Politics · Uncategorized

MAGA Hat on the Highway

It was one of those moments when I wished I could get a picture. I was driving and alone in the car, so that would have been unsafe, and in any case, impossible to get a good angle.

There was a bright red MAGA hat sitting on the highway this morning, in between lanes of traffic. It had not yet been crushed; cars were avoiding it as one might try not to run over a dead squirrel or a large piece of tire from an 18-wheeler.

I live in Massachusetts. We don’t see a lot of MAGA hats. Trump bumperstickers and banners, occasionally, but few hats. Some months ago, on the highway, a car beeped at my husband and me as it passed, and the driver waved a sign made from a Trump sticker. Our reaction was probably not was he was going for. We laughed at him and figured he was reacting to the Elizabeth Warren sticker still on our car from the early days of her first Senate campaign. Way to own the Libs, dude!

More randomness – what’s the story here?

The MAGA hat on the highway was the kind of randomness I love, like seeing a soccer ball up against the Jersey barriers or a single shoe on the road. How did they get there? In my old home town, a lone demonstrator spent the better part of an afternoon on the town Green holding a large sign that read “The Wrecking Ball LOST!” What was the story behind that?

More than likely, the reality of the hat was that it simply blew unnoticed out of the back of someone’s pickup truck. Maybe its owner will miss it, maybe not. But I like to imagine there’s more to the story.

Picture two people in a truck. Perhaps they argued about the impact of Trump’s tariffs on the construction industry, their livelihood. In a fit of frustration, one snatches the hat from the other’s head and throws it out the window to the road below.

Or perhaps a daughter stole it from her father, whom she lost months ago to the treachery of FOX News. This small act of rebellion won’t bring her father back, but as she tosses the hat gleefully on to the highway, she imagines her father spending half a day looking for it instead of watching TV; a temporary victory.

The best scenario though, is an epiphany on the part of the owner himself about the meanness of our times and Trump’s leading role within it. Unable to continue tolerating the deliberate and gleeful cruelty of Trump and his Wormtongue advisor Stephen Miller, he pitches the hat into oncoming traffic to be run over as Trump himself has done to so many.

Family · Uncategorized · Writing Life

Changing Seasons

Summer riding off into the sunset.

We’re in it now.

P started school before Labor Day, T started last week. Since neither kid has a full driver’s license, my days are now filled with chauffeuring them to campus and to work, or at least accompanying them while they drive. This has forced me into a routine of sorts, which is not entirely a bad thing.

On Tuesdays and Thursdays, T’s two classes are back to back, meaning there’s hardly enough time to make a trip back home worth the while. On those days I will probably run errands close to campus or bring my laptop to a coffee shop nearby. I tried this last week and the place I went was much noisier than I’m used to. The area around campus is very mall-centric so I think all the coffee shops will be this way. I will have to try to find something independent, off the beaten path. I enjoy working in coffee shops. Sometimes those couple of hours can be very productive in spite of the distractions.

I’m still getting used to the writer’s life. It’s a dream I’ve had for decades and understood very little. I am trying to learn the business of being a writer as well as come up with story ideas. I’m not too worried about my prose. As I tell my husband when I’m trying to convince myself I can do this. “If I knew what I was writing, I could write it very well.” For the most part, I believe that, bolstered by feedback I’ve gotten from various places where I’ve published. Of course, the competitive part of me wants not to struggle, and not to write anything that isn’t perfect and free of critique. I want that award. I want to be able to say, “this is why I never did that Ph.D. or became a middle manager; I was meant to do this instead.

Yet, I keep half-assedly looking for, and sometimes even applying to, full time positions. Intellectually, I know that both my health and the logistics with the kids make that highly impractical, but oh, it would be so much easier than trying to slog this transition out with no guardrails. And the money would help.

In the Boston area, Wednesday, September 11 will be the last day of the year that the sun sets after 7 PM. The season is ending and autumn is on its way whether I like it or not. In a similar way, the layoff last summer, and subsequent health problems, have created a career ending situation, a change of season and a turning point of sorts, whether I like it or not. I’m choosing to see it as an opportunity, even if it doesn’t always feel like one. There are other things going into this feeling; my age, the fact that I’m almost done with my active parenting years, the way this transplant proposal feels like some kind of epic journey I have ahead of me. I don’t really want to go back to doing what I was doing. I do want the change.

