Wednesday, November 25, 2020

And A Happy Thanksgiving to All


So tomorrow, Thanksgiving Day, I will be hosting a family gathering for 31 people — via ZOOM. I’m hoping that most of my invited company will be able to stop by even just for a quick HELLO. I know that many are on different time schedules and have different responsibilities, some work from home and some work in the field, we are all over the country. I would be in complete bliss to see my daughter and son-in-law, son and daughter-in-law, Mark’s and my siblings and their better halves, our nieces and nephews and even grand-nieces and grand-nephews.


Years ago when our children were just young’uns and we weren’t spread out all over, we would meet at my sister’s home for a Thanksgiving meal; before we would begin eating we would go around the table saying what we were most thankful for. This year has been… strange and very lonely, and the pandemic is still raging. I am thankful that WE have made it to this time, that my family is safe, and I hope that all who are reading this also feel thankful for what they have.


 It’s been a hard year for so many. America has lost more than one-quarter-million lives, families have been financially devastated, hard-working business owners have seen their life-work dissolve, and we are still facing taming this horrible disease. My sincere condolences to all those who have suffered losses, please don’t think I have forgotten you when I feel thankful for all I have.


School children were raised on the stories of Pilgrims landing here seeking religious freedoms in the 17th century and one day sharing a friendly feast with the Native Americans they met and lived amongst — a fairy tale fabrication to explain the Thanksgiving tradition. The first National Thanksgiving Day didn’t happen until almost two centuries later and President Abraham’s proclamation didn’t even mention Pilgrims and “Indians” (as Native Americans were referred to since the original explorers thought they had landed in India).


Lincoln’s proclamation, made in the middle of the American Civil War, referred instead to “fruitful fields and healthful skies… which are so constantly enjoyed that we are prone to forget the source from which they come”,  he continued “invite my fellow-citizens in every part of the United States, and also those who are at sea and those who are sojourning in foreign lands, to set apart and observe the last Thursday of November next as a Day of Thanksgiving and Praise to our beneficent Father who dwelleth in the heavens” and finally asked for the “Almighty hand to heal the wounds of the nation, and to restore it, as soon as may be consistent with the Divine purposes, to the full enjoyment of peace, harmony, tranquility, and union.”


The fanciful story of grade-school primers and Charlie Brown movies gave a vastly different meaning to Thanksgiving than President Lincoln’s apparent interpretation. I believe Lincoln was reminding us to be thankful for the things we DO have, and not just the ideals we wish for. It would also be befitting to say thank you to the indigenous people who lived here before our European ancestors arrived, we’ve built our homes upon their lands, often just taking and not asking.


 We should say thank you to every man and woman who has served our country in every one of our Armed Forces. And especially as this past year has shown us, we need to be thankful for all of our healthcare workers, first responders, and essential workers who have kept us safe, treated us, cared for us, and enabled many of us to exist through this trying time.


It is a good time to remember all the little things we should be thankful for, the challenges we’ve survived, and the strength we have to keep moving forward. And especially, thank you for allowing me into your lives through my words.


Thanksgiving 1993

Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Art Imitating Life

Many of the new TV season’s dramas have incorporated A LOT of real life into their stories. We have so much more than just actors wearing masks and TV-news footage of protests and riots. I have to give kudos to the writers and the actors who represent not only some of what has been happening the majority of this past year, but have also effectively evoked the emotional impact it has had on all of us.


I know there are many more shows than the ones I am mentioning, but I was riveted by shows like Station 19 and Grey’s Anatomy, the Chicago trio (Fire, Med, and PD), SWAT, and All Rise. Each one of these dramas showed real life situations, frustrations, tragedies and emotions. None of these shows had mere news reports running in the background, they had characters LIVING through the same things that Americans, and folks all over the world, have experienced since the early part of 2020.


So is this entertainment? What happened to the beauty of escapism? … Don’t worry, there are still plenty of funny and entertaining shows for those of us who just want a break from life.


As a writer I, and many of our ilk, have been taught that stories and characters that the reader can relate to are the most engrossing. When a writer uses real life in her writing it is also a wonderful opportunity to make people think and maybe even possibly strive for solutions. That was what I tried to do when I wrote my book Hyphema about a Pakistani immigrant who just wanted a life with her family, an American husband and their infant son, and the racism they encountered. I also tried to reach out to the social perception of assault victims and the PTSDs they suffer in my book Bartlett’s Rule. In Courage of the Heart I presented a male sexual assault survivor and the social attitudes that belittled his experience.


My efforts to make people THINK are just (excuse the cliché) just a tip of the iceberg compared to some of the drama on our nightly television sets. The actors are doing remarkable jobs bringing us into their lives and the emotions they feel, the writers are providing challenging scenarios that truly can be the basis for discussion and hopefully attempts towards healing.


Yes, there are some of us who definitely need a break from the real life drama we’ve been living, and there is no harm in taking time for self-care, but when you are up to it, watch some of these dramas and hopefully get on board with rebuilding, healing and acceptance.


