#Me Too.

*TW-Contains detailed re-tellings of sexual harassment I’ve personally experienced.*

There seems to be a growing sentiment of victim blaming, shaming, or “damn, she shouldn’t have worn that dress” going around in light of the Harvey Weinstein news. But this kind of rhetoric always pops up when victims of sexual harassment take action.

However, I want to make something perfectly clear–sexual harassment happens to women, men, and those of all or no genders alike, all the time, no matter their sexual orientation, status, weight, dress, upbringing, race, situation or any other factor that anyone uses to blame the victim.

Listen to us.  

It happens in high school, while over a friend’s house. A comforting hug turns into unwanted kissing and touching. Touching suddenly evolves into groping. Cornering turns into being forced upon a bed and the only thing that works because the words “stop” and “no” continue to be ignored, is the power of a forceful push of your legs and arms.   You worry when he screams out in pain for just a moment, wondering if you hurt him. You quickly get over that as your rage continues to build. You don’t use the words “attempted rape” though, because at seventeen, you know you won’t be believed. You know this will fracture your group of friends and high school is hard enough. You stay silent.

It happens as you are heading home from a long day of work. Your tank is on empty and you absolutely have to stop to get gas. You’re wary though, as you’ve been approached three times before while pumping fuel by three different men, at three different gas stations. They don’t stop asking for your number, encroaching on your personal space, or taking the excuse that you are already in a relationship, they continue the barrage until your tank is full and you give them a fake number. You watch your rear-view mirror, while mentally mapping the way to the nearest police station if needed.

It happens as you are walking in a small town while exercising. You’ve already been approached by someone who has stopped their car, run to catch you, touch you to get your attention, only to ask if you are “available.” This time on your jog,  you’ve left your headphones out of one ear to hear someone coming and to keep an ear out for further dangerous situations. The man approaching from the front looks harmless enough, but utters “Nice tits” as you move on by. You rip the other bud from your ear, turn around yelling, “What did you just say to me?” He breaks into a panicked run, and knowing you’ll never catch him, you stop, thankful that he fled instead of holding his ground.

It happens when you are with a group of friends leaving a dance at a convention. Drunk men start yelling inappropriate things. Things they wouldn’t say when they are sober. Or maybe they would. Whether it’s the adrenaline pumping through your system from the night out, or just that you are tired of this happening, or that it is not just happening to you, but now to your friends, you act.  Instead of sucking it down to the depths of your belly like you have before, you turn on your heel, rear-up, and start walking fast towards them yelling back, “DO WE HAVE A PROBLEM HERE?” You know that if you make yourself appear bigger and unafraid, they will either fight or flee. You are prepared for both. They back down, leave, and you catch up with your friends, seething not on your behalf, but theirs. You wonder later why it’s easier to stand up for your friends, but discount your feelings when it happens to you when alone.

It happens while walking from your hotel to a conference in D.C. The wind catches your skirt and blows it fetchingly against your legs. You had just taken a selfie because this was a good day. You liked how you looked. You felt beautiful. You posted the picture to Twitter to share with the world on your terms. As you hit send, a van slows down behind you and starts to keeps pace.  Suddenly, the moment of bliss is over and your eyes begin searching for an escape route. The window slides down and the unwanted catcalling begins.  You stop, cross the street behind the van which has no choice but to continue forward. Ducking into a building, you lean against a wall and let out all the anxiety that replaced that good day.

It happens at a conference that you’ve helped to organize. You’ve worked hard and lost weight, showing off your curves in a sexy and classy blue dress. Playing the good facilitator, you schmooze around the room, making sure everyone is having a good time when you are approached by a legend in the field. His cheeks are red with too much alcohol. He begins with elevator eyes as you address him. You ask him if he’s having a good conference. He shrugs and only replies, “Blue is an excellent color on you.” You know who he is, but he does not know you and yet this is how he introduces himself.

