Magical Thinking

Reality or Magical–What do you see?

Yes, it’s been a while.  Again.  First I was working on a post that’s still sitting in my drafts folder because I couldn’t beat the words into sense, and then life.  Blah blah, medical mayhem, lots of waiting rooms and doctor’s offices, suffice it to say I’m pretty sure any vision test I take from this point forward is null and void– I’ve seen so many while sitting with my girl, I’ve got every chart memorized. Thank you, my fellow Dems/Liberals for being diligent and insisting on being heard about how disastrous the proposed health care bill was, and thank you, GOP, for being in such a mess that you’ve had to put your we-want-you-to-suffer-painfully plans on hold so I can keep doing this.

And oh yes, I’m writing again.  A secret unless you a) read this blog post or b) follow my twitter feed (which you should, because on the thrice annual occasion that I remember to log on, I retweet with the best of them).  It might be more accurate to say I’m rewriting, because this isn’t a glittery new project, this is the rusty old wreck I tabled a few years back that I’ve already talked about reworking.  I figure I *might* be able to use half of what was there, and overall I don’t yet know if I’m taking something that was meh and making it better, or taking something that was meh and puking weird and unidentifiable bits of acid all over it.

Takes a bit of magical thinking to write a novel, regardless of genre.  More than a bit if you’re writing with an eye towards publication.  If you’re looking at trade publishing (as in–not self-publishing) I’m pretty sure the odds are 843,000,000,000 to one.  A couple of years back I blogged about the need for big brass ones in order to believe this could be done.  Despite regular polishing of my metaphorical testicles, here I am, still one of the unwashed and unpublished wannabe novelists.  Clearly, in addition to working diligently on the MIP (Mess in Progress, since I’m still unsure if I can call it a Work in Progress) the answer is to sprinkle some eye of newt into my word cauldron, maybe wave a bit of sage, and wear my very pointiest hat.

Whatever we’re wishing for, I think most of us engage in a bit of magical thinking.  Like, say, this woman.  This is a hell of a story, an excellent snapshot of why supporting 45 and his merry band of fascists was a bad idea.  She’s an American citizen married to a not-quite-undocumented Mexican immigrant.  She voted for our current regime, because she thought they only meant they would deport the “bad ones.”  Her husband wasn’t in hiding, checked in with ICE when he was supposed to, gainfully employed, paid taxes, legit, provisional Social Security number.  Needless to say he is currently in jail awaiting deportation because ‘Murica.  I’ve seen a lot of people comment on this story, some gleeful at her comeuppance, some who feel sorry for her.  Me? Shrug. I take no pleasure in what has to be a painful and terrifying experience for her husband and their children, but I don’t feel sorry for her.  He was very clear about his beliefs and vision, started his whole damned campaign with racial slurs about Mexican immigrants. This is an example of dangerous magical thinking; belief that no one can see you behind a clear shower curtain, that it’s ok and safe to wish harm on others; ok to strip rights, dignity, even humanity because other.

There were never any real plans offered by this President and his administration regarding how they would make things great. The closest they came to concrete plans involved who they were going to vilify, and how he could do whatever he wanted while keeping his supporters and increasing his net worth.  His net worth, not yours.  I’ve said this many times already, once you say it’s okay to dehumanize this group and that group, it’s a guarantee that more groups will be added to that list, and yours will surely be added sooner or later.  I hope no one reading this is surprised and hurt to discover this, but 45 and his cronies don’t see you as a human being.  You were a vote. If you voted for him, he’s done with you, if you didn’t, you never existed in the first place. Let’s go back to that disastrous bill, HurryUpandDieCare.  This is from a meeting on Thursday night, with a no holds barred attempts to squeeze votes out of those who thought it was still too generous a plan.  “Forget about the little shit.”  The little shit is you, me, and the woman from Indiana whose husband is sitting jail.

A little magical thinking might carry me through months of work on this MIP, enough to (hopefully) craft a cohesive and interesting story, maybe adding the tears of a baby dragon will get me through the querying process. It won’t get me published. Magical thinking got 45 and company into office, it won’t make them responsible, compassionate, or skilled–and it surely won’t protect us from the damage.

One of Those Days

Byron and Ramiro, by John Sonsini, 2008

Byron and Ramiro, by John Sonsini, 2008

Yesterday was just another one of those days.  You know the ones. Where you sit in kiddo’s specialologist’s office and they’re telling you news you don’t want to hear and their voice gets all tinny and small and you feel all tinny and small but part of your brain Must Keep Up Appearances so it engages your mouth and you try to sound like a Reasonable Adult Human Being by asking the right questions and taking notes as they tell you about two other specialologists that must now be added to The List of necessary ologists for said kiddo even though their words feel like a spray of pellets shooting holes in your tin self. Yeah, one of those days.

