On dealbreakers and the election

The US election has come to pass.  I am heartbroken.  Sad, angry, afraid.  I am not alone.

And there are white people who voted for Trump saying they voted for him because of his policies on the economy, immigration, foreign relations, etc.

Here’s a story.  A true story.  During one of the previous elections, I was considering voting for the Green party candidates.  I agreed with a lot of their proposed policies.  However, I then read that the candidate was Catholic and that affected their stance on abortion (in a way that limited abortion).  For me, a threat to a woman’s bodily autonomy is a dealbreaker.  So I didn’t vote Green party.

The fact that Trump’s racism, misogyny, and other bigoted policies/ideas/beliefs were not dealbreakers for a significant percentage of white people is disturbing.  (I am only speaking to the motivations of white American voters here.  I am a white woman.  I will not speak to the motivations of POC who voted for Trump.)

For too long, white people have insisted that racism no longer exists, or that they don’t see race, just people.  Well, guess what?  I see you.

The world sees you.

And I hope with every last ounce of what Americans are supposed to consider great about America (life, liberty, pursuit of happiness, etc.) that you pick up a big mirror and look.  Look at yourselves.  Hard.

We see you.

In a way, it’s good.  The racism and other bigotries are all out in the open now.  No more couching them in the language of “colour-blindness” or hey-you-can-marry-now-why-are-you-still-complaining.  No more microaggressions and subtle discriminations.

This post is not simply to guilt-trip the white people who voted for Trump.  I recognize that I, as a white woman, must accept some portion of blame, even though I voted for Hillary.

I should have been louder about supporting Hillary and about why I did.  (I have voted for third-party candidates in the past.  This time, however, I saw the clear danger Trump and Pence presented and knew I had to vote for Hillary, because she could win.  The US’s two-party system is flawed and frustrating.  However, there were too many lives at stake this time.)

I should have worked harder at expressing my fears and exposing the ridiculousness of letting a man with zero experience and a ton of arrogance, bigotry, and a lack of caring into the highest office of power in the United States.

Yes, there are some people I never would have convinced.  Some people are like a wall™ you can never get through, or even over, to their hearts.

Now the work of all of us is much harder.  It is coming together to protect those most vulnerable, most in danger from the out-in-the-open racism, homophobia, misogyny, xenophobia, and ableism.  It is being louder than hate.

Yes, a part of me wants to wash my hands of America.  I have that privilege.  I live in Canada.  I can choose not to visit the States so long as Trump is in office.  I can even seek Canadian citizenship.

There is also a part of me that can’t turn my back on the mess.  I have friends and family in the States.  I am too invested in my ideals of equality/equity and freedom.  People will be harmed in Trump’s America.  I will not ignore that.

What will we do now?  Do it now.

 

Julying

Well, I’ve lapsed in my blogging again.  It’s summer.  I’ve also been occupied by personal stresses and the impending US election (yes, I’ve sent in my voter registration).

I did want to do a post, however, to let you all know about two great anthologies published in June in which I am excited to have work.

The first anthology is a Prince tribute published by Yellow Chair Review.  It’s called A Prince Tribute …only wanted one time to see you laughing and can be purchased here. My poem “Now you are gone” found a home there among sexy, sweet, sad, and beautiful poems draped in purple.

The second anthology is called Unrequited:  An Anthology of Love Poems About Inanimate Objects and is edited by Kelly Ann Jacobson.  It can be purchased here or here. My poem “Singer” found good company in this anthology that features poems to food, appliances, backyard decor, nature, and more.

As I am not sure how frequent my blogs will be for the next little while, if you want to keep up with me you can catch me on Twitter.  I post things about writing, politics, food, and personal stuff on there.

Enjoy your July!

What’s going on, March?

Once again, I’ve gotten out of the habit of blogging regularly.  I do tweet regularly, so if you are eager to keep up with me, you can check out my Twitter account here.

This month, I participated in a collaborative novel project through the Collaborative Writing Challenge. Last August, I signed up to write a chapter for the newest project, a fantasy novel titled Wych Born.  I was quite excited at the time, as I was already working on my own fantasy novel and doing a collaborative project sounded interesting.  We the writers got to vote on the starter chapters (and, later, cover art).

In this case, a western-style chapter won, throwing the novel into a fantasy western story.  I admittedly had some apprehension after this, as I am not a fan of most westerns.  The weeks went by.  I lost track of the chapter summaries, as I was more focused on my novel and on my offline life.  Then my turn to write came up earlier this month.

