about fear of the dark, a universal taken to the extreme in a tale of isolation and disillusionment. But as my own disillusionment with society grew, that once simple idea became far darker. Instead of a universal genre story, it became far more personal. I realized that what I was writing about was the darkness inside myself.

Of course, that was where the narrative was always meant to go. I just didn’t know it when I started. I think our most poignant horror stories express the darkness inside all of us. But, to me, as a writer at this particular moment in history, I was having trouble going there. Everyday life was tough enough. More darkness was not something I craved." (Writing What Scares Us)

Barry's words hit home like one of the Red Sox baserunners in the recently concluded World Series. My blog entries have slowed to a trickle recently, and though I have excused myself to friends and family with the usual, "I'm too busy," and "I can't concentrate," the real reason is that my brain has gone dark. Though I have many tactics to protect my fragile positive outlook - don't watch news (ever), only skim headlines, limit Facebook, listen to NPR only til noon - election season and the proliferation of recent troubling events have moved into my mental space like the darkness creeping out of Sauron.

Sometimes my children are the bearers of the bad news, unwittingly bringing me to tears, such as William's evening announcement that some 60% of animal species are extinct or have moved toward extinction since 1970. I snapped at him to stop talking while trying not to burst into tears and had to wait several hours to explain how that broke my heart, and how I've been an environmental activist for twenty years trying to prevent such things.

Or Daniel asking me about the tragedy in Pittsburgh, or Aden reading the headlines from the IPCC report on climate change. My resolve to be hopeful quavers in these dark places, my bright vision of the kids' future dims. So on this day of All Hallow's Eve, where we typically scare and trick, I resolve to go the other direction. I've had enough of scares and darkness, and although Barry intends to challenge her fears and penetrate her dark spaces (a laudable and worthwhile goal), I plan to hand out candy and search for the light.  For the next few months I will be seeking out good news and hopeful headlines, positive sentiments and good examples. Not living in denial of the challenges we face, but welcoming the light that shines out of dark places like candles from the hollowed cores of orange pumpkins.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

Take Me Home.... and Vote!

I had the most fantastic start to my morning driving our neighborhood carpool to Wednesday breakfast at Einstein's Bagels. After packing six teenage boys, four of whom over six feet tall, into an Acura MDX without legroom in the third row (sorry, C and R!), I cautiously drove out of the neighborhood as William plugged his playlist into the stereo. He started off with John Denver's "Take Me Home, Country Roads" and the boys belted out the chorus as we headed out of Willow Creek through the early morning darkness. They followed it up with Men at Work and Toto's ubiquitous "Africa," during which time I was sorely tempted to whip out my phone and start recording. Safety won out, and I am just grateful for the memory.

It's a time to hold onto merriment and gratitude wherever we find it. The barrage of negative campaign ads makes it impossible to watch TV, listen to the radio, or open my email. My well-informed seventeen-year-old wanders around the house rumbling darkly about how the Earth will not be salvageable by the time she turns thirty, and just this morning I heard about suspicious packages (bombs?, white powder?) turning up at the homes of the Obamas, the Clintons, George Soros and the offices of CNN. Hmmm. I wonder where someone is getting the idea to incite violence at the homes of Democrats and news organizations?

But we rational (well, mostly), moral adults have the responsibility to hope and to clean up our messes. We don't have the luxury of despair or negative thinking. Now is the time to vote, write letters to the editor, encourage and help friends, and re-imagine our future. A little bit of off-key singing and some humor go a long way to assist. For example, this statement "Do you suffer from electile dysfunction? Voting could be the cure for what ails you."

I don't know if I have"electile dysfunction," but voting was a big upper, regardless. Rob and I both completed our ballots and sent them out, and we're apparently part of a record-breaking advance voter turnout. Let's break the bank, people, and make those election officials work overtime counting our ballots. It's time to turn the tide definitively, and show our young people that we can still get things done. In a few years they will be old enough to help us out, and that is the most encouraging thought imaginable.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

A Dangerous Time in the Country

"Misogyny is when women finally start reporting sexual assaults and the country's response is to say we must protect our boys from the accusations."
- Feminist News, October 8, 2018

My cousin's wife posted this on Facebook yesterday. I've never met here but I think I would love her.  Prior to surfing FB for my allotted 15 minutes, I heard an interview on NPR with two men at Colorado State University in Fort Collins, CO. I didn't hear the beginning of the piece so I don't know for sure the name of the organization, but it may be Men for Change (per quick Google search). Their purpose was to stand with women and protest violence against both genders, promoting a culture that values consent and the worth of each individual.

The interviewer posed this question: "What do you think of the president's statement that this is a dangerous time in the country for young men?"

The group's founder replied, "I find that to be an interesting premise.  There probably are dudes who are afraid, and there's probably a good reason for that. I think they should be afraid.  There are many other guys who have always respected women and their right to consent - or dissent - and they're not afraid.  We just need those good dudes to stand up and speak out against violence and sexual assault. It's not enough to be good on your own, you have to help change the culture."

Poignant words. The men also pointed out that false accusations only occur between 2 and 10% of the time, though it's impossible to tell because sexual assault is not thoroughly reported for many reasons (the listeners fail to believe, fail to act, fail period.)  Any incidence of false accusation is too high, because it can ruin a person's life and hurt the cause of many women who are legitimately reporting incidents, but we should remember that this is extremely rare.

I'm appalled and depressed that Brett Kavanaugh has a seat on the Supreme Court. The only actions now are to vote, speak up for what we believe in, rally our friends and neighbors (and relatives), VOTE,  and make the change that we want to see in the world, just like the men in Fort Collins, Dr. Ford, and women everywhere who come forward to speak their truth.