Monthly Archives: December 2013

Diverted intentions

Cat with a manual typewriter.
“Where’s the delete key?”
I’ve been trying to wrap up the end of my novel, the one I worked on finishing during NaNoWriMo. I got 58,000 words added to the novel during November, and was well into the epic battle at the end, but I didn’t quite reach the denouement by the end of the month. And then, of course, I had to change gears and work on a Christmas ghost story before the party.

So, I’ve been struggling with the ending, and it occurred to me it was fitting that I was doing so as the last days of the year were ticking down. So when I hit another snag last night, I started writing a blog post about writing endings in fiction, and how difficult that can be.

When I got up this morning for my morning writing time, I figured I could finish the blog post and schedule it to publish later today. A blog post on composing the final scenes on stories to post on the final day of the year. Perfect, right?

Well, I instead spent my hour of morning writing time re-reading the last three completed chapters and correcting the rather prodigious number of typos and writing a bit more of that stalled denouement.

And now I spent five minutes writing a post about why I haven’t finished the post about writing endings.

And maybe a post about writing something different than I planned is a better way to cap the year.

Happy New Year!

In the place where you are

They said...
They said…
A friend shared this article on Facebook: Same-sex Couples Shatter Marriage Records In Utah. It is incredible, when you think about it: in just a few days of marriage equality, Utah has had almost as many same-sex weddings as the state of Maine did in the entire year since voters there approved marriage equality. Another friend commented on the irony that there seemed to be more gay couples in the states where they are least respected. This kicked off some pondering as to whether there are more LGBT people there than other places, or does it just seem that way.

Of course, I have a few theories about this… Continue reading In the place where you are

Conjuring the proper ghosts

A cat peering at a Macbook Pro.
Sometimes there’s a lot more staring at the screen than pressing of the keys.
For the last 19 Christmas seasons I have written a new Christmas ghost story to read to friends at our Christmas party. It started out simple enough. The holiday party was scheduled for the third Saturday of December because we usually got together on the third Saturday of every month for a writers’ night—an event where several people bring a story or a partial story we are working on, we read it, and everyone gives a critique. The December meeting wound up having a Christmas Party feel no matter what, because we were all friends and it was an extremely convenient time to exchange gifts.
Continue reading Conjuring the proper ghosts

No one hurts us like family can

Four lynxes
“Everyone smile for the camera!”
One of my least favorite holiday traditions is the annual sharing of familial outrages. Similar to (or counterpoint of) the Festivus airing of grievences, it is the way we attempt to regain our sanity after the stress of holidays with difficult relatives.

Goodness knows I’ve vented about crazy family members many, many times.

I think we’ve all been there, at least once. For some the ordeal happens at every visit home and every holiday. Others only experience it occasionally. Venting about it afterward can be a valuable means of relieving stress. Better to share some stories with sympathetic friends than to strangle your racist uncle, homophobic brother-in-law, or Bible-thumping sibling, at Grandma’s dinner table, right? Continue reading No one hurts us like family can

“The decision to marry is a fundamental right”

Marriage equality comes to Utah.
After pouring tens of millions into the Prop 8 campaign in California, organizing phone banks, and so on…
The decision in federal court declaring the Utah state constitution’s ban on same sex marriage a violation of the U.S. Constitution set off a cacophony of hysteria in conservative circles. Numerous op-ed pieces in conservative blogs and publications made the outraged assertion that the “activist judge” had “fabricated a constitutional right to marry.”

The problem is that it isn’t fabricated. Since as far back as the year 1888, the U.S. Supreme Court has repeatedly declared that the right to marry is a fundamental human right. In the 1888 case the court declared it “the most important relation in life.” In 1923 they declared it one of the fundamental rights protected by the Due Process Clause. In 1942 they declared marriage one of the most basic and fundamental civil rights covered under the Equal Protection Clause. In 1965 they declared the right to marry and make decisions about having a family as part of a fundamental right of privacy that was older than the constitution, that the right to privacy was implied by several parts of the Bill of Rights, most strongly in the Ninth and Fourteenth amendments.

