Birth Control, Facts, Feminism, Planned parenthood, Women, Women's March

Counting Up Your People.

Day #4.

You may think the hashtags are counting down the days (oh, so many) until we elect someone else. But actually, every day I am counting up the privileges I didn’t appreciate that are now threatened by the new Republican administration. Access to birth control. Accurate news. A president that tells the truth. The presence of elected women in the White House. To name four, on day four.

Women have marched and we are home now, reevaluating our strengths, finances and abilities to make change. The low-end estimate is 3.3 million  women and men that took to the streets on January 23rd, 2017. This is a fact. But I am one woman. What can my impact be?

I have given this a lot of thought — where can I make a difference —  even though by the end of the day I want to go on a dozen crusades. I mean National Endowment for the Arts?  Our National Parks? Freedom of the Press? But  I choose women’s bodies and for starters, Planned Parenthood.

Please unfriend me everywhere if you think God is involved in this decision. We will not agree and I am ok with that. If a man can obtain Viagra to go play I should have the exact same rights to obtain birth control to go play. Let’s put that on the table early here. You have a choice and I have a choice. Don’t click on this blog if you want to rant. I have work to do.

I have two daughters, and the thought that they will lose rights they were born into both stuns and infuriates me. Women are supposed to roll back the clocks to an era where men in suits decide when, where and what we can do with our bodies?

No

You know, I am going to rewrite my history in the next four years; my history of letting everyone else do the heavy lifting. I now get Twitter and Facebook feed from Planned Parenthood. I am stopping by next week to walk through the door and make an appointment to talk to someone about volunteering. One by one we need to walk, talk, count up and lace up. Remember this:

day32017I am, for better or for worse, privileged to be in my late 50’s and just now hear a call to action. But what better than a white woman full of words with some time to spare?

Find your people. Get to work.

emmagarfieldcom

Drawing by Emma Dane Garfield http://www.emmadgarfield.com @edg_originals

Standard
Feminism, Pussyhat, Vote, Women, Women's March

What She Carried.

Unable to slide my datebook into my purse today, I dumped the handbag unceremoniously over on the counter. Here, at the risk of going over my strict word limit, is what I found:

3 plastic dog poop bags, 4 different Boston restaurant matchbooks, stacks of crumpled receipts, a small notebook, my  checkbook, 2016 medical card (aha), 2 used handkerchiefs, 5 used kleenex, a ziplocked bag with 3 lip balms, 4 pairs of glasses, my Fitbit (finally), 5 hair clips, ear buds, mints, a book of stamps, a comb, five post-it pads, 6 pens, 2 pencils, 6 dusty dog biscuits, and a bra.

Really.

I should be embarrassed but in a strange, distancing-myself way I am fascinated by what she carried, this woman who ran rampant over the holidays, making, baking, decorating, wrapping, visiting, drinking, eating, not sleeping, not writing, feasting on family time. She needed lip balm. And very soon got the flu and needed tissue. She lost her glasses over and over. And her favorite bra after a massage session. A lot can be said about me, where I have been and where I want to go, if you look deep to the bottom of my handbag.

The 2016 presidential election has focused an intense spotlight on women — unexpected, thought provoking and worthy of examination. Women supported Trump overwhelmingly across the country despite everything he did that might indicate a different vote. No one looked deep enough into their purses and examined what they were carrying that affected their voting choice; their specific issues on jobs, healthcare, race, feminism. Turned out, just because they carried a purse did not mean they were going to support just any female politician.

I will be walking on January 21 in Seattle at the Women’s March. Don’t think I don’t have reservations, as the organizers dictate when and where participants can be silent and vocal. Or when I read the sheer numbers that are anticipated when as a firm rule I avoid crowds. But I am interested in what we carry, us women, and I hear we will all be there, dumped onto the streets in our pink hats, shouting our views, making the contents of our beliefs and feelings seen and heard.

America the beautiful. America the brave. We the people. Me, the coward, in the midst of it all. It is a year of seismic changes, from the street to my purse. Time to understand each other, to look deep, to lock arms. Even to shout.

pussyhat

 

 

Standard
Read, writing

Books I Loved in 2016

Seems like a great day to review Alexandra Dane’s Best Reads of 2016 — a purely self-interest, subjective culling from the fifty books I read over the course of the year. I read everything and anything that catches my eye, mostly everything recommended to me, and then thousands of words every week of other writers’ rough drafts. I like to believe this is better than Sudoko.

