I can’t protect them forever, but I will as long as possible.

My first grader’s school is conveniently located less than a mile from our home. Every morning and afternoon I strap the baby into his carrier on my chest and my son and I walk hand in hand to school and home again. I cherish our walks. My almost seven-year-old notices every little change along the way. If the leaves have changed from green to brown, if there is a new flower blooming, if the geese are on the ground instead of flying overhead, he enthusiastically points it out to me. The baby’s eyes dart up and down, left to right. He turns his little head back and forth as quickly as he can. The world is new and every little glimpse is sheer wonderment.

I long for the days when every minute detail had to be thoroughly examined and no inch of the world could be overlooked. The joy and amazement in their eyes has allowed me to remember that feeling. I am able to recapture that part of my life and I wouldn’t trade those ten-minute walks for anything. As we walk we discuss the events of the day. Books read, pictures painted, and songs sung are the most important events in his life. There are large stones along our route and each and every one must be stepped upon. The largest one is where he exclaims daily that he is king of the world. And in that moment, he is. We travel the same path as many other students from his school. Some hand in hand with their parent, others a little older are discovering their first hints of independence as they walk alone. I enjoy the little snippets of conversations I overhear as we pass by or they trail behind.

Today, however, I heard a conversation that broke my heart. It told of innocence lost far too soon. I don’t know their names, but I recognized the two girls from the fifth-grade class. They walked close enough behind that I couldn’t help but overhear the exchange. This was their conversation.

“Hey, do you remember that child molester that got out of jail?”

“Yeah.”

“Did your parents tell you about the call from the school about a guy in a maroon vehicle taking pictures of kids on the playground?”

“Yeah, that’s creepy.”

“Well, it was the same guy. I guess after he was at the school he kidnapped two girls.”

“Oh, my god. Do they go here?”

“No, but they found the guy. He’s back in prison now.”

“Good. Those girls are going to be scarred for life. They are going to have major p.t.s.d.”

“I know right.”

Their words become mumbled as they turned off to their final destination. As they walked away my first thought was why I hadn’t heard about any of this? I had to fight the urge to call them over and ask where on earth they heard all of that. What were their parents allowing them to watch on the news? Where did they learn that terminology? Had their parents sat them down and told them all of this? Did they overhear or were eavesdropping on adult conversations? It didn’t matter how they came to learn the information. What mattered was that they were innocent little girls that were not only learning about but discussing topics far beyond their years.

Are they far beyond their years, though? Have things really changed so much from when I was their age? In fifth grade, I remember discussing who had gotten their period and what movie we going to beg our parents to rent us at the next slumber party. I certainly knew of stranger danger, but I don’t remember knowing about pedophiles. I’m not sure if it’s because we have several 24-hour news stations, or the ease of smart phones to upload photos and videos to social media, or social media itself, but children are learning more and more younger and younger. It is becoming increasingly difficult to shelter our children from the ugliness of the world.

I have had the gift of being able to be a stay at home mom. I have been able to protect my children from so many things. I screen what they watch on television, I control who they interact with, I am extremely selective of what environments I allow them in. I used to always know who they were with and what they were doing.  Now that they are in school I am no longer able to do that. They come home with language I didn’t teach them, questions about things I would not have exposed them too, and making friends I don’t approve of. I no longer have control of the bubble I had provided for them.

I have been told by more people than I care to respond to that I am doing them an injustice by not allowing them to live in the real world. I don’t agree. Childhood is such a short and fleeting time. They have the rest of their lives to find out just how much people suck and how unfair things are. They will spend their adult lives navigating and trying in vain to understand just how messed up the real world is. 35 hours a week they are away from me and I have no control over what they are seeing and hearing. They are certainly learning far more than reading and arithmetic. The hours that I have them with me I will continue to run interference. I know I will be forced to answer questions and attempt to explain things that I shouldn’t have to at their age, but short of never letting them more than an arm’s reach away, this is a hard fact that I just have to accept.

 

 

A New Submission

Today is one of those days that Mother Nature is being cruelly deceptive. The sun is streaming through the windows and there isn’t a cloud in the sky. Your mind and body are tricked into believing that it is going to be a beautifully warm day. You optimistically walk outside in just a lite sweater and are smacked in the face by freezing temperatures and unrelenting winds. Well, little missy, that wasn’t nice of you. You walk back inside, bundle up, and try it again.