I got caught up on the chapter summaries and notes.  I still was uncertain about this story.  In the end, I decided to take the challenge and wrote the chapter.  The way this challenge works, multiple people write a particular chapter.  The story coordinator then decides which chapter fits the story best or moves it in the right direction.

I decided to view the chapter as a challenge.  Could I write something in a genre in which I have little interest?

The answer is yes.

And, to my surprise and amusement, the story coordinator loved my chapter (with some edits so it flowed better with the rest of the story).  My Chapter 25 will appear in the finished Wytch Born novel.

Take-away from this experience:  challenge yourself to write outside your comfort zone.  You might be pleasantly surprised.

As March is drawing to a close, I’ve been thinking about NaPoWriMo.  For the past three years, I’ve taken part in that daily poetry-writing challenge.  This year, however, I have decided not to take part.  I still have a good deal of work to do on my novel, and I want to focus on it.

I’m sure poems will still sneak into my days, though.

 

 

What emotion will you choose today?

Trigger warning:  talk about mental illness, suicide.

There are a couple of memes going around my Facebook timeline presently that assert that happiness is a choice.

The thing is, if you are going to say that happiness is a choice, then you’re allowing that unhappiness is also a choice.

Would a person really choose to be unhappy?  Sometimes, maybe, yes.  Maybe, in the twisted logic of distress, one would choose to be unhappy (perhaps as a way to punish someone else or even oneself).

If it is a matter of choosing our emotions, do we choose to be frightened by loud noises?  Do we choose to be angry when someone taunts us?  Do we choose to be sad when someone we love dies?

If unhappiness and its more serious and sometimes chronic cousin depression are choices, then unhappy people should be able to snap right out of it simply by choosing to be happy, right?

I suspect that anyone who believes that has never been in the jaws of depression.  So deep in the self-hatred and feelings of failure that every move, every decision is a painful one.  So agonized that suicidal ideation becomes a release; death becomes an option (however fleeting), because the dead don’t feel.

The idea that we can choose our emotions also leads to a disturbing phenomenon that’s already too prevalent in our society:  victim-blaming.  Blaming sad people for feeling sad. Ultimately, blaming the mentally ill for being mentally ill.  (People with depression are exceedingly capable of blaming themselves, so we don’t actually need help from society at large on that score.)  I mean, if sadness/depression/anxiety/fear/anger/jealousy/etc. are all choices, we only have ourselves to blame for feeling them, right?

And that is just not helpful.

It is true that we have control over our emotions, at least some of the time.  I’m sure a number of you reading this know all about forcing happiness at work, especially if you have a customer service job.  I know about that.  I also know how emotionally harmful it can be.  Controlling your emotions or forcing yourself to display a particular emotion, however, is not the same as choosing to feel one emotion over another.

Let’s go back to an assumption regarding the memes:  that choice is simple.  (Yes, the memes do not explicitly say the choice is simple.  However, it is implied.)  Not all choices are easy.  Some are gut-wrenching, soul-tearing, difficult decisions. Many range in difficulty levels between those two extremes.  Arguably, choosing to be happy could be simple, excruciatingly difficult, or somewhere in-between depending on the person.

Allowing that choices aren’t all simple, can we really choose our emotions?  Can you really wake up in the morning and say, “I choose to be happy today?”  I think that’s far-fetched.  What you can choose to do is to face the day with a hope that you will feel positive most of the day and a determination to face any challenges that come along.  That is not the same as choosing your emotional state.

As Zero Dean says on this blog post:

“No. Happiness is not a choice. Attitude is a choice.”

This idea is better than the whole happiness-is-a-choice one.  Even with attitude, though, changing your attitude can be as difficult as moving a mountain.  (Remind me of that the next time my kid is acting up, and I say, “Change your attitude.”)

Not everyone can change their attitude and feel better every time, as Therese Borchard discusses in this article:

“That’s what bugs me about ‘happiness is a choice’ philosophies. I think they work on mild and moderate depression, definitely on situational depression. But for some forms of severe depression and treatment-resistant depression or complicated mood disorders — at least for those periods of time when you’re on your knees begging God to take you — my experience has been that any attention to your thoughts only makes it worse.

…The trick is knowing when to apply optimism, cognitive behavioral therapy, and all the brain exercises that can form new neural passageways, and when to turn the brain off and just keep swimming.”

