Illegal Immigration Across the Canadian Border, #AlternativeFacts, and a Fictional Massacre: A Mamma Hamster’s View of the World

“In other centuries, human beings wanted to be saved, or improved, or freed, or educated. But in our century, they want to be entertained. The great fear is not of disease or death, but of boredom. A sense of time on our hands, a sense of nothing to do. A sense that we are not amused.”
― Michael Crichton, Timeline

I feel like I’m living in an alternate reality or perhaps like I’ve been dropped inside the pages of a badly written dystopian novel.  The last few weeks feel like a montage for news that should never happen.  I turn on NPR, listen to the latest events, and shout, “WHAT?!” then change the station.  I find myself avoiding social media.  It’s too exhausting.  It’s like living with a pony in your living room—a pony you’re in denial about it.  Pony?  What pony?  I don’t see any ponies.  (Steps over steaming pile of road apples.) But ignoring the situation doesn’t change anything.  It doesn’t make things LESS exhausting.

When I started blogging this year, I planned on focusing on me, on my life.  When in doubt, keep your eyes on your own page.  Yes, blogging is social media, but it’s social media I can control.  But, it turns out…that’s exhausting, too.  Because the metaphorical pony is STILL THERE.  Even if I’m yakking on about organizing or whatever, I still feel the enormity of the events that are happening all around me, events that are completely out of my control. I don’t want to offend anyone, but there are things happening right now.  Ignoring these events feels even MORE ridiculous than ignoring an imaginary pony.

I live in a small town in Michigan.  If I left my home right now, I could be in Canada in under an hour.  For those of us living near the eastern border of Michigan, traveling across the border into Canada is NOT a big deal.  People live in Windsor, but work in the Detroit area and vice-versa.  For us, it’s almost like crossing into another state, rather than another country. Our two countries are more alike than different.

Or so I thought.

Imagine my surprise when I learned that asylum seekers are crossing from the US into Canada illegally, that people are willing to risk their lives, to risk losing their fingers and toes in the frigid winter temperatures, rather than stay in the United States.

 

I consider the United States a “safe” country, a beautiful country.  I thought the only people illegally crossing the Canadian border were people running from the law, not folks with children looking for a better life, afraid of being banned for being Muslim.

The United States is a place of freedom—freedom of speech and religion.  The United States is a country that fights for equality.  People seek refuge in our country.  They come from all over the globe to be here, in the United States.  But, then I see Canada’s Prime Minister’s tweet:

I wish my own leaders could learn from his example.  Prime Minister Trudeau behavior is a positive influence in an uncertain world.

 

Meanwhile, back in the United States…we’re experiencing “Alternative Facts,” a fancy word for lies.

 

The media is being criticized for not covering the “Bowling Green Massacre,” an event that NEVER HAPPENED!

 

 

Seriously?

This isn’t a partisan thing: Democrats versus Republicans.  This wasn’t a one interview slip up.  Several interviews were given regarding this non-existent event.  I guess this must be “Alternative Facts” in action, and yet I can’t imagine why anyone would say something like this, why anyone would want to create an imaginary massacre.  Is reality is too boring? Now, we have to worry about nonexistent events, too?

It’s like we, in the United States, are running around, afraid of all the bad things might happen, logic is being thrown out the window.  In my opinion, it seems like the United States is facing the “Mamma Hamster Effect.”  We’re so afraid and stressed, we’re willing to harm the ones we SHOULD be protecting, like a mamma hamster killing her own young because she perceives her sacrifice is for the greater good.  We are a reactive society rather than proactive.  Stuff keeps happening…and we’re shocked.  And entertained.

Alternative facts: We react with Tweets and Facebook posts.

Fake Massacre: An endless discussion ensues.

Are we so bored with our lives that we would rather be controlled by fear?  We’re so afraid of change, we’d rather cling to erroneous beliefs?  The political scene feels like a giant soap opera.  Is it any wonder why many people are feeding on these distractions?  It certainly is easier to be outraged and do nothing, than to be proactive and take charge of one’s life.

