Pride… and Prejudice

When I heard of the Orlando massacre, I was at a bridal shower, celebrating love. At a table with my daughter and in-laws, I put the news aside, because I could. I talked instead about the bride’s new family and the beautiful cake and the lovely weather. The tragic news was glossed over in a “that’s so sad” kind of offhand way. I was glad. I knew when I got the chance I would take to social media and the news sites and learn all the horrible details, but I admit I was happy to retreat into my privilege for the moment and speak of lighter things.

Then the conversation turned to politics, and I found myself trying to keep calm while I explained that no, men pretending to be transgender women are not a problem in our bathrooms, and yes, I know this for a fact. I think I shifted their opinions a bit, but it’s possible they agreed just to keep me quiet.

Later, bile rose in my throat and my face was hot as a table full of well-dressed and well-to-do ladies spoke about how they’d consider voting for Trump “if he could just keep his mouth shut!” I would like to say I was brave and spoke up again, but I just drank my mimosa and kept quiet. I’m sorry. I wanted to, but I couldn’t find any words. I was afraid.

Not afraid of my in-laws, but afraid for my daughter and the world she will inherit. Afraid for all of us, those marching in pride parades and those walking to classes and those in the “wrong place at the wrong time” everywhere. Afraid because I saw hate. Not loud, violent hate, but a much more dangerous hate: quiet, refined, and confident. Hate backed up by money and power and privilege, hate that does not believe it is hate at all. I wish I had spoken up. I would have pointed out how all these things are connected: the violent crimes against gay people and the targeting of transgender bathroom rights and the bigotry of political candidates. I wish I could have made some intelligent argument or insightful quip, but I had nothing except fear and sadness inside me.

Later, I went online to learn all the horrible details of the worst mass shooting in our nation’s history. A little less secure in my privilege, I cried at the pictures and details, and got angry at the ignorant bigoted comments I saw. Again, I felt afraid for all of us, at the hate and fear in our world right now. Terror is a good word for what happened, and for what I feel. What will happen at the upcoming pride events around the country? What will happen at the gay clubs downtown? Who is an enemy? How can we tell? Is there any way to stop these attacks against the LGBT community?CkwpDbnW0AAa6FV

I don’t know, of course. But I do know that we all need to stand against homophobia. And we need to call this massacre what it is: a hate crime against LGBT people. Not a random attack, a targeted one. Fed by hate and nurtured by the kind of political ideologies that preach bigotry and xenophobia. This massacre was a horrifically violent expression of homophobia, but unfortunately homophobia is all too common.

The first Pride parade was a reaction to Stonewall, a commemoration and continuation of the bravery demonstrated by the rioters. Pride might be a celebration, but it is not all party, it is also -still- an act of bravery. A time to stand up, afraid but not alone, and show pride in something widely condemned. It seems to me the strength of Pride, and the solidarity of the LGBT community it represents, is needed now more than ever. I know the LGBT community will stand together in this time of sadness and fear, but I hope (so hard) that non-LGBT people will, too. If ever there was a time to be an ally, it is now.

Equality Florida is offering services, and raising money to support the victims, if you are able to donate please visit their page. Rather than reading post after post about the murderer, consider learning about the victims, and celebrating their lives instead. And if you are in a position to speak up against homophobia, no matter how casual or “harmless” it appears, please try to do so. Maybe with love we can fight this hate. ❤

insecure writer’s support post

This is a post for the Insecure Writers Support Group. Join us! We blog the first Wednesday of every month. Insecure Writers Support Group Badge

It’s April 5. Camp NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) started on the 1st. I don’t think it will come as any surprise that I have already fallen off pace. My track record with NaNo is pretty dismal. I have a whiny post all ready to go about that, which I’ll probably post in the morning, but…

Okay I’ll admit right now I’ve had a glass of wine. My kids are in bed and I’m scrolling through my blog feed (avoiding working on the iwsg post lol) and I have to say I’m kind of freaking out a little. Does it seem to anyone else that things are getting more hostile? In the world in general, I mean, and especially the US I guess? Like very divisive. Tensions are high, even in online communities arguments are blowing up too fast. And what is with all these laws about “religious freedom”? I can’t even believe half the things I’m seeing! Am I the only one who is alarmed here? How about how Trump is seriously in contention still. AND the rest of them. What the actual fuck, is all I can say.

