Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Thank Goodness for Summer!

The distractions of summer are more welcome than ever. While I publicly lament the loss of productivity thanks to shuttling girls to and from camps and friends' houses, I am secretly glad of the lack of time to sit and write. The truth is, I am stuck, and the questions themselves are a painful thicket of barbs and dry stems through which I am loathe to travel just yet.

A few months ago, I had renewed interest in my manuscript from a publicist/agent. We spent several glorious hours on the phone discussing the nature of the project and its importance to me as well as, we agreed, the importance to everyone interested in women's rights and reproductive issues.  She promised to review the most current draft and we scheduled a series of phone interviews between the two of us to solidify the content for the introduction to the book.  She has contacts at several publishing houses as well as a knowledge of self-publishing and I felt my excitement rise, envisioning a book in my hand as soon as winter. Finally.

The interviews were postponed. Changed at the last minute. Eventually, cancelled altogether. She cited serious health issues and I agreed to give her space to work them out and wait for her return.  But without her interest in the project, her enthusiasm and gentle guidance, I am floundering.  I have retreated to that place I have been in so many times before: me and the work.  I no longer have any rational perspective. At this point, I have been working on this book in some form or another for nine years, interviewing, writing, researching, re-writing, editing, submitting.  I know the subject is relevant, but I no longer have any sense of direction or understanding where I am in the scope of the Universe. I am sitting in the middle of a kayak in the ocean with no land in sight and no clue which way to go. I have an oar, but I am probably just setting out in ever-widening circles without some frame of reference.

Several times over the past month I have set out to re-write the introduction myself, send copies of the manuscript to fellow writers for their 'blurb' and attempt to re-submit to publishers. I have convinced myself that, if this agent was interested, others will find the redeeming qualities in it, too. It is just a matter of finding the right fit.  But the notion is truly exhausting. I have been down this road before and what I was looking for was a partner who knew the path to walk beside me.  Instead, she pulled me down the road with her in her enthusiasm and then left me, saying she would be back soon.  I would like to muster up the energy to continue on without her but, honestly, without another person who is as excited about this body of work as me, it's tough.

So much has changed since I started writing that book.  I am still as passionate, if not more, about women being able to tell their stories without shame. I still believe that we need to have open, honest discussions about the ways in which women and girls are subjected to an entirely different standard than men and boys are and how that affects us all.  What has changed is my writing, my confidence in telling my own stories, and my willingness to subject myself to the social media publicity machine.  I created a website for the book and started a Facebook page, but I am woefully unable to keep up the schedule of harnessing interesting news items and resources to populate them with. I am simply not interested in continually updating, reTweeting, and refreshing pages with information. I want to go back to the days where a writer wrote diligently and purposefully, threw his or her work out into the world, and then went back to write some more.  The idea that I could publish this book and then be sucked in to promoting it over and over again, going on a speaking circuit or showing up at virtual locations where the topic is salient, Tweeting and writing pithy Facebook blurbs that are related, and become branded the writer who writes about reproductive rights gives me hives.  I love this subject. I am invested in it. But I love to write about other things, too. I love to write.

So while I sit and puzzle this all out - wondering whether or not I have the wherewithal to push yet again to complete another draft of this manuscript and go through the motions of marketing it - there are days where I find myself sitting quietly at the computer wishing that Eve and Lola would come beg me to go for a walk or a picnic with them.  I am dreading the start of school because it will force me to sit down and write, or decide to finally let this project sit where it is forever.  I can't imagine doing either of those things, frankly, but I'm not sure where the middle road is.


Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Trick Memories



I lived in Wyoming for a year when I was a kid. The stories I've always told about that time come with a whiff of distaste, a prolonged eye-roll, and a disgusted shake of the head.  I talk about the dusty dryness, the near-constant 40mph winds that drove any plant over six inches tall right out of the ground and into the neighbors' yard, and the ugliness of it all.  I know, somewhere back in the recesses of my mind, that much of my disdain had to do with the fact that I was twelve or thirteen when I moved there, the emotional turmoil I felt related to my parents' divorce and my father's remarriage, the guilt I had about actually liking my stepmother, but somehow the story stuck over time.

It was punctuated with examples of how out-of-place I felt moving from southern Oregon to Wyoming, making the transition from ballerina of five or six years to...nothing. There was no ballet studio in Green River, Wyoming in 1983. From the Levi's 501 button-fly jeans that fit me perfectly to a town where Wranglers were the only option, and they were preferably worn with cowboy boots.  From my mom's homemade lasagne to chicken-fried steak and cow tongue sandwiches. I was in an alien land and I tell people that I hated every second of it.  

