Melania’s Coat


Let me open by saying I am Canadian. Some people might argue I don’t have the right to comment on American politics. As a human, I believe I do: especially because last night while watching US news, my heart broke. It actually ached in my chest. This morning it still does.


A couple of years ago, I was separated from my middle son at Walmart. He was eight. I was rushed and assumed he was walking behind me with his two brothers. It wasn’t until I came to the checkout I realized he wasn’t. We were separated less than five minutes before my name was called to the service desk. He was standing with his teacher who happened to be shopping in the same store, and appeared to be all right until the moment he saw me. Then, he broke down. He thought I forgot him. He thought that in my rush I had left the store without him. And, even though he was generally a tough little guy, he sobbed for almost ten minutes with his small arms around my neck.

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 Photograph: TIME

I have never felt so guilty.  But, I held him tight. I comforted him. Soon, he was okay.

The children separated from their parents at the American border are not okay.

The leaked audio from the patrol facility where agents openly mocked the children crying for their parents has affected me tremendously, taking me back to the day I lost my son for a mere five minutes.

Yesterday, the American President signed an executive order to put an end to the policy separating children from their parents (drummed up John Kelly and Stephen Miller, approved by The Donald, adopted by Sessions, and instituted on 4/6/2018). The executive order was a show. It was an attempt to appease the masses rallying against him. The President could have put an end to the policy with a simple phone call. In spite of the very grand gesture, many of the children already separated from their parents will have a long time to wait before being reunited.


And, while on her way to a border detention center, the First Lady of the United States of America wore this:

Melania-Trump-Sports-Jacket-That-Reads-I-DONT-REALLY-CARE-to-Visit-Border-Detention-Centers


Let me tell you something, as a citizen of the world, I do care. I care very much.


A spokesperson for Melania claimed the jacket carried no hidden message and was “just a jacket,” but the President later alleged Melania directed the statement to “fake news.”

We all know Melania Trump has handlers. She would have been told how the public would perceive the words printed very clearly on the coat. And, she chose to wear it anyway.

Because she doesn’t care.

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Michelle Martin, Ph.D. Cal State Fullerton, researches and writes about these issues and summed up the most important facts about the policy here.

Please, take the time to read it in full.


Her key statements really hit home for me:


•  The increase in asylum seekers is a direct result of the increase in civil conflict and violence across the globe. Rather than processing their claims (according to witness accounts) they have been taken into custody on the spot and had their children ripped from their arms. The ACLU alleges that this practice violates the US Asylum Act, and the UN asserts that it violates the UN Treaty on the State of Refugees, one of the few treaties the US has ratified. The ACLU asserts that this policy is an illegal act on the part of the United States government, not to mention morally and ethically reprehensible. https://www.nytimes.com/…/meatpackers-profits-hinge-on-pool…

•  We are a country that has an above-ground system of immigration and an underground system. Our government (under both parties) has always been aware that US companies recruit workers in the poorest parts of Mexico for cheap labor, and ICE (and its predecessor INS) has looked the other way because this underground economy benefits our country to the tune of billions of dollars annually. Thus, even though many of the people crossing the border now are asylum-seekers, those who are economic migrants (migrant workers) likely have been recruited here to do jobs Americans will not do. https://www.upi.com/…/Donald-Trumps-wall-ign…/2621477498203/

•  There is great legal ambiguity on how and even whether the parents will get their children back. According to the ACLU lawsuit (see attached link), there is currently no easy vehicle for reuniting parents with their children. Additionally, according to a May 2018 report, numerous cases of verbal, physical and sexual abuse were found to have occurred in these residential centers. The report covers earlier years, but highlights the problems of keeping children in large residential centers, even if they are run efficiently and supervised by licensed social workers and counselors: https://www.aclu.org/…/aclu-obtains-documents-showing-wides…


Despite everything happening in the world today, I believe most people are good.


Most people want to be productive. They want to contribute. They want to help when help is needed. People need to feel valued, and thrive when given the opportunity to instill that value into the lives of others. We all want the same things: dependable healthcare, creature comforts, education, and the promise of a stable future for our children.

