Thursday, December 08, 2016

Looking at 1990 from 2016

My father and I dancing at my sister-in-law's wedding



My sister-in-law sent me these photos she'd found just the other day. They were from her first wedding in 1990ish.

I remember laughing because guests kept calling my dad the 'secret service agent' because of the sun glasses. It was an outdoor wedding and by the time the sun set, he realized he'd forgotten his regular prescription glasses. I love this photo of him as the mature man of mystery.

I was so young then. Newly married. In my mid 20s. My folks were in their mid 60s. My dad had retired early and they were traveling the world. They seemed so happy.  I didn't think of them as old, even though they were a generation older than most of my peers' parents, as they had adopted me in their early 40s. 


With both my parents
This was before the dementia that robbed us of my mom appeared. Years before my father's failing kidney function would manifest itself and lead him to years of dialysis.

There are so many things I wish I could tell the person I was that day. Nothing critical. No single, simple piece of advice like 'turn right out of the parking lot in 2007' or 'buy that stock you were taking about.'

No. What I wish I could have said to myself is relax. Breathe. You're going to spend so much of your time and energy worrying about things that won't ever happen, that you'll miss so many things - so many amazing moments - in the process.

Your children will experience heartaches and yes, you will be powerless to prevent them and not much use in helping them heal afterward. These are the painful limitations of parenting. But they will know you love them. Just as you know your parents loved you, despite their flaws. And your children will do the same.

I wish I could have told myself to start writing sooner and not concern myself with whether it was good or not. That there was nothing to do but to get the words down and dedicate myself to craft because no matter how inspired I was, the pixie dust only lasts so long and the habits of consistent work need to take over. It took me another 16 years after these photos were taken to even start to understand that.

That holding grudges takes energy away from living and most of the hurts I would ruminate on, I was also guilty of and never even knew it. As important as it is to cut others slack, we also need to cut ourselves some, too, even as we strive to be and do better.

There were conversations I never got to have with my mother because by the time I was ready to have them, the dementia had already taken hold. I regret leaving so much unsaid. At least it was a lesson I learned well by the time my father had gotten sick. And it's a lesson I try to apply in my daily life.

I wish younger me knew that things in life rarely make sense; it's only that we impose a narrative on them to help us cope. Sometimes shitty things happen that no one deserves. It doesn't make you better or more noble or stronger. Sometimes amazing things happen that you don't especially deserve, even if you make yourself believe otherwise. I know I spent too many years blind to my own privilege. I am proud that my children understood this much sooner than I did.


I was fortunate enough for my father to live to see me publish my first books. My mother, the woman who initiated me into my lifelong love of reading, lost her ability to read to her disease. She used to flip through my first novel, but wasn't able to know much more than her daughter had written it. She was proud of that and so was my father, even if what I wrote was far out of his reading zone.

I'm not sure what the purpose of this blogpost is, other than when I got these photos last night part of me time traveled into the past.

It's also strange to realize that my oldest son is now just a handful of years younger than I was in these photos. Sorry for the melancholy and introspection. I think the shortening days and the oncoming cold and gray are to blame.

But as much as this is about looking back at the past, this weekend, we'll be looking ahead to the future as my husband and I take a brief trip to spend some time with our almost 3 year old twin godsons. (And their lovely parents, of course!)












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Thursday, December 01, 2016

Back to School


"Classroom" Photo by William Creswell, used with attribution, CC BY 2.0 https://www.flickr.com/photos/crackdog/2533394592/sizes/l


(Cross posted from The Scriptors, a group writing blog)

While I have been a lifelong passionate reader, I didn't much like English classes (or as they are called now, Language Arts) when I was in school. Sure, I would rather have been reading science fiction or fantasy novels than Dickens or Hawthorne or Faulkner, but that wasn't the main reason I disliked class. No, it was the absolute assurance of my teachers that they knew what the author intended in every passage, every single word.

This was in the 1970s and educational philosophies were still very much in the top down/autocratic style.

Anyway, I used to fantasize about becoming a famous author and showing up in a class just as a teacher was set to make some pronouncement about author intent and meaning just so I could stand and tell them they were utterly and helplessly wrong. As I got older, I realized that there had been merit in understanding the context of the writer's world and worldview in digging through layers of meaning in the written word, but I still hold to a philosophy that meaning is made in the intersection of artist and audience and that intent may not be nearly as important as how meaning shifts and evolves with our experience.

I can look back at work I'd written years ago and see layers of meanings and themes I had never consciously intended. Indeed, humans are meaning makers par excellence - consider how we create logic even in the midst of the illogic of our dreams.

Now, all of that is a preamble to the point of this blogpost: There's a curriculum being developed around my Halcyone Space books. Young-Lisa is enjoying her moment of revenge-fantasy from all the boring moments in Jr High and High School having to read Dickens over and over and over again. (Sorry for all you Dickens fans, but for whatever reason, I ended up studying Great Expectations three years in a row. If I never look at the man's work again, it will be too soon.)

A few months ago, I got a message from a woman who is a writer, educator, and fan of my work. She wanted to know if I had any objections to her developing a curriculum for homeschooled High School students based on DERELICT, the first book of my Halcyone Space series. She was concerned that there wasn't enough out there for homeschool educators that was based around diversity and using texts that would appeal to teens.

She shared the draft curriculum she had put together and I was blown away. Each lesson connected to a chapter and contained vocabulary, outside readings, and engaging multi-media activities to enhance learning. Gone were the dry lectures of my own High School career, along with set meanings and spoonfed themes. This was a totally different kind of learning, one that brought the students' own passions and interests into the forefront. One that honored the constructivist mindset that I bring to my work.