 “I have more respect for people who change their views after acquiring new information than for those who cling to views they held thirty years ago. The world changes. Ideologues and zealots don’t.”
― Michael Crichton, State of Fear

Pay attention to what is happening around you.  Don’t ignore the metaphorical pony in the room because it’s inconvenient.  See the sensationalism for what it is.  Be proactive.  Take control.  Stand up for those who are afraid to speak. Be a good neighbor. Be a good citizen.  Do NOT allow yourself to be sucked into the ugliness.  Allow your voice to be heard through your art and your writing.  Do NOT stop living because of fear.  Plan ahead.  Be creative. Try new things. Educate yourself.  Learn about other cultures.  Don’t expect someone else to fix your problems but also, don’t be afraid to ask for help, either. We are together in this world—one people, the human race.

B is for Blog #atozchallenge

A Procrastinator’s Guide From A to Z

“Only on the Internet can a person be lonely and popular at the same time.”
― Allison Burnett, Undiscovered Gyrl

B 2016

B is for Blog. 

Blogs and procrastinators go together like peanut butter and chocolate.  If you have a blog, you can use it to avoid all types of work: housework, homework, house cleaning, that novel you’re supposed to be writing…  (Cough!)

A blog is a great tool.  It allows you to feel like you’re accomplishing something while actually doing the opposite.  It gives the blog writer an illusion of mystery.  “Of course, I didn’t get any laundry done!  I was working on my…blog post.” (Feel free to raise pinky finger while saying this, Austin Powers‘ style.)

But blogging isn’t just about writing; it’s also about reading and knowledge.  On any given day, you can waste hours and HOURS reading blog posts.  Let’s face it, if you can imagine it, it’s probably out there somewhere on the Net.  Want to read about hummingbirds? There’s a blog for that!  Tired of Red 40 in your food?  There’s a blog for that! Procrastinators can get lost in the vast amounts of information available.  Learning new things…is good, therefore, an entire afternoon spent online can’t be bad.  Right?

I’ll admit, I seesaw back and forth between binge-blogging and avoiding social media altogether.  I love interacting with other readers and bloggers…until something shiny comes along.  I enjoy writing blog posts…until it becomes habit forming.  I waver between responsibility and stomping my feet like a petulant child.  You can’t grow blog readers unless you write blog posts.  But then…sometimes blogging starts to feel like another form of work, and then the procrastination cycle kicks in all over again.  When your current procrastinating tool is one of your former procrastinating tools…and you’re procrastinating by NOT procrastinating…You might be a procrastinating PRO!

Confused?

Ha!

There’s a BLOG for that!!!    

You’re such a prude, Mary.

It’s starting to look like Winter outside.  She glided in softly yesterday evening, readying herself for a proper appearance.  Unlike previous years, Winter didn’t show up in October and steal Autumn’s thunder.  (Winter had one prequel visit before this, but it was brief so she’s forgiven.)

View from my desk.

View from my desk.

I live in an area where I should be able to enjoy all four seasons.  Winter shouldn’t be gluttonous, show up early, and stick around for the next six months.  It’s just bad manners. Come on Winter!  You need to share with Autumn and Spring.  I’m glad you’re learning to play nice with your sisters.

Anyway, I had an epiphany this month.  Perhaps two epiphanies.  Maybe more.  Fine! Several epiphanies.  A herd of epiphanies.  A gaggle of epiphanies.  Apparently, amid all the tinsel and nonsense of the holiday season, December was a generous month for self-discovery.  Who would have guessed?  Not me!

First of all, I had a great conversation with a small-town bookstore owner, at a place called The Lyons Den.  I’m a book junkie.  There’s NOTHING like visiting a bookstore that’s not part of a chain.  There’s something about the smell of actual books and the creak of 100+-year-old wooden floors squeaking under your feet.  I buy a lot of digital books from Amazon, but it’s not the same experience.  It’s not the same as talking one-on-one with a live person, someone who’s willing to give you recommendations.

Anyway, the bookstore owner gave me some great ideas for book-gifts, but I also noticed that she’d casually throw out which books were “clean” reads.  She wasn’t pushy or offensive about it.  The woman knows her books and sells primarily young adult/new adult novels.  And while I’m not a prude or a “Mary,” I found myself thinking about my own writing.

