I’m a Liberal Snowflake

I had a post all ready about the Women’s March, with pictures and links and deep thoughts about it and everything. But after this week’s political events, I think a shorter, simpler post is better.

I’m a liberal snowflake, and I’m proud.liberal-1

I care about people. I like freedom, all kinds of freedom but especially personal freedoms. I am “willing to discard traditional values” when they hurt people. (Also, calling something “traditional” does not make it right or good or fair. Genocide, rape, and war are all traditional.) I am open. I am generous. I am flexible. I am tolerant. I am a liberal.

Politically, I often find myself on the progressive end of the Liberal spectrum. I think the taxes we pay should go to helping the people who pay them, and I don’t mind paying taxes to help people.

I am starting to worry about the future of my country, and I feel strongly that something is going to happen, something bad and big and irreversible. I hope I am wrong.

Meanwhile, I’ve decided that I am not powerless. Kindness is not a weakness. Liberal is not an insult. These are the tools I was given, and I’m going to use them to make the world a better place, even if I can only do that on a very small scale.

I will love people, I will show kindness, I will speak  out when I see wrongdoing or cruelty. I will be open to new ideas, I will listen, I will fight for those who cannot fight for themselves.

I’m a liberal snowflake, and I’m hoping to be part of the blizzard that makes the USA truly great.

LGBTQ History Lesson

I gave myself one, a few weeks ago 🙂

I stumbled across a post about Bayard Rustin and it shocked me. First, I had never heard of this person. Apparently, he was a major player in the civil rights movement, but I certainly never learned his name in school. Which I suppose shouldn’t surprise me. We only ever hear a handful of names, briefly focusing on only the most dramatic stories of what in reality was a long and multi-faceted movement.

652px-bayardrustinaug1963-libraryofcongress_cropSo, I spent an afternoon reading, doing research on Bayard Rustin. I learned he was openly gay (in the 1950’s!!), a pacifist, and a lifelong advocate for worker’s rights. The level of bravery and strength of spirit his accomplishments represent is amazing. It deserves remembrance.

I read a lot of negative material about Mr. Rustin, as well. His sexuality was a major point of contention in the civil rights movement. Black pastors and church leaders did not want to support him, and many feared he weakened the movement. His pacifism was another sticking point. Leaders like Malcom X insisted violence was a tool that should not be ignored, and thought Rustin was a fool for his nonviolent methods. Rustin was romantically linked to white men, which led to even more backlash.

Now, looking back on history, I think his contributions are clear. Though some might not agree with his non-violent methods, many more applaud him for just that. His work for and with labor unions is certainly notable, as is his LGBT activism. But to me, what was most impressive was the fact he dedicated his life to activism on behalf of all people, knowing he faced opposition from so many sides. To fight alongside people who you know don’t fully support you requires an inner strength I cannot imagine.

At the Women’s march this past weekend, I know many women did something similar. Trans women marched alongside cis women who wore shirts and signs equating vaginas with womanhood. Black women walked beside white women whose feminism often excludes or simply ignores POC. I think they probably did it for the same reason Rustin did: the cause was bigger than their individual needs at the time.

I am grateful for what I’ve learned about Bayard Rustin. I’m going to use it as a starting point to learn more about LGBT history! Hoping to post one each month here.

How about you? Do you know of any “forgotten heroes” of LGBT history? I’d love to hear about it!

 

Happy Memorial Day!

Today I will march with my Girl Scouts in our town’s memorial Day Parade. (Assuming the rain holds off and it’s not cancelled!) I’ve been going for the past five years or so, and I really enjoy it. It’s a small parade, not many vets, lots of kids (boy scouts, girl scouts, marching bands) and some local law enforcement and firefighters. Mostly the audience consists of the families of the marchers. A thin crowd, many of whom disperse immediately upon picking up their kid, so that by the time the mayor gives a speech honoring our veterans, hardly anyone is left to see it. I always stay, and I strongly encourage my girls’ families to stay, too. I am so disappointed and embarrassed by how few people are there to actually honor our local veterans! I wish I could do something to increase attendance.

A few people in my life have been surprised by how strong my feelings are about Memorial Day. See, I am a real “tree-hugging liberal” and I am always speaking out against war. So people sometimes assume I am not pro-military. Which, honestly, is dumb. I guess some people think military personnel just loooove fighting, and we should encourage conflict if we want to support them? Stupid.

Though lately, people seem to have a very warped view of what is “patriotic.” Wave a flag, sling some mildy-racist comments, and boom! Instant patriot. So strange and sad to me that in a country founded on tenets of religious freedom and open immigration we now have thousands cheering for xenophobia and religious persecution, and calling it patriotism.

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I hope whatever your Memorial Day entails, you take a few minutes to remember the reason for the holiday: those who lost their lives in service to our country. Also please remember these fallen are men AND women, of ALL races, ethnicities, religions, and sexualities. People from all walks of life, who entered service for many different reasons. Many fought our nation’s conflicts for reasons they personally might not have agreed with or even fully understood.

I will never support war, but I have immense respect and gratitude for our warriors. Happy Memorial Day ❤

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

It’s Insecure Writer’s Support Group day!

InsecureWritersSupportGroup

So I have been sort of insecure lately, and I’ve also been pretty happy too.