As humans, we are within our rights to fight for it. And, to flee danger and oppression.

Because some people are not good.

They don’t care.

And often, those people do everything they can to climb into positions of power. They will turn the masses against each other with the use of words like “us” and “them.”bd91a50c9aa262d4b60d247e53e0615d


They are not like us.

They are dangerous.

They don’t share our “values.”


Don’t fall prey to it.


Don’t stop seeing the humanity in others. Don’t stop seeing the similarities that bind us to each other. Because that’s how the wars begin. That’s how rape, murder, bombings, and pillaging is justified.

That’s why people have to flee.

Children have been taken from their parents. They are being locked in cages and treated like criminals for seeking refuge from dangerous places. Believe me when I say there is no us and them.

You cannot justify child abuse with those words. You cannot justify ripping a nursing infant from his mother. You cannot justify horror.


This is horror:



The effects of what is happening at the United States border will last more than a lifetime. The children of these children will become the survivors of survivors. It’s a cycle that’s hard and sometimes impossible to break. It’s a cycle that does the entire world a grave disservice, no matter where these kids end up.

You, as a human, can do something.


Show you won’t be swayed by a grand gesture executive order.


If you live in the States, write your representatives. A plan should be implemented to reunite the children who have been taken from their families.

Canadians can write a letter to our United Nations Representative, Marc-André Blanchard, who can be reached at:

Canada.UN@international.gc.ca

i-really-do-care-do-u-melania-troll-tshirt

And hey, you can buy this shirt on Etsy, with all proceeds going to RAICES in support of refugee and immigrant services.


More links:


https://mashable.com/

http://takeaction.amnesty.ca/

https://globalnews.ca/news/

http://amp.slate.com/


 

Comments are moderated.


Finding Inspiration, A Guest Blog by Laura Mae


One of the most common setbacks for writers is inspiration. I would honestly put it at the top, along with writer’s block; but they seem to be one in the same. Not knowing what to write can be the most daunting feelings and sometimes it feels like it will never go away. But some good news, it will ALWAYS go away. How long it takes, though, is up to you.

There is no “one” or “right” way to gain inspiration to write.

We are all unique, weird, and at times, unstable individuals. If there was one way to get inspiration to write, there would be books getting published every minute of every day. But sadly, this is not the case, I’m here to try to help you in getting back that spark you’ve been missing.


Dreams


If you’ve been following me here for the last few months, you might know already that I value dreams over all others for inspiration. Dreaming can inspire your mind in ways you never thought imaginable. The things you dream of at night can sometimes be alarming on how the hell your brain came up with something like that. But that’s the beauty of it. Inspiration should hit us like a cement truck, and dreams are good at being blunt. You may not think so if you don’t dream much, but for me at least, they have several meanings. pexels-photo-279360.jpegYou just have to look for it. If you don’t remember your dreams very well, take my advice and make a dream journal. Any little sliver of a dream you have, write it down as soon as you wake up. This is when it will be the most vivid in your mind. The longer you wait to write it down, the more the details will just fly out of the window. Plus, it’s not a bad take-a-away, if while you’re writing, you start to make-up things in the middle that help you make sense of what’s going on. The draw-back on relying on strictly your dreams is that they can come far and few between. Or, if you have trouble sleeping, dreams will not come to you as easily. So, onto the second trial.


Do Stuff


I honestly feel dumb that this is something I’ve only recently started doing. If you’re like me, a homebody, you do not go out very much at all. You work, you might have kids, you might have school and homework. Going out to do things besides what you normally do, puts a damper on any kind of new inspiration. If you have the means, go out and do things you don’t normally do. For example, I haven’t gone hiking in a very long time, but I finally had the chance to go and I went somewhere I’ve never gone. The memory of just being there resonates with me and I am able to go back and visit it if I need to. I also did a ‘pay-it-forward’ at a fast food drive-thru and was actually given a free coffee by the cashier; just because. I’ve never done the ‘pay-it-forward’ thing before, but it was cool the way it worked out. My point is, get out of your comfort zone, get off the couch and go somewhere and do something different.


