Knitted Knockers

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“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”  ~ Margaret Mead

When I first read about Knitted Knockers I admit to wincing—kind of a throwback to the bad old days of slang terms for breasts. But by the time I finished reading about the amazing project of Barbara Demorest of Bellingham, Washington I was over it.Barbara Knockers

It’s impossible to go to her website at http://www.knittedknockers.org/ and not come away with admiration and maybe a little energy to make Margaret Mead’s observation real in your world.

TEAM UNITY AND COOPERATION

Here’s enough about Knitted Knockers to get you started – either inspired or even better – helping – starting with the need:

  • There are over 50,000 mastectomies in the United States alone each year. Breast cancer affects 1 out of every 8 women in their lifetime.
  • Knitted Knockers are special handmade breast prosthesis for women who have undergone mastectomies or other procedures to the breast.
  • Traditional breast prosthetics are usually expensive, heavy, sweaty, and uncomfortable. They typically require special bras or camisoles with pockets and can’t be worn for weeks after surgery.
  • Knitted Knockers on the other hand are soft, comfortable, beautiful, and when placed in a regular bra they take the shape and feel of a real breast.
  • Knitted knockers can be adjusted to fill the gap for breasts that are uneven and easily adapted for those going through reconstruction by simply removing some of the stuffing.
  • Special volunteer knitters provide these free to any one requesting them.

    Knocker women

    The Bellingham Knocker Knitters

While writing this blog I found a website that outlines “how to” information to start your own volunteer project. Here’s the website:

http://ourrevolution.co/2011/08/how-to-organize-a-group-volunteer-project/

It doesn’t have to be Knitted Knockers (although they need help and serve women throughout the U.S). We also know that giving of our time and talent volunteering to help someone else or assisting in a worthy cause increases our own well being.

My Best Day

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My Best Day

There is nothing like being in the present when the present is well . . . terrific.

My essay “Good Vibrations” was published today in one of the best online publications I’ve found—Full Grown People.

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Here’s the link to my essay:

http://fullgrownpeople.com/2015/10/20/good-vibrations

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This blog, however, is not about my “literary success.” Since we aren’t Skyping you can’t see my tongue poking in my cheek. It’s really about some things that are slowly dawning on me at this age.

First realization – you do need friends in the writing world who can advise, refer you to good resources, and actually enjoy those conversations about writing that must bore the socks off the others in the café within earshot. “My god, they do go on . . .”

Second realization – if you have something to say or a story to tell, you probably should keep working at it until it leaves your desktop and enters the world. My essay was a little iffy in my mind and confirmed when I saw the list of SEOs – ending in vibrator! It made it into the world after all.

Third realization – back to the present moment. It was over-the-top fun to see my essay online this morning, having to stand on its own two feet without me fussing with it like my mother used to do with me. In her case it was delicately spitting on her fingertips (so uncool if not unsanitary) and wiping a speck of dirt or whatever off my face. And then I read the comments and like Sally Field—they liked it!

So, I’m going to bask in the warm glow of no one yet writing me a disturbing reply about kinky sex for octogenarians or what a disrespectful brat I am. I’m just going to enjoy today and save some of the juice that comes from a little bit of success for tomorrow. Tomorrow is another day working on another essay.

vibrator

PS – Normally I like to find graphics to illustrate my point, but in this case – well, this is what I could come up with. If you go to Google images and search for vibrators – well, the world is your oyster there.

How Not to Celebrate Women’s Equality Day

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National Women’s Equality Day

I was thinking equal pay, the right to manage my reproductive organs, and the lack of representation in every sector—government, business, and health. But – this is what led the day’s celebration:

Addyi Female Viagra

Addyi – the first RX drug to boost sexual desire in women. “A milestone long sought by a pharmaceutical industry eager to replicate the blockbuster success of impotence drugs for men.” (CBC.CA)

After three previous attempts, the FDA finally caved (18-6) and approved the new drug. Made by (I love this name) Sprout Pharmaceuticals, Valeant, a Canadian RX company, made a bid for Addyi for $1 Billion – US dollars. They want it Canada too!Sprout

Don’t Ask Your Doctor—Just Yet

Under a safety plan dreamed up by the ever-willing FDA, doctors can only prescribe Addyi after completing an online certification test demonstrating that they understand its side effects. Pharmacies also have to be certified.

The awesome side effects—in a boxed warning (the most serious type) beyond the skull & crossbones—include dangerously low blood pressure, fainting, and drowsiness—especially mixed with alcohol and other medications.

What else? Unlike Viagra and the 25 other similar drugs for male impotency, where men can have bragging rights after four hours, you have to take it for weeks and months to see any benefit. And unlike Viagra, that works on blood flow, etc. Addyi acts on brain chemicals.  Warning label

This is what Millions of Women were Demanding?