Okay I know talking about politics is not advised for Authors and I shouldn’t be saying anything. I’m supposed to be neutral, better for sales. But honestly? I write gay and bisexual Romance. If you’re going to be backing a candidate who would reverse marriage equality if given the chance, or who would have signed or voted for any of these recent anti-LGBT legislations, I really don’t care about losing you as a reader. No offense.

Then again, maybe this isn’t about any one candidate or belief, but more about a general swelling of an “us vs. them” mentality. If the nightly news was the prologue to a dystopian novel I’d be expecting world war three to unfold any minute now. Things are getting freaky out there! I feel like even just six months ago things were a little less heated. I mean, am I imagining it? Or has anyone else noticed this, too? I’d LOVE someone to talk me down lol

*sorry if this is too political for the iwsg hop, but it IS an insecurity, technically*

finding life lessons in “inspirational quotes”

It seems like all over social media there are these deep and meaningful quotes. And, yeah, okay there are some dumb quotes, too. Sometimes these quotes pop up at just the right time, though, like the fortune cookies of the internet. It’s cool when that happens.

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That’s a good one, right? I think so. (I can’t find an author for it, sorry.) This quote reminds me that we can all make positive changes. It’s never too late to be better than we were yesterday, as long as we are willing to question our own knee-jerk reactions. Defensiveness is an understandable response to criticism, but it doesn’t move you forward. I think it is extremely important to be self-critical. It’s the only way to grow, to evolve.

Once, more than a few years ago, I heard/read the statement that ALL white people are racist, in some manner. At first it bothered me because, well, obviously I didn’t think I was a racist! But the more I thought about it the more I realized it was true. It’s impossible to grow up white, and live with that kind of privilege in this society, without having it influence you. At minimum, white people all benefit from institutionalized racism enough to warrant some self-criticism. Accepting this, and also accepting that it doesn’t mean I am a bad person or that I have done anything wrong, was a really big thing for me. It changed me, in a major way. It made me realize racism is not about just “bad people,” it’s also an entire system of power. If I had stuck with my original reaction and rejected the whole idea, I would not have grown or changed.

Self-reflection is important. Sometimes I get too self-critical, and move right on over to self-deprecating, and even into self-hate. I know this is a problem for me and I am trying to stop doing that and be kinder to myself, but that is another issue altogether!

How about this one:

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This quote reminded me that we are all victims, in one way or another. Almost all of us have been hurt, or used, or mistreated in some way. But we have to let go of that anger a little bit otherwise we risk becoming the same as those who have hurt us. We need to remember that even at our weakest, we are still capable of hurting others. If we get too absorbed in our own status as “victim” we can easily excuse our own bad behavior, and that isn’t okay. Everyone is fighting their own demons, recovering from their own traumas. We need to have empathy for each other.

I try to have empathy for everyone, to understand different views, to listen. I really care about the people I interact with online. Sometimes I find myself thinking of them, and I feel weird about that. There used to be this guy who went by the name ‘Dorian’ who I was friends with on Facebook. An author, and a very nice man, he loved to post pictures of male ballet dancers. So whenever I’d see a picture of a male dancer that was particularly nice I’d think “I should share this with Dorian next time I’m online” and I usually did. Dorian died last year, but I still think of him when I see a picture of a male dancer.

Is that unusual? I feel like that about a lot of people, but I often hide it. Or sometimes, something will happen to show me that the feelings I had were most definitely one-sided, and not at all reciprocated by the other person. I’m fairly certain Dorian never thought of me, or even knew my name. Should that change my feelings, though? Does that even matter? I don’t know.

On that note…

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This is another quote that has spoken to me. I’ve seen it around a lot, I’ve posted it before, but it is important for me to continue to see it and to remember. Keeping emotional distance is another thing I need to work on, online.