Did I have any objections? I was *thrilled*. And I'm not ashamed to say I teared up some. I mean, how cool is it that High School kids will be able to study Language Arts, STEM, creativity, and diversity within the context of a space opera novel! And mine! From the press release:


DERELICT itself features a group of teen friends who unexpectedly blast off into space aboard an old spaceship they were repairing. The story follows the team as they discover their individual and group strengths against an array of challenges. Woven into the mix are LGBT, STEM, Humanities and personal development content. 
[Belinda Y.] Hughes summarized each chapter and pulled out the vocabulary words. She then scoured the web and found engaging educational activities that were relevant to the chapter themes and appropriate to high school-level learners, including content from NASA.gov and Minecraft. “My goal was to bring this book to life in a fun, meaningful, interactive way, as well as lead students to think, and support them in their personal growth at a pivotal point in their young lives,” offers Hughes.

So, yeah, I've just been 'schooled' and in the best way possible.

You can read more about Belinda Y. Hughes and the development of her diversity curricula here, along with finding links to where the curriculum based on DERELICT is available. Her plan is to continue though the series.

I would be grateful if you would you please pass this on to any interested educators and homeschoolers you might know. Thank you.

(Just as an FYI, I have no commercial stake in the sale of Hughes's curriculum. That is her intellectual property.) 

#SFWApro 




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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

"The World Turned Upside Down"



It's fitting to use this song from "Hamilton" for the title of this blogpost for a number of reasons:

First, it's been two weeks since it feels like the world has been turned upside down. In two weeks we've gone from a certain smug confidence in the basic democratic principles of the United States to a place where many of us are fearful for our selves, our loved ones, our futures, and the most vulnerable in our population.

Second, the irony in making an explicit call back to the musical that our president elect has so forcefully criticized for being mean and unfair amuses me. And there has been precious little to be amused by of late. (Except for the "JoBama" memes.)

Third, because of a line in the song sung by Hercules Mulligan: "When you knock me down, I get the f*ck back up again."

That's what I'm hoping to take forward in my own life.

It has taken me two weeks to come to the point where I am forced to accept that a president-elect who is patently unqualified, ego-driven, infantile, incompetent, and untrustworthy (to name a few) will be the POTUS. It is not the reality I ever wanted to live in. I've spent the past two weeks in a haze of anger and fear and denial, but too much is happening and too quickly for me to stay in that state.

This is my personal manifesto.

  • I will speak openly in private life, public life, and social media against injustice, intolerance, and hatred
  • I will actively confront injustice, intolerance, and hatred when and where I see it, working to be an ally in society
  • I will support - with my money and my time - organizations that promote social justice, tolerance, civil liberties, and civil rights
  • I will continue to write stories that include diversity as a given
  • I will take care with my words and strive to be respectful to my fellow human beings by using the forms of address/pronouns they prefer
  • I will listen to marginalized voices and do what I can to amplify them
  • I will continue to support and vote for candidates at local and federal levels who promote the causes of social justice, tolerance, civil liberties, and civil rights

I will not be silenced. Not in my life. Not in my work. I have a kind of privilege that comes from having grown children, silver hair, and a degree of financial stability: I am no longer consumed with what others think of me anymore.

If what I can do is continue to write stories of individuals finding their power to act against injustice, that's what I will do. I'd like to think that Ro and the crew of Halcyone would approve.








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Thursday, November 17, 2016

Silence equals Consent, redux


This is the entire thread that I posted on twitter this morning, consolidated into one post. I would love to believe I'm overreacting. I would love to believe that our democratic institutions will weather any storm. I would love to be wrong.


Some deeply personal thoughts on ally-ship, intersectionality, and where to go from here. #notnormal

I am white, Jewish, neuro-atypical (among others). Some of my identities wrap me in privilege, some expose me to intolerance. Regardless of my other identities, my whiteness has protected me and let me live a life of relative privilege.

I was guilty of believing we were evolving as a society. That the work of social justice had already been done and I didn't have to fight. I was guilty of believing I could sit back in my comfortable suburban life and be smug in my liberal politics.

Hey - we had gay marriage. We elected the 1st black president, twice. It was all unicorns and glitter, right?

I thought anti-Muslim rhetoric after 9-11 was a blip & things would normalize. But being anti-Muslim became the new normal. #notnormal

I thought we'd made headway in dismantling institutional racism. Then came case after case of police targeting black lives, brown lives. These were not new horrors, only newly documented, newly public. Impossible to ignore, even in white suburbia. #notnormal

Economic & educational segregation is alive and well and thriving. Partly due to people like me who stopped saying this is #notnormal

Our justice system is blind, right? But it was never supposed to be blind to injustice. I bought into the whole zero-tolerance rhetoric, never seeing how it was propped up by manufactured fear or how it destroyed black lives simply because they were black. #notnormal

Now we have the ascendancy of Trump and the attempted normalization of intolerance. If I remain silent - if I believe the institutions of government will protect the vulnerable from these abuses - I create the conditions for abuse to be normalized. My liberal politics don't matter. My support of social justice causes doesn't matter.

NONE of it matters if I remain silent and allow what privilege I have to shield me. That is cowardice. That supports evil. #notnormal

Yes, I am late to this party. Yes, I let myself be complacent. I can let shame hold me back or I can move forward with greater resolve and add my voice to the chorus saying #notnormal

Do not be silent. Silence=consent




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