Maybe I just want it to have happened already.

Family · Life on the Island · Uncategorized · Writing Life

Labor Day

On Labor Day, we had a rare opportunity, because neither of the boys were working, to go out for breakfast together. I am not a morning person, but going out for breakfast is one of my favorite things about being an adult. In spite of my hermetic ways, there is something about being greeted and settled in by the waitstaff (especially if they recognize you as a regular) that brings a comfort to the start of the day.

Out for breakfast on Rocky Neck

Whether it is an elegant petit dejeuner in Paris, or a busy diner with sturdy stone wear plates of pancakes or eggs and endless refills of cheap coffee, there’s something strangely life affirming about sharing this ritual with other people; even if they are at the next table, and not part of your group.

Though a few of our usual breakfast spots were closed for the holiday or had very long lines, on this beautiful morning, we were lucky enough to get a table on the porch of a local go-to. Along with standard breakfast fare, menus around here are sprinkled with local favorites like linguica, a Portuguese sausage, and anadama bread, thought to be brought over from Finland by the early stonecutters in the quarries here. Anadama French Toast is a popular offering.

Driftwood Fish

It was nice for the four of us to have a meal together to mark the end of summer. With both boys working, time to sit down together is rare these days. Now that the kids are older and need less management, they have become pleasant companions and these meals are much more enjoyable. There much less bickering, much more storytelling and joking around.

This part of the island is an art colony, and after breakfast we strolled through the neighborhood looking at the cottages and gardens. Many of the galleries were closed for the holiday, but there was still art and creativity everywhere.

The weather here has already gotten cooler. I find myself greedily consuming the views of flowers still in bloom from the height of summer, as if the memory of them will hold me through the barren months of winter. I know it’s coming. My youngest started his classes at the high school last week, and my oldest starts his college classes on Thursday. My days are going to get busier, carting them to school and to work, or other places. Though they both have their learning permits, neither has a full license. And even if they did, we’d be short a car (or two).

I am not ready to put my sandals away. I am not ready for football, or fat socks and boots, or pumpkin spice anything. I still want to walk down to the beach or the harbor. I want to listen to the seagulls or watch the sandpipers zooming back and forth along the surf. I want to be able to breathe without the frozen air hampering me. This kills me. Ordinarily I would be eagerly awaiting the trappings of autumn every year. Chronic illness has changed that. I truly love having four seasons, but it would be easier to live in a place where it hovered around 70º all year-round.

This is a hydrangea tree. Now I want one.

In other news, I am writing again. I created a piece for Labor Day on how corporate culture and public policy (or lack thereof) is killing the so-called dignity of work. You can find it here on Medium. I’m trying out Medium as a potential platform, but I am also looking at other markets. If last winter was about recovering and getting through a devastating year career, health and family-wise, I hope this year will be much more about working and rebuilding.

Lobster trap chair, you might need a cushion.
Another local restaurant
Gloucester Marine Railways
More lovely gardens
A view of the harbor, still full of boats for now.
Community · Uncategorized · Writing Life

Customs and Costumes, My Day with Downton Abbey

“The Castle at Park Plaza”

I have worked in the Back Bay neighborhood of Boston off and on throughout my career, but I had never been in this interesting building. Now called The Castle at Park Plaza, it was originally an armory dating back to the late 1800s. On Friday, I met friends from Connecticut here to see the Downton Abbey exhibit that featured replicas from the show (the kitchen and dining rooms), character and plot recaps, and several props and costumes.

The Bell Board
I love keys like this!

One of the first things you see, once you’ve passed the welcome video of Mr. Carson, is the telegram that arrives informing Lord Grantham that his heirs have both died at sea aboard the Titanic. I was surprised that they went to such lengths with the props in that way. Then there was the famous Bell Board, and the replica kitchen with the table and the egg holders and other tools. A pot of cider or something was simmering on the stove, making it smell as if Mrs. Patmore was baking pies.