2016 Favorites

Slade House — David Mitchell: I went down the rabbit hole with this author and would do it again. Don’t read late at night.

My Name is Lucy Barton — Elizabeth Strout: Spare scenes, complicated memories, will go down in literary history as one of the best books that makes the reader fill in the blanks and work for the story.

When Breath Becomes Air — Paul Kalanithi: Just read it. You need these words to wake up every day and feel blessed and mindful.

Girl at War — Sara Novic: With so much of our world at war, this story, through the eyes of a girl, will make you listen to the news differently.

Sweetbitter — Stephanie Danler: You can see a pattern of my favorites. Give it to me slant and I will eat it up. Pardon the pun. Intense story from behind the food scene.

Another Brooklyn — Jaqueline Woodson: Don’t let this thin volume fool you, the story whacks a good punch of awareness and meaning.

The Absolute True Diary of a Part-time Indian — Sherman Alexie: I am late to the gate with Sherman Alexie, especially since I spend so much time in the city of Seattle which adores him. It is no secret I love the straight-forwardness of YA and this is no exception. I asked my local Seattle bookstore owner (Phinney Books) which one of Alexie’s many genres to begin with (poetry, non-fiction, fiction, YA) and this is what he plucked off the shelf. And FYI Tom Nissley’s monthly newsletter offers a trove of good, thoughtful suggestions. Just saying — anyone can subscribe.

How To See: Looking, Talking and Thinking About Art — David Salle: The character of art itself not just the artists. Thought provoking for your year of culture ahead.

The Man Called Ove — Frederick Bachman: Don’t see the movie first, find a copy of this book and feast your eyes and heart on the unexpected lessons of love, life, anger and cats.

The Atomic Weight of Love — Elizabeth Church: A woman, an atomic bomb, an era. When I read it, in spring 2016, women were about to break the last glass ceiling. Rereading it at the end of the year, I feel the tragedy of women’s choices even more acutely. Perhaps my favorite read of 2016.

There are plenty of books I wrote down in the back of my diary that I would never read again, fiction and nonfiction, but every, single read makes me think and that is the goal, no?

Cheers and Merry and A Healthy New Year, readers.

And ps. send me ideas for 2017!

Alexandra Dane

 

cuppa

 

 

Standard
#crushtour, Begin anew, Choices, Golf Fights Cancer, Kindness, Suzanne Wedel XOXOUT

Cowgirl boots. Attitude. Onwards.

Forget gentile resolutions. This is the day I am kicking stuff to the curb. There’s that word again. Time for my red pointy cowgirl boots and a big attitude.

Going:

People who can’t be fair or open minded about politics or gluten or sexual preferences.  Anger, prejudice, hatred is life-sucking, mean and tiring. If we were all the same life would be a big snore. I love you all. Thank you for loving me.

Sugar: Used to be just salt. Now I am going to scrutinize sugar. Turns out that is a sneaky unhealthy additive, too. Still researching the chocolate.

Bad humor: From me or others. A new barista has ruined my morning ritual with unfriendliness. I am killing her with kindness. We had enough animosity in the elections. Try the opposite effect.

Ignorance:  Fact. The divide will be greater under the next President. My cousin Nicole, on seeing a homeless family this week, asked them what they needed, drove to the store, purchased the items, and returned to place them at their feet. I intend to practice kindness with double intensity, especially to strangers. Do it more. Thank you, Nicole.

Wasted time: My dog is getting old. My 50’s winding down. I want to measure 2017 with all the good times. We have to make that happen for ourselves. I wasted a huge portion of 2016 addicted to the news. And we know how reliable that was — don’t cheat and waste time on people or places that do not make your heart soar.

Cancer. I may need help with this one, it is heavy. My son’s very best BFF is battling Gliobastoma. Ovarian cancer took a friend in March. Let’s #CRUSHTOUR every single day: Help crush cancer with your heart, feet, hands and your wallet. Suzanne Wedel XOXOUT Fund, Golf Fights Cancer, wherever people are putting science and money into understanding how to crush cancer they need you. Please. Your kick will make a difference.

