Why the Need for Gender-Specific Pronouns?

I have a few friends that prefer that I use the “they” pronouns when referring to them. I respect that completely. I have no problem with doing so. But I admit that after a lifetime of not knowing the value of that act of respect, I sometimes forget.

I hope they don’t take my missteps as a sign of disapproval. I’m sure they get it a lot, too. Not that that’s any excuse. All I can say is that I’m forgetful even on a good day, but I sincerely promise to always do my best.

I was thinking about that on the commute to work this morning, and it suddenly occurred to me to wonder why we have gender specific pronouns in the first place. For example, in the sentence, “She is very intelligent,” why is it important for us to know that the person in question is a female? Why does it matter that his shoes are stylish, or her team won the nationals, or that he has a reputation for always being late? Is the quality of intelligence, style, sportsmanship or promptness somehow different based on one’s orientation or perceived genitalia? The concept seems rather absurd when you look at it that way.

Since only extremely misinformed people think that the English language is rigid and does not evolve over time, I suggest that maybe it’s time that we get rid of gender specific pronouns. I believe that only those who are heavily invested in the patriarchy would object, and while it might feel strange to the rest of us at first, I think that within a generation it would become second nature. Meanwhile, it could be seen as some form of cool slang until it became routine.

Personally, I think it would be refreshing to be talked about as an individual rather than as an entity that can or should be prejudged based on some weird form of team membership. I’m sure that if there are any rational flaws in this concept, someone will point them out in the comments section. But as I sit here on the quiet, sunny day, I can’t help thinking that this is an idea whose time has come, and that some day the way we speak now will seem very quaint, indeed.

Hey! Look what I wrote! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

My Eighth Bloggiversary

I started this blog on December 1, 2012. I figured it would be a nice experiment, and a way to improve my writing, but I was sure I’d run out of things to say after about six months. Little did I know how quickly our world (and this blogger) would change and grow during all this time. I have yet to run out of things to talk about. In fact, I have even published an anthology of some of my posts which you can check out here. I should have done several more by now, but I seem to lack the follow through. Fingers crossed that I can get back to work with a little help from my very patient friends. It’s been on the top of my to-do list for years. I honestly don’t know what is holding me back.

I was trying to remember the person who sat down at that keyboard, with its several missing keys, eight years ago, and to be perfectly honest, I can’t. I even went back to my first blog post, entitled, “Nature is what’s happening while you’re not looking”, and that really only gives me a glimpse of her. All I know is that I’m a completely different person now.

That new blogger’s whole life revolved around her identity as a bridgetender. It was the one thing she could cling to. The rest of her life was a total shambles. She was very unhappy and felt as if there was no hope. I tried not to show that in this blog, but sometimes it would leak through.

I’m still proud of my job, and I enjoy it, but it’s not the only thing I’ve got anymore. In fact, I look at it more and more as the thing that enables me to live my life and also write this blog. And I’m extremely grateful that bridgetending happens to be something I enjoy doing. I know so many people who really hate their jobs, and given that a lot of their waking hours are spent doing those jobs, to hate them seems like a tragedy to me. I hope I never forget how lucky I am.

Now, I am a wife and a writer and a little free library curator and an exerciser and a traveler. I am a person who has hope and plans for the future. I have moved to the other side of the country to a place that fits me much more politically, albeit much less socially.

This past eight years has really taught me who my friends really are. It makes me realize that quality is so much more important than quantity. And something unexpected happened along the way: I made several additional friends because of this blog. What a gift.

It also occurs to me that I used to say “what a gift” a lot more often in my blog. I really need to start doing that again, because if there’s nothing else that this pandemic has taught me, it’s that so much about our lives and connections to others are precious.

I am also learning, slowly, that it’s important to establish firm boundaries with people. I am a lot less love-starved these days, and therefore I am not willing to tolerate cruel treatment that I would have once overlooked. I no longer have the energy for it, and I also know I deserve better. Some people are best seen in your rear view mirror. Onward!

Now I look forward to many more years of blogging. But there are no guarantees in life. Perhaps the person I will be eight years from now will not be a blogger. And that’s okay, too. But meanwhile, watch this space, dear reader, and thanks to all of you who have stuck with me over the years.