I find this metaphor appropriate for today. After taking a short sabbatical from writing for a much-unneeded pity party, I am back to submitting. My latest piece, a personal essay, was just sent off to Outlook Springs. A fairly new online and in print literary magazine. My hope is that due to it being a new publication I stand a better chance of success.  Receiving an email from a publication is much like the weather today. I am always excited and anticipating a raving acceptance letter. Then I open it and it’s a kindly worded rejection. They all are a variant of “we enjoyed reading your work, but we feel it isn’t a good fit for us at this time.” Well publication, that wasn’t very nice of you. If you enjoyed reading it, perhaps other people would too.

As of twenty minutes ago, I have submitted to nine publications and have received six rejections. I am still holding out hope for the other three. I know rejection is all part of the process. I have even read that you aren’t a true writer until you receive your first rejection. If that is true, I am officially a real writer. I have never received negative feedback for my writing. Okay, once in a college class, but the professor admittedly based his critiques on his personal opinions and if he didn’t care for the genre you were never going to hear good things from him. So with the exception of that pompous ass, my writing has always been met with glowing reviews. Hey. It’s not conceited when it’s true. For that reason, I did not take being rejected well at all. At first, I was disappointed, then angry, then after the sixth one, I was over it. I closed my email and decided I was just going to go back to writing in my journal.

Yep. I did the thing I have lectured others about not doing. I allowed someone’s opinion of my work to affect how I felt about my work. I decided I wasn’t cut out for that type of writing and I was just going to go back to inching my way through the screenplay I have been working on for the past year. I said as much to my husband and he conveniently had a Facebook post that day about a handwritten letter that one of Kevin Smith’s girlfriend’s mother had given him telling him that he would never be a writer. He then Googled Kevin Smith and went through his over 200 credits. A young man that was told he would never be a writer is now making millions of dollars in the industry.

I was then reminded of Dr. Seuss who was rejected 27 times before he was published. James Patterson was rejected 33 times. No studio wanted to produce Star Wars so George Lucas used his own money and produced it himself. I could go on and on and on, but I thought I would stick with a few that most people are familiar with. I have reminded myself of these things over and over throughout the years anytime I began to doubt myself. However, being rejected in theory is much easier than the reality of it. What I realize now though it that those rejections were truly just a blow to my ego. When you have spent most of your life being told you are great at something and then being turned away repeatedly, it’s difficult to not begin to second guess yourself.

What I have realized is that there isn’t anything wrong with my writing. I don’t need to change my writing at all. I simply need to change the publications I am pitching to. If The Doors had sent a demo tape to a country music label, of course, they would have been rejected. That certainly doesn’t mean that they needed to change their music or their music wasn’t great. They just would have been knocking on the wrong doors. That is what I love so much about the internet, is that with one simple Google search I am automatically provided with the links to thousands of other doors to knock on.

We as artists all have an important decision to make and it is a decision that should be made early on. Are you willing to change your work and creative vision for a quick sell or are you willing to face rejection, perhaps multiple rejections to keep your integrity and the integrity of your work intact? There is no right or wrong answer, you just need to decide how willing you are to hold out until you find that one right person that shares your vision. Are you tough enough to realize that a rejection doesn’t mean the work isn’t right, it just isn’t right for them? Would you be okay with your work being out in the world knowing that it isn’t what you wanted it to be? Either decision you ultimately make, I offer you one piece of advice I hope you take: if ever you do decide to change your work, keep a copy of the original. You are going to want it someday.

Why has the election caused civil war?

I, like many others, have been glued to Fox news since yesterday, following the Presidential inauguration. My own political views are neither here nor there at the moment. I won’t share my opinions on what has been said by President Trump and others. There are enough opinion pieces floating around to fill a library. What I would like to discuss is the division this election has caused in our country. Never have I seen so much hate spewed or verbal attacks made. During these past few months, I have deleted several individuals from my social media pages, not because of their political beliefs, but because of the horrible things they were posting.