Talk to People/People Watch


Most writers are introverted, which is why I put 2 options on here. If you do happen to be outgoing-ish, randomly talking to strangers could be a good way to learn about others. The way they act, talk, move, ect. I think this is fun to base characters off of if they do something memorable. But if you are introverted like me and can’t imagine talking to random people, go somewhere crowded with people and just watch. Bring a notebook, take notes, learn what people do in “the wild”. This also helps with the “Do Stuff.” Maybe something fun will happen to you in your outings that you can write about later.


Playing Video Games


This may be a tad nontraditional, but I think video games have a tremendous positive impact on us.  Not only are they interactive, but they make you think differently than reading a book or watching T.V.  The way games work have to be different because it’s being controlled by a third person. RPG’s (Role Playing Games) are very story driven, and they are great examples of how stories are different. The immersion of them can force you to think outside of the box, and that’s always a good thing.


Taking Showers


For me, taking showers can spur on a lot of thinking and talking. I’ll be the first to admit, I sing and talk in the shower. A lot. Something about the constant flow of hot water somehow makes your brain work better. Or maybe you have conditioned yourself to brainstorm in the shower, so it’s just used to it by now. If you are needing something to get the gears running, try taking shower. Don’t go in expecting to have a light bulb go off as soon as your feet hit the duck stickers. Just relax, try to clear your mind and take in the hot water and sound of the shower. I also suggest showers instead of baths, but this is just my preference. (I hate baths) But if you like taking baths, try that too. Also, having some herbal scents in the bathroom can trigger more senses. The moisture of the steam activates them and is inhaled into your lungs.


Listen to New Music


Music has a way of seeping into our souls without even realizing it. (Earworms, I’m lookin’ at you.) pexels-photo-374777Listen to songs you’ve never heard of or bands that you think you might like. Pandora is really good for this. If you don’t have them and you want an easy way to get new stuff, Pandora is a quick, easy solution. Otherwise, if you have Spotify, they have a slew of playlists you can search for based on what mood you’re in and discover new music that way.


I hope this can help you get back on track for your writings. There is inspiration all around you; you just have to seek it.

–Laura Mae


Thank you, Laura, for a great guest blog.

Laura’s book is available on Amazon now. Check it out!

fliersreleasead1Follow Laura on Facebook, Google+, Linkedin, Instagram, Twitter, Tumblr, and GoodReads, or check out her website to get the latest updates on what’s going on with her writing.


 

Stuck

Being-A-Writer-Is-Easy-It-s-Like-Riding-A-Bike


I’m stuck.

Last week I was stuck.

The week before that, I got stuck.

And now I’m trapped in an endless vortex of soul-sucking stuck.

Writing can be fun. It can be really, really fun. The act of putting words where there were no words can divvy out a thrill like no other. The act of reading those words back and realizing they have come together to form a cohesive, INTELLIGENT, eloquently stated thought that no one else has come out with before is fuc@king exhilarating.

And Sometimes Writing Sucks.

I have been editing my book long enough to know that on certain occasions it’s best to walk away. I have also been editing it long enough to know that if I keep walking away it will never get finished.

It’s a double-edged, mother-loving, ambition-crushing, brain-stewing PAPERCUT.

I have a stack of beta-readers ready and waiting to help with my WIP. I have the time I need to attack the thing while the hellions are in school. In fact, I calculated that if I have sixteen good days of editing in a row, I will be DONE in sixteen days.

And I can’t get through a paragraph.

Yesterday I washed the rugs. I cleaned the windows and put the screens back in. I went for a walk. Yesterday, I finished the laundry, and then washed all the winter coats and put them into storage. Yesterday, I didn’t edit a single word. I opened my manuscript, cringed, died a little, and closed it. And opened it. And closed it again.

In truth, I have no idea why I’m stuck. I tried writer’s wine. I tried editor’s wine. And then I realized that if I plan on going to work tonight to earn actual REAL money, and not the theoretical kind that will so OBVIOUSLY come once I finish my brilliant book (if I ever do), I should probably stop drinking.

While writing can be fun, editing can be tedious. It can be really, really tedious. The act of replacing the right words for the wrong ones can suck your soul dry like nothing else. The act of reading those edits back and realizing you’ve made a mockery of the English language that no one will ever, EVER be able to untangle is fuc@king exhausting.

