Architechting

Cass laid the keys down gently on the entryway table so as not to wake up her husband. From where she stood she could see that he was lying on the couch with the baby, their son, ten months old.

“Thank god for him,” She decided against a kiss on his forehead, the baby might stir and she didn’t want to risk waking either of them. On the other end of the couch, Daisy snuggled in deep with the family cat, her four year old daughter’s face looked exactly like the cherubs painted in some European church Cass toured as a college student.

“I’m so tired.” Her plane was delayed, she missed her connecting flight in Chicago, so her ten p.m. arrival evolved into a three a.m. arrival, home at three-forty-five.  And she was due at the office for an early meeting at seven.

Cass slogged her way to their his-and-hers bathroom and showered off airplane and airports and taxi cabs.   “I better not get in bed, I’ll sleep too deeply.” She made her way back to the living room and sat opposite the couch to watch her family sleep, and maybe catch a small nap.

“They’re so peaceful and secure.”  She was grateful to be able to provide for their safety.   Without her income as a sales assistant for a marketing firm, they’d struggle with just her husband’s meager teaching salary.  Especially here in San Francisco.   It meant, though,  that he was more involved with their children than she was because of the demands of her work.  She was surprised to find, one day not long ago, an inkling of resentment towards him for the way things were working out.   “Where the hell did that thought come from?” She checked it right away.  This was her decision as much as his, even when they dated they talked through the details.   His teaching salary wasn’t much, but the benefits made up for it, as did the long vacations, although Blake’s workload was arguably as heavy as hers.  She is the main bread winner instead, and he takes care of ‘home base’.   It seemed so progressive when they talked it over years ago, but living the reality was exacting a cost that Cass didn’t know she would be forced to pay.

She missed Daisy’s first day of pre-school thanks to a client who suddenly was ‘shopping around’ again at other agencies. Cass’ career took a hit when she became unable to fly because of her pregnancy with David:  A client needed assurance somewhere and an agent needed to fly there in person to allay their anxiety.  It was her account, but Phil got all the accolades because he could board an airplane.  She has only been to their son’s newborn checkups; Blake had so far taken him by himself since David was six weeks old. She was missing his infancy. “Shit.”  By comparison, Daisy was a big girl now that David was the baby and Cass found herself wondering what she was up to these days.  Was she still on her ‘I hate applesauce because its not a real apple!” kick?  She had a band-aid on her elbow, Cass noticed.  “I wonder what happened?”

Feeling herself at the beginning of a no-win, could’ve, should’ve guilt trip, she got up from her chair to get a bottle of water. “Breathe.”  The kitchen was a mess, there was a shut off notice for the electric bill on the table, and the dishwasher was full but hadn’t been run. Cass’ anger flared and she sat down to organize the pile of mail that accrued while she’d been gone, this was her chore since Blake took care of the house and kids. “Breathe.” Pre-school tuition was overdue, their student loans were overdue, there were doctor bills from her emergency c-section in arrears.  They let the housekeeper go (she came once a week) and long ago quit eating out.  Cass agreed to keep lunch-buying to a once a week deal, but many days she forgot to pack a lunch and so went without.  She was existing on office coffee and vending machine almonds. “Breathe.” The mail was organized, junk in the trash and a neat stack of bills brought a sense of immediate gratification.   She checked the bank account to see which bills could be paid, which would need to be juggled and fell apart at the low number in their balance. The second daycare expenditure was impacting their budget with disastrous results.  Bills would have to wait till her next check on the fifteenth because, for god’s sake, they had to feed the babies.  So much for a decent credit score. “Breathe.”

Heaviness broke through the exhaustion and weighed Cass’ soul down like an anchor.  She was frozen to the dining chair, she was unable to reign in her quickened breathing and her chest tightened. She curled her knees into it for comfort. “It’s gonna be okay.  It always works out.  It’s just a fucking credit score.  It’s not your identity.  And today is Friday and you have the weekend with your babies.”  It took several minutes and she finally let the first tear slip.  Once done, the dam broke and Cass wracked her body with quiet sobs as the stress from traveling, parenting, partnering, balancing, and working made its way out from deep inside where she kept it buried.

Blake waited until her sobs receded.  He watched from the doorway, having come upon her just as she was breaking down.   He knew she’d want to be left alone, so he stood and let his own tears fall from a well of love and gratefulness.  Once she began to quiet, he approached slowly and stroked her hair from behind and offered tissues from the counter.