You ask in your capacity if there is anything else you can do to make his conference better and his eyes light up, responding with “You can give me a kiss.” It’s right there,in that moment that you know this interaction will continue to be uncomfortable. Questions begin to build about what you do for the organization, assumptions are made about how you’ve made it to your position, and how your husband that he’s sure you have (you don’t) feels about the relationships you “made” along the way. You are thankfully rescued by caring friends, as the cycle in your head begins anew. “Do I ruin this man, right here and right now, by slapping him in the face? Do I just walk away? Does this get back to the people who could fire me? If I lose my job, how will I keep a roof over my head and food on the table?” You realize that as a victim in this situation, you are already blaming yourself, because that is what you’ve been conditioned to do.

It happens after exiting the Broadway show with your family and you are walking down the street in NYC. Separated by the crowd, your older daughter and boyfriend walk a few steps ahead. You are holding your younger daughter’s hand through the thickening crowd.  A man selling “Make America Great Again” hats whistles as you walk by,  and you know in that moment, it’s not just going to end there, but you hope it will. You ignore it and continue walking as he actually leaves his post and wraps his hand around your waist, pulling you close, while pushing your younger daughter aside. You freeze because causing a scene on a busy street might be far more dangerous than you could anticipate.  Instead, you use your skills to talk him down, and get him to let go before resorting to other methods. Only once you’ve explained you’re unavailable, and that your daughter most certainly will not be coming too to his apartment for some fun, do you call ahead to the rest of your family. That scares him enough, he finally lets go and disappears back into the crowd. You have to explain what just happened, while keeping a brave face, telling your daughters never to let anyone touch them that haven’t been invited to do so.

 

It happens at another convention where an acquaintance holds a hug too long, or pulls you in by the waist and attempts a kiss. You brush it off in the moment, perhaps too stunned to stay something or already jogging through the mental math of how speaking up will mess things up. You want to like this person. You start making excuses for his behavior. For yours. He doesn’t do this to other people. He shouldn’t be doing to it to you. You convince yourself that if there is a next time, you will take him aside and let him know how you feel. You hope it will make a difference.

It happens standing at a bar on a cruise. You have ordered yourself a drink and are immediately hit on by someone who wants to share a magic trick. You remind yourself that this is the reason you don’t go to bars. You see the plethora of locks he wears around his name tag. He explains his hobby and offers a lesson in lock picking.  You mention you are a writer and how it would be a handy skill to know.

It starts innocently enough, with him showing his skill on a two-pin lock. You get it immediately. There is suddenly a glint in his eye when he then says, “Time to move on to a more challenging piece.” He produces another larger lock, with a complicated pin set and a pair of handcuffs, to see if you’ll bite.  He’s practiced this speech, worming his way in with calming words, “You don’t have to do this” and “Only if you are comfortable” and “I’ll show you how easy they are on me, first.” You wonder how many women have fallen for it, how many he’s gotten into bed this way.

He can unlock the cuffs in seconds, and then places them on you, only to switch out to the wrong tools on purpose. He starts to slide in jokes about visiting his cabin where he keeps the better locks as he brushes a hand over yours to show you that you’re obviously doing it wrong.  Your wrist is now raw from sliding the metal against the skin, determined as hell not to let him touch you again, to show him that you aren’t stupid and are capable at the same time. A friend passes by and stops to check on you, immediately aware of what is happening and offers assistance. But no, you’ve got it. Shaken by the interruption, he finally gives you the right pick and you are out in seconds. You walk away and tell a friend that you were uncomfortable but you handled it. She replies, “What about the women who can’t?”

This still haunts you.

Please believe us.

This isn’t just a movie industry problem. It’s not just a science fiction and fantasy community problem. It’s not just a gamer problem. This isn’t just a pretty, young girl problem.  It’s an everywhere problem.

It’s a balance of power problem.

The minute you feel you can do/say/touch/manipulate someone without their consent or buy-in, you are in the wrong.  The minute you use your status (or perceived status) and offer to advance a career through a “special relationship”, you are in the wrong. The minute you shut your ears to the words “no” and “stop”, you are in the wrong.

Alternatively, if someone wants to share a story, believe them. If they can’t name their harasser, don’t continue to ask why or who. If they need help and subsequently ask for it, give it to them. Do not assume that a “white knight” is needed, but open your eyes and call out behavior if there is no further risk or damage to the victim.