*takes deep breath*

It could be argued that a good amount of wallow is healthy in every activity worth tackling.

So, instead of writing today I’ve decided to do just that.

Wallow.

To everyone out there in the trenches, to everyone killing it, everyone kind of muddling their way through, and everyone stuck in a rut of wallow with me, I salute you.

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*raises writing wine glass*

*sees that it’s empty*

*raises editing wine glass*

*extends toast*

I love you guys.


Small Things


Tonight I’m making a roast.

I work four nights a week. While the hellions are in school I edit Old Souls, which means the nights and weekends I do get to spend with the boys are typically quite busy. 68d87662123424c6b65f8fa98cdb0b02Meals are rushed. There is homework to contend with, chores to be doled out, and music lessons to practice between futsal, basketball, and physiotherapy appointments for the youngest hellion’s clubfoot, which has recently begun to turn back in as his quickly growing bones seem to be growing a little too quickly for his muscles to keep up.

*takes deep breath*

Sometimes I look at my family and marvel at how fast life moves.

My husband and I often pass like two ships in the night: occasionally able to enjoy each other’s company in the workings of everyday life, but usually high-fiving at the door for “shift change.” We exchange texts and calls throughout the day, highlighting all the pertinent information like what’s going on at work, or that one of hellions needs to be monitored a little more closely on his newly acquired social-media privileges, or a message from the principal about the middle one fighting at school.

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Should have seen that one coming . . .

This is our life. It isn’t the neat and tidy undertaking I envisioned with that first positive pregnancy test: where my husband and I would be home to enjoy family meals at night, and my career would fit neatly into a 9-5 package. Sometimes I feel like I’m just treading water: my book will never be finished, I’m not devoting enough attention to my job, house, or marriage, and I’m a terrible mom.

I hear those feelings are normal these days.

Our life is messy, and oftentimes not ideal, but it works. Our family works. Our life works.

And it’s often only when tragedy strikes that we realize it.

On Friday March 8th, one of the oldest hellion’s good friends lost his mother in a horrific car accident on her way home from work.

I didn’t know her.

It was snowing. Her son was waiting at home. And instead of meeting his mother at the door, he was greeted by two police officers who took him to the hospital to meet his father.

Even though we weren’t friends, I have been affected by this woman’s passing in ways I could have never anticipated. It’s as if the world has been spinning like a top the last few years . . . and has suddenly come to a halt. It’s as if this moment stopped us to stare at the stars.road-3168803_1920

And all I can think of is this boy and his father.

And all I can think of is my own beloved hellions opening the door to find two police officers with terrible news.

Tonight, it’s supposed to snow again. The winds are going to blow. In fact, I can hear them now, railing against the front windows, growing in force. Tonight, we will be together, safe indoors with absolutely nowhere to go.

So tonight, I’m going to make a roast.


 

Top 5 Lessons From Bad Writer

I’m proud to call Allison Maruska one of my writerly besties.

She writes YA Urban Fantasy, and Adult Mystery & Suspense stories. Her first novel, The Fourth Descendant, has rocked Amazon bestseller lists for the last THREE YEARS.

You can check it out here:
https://www.amazon.com/Fourth-Descendant-Allison-Maruska/dp/1507809840

Her sense of humor is dry and witty, and her Twitter alter-ego is a truly special brand of cut-throat hilarious. This post had me in stitches.

Allison Maruska

I have an alter-ego on Twitter. Her name is Bad Writer.

BW page

She doesn’t have a million followers or viral tweets or anything like that. She exists merely to be the public face of my sarcastic side. And since I talk to writers a lot on Twitter, she focuses on writing.

Since her creation in July, she has tweeted 643 times, according to that screenshot. That’s a lot of bad advice being doled out. Some of those are quoted Retweets from Nat Russo’s #HorribleWritingTips, Sam Sykes’ joke tweets, Tweeps who reply, and other parody accounts, but most are her own content based on things that I read she reads. Sometimes, the content overlaps a little. I thought we could use those instances for learning. And since Bad Writer says the opposite of what a writer should do, the lessons will be actual constructive things with her non-examples.