I haven’t actually read any news articles or watched any clips since leaving for the doctor yesterday.  This morning I scanned the headlines, and I didn’t miss much. Just another day with this administration, apparently gearing up to declare war on Iran, Mexico, China, and Australia (?!).  And, needless to say, continuing the war on the American People, specifically Democrats, women, people of color, Muslims, the wrong types of Christians, children, those who live in poverty, unions and union members, and anyone who mistakenly thinks Holocaust Remembrance Day and Black History Month aren’t about our Fearless Tweeter.  Did I miss anyone? I’m sure I did.

The other day I blogged about us, who “us” is, and the need to stop pretending that the supporters of our administration and these new policies aren’t part of us.  Indulge me today, while I talk about the GOP for the same reasons, just for a second. They aren’t going to save me, you, or anyone other than their own hides and bank accounts. Reasonable Republicans.  I believe that used to be a thing, much as I might have disagreed with them.  Now they don’t exist, not those in office, anyway.  Sure, a few make some noises here and there, statements mumbling disagreement, but ultimately, they’re staying right in line with our everything old is new again White Supremacist sanctioned policies.  Noises and mumbles don’t amount to more than a fart in a breeze when two of the horrific Cabinet picks were forced through despite the Democratic Senators’ boycott.  When there’s any one of them willing to support that horrific choice for Secretary of Education.  Thinkofthechildren my eye. When they ignore shady ties to Russia to clear Tillerson. When they support a well documented racist for Attorney General. When they quietly allow the firing of an acting Attorney General for putting the People and the Constitution above the administration. When they don’t say a word about the many active conflicts of interest. When suddenly Putin is someone to be admired, a role model. When legal and peaceful dissent and freedom of the press are overtly threatened.

What’s already occurred and occurring is horrific. I don’t have to read every word of every article every day to know this.  But I don’t get to ignore what’s going on in the country and world around me.  We may want to pretend we can just keep our heads down and it won’t effect us, but it does and will, in ways large and small.  Like imported goods being taxed so high we can’t afford fresh fruits and vegetables. Like losing healthcare. Like losing doctors to bans and deportations. Like losing research scientists for the same reasons. Like losing public schools. Like losing special education rights completely. Like more job losses because of hiring freezes, tech companies going to friendlier countries.  Like losing the right to practice whatever religion you choose. Or not. Like losing the right to vote because of increased gerrymandering. Like losing the right to choose, including situations of rape, the mother’s life at risk, and non-viable pregnancies.  Like losing the gains made in legalizing medical marijuana.  Like losing LGBTQ rights. Like losing all of our damned Allies in the world we share because they’ve been insulted and dismissed.  These are just a few of the very real, potential losses for all of us, without even looking at the more dramatic and yet suddenly also possible scenarios. The only question we have now is will this shitshow result in disaster or complete annihilation.

So, stop. Stop waiting for these imaginary ethical Republican senators and congresspeople to step up. I used to believe the next specialologist would have The Answer, maybe even The Solution, to my girl’s ever-increasing medical needs, but it became necessary to face reality and stop getting my hopes too high.  Still necessary to treat each issue as it arises, even necessary to hold a bit of hope in my back pocket, but for the sake of sanity and reasonable functioning, blind faith that everything will be ok and will go back to “normal” shortly is foolish.  As foolish as expecting the GOP to step up, or thinking our country hasn’t been fundamentally, irrevocably damaged.

The Nuttiest Part: aka This Isn’t Us

Nuts for Nuts

Nuts for Nuts

Peanuts for snacking, walnuts in pasta and baked goods, pignolis in pasta and cookies, hazelnuts in salads and cookies, cashews in asian noodle and rice dishes, nut butters–you get the idea.  I love the other kind of nuts too, those that are excellent for laughing with and sharing a beer.  You know where I don’t love nuts? My government; making unconstitutional decisions, ignoring courts and laws, stripping rights of citizens, stirring up aggressions and posturing against other nations. Also not fond of the nuttiness that punctuates those who are supporting our current government, certain despite all facts, evidence, and history, that subtracting from Them will add to You.

In the face of the embarrassing ugliness that posed as Executive Orders this week, many, many Americans have stood up and said no. We’ve spoken, marched, written, tweeted, boycotted, donated money, donated legal services, stood in solidarity.  Beautiful. The cry: “this isn’t us.”  It makes my intestines twist in unpleasant ways to say it but yes, it is. Not all of us, and I don’t believe (though I’m not sure) it’s the majority, but it’s a considerable number of us. It’s part of our history, alongside those who fought against women’s right to vote, for slavery, Japanese Internment camps, and Jim Crow laws.  It’s part of our present, alongside the school to prison pipeline, draconian drug sentencing laws, rampant gun violence, police brutality, racial profiling, marches and bills written to decimate women’s health care. It’s what allows some people–too many people–to claim they’re following God’s laws and are pro-life yet turn their backs on starving, brutalized refugees–adults, children, and babies–shut out people from other nations who helped keep us safe while we were bombing their nations of origin, and continue to wail about unborn babies while voting to take away health care from the babies and children already born. It’s what enabled and continues to enable so many to ally themselves with white supremacists and the KKK, opening the door for one to have an official seat on the National Security Council.