They also made up Mr. Carson’s pantry/office. Among the props were an old-time barometer, and this cabinet of keys. It reminded me of the house where I lived in Guilford; many of the doors had keys like this. Of course, once we kids got hold of them, few of them could be found, much less match to their respective doors. Such a shame. There were also servant bells set up in the house, that worked when we first got there, but were sadly disconnected at some point. The rang more like a door buzzer than the delicate bells of Downton..

There was also a replica dining room, with explanations of the various customs around hosting, entertaining, waiting upon the household and guests, and so on.

Much of the rest of the exhibit was costumes, including the various wedding dresses which I did not get pictures of, and several sets of hunting outfits including this one belonging to Mary. Of all the looks presented, this one was most my style. Over the years, I’ve had several things that looked a bit like this with different cuts and fits. Nix the tie, though.

This is my style. I was born in the wrong era.

Much of this was like wandering through a J. Peterman catalog in the early days of the company, or in the case of the hunting outfits, Banana Republic, before it was bought and sanitized by The Gap.

Dresses from Lady Edith and Lady Mary
Dresses from Lady Grantham and Lady Mary. I love the red one, but I would need some kind of wrap.

I was originally just going along “for the ride” and a chance to see friends of mine who live out of state and not near enough for me to see when I visit my mother. I really enjoyed this more than I expected to and now I find that I miss the show even though it often annoyed me with its predictability. As my friend said, “there’s some comfort in that predictability.”

There’s a Downton Abbey Movie coming out soon, and this whole experience has got me thinking about historical fiction and the writer’s ability to put themselves in another era through research. My resort project may do that, but I have to decide what era to put it in, since the real resort was visited by Mark Twain and didn’t close until the 1960s. There are several eras to choose from.

Nothing Succeeds Like Excess

Okay, back to Downton. Since I already have enough clothes that are close enough to costumes that I don’t have anywhere to wear them, I avoided buying anything in the “gift shop” they set up for the exhibit. I would have loved a hat, but I already have several, and I really can’t buy any more blank books, though I love this one with a quote from the Dowager Countess, Violet Crawley.

Family · Health Care · Life on the Island · Uncategorized · Writing Life

Passing Time

Almost as simply as turning a calendar page, the air of summer has changed. The humidity has lessened here somewhat and a cool breeze foreshadows the coming autumn. This is as ever, a bittersweet time for me. I need the summer warmth and ease more than I used to, and I will be sorry to see it go.

August, already?

This school year will be a big one. T starts classes at the local community college in a couple of weeks. He is out of our tiny high school and into a much larger, more diverse arena. I hope that it will be good for him. P will be a Junior at the high school and starting to look at colleges as well.

I will try to make the most of my unemployed status. I have to get out of the house more this winter, and I need something new to work on. Ordinarily at this time of year, I’d be pining to take classes of my own. Of course since I am not working, no one is going to pay for me to go back to school. With all the medical bills, and tuition for T, loans for me are not an option.

I also seem to be going through something. It’s hard to tell whether it’s fatigue and depression or a true evolution, but I may be finally letting go of a career dream I’ve had for 20-plus years.

How do you know when to give up on a dream? I mean, it sounds so defeatist to say it like that, but I’m not sure that I really feel defeated anymore. I certainly did when my dream job was given to a less qualified man several years ago. It broke me. But I also knew that in the three months I had the job, I proved that I could do it and was very good at it. The hiring manager’s agenda had nothing to do with my qualifications or capabilities. I knew when I left though, that I would probably never get another shot, which is what broke my heart so completely.

That was over six years ago. When I think about it though, it still feels like yesterday in spite of since having had five years with a great manager and team, and lots of wonderful, creative challenges since. What’s different now is that I’m not sure I would apply for similar jobs anymore. I can’t yet tell if it’s because I’m tired of running up against an impenetrable wall or if I have truly moved on.

My lifelong interest in education and education policy also seems to be fading. I was on my local school board for 12 years and I loved it. For years I would independently dig in to the weeds of education policy and try to understand, without ever having held a teaching job, what made for a great school, teacher, classroom. I certainly still have my opinions, but I have noticed that our public school policies have gotten farther and farther away from what I might have considered ideal, The testing regime still lingers, charter schools have arguably made things worse overall, and it’s not a battle I have energy for or much interest in any longer.