As a writer, my career depends on freedom of speech and it is one of the greatest freedoms afforded us as American citizens. Everyone has a right to their opinion and has the right to express it. I also have the right to unfriend you and I do so unsparingly.  I read things such as, “Any woman that supported Trump should be sterilized and have here children taken away.” Seriously? Or, “If a woman voted for Trump and is sexually assaulted, she has it coming.” Yep, you’re being unfriended. I also saw it on the reverse side. “Anyone that votes Hillary should be made to leave this country.” Okay…. “If you voted Hillary you may as well cash your paycheck and give it to the homeless beggars.” I don’t think it works that way, but all right. I saw time after time women posting that they were voting for Hillary simply because she was a woman. Isn’t that the same as walking up to a strange man on the street and saying, “You have a penis. Will you marry me?”

Again, I have no intentions of discussing my political views here, but COME ON! Enough is enough. Despite the popular vote, despite his approval rating, Donald Trump is our president. No amount of screaming, crying, demonstrating, protesting, walk-outs, etc. is going to make a damn bit of difference. If you don’t like your boss, you don’t walk around with signs chanting your discontent. You shut up and color and perhaps have a drink with your co-workers at the end of the day. The things I have seen, heard, and read since Trump won the election in November just makes me sick.

The first thing was an automated call from the schools of my 1st and 6th-grade sons. The gist of the call was that in the following days emotions will be running high. There is going to be a lot of difference of opinions and that we need to respect each other. That we need to sit our children down and help them understand what’s going on. And that they would be vigilant to ensure no altercations take place. Again, seriously? My son is 6 years old. I’m fairly certain they aren’t having heated discussions about the election results. Now, my 13-year-old is in junior and had already had several discussions with his father and me about things he had overheard and had been asked about at school, so maybe I can see that, but still. The division in this country over this has become so bad that the schools felt it warranted a phone call?

Of course, the magnitude of this issue is not lost on me. Duh! He’s only the man that is going to be running our country for the next four to eight years. I am prior military, Obama was my boss. No matter who was elected people would have been angry. That’s no different than anything else. If the results are not the way you had hoped for than you’re going to be angry. However, why has this election caused our country to go to civil war? There was not this type of discourse when Obama was elected as our first black president and to be blunt, there are a lot of racist people out there that were extremely not okay with that result. So why now? Why this president?

I saw on Fox News yesterday that nationwide there are schools not holding classes today in protest of Trump. Let me repeat that, elementary schools NOT holding classes in protest of Trump. WTF? Adults, educators, individuals with college degrees are preventing children from attending school and learning because they don’t like the election results. I don’t even have words for that. What lesson are they teaching them? What are they expecting to accomplish? What about the families that support Trump? Never have I heard of a time when personal opinions allowed schools to be closed. Had that happened at my sons’ schools I would have gone ballistic.

I have read in the past week about dozens of protests and demonstrations scheduled for today. Many of the heads of these “gatherings” are calling for and encouraging violence. I can’t understand that. As of roughly three hours ago, there was live coverage of a protest in D.C. very near the parade route. There were reportedly two hundred to three hundred people there. These were individuals brought together by way of social media. Their entire intent was to disrupt and prevent President Trump’s parade route. The footage was reminiscent of a middle eastern war zone. Protesters were destroying private property, lighting trash cans on fire, throwing rocks at police, and blocking the streets. Police were in full riot gear. Pepper spray and pressure grenades were being used in an attempt to control the crowd. At one point the reporter and camera man were nearly trampled by a wall of police with batons and shields running down the road towards the crowd. I also noticed several members of the National Guard. At the time of the report, there had already been over 90 arrests.  If you have any interest in seeing this for yourself, I’m sure it’s hit YouTube already.

This is just the protest that has been covered. I can only imagine how many more there are going on across the country. The first amendment does not cover this type of behavior. Destruction of property and violence is not freedom of speech. This is pathetic, ridicules, childish conduct. Honestly, these people need to have their asses beat with a belt. Do they really think that by doing this that President Trump is going to grab a microphone and announce that because of their discontent that he will hand the presidency over to Hillary? I can’t for the life of me find a logical explanation for their actions. All they are going to accomplish is either getting themselves hurt or arrested, probably both. I understand voicing your displeasure over an issue you feel strongly about. I am in full support of the peaceful protest. However, when you show up to a protest wearing safety goggles and a mask or bandana covering your mouth and nose, that is proof positive you have no intention of being peaceful.

