March 2012


I moved to Vermont at the beginning of 8th grade. Talk about a life-thrown tomato. My dad and I moved first, since schools in Vermont (well, New Hampshire too, but that’s a weird, different story) start earlier than schools in New York. My parents hadn’t even closed on the house yet, so we stayed in the local inn. We were so concerned about me staying on top of school that my dad brought a whole desktop computer – before the screens were as thin as they are today – and set it up on a coffee table he moved into my “room.” Later, I would convince them that I needed a Macintosh, a bright blue iMac, since my new school had them, and because I knew nothing about compatibility (and, evidently, had forgotten that computers exist in libraries).

Sidenote: What a conniving 13-year-old I was: it took over a decade, but now my whole family is on Macs of various sorts and sizes.*

So began the “Where do you live?” “The [town] Inn.” “Huh..?”, but also the best move of my life – not that I knew it at the time. Actually, when my mom told me, on a sunny day between two summer camp sessions, I burst into tears. I’d swear it took her a good twenty minutes to calm me down, sitting in the car, but I generally don’t like swearing.

My wonderfully supportive dad worked his social magic and arranged a middle-school-esque playdate with two girls who would be in my class, so I could at the very least start the year knowing someone. We didn’t wind up being close friends, but a smiling face – who knows your name – in a new school can mean the world.

People in the area were friendly, and I loved being surrounded by so many trees. It was a huge change from New York, where we lived in the suburbs of “the City.” A couple weeks went by and we closed on the house, and my mom, brother, and the moving company hauled up our collective stuff. Moving day…had some excitement. But everything got in.

Six days later, I was sitting in my drama class. It’s funny, what memory recall does to you. I can’t even remember if someone delivered a note to my teacher or if it was announced over the loudspeaker. It didn’t really hit me until we acted it out for a Russian girl in my class, showing how planes had crashed into tall buildings in New York City and DC. I was coldly relieved, though my parents didn’t happen to work in the city. Still, they could have been there. And as many of the students and teachers gathered in the library to watch the news during lunch, and some were crying, I wanted to. But nothing came. I thought of all my friends back home, how many must have lost mothers, fathers, even both. Family. Worse, wondering. Wondering and wondering. Eery, eery timing, our move. It would take me nearly a decade to work it out, but my nightmares, my year-long fear whenever a car came down my road, the daymares and poems that stemmed from them – they began here. They’ve generally gone away, though the occasional event makes them pop out again. There was a security officer for the Holocaust Museum who was shot while I was interning in DC for a summer. The theme was somewhat reversed in my dreams – something to do with mass versus single I think – but I finally put two and two together.

Okay. Well, sorry about the tangent. This was meant as a “this is where I’m from now and I’m going back soon!” post…It really was the best move. I love Vermont. I love the view from my window, the brooks and rivers, trails, skiing and climbing, wonderful people. Yes, I even love the winters. Mud season, eh. It was less fun when I was horseback riding up there, as it meant I frequently got mud all over me, or lost a boot taking a horse back out in the dark. There’s nothing then but to step in it and pick up the boot, ready to wash for another day. And no, I don’t own a horse and never have. I learned to contra dance there, which led to even more wonderful things down the road.

I am going home for a whole week. My boyfriend is taking his spring break from teaching to drive me up, spend time with my mom, dad, brother, might-as-well-be-sister-in-law, and dogs. Many points, babe. I am so excited. Ever since I began thinking about it and planning the trip, I’ve been looking forward to it.

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* I really wish I could take credit for such a long-term, laid-out plan at age 13. I can’t.
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Also: Mom, Dad, this will happen. It always happens. It’s been happening as long as I’ve been able to sneak. Secret’s out.

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I don’t think I live in fear and I certainly enjoy random conversations with people of all types, but I definitely assess situations in this manner all the time (even when I’m not alone). I respect the men that I know, but many do not have to even think of this when they’re alone/it’s night/on a bus.