Part of it, I think, is my age. I’m going to be 53 at the end of the summer. Assuming I make it, I will have outlived my father. When I was a child, no one could have predicted I’d live this long. Here, I am, way past expectations. The unexpected hiatus due to layoff and health problems has felt like a significant chapter closing. It has me asking; assuming I make it through transplant and regain my strength, what do I want to do with my “Book 2?”

For years I have wanted a job that involved less desk sitting, solitary heads-down work, more meeting, consulting and collaborating. Writing, of course, is none of the latter, but it might provide me with a little more variety than an office job. When I’m healthier, I want to do more travel, and I’m hoping that the things that I research and choose to write about will facilitate that. I’ve been dabbling a little, trying to figure out what the business of writing looks like, training I did not get in college. I have submitted a short story to a publication, and I’m looking to do more. I still am better at non-fiction than fiction, but I’m working on it.

Family · Uncategorized

Something to Celebrate!

Happily, we got out of town for a few days around Independence Day. It’s been hard to even think about celebrating this country lately because we are so far from the ideals we were founded on. It would have been awfully hard to watch our town’s traditional parade and the bonfire we have instead of fireworks. It would have been hard to go through these motions, the same as every other year, as if this year the country wasn’t burning down around us.

Thankfully, this year my husband’s family had a reunion. We rented a house in Vermont for 29 people. Only one person, one of my nephews in flight school, wasn’t able to make it.

L is the oldest of six and his family is scattered all over the country. Before we had kids of our own, we did a lot of traveling to where one brother or another was stationed, but with all of our kids getting older and having schedules of their own, it’s gotten harder and harder to get everyone together.

Ludlow, VT. Near Mt. Okemo, this house sleeps 30!

This reunion was two years in the planning. People far more organized than me took care of all the details. We travelled from all over the country, as far as Seattle and Mississippi to be together.

There were several times during our stay that I found myself close to tears of gratitude for having become a part of this family and that they were so loving and accepting. L and I have been married over 25 years and every so often it strikes me how lucky I am and how lucky our kids are to be a part of this clan. I can remember at one point sitting with many of them around the table thinking that this was the large, extended family I had always hoped for – the one for which I wrote stories played out in my childhood dollhouses. Here they were, in real life. I was surrounded by them.

There were twenty-nine of us and four dogs. Many of my nieces and nephews are now adults, starting lives of their own, scattered across even more states. One recently became a captain in the Air Force, another just bought a house and is expecting a child in November. One landed a killer first job in the office of her Senator. Two are starting college in the Fall.

Three generations watching old home movies.

There were old home movies that my sister-in-law had converted from the original film reels. I had heard about these, but never saw them. Apparently I somehow missed the ritual of showing them to each new significant other. L was never thrilled about them, so I didn’t pursue it back then. The clips went back to L’s first Christmases. Each new clip brought the next child, and through it all, my Mother-in-law was smiling. That, I think is what struck me the most.

For the most part, on that weekend, I forgot all about the politics of the day. I mean, we had a short conversation about my old bumpersticker and whether it meant that I was supporting Elizabeth Warren’s Presidential bid (currently, I’m team Kamala, though I love them both), but I was able to read, nap, talk to people about their lives, and mostly stay off Twitter. We watched Wimbledon matches instead of the news.

Two generations playing Cards against Humanity . I managed not to be too embarrassed in front of my kids.

We talked about going to see Ludlow’s fireworks. There’s just something magical about fireworks (not to mention, my eighteen year old son discovered he could buy them in Vermont; they are illegal in Massachusetts). When we looked into it, we realized we could see the show from the house we were in. It was wonderful because the little ones could watch in their pajamas and head off the bed when they were done.

There was cake!

We played games, several folks took hikes to the nearby river. There was cake. My youngest nephew, aged seven, followed my youngest son, seventeen, everywhere. P is not crazy about little kids, but he was remarkably patient.