“Thank you.”  She let him hold and comfort her, fix her a pot of coffee and caught her up on how the babies were doing. David was beginning to pull himself up to chairs and Daisy can print out her first name. She filled him in on the success of her trip.  After half-an hour, at five-thirty eight, Cass made her way upstairs again to dress for work.  At six o’five she kissed her sleeping children good-bye and grabbed her lunch from her husband. “See you this afternoon.”

She stepped outside to catch the train to work.  “Breathe.”


Deathbed

There’s not much we can do.

You and I can only wait at this point.

All chances of a healthy outcome have passed,

This is the end, this is the time to begin mourning.

We try and prepare, make certain that our

own houses are in order.

It is difficult, we don’t know what awaits us

when She’s gone.

There are the quiet whisperings of

those gathered round the bed:

“Wasn’t she beautiful in her prime?”

“Remember that time when…..”

“She was the top of her class.”

Respectful admirations morph into

consoling observations as we struggle

to find a way to justify Her fall.

“She was bewitched by all that money,”

Someone said.

“It’s true,” agreed another and then,

“But there were those who were out to

get Her deliberately, She didn’t have a chance.”

This statement weighed heavy in the room,

we all knew it was precise.

With nothing left to say, we watched Her breathe

and knew that as Her death approached, so did the

death of life as we knew it.

We reflected, each to our own, about how we could have

changed things, what we would have done differently,

where we were lazy.

And each to our own, took a portion of responsibility

for the ending Her life.

Outside, the dogs of greed bark and yip

excitedly at the smell of Her imminent death.

They too, have been waiting but with

a different aspect.

Knowing Her power is nearly snuffed out,

They are anxious to overrun our towns

and de-civilize our streets.

Their increased energy is felt inside

the room of Her deathbed.

A quiet sob breaks from among one of the visitors,

As it’s noticed that Her breathing has become labored,

Not much longer.

If we say goodbye now, can She hear it?

If we tell Her we love Her, will She sense it?

If we say we’re sorry, so very sorry for Her demise,

will She forgive us?

We do it anyway, mostly to succor ourselves.

Because watching Democracy die is deeply painful,

and the grief that awaits when She does, even more so.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Public Work

Many of us are getting out of our comfort zone and becoming involved in public discourse like never before and the Science March this past weekend provided proof of this.  I was grateful for those across the world that set aside time on their Saturday to ‘show up’ and let our leaders know that facts matter, we don’t buy the propaganda, and we care about democracy and a healthy earth.

But there’s more ‘showing up’ than just marching for science these days.

My local ACLU chapter has recorded an uptick in people showing up for their monthly meetings.   I live in a conservative area of northern California and have noticed a definitive increase in progressive activism taking place.  Many of us have realized that being a citizen is more than just showing up at a voting booth every election and sending money to our favorite social endeavor.

It’s work though. I don’t know about you but I’ve taken on a new respect for all our public elected officials because it takes time and dedication to ‘show up’ at meeting after meeting, event after event, and like many of us, did so while working a regular job. I have learned to greatly respect those men and women in my new friends circle who have devoted years worth of Saturday’s or work week evenings to meet, discuss, plan, advance, and advocate for healthy democratic ideals in our communities.

I am, thankfully, in a place where my children are raised and I have more time to devote to public service.   But I realized that even that is an excuse as I sat one recent Saturday afternoon and listened to a mother of two daughters contend for the position of California Democratic Chair.  I thought to myself “If she’s willing to give up time with her family and speak with me to earn her vote, I have had no reason not to at least show up to a monthly ACLU meeting.”

We live in a historical time with an unpredictable president and a federal government shorn of much of it’s power to be a balancing element to Wall Street.  Many of us are realizing that democracy isn’t just about voting, its also about meetings after a work-day full of meetings, its about giving up time with family on the weekends, its about more bodies ‘showing up’ at local community halls.

So thanks!  Thanks to those who went out of their comfort zone yesterday and marched for reason.  Thanks to those elected servants, whether on the same side of the aisle as me or not, because I understand a little more now the sacrifice given to serve. Thanks to those ‘showing up’ more and more at local meetings and events, investing your time to ensure that democracy prevails at this moment in history.  Mostly, thanks for all those who, over decades of dedication, have consistently shown up, even when the socio-political weather was fair.   You are exemplary and encouraging.

Yours,

Frankie


Resurrection Realization

With the knowledge that much of the world is celebrating a well known hero and his resurrection story today, I’m taking time to reflect upon the ways that we can apply the story to our lives, even if we don’t spend time in a church pew or singing holy hymns.