First, the insecure: Am I being idiotic to continue putting time into writing? If I’m probably never going to earn a decent part time wage, should I even continue? Or just, in an only part time capacity? That’s in the back of my mind lately.

And then, the happy: I’m actually getting kind of excited for this book release (Feb. 18, Night Vision), and nervous but in a fun way. I loved writing the story. It was with this story that I really feel like I found my feet as a writer. I workshopped the whole thing like crazy, and through those revisions, I learned how to write. I joined Scribophile and a Yahoo critique group with this novel, and I learned so much from the writers I met.

It was really cool editing it for publication, because I had literally put it aside and not opened it for a year. So working on it brought memories of some critique partners I had on that novel, who taught me a lot, and who I am grateful for. I’m still crit partners with some of the people who read Night Vision (working title was “the strige” on scrib.)

And on my current projects, I have some excellent new crit partners, who I am also grateful for. I feel lucky every time I find a critiquer who really gets me and my stuff, and is willing to read and crit. It kind of renews my excitement about writing.

How about you? Do you remember all your best critiquers, even from projects several years past complete? Do you have a few favorite, special critiquers, whose opinion you trust?

International Dot Day

Is today!

I admit, I am a sucker for picture books. And every time I read “The Dot” by Peter H. Reynolds, I cry. If you are not familiar with this story, I recommend you give it a read (it’s a children’s book, it will take you like 10 minutes, seriously.)

I’ll give you a very brief synopsis: A girl thinks she “is no artist,” yet her art teacher insists she “just make a mark and see where it takes you.” So she makes a dot. The teacher’s response is beautiful. The dot is hung up and celebrated, and with that small bit of encouragement, Vashti (that’s the girl) is transformed into an artist in her own mind. Eventually, she becomes an artist in truth, and traces her success back to that one act of support from that one elementary school art teacher.

dot_sec

At first glance, that might seem like an “everyone is special” story line. But I think it is so much more. The gift that art teacher gives Vashti is something so precious and magical, yet so simple that many of us do not even realize it is a gift. She values her work. To a child, a teacher (or a parent, or an older sibling, or a coach) is a person of great wisdom. To receive praise & acknowledgement from someone we respect is such a powerful thing. But often, the person who is in that position does not realize the power they hold.

I think we all hold that power and influence over someone. Maybe to our children, or to the people who work for (or with) us, maybe to our loved ones or friends. We should all remember the impact our words can have.

99% of the time, encouraging someone will not result in them becoming a successful artist. That takes hard work, skill, dedication, and luck. But 100% of the time, encouraging someone will make them happy. It will make them feel better about themselves. It will help them to keep trying. And that is enough of a reason to do it.

So today, make a mark and see where it takes you. Try something new, that you think you cannot do. Try to create, to draw or write or sing.

And make a mark on another person’s life by offering your support and encouragement. You never know where it will lead. Happy Dot Day 🙂

attitude is everything

A week or two ago there was a thread on Scribophile by a writer expressing his frustration at the difficulty of making a living at writing. We (several members of scrib) all talked about the reasons we write, and what success means to us. I think the consensus was we’d all still write even if it made us no money, but making lots of money is by far the ideal and most hoped-for outcome.

One topic that came up was the difference between writing for commercial success and writing as Art. Of course, those goals are not mutually exclusive, but often writers approach a project with one or the other as a primary purpose. We talked about what makes something satisfying, as work. Is it the art? The financial reward? Or maybe the critical acclaim? I think we all have our own reasons for writing, but I assume for most of us satisfaction is probably a combination of all of those things.

Then today I read a blog post by another author who was lamenting his lack of sales, and I thought about this “success” thing again. And I decided, attitude is everything. Success is what you decide it is: Selling a certain number of books? Having a high star-average on reviews? Writing a book you are proud of? Having a dedicated fan base? Making a specific amount of money? Enjoying your time at the keyboard? Winning an award? Making friends and being a part of a community? Reaching a particular spot on the bestseller list?

There is no reason we have to let anyone else dictate what “success” means for us, and no reason we can’t change our definition of it as we evolve as writers and as people. I think it is all about having a positive attitude. Finding things to be proud of, and happy about. Having a positive attitude is the way I get through life. I have become pretty good at finding the bright side of almost anything.

Here is an unflattering but perfect example: my story about body acceptance. So I have had two C-sections (I don’t advise that, btw) and as a result, I have a permanent paunch. (It might also have to do with my guacamole obsession, I’m not denying that, but the C-sections definitely had a negative effect on my abdominal structure.) So one day I was naked, just out of the shower, looking at myself in the mirror and (as you might imagine) I was feeling kind of down about my body. But I really looked at myself. At my boobs, all saggy after breastfeeding two babies, and my belly, all flabby…. and I cracked up. My body looked like a caricature of a face, with nipple-eyes and a belly button nose and my C-section scar with the paunch in a sad old crescent smiling at me in the mirror. I laughed and laughed. And now, when I feel bad about my body I remember that it might not be perfect, but it is strong, and it works, and if nothing else it is good for a laugh in the mirror when I’m naked.

In a similar way, I think we can all find something about our writing that is positive, some way in which we have achieved success as authors. Maybe it isn’t a definition of success that anyone else will understand, just like my extremely un-sexy belly-face is not going to make anyone laugh but me. But that’s okay.

In case you still want to compare yourself to other authors, this is a fun post for ranking yourself. 🙂