And finally:

Looking down has got to stop. Look up. We are part of a vast, complicated, beautiful world. Be part of it. Look where staying in our own little reality got us in 2016. Open yourself to everything and everyone.

While Olive snoozes off her breakfast and the birds kick  seed into the air I write this short list. Write one of your own now. Let’s make a mountain on the curb. Let’s start something good tonight, like a New Year.

Kick hard today. The very best news about tomorrow, January 1st, 2017, is that the crazy horrible that was 2016 is out with the trash.

I’m taking the best bits forward with some serious attitude.

Adios, 2016.

Let us step outside for a moment
As the sun breaks through clouds
And shines on wet new fallen snow,
And breathe the new air.
So much has died that had to die this year.

2016

May Sarton, New Year Poem, first stanza.

Bainbridge Island, November 2016.

 

Standard
Feminism, Women, writing

Kick Butt.

I remember the day my grandmother taught me how to curtsey. She was somehow in charge of me on bridge day and I was dressed to be shown off, squeezed into an uncomfortable wool jumper, the white blouse underneath bunching up around my middle. I knew I fell short on many levels, but determined, she gave me a quick how-to before her guests arrived. Holding my plump hands in hers she positioned me in front of her and demonstrated: slide one foot behind the other, dip my knees together, look her in the eye.

I remember feeling a little sick to my stomach. At home I ran barefoot in the wheat fields. Why am I learning this I wondered. The year was 1965 and I had personally witnessed my mother throwing away her bra. “You can do EVERYTHING I couldn’t” my mother told me as she dropped it in the bin with a flourish. But I also knew, like my grandmother’s even, back-slanted handwriting, that today’s lesson held the key to being a lady, a term my mother scorned but the little fat girl secretly worshipped. I stood by the front door with my grandmother that day and executed a perfect curtsey to each guest. They cooed in admiration. This felt just fine.

So began my conflicted relationship with being a woman that frankly has not abated fifty-two years later. Does it ever abate with any woman my age? I write my essays on being white, middle aged and full of words. I question retiring from life when the kids leave for theirs. My essays and blog posts are sprinkled on the internet weekly and after publication I am full of heavy dread each time I turn on my laptop. Who will be offended? Can I live what I say and say what I mean?

But then we have the elections of 2016 and I face that I have been coasting along, letting other women do the heavy lifting. How to hone feminism and fifty and language to shape the next generation now keeps me awake at night.

“Look what we did for you!” was my mother’s favorite line when she pushed me to college, graduate school, begged me to get a PHD. This year I assure my oldest daughter as she plans her wedding, “You don’t have to do anything you don’t want,” and I know my mother would be proud. Then I order my daughter monogrammed stationary. Because, honestly, I am still doing a little curtsey with a pen in my hand, bridging the worlds that raised me.

If I want my daughter to keep the path for equality and feminism open despite the elections of 2016, for her to be the next female president (why not?) or know her, I need to trample the have to’s and remind myself and other women daily that women can do anything. So here goes another blog, and some more words, and the choice of honesty.

You will still be a lady if you kick butt. Even more of one now in 2016. And you need to.

Thanks for cutting the path, Mom. Stomping on it right now for you and all of us.

lilacs1964

Gathering lilacs at Moose Hill. Alexandra Dane, 1965

 

Standard
LGBTQ, New Vocabulary, writing

I do not remember ever before feeling such extreme emotions. When I come in contact with the news, or politics, or domestic issues I fight the impulse to hide — behind the shelter of my white skin and safe homes. From all the anger. From the television.

Two nights ago we found a bird’s nest tucked into our Christmas tree. I thought to myself, this is an auspicious sign for the new year ahead. I need that word in my vocabulary right now. I will definitely use auspicious again. We carefully gathered the loose sticks and rested the small wild bundle on the mantle.

The next morning I woke to read that my niece was “safe in lockdown during violent episode at Ohio State.” I had to turn on CNN for the first time since November 11 and try to understand. My heart broke that day for the victims of the knifing and that lovely ambitious first-year college girl I know who will now have to look over her shoulder.