Yeah. It’s ugly, irrational, illogical, rips my fucking heart out, but it is part of U.S.  Saying it isn’t is what allowed the results of the 2016 election in the first place, “oh, he’ll never be elected, you shouldn’t take him seriously, good always wins.”  Saying it isn’t us is the first cousin of the cognitive dissonance that allows too many to say there were no racial problems and tensions in between our nation’s come-to-Jesus with Martin Luther King Jr (after, of course, his arrests, beatings, and assassination) and the election of Barack Obama.

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The other morning I stood on the terrace and looked out into the fog thinking this is it.  Not new, not shocking, but always hazy, proceed with caution.  Not anymore. These last few days have felt like one of those southern storms, where the rain is so hot and hard and heavy you can’t see a foot in front of you, and all the cars on the highway have to pull over.  Those generally only last a few minutes.  This?  We’ve entered monsoon season, but instead of rain, we’re being pelted by fear, hatred, and tyranny. What else to call it when the current administration decides it is above the law?

I’ve seen several memes and tweets from those on the right, saying Obama did the same thing to Iraqi immigrants in 2011 and no one marched then.  In fact, “45” even referenced this in a statement. Umm, no, not the same thing at all.  This policy has no roots in an actual threat against America, was implemented without proper legal forethought and counsel, no warning, no preparation, is literally tearing families apart, increases the likelihood of terrorist aggression, and is in fact putting our soldiers at risk.  Let’s not forget that not successful terrorist attack in the US is from one of those seven countries–and yet, oddly enough, countries that have been the source of terrorist attacks here aren’t on the list.  But shhh, no conflict of interest here, none at all. I’m sure the fact that 45 has business interests in those nations has absolutely nothing to do with it.  Trust him, he says so. I saw a meme saying those on the left want extensive background checks for gun ownership, but no vetting of immigrants. Untrue, there is an exhaustive vetting process in place. Another meme says something to the effect of “I wish those who cared about illegal immigrants cared as much about homeless veterans.”  I wish people who shared that meme understood that our current administration’s policies are actually harming veterans. Here and here. I certainly hope those liking and sharing that meme are offering assistance like money, food, or socks to the homeless vets we see on the street every day.

45 supporters, don’t be fooled. 45 doesn’t care about Muslims; whether they’re pious, lapsed, or extremist, he doesn’t believe he’s protecting us. He’s feeding your fears, giving you an enemy so you don’t notice your own freedoms disappearing. You’re right, this administration does have a plan, and that plan involves war.  War is profitable.  Not for you or me, but for those in power, that 1 %, fraction of 1%, that do just fine regardless of who holds the power.  And this administration differs from past Republican administrations because it wants a war on the American people, America itself.  This is what you’re supporting. 

I hope every person who supports our current administration understands “slippery slope” isn’t always a logical fallacy. If we’re ok with giving away the rights of one, or two, or three groups of citizens and legal permanent residents, we’re opening the door for more rights to be given away.  You may believe your gender, race, or religion is safe, but as the saying goes, we’ve seen this before.

This certainly, thankfully, isn’t all of us, but it doesn’t help any of us to pretend these beliefs, the people who support these evil and thoughtless politicians and policies, aren’t any of us. Good doesn’t magically triumph; it takes work, dedication, and education. This, right here and now, is when we have to declare a nut-free zone, to keep us all alive and healthy.

Do the Right–Wrong!

Because what else would have been the perfect gift for Mrs Fringe on Inauguration Day, 2017?

Because what else would have been the perfect gift for Mrs Fringe on Inauguration Day, 2017? Thank you!

I’ve had this thought circling in my head for the past few weeks.  I talked about it a bit with Nerd Child before he went back to school last week, and today it seemed appropriate for musing on the blog after 1 full week of Trump & Co in office.  Yeah, I know, this isn’t a mom-blog and I already talk an awful lot about my kiddos, but bear with me, please.

Husband and I have always tried to do our best.  We knew that wouldn’t always work out as intended, but still, parenting is a commitment we take seriously.  A commitment to our children, but also a commitment to society.  We do our best, and hopefully offer decent, kind, well-adjusted human beings who care about others, themselves (raising saints and martyrs was never our goal), and the world at large.  How’s that for overblown navel gazing?  And yeah, we want success for them. Success doesn’t have to mean a job making a bazillion dollars a year on Wall Street, but for us it means that in addition to doing something they feel good about, we wanted them to understand it’s important to be able to pay your bills, and do better than we have, a little more comfort, maybe even own a house.