Lastly, do not use someone else’s pain for personal gain. The worst thing a victim can experience is to be re-victimized by their friends or peers when they speak up.  You may hear news stories where harassment was made up or someone lied to get revenge, but I can assure you, there are so many who for whatever good reason at the time say nothing. The weight of the decision not to speak only adds to the trauma, but until society stops using incredulous rhetoric, it will take instances like the one we’re currently seeing in the movie industry to give some of us the courage to speak.

New Music: Rising

For the last few weeks, I’ve been feeling myself sink into depression. It’s been particularly bad this week as I’ve hovered between sadness and anger. I have been fiercely productive then paralyzed.

I needed to get ahead of this and driving home last night, I turned up the music. It was a hard-hitting drumline and moving melody and the higher I raised the volume, the better I felt.

I woke up this morning, needing to create. I’ll use this for intros to Clarkesworld podcasts, but I feel good about this one. Chillstep with a hint of defiance.

Like me. Enjoy.

Rogue One : I Have All the Thoughts

*Spoilers Ahoy*

Two awesome things happened in 1977. Star Wars: Episode IV A New Hope was released and I made my way into this world screaming and naked.

We’ve had this amazing relationship throughout these soon to be forty years. Together, we’ve ridden that proverbial roller coaster, have both had our triumphs and our failures, and managed to still have people love us. Star Wars has been a part of my life since I took my first breath and I would consider myself a pretty  big fan.

I’ve gone to most opening nights when new movies have come out, save for the first two where I was still in diapers and toddling around the house getting into trouble.  Yet, science fiction was like food for the soul in my house and my father made sure we saw them when we could understand what was going on. I fell in love. I wanted to be Princess Leia.

In 1999, I researched Phantom Menace despite the secrecy and dressed up as Queen Amidala for the premiere. Now, I know you’ll scream about pictures and it doesn’t really count if there aren’t any, but there aren’t. Sorry.

I remember the intensity of that night. News crews were there interviewing die hard fans. The mood was electric. We grabbed our popcorn and cheered at the iconic scroll.  We all know how that evening ended.  Check that–we all know how that whole series ended. <insert sad face>

Opening Night at The Force Awakens
Opening Night at The Force Awakens

The Force Awakens premiere had a very similar atmosphere. This was my chance to introduce a new era  of this space opera to my own kids. I prayed to the cinema gods that we would see something amazing.  We left that theater pumped up. I loved it. My girls loved it. We had all sorts of theories on Rey’s lineage. We were in shock over Han’s death. We can’t wait for Episode 8. For an excellent distillation of this movie, see this video of Movies with Mikey.

Star Wars has had a profound effect in my life. It’s the kind of saga that makes you question a lot of things in both the crafting of said universe, and how those things may apply to your own.

So naturally, when the previews came out for Rogue One, it was a definite “must see.” I had booked our vacation before the release date, but we happened to be sailing to the Bahamas CbSolKMWcAAGEdAon the Disney cruise line on opening day. We sat on the slightly rocky Dream, at 11PM  in a full Walt Disney Theater, and waited for the credits to roll. The audience went wild.

And from the first few scenes, we knew we weren’t watching a typical Star Wars story. It was gritty, relentless, and depressing.

Yes, some may argue that Empire Strikes Back was depressing, or hell, episodes 1,2,3 were soul crushing in their own way, but this was a different kind of depressing. One that shakes you to your core, because you know this movie isn’t speaking about the characters on the screen, but right at you. It holds a different kind of weight.

I wanted to hate it. I wanted to hate it for all the technical and storytelling reasons. I checked my watch to see just how much time was left. I silently cursed at the rapid jumps from planet to planet and wondered just what had been cut. There were scenes that were obviously  missing from the previews. Saw Gerrera’s story was superfluous in this version and I wanted to love Jyn Erso, but couldn’t. I also didn’t care for the CGI’d Tarkin or Leia as it pulled me right out of the movie, but in the end, those things didn’t really matter. I could pick at the details forever. I want to talk about the overall theme here:

Rogue One couldn’t have come at a better time. Coupled with all the fear and angst invading many a psyche, the message is simple and very powerful. Hope is essential. Hope can be rekindled from even the smallest, dying ember. Hope should be fought for and is worth the ultimate sacrifice.