My only complaint was the heat. Since the house is mainly rented by skiers in the winter, there was no air conditioning. There were a couple of nights I ended up sleeping downstairs on the couch because it was cooler. The heat may or may not have contributed to the short battle I had with Afib while I was there. I was a little embarrassed to be such a wreck in front of everybody, but of course they were wonderful. I managed to get myself back into normal rhythm, so there was no trip to the hospital. Later, one of my sisters-in-law told me that she was planning to take time off to come help me post-transplant. She lives on the other side of the country. I’m just floored. And indescribably grateful.

As it happened, we had plenty to celebrate this Independence Day, and it was so nice to focus on other people, their humor, and their gifts instead of my health and the politics of the day. It’s hard to remember when I’m worried about being sick, or about money, or about my teenagers, or the state of the world; but, of all the things I imagined for myself when I was younger, I got this wonderful family. And I get a few moments, every so often, to sit quietly and revel in it.

Now in my head, I know the time was made sweeter by the fact that we don’t see each other that often, but in my heart, I sure do wish they all were closer.

Community · Family · Uncategorized · Writing Life

A Memory of Geraniums

The smell of geraniums reminds me of my grandfather. He instilled a love of gardening in me and though I can’t match his work ethic when it comes to fertilizing and weeding, I have a reasonably successful vegetable garden and plenty of flower pots around the yard, including several geraniums.

They are available in many more colors now than they were in the 1970s. I remember the geraniums in my grandparents’ yard as solid red, and occasionally white, growing in a basket hung from the lamppost opposite a sign with the house’s number and a name, “Squaw Rock.” The name came from the large rock formation between the back yard and the beach and there is also another formation with the same name off the coast of a different part of town. Although Native/Indian names are common in the town and surrounding area, “Squaw” is now considered a slur and the name has vanished from the property as it stands today.

Squaw Rock in a Storm

Geraniums and salvia were part of my summers. The salvia was a treat because you could pull the red center part from the rest of the flower and suck a tiny drop of nectar from the end. These days the salvia I see at garden centers is mostly purple, and the geraniums can be peach or even a lavender.

My mother and I are not in frequent contact, but when we do talk, I have made a point about asking clarifying questions about some of the family lore. For instance, my parents both grew up in New Jersey, but stories made it sound as if my mother’s parents had grown up in Connecticut. Which is it?

My grandparents grew up in Connecticut. I believe my grandmother’s father founded the Congregational Church in their town (that’s another thing I’ll have to clarify). My grandfather worked on a farm there and the owner of the land had connections that led to a job for my grandfather on Wall Street. After the Crash, he was laid off and came back to a job at a manufacturing plant in his home town. He was bored and he hated it. He set about trying to find work back on Wall Street – during the Depression. He did find a job with a firm that sold odd lots (small orders) of stocks, moved back to New York, and eventually did quite well.

Meanwhile, my grandmother was a teacher. One summer she was taking some sort of certification classes at Yale. On the last day of the session she offered a classmate, Martha, a ride home in her Model T. Martha’s brother, my grandfather, was home for the weekend, and when he met Anne, my grandmother, he asked her on a date right then and there.

The house at 405 Stuyvesant in New Jersey

They eventually married and moved to an apartment in New York. They quickly had two sons, but when Anne was pregnant with their third child, my mother, the two of them decided that they needed more room. The story goes that my grandfather got on a train to New Jersey after work one day and rode until the train came to a stop where there were a lot of trees. He got off the train, walked around the town and picked out a house. He bought it without my grandmother ever seeing it first. They raised five children in that house through the war and beyond. They would often rent a house in the summer back in Connecticut.

As it happened, a couple of decades later, my father opened his business several blocks away on the same street in New Jersey. My mother would eventually meet him when she applied for a secretarial position there after a few years away at college.

I only have the barest details of our family history, but I have been increasingly drawn back to the towns in Connecticut where I grew up and where my grandparents had a house on the beach that is the biggest part of my summer memories. It started last winter with my uncle’s funeral, and intensified when his daughter died this past winter. I wrote about this pull earlier this year. I really can’t explain it, but a sense of place has always been important to me. Where you grow up has a huge impact on your identity, and your perspective.