In Joseph Campbell’s “Hero’s with a Thousand Faces” we learn that over the relatively short span of our existence, we humans have been really good at consistently telling the same story over and over and over again:  We are born, we face trials, we die and go through hell, we are resurrected.   Campbell says the archetypal steps of the story line give us inspiration for our own trials and tribulations:  Who doesn’t go through hell when a loved one is lost?  Who isn’t faced with guilt or shame when a divorce occurs?  How many of us come face to face with our dark selves in the caves of awareness and must wrestle our own demons there in order to escape?

Life is suffering. “Life is pain, Highness. Anyone who tells you otherwise is selling you something.” Yet the human spirit is amazingly resilient and repeatedly has shown strength in the face of great adversity.  This is the miracle we can celebrate today – that we come out on the other side of our descent into hell.  We triumph over grief, we become better partners in our next relationship, we figure out ways to accept and then overcome our weaknesses. We resurrect ourselves, consistently and perpetually .

We echo this sentiment in our cultural story telling.  Our heroes endure isolation and hellish torture, overcome their adversaries, and are ultimately stronger than before. They provide inspiration to us as we go about our daily lives so that when we do endure suffering, we can have hope in the fact that if our heroes have made it out alive and more powerful, then so can we.

So even if we aren’t subscribed to the religion celebrating the hero story of the day, we can still reflect on our propensity as humans to muddle through whatever hell life might throw at us, and our ability to resurrect ourselves to live once more.  We can also be grateful for the strength and resiliency inherent in our spirits to do so.

Yours,

Frankie


Climate Change

Children stay home from school so mom and dad avoid the ICE men.

My, how the climate has changed.

I smile at the pretty woman with the beautiful, colorful scarves around her head, she smiles back.

We both know this small interaction is meaningful in a world where prejudice and profiling are becoming the norm.

Why do I feel as if I’m something special just for having given her my silent acceptance?

I can only say that it is because of the climate change.

City councils, county supervisors, debate and argue about whether or not to be a place of ‘sanctuary’.

Walls built, invisible or monolithic, to keep them out and keep us in,

Where contention and ideologies clash and drive us into just another desperate nation.

Wow, has the climate changed.

Sons disavowing parents, relationships rent over fact vs. fiction, journalism vs. propaganda, country vs. party.

Facebook friends blocked, or blocked yourself.  Twitter is a national diary, faithfully recording the reactions of a president and his populace.

Social media and media conflate our anxiety, smoldering anger gives way to hateful outbursts, violence, and abuse.

Damn, how the climate’s changed.

Uncertainty becomes a way of life, we once knew where we stood and we were really that exceptional, not anymore.

Gyroscopes of truths surround our thought habitat.  It is difficult to find our balance and so we become animals again; obeying instinct, forgetting reason.

No wonder fear is marketable, and so greedily consumed.

Have you noticed that the climate has changed?

Can we weather this storm and keep the damage to a minimum?

Will we find a way to overcome our fear and realize that we can stand together about certain things, that justice and human rights are non-negotiable?

Does the ship of our constitution have the wherewithal to navigate these uncharted waters with just a few frail masts and an even more frail wooden frame?

I wonder, these days, how we will survive this climate change.

 


My Hero

Emerge from a grave of darkness,

That you thought would never end.

Writhing pain and torment kept you

bound there, and emitted the illusion of

hopelessness and death.

You sought help, and though it was slow to

answer your pleading, it came and confused

your captor.

The assistant was not the ultimate

savior, you see, rather the tools she gave you to

strengthen your own resolve became the

keys to freedom.

You sit in this hell for a while, and sharpen these

devices until they are deathly.

Then, set yourself free.

Self – control, meaningful meditation, deeper

understanding of your own weaknesses,

Allow an escape, once and for all from the

darkness.

Triumphant, born again with fortitude that evaded you before,restingplace

 

You will now walk your path without trepidation.

You have a quiver dressed with arrows to deter future captors,

And a soul covered with armor to protect from further attacks.

You are stronger, more alive, more

determined.

You have become your own hero.

 

 

 

 


This Writer’s Reflection

I was grateful to have come across this video the other day as it explains the difficulty in finding young adult books with leading female characters.

It was poignant for me since the motivation for writing ‘Caysee Rides’ was born solely from my sister, mother of two daughters, who exclaimed, “Do you know how hard it is to find books with strong female characters?”

CayseeRides_Final_resized

Now available on Nook and Kindle

I didn’t set out to be a young adult children’s author, but the comment made an impression and the idea for the book sprouted, grew, and is now bearing fruit.