We humans need all our emotions, and it’s okay to feel them.  It is okay to feel sad or mad or glad or silly.  Feeling a wide range of emotions is healthy.

And I get it.  Memes don’t take into account every person, every situation, etc.  They are sound bytes in a world bombarded with messages.  They are images thrown into the vast sea of social media to inspire or to ridicule or to attempt levity in a world that has exploded with seriousness, because we have up-to-the-minute access to the terrors in our world.

I also know that these little bombarding bits of information add to the overriding culture. A drop in a bucket may be only a drop in a bucket.  But many similar drops in the same bucket change the whole amount in the bucket.

 

Little poem

I wrote this little poem in November.  Enjoy.

They say poetry is dead
out of my head
in my head
long live poetry!

They say Twitter is dead
running out of funds
and fun
full of cliques and trolls
with guns
long live Twitter!

They say Facebook is dread
full of targeted ads
and unwanted opt-out opt-ins
long forgive Facebook!

© 2016 by Robin A. Sams

End of 2015

Well, the December holidays have rushed past.  I thought I would pause to reflect on some of the writing highlights from my year:

NaPoWriMo:  I took part in NaPoWriMo again this year, writing a poem a day for the month of April.  My poems can be read on this blog, starting here.

Cascadia Poetry Festival:  I had the fortune of attending the Cascadia Poetry Festival, which was held in my town this year.  I listened to many new (to me) poets, read some of my own poetry during the Living Room readings, and acquired three new books of poetry.

Channillo:  I tried something different this year in splashing feet-first into the realm of subscription-based, serial literature.  I wrote a series of blackout poetry based on Piers Anthony’s Xanth novel The Color of Her Panties and put it up on Channillo.com.  While the series completed in November, it is still available for reading here.  (You can subscribe to 1-10 series for $4.99 per month.)

NaNoWriMo:  In November, I took part in NaNoWriMo to work on my fantasy novel.  While I did not reach the 50,000-word goal, I did reach 20,693 words and got a good start on the novel.  As the new year approaches, I’m gearing up to get back into novel-writing.

Publications:  This year, I had a total of five poems published in textIsland Writer magazine, and the e-zine Restless.  I also had a book review published in Island Parent magazine, which you can read on my blog here.

Reviews:  Besides the previously mentioned review, I also reviewed the Genderific Coloring Book here on my blog.  Given the popularity of that post, I’m looking forward to posting more reviews in the coming year.

I am also looking forward to working more on my novel and submitting more poetry.  I hope to get more blog posts happening on here, which I realize is an annual hope.

In the meantime, I have Yule-Christmas decorations to take down.  I will be spending the evening with my spouse and child, watching a movie, maybe playing games, and enjoying the toll of midnight with a glass of sparkling apple juice.

 

November is here. Time to put pencil to paper, fingers to the keyboard. Go!

My poetry series on Channillo will be drawing to a close later this month.  I have four more poems to write and upload to the site.

In the meantime, I am starting NaNoWriMo this month as a way to motivate me to continue work on my novel.  I’d had the idea for the book in my head for several years and started writing notes and several scenes earlier this year.  Then, mid-summer, the writing stopped.

Now I am planning to get back into it and get my story out onto the page.

Sore’s Anniversary

Today is the one-year anniversary of the launch of my first poetry book Sore:  fantasies and inhibitions. Why not celebrate by buying a copy today?  🙂

I’m quite pleased with how this book turned out.  The poems are jam-packed with desire, longing, love, sex, loneliness, jealousy, caring.  They are a love note, an explosion of pent-up desire, a long-held longing.  I enjoyed writing these poems.

Creating the book was a learning curve and a great experience.

I hope all of you who read my book enjoy it and share it with others you think will enjoy it.

And thank you for supporting me.

The Genderific Coloring Book!

Last month, through a post shared by my friend and fellow writer Katje van Loon, I heard about an artist seeking parent bloggers to review her new colouring book.  It wasn’t just any colouring book but a colouring book about gender identity.  Yes, please!  So here is my review of The Genderific Coloring Book by Sophie LaBelle.


GenderificColoringBook

This colouring book is filled with fun images that bring awareness to the fact that gender isn’t as simple as girl/boy/boy/girl or as simple as looking at someone and saying, “Bam!  Girl!”  (And if you did say those exact words, the person in question would likely run away.)  The images presented in the book range from the realistic (children dressing up, roller skating, etc.) to the fantastical (dragons, giant pangolins, etc).