It’s easy to get sucked in to an external validation loop on social media: posting things and hoping for responses. Sometimes that is great, in small amounts. But too much is not healthy. Definitely a bad idea to use external sources to determine one’s sense of self-worth!

The other reason that quote is so important for me is that it reminds me there ARE people who care, and those are the people I should be giving my attention to, those are the ones I need to try hard for.
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Ah, a very good quote for when I am thinking of giving up!

It is hard to know when to give up. When to walk away from a person or a discussion or a project. When to accept things as they are and when to try to change them? I guess that is one of those eternal questions no one ever knows the answer to. Or maybe it is too specific to be answered by a vague internet quote. 🙂

How about you? Any “quotes” speak to you lately? I’d love to hear about it!

World Poetry Day

Today is world poetry day! I’m not a poet, or really a big poetry fan. I like it well enough, I just don’t feel at all qualified to talk about it in any meaningful way.

There is a poem that has stuck in my head for years. I read it once, way before I had kids, and I never forgot it. I looked it up today (it took no time at all thanks to google. what a time to be alive! lol) so I thought it would be a good one to share.

Today it is snowing (first day of spring! ha!) and my little boy is outside. I’ve been spending entirely too much time on the computer lately, so I’m going out to play. Happy poetry day everyone!

I Took His Hand and Followed
Mrs. Roy L. Peifer

My dishes went unwashed today,

I didn’t make the bed,

I took his hand and followed

Where his eager footsteps led.

Oh yes, we went adventuring,

My little son and I…

Exploring all the great outdoors

Beneath the summer sky

We waded in a crystal stream,

We wandered through a wood…

My kitchen wasn’t swept today

But life was gay and good.

We found a cool, sun-dappled glade

And now my small son knows

How Mother Bunny hides her nest,

Where jack-in-the-pulpit grows.

We watched a robin feed her young,

We climbed a sunlit hill…

Saw cloud-sheep scamper through the sky,

We plucked a daffodil.

That my house was neglected,

That I didn’t brush the stairs,

In twenty years, no one on earth

Will know, or even care.

But that I’ve helped my little boy

To noble manhood grow,

In twenty years, the whole wide world

May look and see and know.

iwsg: insecurity over the facebook reactions

Hi! It’s my insecure writer’s support group day 🙂 If you’re a writer (or just a human) with insecurities, check out the iwsg main page!Insecure Writers Support Group BadgeOkay it’s old news now, but the new facebook “reactions” are kind of cute. I do wish they’d included disagree type reaction… Maybe not a “dislike” but come on, an “eye-roll” at least?

I get it though, there’s enough bullying online without a way to casually, effortlessly, and even guiltless-ly (I know, not a word ) spread negativity. It would hurt people, and empower internet jerks. Although some assholes will find a way to use anything sarcastically or rudely. (“sad” on a selfie? “haha” on a plea for help?) Ugh.

Still, the new reaction options have a lot of benefits. Now you can hit “sad” instead of “like” on a post about someone’s gofundme or their dog dying. When someone posts about finding their spouse has been cheating, you can indicate your displeasure with “angry,” you don’t have to “like” it.

Although it might mean less talking on facebook. Before, if I wanted to offer my sympathy on a sad post, and of course I didn’t want to “like” it, I’d comment. Now I can just click “sad” and move on.facebook reactions.jpg

Overall, I think the new reactions are a great improvement. But here’s the thing: I’m not sure any “reaction” option is a good idea.

I’m on a few social media sites and internet forums. Most have some kind of reaction based system when you can “like” or “upvote” or “+1” or whatever. And to me, the insecure basket case that I am, these are all trouble. Reactions give me so much online stress, to be honest.

But I don’t know if its just me. Am I holding people to ideals that are weird or unreasonable?

For instance: I think that if you start a thread in a forum, or publish a post, and people choose to reply to you, you should “like” (or respond somehow, via comment or “reaction”) their reply. They took time out of their day to type up a few words of encouragement, or to share a personal thought, opinion, or story. How do you just ignore that? But people do. It makes me not want to interact with those people. Seriously how hard is it to click “like”???

Stress.