But have we screwed them in the process?  I’m looking around, taking stock of the past week, who’s taken office, been nominated, being confirmed despite (because of) no experience, no compassion, conflicts of interest galore and long documented overt racism; running the country, deciding to rip apart the social contract we’ve been building and trying to improve for over two hundred years….  Sure, greed, corporations, and selfishness have long been valued in our society.  It isn’t brand new, the results of this election didn’t come from nowhere, regardless of how many want to pretend it has.  There has also long been room for success from those who actually want to contribute, work with others.

Remember?  One of the first things we all teach all children is the importance of sharing, waiting our turn.  Husband and I taught our kiddos to do the right thing because it’s right, not because they might get in trouble, not even because of an afterlife.  But because this life matters, and every life of every person matters.  Trite but true, at the end of the day, can you look in the mirror? This week has shown us a whole different world.  At first I typed new. A new world.  It isn’t though, is it?

Today happens to be International Holocaust Remembrance Day.  And today, Nikki Haley, the new US ambassador to the United Nations,  addressed the UN and said, “for those who don’t have our backs, we’re taking names.” Trump is signing executive orders to begin building That Ridiculous Wall (the one that still makes  zero sense), still discussing a registry for Muslims, will restrict incoming Muslim immigrants (unless they’re from Muslim countries his companies do business with), and is denying entry to Syrian refugees.  No, not new at all.   No wonder they’re so enamored of that fascist “America First” slogan.

And by the way, in case you’re thinking all of this is being done in a (misguided) attempt to actually protect American citizens, ha!  This is the sneak-peak proof that this administration and the GOP couldn’t care less how many citizens are left without adequate healthcare in this country.  Why let people know they still have a few days left to sign up for a year’s worth of care? Sure the ads were already in place and paid for, but, well, fuck ’em. I can’t address the beginning of the dismantling of women’s rights and health care in this country.  Not yet.

So yes, in with all the other worries and panicking I’m doing about medicine and health care and civil rights and ohmygodhehasthefuckingnuclearcodes, I’m worrying about my kiddos; if they are prepared for this next page in American history, where might makes right and sharing their cookies is a notion as quaint and outdated as teaching them to use a quill.

Much of me is overwhelmed right now, certain we have said goodbye to American freedoms, the true American values of equality, justice, social mobility, education, progress, and democracy. We haven’t always hit those marks, and there’s no question and no excuse– our “equality” hasn’t  been equal, but we have had gotten better.  Now I have to believe we didn’t do them a disservice when we taught our kids they have to be able to look in the mirror, and I have to hope the mirrors they look into are true and clear.

 

 

Another Day, Another Leap Backwards

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The image above is quite the statement, no?

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I can’t possibly write a post for every new atrocity I see coming from Washington DC or read about these past six days.  I, along with most of the people I know, am overwhelmed.  Shocked. Disgusted.  Infuriated. Flabbergasted.  For a few brief hours between Saturday night and Sunday morning, I had some hope.  So many women marching together, across the country, across the globe.  And then I learned a new phrase, “alternative facts.”  Bye, Hope!  Give me a call and we’ll do lunch some time. As far as I can tell, alternative facts are what happen when you take a lie, dress it up, add some lipstick and good hairspray, and then shout it over the actual facts.

We have grown used to instant access to unlimited information.  Much of the last year has focused on the negatives of this, because much of the information available is untested and untrue; perhaps a kernel of truth popped through a skewed burst of rancid oil and hot air to morph into a flake that looks deceptively soft, but remains hard and undigestible as it travels through the system.  Still, having access to information, facts about what’s happening now and what has happened in the past is, to say the least, a good thing.  Access to information like: what are our rights? What is climate change? Why did World War I begin? How did Hitler gain so much power, and how were average citizens convinced to engage in atrocities against other human beings? Why have sales of George Orwell’s 1984 shot up? And of course, how did they get the toothpaste in the tube?

I don’t know about you, but I’m really going to miss facts and information when they’re banned. Oh wait, that’s already begun.  Who needs the EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) and the information and health protections it offers to citizens?  After all, it was created by that radical progressive, Richard Nixon.  It will only slow down the slaughter of human beings sure to begin shortly with the repeal of the ACA and cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.  Who needs Public Broadcasting?  Our children don’t need access to programming that isn’t beholden to corporate sponsors, shows that teach them about their world.  Pfft, that nonsense indoctrinates them with crazy ideas, like truth and facts, justice, equality, and humanity.  Science (oh, that dirty word).  I mean, if children have access to that shit, when they grow up they might want to keep learning, know more, discuss more, research, compare facts, and (shudder) then offer that information to the public.  We’ve been promised fast and furious by our new US administration, and they aren’t hesitating to deliver.

