Life in General

A Day Without A Woman

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Today is International Women’s Day, an ideal day to hold the Women’s Strike, an ongoing participatory day spurred by the Women’s March on Washington. To participate in A Day Without A Woman, we are encouraged to:
Wear red in solidarity
Not engage in paid or unpaid work
Not spend money, with the exception of small/women-or-minority-owned businesses

I was scheduled to work the day of the Women’s March on Washington. If I wasn’t, I would have participated in Chicago’s sister march with 250,000+ of my allies. However, I made a decision that holds true today: if I am scheduled to work and the situation is not absolutely dire in terms of a march/strike/protest, I will go to work.

My profession as a public librarian is in and of itself a public service and the position I hold in that profession, working with children in a diverse community, make me unable to believe it is a better use of my time and resources to March or Strike or Protest than it would be to Serve. I did not March (but I stood in solidarity) and I will not Strike (though I stand in solidarity).

Not only will I not strike from my paid position out of respect to the position itself, but because I also stand in solidarity with my other part-time, hourly paid employees who do not earn sick time or PTO to use or who simply cannot afford to take the day off work. I will be frank: were I not married to my husband, whose salary is good, I would not be able to afford to take the day off from my job, either.

What I will do:
I will wear red in solidarity. I’ll even paint my nails and lips red.
I will refrain from spending money. I am committed to drive directly to and from work, not passing go or collecting $200. My coffee thermos is ready and waiting, my gas tank is full, my lunch is made and packed, and my groceries for dinner have been purchased. Granted, I will do some browsing on Etsy of women-owned boutiques (I am really feeling this African print clutch. And this antique skeleton key necklace. And I received this dog cutout book for Christmas and I know all you bookish types need an initial cutout book in your life.)
I will stay off social media. Seeing as I work a full shift and Wednesdays are crazy busy for me, it will be easy to avoid the internet at large on this day. The exceptions (as usual) are this blog post (pre-scheduled) and Instagram (because I rarely find it as stress-inducing as say… Twitter and Facebook).
I will cook and write, which are forms of unpaid work (at this point in my life), but are also enjoyable pursuits to me that I see no reason to limit myself from.

I hope that, had you head of A Day Without a Woman before just now, you chose to participate in whichever way you were willing and able to. That, after hearing about it now, you alter your day in any way you are willing and able to fit the movement. I additionally hope that you will join me in not casting judgement on others based on their level of participation. And I hope that, together, in glorious unity, we can continue to press forward in the name of progress, equality, and justice for all.

Life in General

Reworking Defeat

Today is inauguration day for a President I did not vote for. Until 2016, I have been very fortuitous when it came to Presidential elections; both of my votes were for Barack Obama first in 2008 when I was 20 years old, and then in 2012 at 24. I knew I would vote blue my first time at the ballot box, and things were no different when I cast my vote for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

I might be called a sore loser because I have never before faced defeat of my preferred Presidential candidate. But I have faced defeat before. I have faced defeat in the many sports I played in my youth. I have faced defeat in my top choice college acceptances. I have faced defeat in the job market.

I have faced defeat before, but I have never accepted it.

When faced with defeat, I find a way to rework it.

When I lost a race or didn’t run as well as I wanted to, I turned up to practice the next day and trained even harder for my rematch. When I was rejected and wait-listed at my top choice colleges, I accepted my offer at the next best school and made the most of my experience there (and got three degrees out of the deal!). When I faced defeat in the job market, I took extra jobs, made ends meet, went to graduate school, faced more defeat, and am still working relentlessly toward a self-sustainable career.

I will not start accepting defeat now.

I will rework this defeat just as I have done in the past.

Reworking defeat does not make me a sore loser.

It makes me a force to be reckoned with.

In previous elections, reworking defeat would have meant becoming more politically involved. Making more phone calls to voters during campaign season. Donating time and money to causes I believed in. Frequent communication with my representatives. While this election calls for those same actions of reworking defeat, those actions are a slow burn toward progress.

But this campaign was different. The opposing candidate did not just hold the opposite views than me and my candidate like they had in the past, but was openly hateful, ignorant, seemingly power hungry, and so many things I have never seen and never expected from a Presidential nominee.

No, reworking defeat in this campaign calls for something more to counteract the hateful platform and outrageous rhetoric of a man and administration who seem more intent on putting specific peoples in their place and wielding power than working toward the collective people’s best interests.