The First Detective Novel

I was sitting on a couch in the Library of my Unitarian Universalist Church a while back, chatting with a couple of friends (waving at Caly and Mor), when one of us, I can’t remember who, asked when the first detective novel came out. (We often discuss books.)

Back before the internet, we’d have probably said, “Good question”, and then went on to other topics. Before the internet, you’d have had to have done some serious digging at your public library, and let’s face it, most of the time you’d have not gotten around to it. Yes, there was once a time when humans were much more capable of tolerating unanswered questions.

But this is not that time. A quick Google search came up with the answer, in the form of an NPR interview entitled, “Who Wrote The First Detective Novel?” Pretty straightforward.

The short answer to that is: Charles Felix. The book was “The Notting Hill Mystery”. It first came out in a weekly magazine, in 8 installments, in 1863. It was later published as a book in 1865, right as the Civil War was ending in America. Pure coincidence, but interesting.

The book caused quite a stir, because the genre didn’t exist at the time. People didn’t know what to make of it. It was described as a kind of literary puzzle that you had to solve.

The book includes elements that we now consider standard tropes for detective novels. Someone dies under mysterious circumstances. It comes to light that someone else has taken out a life insurance policy on that person. The insurance company wants to get to the bottom of it. The perfect crime is revealed before your reading eyes.

But here’s what’s really mysterious about the book. The author. Charles Felix was a pseudonym. And the NPR interviewee has finally figured out who the guy is after about a century and a half.

After discovering that there is absolutely no correspondence between the author and the publishing company, he finds a one sentence reveal in an obscure literary gossip column. The reason there’s no correspondence is that the author IS the publishing company. Charles Felix is Charles Warren Adams, the only person who works at Saunders, Otley and Company, the publisher of the book.

So, and I’m just speculating here, but maybe this is also one of the first self-published books. Wouldn’t that be cool? You can still get copies of The Notting Hill Mystery on Amazon. If you read it, tell me what you think in the comments below!

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Taller Leñateros

While aimlessly surfing the web in hopes of finding something to blog about, I came across a fascinating little publishing collective called Taller Leñateros. It is located in a little town in the state of Chiapas, Mexico called San Cristóbal de las Casas. It consists of a group of modern Mayans who are keeping their traditions, and the Tzotzil language, alive.

Their website is equal parts delightful and confusing. It lists their extensive catalog of books, postcards, and posters. They make their own paper and ink in the traditional Mayan way, so each item in the catalog is a work of art. Indeed, some have won awards. If you are interested in a specific title, you then have to (unfortunately) write it down, and then go to the “sales” page and check it off. The prices are only listed in Mexican Pesos, so you then need to find a currency converter to figure out what everything costs. I have no idea how they determine shipping and handling, or if they can even ship internationally, because I have yet to purchase anything, but I plan to, if possible.

Their books are full of Mayan poetry, songs, art, incantations, and stories, and can be purchased in English. Each one is beautiful and intriguing. Published by hand, I’m sure they will be collectors’ items.

Here is a tiny taste of the first few paragraphs of their beautifully written “about” page:

“We are the woodlanders who walk in the hills gathering dry branches and deadwood from fallen trees, collecting firewood without chopping down the forest. We come down from the mountains, carrying bundles of wood, of pitchpine and split encino, for the hearths of the Royal City of San Cristobal de Las Casas. We walk through the mist, leading our burros, selling firewood from house to house. We knock on people ’ s doors, offering pine needles as well, to spread on the floor, moss, flowers of bromeliads and orchids for manger scenes.

“Thirty years ago we rented an old adobe house in San Cristobal and we planted a little avocado tree in the patio. The sprout took root and grew and now it’s as tall as the tree where the Moon showed the first Motherfathers how to weave. The house shrank under the shadow of the leaves and filled up with dreams and we called it a «Workshop,» first «of Dreams»and then «Woodlanders’» Something between theatre and witchcraft.”