Most famously in 1967, in the case that struck down the few remaining laws against interracial marriage, the court unanimously ruled that “The freedom to marry has long been recognized as one of the vital personal rights essential to the orderly pursuit of happiness by free men.”

In 1974 the court declared “This Court has long recognized that freedom of personal choice in matters of marriage and family life is one of the liberties protected by the Due Process Clause” when it struck down laws that prohibited pregnant women from working as teachers.

In 1977 in a couple of cases involving laws about who was allowed to live together, the court declared that the choice of who to live with, who to marry, and who to raise children with were fundamental rights which the government could not interfere in without justification that would pass careful judicial review.

In 1978 the court found that “the right to marry is of fundamental importance for all individuals” in the course of declaring that a state must show that any law restricting the right furthers an important government interest in a way that is substantially related to that interest.

In 1987 the court reaffirmed that “the decision to marry is a fundamental right” and that it was so fundamental that even the most violent and dangerous of convicted criminals must be allowed to marry even while they were in prison regardless of whether they would ever be allowed to consumate such marriages.

In 1992 the court included marriage and the choice of whether and who to raise children with as “central to personal dignity and autonomy” and “central to the liberty protected by the Fourteenth Amendment.”

In 1996 the court held that “choices about marriage, family life, and the upbringing of children are among associational rights this Court has ranked as ‘of basic importance in our society,’ rights sheltered by the Fourteenth Amendment against the State’s unwarranted usurpation, disregard, or disrespect.”

Most tellingly, in 2003 when striking down state sodomy laws, the court held that “our laws and tradition afford constitutional protection to personal decisions relating to marriage, procreation, contraception, family relationships, and education. … Persons in a homosexual relationship may seek autonomy for these purposes, just as heterosexual persons do.”

That last one certainly seems to imply that gay couples ought to be able to get married, if they wish. And it was the ruling that set off the flurry of state ballot measures in 2004 to place gay marriage bans into several state constitutions, including Utah’s. These bans were not spontaneous statements from the people about individual rights. They were, in fact, a carefully orchestrated strategy by extremely cynical persons in the Republican party. The primary goal was to drive conservative leaning voters to the polls in order to re-elect George W. Bush.

And calling it “extremely cynical” is putting it mildly. The guy whose idea it was, then-chairman of the Republican National Committee, was a closeted gay man, who has since tried to rehabilitate his image by becoming a pro-marriage equality advocate (personally, I believe he needs to apologize to the parents of every single gay kid who committed suicide or attempted suicide during the years he was active as a Republican politician, and then he should go be a religious hermit somewhere).

But I digress…

The bottom line is, it is settled law, going back 125 years, that the Constitution protects the right to marry and to choose who to marry. It isn’t a new idea, or a radical fabrication. Just as some of the people who agreed the marriage was a basic right used to also think that the word “marriage” only applied when people belonged to the same church, and some who agreed it was a basic right thought the word only applied when both people were members of the same ethnic group, there are people who believe that you should have to right to marry, but only if the two people involved are opposite gender.

Despite the sincerely held beliefs of a minority of people (and it is now a minority of U.S. citizens) that people of the same sex should not be allowed to marry, those people have failed, again and again and again, to show a single logical or verifiable reason that that should be the case. Even Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, who opposes same sex marriage with a passion that borders on the disturbing, has admitted that the only reason to bar it is because some folks believe it is wrong.

And just because some people think some other people are icky is not a compelling or even substantial reason to deny them basic rights.

Bleak midwinter

Cat hissing.
Having a bad day?
It’s been a while since I heard the old myth, so I was a little surprised when a detective show I watch had the medical examiner character refer to Christmas as “Suicide Season.” That myth (based on the notions that the cheerfulness {forced or otherwise} of the holidays the makes depressed people more starkly aware of their situation) and the associated one that the stress of the holidays literal drives people crazy, have both been debunked by numerous studies.

It’s not just that suicide rates don’t go up, nor merely that psychiatric admissions don’t go up. The studies show that suicide rates actually go down at each major holiday, and that psychiatric admissions reach their lowest point in the weeks immediately before Christmas.