Or: You know the person who tries to “send a message” by liking everyone’s comments except the one written by the dude he’s currently in a beef with? So messy. It makes me realize the person is petty, and worry that someday I will be the one in the doghouse, having my well-intentioned contributions ignored.

Again: stress.

If you ask me, the best places have no reactions at all. Because those places have interactions instead. If a topic or a post is important to you, truly worthy of a reply, you’ll respond in writing. Without the option to just click “like,” you’re forced to…actually respond to the post. And you’re less likely to be rude if you have to publicly “talk” and not just click a button. (hopefully!)

Also, reactions can easily be misinterpreted. But a comment is usually clear, or can be responded to appropriately. If someone says something rude in a comment, I can decide to engage them, unfriend or block them, or just ignore their words. When someone clicks a reaction, I’m full of assumptions and doubt: did they click ‘like’ because they’re happy? Was that an ironic ‘like’? (I told you I’m a basket case!!)

Anyway I think it’s a lot less stress, overall, when there are no reaction options. Who’s with me? Am I the only wimp who is too sensitive to interact online?

Depression Sucks

I think everyone who deals with depression sees their battle in a slightly different way. I’ve heard people describe it as sliding down into a deep abyss, or as falling into a funk. For me, it feels kind of like those allergy commercials (Claritin clear™), as if a fog of sadness surrounds me and I can’t shake it.

I’ve struggled with it for most of my life, and have tried a lot of things (therapy, meditation, diet) to try to keep myself healthy. I mostly succeed. The best things for me have been my kids. I know that isn’t true for everyone, but for me the responsibility of motherhood has shifted my focus enough to keep depression under control.

It still crops up, though. Like recently. I’ve been shuffling along, barely doing the minimum, feeling pretty bad about myself. I can feel that dark fog around me, growing denser, blocking out the happiness. I feel tired a lot, and have no pleasure from the things I usually enjoy. I’ve been doing a terrible job keeping my house, and ordering out a lot of meals even though I normally love to cook. I’m drinking more than I should, and not eating as much. I’m okay, but I feel the beginnings of depression settling in.

I’d love to be able to pinpoint depression’s cause, but I’ve been told it is a chemical thing most often and not due to any one event or life-problem. The truth is at any given time I’ve got enough problems to justify a depression, and even if those problems don’t cause it, they don’t help, either.

Around a week ago, I reached a really low, low, low. It was a nice day, and I had a lot of time with my family, and it was beautiful outside, and everything was perfect. Except I wasn’t happy. I was thinking about my writing, and about my bills, and my house, and all the unfinished tasks I have hanging over myself. And that made me realize I needed to do something, at least about the things I CAN control.

So I did. The first thing I did was make a list of the things that make me happy. Simple things, like “making dinner and eating with family” and “reading every day” and “walking along the beach.” Things I haven’t been doing. And for the past week, I’ve made sure to do those things.

I also gave myself permission to NOT write every day. NaNoWriMo is a bust (again) for me, which is fine. I’m not checking my KDP sales numbers, and I’ve stopped my facebook ads (they weren’t working very well, anyway). I have decided that I will not quit writing, but I will drastically lessen my marketing efforts. All that was doing was making me stressed, and sucking the joy from writing. I spent so much time and worry on what my reviews said, and how many sales I had, and what I could do to better fit into my genre. Ugh. It was killing me.

And you know what happened? I’ve been good. The clouds have lifted! I’m happier, and I’m not as tired, and I feel better about myself. I even wrote a whole new chapter of my WIP! I feel much more in control.

I still might call the doctor, but for the time being I’m doing well.

I started a new crochet project today. A “puff stitch cowl.” I like it so far, though I have a long way to go! 🙂 What do you think?beginning_cowl

World Autism Awareness Day Blog Hop

I’m so happy to be taking part in RJ Scott’s World Autism Awareness Day Blog Hop (<click the link to go to her masterpost) 🙂

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RJ asked that we each post an Autism Fact, and so I chose this one:

Typical ASD behaviors include stereotyped actions (hand flapping, body rocking), insistence on sameness, resistance to change and, in some cases, aggression or self-injury.

Because for me, it is the most applicable.