Oh! And just in case you think this is merely early bluster, that no one is really going to limit the information available to us, we’ve been offered this gem.  Yes, journalists facing felony charges for doing their jobs. Of all the nauseating and horrific things I’ve seen and heard over the past six days, this has to be the most terrifying.  Journalism.  Journalists.  Those whose job it is to observe and report on the political process, make sure the people in office do not exploit us or democracy.  Those whose job it is to make facts available to the public.  The fourth estate.  It’s true that along with serious and investigative journalism, there’s a long history of yellow journalism.  True, newspapers, news shows, etc need to attract readers and viewers and show profits or those journalists will lose their jobs.  In this day and age of short attention spans and desires for gilded squirrels, that has to make it incredibly difficult for individual journalists to avoid yellow journalism, and/or opining when what we need are straight facts.  Also true, 90% of our media outlets are currently owned by only six corporations, which is inherently dangerous.

And with so much information being thrown at us with updates every ten minutes, it can be easy to blow off what’s important.  Not make the connections we as citizens should be making, because we’re waiting for the next guy to tell us what those connections are, what we should snicker at and where we should be paying attention. Scotch tape holding the POTUS tie together? Snicker. C’mon, seems like a no-brainer, that our President, his press secretary and his counselor are talking about inaugural crowd sizes, offering “alternative facts” about them as if this is an issue of major import, is one to snicker at.  Except it isn’t.  That the POTUS and his staff feel the need to lie about something so small (in every sense of the word) and so easily, clearly proven false is in fact extremely important. It tells us what’s important to this new administration (hint, it isn’t us, the citizens of the US), and tells us how little respect they have for the public.  It also tells us what type of relationship they intend to have with the press. Whether we love or hate the press, we need them.  We always have, we always will. Without a true, free press, there is no democracy.

With a POTUS and administration that wants to isolate us, keep us from engaging with our traditional international allies and reality, wants to tell us any news they don’t like is fake, wants to feed us bullshit on a bun and tell us it’s good ol’ ‘Merican beef; with the GOP in control of the Senate and the House having a collective, waking wet dream of enabling and encouraging them to step on any dissent and take away our freedoms, our health care, our American dream of safe havens, paths to education and upward mobility, equality; with corporations giddy over the opportunity to make themselves more moneymoremoney without having to worry about pesky regulations, safety, or oversight, the only thing we the people have left are facts.  Knowledge. Integrity.

So I’m begging all journalists, please, please keep going. Keep digging, keep investigating, keep informing us.  The day after the election, I bought subscriptions to the NY Times and the Washington Post.  I’m thinking this may have been the wisest investment I’ve ever made. Toto, we may not be in Kansas anymore, but we won’t be easing down this road. We have all been given a load to carry.  None more than journalists.

All the Best People Are

Me, as drawn by Art Child about 4 years ago, age 11

Why yes, that is my avatar

It’s funny, isn’t it?  The small things that catch hold in your mind when something big and bad is going on.  Maybe it’s a defense mechanism, to avoid the brain shutting down completely.  Kind of like the grotesque show that begins today, Inauguration Day, January 20, 2017.  For the past few weeks I’ve been alternating between reading every newspaper article I can and shutting down the laptop and zoning out with Netflix. I’m sure I don’t have to detail how I was losing my shit, reading and watching clips from the Betsy DeVos hearing.  I think the democratic senators did a great job, demonstrating through their questions, how wholly unfit and inappropriate she is for Education Secretary.  I also think it doesn’t matter.  She, and the rest of the Billionaire Club, will be approved, because all prior rules of engagement, like knowledge, qualifications, and at least a pretense of ethics have been suspended for the foreseeable future.

A couple of days ago a friend posted a picture on Facebook, a piece of art from a popular artist promoting women’s rights and being offered for download.  What caught me wasn’t the art, it was the comment (not from my friend) that artists should keep their political views to themselves.  Oh my.  So terribly, woefully ignorant, a perfect case-in-point to what has gone wrong in America.  Art is political.  It makes you feel, it makes you see, it makes you connect, it makes you understand.  Doesn’t matter if we’re talking about visual art, poetry, prose, music, or performance.  All art is political.  And art is what endures.

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My home is not what some would think of when they imagine a family of artists.  The apartment is perfectly ordinary.  Look at the sketch above, Art Child drew it about four years ago, one of her very first pieces after she began, magically, miraculously, to draw.  That’s me in the sketch, perfectly ordinary.  We struggle with bills, we struggle with chronic and debilitating health issues, we struggle with the bits and bobs of life.  And we each love music and art and poetry and food and theater and literature, each with our own draws and, if I may be so bold, talents. Husband hears distinctions and nuances in music that are an entirely different dimension than I hear.  He can turn anything into a drum and create an irresistible beat.  Man Child creates art through food, and when he’s on a stage, it’s truly captivating.  The math he loves, “pure math,” incomprehensible to me, is another language, music in its own right, a language that has no borders of origin.  Nerd Child is a musician, a director, an orator.  Listening to him on his guitar makes me want to dance and weep at the same time.  He creates new worlds we all want to live in as he directs, and when he speaks, people listen. Art Child has developed her skills and talent, creating charcoal sketches and paintings that leave not just me, but others, strangers, talking about her work long after they’ve seen it.