I think about the books I’ve read that are based in the South, and how the climate and the culture are almost characters unto themselves. Surely, New England has some of that, in stories like Olive Kitteridge , set in Maine. But, Connecticut? What stories are there? I’m sure there are plenty, and I need to start somewhere.

Uncategorized

Summer Ahead

We went out for ice cream with our neighbors last night after supper. We drove out to the old Dairy Maid and waited in line with lots of flip-flopped teenagers brimming with the energy their youth and a warm summer night affords. I sat with my double-dip cone and watched them laugh and gossip and compare outfits and make plans. They had the whole summer ahead of them, and anything could happen.

I remember those days, when a new summer meant more freedom and movement and possibility. I can only think of one or two summers when something actually did happen; a first kiss/boyfriend, and, several years later, the job at the club which put me in the middle of everything. Yet there was the same excitement around the start of summer as there was around the start of school – just different crowds.

I’m always surprised at how quickly we race into summer. We’ve barely packed away the parkas before we’re in shorts and sandals. We gobble up the sun and the sand as soon as we can stand it. I can remember putting my feet in the Long Island Sound as early as April – cold, but still delicious.

I used to be a cold weather person. I thought I was going to be one of those tough old folks who retired in Maine. Not anymore. I keep looking at places like Finland and Denmark which are considered some of the happiest countries in the world, and I wonder how they do it with the extended winters and the long, grey weather with only vague hints of daylight.

I am determined this summer to appreciate as much of the light as I can. It really has an impact on my mood these days so I run out to the back yard any time the clouds part. I may sit and read or I might plant or weed something, but the point is to appreciate being outside. If I could hoard the sunlight for the coming winter, I would certainly do so.

Uncategorized

Dystopia

Orwell was just a little too early.

L and I started watching The Man in the High Castle last winter. Perhaps it says something about my emotional state that I was not ready to try this series, until after our 2018 election revealed a possible light at the end of the Trump tunnel.

We were five or six episodes into the series before I decided I really loved it. When we got through all the available shows, I started to miss it. If you are not familiar with it, the series begins with the premise that the Axis powers won the WWII and the United states had divided into Nazi and Japanese territory. It’s not a huge surprise that I’d be drawn to this. It’s got two elements that I seem to come back to in a story, regardless of what else I read; WWII and dystopia.

Before Trump was elected in 2016, back when I still believed that I knew how the political game would play out, before I started to clearly see how much mud and filth was brought to bear on the electoral playing field, I used to imagine what life and politics would be like in the event of a Trump victory. It was a experimental dystopia, though some of it was pretty clear from long-standing Republican policy priorities. In reality, the destruction of “normal” has been so much worse, and so much faster than I imagined. 

At this writing, in addition to the “Wag the Dog” moves the Trump regime appears to be undertaking aimed at Iran, another immigrant child has died in US custody, and even more tent cities are being ordered to house more children; several states have passed strict anti-abortion legislation intended to eventually make it to the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade. Republicans who expressed reservations about Trump’s assertion that women who sought abortions should be punished, have tossed aside all such pretense now. The Georgia law leaves open the possibility that women who experience miscarriages could be investigated and potentially charged with murder, though experts differ on whether the law will really be used in this way. The same law demands the prosecution of women who travel out of state for abortion services and anyone who helps them, presumably with money or transport. Women in Georgia, it seems, are the property of the State. 

In addition to its own “heartbeat bill” Republicans in Ohio are seeking to ban private insurers from covering any abortion care including birth control pills and IUDs. The bill’s own sponsor is murky on the specifics of birth control methods and also believes that ectopic pregnancies can be replanted in the uterus. It really doesn’t matter. The point was never to get the science right, the point is to punish and trap women who have sex – whether they wanted that sex or not

We know you’re lying. Your lips are moving.

This is not even addressing the culture of constant lying that this regime perpetrates. It’s unreal. They will lie about big things, things that are easily fact checked, things that don’t matter. Even for those of us who are fairly well grounded in reality, facts, and research, it’s unsettling. And that too, is the point. If you are too confused to keep up, eventually, they figure, you’ll give up. It’s gotten to the point that, even if we had regime change tomorrow, it’s hard to know what kind of country we will have left.

