Stand By Me

Just want to affirm the love expressed in this blog posting by Ann Hedreen in “therestlessnest.” With so much negativity, violence, and hate in our world, the royal wedding was a good reminder on the power of love. I also feel confident that Meghan is already a change agent in the royal family and look forward to seeing how her personality and perspectives will shake things up. The wedding ceremony certainly was not all white–a reflection of the real world that contributed animation and beauty to the widely-viewed, very formal wedding ceremony.

therestlessnest

_101664541_053e2d0f-a05b-4c6e-bb13-349acf2c705dOn May 19, 2019, I did something I have never done before: I watched an entire royal wedding. Not live: better than live! In an act of pure selfless devotion, my husband remembered that I had said something about “recording the wedding” and actually set the TV to record it before we went to bed. He himself could not be less interested. But he knew I was.

After grieving my way through the morning papers—school shooting in Texas, misery in Gaza and Venezuela, tension brewing again in Korea—I was more than ready for the diversion of a royal pageant. Coffee in one hand and remote in the other, I fast-forwarded through the three hours of buildup and blather until, at last, I got to the main course: Meghan Markle getting out of the Rolls Royce at St. George’s Chapel. Time to get this fancy shindig started.

When Charles and Diana…

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Celebration

In 2017 I didn’t feel like having a birthday. I just wanted to ignore it. I was feeling downhearted about getting my memoir published after submitting my manuscript to book contests and sending query letters to various indie presses and university presses for a few years.

Being a semi-finalist and finalist for a few contests was encouraging. I also received a lovely rejection letter from an editor who explained their process for selecting books, indicating the enthusiasm of those who advocated for my book. However, these were still rejections.

This year, I decided to attend a few writing conferences that featured literary agents while continuing my previous strategy. I was willing to keep going and try some new tactics. I also decided that no matter what, Celebration would be my theme for 2018. And birthday celebrations were in order for March! That’s what I did with a lot of help from my friends.

On the last Friday in March, I was on my laptop at home when I received a message from Willow Books Literary Awards. I felt faint and quickly forwarded it to my writing group: Trish, Ann, and Esther. “Omigod! Tell me if I’m dreaming or hallucinating!”

I needed confirmation because, even though I consider myself a careful reader, I have read and misinterpreted messages in the past. They emailed me back quickly: “BIG congratulations on winning the Grand Prize in prose!”

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I had won their book contest in prose, including works of fiction and nonfiction!! The prize included publication by Aquarius Press!! Then I started crying. It had been such a long road since I started submitting my manuscript in 2014. There were times when I felt hopeless and wanted to give up. Most writers have experienced similar dark moments. My writing group can attest to my moments of despair. They would boost my spirits and urge me to continue. Other writers would remind me that rejection was normal for writers; this was part of the job and I just had to keep going.

In fact, I had pinned Jesmyn Ward‘s PBS interview on the wall above my desk earlier in the year. I highlighted her words: “Persist. Read, write, and improve.” This is what her teachers and mentors had told her, so she was passing on their wisdom. This award-winning author also advised:

“Accept rejection until you find acceptance, but don’t become disheartened, stop writing, and remove yourself from the conversation.”

No, I hadn’t stopped. My voice is important and I want to be part of the conversation. And now my book The Lava Never Sleeps: A Honolulu Memoir will be on bookshelves in Spring 2019. Yes, all my years of work have not been for nothing. My words will be out  there in the world–it’s beyond exciting!

I was still pinching myself even after the official announcement was posted on the Willow Books Literary Awards web site. I still feel a bit like I’m “The Twilight Zone,” but in a positive way. As we enter the fifth month of 2018, I am full of gratitude and anticipate more celebrations still to come!

 

 

 

March!

March is a special month for me. It’s my birthday month and it marks the coming of Spring. The promise of Spring brings hope to a wintry world that warm days, new growth, and blooming flowers are ahead.

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It’s also the only month that can also be a verb, a call to action: March!

On March 3, girls are celebrated in Japan. Hinamatsuri is dedicated to the happiness and health of girls.

On March 8, we celebrate International Women’s Day.

