Wednesday, November 16, 2016

When the Bill Comes Due

As I'm blocking, not political discourse but people who lack the ability to have a reasoned conversation, I can't help but notice where it says who the person is "friends with." I'm friends with people with whom I disagree on policy issues, but not on human rights issues. We may have opposing views on finance and government spending, but not on human decency and respect. I wonder how one can be friends with someone full of that much venom and vitriol, who continues to repeat the same old untruths and exhibits that much patronizing superiority. I can't un-friend or block my parents, but I did un-follow them and limit my conversations to safe subjects like the weather and PBS British comedy shows. They have become minions. It will take a proper reversal of the brain chemistry changes brought on by high-level exposure to Fox News in the last two decades to open a mutually enlightening political dialogue between us. I am the lone liberal lavender sheep in my immediate family. Let's just say I believe Thomas Wolfe was right, "You can't go home again," but I'll add, "because it was never home to begin with." 
And to the men and women who now feel emboldened by the political climate of the day, I need you to know who I am before you comment here. The canned rebuttals are tired. Listen to what I’m saying before you decide I’m a “fat,” “nasty,” “libtard,” “c**t.” I am a fat, strong, independent, warrior, nasty woman, liberal if that’s what you meant. I will own that. What I’m not is ignorant. What I am is a student of politics and history. What I am is informed. What I know is we need opposing views and balanced policy to work for compromise that benefits us all. What I do is mourn the loss of reading comprehension beyond a sound bite or click-bait headline. What I want is a world where life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness doesn't come with a price tag only some can afford to pay.
Politically, I voted against the platform of the Republican President-elect, which promises to raise taxes on the poor and the middle class, strip millions of vital health care, deregulate wall street, and unleash the fossil fuel and coal industries on land and sea to do as they please, all in the name of cranking up the military industrial complex. And then there are the proposed changes to the laws regarding basic human rights of all Americans. These are facts, not campaign rhetoric. There has been no room for compromise with this current Republican legislature. I don't see any indication that will change with the new administration's goals as listed in their first 100 day plan. There is no middle ground, and that is where we must meet. Dividing us even more into the haves and have-nots is detrimental to our democracy. History has proven these types of policy changes will look shiny and new for a while and then the bill will come due. “Let them eat cake,” is not a healthy political strategy.

If we can't talk about these issues in a civil manner, then why waste time stopping by my social media spaces to insult Secretary Clinton and President Obama like a petulant child? Is that all you got? Have the alt-right writers neglected to provide a new script? I don't need to reach across the aisle to you. You obviously aren't interested in the free exchange of ideas. You are a minion. You are one of the expendables, and you're voting yourself into that status. The air is thick with your assumed impunity, while your mind is completely at the mercy of the information you are fed. You dream of being heroes in the revolution. Look around you. You aren't in the underground anymore. Your secret desires of social dominion over those who view the world differently are now normalized. You can drop the pretense of acceptance and tolerance. You can hate with gusto in the light of day, show everyone who you truly are. It must be freeing. Soldier on. Smile for the camera. Immortalize your hatred for history to see. Enjoy the time before the bill comes due for you too. #ReadForEnlightenment #StrongerTogether #WhatPriceFreedom

Thursday, November 10, 2016

Now I Do.

To you, yes you, the one who thinks everything is going to be fine—"sore losers," “common ground,” and all that—the one who says, "Why is this any different than any other election?" I have this to say:

If Secretary Clinton had won, this is what November 9th would have looked like for us. I might have smiled a bit, but the reality of another four years of Republican obstructionism ahead would have dampened the party atmosphere. The Green Party people would have risen to fight the good fight another day and patted themselves on the back for showing up. Someone would have probably purchased for Gov. Johnson an atlas and a history book, maybe a subscription to a newspaper. And Trump supporters would still have been angry with every person that isn't a reflection of their Nationalist beliefs.