My husband and I have been helping our 13-year-old understand the election process. We have encouraged him to pay attention to what is going on, to ask questions, and to form his own opinions. We explained in depth our political views and why we have those particular views. He actively watched every debate and stayed awake as long as he could on election night. The first words out of his mouth the next morning were, “who won?” I’m proud of the fact that he asked intelligent questions, considered the answers, and formed his own opinions. He did not allow himself to be influenced by his friends. I am not, however, looking forward to fielding the questions about the protests. The only answer I have come up with so far is the blunt and honest truth. Some people are just stupid. Sure, I could be more poetic or even attempt to logic their behavior, but at the end of the day, they are just being stupid. I considered turning the news off and turning on a family friendly movie, but this is the world he is growing up in and he is going to have to learn the truth of the matter at some point. It might as well be today.

I will continue watching Fox probably late into the night. I can almost guarantee there will be more footage of violent protests. Especially now that the parade is over and things are beginning to wind down, the news will be more apt to provide live coverage of these events. I will continue to be realistically optimistic that people will just stay home, but I really don’t see that happening. Whether you are a Democrat, Republican, or Independent. Liberal, conservative, or prefer not to say. Black, white, brown, yellow, or a combination. Rich, poor, or part of the disappearing middle class. Male, female, or undecided. Gay, straight, or greedy. The one thing we all are is American. Like it or not Donald Trump is the president of the United State of America. You have two choices now. Either accept it or leave the country. It’s really that simple. I will leave you with this thought: freedom of speech is one of the greatest freedoms we have, so you don’t have to say something nice, but don’t believe you can do anything at all.

 

Hello

Hello world. As I’m sure you’ve discovered by now, I am a writer. My first passion is and has always been screenwriting. I also dabble in flash fiction, short story, creative non-fiction, and personal essay. I have been advised by several knowledgeable women that are rather successful in this industry that I need to have a stronger online presence. I admit I am rather old fashioned where technology is concerned. I would rather stick to my trusty pen and spiral notebooks.  They don’t run out of battery, freeze up, or cause me to lose all of my work when I forget to save. I do enjoy technology, I’m just a little behind the times. I didn’t even have a Twitter account until a few months ago. Per their advice, though, I have deleted my old blog that appeared as more of a teenager’s online journal than a writer’s blog, and I am starting fresh.

Today is the most appropriate day to begin again for two intertwined reasons. I lost my older Bucky to a long term illness eighteen years ago. Today is his birthday, he would have been thirty-five. Although he knew for years that he was dying, he never gave up. He never stopped fighting. He was always happy, in spite of everything, he was always happy. He laughed with abandon at least a dozen times a day and when he wasn’t laughing he was smiling. What I remember most though is that when he hugged you it was with every ounce of his soul. When he hugged you it felt as if everything that was broken inside of you was being put back together.  He is the reason that I am still writing. I am beginning this blog on the heels of my sixth magazine article rejection. I could list dozens of millionaire writers that were rejected over and over before their big break and use that as motivation to keep writing. However, instead, I have decided to adopt Bucky’s attitude and spirit. No matter what happens, you don’t give up. You don’t stop fighting. You laugh and smile a dozen times a day.

I feel his arms around me hugging away all the bitterness, self-doubt, pessimism, disappointment, and desire to give up on my writing completely. My husband put things into perspective for me when he told me that the best way to honor my brother is to live as he did, with joy and happiness. To not to allow myself to get caught up in the negatives of life because that is not what he would want for me. That is what I am doing now. I am using these recent rejections as motivation. I am not allowing myself to give up because of a few bad experiences. I pull a tremendous amount of inspiration and motivation from my husband, my boys, and the world around me. However, my greatest inspiration and motivation comes from my older brother. A young man that had every reason to wallow in self-pity and just give up, but never did. My birthday gift to him is my solemn vow  to never give up on myself again.