Here is a picture of mermaids my daughter and I coloured:

mermaidprincesscoloringpage

Do cats have genders?  There are a couple of pages in the book asking exactly that.  Here’s my child’s answer to one of them:

Cybercatcoloringpage

Cybercat is totally a gender.

This book makes a great addition to our homelearning environment.  It challenges ideas of what makes a girl/boy/other gendered-person and creates empowerment for children (and adults) to decide what their own gender is.  There is a page with the picture of a child and a banner that says, “My Gender is _______.”

My daughter was a bit confused about the term gender, as I suppose we hadn’t gone very in-depth about it before.  It would have been useful if the colouring book had a quick glossary for gender terms.  Then again, it provided a starting point for a discussion with my child about gender, and that works, too.

As for what colouring media work best on the paper, crayons work well and markers work fairly well.  There is little bleed-through with markers on the back of the page.  I did notice a couple pictures transferred marker marks onto the opposite page, so I advise making sure the marker is dry on one page before turning to another page.

About the artist/author:  Sophie LaBelle is the creator of the webcomic Assigned Male.  If you would like to support her, check out her Patreon account and buy this colouring book.  It’s fun and…genderific!

Puberty: Coming to a body near you!

The following book review first appeared in abridged format in the June 2015 issue of Island Parent Magazine (in print and in pdf on their web site).  I’m presenting the unabridged version here, as this book is an important tool for both parents and children.


Cover illustrated by Elisabeth Steinmeyer
Cover illustrated by Elisabeth Steinmeyer

Puberty, that tumultuous time of big changes, happens to every child.  How do we parents prepare our children for it?

There are many books on the subject, much Internet advice, and many variations on The Talk.  Now there is a new puberty book to add to the mix.  Puberty:  Coming to a body near you! is a puberty workbook written by local certified sex educator Kerri Isham.

Ms. Isham has a Bachelor of Physical Education and Bachelor of Education from Ottawa University.  She has taught in School District 69 for fourteen years; for ten of those years, she was a Sexual Health Educator at the middle school level.  I asked Ms. Isham what her goal was with the writing of this book.  She said:  “The goal of this book was to have kids and parents interact with each other, while discussing a topic that is difficult for some to talk about.  I wanted kids to be proud of their body changes and to be able to discuss these changes with confidence.  Puberty is a rite of passage and should be celebrated.”

This book is different than most books about puberty, in that it is interactive. When asked why a workbook, Ms. Isham replied, “I chose to make this a workbook instead of a book, because there are a lot of great books out there already. I couldn’t find a workbook, and I know some kids have a hard time reading a lot of text. This book is accessible for all learners.”

Despite containing thorough information on a variety of puberty-related topics, Puberty:  Coming to a body near you! does remain accessible.  Information is broken up into sections, many of which have accompanying worksheets to go with them.  (And, yes, there is an answer key at the end of the book.)  The book is filled with illustrations, pictures, and even drawing opportunities.

Three parts of this book stand out as favourites for me, besides the worksheet aspect of it.  First, there are illustrations of what different genitalia look like.  Media bombard us with a lot of images, but these images are so homogenized we tend to have a narrow view of what is “normal.”  Not all breasts (or anything else) look alike.  These illustrations help to normalize this unique-ness.  Second, I like that there are sections about gender and about sexual attraction.  Third, I am ecstatic that there is a section about consent.  I don’t recall any talk about consent when I was learning about puberty.  It was all about the changes and reproductive capabilities.  Consent is a talk as vital as any talk about physical and emotional changes.

Given that puberty can be a difficult topic for parents and kids alike to discuss, I asked Ms. Isham what the most important thing people don’t know about puberty is.  She said, “Easy…there is a WIDE range of normal. Being a unique being brings richness to the world.”

Overall, I love this book.  My daughter is a little young for it yet, but the time is coming soon; Ms. Isham’s website recommends this book for grades 3 to 7.

Kerri Isham also facilitates workshops on Vancouver Island about sexual health and media savvy.  She has workshops titled Body Smart (three different workshops for parents, divided by children’s age groups), Navigating Girl World:  Effective Strategies for Parenting Girls (I took this one a couple years ago, and it was great), Boxed In – Sexism and Gender Stereotypes, and 6 Must Have Conversations with Teens.  If you’re interested in Puberty:  Coming to a body near you! or any of the workshops, check out http://powerupworkshops.ca/ or e-mail powerupworkshops@gmail.com.