Me? I write. I did write.  I tried to write.  Characters that are so everyday they’re more than a bit off, think you’re going to yawn and end with an oh! Settings that begin next door and then twist into the what the fuck.  My favorite “genre” is magical realism.  Not for escape, but for exploring the difficult and often ugly realities through the fantastical. Perfectly ordinary.

I am afraid of what’s to come tomorrow, next month, next year.  I’m a woman, on the downside of middle age, a self-proclaimed sort-of feminist, unsuccessful, a big and nasty mouth with a latino family.  By definition, not who our new administration wants to see or hear from.  We are ordinary people, caught in what looks to be an extraordinary time.  I don’t expect to become the next Salman Rushdie. I’m neither brilliant nor brave enough.  Let’s be honest, at 40,000 years old, dreams of acclaim and awards are long gone, but in those moments where I let myself dream, I still dream of being able to earn a dollar from my fiction.  Not because of the dollar, but because of the validation, because it would tell me I did, in fact, have an impact and speak someone’s truth other than my own. It is my belief that it is our obligation to continue to use our chosen mediums to explore and document what is happening, how it happened, why we are here.  Now is the time to be political. Create.

Hush

Conflicted Slippers

Conflicted Slippers

I don’t think I ever owned a pair of slippers before, but this Christmas, I requested and received these.  Nice, right?  Damn, these are comfy, cozy, and all kinds of aaah.

With the country seemingly on the verge of implosion by capitalism-run-amok, and rising uncertainties about, well, everything, the little things are feeling very important.  Small kindnesses, small comforts.  And then, three days ago, even these ridiculous looking fluffs took on another meaning.  Trump, PEOTUS, tweeted a thanks to Linda Bean for what appears to be a questionable donation, and of course, telling everyone to support LL Bean. ’cause that’s totally what the President should be doing, right? Good grief, is there no respite from this bullshit–even in the privacy of my home, in my goddamned pajamas?  No, no there isn’t.

Which brings me to my point.  This week, as promised, the GOP took their first steps towards repealing the Affordable Care Act.  Oh yeah, they also began clearing the path for future cuts to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.   Needless to say, I and many of my friends have been freaking out.  No, this wasn’t a surprise to any of us.  This is *exactly* what the GOP and Trump said they were going to do.  That doesn’t make it any less horrific, terrifying, and downright immoral.  And it isn’t just us, this “small”  percentage (14%, last I saw) of families who have a child with medical needs.  It’s everyone who has a preexisting condition, might ever develop cancer or other catastrophic illness, might have a serious accident, use birth control, or, yanno, would like to be able (legally and financially) to make decisions for our health–even if we’re women.

It’s true, I’ve seen a few posts and comments here and there from people who voted for Trump who are surprised and unhappy.  Why yes, the ACA is the actual name for Obamacare, so you just voted to cut your own healthcare.  You’d have known this if you read full articles and didn’t rely on memes and rally soundbites as the sole source of your information.  Why yes, the Medicaid you were able to get because of Medicaid Expansion, part of the ACA.  Why yes, your young adult child is able to stay on your health insurance until the age of 26 because of the ACA.  Why yes, you were suddenly able to get health insurance you could afford despite preexisting conditions because of the ACA.  Why yes, you/your child will continue to be insured and receive life-saving treatments that can carry a sticker price of hundreds of thousands of dollars per year because of the ACA–because yes, with the old “lifetime caps,” there were many who exhausted their lifetime benefits within 5-10 years of treatment.  I would like a law that says people who voted for Trump and GOP lawmakers cannot identify as pro-life, they must identify as pro-birth, because they’re happy to watch all those babies die after they’re born.

Oh, I’m sorry, did you believe Trump and the GOP when they said they’d keep the parts you liked?  I can only quote our PEOTUS, “Lies.” That shit was magical thinking, not a binding pledge. But many comments I’ve seen and heard from those on the opposite side of the political spectrum aren’t expressing surprise or outrage.  Quite the opposite, they’re still celebrating, “the swamp is being drained.”  Yes, and as it’s drained it’s being refilled with the raw sewage of unprecedented conflicts of interest, overt greed, racism, misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, possible treason, and plain old hatred of the less fortunate.