I’ve been writing at my novel(s) for years, but for MANY reasons haven’t loaded up any of them for publishing.  Short stories, sure.  Entire novels.  No.  It takes time to find your voice as a writer and honestly, my first novel attempts were craptastic at best.  This is not false modesty.  I’m a reader.  I know a stinking pile of cliches when I read them.  WHEW!!! Stinky.  My newer stuff is better, but it doesn’t pour out of me like the other stuff did.  I suppose it’s the difference between diarrhea of the words…and the opposite.  Not to be graphic, but nobody wants any form of diarrhea, not even in written form.  It’s just…YUCK. It’s not pleasant for anyone involved in the process.

After my conversation with this bookstore owner, I went back to my work in progress and deleted a handful of words that might be considered offensive.  The words came from one minor character, and while I know this is the way he talks, I felt I could convey this in a different way.  Is this censorship?  I don’t know.  They were okay for daytime TV words, but I write for a young adult/new adult audience.  As my kiddo once said, “I know ALL the words, Mom, even the really bad ones.  I just don’t use them.”  Personally, I don’t feel that ANY word is good or bad, it’s how the words are used.  I’m a creative person.  I have the power to curse in ways that are so foul, military folks would blush.  However, I feel like “curse words” are the ghost peppers of language.  Used sparingly, you make a dramatic point.  Dumped randomly into EVERY dish…well, who wants Ghost Pepper Sugar Cookies?  Ghost Pepper Pie?  Ghost Pepper Coffee?  A little cayenne pepper in chocolate is exotic.  Hot peppers in chili, a must.  But too much spice in everything, and your taste buds grow immunity.  The spice is no longer effective.

In general, I keep my blog PG rated.  I feel like my stories should reflect in a similar manner.  It’s not that I don’t know the words.  I watch mature content.  I read mature content.  But I don’t write mature content.  I’ve decided it’s not me.  Something about seeing those spicy words, words that I’ve written, on a page…makes me uncomfortable. When I wrote them as part of my work in progress, I felt myself justifying them, making excuses.  Who cares!  We all know those words.  But some people do notice.  They do care.  That bookstore owner noticed.  How many other people notice?  If I choose to write a word that might offend, I’d rather use it deliberately.  Give it some power for what it is.  I don’t want to sprinkle spice with every keystroke.  I’m more creative than that.

My other December epiphany came from a book written by Brittany Gibbons, Fat Girl Walking.  She writes:

“I went to work building my site, never calling myself a “blogger,” because that’s a bizarre word (think: moist) and because in my opinion a blog is simply a medium.  I’m a writer.  I just happen to put my words on the Internet because it’s the twentieth century and I’ve forgotten how to hold pencils.”

I think most people would have glossed over this statement while they were reading.  But for me, this was PROFOUND!  I’ve blogged for years, on and off, but I’ve always felt like blogging takes me away from “real” writing.  It’s as if this form of writing were a candy bar, and writing a novel was like cooking a chicken dinner from scratch.  I write because I enjoy writing.  I didn’t start writing because this was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.  It wasn’t a childhood dream.  It’s not my career.  Would I like to get money for slinging words onto pages?  Sure.  I do like paying for stuff.  It would be nice to have something tangible to hold in my hands, but that’s not why I write.

It never occurred to me that what I’m doing right now is “real” writing.  Each time I send my blog posts out into the universe, I’m publishing my thoughts, my ideas, my words.  If you’re reading my words, if anything I’ve written connects with you or made you laugh, I’ve done my job as a “real” writer.  A published writer.  Besides anything else I’ve done, I am published on this blog.  In the scheme of things, it’s nothing.  It’s my blog.  I can slop anything I like onto its virtual pages.  There’s no safety net.  There’s no one to say, “HEY! You can’t write that.”  (And if they do, I can block them.)  But…does that make it less real? Until a few days ago, I thought it did.  If there’s no gatekeeper, how do you know you’re worthy of marching your happy-self inside the city?

I started my blog to go along with the book(s) I was writing.  Over the years, it morphed into its own thing.  I’d like to update this site to go along with this new phase in my life, the new outlook I have towards this form of publishing.  I don’t know what the final product will look like, but it’s on 2016’s bucket list of goals.

Thank you soooo much readers!!!  If nothing else, December’s epiphanies have given me a new appreciation for you all.

XO Juli