As it is, the Green Party can count their votes and the minutes we have left before the coal and fossil fuel industries crank back up to pre-1970 levels. Gone will be the restrictions that protect the environment because they "slow" production and profits. I'm glad you're so proud of that showing, Green Party. You can proudly paint the number of votes on the pipeline and it can be your super secret club sign. Haven't you heard? The administration you helped put in office has in its first 100 day plan:

  • —lift the restrictions on the production of $50 trillion dollars' worth of job-producing American energy reserves, including shale, oil, natural gas and clean coal.
  • —lift the Obama-Clinton roadblocks and allow vital energy infrastructure projects, like the Keystone Pipeline, to move forward
  • —cancel billions in payments to U.N. climate change programs and use the money to fix America's water and environmental infrastructure

Gary Johnson supporters...really? Why are so many people unhappy with you? If you have to ask, maybe you are as clueless as your candidate was concerning current affairs. The third party votes were the margin of win for the autocrat in many of the battleground states. That's why! And what do you get for that vote. Let's see...according to the incoming administration's 100 day plan, you've helped raise taxes on the poor and middle class, reduce taxes on the wealthy and corporations, and will significantly increase the national debt. Should we remind you of the number of people who are about to lose healthcare? Thank you for being so committed to your ideals. We’re going to need that kind of dedication to live through this mess you helped create. Bless your hearts.

And finally, the Trump supporters are still angry, if not more so, as evidenced by the reports from around the country of threats of violence made to people of color, women, LGBTQ individuals, and anyone that hasn’t frantically scraped all the human rights and Hillary stickers off their cars. And while that was expected, win or lose, the newfound legitimacy of their violence evoking leader in the highest office of our land is frighteningly empowering to the Trumpers. And that, that is what is so different for me as a woman, as a liberal, as a part of the LGBTQ community, as a person with family and friends of all races, nationalities, and religions, as a student of history and autocrats, as a caring, environmentally aware, socially conscious, peace-seeking human being waking up today in America. While most of what is happening around me isn't any different than I had imagined it would be, the gut wrenching fear elicited by the results of a democratic election in my country is new. I had no idea how that felt. Now I do.

Friday, November 4, 2016

The Price of Silence

I continue to see people saying they don’t want to be “political” on their social media pages for fear of offending a customer. Should I have remained silent during the most important election of our lifetimes for fear of losing a book sale? No. I am okay with my political views making a reader or potential reader uncomfortable. I’m uncomfortable. I’m so very uncomfortable with the direction this election took. It makes me uncomfortable that racial slurs and xenophobia have replaced political discourse.  It is uncomfortable to listen to the extremist groups that have latched on to the pied piper Republican candidate. It is frighteningly uncomfortable to watch as bigots have seized implied permission to openly hate with fervor.  It makes me uncomfortable to stand by silently observing the worry and fear on my young transgender friend’s face. That silence comes with a price. To remain mute is simply not an option. 

“We must always take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.” —Elie Wiesel

It’s a shame this election comes down to personalities for many. It is important to note that we aren’t voting for personalities, we are voting for policy. When Secretary Clinton accepted the Democratic nomination, she undertook to put forth the ideals and values championed in the party platform. Supporters of Senator Sanders will remember he hung in there until he made some positive changes to that platform. While I am happy to be casting my vote for a female presidential candidate, I am ecstatic to be standing up for a platform I believe in. Had it been someone else as the figurehead of the Democratic Party, I would still be voting BLUE.
I believe in the rights of women to make decisions about their bodies. I believe Planned Parenthood offers lifesaving testing and medical care. I believe in a woman’s right to choose. I believe in equal pay for equal work. I believe in empowering women. I believe in a fair and balanced Supreme Court. I believe that the obstructionism perpetrated by the current Republican legislature is unconstitutional and, at the very least, selfish and childish behavior. I believe in comprehensive tax reform that does not further burden the middle class. I believe in funding education because I don’t want to live in a dumbed-down society. I believe in affordable medical care and health insurance for everyone. I am a gun owner who believes gun laws need to change before we bury more children. In fact, I pretty much buy the whole Democratic Party package. Beyond my excitement that the Democrats nominated a woman, I believe they nominated a candidate that can work to achieve the party policy platform goals. So, that whole "I don't know if I like her" excuse really has no bearing on how one votes if policy, not personality, is the deciding factor. I unabashedly share my support for the Democratic Party policy platform.

