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Waking Up

It’s 7 November!

That means the election is over. The absurd attack ads, the ping-pong vitriol, the campaigning — all of it. Except on Facebook, where people are awfully depressed in my news feed. Which isn’t overly representative of what most of my friends actually think — on my author Facebook, there is a disproportionate number of conservative religious folk who are writers I know.

You know what else is over? Seeing Mitt’s beatific, oddly non-expressive cardboard smile everywhere. I’m grateful for that. There are many things I’m grateful for today.

Here are some of my rather general thoughts on yesterday.

Hearts and Candy

This was the biggest winner. Hearts and Candy (Photo credit: Rdoke)

1. Love won some serious victories.

My post yesterday was the story of my second mum and her partner, with whom she has been in love for over twenty years. Today, I woke up in a world where not only can NeeNee marry Carrie in their home state of Washington, but my friends and loved ones here in Maryland are free to marry whomever they choose in mine. And in Maine. And Minnesota voters condemned a ban on same-sex marriage, voting NOT to instate it in theirs.

Wisconsin elected America’s first openly gay senator.

I can’t express what it means to me that these huge steps were taken. When I grew up, it was before even Will and Grace. Before homosexuality really started to gain acceptance. And in my short lifetime, I’ve lived to vote for equality. And after the disappointment in California and other states in the last four years, waking up today and telling myself again what happened yesterday only reaffirmed the belief that it gets better.

It gets better.

Beautiful Latina Woman Smiling

Beautiful Latina Woman Smiling (Photo credit:

2. Women rocked the vote yesterday.

A whopping 54% of the electorate yesterday was female. Yesterday’s results can be credited in large part to the women of America for making a choice to vote for a man who respects us, doesn’t talk down to us, doesn’t make outrageous comments about rape (or binders), respects our rights to our own bodies, acknowledges our potential and contributions to society, believes we should be compensated fairly for our work, and above all, is a man who believes his two daughters are going to change the world.

I see that every time I watch Barack Obama look at the two first daughters. And in what he said about them last night, putting their strength and intelligence before their beauty. That language is telling more than anything else.

Yesterday is what happens when women vote in force, and I could not be more proud. Romney lost over 12% of the women who had voted for McCain. More on that in a minute.

We women are real winners today.

Youthful Obama Supporters

Youthful Obama Supporters (Photo credit: MarkGregory007)

3. America is a melting pot today more than ever.

Alongside the massive turnout of women was the massive turnout of African-American and Latino voters. I have no doubt that this decided the election. More and more, our country is a diverse nation filled with people from all over the planet. We are all guests and immigrants, and the demographics of our country are not a static thing. They are changing.

I personally love it. It means people still want to come here. And it will force us to work together. Which brings me to my next thought.

The red "GOP" logo used by the party...

The red “GOP” logo used by the party for its website (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

4. The GOP needs to adapt, and fast.

In this election, Mitt Romney alienated huge demographics of America by taking hardlined stances about immigration, electing a running mate who co-authored a bill with blackballed GOP Senator Todd Akin that included the term “forcible rape,” threatened to cut Medicaid, and got caught calling 47% of the country freeloading jerks.

From here on out, no election will be won without the support of women, African-Americans, the GLBTQ community, and (not or) Latinos.

Let me repeat that in a different way: America is no longer a nation that can be controlled by straight white Christian men.

The face of America has changed while the GOP was busy stewing for the last 6 or so years.

And you won’t convince me that’s a bad thing. This country will move forward, and if the GOP can’t adapt, can’t make themselves relevant to minorities and less repulsive to women, a new party will take their place. More and more Americans identify as independents. What that says to me is that the Republican party’s uber-conservative social policies have made it abhorrent to a large chunk of the country that would otherwise be considered fiscally conservative or moderate.

More and more people believe that civil marriage is a civil right. More and more people believe that immigrants to this country should get to stay here. More and more people believe that women should have the rights to choose when and if they have children. More and more people believe that women should be compensated the same as men for performing the same jobs.

Those are not currently values of the Republican party. The rest of America is shifting away from an extremely conservative base, and that extremely conservative base does not like it.