We’re a week away from Thanksgiving and many of us are feeling cheated once again as we keep distance from loved ones, or worse, realize those loved ones who are no longer with us. I hope and pray for comfort and calm for each of you. Please take necessary precautions against this dratted disease — yes, wear a mask and maintain social distancing, stay away from crowds.


I’m not being chicken when I ask you this and I know very well how hard it is to be separated from family because of COVID. This Thanksgiving holiday my husband and I are hoping to at least “see” our grown children through some audio/visual app, we won’t be seeing them in person because, simply put, they are first responders and they’ve been out there taking care of those who have fallen victim to COVID so they are quarantining themselves to protect us.


Sending healing thoughts for everyone’s health and a huge thank you to all of the first responders and essential workers who have given so much for the rest of us.


Wednesday, November 11, 2020

The Value of Street Smarts


I genuinely believe that the smartest man I ever knew was my Dad. Before joining the service and then marrying my Mom, the highest level of education he had was 8th grade; he was the product of a broken marriage where neither parent really took much responsibility. After the war (WW2) he went back to earn his GED and later went to a trade school to learn to be a Tool and Die Maker.


In addition to his profession, he was a wonderful husband and took care of my Mom (she became disabled a few years into their marriage), a great father raising two daughters and teaching them, even way back then, that they were as good as ANY man or woman, he was a community leader and Auxiliary Captain at our local police precinct. Daddy didn’t have the opportunity of a fancy education or letters after his name, but he always seemed to know how to do the right thing.


Through the years there were some who actually looked down on him because of his humble beginnings, the fact that he worked with his hands, and he wasn’t interested in putting on a show to impress others. My Dad truly was a hard-working man. Maybe if he had a college degree or a monied background he could have climbed some corporate ladder or even opened his own business… but he always provided for his family and he was always there for his children.


As Auxiliary Captain in the NYPD, he had impressive leadership skills, he always knew when to listen and never belittled anyone, but you knew he was in charge. He was methodical in thought and really “read people” very well. I know there were extreme times when my Dad lost his temper, but most times he was always controlled and welcoming. His family, my Mom, my sister and I adored him, we respected him — he was our hero.


I told you about my Dad because so often I’ve heard people look down on others who have not had Ivy League educations or who  took pride in getting their hands dirty to do a good day’s work. Daddy was one of those special people who had an enormous amount of “Street Smarts”, otherwise known as common sense. Some, SOME people who have fancy educations also are gifted with common sense but there is no guarantee that the two will go hand-in-hand. To be honest, if it only has to be one or the other, I prefer the street smarts.


Happy Veterans Day to my Dad and all of those who have served our country.


Wednesday, November 4, 2020

It Ain’t Over ‘til It’s Over


So America’s 2020 Election Day is behind us… at least the voting part. Ballots are still being counted and we may not have all of the results for a few days. So we wait, not necessarily patiently.


No matter which presidential candidate you voted for, one of the two major candidates or a third party, electing our next American president is an important event. And there were many other races as well for state and federal positions, local mayors and governors and don’t forget a few referendums in some locations.  Every person who cast a ballot was part of a very important process of our democracy. It’s really a very heavy responsibility.


This year’s election was complicated because of the COVID-19 pandemic, most states made voting by mail an easy option. There was also “Early Voting” to try to keep down the election day lines, but there were long lines in almost every case both for the early voting and on the actual day of voting. Mail-in ballots also gave their share of consternation with delays, stories of lost mail and concern about alleged voter fraud. No wonder so many would-be voters have been complaining of tension headaches for the past week or so.


According to the United States Constitution, voting is a right and a privilege. Many constitutional amendments have been ratified since the first election. Surprisingly voting was never made mandatory for U.S. citizens. And also surprisingly, there is NO statement in the U.S. Constitution that does state, inexplicably, that our citizens have the RIGHT to vote. But there are inherent rights granted to our people and individual states included the right to vote. The original folks who could make decision regarding our leadership were landowners, and then MEN, and later specified that all men were allowed to vote no matter was their race was. Finally somewhere around 1919 women were finally allowed to make their preferences known and vote as well. It’s been a long road and many people fought for the right to vote.


And yet even in the year 2020, some people don’t bother to vote. Why not? There are a few who can’t vote because of religion. Then there are some who simply are not interested in the candidates or races. The most common reason given for not voting is “What difference does my one vote make?” Since states are permitted, within reason, to decide their own voting rules and regulations, some people don’t meet the requirements easily — someone may have missed the registration deadline, or they don’t have the necessary documents (including residence) to prove their identity and/or eligibility. Unfortunately, there are some (relatively few) cases that seem to be voter suppression such as not making polling centers convenient to certain populations. People may become disenfranchised when the person they want to win loses. There are even some who simply are not interested in casting their votes because they don’t like the candidates running or they don’t know enough about a referendum.


I like knowing that I have had a say in the government where I live, even if it is just one tiny vote, even if the candidate(s) I voted for didn’t win, and even if it means getting up early to stand on a line to cast my vote. Next year, or even for the next primary, think about voting. It may not be in the Constitution, but it is a privilege.