I read the New York Times daily, hoping they can stay the course of censorship. But at the same time when I read today’s news I now doubt the authenticity, question the thoroughness, wonder about the pressures I cannot see as the articles go to print. My writing groups have heavy, hesitant fingers as we wrestle with the effectiveness, racial tones, language and impact of our words. We are reluctant. We are recalcitrant. We are striving to mitigate anger, make sense and at the same time empathize in order to understand the picture before us.

I find I am becoming silent. Until I came face to face with ignorance. As I walked through my town on the coast of Massachusetts the other day, two acquaintances stopped me and laughed.

“Did you lose a button?” they asked, scrutinizing the safety pin on my jacket. I was actually struck silent. After a few words of greeting, I walked away full of anger. It was then I knew I needed a new vocabulary. And I needed to start using it.

I wear a safety pin to indicate I am a safe person, aware that people are sufficiently unsafe in their sexual preferences and appearance everywhere, even here. The incoming administration has made no secret that they believe all equality mandates should be withdrawn. I am purchasing larger safety pins but am I saying what needs to be said to educate, inform and create a safe place? No. I became angry and judgmental. Who does that remind you of?

In two days my world has swung from auspicious to violent, from recalcitrant to empathy, from speechless to this blog. This is a beginning. These will be the words:

Safe. Understand. Listen. Question. Don’t assume. Facts. Tell me. Next time, I will explain LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual,Trans and Queer) to my friends when they laugh at the dime store pin on my chest, not go silent in anger. I will chose actions important to humanity, even if it makes  others uncomfortable.

The bird’s nest rests on my mantle to remind me that all worlds collide. To be a humanitarian —  for all creatures, great and small, of any color, in any place — I cannot hide. I am a white middle-aged woman full of words. I will select the ones that count for others. In my mind there is really no other option.

What words will you use?

img_0455

 

New Vocabulary.

Quote
election

Whew. Caution, controversial content.

So. Whew.

I don’t want to add to the noise this week post-election but responses have been so visceral — I am in Seattle this month, holding sobbing sales girls and defeated baristas who refuse to believe that the sun will rise again. I myself have not read the paper. I am media-ed out if that is a word, after having followed everything, everywhere every waking minute for the last year and a half. I have even written and published desperate, amateur prose poetry at three in the morning.

On November 9th I sent my Aunt an email asking, “How will we survive this?” Her father Thomas Minor Pelly represented the First Congressional District of Washington State as a Republican from 1953-1973. She has met a few Presidents in her time. Good ones and bad ones.

She responded, “My father always said the American people always seem to elect the person needed at the time.”

Well, I didn’t like that answer. Then I thought about that. Maybe we did need to wake up to what the middle of the country really thought. Maybe they thought we needed to wake up on both coasts: finally pay attention to the sheer numbers of dissatisfied people. Hello. Here we are. We are the red squares.

Nothing makes me sit up and fight more than seeing the impending loss of what I hold dear. Did I make assumptions that laws in place would stay that way, that same-sex marriage laws were solid, that women had begun to finally regain control of our bodies, that birth control was our right and that all the gains for the environment could not be reversed?

Yes. Guilty.

Thanks to the Republicans in a matter of days — not my party any longer I am happy to say — an entire generation or two or three have been affected for the rest of their voting lifetime. Did we need to be so challenged by this Republican President? Maybe. From here on in, those same generations will never, ever assume their candidate will win or cast their vote without making sure it counted. They will never be complacent. They will have healthy and realistic skepticism about polls and news reports. They will fight earlier and harder. They will say remember when. They will say go vote it is vitally important.

Afraid has evolved to pissed off for me. I wear a safety pin, my white girl way of communicating I am paying attention and I don’t care who thinks this is weak. There is work to be done; to repair the tears in our country and make safe all those rights I hold dear for myself and others.

“The wound is the place where the light enters,” says Rumi. Very definitely this is the hard way to become aware and active, to see politics for what it can be. But as the cabinet is being chosen this week, we are under siege — our rights to love, breathe clean air, make decisions about our health and remain equal. I have a pocket full of safety pins now. I hand them out to strangers.

See you January 21st. My sign will read, “Too Old For This Shit? Change it.”

img_0373

Standard