So I will do something more. I cannot attend my preferred peaceful demonstration: the Women’s March on Washington. Not even the Chicago event. I am scheduled to work that day and, being a children’s librarian in a community heavily populated with immigrants, Muslims, and low-income families, I feel that my place that day is at my job, where I am only beginning to lay the groundwork for a more inclusive community and more perfect union.

I will not march tomorrow. But I will protest today.

This past Thanksgiving, I was asked what good protest was; what could stirring up all this trouble do? After all, the results were in and flooding the streets wouldn’t change them. Beside, don’t we all want the new President to succeed? Isn’t that what’s best for us all? And I agreed: I wanted nothing more than for the sitting President to be successful in keeping our country safe and whole, though our definition of success in that might differ. And the opposition peacefully gathering and raising their voices wouldn’t change anything concretely. It might not even change minds.

Protesting isn’t always meant to change something immediately, but it is always meant to send an immediate message.

On November 9, 2016, those protesting sent a message to the marginalized and disenfranchised who don’t live in a sea of blue that they are not alone in their dissent and fear. Protest tells the closeted gay teenager in a conservative household that they are not alone. It tells the sole Mexican or Muslim family living in a nice (read: white) community that they are not alone. It tells those who have lost lives due to gun violence, especially at the hands of police, that they are not alone.

It reminds us that we are not alone.

Protesting on November 9 sent a message to the masses who cast their vote that day. Protesting today does that with an added bonus: it sends a message straight to the top. It says that we are vigilant, we are watching, and we will hold the new administration accountable every step of the way.

I am not naive enough to think with this new administration comes a backlog of America’s problems. America’s problems are inherent and institutionalized and it would take much more than a new President to bring them back from the dead. But to have a sitting President who so brazenly embraces and even seeks to further ingrain these problems into the fabric of our democracy? That is something I will protest.

I will protest foreign interference in the election in whatever form they take or impact they make.

I will protest constant voter restriction and the ever-present hurdles of democracy our government continually puts into place and was even founded on.

I will protest restricting access to affordable healthcare and the repeal of laws that help more than they hurt without a sustainable substitute.

I will protest my worth being 21% less than a man’s and a woman of color’s worth being 40%-45% less.

I will protest social and legal disregard for my body when it comes to my choices concerning it and people taking advantage of it.

I will protest hateful rhetoric.

I will protest widespread social and economic inequality.

I will protest white supremacy and xenophobia and misogyny and ableism and homophobia and… there are so many ands.

I protest all of the new administration’s “ands.”

I protest because I believe in the good in people, and I believe in the good in this nation and its democracy. I protest because I am hopeful. I protest because I believe in U.S.

You can call me a liberal snowflake and say that my protesting and outrage is just a sore loser tantrum. I will remind you that the act of protest, organization, and dissent are inherently American. And I will point out that snowflakes are uniquely intricate and complex, and that many of them together, acting as one, can literally move mountains.

You can desire and mock my liberal tears, but I will remind you that my tears are not just of rage and frustration. They are tears of hope and they will do me far more good than they’ll do you.

Don’t believe me?

Just watch me rework.

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Life in General, Writing

The Scariest Thing of All

Today is Halloween; a day filled with tricks and treats and scary things.

For some, that might mean ghosts and goblins and a house handing out raisins instead of candy.

For others, that may mean having to go to work all day then soldiering the kids around the neighborhood for trick-or-treating until curfew.

For me, it means my beloved Chicago Cubs hanging onto their World Series run heading into Game 6 in Cleveland tomorrow (#GoCubsGo!).

Oh, and that tomorrow also begins NaNoWriMo and, despite having been abroad for the better part of October, I’ve decided to participate.

I tried to do NaNoWriMo a few years ago, in 2014. I know that it’s never the perfect time to write, but that year was more than not a good time: I had recently moved from the city to the suburbs and started a new, full-time job. I did a few days’ worth of writing before completely falling off the wagon.

That novel I started in 2014? That idea still lingers and, while I have those couple hundred errant words from my NaNo past, I plan to forget they exist and begin anew this November, hopefully writing the prescribed 1667 words a day until my little idea is a shitty first draft.

I’m not totally unprepared. I did an outline earlier this month (with a small push from a writing friend I’ve begun meeting with to check each others’ progress) and so while I won’t be completely pantsing… it sure feels like it.