This combination of action and women seems no accident. Women are marching! We are marching for equality. We want personal safety. We want to stop sexual harassment, domestic violence, an end to the rape culture. We want a lot and we are speaking truth to power. Women are rising and standing up!

In my writing group of four women, I mentioned how girls are not taught to say NO! STOP THAT! GET YOUR HANDS OFF ME! HOW DARE YOU TALK TO ME LIKE THAT! We need to rethink how we can raise girls to be both nice and tough, to be fierce and loud when necessary.

Author Barbara Kingsolver writes about empowering girls in The Guardian. In “#MeToo Isn’t Strong Enough: Now Women Need to Get Ugly,” she says:

Let’s be clear: no woman asks to live in a rape culture: we all want it over, yesterday. Mixed signals about female autonomy won’t help bring it down, and neither will asking nicely. Nothing changes until truly powerful offenders start to fall. Feminine instincts for sweetness and apology have no skin in this game. It’s really not possible to overreact to uncountable, consecutive days of being humiliated by men who say our experience isn’t real, or that we like it actually, or are cute when we’re mad. Anger has to go somewhere – if not out then inward, in a psychic thermodynamics that can turn a nation of women into pressure cookers. Watching the election of a predator-in-chief seems to have popped the lid off the can. We’ve found a voice, and now is a good time to use it, in a tone that will not be mistaken for flirtation.

March is also Women’s History Month and I can’t help but think of all the strong, loving, and supportive women in my life. Because of them, I completed my B.A. at the University of Washington and I’m a writer with a completed memoir manuscript and continuing to explore my creativity; these are goals that seemed unreal when I first arrived in Seattle in 1986 and was scrambling for a job and living space and new friends.

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So many people come and go in the course of a lifetime, but each person can touch another life in profound ways. This has been especially true for me in regard to my community of women friends and colleagues, past and present. I have been able to grow and blossom as a strong and creative woman because of them. YAY, WOMEN!

Presidential

This week marked the unveiling of the official portraits of former President Barack Obama and First Lady Michelle Obama. It was wonderful timing in a month to honor African American history, to remember this historic president as the first African American U.S. president. But let me make it even more clear and more broad: Obama was the first non-white President, someone that most people of color identified with and loved.

Other historic points: Both portraits were by African American artists, the first to be given such commissions. Kehinde Wiley painted the President, and Amy Sherald depicted the First Lady. The portraits will hang in the National Portrait Gallery in Washington, D.C. (Images available on CNN link below.)

These were consequential events, an intersection of art and history, for all Americans.

CNN reported:

The former first lady said she was thinking about the impact Sherald’s work will have on “girls and girls of color.”
“They will see an image of someone who looks like them hanging on the walls of this great American institution … And I know the kind of impact that will have on their lives because I was one of those girls,” she said.

The unveiling also was a powerful reminder of the dignity and humanity that we expect in our presidents and that Barack Obama exemplifies. By selecting these

Barack_Obama_2009-10-26artists, he and Michelle were making a thoughtful statement about who we are, about our talents and gifts, about race in America.

While words are important, wise leaders know their actions speak louder than words.

Note: Netflix is featuring a 2017 interview of Obama by David Letterman. It offers an oasis of calm and wit from the current chaos in our nation’s capital. Another reminder of presidential.

 

Staying Woke: Part 2

How do you stay informed in this world of 24/7 news? We have a plethora of choices. Not all are responsible sources. Not all ascribe to serious journalism standards.

My friends’ morning routine includes going online to these websites: CNN, the New York Times, the Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, and BBC. They turn to the CNN channel for a few minutes for the latest updates. In the evening, they watch MSNBC’S The Rachel Maddow Show.

As former journalists, Deborah and Larry have identified the news sources they trust. But there are others.

I am definitely not a news geek, but I want to stay informed. It’s imperative especially in these dangerous times to stay woke. You could say it’s the duty of all good citizens to be aware and alert to what’s happening in our country and to hold our government officials accountable. Morning is my writing time, and following the news at the level of my friends would take too big a chunk out of my morning. First, I’m a slow reader and sometimes it’s not just my slowness; my Internet slows down. Secondly, I don’t have a television in my apartment. Even though I have access to one in our building’s community room, it’s not always convenient.