“There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.” —Elie Wiesel

Ignoring the clown show that is the Republican nominee, their party platform should be enough to warrant engagement. Much of the Republican platform is in direct opposition to the more progressive Democratic policy plans. The Republican Party talking points embrace a nostalgic look back at a "Great America," but somehow dismiss our dark history and the struggle to make real the constitutional promise of equality for all Americans. Part of the conservative policy aim is the negation of any progress made toward human and civil rights equality for the LGBTQ community. This returns me to what sparked this missive—reading a posting claiming neutrality and a non-political safe place. There is no non-political safe space this go around.

“But to tell the lonely person that I am not far or different from that lonely person, that I am with him or her, that’s all I think we can do and we should do.” —Elie Wiesel

Our country has sparse safe space for that young transgender kid who feels so very alone. Hearing no supportive voices in his small world, he turns to books in hopes of finding a glimmer of hope. An older lesbian bought a romance in order to feel anything other than the stares and glares in that little bigoted town where she hides her longings. A high school kid reads books about a life he can only imagine, but he knows it exists out there.  Still, while pocketing the royalties from these sales, authors don’t want to voice a political opinion on the presidential race of our lifetimes. The careful marketers will join in the celebrating or lamenting appropriate to their constituency, but currently don’t see it as crucial to stand up to a party that wants to check the genital appropriateness of restroom users. What exactly is being protected here? To whom will the non-politicos sell those LGBTQ books if the community is legislated back underground? I would like to point out book burning seems pretty popular with conservative movements of the past. You know what they say about history repeating itself. 

“Wherever men and women are persecuted because of their race, religion, or political views, that place must - at that moment - become the center of the universe.” —Elie Wiesel

“I don’t discuss politics on my page…” It may not be necessary to post political commentary to be supportive, but hiding behind neutrality or apologizing for the slightest hint of support for a candidate  is disingenuous. Before this very heated election cycle, I might have taken the stance of non-political discussion on my business pages, but not this time, not when so much is at stake. If I lost a reader because I support the party platform that doesn’t want to put me back in the closet nor return me to the kitchen "where women belong," I’d rather that reader use the money they may have spent on my books to feed a homeless person or buy a pizza for an LGBTQ youth group meeting. 
I’m legally marrying the woman I have grown old with on Sunday.  We have lived together for nearly twenty-nine years, married "unofficially" twenty-six years ago with an officiant, witnesses and friends, cake, the whole shebang, and never dreamed "gay marriage" would become simply "marriage" in our lifetimes. I’m voting for a woman for President on Tuesday—something they told us could happen and we dared believe.  I’m voting to continue the forward progress made by those who spoke up before I was old enough to appreciate the struggle for human and civil rights.  I’m voting for policies I believe in. I’m voting for the rights of my thirteen-year-old friend, for whom this election means everything. I speak now, publicly, before I can be silenced.

“There are victories of the soul and spirit. Sometimes, even if you lose, you win.” —Elie Wiesel


Monday, August 1, 2016

Rear-ended Twice

I've had an interesting customer service experience after being involved in an accident in a rental car. The driver that rear-ended us at a stop sign, causing cosmetic damage to the vehicle, exchanged his information freely with an apology and we went on with our day. In the end, my insurance company is paying the claim, which cost them around $250 and me a $500 deductible. The only explanation I have been given for this is that the young man will "not answer his phone." I received a threatening email today from the rental car company demanding remittance in 10 days. The email was sent 6 days ago. It's summer. I don't live on the Internet these days. According to the email, legal action will commence against me, the individual driving the car that was rear-ended by an insured driver, in four days. I've been "trumped," put in the shade. The big corporation went after me instead of the guilty party because I answered the phone. I only left one question out of my response email that I wish I had asked: Had I bought your scam tack-on $40 insurance, would your company have given up on getting its money back from the responsible driver in this accident? Because I had full coverage that includes rental cars, I am being pursued for damages caused by an INSURED, let me repeat that, INSURED driver. I am being punished for having good insurance and answering the phone. Yep, I've been rear-ended twice on this deal.
My response to the email: I need in writing, as in mailed to my house in an envelope with signatures and legally binding things like that, an explanation of why I am having to pay this claim. Advantage Car Rental contacted the insurance company (Progressive) of the man who hit the car. That insurance company verified that they, in fact, did have coverage with the driver who hit the car. Now, this is where it gets really shady. Because this guy, who was insured, will not answer his phone, I now have to pay this claim. What is right about that? So, should I not respond to your email, (which, by the way, I had not checked in 6 days and thus am completely baffled why a company would use this as its means of communication in legally binding matters like this) will you give up and go away? That's what every single one of you have done when it came to collecting money from the actual person who was at fault and his insurance company. The only explanation anyone has been able to give me is, "He would not respond. We can't verify he was in the accident." We have pictures and three witnesses, people. He was in the accident. I sent you a picture of his driver's license and the truck that hit us, along with his insurance information. Unless you think three over fifty women stalked this young man and stole his ID and truck to run into the back of the rental car, I think you can assume he was there.
So, Advantage Rental Car threatens its customer with legal action and releases the irresponsible driver of his obligations because he can't be bothered to respond to let you all know that he was definitely at fault when he rear-ended the STOPPED vehicle at the STOP sign. Wow! I can't wait to share my experience with the world. When I receive a letter with a bill, something tangible that I can hold, that includes every step your company took to collect from the driver responsible for this accident, I will pay the $500 I am required by my insurance company to pay as a deductible. My only regret is that I ever rented a car from this company and that I pay for insurance from a company (State Farm) that would pay off on such a bogus claim as this, simply because I answered the phone and the guy that hit me did not.
You have my address. Please send the material right away so I can remit my part before you attempt to tack on more monies for claims of legal expenses and the like. I'm sure this letter will result in absolutely nothing in my favor being accomplished other than I feel so much better about writing that check now. It makes my heart sing that someone will have to carry with them the knowledge that I got "trumped" on this deal, and I have officially used "the shady art of screwing the little guy—trumped" as a verb now. When I see that handsome young man that hit me again, and I will because he was really easy to find and hangs out in the same little place on Flagler Ave. in New Smyrna Beach that I do, I'll tell him he owes you all a thank you for cleaning up his twenty-something irresponsibility. Way to teach him a lesson, huh?

Monday, February 15, 2016

Paying Attention to Defining Moments

I heard the door open as she walked into the lobby, where I had just finished the last performance in the third year of my undergrad theatre program. I was still in theatrical make-up, wrapping up the goodbyes to the cast and crew after a successful run. Thankfully, I had just played a Texas debutante in “Vanities” and didn’t look too weirdly made-up. I noticed her immediately. I swear I felt a jolt, an immediate connection. I heard a voice in my head shout, “Pay attention. This is your defining moment.”
On the left: NYC in 2014
On the right: 1989 in an Atlanta airport photobooth
I remember that moment very clearly. I can see her walking toward me as if it was just yesterday. I fell in love with her almost instantaneously. I had never loved a woman. I had never thought about being with one for the remainder of my days, but in that split second, I knew she was the ideal I had sought in my young twenty-six years. Later that evening, over drinks at a local bar with friends, when she touched me casually and something like an electric shock surged through my body, I was thoroughly convinced something magical was taking place. When people say they don’t believe in love at first sight, I usually just smile. I know it can happen. It happened to me.
I went home that night and had a talk with myself. I knew the journey would be difficult. The culture I was raised in would not accept my love of a woman. I knew custody of my child
would come into play. I knew this would be the hardest decision I ever made in my life, but it was also the easiest. I concluded, after hours of arguing with myself, that not taking this chance would haunt me for the rest of my life. I didn’t know if she felt the same way, but it was worth the risk to find out.
I drove by her house the next day and saw her in the yard. I stopped. With my heart beating out of my chest, I strolled up to her trying not to look desperate. She was watching a Braves game on a small TV she’d brought outside, sipping a Coors, and perfectly content with her life as it was. She had no idea that was about to change. She smiled and told me that her roommate, who was my best friend’s girlfriend at the time, was not at home. To my surprise and with a little until then untapped swagger, I boldly answered, “I’m not looking for her. I came to see you.” That was my first and only pick-up line offered to a woman. It seemed to have worked. She smiled again and offered me a beer. From that moment on, we have been together. It took a couple of weeks of casual dates and a pre-season softball party to secure the deal, but I’m so glad I took the chance that she too felt a connection with me.
February 12, 2016
We celebrated our twenty-eighth Valentine’s Day yesterday. We stayed home. I read research material while she watched sports and Jaws movies. I cooked her favorite meal. She brought me coconut water while I soaked my aching back in the tub. We laughed, we hugged, we sat next to each other not talking, each lost in our own activities, but I’ve never felt more loved. We don’t do extraordinary things on designated days of love because we love like there is no tomorrow every day.
The day I found the one, the one that still makes my heart pitter-patter 10,139 days after that first breathtaking moment, was the luckiest day of a happy life. Today, the day after the world’s official day of love is just another day of living with and loving the person that makes me whole. I am so grateful for her and that I found the great love of my life. I think the world would be a different place if we all had that kind of connection with someone. My life would have been so different if I had not listened to that voice that urged, “Pay attention, this is it, this is your moment.” I thank the stars that I believed in love at first sight back then. I certainly believe it today.
This book was inspired by our story.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