The campaign for approval, funded by Even the Score, attracted more than 60,000 supporters. The lobbying group members ran the gamut of national organizations such as NOW, the Blue Thong Society, and guess who—Sprout!

While the sale may change their plans, Sprout had lined up 200 sales reps to promote the drug to medical specialists, ultimately making the U.S drug-pushing, big-pharma advertisers rich. Look for that little pink pill on your phone, TV, and hey, maybe the Super Bowl!

One voice of reason quoted in several articles is Leonore Tiefer, a clinical associate professor of psychiatry at NYU’s School of Medicine. Here’s her take on let’s skip the talk and go straight to the pill:

“We know that a lot of sexual problems are related to relationship issues, stress, contextual issues. For these, I don’t think medication is the answer.”

And further: “In a society where it’s your fault if you don’t get sex right, you have to have a lot of it, and you have to do it right but nobody teaches you how.”

This is especially true following the attack on limiting sex education in the schools.

If I Were In Charge  Crown

  • I would put another warning on the label. It would read: Just because you work two or more jobs, have kids, have a less than fab lover (who is also a product of the culture), get paid less because of your gender, are stressed and/or depressed doesn’t make you an HSDD (hypoactive sexual desire disorder) woman.
  • I would require—that your doctor, who is now an expert via an online certificate, sits down with you and your sexual partner for a frank discussion. Wow—what would the insurance companies pay for that waste of time? Nada!

And, fat chance since doctors can barely talk about dying let alone sex.

  • I would provide every woman with their choice of adult videos (there are some excellent ones) and a gift certificate for something fun and helpful from Good Vibrations (you won’t faint or die from a sex toy).
  • Then, if talking, getting some rest, finding an attentive partner, and understanding more about how women are viewed and socialized in the U.S. you still want that little pink pill—be my guest. But be prepared to pay from $30 to $75 per month for Addyi.

A Long Time Coming . . . and not much has changed

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Back in the 1960s—it was white and polite

When I was a kid, growing up outside the city of St. Louis, Ferguson was a neighboring village. The Ferguson swimming pool was where I thought my brother was going to drown me as a joke. Another neighboring village, Cool Valley, was just that; cooler than where we lived in Normandy. cool valley

On some sweltering nights we would beg my father to drive us there, get an ice cream, and linger at the picnic tables before heading back to our sweat-box of a house.

Remembering 

When I turned sixteen and had my driver’s license, there was one neighborhood that was off limits.  My father’s dire warning was enough to keep me out of a town called Kinloch. In my adolescence, whatever was a “don’t do” became a “will do.” But the look on my father’s face and the tone of his voice was sufficient to obey him.

I’m certain my father would not have considered himself a racist. So how then did I know that Kinloch was where the black people lived? How was that message delivered? He would never have used the N- word or any other popular slang that my naively racist maternal grandfather used in casual conversation.

I wondered about Kinloch through my teens and then when I moved away, my curiosity faded. I never went there and had no idea of first, its historic past and now, its tragic present. With Ferguson, Missouri back in the news I wanted to finally “go there.”

Kinloch was the first all-black city in Missouri

Originally an 1890’s commuter outpost of affluent white people, there was a bit of shack-style housing for their servants. A Mrs. “B” and her husband are thought to be the first black family to purchase a home in Kinloch.

Here’s a bit of racial history I bet you didn’t know taken from a 1917 article in the St. Louis Post Dispatch: “Since it was not legal to sell directly to blacks, the Olive Street Terrace Realty Corporation sold the parcels to whites for an average price of $150. The new owners then sold the plots to blacks for an average of $350.”

Housing Kinloch

And as it happens too often even now, the whites fled and the blacks began to move in. It flourished until the City of St. Louis began to buy up property to expand Lambert-St. Louis International Airport. Between 1990 and 2000, Kinloch lost more than 80% of its population, and the city became an increasingly violent and dangerous place to live. In recent years, there have been efforts to rebuild the city but there is a long way to go as one of Kayci Merrit’s photo essays shows here:

Kinloch today

In 2010 the median household income in Kinloch was $10,156. An estimated 80% of the population (men, women and children) were living below the poverty line. Most notably 82.9% were youth under 18 years of age.

Should we really be surprised that there is a limit to the injustice that people can endure?

If you want to better understand more here’s a link to a well-written article that includes more on Kinloch. “You Can’t Understand Ferguson Without First Understanding These Three Things” by Jeffrey Smith that was published in the New Republic, August 15, 2014. Smith is a former Missouri State Senator and urban policy professor at the New School in NYC.

http://www.newrepublic.com/article/119106/ferguson-missouris-complicated-history-poverty-and-racial-tension

Another Take on WWO – Part Three

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It’s me again!