Nevertheless at some point in the day, I can go online to CNN, then to the Washington Post or the New York Times. I’ve been a fan of the Times, but hadn’t read the Post much. Right in our nation’s capital, the Post is geographically closer to the political scene and late-breaking scandals. Being imbedded in D.C., they provide an immediacy to their news. Of course the Times has a D.C. bureau to keep on top of the news there.

I agree with Deborah about the importance of following some foreign news sources. What do other countries think about our President and American events? I like The Guardian and watch CBC and BBC from time to time, but not daily. That’s the best that I can do.

Other television news I watch occasionally include PBS News Hour.  60 Minutes is a television news magazine on CBS and also very informative. On the radio, I listen to NPR. And I subscribe to The Atlantic for its well-written articles on topics important to me.

More than ever it’s important to support good journalism and subscribe to news magazines, newspapers, and other news sources you trust.

Larry is biased toward newspapers, but he makes a good point. He says, “Papers are one of the best sources of coherent, calmly displayed information about what is happening….The strength of newspapers is in detail, and learning that detail makes us all smarter and better citizens.”

According to Walter Cronkite, “Journalism is what we need to make democracy work.”

I would add that we process information differently when reading compared to watching something. Reading has always been a thoughtful process for me. Sometimes I need to re-read. Sometimes I need to stop and think about what I just read. Sometimes I need to follow up an article by reading another source to confirm or dispute the original story. Reading develops critical thinking, a quality that is frankly crucial in today’s world.

Besides I’m old school. I like holding a physical newspaper or magazine or book. It provides a more sensory experience than reading a screen. I like flipping the pages, sometimes back and forth, and maybe underlining something. Since I can’t afford to subscribe to everything, the library is a great resource for newspapers and magazines. Reading online is a different experience for me and I admit to getting screen fatigue even though or especially since so much is available at my fingertips.

However, reading online news cannot be avoided. Another online news source I read is Matt from WTF Just Happened Today?, which is exactly how I frequently feel since last November. This site compiles the day’s headlines from various national news sources that cover the latest chaos in the White House.

Generations growing up with the Internet will likely disagree, but quality of news or information makes a difference, not quantity. Having infinite choices 24/7 is not necessarily a good thing.

And this bears repeating: Facebook is not a news source.

Staying Woke: Print, Broadcast, Online?

PART 1

Back in the dark ages before WWW and the Internet, my family got the news by reading our local newspapers or listening to the radio. Every family subscribed to a newspaper. Weekly news magazines, like Time and Newsweek, were also popular. We felt we had several good choices for staying informed, but we Boomers were especially ecstatic when black and white televisions arrived in our homes. The news program became an important part of our day.

Cronkite

Watching the 6 o’clock news on CBS with Walter Cronkite became a daily ritual to get the latest in national and world news. He was a serious journalist trusted by the public. He understood that people needed to be informed to be good citizens. Living in Honolulu, we were eager for news of both East and West. Late night news broadcasts were also available at 10 or 11 on the three network channels. Then all programming signed off every night around midnight with an image of the American flag and a soundtrack of the “Star-spangled Banner.”

As anchorman of the CBS Evening News, I signed off my nightly broadcasts for nearly two decades with a simple statement: ‘And that’s the way it is.’ To me, that encapsulates the newsman’s highest ideal: to report the facts as he sees them, without regard for the consequences or controversy that may ensue.
-Walter Cronkite

 

Today in the 21st Century, with a smart phone and access to the Internet, everyone can tap into as much news as desired anytime of the day or night. Newspapers from all over the globe are available online and news programs can be streamed into a device in your hand. Several television channels are devoted exclusively to news. Online or not, local, national, and international news are available 24/7.

That’s a lot of news. In fact, the news cycle never ends. It’s an endless loop. News geeks, rejoice! This is your time.

But even news junkies need filters and discernment. There’s a lot of noise and filler and infotainment in the mix. Something read online can be fabricated and intentionally distorted; bluster and opinion fill some radio shows. Accuracy and facts, as well as civil discourse, are sadly lacking in some so-called news shows.