Most of the comments I’ve seen and heard are the ones that prompted this post.  They’re the ones that say, “relax.  Being upset doesn’t help. Wait and see, nothing has happened yet.”  Oddly enough these are the comments I’ve heard the most because I’m hearing them from both sides. It’s true, being upset doesn’t actually solve anything.  Very logical, thank you, Spock.  Guess what? Neither does burying your head in the sand.  I’m no political pundit, but I’m pretty sure that philosophy/methodology is what got us here.  You know what else?  As the parent of a child with medical needs, the wife of someone with preexisting conditions, I don’t get to step away from this or wait and see, because those medical needs are every. fucking. day. and things are indeed happening.

The ACA is certainly not perfect, and there are people who have been faced with premiums that are unsustainable long term.  Seems to me logic would say fix it, don’t set that shit on fire. Our social contract is rapidly becoming a social disease.

Goodbye, 2016

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

Fuzzy flush for a fuzzy year

There’ve been years where I couldn’t wait to rip off the last page of the calendar. Despite the many days of suckage in 2016, this wasn’t one of those years.  I know, I know, the past couple of weeks the news and social media feeds have been filled with headlines and posts of people desperate to say goodbye and start fresh.  Not me.  I’m afraid of 2017.  There, I said it.

I swear I can’t remember the first half of 2016, pretty sure my memories are on the tracks along with a smashed Cheetos bag and someone’s lost hair extension under the 6 train. The second half? I swung from funk to anger to disbelief and back again.

Too dramatic?  Maybe. I have several good friends who are optimists, they live their lives on hope and faith that love conquers all.  Beautiful, isn’t it?  You could say Mrs Fringe is a pessimist, but I believe I’m a realist. And realistically speaking, if you are a woman, a person of color, Muslim, LGBTQ, an immigrant, a Dreamer, an educator, differently abled, parent to someone who is differently abled, a journalist, a senior citizen/will be a senior citizen who needs both Social Security and Medicare, or a free thinker, there is much to be–well ok, if you’re insistent on being less dramatic than I–if not fearful, at least wary of.

New Year’s isn’t like birthdays, we aren’t supposed to make wishes, we’re supposed to make resolutions.  Resolve to be kinder, more thoughtful, more efficient, disciplined, stronger, faster, better.  Shall I resolve to be the Bionic Woman, then?  (If you’re too young to be familiar with the Bionic Woman, take my word for it, she was cool, a 1970s sci-fi tv character.)  So when I hear people talking about wait-and-see, it won’t be so bad, I hear it with my bionic ear as magical thinking, wishes on a trick birthday candle.  I’m not worried about The End of the World, nuclear style.  Come on, I live in New York, everyone’s favorite target (and as a special bonus, the city our President-Elect and family won’t leave); if there’s an all out nuclear war, I’ll be the first to go, vaporized before the page telling me to watch out for mushroom clouds can load.  No time for angst.

I’ve been rereading all my old favorite dystopian novels–along with some new ones–and they have certain themes in common, whether the trigger was an economic collapse, totalitarianism,or plague.  Despair, violence, governmental overreach, hunger, talk about the necessity of good shoes. For the long walk to find others. And don’t give me any parables about crying because you had no shoes until you met a man who had no feet.  We don’t live in the garden of Eden, and I’m too old for barefoot and pregnant. I need shoes. We need shoes.  Good ones, without cracks in the soles, that don’t make you cry when you have ’em on for more than twenty minutes.

I’ve also spent some time rereading old posts. Sure, Mrs Fringe was always meant to be honest, somewhat bitter and definitely salty, but also funny. I think I stopped laughing about a year ago.  For a lot of reasons, both personal and greater, many but not all of them detailed here over the past year, there’s been less funny, more general horror.  And nausea.  The other night I made a DD (Disastrous Dinner, trademark pending).  Completely unsalvageable, suffice it say the overpriced short ribs couldn’t even be added to the doggie gumbo, and the polenta had more than a mild resemblance to the poo found in a newborn’s diaper. I happened to turn towards Nerd Child as he took his first and only bite.  The expression on his face? I laughed for twenty minutes straight. For some people, when things suck, they need to cry.  Others need to surround themselves with beauty, chant affirmations, or pretend the only things that matter are the things they can control.  With that DD, I remembered, I need to laugh (and overuse commas).  It’s my way through.

So while I want to believe all will find their measure of peace, love, and laughter this year, I’m not wishing or resolving.  I’m going to laugh when I can, I’m going to speak out when I need to, and yes, I’m checking my shoes.

Raise The Stakes

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When you write fiction, once you get past the technical/grammar/POV aspects, there aren’t a whole lot of rules. Guidelines, but those are flexible, boiling down to if you write well enough, if the story is riveting, you can “get away with” practically anything.  There’s one bit of wisdom that I believe is a rule: raise the stakes. What’s the worst thing that could happen to your protagonist, the biggest muck they could make of the situation in front of them? Make that happen.