Some time ago I wrote to Barbara Poelle whose “Funny You Should Ask” column appears each month in “Writer’s Digest.” Here is my query and her reply that appeared in the October 2014 issue:

Dear FYSA, 

“When I look around writing conferences, I see lots of gray hair. Are there really agents and editors who will take a chance on older writers like me with a first novel? When they talk about ‘building your brand’ and ‘a body of work,’ dare I hope that includes older writers with talent?  Yours, In the Golden Years”

Dear Golden,

“Isn’t it odd to think there would be any real reason for your concern? But there is undoubtedly some unnamed, unsourced pressure to publish young. I’ll tell you, though, it ain’t coming from me. Like so many of my agenting colleagues, I recognize that there is no age that can be applied to the ripening of a story that is ready to be told. It doesn’t matter if you’re 18 or 85; if the story is intriguing and the writing is captivating, it’s time to take a chance on the author. ‘Brand building’ and a long-term career are considerations that your publishing team will tackle once we are at that point. Just write a fabulous book, and no one will count the candles on your cake.”

What I’m wondering is this

Given this most encouraging reply, why did Barbara Rogan’s remarks (quoted in Part One) bother me so much? I don’t mean to be picky, but the off-hand remark about “the work sexier than the author” pushed my ageist button? And, I didn’t feel better by the end of the post even though she offered up encouragement.

And, why Barbara Poelle’s reply didn’t win hands down and give me the support I need these days?

Partly it’s because Barbara Rogan’s blunt analysis of WWO is true. And partly it’s because I thought my novel was “ready” and recently queried five agents: 2 “no thanks” and 3 no reply. My clock is ticking and too soon  there will be another candle on my cake.

What I like the most about being this certain age

I’ve pushed these two views of WWO–hopeless vs. hope–around until today I found the answer that was there all along. Maybe it’s one that will work for you.

Never mind the wiser, more experience, time to finally write afghan of comfort Ms. Rogan provided. I like how she ended on a hopeful note, but I think this is talking to the choir (given the comments I saw on her post). What I like the most about my older self these days, and think it’s worth bragging about, is that I can embrace two competing ideas and even more challenging—emotions—at the same time.

Last night I learned a dear friend had died. Thinking about Leon’s life and who he was brought me to tears both for his passing and for how hard it is to love and lose a friend. Life gives and takes away, and our job, when we choose to let our deepest feelings in, is to gratefully receive them and put them to use—especially in our writing.

One more honest helping of reality, please

I think that for serious writers, especially WWO’s who don’t have all the time in the world, saying that we are writing for the love of it and don’t care if we’re ever published is crap. I’ve said it before, to myself and to writer friends who were struggling. I didn’t believe it then and don’t now. I just needed to pull on that comforting afghan awhile so that I (or we) could keep going.

I do want you to someday buy my novel Breathing Room, to like it enough to give me a good review on Amazon or Goodreads, and engage in whatever writer/reader mechanism is in vogue at the time. And for me, I want to look over and see the damn book on my shelf next to my memoir Getting to Home. I want some agent bugging me for when my next novel is ready for her to take a look. I want someone to read what I write in whatever form it appears—blog, personal essays, or a novel. I don’t want my kids to open a file drawer full of my unpublished work and have to make that decision—save it because “it’s Mom’s” or recycle?

Enough said about all of this—no Part Four. Now, I’m going to get back to what I was doing–revising another chapter of Breathing Room, and hope you’ll get back to your own work-in-progress. Here are some words to write by if you need more than mine:

The art of writing is the art of discovering what you believe.

~ Gustave Flaubert

And my personal fave:

A professional writer is an amateur who didn’t quit.

~ Richard Bach

Abandon All Hope? Part Two

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Do You Really Have a Book In You? 

I wish I had a dollar (inflationary uptick from the nickel) for every person who has said to me “I have a book in me.” I’d have quite a nest egg by now, enough to fund going to writing workshops or hiring an editor. I’ve learned to stop asking for the details and say as pleasantly as possible, “Well then, you should do it.”

More than a decade ago Joseph Epstein, the author of nearly a dozen books, wrote in a New York Times Op Ed piece about a 2002 survey that found: “81% of Americans feel that they have a book in them—and should write it.” Using 2002 data, that’s around 200 million people who want to become a published author. I can only assume that with the number of self-published and indie books pouring through the various print and e-outlets in 2015, 81% could be low.

books

As a reality check to the above here is a more recent survey: The Pew Research Center reported in January 2014 nearly a quarter of American adults had not read a single book in the past year. As in, they hadn’t cracked a paperback, fired up a Kindle, or even hit play on an audio-book while in the car. The number of non-book-readers has nearly tripled since 1978.