One by one, we watch as each of the characters pay the price to keep hope alive in an untenable situation. They do it because at some point, keeping that ember burning for others transcends the self. It becomes essential for the greater good.

“I am one with the Force, the Force is with me” is not only a mantra for self discipline, but speaks to the bigger picture of what the Force actually represents. It is everything–life, death, happiness, sadness, love, and hate, despair, and that much repeated word, hope. It is all of the things that make us who we are. With hints in episode seven that perhaps this light side/dark side thing isn’t so black and white, I think Rogue One gives us a real look on what it takes to maintain the balance.

Despite Rogue One’s problems, I think the movie ultimately succeeds in showingCwHBcGmXgAA3eUQ that there are many ways to fight for something. From standing up to a bully threatening to destroy her family, Lyra Erso holds firm with a blaster and still shoots, even though she is woefully outgunned. Galen Erso literally fights from inside the belly of the beast and forges the hope in the form of an Achilles heel. Cassian Andor kills his contact when to the best of his knowledge, the message keeping hope alive is in peril. Chirrut Imwe crosses a field in one of the truly beautiful moments of this movie, to throw a switch, knowing he will pay the ultimate price, but does it anyway. Scores put their lives on the line and die, passing on plans to stop this horrific Goliath as it carves its destructive path through the universe.

The payoff? Watching the camera pan in on Darth Vader and knowing that even through that mask, he was rattled. Watching the Empire destroy a planet which held unique copies of pretty much everything because they knew they could be beaten. Watching how the smallest group of people willing to stand up, put their foot down and shout no, had mighty results.

WorldCon Write-Up

It goes without saying that I’m just sort of sitting here trying to process everything that happened in the last few days. This is going to be a long post, so apologies in advance.

One of the more interesting things about Worldcon is that I wear a bunch of hats while I’m there.

Hat Number One: As Director of Operations for SFWA, I’m working with our events team and suite volunteers to make sure all services are up and running. I would be lost this year without the incredible help from Terra LeMay, Steven H Silver, Cat Greenberg and the many awesome volunteers who took time out of their convention schedules to lend a hand. I also participate in discussions during the SFWA Board and Business meetings and I am so thankful to be working with an amazing group of people filling those roles. SFWA is in very good hands right now and I’m so glad I get to be a part of that. For any members who are reading this and did not get to attend, when we post the minutes of those meetings, I would encourage you to seek them out. We’re doing great things.

Hat Number Two:  I’m the Podcast Director, Narrator, and Non-fiction Editor for Clarkesworld Magazine. This weekend, I got to partake in panels that not only spoke to the audio side of what I do, but the awesomeness that is this magazine under the stewardship of Neil Clarke, Sean Wallace and the many people who’ve been a part of it. Clarkesworld Magazine has not only been around for ten years, but I’ve gotten to see it evolve into the badass Pokemon it is for a good majority of it.

Hat Number Three: As you can see on the masthead of the website, it does list writer in there. My writing sort of fell off when SFWA and Clarkesworld took over, but thanks to the gentle prodding and encouragement by a few people, mainly Terra LeMay, I am happy to say that I’m writing again. A goal of mine was to finish a story so I’d have something to offer at my reading at WorldCon, and I’m happy to say that I did. More on that later.

Hat Number Four: Fan. When I was about five, my father under the great disapproval from my mother (who to this day, still mentions it), showed me Alien. From then, every B movie to the classic Heinlein and Asimov stories and novels to the amazing things this community is producing now, WorldCon is still squee central. My work with both SFWA and CW allows me to still have some composure when I come upon people and things I truly love and admire, but you better believe that under the skin, I’m jumping up and down and screaming with joy. So to all those creators and individuals who make those amazing things happen, thank you.