The story is a bit trite, I am aware of that.   But I also know that there is nothing new under the sun.  We only have a few story lines to choose from as writers, composers only have eight notes with which to work – such is the way of things.   Yet we have the ability to infuse our own imagination into our work, thus demarcating it and setting it above others. I focused upon the subjects of freedom and friendship, and enjoyed the process of enabling two strong characters to form an eternal bond while pursuing the right to live their own lives.

I am proud of this story.  I am proud that it fills a need in the market to have strong female characters and to have their voices heard. I am proud that it inspires others to stand their ground.  I am proud that it exemplifies a young woman’s ability to be true to herself and enjoy her independence.   Trite or not, the story serves it’s purpose and does what I set out to do:  create a book with ‘Strong female characters.”

And thanks, Francesca Cavallo and  Elena Favilli for observing the same and creating Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls.

Here’s to more books with strong female characters.

Frankie

 


Keep on Keepin’ On

This was one of my mother’s favorite phrases, she would say it to me at the end of almost every  phone conversation.

The words are never so imperative as they are now.  There are many of us who are still trying to make sense of our new political climate, trying to find where our creativity fits in among the dark cloud hanging over our nation.

As for me, I’ve decided not to write about today.  In my work with economics, I am certain that  at this point we are unable to pull out of the tailspin in which we find ourselves. Instead, my work is written for the future, for tomorrow, for the young men and women who will have to reckon with the consequences of this administration in the next decade.  They will get my energy and time.  They will get my wisdom and compassion.  They are the muse for my writing.

To accomplish that goal, I am currently working on a short story to submit to the Pearl S. Buck writing contest.    I enjoy working on a small project like this, it challenges my editorial eye and allows me to break out of the tediousness of working on a longer manuscript.   Writer’s Digest recently posted some good reasons for short story writing as well.

We are not the same nation we were a few months ago.   Nor will we be when all is said and done by this current president.   But our voices are still important, and will be more so for the generation that follows us.   “Keep on keepin’ on,”  write a story for them, submit it to a contest, get those creative waters flowing,  it is the only thing we can do.  But it is empowering.

Yours,

Frankie

 

 


Dark Age II

Shut Out the World, Turn Inward on Ourselves

Usher in the Dark Age.

Forego Checks and Balances, Leave all Rules Behind

Usher in the Dark Age.

Fire without Warning, Reality TV Politics

Usher in the Dark Age.

Condemn Free Speech, Despise the Fourth Estate

Usher in the Dark Age.

Mute the Scientists, Deafen the Populace

Usher in the Dark Age.

Revoke Dissenting Opinion, Claim it’s for ‘Your Good’

Usher in the Dark Age.

Truth becomes Irrelevant, Alternative Facts Laid Bare

Usher in the Dark Age.

Privatize the Public, Deregulate what is Healthy

Usher in the Dark Age.

Ignore the Constitution, Fleece Your Own Nation…

Disheveled White Men

Usher in the American Dark Age.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Women’s March: Just a Start

I was in Chico, California, home of my university Alma Mater.   A few hundred were expected, a couple of thousand showed up, as was typical across the US and the world.march

I marched for several reasons:

As a historian I marched because I see the possibility of past tyranny becoming a present reality for our nation.  This worries me deeply.

As a mother I marched because I have three sons.  I desire a peaceful future for them and their children.  I wish for them to have the opportunities I had as a young adult (chances are they won’t get them, but I will still fight for them).   I want them to know that democracy isn’t about just voting, it’s about making your voice carry to the oval office.  And my voice along with millions of others did carry into the very core of our nation, manifested by this morning’s tweets.

As a citizen, I marched to be another warm body among the sea.  I marched to add one more voice to the chant “Rise up”.  I marched to demonstrate support for my fellow citizens who’s lives have been marginalized by our current President.

I marched because democracy is a gift, and we must work sometimes to keep it.

It was empowering.

When I got home and opened my Twitter and Facebook accounts, I was met by pictures and stories of people from all over the world who joined in and made it perfectly clear:  This is what democracy really looks like.    This is solidarity.  These are people who will not sit idly like a frog in the proverbial boiling water, instead they will jump out at the first sign of danger and warn the rest who might not notice the change.

The next four years can be a long time or a short time, but they will absolutely be a time wherein we must engage in our democracy as never before.  May the Women’s March and it’s peaceful tone be the first step, just the start, in this process.

There is work to do, fellow citizens.   Let’s get about doing it.

Yours,

Frankie