So, if the market for actual readers is shrinking, why do so many people carry this idea of actually writing a book?

There are many reasons, but here are a few I’ve read from writers commenting on the survey:

  • According to Ramit Sethi, best-selling author of I Will Teach You to be Rich, “it is a very democratic notion, suggesting that everybody is as good as everybody else—and, by extension, one person’s story or wisdom is as interesting as the next’s.”
  • You have a ton of ideas and just know that the world is waiting for yours. Penelope Trunk, career coach and author, suggests that you blog first and get more immediate feedback. You may run out of time, bright ideas, discipline, and the funds to learn the craft sooner than you think.
  • Hugh McLeod, another writer/blogger, suggests that “the writer’s life” carries with it romantic images of a worthy struggle and then sudden fame when lonely you and your brilliant debut novel or cutting-edge how-to book are discovered.

There’s more to do, you say? No that can’t be.

Revising and more revising? Isn’t my first draft so brilliant that I can just send it off? What? Years of expensive craft workshops, rejection and worse—no reply; tinkering with that yellowing manuscript while my life is slipping away? Carpal tunnel and a bad back from sitting? Oh, now you tell me. Never mind. writers writing 3

I’d like to see a survey of how many people said “I have a book in me” and actually did anything about it. I mean sit down every day and write. And learn to tolerate the look when those people who have heard you say you’re writing a book ask you is it done? And when you say you’re still working on it or you tearfully spill the beans that your last round of queries brought a heartbreaking silence or the remote form letter, they stop asking.

I found the best answer, not surprisingly, in Natalie Goldberg’s The True Secret of Writing. People come to her writing workshops to write. But she believes there is a deeper reason. “They want connection; a spiritual longing drives them, a groping for meaning.” The exact project doesn’t matter. What does matter is that we writers, according to Natalie, “want this connection through language, through words on a page.”

And that’s the reason why those of us, even the WWO’s of us, do what we do, day after day, and wouldn’t or can’t do anything to change that yearning and the willingness to take whatever comes.writers writing 2

There’s more to this…Part Three is my own struggle with Parts One and Two………

Here are links should you want to read more:

Joseph Epstein’s NYT article:

 http://www.nytimes.com/2002/09/28/opinion/think-you-have-a-book-in-you-think-again.html

Rami Sethi’s website:

https://www.iwillteachyoutoberich.com/blog/everybody-wants-to-write-a-book/

And, Penelope Trunk’s website: http://penelopetrunk.com/

Abandon All Hope? Part One

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I was feeling pretty good yesterday morning, working away on what I would hope is the last major revision of my novel when I stopped to read the latest blog from Writer Unboxed. It was written by Barbara Rogan, an author of eight novels and an online instructor among other achievements.*

She started out honest and funny—older woman can’t eavesdrop like she used to due to hearing loss putting a crimp in gathering dialogue. I admired her ability to disclose the myriad of frustrations as we age. No need to provide the list—check with AARP if you can’t wait to find out. And then I read this . . .

“It’s not discussed in polite circles, age being the last   remaining closet. But the truth is that there are commercial penalties for WWO — Writing While Old. One is no longer in the running for “hot new writer.” There is, sadly but inevitably, a tipping point at which the books become sexier than the author. Older writers in search of a new agent or publishing house are at a disadvantage compared to young writers with decades of work ahead of them.”

abandon all hope

More limitations followed:  frequent poverty if you make your living as a writer, and examples of how older writers’ “get up and go” gets going, going, gone.

Bad timing hardly covers the fact that I had just finished Stewart Onan’s novel Emily Alone. His portrayal of Emily is well-crafted and sympathetic, but also depressing as he covers the landscape of aging: an obsession with death (dog, husband, neighbors) to pants wetting when Emily sneezes. Emily AloneI soldiered on through her life and circumstances, but would put it down each night painfully aware of how fast my own meter is running.

I struggled with Rogan’s paragraph all day, trying to shake off a hopeless feeling in my chest. Why bother? What’s the point? drifted by me like messages from an airplane banner service overhead. banner 2

I kept working on Chapter Ten, but more than once I could imagine my daughters going through my effects—namely my unpublished essays and this bloody novel. I was sick at heart yet feeling equally bad for them—having to decide between adding them to the recycle box or keeping them. By the end of the day, I was practically Emily’s twin sister!

Just as Barbara Rogan closed her blog with some bright-side remarks I will too.

I’m blessed with an outlet—my daughter—who listened and then pointed me back in the right direction saying, “Writing is your passion and what you do well. You need to keep on, no matter what.” I’m not done with this topic—Part II coming soon.

*Here are links to the Writer Unboxed blog post and Barbara’s teaching website: