Archive for April, 2005

Censorship and my child

I’m not a liberal. I’m not a neo-con either. I try to align my morals and my politics with my Catholic faith, yet I was raised Protestant in liberal parishes, which is why I am so deeply conflicted about homosexuality (not hating gays, not planning to raise my kid to hate gays, yet unable to forget God’s opinion of the act).

But this example of unadulterated censorship – and the curious lack of treatment on litblogs – has me pretty steamed. Restricting others from the human experience by restricting access to art does not fit my definition of Christianity. As I explained to a group of other moms on a bulletin board to which I belong, I may be conflicted about homosexuality, but it’s not going away – and I’d rather my son learned about it from positive sources, like literature, than from hatemongers.

If we all love books so much, why is the outcry limited to the Southern Poverty Law Center and the ACLU? Have I missed something?

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Gang aft agley

It’s the third week in April. Spring vacation in education-land. I’ve been looking forward to this week for two months. Not so much because I get a vacation – more because the husband would consistently be around to watch the kid so I could work. Hey, we even talked about our plans this time. How he would have his days to do the things he never has time for, and how I would have my days to catch up on interviews and writing. This was going to be my big comeback week, and I was finally going to be able to get work in on time.

When our son threw up on Sunday night, we figured he’d just had too much excitement over the previous few days and would be fine the next morning. We cleaned everything up and fed him the toast he wanted, along with some juice. He went to sleep. All was good.

Until 3 a.m. Monday morning, when up came the toast and juice. From then on, very little stayed in his stomach. He decided he hated Pedialyte, and then he decided we weren’t very good parents because we wouldn’t let him have his yogurt drinks. We ran out of ideas quickly, and he knew it. My one bright spot came while I was researching other parents’ ideas. This mom’s experience exactly mirrored our own.

The week slipped on by, the boy growing more listless. A half-dozen telephone calls (three of which were made after hours) and one doctor’s visit later, we were given a diagnosis of rotavirus, told that it was epidemic in our community at the moment, and advised that our son appeared physically well enough not to be admitted.

At which point I nearly burst into tears. Of course I was happy that my little boy was strong enough to fight the infection on his own. But I was desperately disappointed that I couldn’t just have a teensy break and let someone else – professional strangers who were used to screaming children – take care of him for a few hours. “This is worse than reflux,” I groused to my husband as we drove home, our son screaming the whole way. He could only nod; it was taking all his concentration to drive as if he hadn’t been awake since 3 a.m. for the third day in a row.

Since then, I’ve been counting my blessings. The vomiting ended the day of the doctor visit. Diarrhea has been minimal. We coaxed a number of smiles and even some kisses out of the boy yesterday. And he even took half an hour to wander around the yard, which he was thrilled at. (Like his Mommy, he is terrible at being sick.) And all this happened on a vacation week, not during a work week, when I’m sure I would have… actually, I’m not sure what I would’ve done. Had myself committed, maybe.

Not much writing was accomplished, not even this morning, when I was up at 4 a.m. Caring for a sick child is monumental, and I am in awe of single parents and those whose children are gravely ill. I may be late again this month, but a lot more could have gone wrong. I’ll take lateness, and a lesson learned: there is no such thing as a block of time on which to rely. What matters is what we do with the opportunities to accomplish our goals. Here’s an hour: will you work on your novel or watch TV? Here’s a day: will you try to get in touch with elusive sources, or play card games? Here’s a week: will you write, edit, submit, or will you make excuses as to why you couldn’t? Can you afford to say no? Will the time be there when you need it most?

The week slipped away, but my son is on the mend, and a new month is coming up. I can still make it.

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The work I do

It occurred to me while responding to comments the other day that I don’t talk much about what I actually do for work. So, the short version of my business model:

Fiction. Much as I would love to write fiction full-time, it’s simply not feasible right now. But I do write it as faithfully as I can (which means mornings before the son rises, unless I’m on a tight deadline). I’m currently working on the fourth draft of a novel, what I hope will be the last draft before I polish and submit.

Journalism. Next to fiction, I love telling stories about real-world issues. Going in-depth and exploring lots of different aspects in a story is fun and informative; I learned a lot about democracy, for instance, this past month while researching an article about the FY06 proposed federal budget and its expected impact on law enforcement agencies. Yes, democracy. As in, how it’s supposed to work, especially now that the Internet practically gift-wraps the information for us. But that’s a rant for another day.

About the law enforcement agencies, I specialize in public safety issues. I write for public safety trade magazines about a wide range of topics. Which brings me to…

Public relations. Much of my work for trades involves making their advertisers look good. However, it’s all designed to help public safety professionals do better jobs keeping us safe, so I don’t feel particularly “taken” by corporate America.

I also do PR work in the more traditional sense of the term: I write material to which other people’s names are attached. It’s humbling, really, to apply yourself to work for which you’ll never be able to claim credit. The money makes it worth it.

Miscellaneous money-makers such as professional editing and critiquing. Although I believe money should always flow to a writer, ultimately, it’s the writer’s choice whether s/he pays for a critique and an edit prior to submitting a manuscript. Some writers don’t have access to writers’ groups, and some have no time, even for online groups. Some are paranoid that others will steal their work. Yet they have stories to tell, and professional editors/critiquers provide a measure of safety. I wouldn’t do it for myself, but I can relate. I try just to provide the best critiques I can.

What do all these jobs have in common? Besides providing income, they give me hope. A lot of crap happens in our world. A lot of bad people exist making bad things happen, and they make the news more often than all the good people making good things happen. My job shows me those good people in so many different ways:

Writing, and editing and critiquing, fiction helps me make sense of the bad things.

Journalism provides a counterpoint, a factual why, for the bad things, and introduces me to people trying to change them.

PR shows me people trying to make others’ lives better. Hospital architects who think a lot about how to make patients safer and more comfortable; software vendors who think a lot about how to make cops safer and more efficient, so they in turn can make the public safer.

It sounds cheesy as heck, and I’m sure a few eye-rollers are thinking hospitals are only meant to inflict pain and cops are only meant to harass and you, Mrs. Freelance Mother, must be a sadist at heart. Well, maybe. But I’m a hopeful sadist. And couldn’t we all use a little more hope?

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In memoriam

Just about caught up with deadlines, so I’ll be able to post more often. In the meantime, on the day of Pope John Paul II’s funeral, I want to post excerpts from his 1995 Letter to Women. I think it’s appropriate given this weblog’s title. And I would like to encourage everyone reading this to read the full text of the letter here.

“This word of thanks to the Lord for his mysterious plan regarding the vocation and mission of women in the world is at the same time a concrete and direct word of thanks to women, to every woman, for all that they represent in the life of humanity.

“Thank you, women who are mothers! You have sheltered human beings within yourselves in a unique experience of joy and travail. This experience makes you become God’s own smile upon the newborn child, the one who guides your child’s first steps, who helps it to grow, and who is the anchor as the child makes its way along the journey of life.

“Thank you, women who are wives! You irrevocably join your future to that of your husbands, in a relationship of mutual giving, at the service of love and life.

“Thank you, women who are daughters and women who are sisters! Into the heart of the family, and then of all society, you bring the richness of your sensitivity, your intuitiveness, your generosity and fidelity.

“Thank you, women who work! You are present and active in every area of life-social, economic, cultural, artistic and political. In this way you make an indispensable contribution to the growth of a culture which unites reason and feeling, to a model of life ever open to the sense of “mystery”, to the establishment of economic and political structures ever more worthy of humanity….

“Thank you, every woman, for the simple fact of being a woman! Through the insight which is so much a part of your womanhood you enrich the world’s understanding and help to make human relations more honest and authentic….

“3. I know of course that simply saying thank you is not enough. Unfortunately, we are heirs to a history which has conditioned us to a remarkable extent. In every time and place, this conditioning has been an obstacle to the progress of women. Women’s dignity has often been unacknowledged and their prerogatives misrepresented; they have often been relegated to the margins of society and even reduced to servitude. This has prevented women from truly being themselves and it has resulted in a spiritual impoverishment of humanity….

“I think particularly of those women who loved culture and art, and devoted their lives to them in spite of the fact that they were frequently at a disadvantage from the start, excluded from equal educational opportunities, underestimated, ignored and not given credit for their intellectual contributions. Sadly, very little of women’s achievements in history can be registered by the science of history. But even though time may have buried the documentary evidence of those achievements, their beneficent influence can be felt as a force which has shaped the lives of successive generations, right up to our own. To this great, immense feminine “tradition” humanity owes a debt which can never be repaid. Yet how many women have been and continue to be valued more for their physical appearance than for their skill, their professionalism, their intellectual abilities, their deep sensitivity; in a word, the very dignity of their being!

“4. And what shall we say of the obstacles which in so many parts of the world still keep women from being fully integrated into social, political and economic life? We need only think of how the gift of motherhood is often penalized rather than rewarded, even though humanity owes its very survival to this gift. Certainly, much remains to be done to prevent discrimination against those who have chosen to be wives and mothers. As far as personal rights are concerned, there is an urgent need to achieve real equality in every area: equal pay for equal work, protection for working mothers, fairness in career advancements, equality of spouses with regard to family rights and the recognition of everything that is part of the rights and duties of citizens in a democratic State….

“The Church sees in Mary the highest expression of the “feminine genius” and she finds in her a source of constant inspiration. Mary called herself the “handmaid of the Lord” (Lk 1:38). Through obedience to the Word of God she accepted her lofty yet not easy vocation as wife and mother in the family of Nazareth. Putting herself at God’s service, she also put herself at the service of others: a service of love. Precisely through this service Mary was able to experience in her life a mysterious, but authentic “reign”. It is not by chance that she is invoked as “Queen of heaven and earth”…. For her, “to reign” is to serve! Her service is “to reign”!

“This is the way in which authority needs to be understood, both in the family and in society and the Church. Each person’s fundamental vocation is revealed in this “reigning”, for each person has been created in the “image” of the One who is Lord of heaven and earth and called to be his adopted son or daughter in Christ….

“The maternal “reign” of Mary consists in this. She who was, in all her being, a gift for her Son, has also become a gift for the sons and daughters of the whole human race, awakening profound trust in those who seek her guidance along the difficult paths of life on the way to their definitive and transcendent destiny. Each one reaches this final goal by fidelity to his or her own vocation; this goal provides meaning and direction for the earthly labours of men and women alike.

“12. You can see then, dear sisters, that the Church has many reasons for hoping that the forthcoming United Nations Conference in Beijing will bring out the full truth about women. Necessary emphasis should be placed on the “genius of women”, not only by considering great and famous women of the past or present, but also those ordinary women who reveal the gift of their womanhood by placing themselves at the service of others in their everyday lives. For in giving themselves to others each day women fulfil their deepest vocation. Perhaps more than men, women acknowledge the person, because they see persons with their hearts. They see them independently of various ideological or political systems. They see others in their greatness and limitations; they try to go out to them and help them. In this way the basic plan of the Creator takes flesh in the history of humanity and there is constantly revealed, in the variety of vocations, that beauty-not merely physical, but above all spiritual-which God bestowed from the very beginning on all, and in a particular way on women….”

With my Blessing.
From the Vatican, 29 June 1995, the Solemnity of Saints Peter and Paul.

Copyright © Libreria Editrice Vaticana

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