Shapely Prose

Phaedra Starling is the pen name of a romance novelist and licensed private investigator living in small New York City apartment with two large dogs.  She practices Brazilian jiu-jitsu and makes world-class apricot muffins.

Gentlemen. Thank you for reading.

Let me start out by assuring you that I understand you are a good sort of person. You are kind to children and animals. You respect the elderly. You donate to charity. You tell jokes without laughing at your own punchlines. You respect women. You like women. In fact, you would really like to have a mutually respectful and loving sexual relationship with a woman. Unfortunately, you don’t yet know that woman—she isn’t working with you, nor have you been introduced through mutual friends or drawn to the same activities. So you must look further afield to encounter her.

So far, so good. Miss LonelyHearts, your humble instructor, approves. Human connection…

View original post 1,626 more words

OK. If you don’t know, I am pretty against judging people on anything but actions and words (you know, not race, or gender, or sexual identity, or class, or clothing). Also I’m liberal. I don’t want any of the current GOP candidates to win the next election; in fact it terrifies me. Really, though, that’s not the focus of this particular post. This one is on racism. I covered the ongoing anti-women issues earlier, however much I am tempted to update it every day because of hurtful people.

There are plenty of opinion pieces out right now on the killing of a young teenager, Trayvon Martin. Anyone think America is “post-racism” out there? It’s not. We are not over it. Having incredibly elected the first black president in the short history of our “let freedom ring” country does not mean the issue has gone away in any sense. Now, politicians seem to have learned a lesson (or, let’s be honest, are perhaps not as racist as they are anti-woman) and have not said as many dumb things about black people in light of this case.

However, someone else posted this video about a reaction to an anti-Obama bumper sticker: “Don’t Re-Nig in 2012”

I simultaneously recognize the racism, and about died laughing.

Okay, over it? Wiped the tears from your eyes?

This is a real issue. Talk about it. Fight it. Racism is hardly gone, or need I mention the past fiery decade of anti-Muslim (even if you look like it) slurs, or, you know, centuries of anyone-who’s-not-white slurs and laws?

Real issues. Demand better; this country was made for that. You can’t pursue happiness if you’re too scared to walk outside.

UPDATE:

Perhaps I was naive. No, I know I was, and I am in general: I really do try to see the best in people. I do. But, I was pretty surprised to see how politicians, namely Newt Gingrich, reacted – not to the Trayvon Martin case – but to President Obama’s reaction.

Story: President Obama made some remarks about the now-internationally known case, extending condolences to the family, and added:

When I think about this boy I think about my own kids. And I think every parent in America should be able to understand why it is absolutely imperative that we investigate every aspect of this and that everybody pulls together – federal, state and local – to figure out exactly how this tragedy happened. You know, if I had a son he would look like Trayvon. (1)

Which is true: Obama’s son would look similar to Trayvon – as in, he would be black. If anyone is still wondering if this case, this incident, has anything to do with race, look again: “Martin was slain in the town of Sanford, Fla., on Feb. 26 in a shooting that has set off a nationwide furor over race and justice. Neighborhood crime-watch captain George Zimmerman claimed self-defense and has not been arrested, though state and federal authorities are still investigating. Since the slaying, a portrait has emerged of Martin as a laid-back young man who loved sports, was extremely close to his father, liked to crack jokes with friends and, according to a lawyer for his family, had never been in trouble with the law.” (2)

Martin was unarmed. He went to pick up a snack and drink. He was wearing a hoodie (oh no!). However, even if, somehow, his killer was not judging based on race, Gingrich has only fed the fire with this statement on Obama:

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, appearing on a nationally syndicated radio program hosted by Sean Hannity, called Obama’s remarks “disgraceful.”