Continue reading Bleak midwinter

Up on the house top…

A tiger cub in a Santa Suit
A tiger cub in a Santa Suit (from Emergency Kittens)!
I find it alternately confusing and amusing that some of the most emphatic defenders of keeping the Christ in Christmas want to claim Santa Claus as an important component of the Christian aspect of the holiday. Because among the fundamentalist Christians who raised me, Santa Claus was always a symbol of the secularization of the holiday. Several of the churches I attended as a kid banned images of Santa Claus from the building, and forbade the singing of any of the Christmas songs that mentioned him at any church activity.

I say churches, plural, because my family moved often during my childhood. My dad’s job in the petroleum industry leading to my oft-repeated description of growing up as “ten elementary schools in four different states.”

I remember, for instance, the “Up On the House Top” controversy. One of the churches ran a nonprofit day care on weekdays. While it was a church day care, it was a business open to any family that could pay the fees, so a lot of the kids came from families that attended different churches (or no church at all). One year of the day care’s annual Christmas pageant, in addition to the usual repertoire of “Silent Night,” “O, Little Town of Bethleham,” “The Little Drummer Boy,” “Away in the Manger,” “Joy to the World,” and “Jingle Bells,” one group of kids sang a version of “Up on the House Top” that included some amusing choreography.

Some of the church ladies who were not regularly associated with the day care attended the pageant, and they were not pleased. It started running around the gossip circuit in the congregation that someone had allowed Santa Claus at the day care. The tone of voice some people used, you would have thought that someone was giving the kids alcohol and cigarettes. Or even worse, allowing them to listen to rock music!

To me, I didn’t see how it was that much different than “Jingle Bells,” which is a Christmas song that doesn’t mention Jesus’ birth at all. No one ever seemed to object to that in the children’s performance. And I recall a very amusing rendition of “I’m Gettin’ Nothin’ for Christmas” at an evening Christmas concert at church that no one objected to. Not every song performed at the less formal holiday events at the church had to be a sacred hymn, obviously.

Santa explains how to explain gay people to kids.
Why are flying reindeer less confusing than people who belief differently than you?
I realize that a lot of the people who believe that the War on Christmas is an actual thing are not necessarily hardcore Biblical literalist or fundamentalists. They’re a bit more casually Christian. They are the sorts of people who think that the phrase “cleanliness is next to godliness” actually comes from the Bible, right? They’re also the ones who can say, with a straight face, “Jesus promoted charity at the highest level, but he was not self-destructive. The Lord helps those who help themselves.”

And I get that Santa Claus gets his name from American ears hearing Dutch immigrants refer to Saint Nicholas (“Sinterklaas”) back in the 19th Century. And therefore to them Santa Claus is sort of an alias for the 4th Century Christian Bishop. But the red-suited man driving a sleigh pulled by magic reindeer and filling stockings with toys is not a Biblical character. He’s very much a secular figure.

And I’m looking forward to his visit at our house soon! Our stockings are up, our tree lights will be left on all night. I’m not sure whether we’ll be leaving him eggnog and cookies this year or if it might be sherry and pork pies. But, this liberal taoist gay man and his liberal wiccan bi husband are looking forward to tracking Santa on our computers and phones with the Norad app, watching some silly Christmas shows featuring such important Christmas characters as the Grinch, a red-nosed reindeer, and ghosts of Christmas past, present, and future. And I can’t wait to see what Santa leaves in my stocking this year!

No matter what holiday you celebrate, I’d like to wish a merry Christmas to all, and to all a good night!

Shambling toward Christmas Eve

A tiger cub in a Santa Suit
A tiger cub in a Santa Suit (from Emergency Kittens)!
My vague plan for Sunday was to pack up & check out of the hotel, watch the Seahawks game, watch some of my Christmas movies, and get some housework done. Of course, I hadn’t discussed specifics with Michael. So we were eating brunch at a place we stopped at on the way home when all the plans started falling apart.

He needed to pick up some presents to give to his co-workers at their party. On the other hand, he hadn’t slept well at the hotel and really wanted a nap. So he suggested taking a nap while I watched the game, then we could go shopping. I had a sinus headache, and as we talked, realized that my throat felt a bit wrong. So I was worried I might be coming down with a cold… Continue reading Shambling toward Christmas Eve