I’ve said multiple times this election that if Mitt Romney was running on the same principles that made him governor of Massachusetts, he would have a chance at my vote. But I can’t take a politician seriously when he says one thing to one person, then turns around and says something diametrically opposed to the first statement to someone else and repeats that cycle indefinitely.

The GOP needs to remake their party, because guess what? Latino voters, African-American voters, LBGTQ voters,  and women are not going anywhere in this country. I think we saw last night that the minorities formed a coalition to get a majority.

Also lost to the GOP was the youth vote. One of the pundits last night said that historically speaking, if youth vote for one party three times, they won’t switch later. And the youth went overwhelmingly to Obama again. The next generation is moving leftward organically, especially on social issues.

The Republicans would be wise to consider that starting now.

Or, you know, don’t. Whatever. I’m just saying that if they want to win elections, they need to stop alienating over half of the country. That’s not crazy libbie speak. That’s simple arithmetic.

English: An aerial view of Mount Everest.

English: An aerial view of Mount Everest. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

5. Finally, this is what we’ve got in front of us.

It’s gonna be a long, hard climb. Onto a saner time, so I invite you, friend. Come take my hand.*

I woke up today to a nation deeply divided.

Deeply, painfully divided.

I only have to look at my news feed on Facebook to see that some people (so far all white, mostly middle-aged, all Christian in the case of my Facebook people) are hugely distressed by last night’s outcome.

I don’t have any words of comfort. The world is changing, and they feel frustrated and probably disenfranchised. I can only guess that many people, either consciously or subconsciously, believe that their values are getting sidelined.

One thing I would say, which is admittedly a bit of a devil’s advocate-y thing to say to them, is this: if the wide perception of your party is that it is a party of hatred and exclusion, you need to be asking yourself honestly why. Not getting upset with people, because we all know how much that changes minds. Not pointing to the Bible, because all of us are wondering why you point to the Old Testament and Paul’s writings instead of the red letters. Not trying to convince us that gay people are evil, because that’s just silly.

Ask yourselves why so many people think your party is exclusive and hateful. Don’t start in with Rush Limbaugh apologetics, actually think about it. And better yet, talk to people and hear why they think that. I guarantee you they have reasons.  If you want to maintain or not lose more political power, you have to compromise with the changing face of your nation.

Don’t get left behind. We have a long road ahead to recovering this nation. Come with us instead of digging in your heels.

I’ll wrap up with this, The New Colossus, which people always seem to forget is emblazoned on our Statue of Liberty:

Not like the brazen giant of Greek fame,
With conquering limbs astride from land to land;
Here at our sea-washed, sunset gates shall stand
A mighty woman with a torch, whose flame
Is the imprisoned lightning, and her name
Mother of Exiles. From her beacon-hand
Glows world-wide welcome; her mild eyes command
The air-bridged harbor that twin cities frame.
“Keep, ancient lands, your storied pomp!” cries she
With silent lips. “Give me your tired, your poor,
Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,
I lift my lamp beside the golden door!

That is what our nation was founded upon.

What do you think about the election? Are you satisfied with the outcome? How are you going to take up the responsibility to move our country forward?

*These are sort of paraphrased lyrics to a Libby Roderick song.

Women Make Music: Celebrating International Women’s Day

Until I moved to Poland in early 2006, I had no idea such a thing as International Women‘s Day existed. Here was this holiday characterized by lots and lots of upside down bouquets of an odd number of flowers (in Poland, everyone carries their flowers upside down and even numbers of them are considered an ill omen — so I wouldn’t buy your Polish girlfriend a dozen roses). I learned a little more about it that year. It was a day to make women’s issues known, a day to celebrate women for our strengths and beauty — both inside and out. But in America it’s a little-celebrated day, and if I was 21 before I heard about it in another country, I think it’s safe to say it’s seldom even acknowledged.

So today I’d like to celebrate the many faces of women, a true mosaic of intelligence, beauty, strength, fortitude, perseverance, passion, compassion, determination, and resilience. I’d like to candidly discuss how our freedoms in America have evolved and continue to change, and I’d love to have your input.

I’m going to start with the woman who gave birth to me.

That's me as a baby! First birthday. 🙂

My mother had me at age thirty-four. She and my father had been told that she probably couldn’t have kids, but they kept trying, because they wanted me more than anything in the world. Sometime around Valentine’s Day in 1984, they got lucky, and I was born on November 18 in Austin, Texas. Shortly after, we moved to Arkansas and then to Anchor Point, Alaska, where my parents divorced. My mom worked as a bartender and socked away money so she could leave my dad. I remember our tiny cabin we had right after we left, and our big galumphy St. Bernard, Chow, and Lab mix dog Sonny.

Mount McKinley, or Denali, in Alaska is the hi...

I don't have a picture of Sonny, so you'll have to make do with Mt. McKinley. Image via Wikipedia

My mom raised me alone for a long time. We never had money, but we saw Alaska. We saw grizzlies in Denali, moose galore. We met chatty squirrels and camped together. We moved to Portland and went to the Oregon Coast. My mom overcame a lot to raise me — addiction, previous abusive relationships, thousands of miles between us and our nearest family. She gave me a great childhood — I never realized how poor we were until I went to college.

My mom told me I could be anything, even when that meant I wanted to be an astronaut or a hang-glider. She told me I could marry anyone I loved. She taught me that all human beings are equal and worthy of respect and dignity. If there were more people like my mother in this world, it would be a better place.

There have been so many women in my life, so many wonderful people who shaped me and changed me over the years. Neeshonee, my mom’s longtime girlfriend with whom we moved to Montana, taught me to bead and to cook. She taught me more spiritual things about honoring the earth and respecting animals. She was and is my other mom. I spoke to her on my wedding day, even though I haven’t seen her in a decade.

There were the women of the Portland Lesbian Choir, all these aunties who loved and adored me. There was Jean “Bean” and Al (Alison), and the wonderful musical women of the Alaska Women’s Music Festival in Fairbanks. There was Ms. Harris, my sixth grade teacher, and Ms. Wright who told me I could write well. Professor Annamaria Orla-Bukowska at Jagiellonian University in Krakow who always involved me in her work of Holocaust remembrance and who had some of the most kind and encouraging things to say about my academic work I’ve ever heard.

Women have always been the biggest source of strength and inspiration in my life. Women can change the world.

Today is a day of celebration, but it is also a day that exists because of inequity. As Lois Alter Mark wrote in her article today, International Women’s Day exists because every other day is International Men’s Day. In my post last week, I mentioned the outrage I felt seeing that panel of experts discuss contraception without a single woman. What I didn’t know was that the panel refused to even accept a woman’s presence along side them. They disallowed Sandra Fluke from inclusion, and they also snubbed the Catholic Health Association (which is headed by a woman).

The anger about the situation centers mainly around the issue of contraception, but I’d like to bring up another point: the panel members insist that the issue was about religious freedom, not contraception. My question is: how does that make it more acceptable for them to bar women from the conversation? Can women have no voice in religious matters? There is wrongness there, and it sits ill with my soul.

It is International Women’s Day. Turkey is celebrating by passing laws to further protect women and children from abuse — both by increasing penalties against abusers and providing shelter to victims. Around the world, people are celebrating women today. And in America, the rights that have been painstakingly won over a century are quickly becoming the center of this year’s presidential election.

I will not stand for that. And neither should you. Where women are equals, societies improve. Celebrate your strength, your innovation, your intelligence today.

Ask a woman you care about her life today. Ask her how she got here. Listen. You won’t regret it.

I would like to share the lyrics of a song with you — some of you were here for my V-Day posts last month, and you might recognize Libby Roderick‘s name. The song is called “When I Hear Music,” and it encapsulates the feeling I want to celebrate today. The feeling of possible, of movement, of ability.

Women make music;
Women make love;
Women make babies;
Women make visions of…
Women make peaceful worlds;
Women make dreams;
Women make music, music, music music!

When I hear music, music sets my heart on fire!
Magic soars upon the wind; it fills me with desire!
When I hear music, music makes it all worthwhile.
Sorrow bursts into a song, and I remember.

Women make progress;
Women make change;
Women make trouble;
Women make memory and rage;
Women make dancing;
Women make do;
Women make music, music, music, music!

When I hear music, music sets my heart on fire!
Magic soars upon the wind; it fills me with desire!
When I hear music, music makes it all worthwhile.
Sorrow bursts into a song, and I remember….

That women’s arms hold up half the sky,
And women’s voices sing out half the song
That if this world is ever going to ring with hope
Then we must make a right to more than half the wrongs

Women make clothing;
Women make steel;
Women make nations;
Women make visions real;
Women make healing;
Women make time;
Women make music, music, music, music!

When I hear music, music sets my heart on fire!
Magic soars upon the wind; it fills me with desire!
When I hear music, music makes it all worthwhile.
Sorrow bursts into a song, and I remember….


Tick, Tock

My boss seems to hate my writing.

This is what I picture. Yes, that's you, Mr. Manager. Image via the all-knowing

At least, when I look at the schedule for the next ten days, it feels that way. No, no. I don’t really  think he sits there writing the schedule, drumming his fingertips together and grinning in malicious glee as he schedules me seven shifts for the upcoming week, but that’s what happened anyway.

And today, I have to be at work at 4, which is in a little over two hours. I’ll be there till about 3 a.m. and then return at 11:30, and I will remain there until 11 at night. So when am I going to write?

The point of this isn’t to bemoan my schedule or to violate the terms of the “Acceptable Social Media Usage” section of my employee handbook — the point is that all writers have scheduling issues. All of us have families, friends, commitments, puking dogs and/or children, car trouble, a significant other who missed the bus, late shifts at work, and precious, precious moments to be used writing.

That’s precisely why the monsters in yesterday’s post are so insidious — they infect our shining treasure that is time.

If you’re anything like me, you would rather spend your days just writing. You probably slump a little bit each time a large bill or rent is due, wishing you could hand your landlord or Verizon a completed section of your novel in lieu of a check. But for most of us at this stage, it doesn’t work that way.

Put the time in the bowl. And we won't have a problem. Image property of Tristar Entertainment.

We stare out into the quickly ticking clocks of the world asking if we could just have some more time. Time won’t wait for us. We have to make it do what we need it to. Which brings me today, as that blasted clock keeps moving closer to 4.

I have about forty chapters of novel to organize and revise, and less time to do it in. Which means I have some decisions to make. Home is a comfortable place, and my desk chair is decidedly not. It hurts my butt and strains my neck, which makes me all too apt to stay in my living room on our cloud-like bed sofa. The problem is that my computer has been effectively turned into a desktop because the battery is like an alcoholic in withdrawal. If I unplug it, it gets the shakes, it moans, and then it shudders and passes out.

Because of that, here I am at my cluttered desk, looking at a prescription bag, a hefty pile of notebooks and books, a rainbow flag someone gave me at D.C. Pride a couple years ago, and a sheet of Toy Story stamps half-obscured by a CVS bag. My husband hates this room. My desk has never been an organized place.

In spite of its foibles, this is where I need to will myself to be for the next several weeks. I am committed to making something happen in January with my novel, whether an agent asks me to send her a query or simply tells me to scrap the idea. Something to move me forward.

It’s that commitment that sets me in a race against the ticking of the clock. It’s the drive to write set against Einstein — we all know that it ticks faster when there’s work to be done and a deadline to meet. And so, gentle viewers, today I want to ask you to take on the clock with me.

How many of you struggle to get your word count goals or revision goals finished with your schedule? How many of you feel like the clock is always set against you? For the month of December, this is my challenge: to create a polished product to present to agents. Yours is probably a different goal, and you might well whine at me for making this a December thing. It’s the holiday season — believe me, I know there are other demands on your time in addition to your normal schedules.

That’s why it’s a challenge, isn’t it?

I have an hour and a half to get ready for work, to eat something, and to format a few more chapters into Scrivener. I’m going to challenge myself. Will you?

Let’s show that clock (and December) who’s boss.

Like this guy. For realsies. Own this image like Chartoff-Winkler Productions does. Be the image.

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