Every day is Autism awareness day in my house, though I will be the first to admit my son is very “typical” and is probably right on the edge of the autism spectrum (depending on what test they are doing these days). He is what some people would call “high functioning” though I never use that term if I can help it.

He was diagnosed at age 2, and so, as you might imagine, a lot has changed for him since then. He’s gone from a little boy with very few words who would not respond to his name or a direct question, to a boy who has an extensive vocabulary, converses typically, and asks many questions of his own. He went from a kid who would not tolerate certain clothes, who screamed at the touch of skin lotion or sunblock, and who refused to put his hands on play-doh, to a kid who can wear most anything and build sculptures with sticky mud (though he still prefers clean hands).

But one thing that hasn’t changed is the “stereotyped actions.” For him, that means tapping. Lots and lots of tapping. Stereotyped actions, or Stereotypy, is very common in people with ASD. It is also kind of common in the rest of us. Who doesn’t twirl their hair or tap their pencil sometimes? But for my son, like many ASD kids, the repetitive behavior is constant.

And it is what I would like to raise awareness about.

I think one of the saddest things you can go through as a parent is to see your child become the butt of jokes or the target of teasing. And especially heartbreaking to see them mocked for something they cannot control. My son is still young (he’s 8) and so most kids his age are really tolerant and don’t see too much wrong with him repeatedly slamming an empty water bottle against the edge of a table. But older kids and adults are kind of harsh. He’s been called “rude” and “annoying” and lots of other things, probably worse things out of my earshot I’m sure.

And I get it, because he does seem “normal.” There is no physical deformity, no other clue that he is not a perfectly average little boy. Except this behavior, this annoying disruptive tapping. So I do understand why people who don’t know him are quick to reprimand him. But he is not “normal.” No matter how well he manages to blend in, he still fights to do so. He has difficulty with fine motor skills and with planning, and has many struggles that are more invisible (emotional issues, problems relating to people) as well as sensory processing issues.

So what I’d like to remind everyone of, during this awareness campaign*, is that not every person who is on the autism spectrum is obviously “disabled.” Many people pass for normal**, and their struggle is internal. These people try really, really hard to do the right thing, to act properly, and to blend in. Please don’t hurt them when they don’t quite “fit.”

My son’s tapping is something we work on a lot.

On one hand, he wants to do it. It soothes him and he likes it. He also needs to tap, and it is out of his control. He will tap on his knees or thighs, if he is supposed to be quiet. He often has bruises there, the result of tapping sticks or bottles repeatedly on his little kneecaps. This is not something he is doing for attention or to be purposely disruptive.

On the other hand, he needs to do normal kid things, like spend all day in a classroom. And making a ton of noise when classmates are trying to read, or the teacher is speaking, is not okay. So we work on it, to help him be as socially acceptable as possible. And so no one makes fun of him.

I want the world to accept my kid just the way he is. But I am not stupid, and I have been kicking around this world long enough to know that is not going to happen. So I try to help him fit in, as best I can. To keep him safe. (And because a mom beating the crap out of a second grader for teasing her kid is generally frowned upon.) And I try to control his tapping. We try tapping quieter objects (there was a brief period of peace when he was into tapping plastic bendy drinking straws. ahh. those were good days) we have times when tapping is simply not acceptable (like at the dinner table or in a movie theater) and we have places where he has to ask for permission to tap (like when we are visiting friends or family).

But I realize the most I can do is try to force this behavior to fit into our lives, I cannot eliminate it. So there will always be teasing, and irritated looks, and people who think I am a shitty mother who can’t (or won’t) control her kid. My job is to keep him happy and healthy, and to give him the skills to navigate this world on his own. Tapping is only a small part of that, but it sometimes feels like a huge thing.

I hope if you have read this far, that the next time you see someone doing something a little odd, some little repetitive behavior, some weird noise, you will stop before you scoff, and try for a bit of empathy. They might be fighting a battle you cannot see.

*(“a call for accountability” is a fantastic post about the harm that “awareness” campaigns can do. read it please!!)

**(“not that autistic” is a great post about being able to “pass for normal.” read it please!)