“It’s not a question of who that young man looked like. Any young American of any ethnic background should be safe, period,” Gingrich said. “We should all be horrified no matter what the ethnic background. Is the president suggesting that if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him?” (1)

I agree with part 1: No American of any ethnic background should feel threatened just walking around. However, part 2: “president suggesting if it had been a white who had been shot that would be ok because it didn’t look like him.” Are you serious? Way to twist words around. Of course that’s not what Obama is suggesting. Any innocent young (or old) person should not be killed. It is a tragedy. But people should not be judged based on the color of their skin, either. Take a look at a history book – black people in this country have had to fight slavery, lack of basic human rights, for the right to be a full citizen, who was allowed to own property, who was allowed to vote, who was allowed to marry a white man or woman if they loved them. We are traditionally a country in favor of white people. And we’ve come a long way, a really long way – but it’s not over. Have you ever noticed a white person move to the edge of the sidewalk when a black person was headed their way? Wait for the next bus? Back away? It’s still here, folks. It’s still here and we still need to fight it: everyone in this country, as a US citizen, has the right to trust in the justice system. That’s why this case is important. Justice. This man, this killer, has not been arrested as of this writing. Has not even been arrested.

Wake up.

If you can stomach it, there is this article, with comments made on an article about the case posted by Fox.

(1) “Presidential candidates reflect on Trayvon Martin case.” CNN. March 23, 2012. <http://politicalticker.blogs.cnn.com/2012/03/23/presidential-candidates-reflect-on-trayvon-martin-case/?hpt=hp_t1&gt;

(2) Haines, Errin and Kay, Jennifer. Associated Press. March 24, 2012, Seattle Pi. <http://www.seattlepi.com/news/article/Attorneys-in-Trayvon-Martin-case-make-arguments-3432364.php&gt;

I started taking a Zumba class in my building last week. I’m not much of a workout-girl; I’d much prefer contra dancing. So, dancing, with music, and an instructor to tell me what the heck I’m doing is a definite plus in my new goal of eating and being healthier.

Anyway, I observed something tonight. I did Zumba last night, and as usual there was pretty serious ab involvement. Once the class was over I thought little of it. Tonight, walking around, late, my abs suddenly started hurting. Sigh. I guess it’s working. Man oh man. We will see. Still, I’ve never felt more in shape in my life as when I did a two-week circus camp one summer. But that’s a story for another time.

I fell asleep last night, fitfully, dreaming up a campaign speech I would one day give. President? Congress? Senate? I don’t remember; it likely shifted between them a lot. I remember, I said something like,

“I don’t have the money in my campaign to shower you all with confetti, nor the will to force normal citizens to clean up after me. I never will. I’m here to talk to you about the truth…”

You know, put me on a moral pedestal but not a real one. I used to laugh at the idea – me, in politics? But lately, with the clear shift in this country toward one that is forgetting its past, its purpose, and so much that it means to people: freedom. We are increasingly becoming less free.

I finished reading Margaret Atwood’s The Handmaid’s Tale. If you haven’t heard of it, or read it, let me explain some of the plot idea. It is (for now) a work of complete fiction. In a twisted political move to “protect” women, and the Caucasian race, the US suspends the Constitution and implements a series of laws: women have no political rights whatsoever; they are merely “chalices,” wombs to be used if they are still viable. Abortion: illegal. Anything but the religion (something specifically Christian) deemed okay: illegal. Talking, having opinions out loud, about anything: illegal. They’d take you away in black vans. There was always a war: Angels fighting Quakers, Baptists, Protestants, anyone “else.” Censorship.

Voting? A job? Property? No, that was before.

All those women having jobs: hard to imagine, now, but thousands of them had jobs, millions. It was considered the normal thing. Now it’s like remembering the paper money, when they still had that. My mother kept some of it, pasted into her scrapbook along with the early photos….You had to take those pieces of paper with you when you went shopping, though by the time I was nine or ten most people used plastic cards….I must have used that kind of money myself, a little, before everything went on the Compubank. (1)

I highly recommend you reading it. It’s amazing, detailed, and the writing, just wow. Atwood really brings it alive. One of the more terrifying points is when she gets a chance to explain, a bit. Note this was written in 1986.

I guess that’s how they were able to do it, in the way they did, all at once, without anyone knowing beforehand. If there had still been portable money, it would have been more difficult.