And that’s scary.

But writing is scary. Life is scary. You win some, you lose some, you come back from being down 3-1 to win it all in some…

But you don’t know until you try. And try as I might, 2016 has been one heck of a year for me so far (I got a new job, got married, traveled abroad twice, moved back to Chicago, cheered my Cubs all the way to the World Series…). Could it also, somehow, be the year I finish the first draft of my long sought after manuscript, too?

It’s the scariest thing of all, embarking on a journey whose ending you’re unsure of… but most things worth doing are scary.

So let’s do this.

Life in General

Sticking Around

A few weeks ago, I found myself in California for a wedding on my husband’s side of the family. As luck should have it, a few of my dear friends from college live in the exact town I would be in (San Diego) and we promptly planned a night out over my extended weekend.

While at dinner with my politically like-minded friends, I declared that, should a certain presidential candidate win, I would be moving to wherever in Europe would have me and would they like to join my colony of expats?

“No!” one of them announced automatically. Seeing the question mark on her dinner companions’ faces, she elaborated, “It would probably be awful here, but you can’t just leave when things don’t go the way you’re hoping. You have to stick around and work to make it better.”

Having just entered one of the biggest and likely longest commitments of my life in April (I got married), I get the concept of sticking around through the good and the bad. I can easily imagine spending my life and all the ups and downs in it with my husband, but my passionate and (overly?) opinionated self had left the comfort of my marriage for a night out and had failed (spectacularly, perhaps) in applying that type of fortitude to all aspects of my life.

Sticking around, I think, upon further reflection, could be just what I need.

I’ve done it before:
When I hit bumps in my training (think injury and illness), I stuck around and completed the 2014 Chicago Marathon, which will be one of my life’s greatest achievements. When I felt like no library would have me, I stuck around the job market and application process and finally found peace in my profession. I transitioned seamlessly from supporting Bernie Sanders to Hillary Clinton when I stuck around the Democratic party after the primaries.

And I’ll do it again:
I’ll stick around my country, America, no matter which candidate wins the Presidential election this November. I’ll stick around the professional sports I Love, namely the NFL (Bears) and MLB (Cubs) despite their problematic treatment of peaceful protest and violence against women. And I’ll stick around this blog and writing in general, even when I don’t write as often or as well as I’d like.

Because, like my friend said, I don’t want to just abandon the things that aren’t working for me just because they aren’t working.
I want to stick around and work hard and make them right. I want to stick around and make them better.

So stick around, won’t you?

Life in General, Reading

Failing Spectacularly

This past weekend, I participated in the 24 in 48 Readathon: I joined legions of readers and we all challenged ourselves to read 24 out of the 48 hours of the weekend.

Spending half of the weekend reading sounds like heaven.

And also like a lot of work.

Let me tell you, I had a LOT on my plate this weekend. Wedding showers and birthday parties to attend. Errands to run. Dogs to walk….

But, like I discussed last week, there is no perfect time to sit down and get to it, whether it’s reading for a certain amount of time or writing every day or finally sending the wedding thank you notes (note to self: DO THAT SOON). And so, when I heard about the 24 in 48 Challenge, I knew I would try it before even consulting my agenda.

And I failed spectacularly. I barely read 6 hours, let alone the namesake goal of 24.

But, like after most spectacular fails, I discovered something. It wasn’t a lack of time that derailed me from hitting that goal. It was a lack of endurance. I haven’t held myself to dedicated reading time in my real life for quite a while, and this fail opened the curtain on that fact and allows me to decide if and how I want to deal with it.

(Oh, I’m definitely going to deal with it…)

Like most things in life, it wasn’t whether I won or lost this challenge that mattered, it was that I showed up to begin with and learned something through the process. Because really, showing up is half the battle of getting to where you want to go, and learning is the entire battle when you find yourself falling short.

And even when you achieve your goals? Well, life keeps moving right along and all that showing up and lesson learning will hopefully come into play then because, as a really cool Nike t-shirt reminded me: there is no finish line.

NoFinishLine
via shop.nordstrom.com

So the lesson here, as it usually is, is this: whether or not you’re prepared, show up to your goals. It’s the only way to learn how to proceed, how to eventually succeed, and what to do after success is yours.

And in this crazy book writing business, I hear the knock downs make the final stretch all that much sweeter.