I hope you will take the extra effort required to support this collective, because according to this article, they’re struggling to survive. Their headquarters are on a dusty little side street in a dusty little town in Southern Mexico. And while they’ve been there since 1975, someone is trying to push them out, and they’re mired in lawsuits. I hope they find a way to keep going. I hope someone helps them improve the website and ramp up their online sales. I think if the world really knew about them, they would not only survive, but thrive. I wish them Lekuk me avo’ra. (Good luck.)

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N-N-1 Autumn 2020

For several years now, I’ve participated in a delightful photography/creative writing experiment that was created by two of my favorite bloggers, Anju, who writes This Labyrinth I Roam, and Norm, who writes Classical Gasbag. They thought it would be interesting to see what people all over the world were doing/seeing/experiencing at the same point in time. As Norm explains it, in N-N-1 the first N stands for the number of participants, the second for the number of photos (they should be the same), and the 1 stands for one time.

Norm hosted this edition, and the subject was Autumn 2020. We all know that this has been a crazy year, and as we transition into a different season, all the participants had the opportunity to reflect on the insanity. The results are bittersweet, but in the end, there’s always hope, and that was reflected in many of the write ups. That’s what I cling to.

Please check out the really beautiful photos and the thoughtful, accompanying writing at Norm’s blog. (My photo appears below, but you’ll have to visit Norm’s blog for the write up.)

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Nineteen Years a Bridgetender

Well, tempus certainly does fugit, doesn’t it? When I first got a job as a bridgetender in Florida, six short, surreal days after 9/11, I figured I’d only be at it for 6 months or so. I looked at it as a brief respite from “real work”. Now, after opening 9 different bridges in 3 different states, I honestly don’t think I’m fit to do anything else.

When you consider that for the first 13 years of my career, I was in Florida, a “right to work” state, and got paid peanuts and had no real benefits to speak of, you have to chalk up my staying power to a real love for the job. And I do love it. I always have. It suits me. Very little human interaction, minimal supervision, and plenty of time to blog. Perfect.

Plus, I’ll admit, it’s pretty darned cool. Whenever I tell someone I’m a bridgetender, they’re fascinated and want to hear more. I wouldn’t get that reaction if I were a… well, just about any other job I can think of. I was even asked for my autograph once. That was amusing.

And I’m constantly surprised that this job constantly surprises me. The weirdest things can happen on a drawbridge. People can be really strange. I enjoy observing them from a distance. This job is an excellent source for blog posts.

Growing up, this was not the life I had envisioned for myself.

It’s so much better.

Who, me?

An attitude of gratitude is what you need to get along. Read my book! http://amzn.to/2mlPVh5

StoryCorps Has Animated Me!!!

Recently, and/or a lifetime ago, before this pandemic made the world fall apart, I was contacted by StoryCorps. I was thrilled. I love StoryCorps. Whenever I’ve been in touch with them, it has changed my life.

My first encounter with them was back in 2009, when I lived in Jacksonville, Florida. I signed up to do a StoryCorps interview about what it was like to be a bridgetender. By then, I had been at it for 8 years, and I was chock full o’ stories. At the time, I figured that I have a unique job, so why not talk about it?

Anyone can record an interview with StoryCorps. And that 40 minute conversation is now easier to do than ever before. Check out their website for details. And the coolest part about it is that you become a part of history. The recordings are archived at the Library of Congress. I genuinely believe that everyone has a story, so I strongly encourage you to contact StoryCorps and tell yours. And also support them while you’re at it!

It was really fun, entering that little trailer and speaking in that sound booth. And they gave me a CD of the interview to keep. Nifty!

I have to admit that I didn’t think much more about it after that. Part of it was played on my local NPR station and some of my friends heard it, so that was cool. But the world continued to revolve around the sun.

Having done that interview planted a seed in me, though. It made me realize that I could tell stories. Maybe I had something to say after all. But back then I was so weighed down by poverty and depression that I really couldn’t see my way clear to do anything about it.

I didn’t start this daily blog until December of 2012. I thought it might be a 6 month experiment, because surely I’d run out of things to say by then, but no, it’s been going strong ever since. I genuinely credit StoryCorps for planting that seed within me.