But last week when Bubba and I took the kids to Jackson Hole (admittedly a great deal different than Green River) for a vacation, as soon as I stepped off of the rolling staircase from the plane, I was reminded of other things about Wyoming.  

I remembered the smell of sagebrush after a rainstorm.
I recalled chasing (and sometimes catching) horny toads on the hill at the top of our street in the blazing sunshine with the neighbor kids.
I was transported back to the clear, warm nights sleeping in the backyard under the stars - millions of stars - listening to the dry schuck-schuck of the tumbleweeds as they rolled past the fence in the empty lot behind our house.  

I spent last week doing new things like paragliding off the top of Rendezvous Mountain with Lola (abso-freaking-lutely the coolest thing I've ever done, hands down) and paddleboarding around String Lake, but I also spent a significant amount of time reminiscing about the things I loved about Wyoming.  

I remember the epic thunderstorms we would get in the summertime when the sky would turn absolutely black in one spot and you could smell the electricity in the air mere seconds before the lightning struck the low hills around town.  The sky would unzip and water would gush from the clouds for five or ten minutes, and sometimes hailstones the size of shooter marbles would rain down, too.  When it was over, the sun would appear hot and unperturbed and the wet streets would steam as we all wheeled our bikes out of whoever's garage we had taken quick refuge in to chase each other through the puddles while they lasted.  

I remember the freedom of getting to reinvent myself in the sixth grade. Always before, I had been a shy, girly-girl who was not very adventurous, but when I arrived in this new town with a new family I was free to be whomever I chose - not tethered by my past and the people who had known me since Kindergarten.  I rode my bike down steep streets, a squirt bottle in one hand, weaving and cutting in the thick of a water fight among all of the kids on our block.  I went out for basketball and spoke my mind more than ever before.  I sliced my ring finger open from the nail to the first knuckle and didn't realize it until the cute neighbor-boy pointed it out, marveling at how "tough" I was that I didn't pass out at the sight of so much blood or scream that it hurt or shed even one tear. Never before had I been called "tough."  

As Lola and Eve discovered the wonders of Wyoming (even getting so lucky as to witness a "gullywasher" of a rain/hail storm), I found myself doing a little more reinvention, or perhaps revision.  From now on, I will tell a different story of my time in Green River, this time complete with all of the things I had forgotten.  I feel as though I have gained an entirely new chapter of my childhood by revisiting this place and being open to the memories that were triggered by the unique smells and characteristics of this place.  


Friday, July 12, 2013

Have Texas Republicans Gone Mad?

I have refrained from posting about much of the recent hoopla happening in Texas around the 20-week abortion ban (as it is known, although that is a woefully inadequate title, since it has much farther-reaching implications), mostly because it is exhausting to follow the speed at which changes occur. However, I also have stayed away from it because I know that most of my readers are well-aware of my position on this issue and probably don't need to hear any more about it from me.

That said, does anyone else feel as though we have dropped into another dimension entirely with some of the news coming out of Texas? Like a Monty Python or Simpsons-as-reality show dimension?  For the most part, I try to understand the position of someone who doesn't believe the same as I do. For the most part, I do my best to put myself in their shoes and try to figure out why they might feel the way they do.  For the most part, I can assert my beliefs without disparaging or belittling those whose beliefs oppose mine.  And I certainly don't intend to start saying nasty things about the politicians in Texas who are so forcefully pushing this bill, but I do wonder whether they can appreciate the absurdity to which they have resorted?

When a woman is forcibly removed from a hearing on the legislation, where women testifying about their painful personal histories with unintended pregnancies were routinely shamed and slandered by the opposition for pointing out that the "doctor/legislator" running the hearing was an opthalmologist and not an OB/GYN or even a family doctor, things are getting a little crazy.

When taxpayer dollars are utilized to confiscate "feminine hygiene products" at the state capitol building in advance of the vote, but a separate line was offered for those who wished to carry concealed weapons inside, I wonder what the goal is here.  Any woman who happened to be menstruating and wanted to enter was forced to play a little Russian Roulette by discarding her tampons and sanitary napkins at the door and hoping she wouldn't need a little extra protection before she left.  I'm pretty sure nobody's going to get harmed with a stray tampon, but an errant (or passionately discharged) bullet could certainly do some harm.