In conversation, I often inquire about convention highlights and it seemed that in general, people had really wonderful things to say. While there were many, the few that have simultaneously energized and to a degree validated what I’m doing in the community were:

  1. Kaffeeklatch – I was intensely worried that I would be sitting at a table by myself. That was very much not the case. I was so happy to be joined by people, that I started the session asking each person around the table who they were and what they did to make the event even more intimate. If you’re taking the time to get to know me, I wanted to know about you. We had lovely discussions and all the while, I was sitting there practically jumping out of my seat because I could not believe it was happening. I work from home in all things, so while I do get feedback in the form of social media and email, actually experiencing interaction in a live environment is pretty surreal. When someone comes up and says they love my narration or the work I do, it takes me a minute to process that they are actually talking to me. Maybe it goes back to the impostor syndrome some of us experience, but regardless, I will always be thankful to each person who took time out of their schedules to come see me.
  2. Reading – As I mentioned above, Terra LeMay has been instrumental with her encouragement and guidance in getting my writing career back on track. While I wasn’t expecting a reading at WorldCon, the programming staff offered me one anyway. As soon as I found out, I wanted to share that space with Terra because I wouldn’t even have anything to read if she hadn’t suggested the accountability in the first place. Overwhelmed again that people showed up, I started reading from the new short story.  Unfortunately, emotion got the best of me and I started crying. I tried to catch it before I lost it, but I just couldn’t. I got a hug from Terra and Marguerite Kenner, and Steven H Silver got up and grabbed me some water and tissues. I took a deep breath and soldiered on. But the fact that people sat there and listened to me read, from my own work, was pretty friggen awesome.
  3. People – So many people I love. So brief a time to spend. A hug, a wave, a small conversation, old friends, new ones, drinks around a table — whatever it was, just know that I am so incredibly lucky to have met you and gotten to know you.

While in the Clarkesworld at Ten panel at this WorldCon I said, “It is an awesome time to be a writer and a reader.” I mean that. There will be people for whatever reason that will try to tell you otherwise, that your voice doesn’t matter or that the art you create isn’t worth anything. Please do not listen to them. Write. Create. Make Art. Edit. Publish.

It is important to be inclusive. It is important to validate the things you like and love. It is important not only to call out injustice, but to find and implement the solutions that fix it. It’s is important to continue to do those things despite the threatening and scary calls that come from limited worldviews where change is threatening and scary.

With all the talk of “special snowflakes,” the only other thing I will add is this — a snowflake forms when conditions are just right. Water droplets freeze onto particles of dust and form a myriad of unique shapes. That dust comes from you and I and all the things that make up this tiny blue dot. It comes from stars that once held planets of their own, long before we were ever here.

If being a special snowflake means I get to share this short time with both old friends and new, and my limited worldview expands with it, let us be a blizzard.


So to Marguerite Kenner and Alasdair Stuart, thank you for the conversation and the Flakes. I am often flabbergasted when we part, because you are both amazing. I hope to see you soon either in travel to the UK or if I can make it to WorldCon in Finland.

To Jeremy Tolbert, Beth Dawkins, Al Bogdan, Nick Mamatas, Gord Sellar, Desirina Boskovich, Christopher Kastensmidt, and newly met Molly Tanzer, thank you for a night of just “being.” I rarely get to do that at conventions lately, and I’m so grateful.

To David Steffen, thank you for coming to the Kaffeeklatsch, the reading, dinner, and for being a generally all around awesome person.

To Richard Man, who in requesting a second photograph session for his project gave the reason that the first didn’t quite capture all that I was, your work is brilliant and I can’t wait to see the finished pieces.

To Patrick Hester who has always been wonderful and kind and gives the best bear hugs, thank you for being a friend and still insisting on calling me, “the voice.”

To Cat Rambo, who not only is a kickass SFWA President, thank you for the conversation and advice. I’m very honored to call you friend.

To Naomi Kritzer for being one of my favorite writers, congratulations on the Hugo win and thank you for liking the narration. You didn’t have to mention it on the podium and you did, and I will never forget it. You are amazing and don’t ever forget that. (Also, send us more stories.)

To Kelly Robson and Alyx Dellamonica who both give the warmest hugs and the bestest of advices, I’m so incredibly grateful I got to spend some time chatting with you both before you headed home.

To Scott Andrews and Tina Connolly with whom I got to sit at the Hugo ceremony, I so enjoy your company and the evening was made all the better for getting to experience it with you.