Lesson 1: Stop abusing…

View original post 446 more words

Under Pressure


After an brief summer break from the blogging world I’m excited to share a fantastic piece written by Lari Burgos–who followers of the Sunday Scribble Challenge may better recognize under the name Larisanjou.

I’m sure you will enjoy the post as much as I did. And hey, don’t forget to check out her site today!


(More specifically this post, women–as a gentle reminder we should ALL be paying a bit more attention to our funbags.)


–J.A.


mokpoThere are unavoidable moments when ice-cold shock wakes us up from our complacency.  Our priorities become clearer and more urgent than ever.  When the impossible seems within reach, thanks to our desperate, unyielding hope.  It turns us upside-down, dispels the cobwebs and shines renewed clarity on our inner truth, the unshakeable purpose of our being, our raison d’être.

I’m one week out from greeting my thirty-first year of existence.


One year ago


I was in Spain with my F, laughing into the sky, and saying good-bye to my twenties. Turning 30, that mystical, perfectly round number.  That age, as it’s widely considered, to be the “end” of my prime.  When we’re supposed to have it all together, and to part the seas for the younger, more viable women, that moment when we reach our social expiration date.  One week before greeting my thirty-first year, I can say I’m just getting started.  Time flows, and I’m following it right along.


January, 2015


Stark text, black-and-white.  My father’s near-fatal car accident.  An ocean away, there was nothing to do but feel, go to work, and continue living. And he survived.


October, 2015


My mom’s first visit to France.  The energizing scent of travel hung around us as I joyously tugged her suitcase full of American goodies past that envelope by the door.  As an afterthought, I opened the banal envelope that contained a bombshell:  my deportation order.  Stomach turned to lead, heart rushed up to my throat.  My immediate thought:  Oh, hell no.  I’m not going anywhere. And I didn’t.  All thanks to an overwhelming support system, whose reach extended further than I realized at the time.


abstract tuned heart.jpgThere is always pressure.


The kind we artificially manufacture within ourselves, and the kind that is universal and ever-present, underlying everything we do in our “normal” lives.

My pressure emanates from within, a tactile reminder of my need to love, to express myself, to write.  The love for my dearest people, for all humanity, is frantic to escape from me, in the best way I know how.  I write.

The lump in my left breast compels me to release that love that desperately overflows from my heart, that my ego is often too afraid to reveal.  It inspires fear, and yet defiantly releases me from that same dread.

Fear is our torch in the darkness.  It’s our intimate friend, because it illuminates that which we treasure most.

Because behind the fear, there is nothing but love and acceptance.

I want to give joy and laughter to my loved ones.

I want to nourish people with my food.

I want to love my husband-to-be, my darling F, until the end of time.

Pressure boils within from this unwanted interloper, pushing my own raison d’être to the forefront.

Strip the fear away, and what does it mean?

To me, it means careful attention to each word, each gesture, each meal, each moment that becomes vibrant with urgency. Each moment I share with my students, my friends, my loves.  When words fail, it comes out in song, in a smile, in food prepared with intention, in carnal desire for my F.  Love finds any way it can to escape from my heart, despite my cowardly attempts to hold it back.  What will people think if I go around, writing, loving, and speaking all willy-nilly?  Normal people might find it strange.

But despite it all, in the face of fear, I have this undying urge.

What do you choose to do in these moments?


thon-e1362450105949.jpgLari is an ESOL teacher and avid traveler.  Writing, cooking, foreign languages, and art keep her mind active, and she’s guided through life by her sense of curiosity.  She blogs at larisanjou.com.


​Dum Scribo Spero – Guest Post by Sarah Clegg


Sarah Clegg is the final winner of this year’s series of weekly challenges to contribute a guest post to Scribbles on Cocktail Napkins. She’s also a new blogger! Join me and check out her new site, “Stay at Home Socrates.”