I remember, about a thousand years ago, the catchphrase in the pop psychology/self-help section of the bookstore was, “we write our own scripts.”  Positive, empowering, offering the idea that we control what happens in our individual worlds. Imagine it for a second, with a laptop, a 99 cent Bic, or a pencil found in a goodie bag, we control it all.

Except we don’t.  Sure we control how we respond to events in our lives, and many situations are the result of choices we make, but sometimes not. Some of these situations are the result of other people’s choices–say, being faced with terror of potential loss of health care and special ed services for a medical needs kiddo because other voters decided tax cuts and a pro life stance were more important than social services, social justice, and the needs of children and adults who’ve already been born.

The holiday season is always a bit tricky for those who deal with chronic medical needs.  Those yucky viruses that are a nuisance for all can get complicated, more serious, and last longer than they do for the average healthy person.  We’re quite used to medical mayhem here in Fringeland.  It always sucks, but you do get used to the reality of a shifting normal, not necessarily expecting but being prepared for potential complications and unpleasant surprises. Or so you think.  Because sometimes you go to Dr Pediatrician who sends you to Dr Specialologist who sends you back to Dr Pediatrician who sends you immediately to another Dr Specialologist who sees and diagnoses something completely unexpected, that may or may not have an underlying cause, but regardless, threatens the vision of kiddo. The vision. Both eyes. Of kiddo whose all-things-good come from the visual.

Yeah, sometimes shit just happens, and it feels like some sadistic fucking wizard behind the curtain is writing a manuscript where you and yours are featured, and (s)he’s snickering at they keyboard because they figured out how to raise. the. stakes. for the next few chapters. If I were writing this manuscript, this novel (remember–by definition, a novel is fiction) and wanted to raise the stakes for an already challenged artist? No hesitation, I’d threaten vision. If I actually could control this, could write my own script? Absolutely, I’d get my butt back in the chair, at the keyboard, and write for twenty-two hours a day. But this isn’t a novel, and I sure as shit didn’t write this manuscript.

I may skip decorating the tree, and let the crying sap be my holiday statement.

Empty Words

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Leave the page blank long enough and it starts looking clean rather than empty.

Have you ever wished Mrs Fringe would stop whining and shut the fuck up? Today is your day. I am taking a break. At the moment, I’m not sure how long, maybe I’ll change my mind tomorrow, next week, next year (so go ahead and stay subscribed for a while), I don’t know.

Words and writing have always been such an integral part of who I am, I’m honestly not sure who I am without them.  But as I’ve always said, I write to be read, I write to be half of a dialogue–spoken or not.  About a year ago I came to the conclusion that my fiction isn’t going anywhere.  That was a very difficult, painful conclusion.  I made self deprecating jokes and gave myself lectures.  Ok, you suck– big deal, so do most people.  Welcome to the ranks.  Sure I have occasional bouts of the dreaded hope, and send out some queries or write a story, but that faith that it will happen?  Not so much. I don’t have writer’s block, if you’re wondering–I’ve got plenty of ideas and notes and internal discipline; if someone offered me a contract tomorrow I’d be back to work within an hour. I have always written the stories and characters that I love, that I would want to find in the bookstore. But I don’t write for myself, I write hoping to offer others what I love to read, that sense of Yes. This author gets it, and has given voice to my thoughts, breathed life into characters I want to spend hours with. Many (most?) fiction writers disagree, and believe you should write for yourself.  Perhaps they’re right, but it hasn’t worked for me.

I kept blogging because it’s different than writing fiction, offers something else without pesky hopes, dreams, or expectations. I have tried to use humor (often gallows humor, but still) to address real and sometimes frightening issues.  Mostly I kept blogging for the same reason I started, a space to be a whole person, more than any one label or role I fill in the “real” world, to connect and have conversations with others, listening and being listened to. Now I am depleted. At this moment I see no point in blogging about writing if I’m not writing, no point in blogging about being a woman standing up for other women and women’s rights when my country has made it clear it isn’t interested in women’s rights and safety, no point in blogging about democracy when my country has voted for a demagogue, no point in blogging about the struggles facing people of color when the country has aligned itself with the KKK, no point in laying out the struggles of dealing with chronic illnesses in loved ones when the majority, including some who have cried with me, has just made it clear that ultimately, they don’t care and don’t want to hear it.

I know that many who are better, smarter, more evolved and generous souls than I am are sending out messages of hope, reassurances of caring, safety, and continued efforts.  Very lovely, and necessary.  Right now, I can’t do it, and frankly, I think it was the assumption that in the end people will put shared humanity above differences that has led us to where we are right now.

Many of my regular readers and commenters are not American, which has been an amazing, beautiful thing; WordPress is a fabulous platform, allowing me to feel that I have connected with others outside of my immediate, narrow margins. That said, I am American, and the American people have spoken–I am to pick a label and that is the sum of who I am. How boring. Hell, it makes me yawn just to think about it, who wants to log on and read a label?