I wonder and worry how young people today stay informed, if they are developing a routine for gathering the news and identifying responsible news sources, e.g., Facebook is not a news source.

Two of my friends, a married couple, are former journalists and avowed news junkies. I asked them to describe their daily routine for getting the news. With two computers, they each go online first to various news websites. Deborah goes to CNN first to get an overview of the headlines, then will read more in-depth articles on the websites of the New York Times and Washington Post. According to Deborah, the Times is highly respected for its investigative journalism. And of course, the Washington Post broke the story about the Watergate scandal.

The next websites they read are the Wall Street Journal for its financial news and the BBC for its European perspective on American news. Then they turn on the TV to CNN and/or MSNBC; they watch the bottom of the screen closely for breaking news.

All this takes about an hour, then they go on with their day.

Rachel-MaddowAt 6 p.m., they watch the Rachel Maddow Show on MSNBC. Deborah says, “Rachel focuses on just a few stories that she thinks deserve audience attention.” I’ve been watching her show more regularly over the last few weeks and she is very intelligent. She doesn’t dumb anything down for her viewers. She does her homework by reading various news stories in different publications and is able to connect the dots by reporting the context of each story so the viewer understands or at least can get a sense of why this is important. Her guests include other respected journalists who can further explain or contextualize a news item. I’ve become a fan and I’m not the only one. Maddow’s viewership has increased rapidly since 2014.

In the current issue (Oct. 2017) of Vanity Fair, Editor Graydon Carter says:

In my opinion, she is the quickest mind on television, building cases against the administration so dizzying in their complexity and ultimate clarity that you wish she sent out Cliff’s Note in advance.

Getting the news used to be much more simple. I tried to follow my friends’ daily routine, but sadly failed. (To be continued.)

 

Terracotta Warriors of Ancient China

This summer we in Seattle have been fortunate to see the touring exhibit of the Terra-cotta Warriors of China’s first emperor. Archeologists are still excavating the site in Xi’an, China, where thousands more are still buried. So far approximately 2,000 of these clay soldiers have been discovered and reassembled. There could be 8,000 more plus life-size horses, chariots, and weapons.

They were produced more than 2,000 years ago to ensure the protection and power of Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di in the afterlife. This emperor had the power and wealth to furnish his tomb with whatever he desired for the next life. It’s a testament to human ingenuity and craftsmanship. The exhibit at the Pacific Science Center displays only a fraction of the unearthed artifacts. One display features an assembly line of laborers forming the clay, using   molds for various parts of the body, attaching the pieces, individualizing the heads, then carrying the finished product to the fire pit.

terracotta warriors1

The numbers are impressive, not just the quantity of these soldiers and generals produced, but their individual faces and the immaculate detail of their armor, hair, and headgear that mirror the military dress requirements of those times. I wonder whose faces they replicated. Did they use their own and their fellow laborers? Their family members? We will probably never know.

Archeologists have confirmed that these warriors once were painted in brilliant colors, which have since disintegrated. Finding this army was astounding enough, but then the discovery of the rich details provided for each soldier confirms that no expense was spared to meet the emperor’s requirements.

Indeed, how many laborers would it have taken to construct this memorial site, dig the pits for the army to stand in, produce the materials for these warriors and other bronze artifacts, craft everything, and house and feed everyone? The untouched tomb itself probably holds incredible riches. Experts estimate it took ten years and over 700,000 laborers to complete.

As a writer, I want the untold stories of these laborers, presumably slaves. However, these likely would not be happy stories. Just as it’s not likely there were any records kept that might have survived or that any of these laborers might have been literate and kept some kind of diary. Was there great suffering? Did the laborers experience moments of pride, even awe, in being involved in such a grand project, something never done before? Did the laborers even know this project was for the emperor?

What we know is that after years of hard labor, everyone working on the site was killed to safeguard the location and all that it contained. They were exterminated and buried in mass graves.

The exhibit was worth seeing. However, lurking below the magnificence and wonder of it all, we find once again the very real human cost of grandiose achievements. The best and worst of humanity is on display with China’s Terracotta Warriors.