–J. A. Allen 


untitled.pngAt the start of May I entered the unfamiliar world of blogging, and set-up “Stay at Home Socrates” on a whim. By the end of the month, I had won J. A. Allen’s Sunday Scribble Challenge to the prompt “Show a Mother’s Twisted Love.” A tad concerning for the mother of two young children. Nevertheless buzzing with the validation of online strangers, I sought undisturbed moments with my laptop like a drug, fingers racing over the keys in a word-fuelled binge. The rest of the time I tested out material in my head, sniggering at my own jokes and tweaking my creations, whilst I just about managed to hold monosyllabic conversations with my tiddlers. For the first time in a while there was a spring in my step.  I had a hobby.

Then as spontaneously as the blog had started, it juddered to an emergency halt.

My body betrayed me and all words, inspiration, puns, and footnotes, were ejected faster than the streams that poured forth in my first episode of gastroenteritis that month. Survival became my only pursuit as I navigated a constant cycle of toilet sprints, bleaching, languishing on the sofa, languishing on the floor and attending only to the most primitive of my children’s needs.


In a conscious act of desperation I send a futile message to my husband, knowing there was no way he’d even consider coming home from work, conscientious to the end.


Note how long it took to get a reply.
At one point I must have nodded off on the sofa, exhausted from wretching and googling ‘catabolysis’.  I came to with a start when the Small One (S1) whacked some Duplo in my face. I allowed her to continue, even when she upgraded to a phone charger as her weapon of choice, rather than face the task of sourcing another form of entertainment.  I then took a selfie to check whether I looked as bad as I felt  and was satisfied with the result.



A quick scan of the room revealed relative destruction.  The Big One (B1) had managed to unlock the iPad and was watching videos of plastic dolls doing pretend poos in potties.  S1 had spread soot from the fireplace throughout the vicinity.  It was at that moment that I knew what I had to do. Whatever it took, I had to summon the strength to deliver B1 to Preschool and get S1 to nap at the same time. The promise of solitary toilet trips and three hours of lying prostrate was too alluring not to at least attempt the gargantuan task ahead.

Even now, with time to reflect, I can’t say how I managed it, but somehow, head pounding, buttocks clamping, I stumbled out into the light of day, and deposited B1 at the hallowed gates. I can only recall key moments of that trip – the despair at having to make small talk with other parents, quickly followed by surprise that no one recoiled at the sight of my blood-stained sclera and emaciated body.


I said nothing about my predicament; had anyone inquired as to how I was, I’m certain my reply would have been a sunny ‘Good, thanks.’


However this approach came at my cost later, when having found slumberous respite , brazenly my phone rang out, re-alerting me of my mortal coil.  Seconds later, the inevitable message arrived with an unwelcome buzz – a child care request from another mum.  For a moment I almost considered accommodating the third child, worried that the confession to my true state would seem implausible; my performance at drop-off had been just too strong.  I bolted back to the toilet, improvising with B1’s Frozen step-up to allow relief of both ends simultaneously, knowing I had to come clean, even if it looked suspect.  The mere hint of germs was always sufficient to deter another parent from sending their child to your home.

It took about a week to recover fully from this episode and to start inspecting food without suspicion.  I even thought about the blog again and worried I had lost my momentum – could I write again, would my audience  have given up on me?  Then the unthinkable happened.  Three short weeks since the first digestive attack, I was struck again.  The injustice was almost as difficult to deal with as the physical symptoms.

Undeterred by my failed first attempt, once again I sent an SOS to my husband when things became too terrible to bear – I worried for the safety of myself and my offspring when I failed to even keep water down. Screenshot_2017-07-14-14-23-53I genuinely wasn’t certain my body, already malnourished from round 1, could survive another onslaught so soon.  He returned home triumphant at 5.30pm.  When S1 failed to sleep that evening, he flung her back to me and proceeded to work until midnight to make up the time lost by coming home early…

I’d like to say I took it with good grace when days later my husband, becoming afflicted with a mild version of the illness, retreated to bed for the foreseeable and indulged in a 100% bona fide ‘sick day’.  However the injustice smarted almost as much as the chilli-laden meals he cooked up following B1’s birth.  As my own bile and diarrhoea abated, pitiless prose started re-circulating in my shrivelled grey matter and I knew I was well on the road to recovery.


Dum scribo spero.