Read that last sentence again. Now, I will tell you honestly that I hesitated several times before committing that sentence to print. Because in dystopias and authoritarian regimes, they go after critics eventually. Censorship and surveillance are part of the landscape. They are the lifeblood of governing by fear.

Every so often, it starts to look like we are coming to the end of this nightmare. Or at least the beginning of the end. Or the end of the beginning (Churchill in WWII). the next day there is some hold up or blockade that the Trump regime puts up to drag this out as long as possible. He’s currently floating the idea that he might serve more than two terms. It’s supposedly a joke, but what he’s doing is normalizing the idea for his followers with the hope that they will expect and demand it. It’s exhausting and bad for the country’s health.

Of course the point of most dystopian novels is the characters who find it within themselves to fight back, to disrupt the power grab. This was also the work of the Resistance/Maquis/Partisans in WWII.

If you’ve ever wondered what you would have done in 1930s Germany; you’re doing it now. Health problems and the miasma of teenage uberdrama have kept me on the sidelines, but I am increasingly less satisfied there. Rebellion is in my nature. I’ve been trying to find my voice for the past year, and have bounced back and forth between keeping a watchful eye and guarding my mental and emotional health. This has bothered me since January, 2017 when I was too sick to go to the Women’s March in Boston. I was with them all in spirit, but it wasn’t the same.

Uncategorized

Not Today

Thirty years later, Arya Stark is the character I always wanted to be.

I didn’t really start reading fantasy novels until my senior year of high school and they kept me company well into my twenties – the very difficult years during and after college. There were plenty of heroes, but outside of The Mists of Avalon, I can’t recall a female main character that I admired or stuck with me.

Maisie Williams as Arya Stark

All along I figured that if I ever wrote a fantasy novel, it would be centered around a character who, in my day, would have been called a tomboy; who was a girl, but more interested in guy things and guy friends, was close to her father, lost him at a young age, as both Arya and I did, pushed her way to being trusted with a sword, and taught to fight. To look at her, you might not expect much, but she made a career out of surprising people.

I know there’s a tendency to dismiss fantasy as a genre. Years ago I had a co-worker who proclaimed that fantasy novels were just romance novels with names like Stavrin and Vayle. I was insulted, but he was not wrong. They are escapes, and they can be formulaic. I certainly didn’t know very many women who read them; but people were often surprised to hear I had played Dungeons and Dragons at one time. “Yes,” I would tell them, “and our Dungeon Master was a woman too!”

I gave up fantasy novels for years until, after grad school, I somehow stumbled on Game of Thrones, the first in the not yet completed Song of Ice and Fire series. I’m not sure what drew me in, but the fact that the author dared to kill off a major character in the first book surprised me so much that I kept on reading as new installments became available. I was thrilled that HBO had picked up on the series and I wondered how well it would do with what I expected to be a small audience. I had no idea it would be so popular.

I’m in my fifties now, my sword swinging opportunities long passed (I did get the opportunity to wield a sword in a shopping mall in Ottawa years ago. I was surprised by how good it felt). I’m not sure I’ll ever see a woman President, the women in the race today are struggling for media attention and the “likability” factor. I can remember the days at a company I worked for early in my career where any woman in a management position was either divorced or never married, and there are only a tiny percentage of women on corporate boards today, and we still don’t have equal pay. Our society continues to ratchet up the standards of parenting without much support for families. Every day there is a news item about another legislative assault on women’s reproductive health, and the Trump regime shows that women have not made as much progress as you would expect in thirty years.

So, I’m grateful for Arya; that young women might see themselves in her, even if they never want wield a sword. I’m grateful for this new generation of freshman women in the House of Representatives, even if I don’t always agree with them. I’m gratified by the efforts of the #MeToo movement, the Women’s March, and #TimesUp. I am excited about the possibilities of SuperMajority.

We’re not where I hoped we would be as a country, as a society. We’re not even where I thought we were five years ago. I no longer have the energy of an Arya, or an Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. I never dared as they have. I’m stunned by the pushback that strong women are still encountering, but I see them forge ahead nonetheless. I am hopeful.