So imagine my surprise when StoryCorps contacted me again, wanting to include my interview in an anthology that their founder, Dave Isay, was putting out entitled, Callings: The Purpose and Passion of Work. By then I had moved to Seattle, and was building my life back up from scratch, so needless to say, I was thrilled to participate! I’ll take whatever positive energy I can get! The book came out in April of 2016. You can find me right there on page 17.

From there, things got really crazy. Dave Isay did a promotional tour of the book, and one of the stories he featured in the tour was mine. And he sort of called me a poet. Wow.

Next, as part of the book’s promotion, I was featured on NPR’s Morning Edition, in Parade Magazine (which you’ve probably seen inserted in your local newspaper, back when people still read actual newspapers.) From there I wound up in O Magazine in the September, 2016 issue. Which means Oprah Winfrey knew my name for about 2 seconds. Imagine. I was also mentioned in Time Magazine and Forbes. When I googled my name just now, I got well over 3,000 results. It still blows me away, just thinking about it.

Needless to say, all this positive attention gave me a great deal of self confidence, and from there, with a lot of help from friends, I had the courage to publish an anthology of my own. Taken from some of my favorite posts from my blog, it’s called, “A Bridgetender’s View: Notes on Gratitude”. I donate a dollar from every sale to StoryCorps. Sales are modest in the extreme, but hey, every penny counts.

Fame, of course, is fleeting, and all the hubbub died down eventually. Which was actually fine with me. I didn’t become a bridgetender because I enjoy the roar of the crowd. I started settling into life in Seattle, where I could write my daily blog while at work on my bridge, and I could come home and hug my dogs.

Every once in a while someone will recognize me as “that bridgetender who blogs”. It always startles me. It also makes me proud.

My husband-to-be actually got to know me through my daily blog. That’s what won him over. So I guess you could say that StoryCorps is what caused my happy marriage, too.

Even though they have been an integral part of my life, I was not at all expecting to hear from StoryCorps again. And yet hear from them I did, just prior to the pandemic. They asked if it was okay to turn excerpts of my 2009 interview into one of their animated shorts. Uh… heck yeah!

They said that they had been wanting to do so for years, because they felt that what I said was poetry. (Again with the poet thing! It makes me blush.) But each season they pick a theme, and my story never quite fit the theme. But this time it did.

After that, they asked me to send pictures of the bridge I used to work on, and pictures of the view, and of me, and they had me sign a release. Then there was nothing to do but wait.

Once the pandemic came along, all deadlines sort of fell by the wayside, and if I’m honest, I kind of forgot about it unless a friend asked the status of the project. I didn’t really want to think about it, because I didn’t want to jinx it or get disappointed. Life went on, and my bridge continued to open and close, day after day.

And then suddenly in August they contacted me with a link to the preview! I was under strict orders not to share the link with anyone. It’s their copyright, after all, and it hadn’t been released yet. But that was hard. I wanted to share it with the world.

It was beautiful. They really captured the view from Ortega River Bridge perfectly. So perfectly, in fact, that it gives me goose bumps. It’s a work of art. And they drew me skinny! Woo hoo!

I kind of feel bad, because the first thing I say is that the pay is horrible and the benefits are worse. That was and still is true for bridgetenders in Florida, a “right to work” state, but it’s not at all true here in Seattle, where I have a union, and the pay is fantastic and the benefits are even better. So I have all of the joy for the job that I had back then, but none of the anxiety. Life is good.

So there you have it. I’m now animated. If you’d like to see The View From Here, here are the links. You can see it on the StoryCorps Website, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter.

Right now I’m feeling like the luckiest woman on earth.

Thank you, StoryCorps, for all that you’ve done for me.

TheViewFromHere
A still capture from The View From Here, Copyright StoryCorps. To actually see the video, click on one of the links above in the blog post.

Why I Air My Dirty Laundry

Sometimes, perhaps too often, what I write in this blog makes relatives and friends squirm. I discuss my sexual abuse at the hands of my stepfather. I talk about the sexual harassment I’ve experienced on more than one occasion. I describe my struggles with depression and my weight. I talk about my childhood. I rant about politics and other disappointments. I share the many ways I feel misunderstood. I expose my soft underbelly.