It was after the catastrophe, when they shot the president and machine-gunned the Congress and the army declared a state of emergency. They blamed it on the Islamic fanatics, at the time. …

That was when they suspended the Constitution. They said it would be temporary. There wasn’t even any rioting in the streets [until they made it illegal for all females to hold a job]. People stayed home at night, watching television, looking for some direction. There wasn’t even an enemy you could put your finger on. (2)

Okay. So read the book. I won’t write the whole thing out for you. Point being, recent, anti-female laws have been tried, some enacted, and it’s terrifying to think that this book, this work of fiction, could become real. You think I’m kidding; I’m not. These bills, the ones most people are yelling at the male politicians about? Several have been introduced by women. Men: you are not free or exempt from this. If straight men out there want a respectful marriage with a woman, happy, with children – on your own terms – sound the alarm. Help us.

What do you think? Are women still people? What about non-white Americans? Do they count?

Read this. And this.

And another rant, yours truly, March 7: “Recent events make me feel like the 19th Amendment is only in my imagination (and not in history books, and photographs, and the US Constitution, letters, memorabilia, etc). Since when do women, who fought for the right to vote just like any other US citizen, and were granted it relatively recently, not have control of their bodies/governments/lives? Have over 50% of the population suddenly become invisible? No, not invisible, that much is clear. Objects? Non-persons? What is going on?”

I am so angry. Angry we could have let any of this happen. Angry at this trend to conveniently forget that the US was built on freedom, on separation of church and state. Angry that other women are denying women whom they are supposed to represent their full rights as citizens in this country. Enabling doctors to break the Hippocratic Oath and deny women full information about their pregnancy, like this state is trying to do? Thanks, Virginia. And Arizona, again.

After I get to the DMV, and confirm my right to vote (denied, previously, due to their own form), I will draft a letter to my state representatives. Will you do the same?

(1) Atwood, Margaret. The Handmaid’s Tale. 1986. New York: Anchor Books, 1998. Print. p. 173.

(2) Atwood, p. 174.

It’s Dad’s birthday today. I sent him an iTunes gift certificate. That feels lame. But he likes music.

Really, I’ll be visiting in a couple weeks. And that’s really the present. Egotistical, you say? You ask any dad what they’d prefer: daughter wins. But it’s his birthday today. So. Gift card. Like I said, the man likes music.

 

Happy Birthday Dad!!!

This blog stemmed from this frustrated status update of mine:

Today the negative things – my dad has prostate cancer, I feel like my personal relationships are hanging off the edge of a cliff, realizing I’m having more trouble settling back into the flow at work than I thought I would, all the little things, like leaving my novel in the dust – are outweighing the positive: it’s a beautiful 75F March day, I have a job, I tend to like it, I have a wonderful family, I get to go home soon, I cleaned my apartment desk, I’m working out more and trying to eat healthier. Just that kind of terrible no-good-reason day. And when I wonder if I should have kept that blog, or that one, or just a diary again. What difference does it make?

Well. That, and my brother’s encouragement:

So yeah, life is beautiful and worth it. Dad is fine, though in for a huge ride…Everything works out. Your amazing. I am moving to Hawaii, thats weird. And I love you. Write whatever you want whenever you want. Who cares who reads it?

This blog makes no promises to be entertaining or peppy: as I deal with the tomatoes that life throws at me (I don’t like tomatoes), I write about it. I am a writer by nature, and, as luck would have it, by profession. It’s pretty awesome, though be warned: I get things out of my system by writing, and in the past, that means low posts (low as in blue. blue as in unhappy). But, with some friends’ help and inspiration, I hope to blog about the good things too, the things that remind me that “life is beautiful and worth it.”

So welcome, if you’re still here, at the bottom of the page with me: I am nearly 24, my dad has stage 2 prostate cancer, I am learning to develop an iOS app, and wrote a drafty 50,000 word novel in November. You’ll hear about those, too, if you stick around.