Special Agent Nobody

I’m a writer by profession and out of necessity. I read people like other’s read books. I watch them and find the human condition fascinating. I also have fun with living in the minds of my characters, the people that occupy my imagination. I had fun on my recent trip home while allowing people to make assumptions and watching them write their own fiction about me.

I was given an official shirt that identifies me as a special agent for a government entity. I wore the shirt to the airport for its incredible comfort and for the same reason I wear my Duke Law tee shirt. People take notice and create a story for themselves about whom I might be. With a Duke Law shirt on, I have avoided questionable behavior from service workers. No one wants to tangle with a Duke lawyer. I never lie about or infer that I am a lawyer, but the shirt speaks its own language.

Yesterday, I stepped into the crowded queue for security checks at the airport wearing a zip up Duke hoodie, jeans, and tennis shoes. No one really noticed me. The people around me began to chat while I stood there quietly. I became warm and removed my coat. I had completely forgotten about the embroidered badge on my shirt identifying me as a "United States Special Agent.

The line suddenly began to move forward rapidly. The guy in front of me, who had been talking with the couple behind me, says, “Wow, I wonder why our line started moving like that?”

I said, “It’s me. I’m magic,” still not thinking about the shirt.

He looked down and saw the badge. His demeanor changed immediately. Part of my brain said, “You should not have taken off that hoodie.” The other part said, “Oh, this is going to be fun.”

At that point, he says, “So, 'Special Agent'. That's exciting.”

Since the fine print on the shirt identified the government branch the badge belongs to, I answered truthfully, “Oh, I just hang out in my office, really.”

A real agent probably would not have put on that shirt to come to an airport and they rarely reveal their occupation to strangers. I played it perfectly. Just like in a good book, the more mystery the better. Leave them wanting more and filling in the blanks with their own experiences and imagination. The line moved a bit more. We chat, but I never say I’m an agent or anything remotely untrue, but I’m sure the act was sold well.

Just as we made it through the I.D. check, a TSA agent tapped me on the shoulder and said, “Come with me.”

She motioned to the guy and the couple who were talking to me to come also. We were escorted to a short line and rushed through the remainder of the security check. Dude is losing his mind with joy. He’s going on and on about traveling with a special agent and how cool that was. I was cracking up inside but never let on that it was just a very comfortable polo shirt.

I look at this exchange with strangers as a traveler’s gift. I got my own story and I’m sure that guy is telling people today about the special agent that got him through an hour long line in fifteen minutes.

As a side note, when I asked the young woman beside me on the plane to respect my personal space in the nicest way possible, her original look of disdain was replaced with immediate compliance when she saw the embroidered badge on my chest. I think I’ll be using this shirt like my Duke Law tee shirt, sparingly and as an opportunity to be a Molly Kincaid* or a Rainey Bell* for pure selfish entertainment.

(*—Molly Kincaid is a character of mine who is a Duke-educated successful attorney. Rainey Bell is a former FBI profiler in the Rainey Bell Thriller series.)


Tuesday, December 15, 2015

The Rainey Bell Holiday Short Story is now available.

The Rainey Bell Holiday Short Story is now available.

Story description: Fans of the Rainey Bell Thriller series will enjoy this holiday short story featuring Rainey, Katie, and the Bell-Meyers triplets. Far from the usual thriller, this story will have you laughing at preschooler logic and the magic of Santa in a child's eyes.

Happy Holidays!