There are some out there who wish I wouldn’t do this. They find it embarrassing. They can’t even bring themselves to read my book all the way through, even though it’s an anthology of mostly quite positive posts. (I’ve found that the more someone knows me personally, the less apt they are to actually read my book or my blog. I suspect this will hurt my feelings less and less as time goes by. Time will tell.)

But I have good reason for airing my dirty laundry. I believe that most of us have experienced trauma of one kind or another. It’s a big part of the human condition. Personally, I have always felt that the worst part of trauma is the feeling of isolation. It’s easy to feel as if you’re the only one going through stuff if nobody else is talking about it.

And here’s something I can’t stress enough: None of these things were my fault. The trauma visited upon you by others is NOT. YOUR. FAULT. I say this because very few people will tell you this. Nobody told me this. It took me decades to figure it out on my own.

So I talk about it. I talk not only for myself (writing is excellent therapy), but also for those out there who feel like they don’t have a voice. If just one person feels a tiny bit less alone for having read my blog, then I’ve accomplished what I have set out to do.

Perhaps, too, it has something to do with my lack of filter, and my utter indifference to the standard levels of mortification. Or maybe it is more about the fact that I have complete confidence in your self-determination. If something I write makes you uncomfortable, I am quite sure that you will exercise your right not to read it.

Namaste.

Not alone

Do It with Aplomb

There are some words that I enjoy using simply because of the delightful way they roll off the tongue. Aplomb is one such word. It feels round and abundant to me, as if a shiny red apple is coming out of my mouth. Aplomb.

For those unfamiliar with the word, here’s the definition according to Merriam-Webster:

aplomb

noun

\ ə-ˈpläm , -ˈpləm \

Complete and confident composure or self-assurance : poise.

(Poise is another great word, but I digress.)

My wish for you, dear reader, is that whatever you do today, even if it’s just taking a nap or washing the dishes, you do it with aplomb. Because if you are awesome enough to read this blog, then you are already wonderful. I can say that with aplomb.

Thank you!

Aplomb

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Not Real Life

Have you ever noticed that no one ever says ouch in action movies? They get attacked and immediately respond in kind. I’m not so quick on the uptake. If someone hit me, I’d be shocked. I’d say ow. Only then would I beat the living crap out of them.

Another thing is that combative females often have long hair, but no one ever grabs that hair to yank them to the ground. I mean, seriously, in real life, no one plays that fair. If you really want a more level playing field, ladies, then get a freakin’ haircut.

A major pet peeve of mine is movies where cars successfully jump opening drawbridges. As a bridgetender, I can assure you that when people attempt this, it never, ever, ever ends well. If you value your car, your life, and your reputation as an intelligent human being, you won’t try this, at home or anywhere else.

And how is it possible, Hollywood, to throw so many punches without revealing how badly this damages the puncher’s hand? Hands are poorly constructed for impact. Giving people the impression that not only can you knock out someone with one punch, but that you’ll be able to walk away and play the piano afterward is irresponsible at best.

Another unrealistic trope is that you can plunge through a plate glass window and emerge without a single cut. Come on, now. We all know better than that.

The characters in movies seem to be superhuman. They can get shot and carry on. That doesn’t happen. Getting shot freakin’ hurts. After you’re shot, you just aren’t going to be in the mood to do much of anything, I promise. You’re going to say, “Yeah, I’m done.”

And, for what it’s worth, most women can’t run very far in 5 inch heels. I can’t even walk in them. Most conversations in bars are done at a shout. Most dumpsters are full of sharp objects. Doors are not easy to kick in. Most apartments in big metropolitan areas are extremely small. Dorm rooms are even smaller. It’s not easy to make a car explode. It’s pretty much impossible to hold someone’s hand while they dangle off the side of a skyscraper and then actually pull them back up onto a roof.

Come on, script writers. You can do better than this. I just had to get that off my chest.

Thanks. I feel cleansed.

woman-running-high-heels-01

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