When a politician can sit and say, with a straight face, that sexual education, properly administered by trained educators, leads to horny teens who have unprotected sex, I worry about the future of America.

I can't figure out whether these lawmakers are so frightened by the uprising they spurred by trying to shut the likes of Wendy Davis (as the mouthpiece for thousands of Texas women who were not allowed to speak on their own behalf) up that they have lost their minds.  Are they so smack in the middle of a fight-or-flight response that they feel like any fight will do? Rational or not? Or have they convinced themselves of their own arguments and they are just as baffled by the women and men who are vigorously and loudly opposing them all over the nation?  Whatever it is, I certainly hope the momentum continues for this fight, that there are honest folks out there who continue to report on the ridiculous lengths to which these rich, white men will go to deny choice to women and girls, and that they eventually get shut down in the next Texas election.  This is one time where I can honestly say that I have lost all ability to understand where the other side is coming from. They are speaking a language I've never heard before and don't care to learn, if learning it means I'll make no sense to compassionate, rational human beings.

Saturday, July 06, 2013

I Hate Throw Pillows

I know it's inane, but they really do drive me nuts.  And I'm willing to admit it and I feel like I am old enough to do away with them altogether without apology.

I was a child of the 70s. My sister and I shared a bedroom with matching twin beds covered in matching Holly Hobbie bedspreads - yellow with yellow lace around the edges - and pillow shams.  Our beds were made every morning after we reluctantly rolled out of them to start the day.

As a teenager (of the 80s), I was lucky enough to have the thing most of my friends wanted - a waterbed.  It was my mother's concession to marrying a man who moved us from the town we had lived in the longest to the beach where he had always wanted to live.  My brother and I both got one - a double-size waterbed with stuffed naugahyde padding around the edges and a built-in headboard with padded doors hinged at the top so you could hide books or other things inside.  When we got the beds, we were warned sternly by my stepfather that it was important to always make the bed because if you didn't two (bad) things could happen:

1. The heat from the water mattress would escape up into the room, causing the bed's heater to work on overdrive to keep the mattress/water inside warm and drive up the electric bill, and

2. The cats could jump up on to the bed, drawn by its warmth, and dig their claws in, puncturing the mattress.

Since the cat(s) often slept in my bed, I became quite good at patching holes in the bed.
Since my stepfather didn't really understand the notion of privacy, I dutifully pulled the thick comforter over my bed every morning before heading to school.

As soon as I left for college, I vowed to never make my bed again.  It is one of those things that always seemed silly to me, like those people who brush their teeth right before bed and then again first thing in the morning.  Seriously? Yes, you can tell your dentist that you brush twice a day, but you haven't eaten anything in between those two brushings, so what does it matter? Wouldn't it make more sense to brush them on your way out the door after breakfast? Or mid-morning? After lunch?

Anyway, over the years I have stuck to that vow.  Once a week or so, I change the sheets on the bed and then I make it because it would be ridiculous not to. But otherwise, I rarely feel compelled to get out of bed and tidy it before starting my day.  And I have never felt compelled to dress it up with a pile of pretty pillows made just for that purpose. Until last year, when we put our house on the market and my realtor started talking about staging the house for showings.  She advised me to go out and get a new comforter set, complete with pillow shams and coordinating throw pillows.  Even though I knew she was right, it made me nuts to go spend a few hundred dollars on something like that.

The house sold in three days and now I'm stuck with that comforter set.  It has two King-size pillow shams and two square pillow shams for a total of four extra (enormous) pillows that will never fall under the weight of someone's head.  Want to know where they are? Two of them routinely find themselves propped on top of the laundry basket in my room where I have to shove them aside every time I want to put some dirty clothes in. The other two rotate between the cedar chest under the window and the top of the dresser. I won't put them on the hardwood floor because the dog would assume they were his new bed, and I don't put them on the bed during the day because that is too close to 'making the bed' for my taste.  One day a week, when the sheets get changed, they make it to their prescribed spots, arranged at the head of the bed. Otherwise, they are simply in my way.  And yet, I don't get rid of them. Because who gives two King-size pillows (with shams) and two 14x14" pillows (with shams) to Goodwill without the matching comforter?

And so I ask, for the people who have throw pillows on their beds and who actually make their beds every day; what do you do with the pillows at night when you're sleeping? Do they take up space on a chair in your room? Do they get unceremoniously tossed on the floor? Where do they live? And how did this trend of decorating our beds even begin in the first place?
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