To Todd McCaffrey for engaging conversation and drinks, thank you!

To the many fans of the Clarkeworld podcast who said hello and came up and asked for hugs, we would be nothing without your support.

To Fran Wilde, Steven Gould, Laura Mixon, John and Krissy Scalzi, Mary Robinette Kowal, Lynne and Michael Thomas, Ellen Datlow, Francesca Myman, Rich Horton, Jonathan Strahan, Lily Yu, Terrence Miltner, Robert Reed, Marko Kloos, Jason Sanford, David Klecha, Mur Lafferty, Jim Kelly, Irene Gallo, Sheila Williams, Rachel Swirsky, Charlie Jane Anders, John Chu, Bud Sparhawk, Sarah Beth Durst, David Gallaher, Jason Heller, John O’Neill, Brenda Cooper, Ken Liu, Hao Jingfang, Rosemary Claire Smith, Laurie and Jim Mann, Eugene Fischer, and others that in post-con brain I’m so sorry for forgetting, although our time was but brief, you are all rock stars and I’m all the better for having met you.

To Neil Clarke — You are my best friend and I would not be the person I am today without your continued and unfailing belief in me.  Thank you for everything this weekend.  From one impostor to another, you my friend, are fucking amazing. (Oh, and I guess I can maybe include Sean in there somewhere too. *rolls eyes*)

Now,  I hope all of you recover soon and get back to creating wonderful things.

weight loss words in letterpress

From Me to Me at 281.7

About nine months ago on March 7th, I started a weight loss journey. I weighed 326lbs. My health was failing, I was far more depressed than I was happy. I could not sleep. I’d wake up with pain. I used food to cure everything, and instead it gave me more problems. Every day, I’d wake up and the war would start again. I’d tell myself that I could have a good day. That everything would be fine. That I could get through the day without going insane with food.

I finally started to do something about it. I started a meal replacement plan. I figured that the only way to fix myself was to wipe the slate clean. To retrain myself and rewrite habits. It was and continues to be the hardest thing  to face every day. I fail. A lot.

Today, I weighed myself. I am 281.7 lbs.

Some of you who don’t know the background are probably thinking that 45 lbs is damn good in 9 months. And it is. But, the sad truth is that 281.7 is up from where I was in September.

I returned home from Worldcon in Chicago at 274. I proceeded to get sick(unrelated to weight loss) and was in the hospital for 14 days. I had pieces of me taken out. I lost more weight and was down to 258. I had to start everything from scratch. My eating habits were broken. They did not let me have anything to eat for 12 days and pumped me full of fluids. Naturally, the first thing I did when I got home and started recovery was eat like a pig.

I couldn’t exercise either, which put a damper on my mood and spirit. I ate more to compensate for those feelings. See the cycle?

So I made a deal. Yes, another deal with myself. You see, people like us make constant deals to circumvent progress.

“I’ll start tomorrow.”

“One cookie (which turns in to 10) won’t hurt.”

“I’ll work doubly hard tomorrow.”

I made a deal that I’d start the diet again and the exercise regime after the holidays. Until then, gluttony was totally okay because everything would be fixed come January 2nd, 2013 . That would be the first day.

I regret that decision a lot. (People like us do that a lot too.) I have a lot of ground to make up. However, the first day has been okay. Hard, but okay. Despite the appetite suppressant and following the diet and the moderate exercise I did, my stomach wants more. It’s angry and hates me. It tells me so.  A side effect of training it to want and demand more.

At 326, I made a video as to why I was doing this. What I wanted to accomplish. Perhaps I will share that with you some day.

At 281.7, I made another video that I am electing to post. As a reminder of how far I’ve come, how far I’d like to go, why I am starting again and where I’d like to be.

Say what you will, but recording the video has not only sparked the desire once again, but my fingers  have been too busy typing  and not shoving shit in my mouth.

So here I am. From me to me at 281.7.

It’s not for you to enjoy, but to listen, understand and for those of you who are struggling with the same thing, to emphasize that you are most certainly, not alone.

From Me to Me at 281.7 from Kate Baker on Vimeo.

The Last Candle

Tonight, my family and I attended a vigil remembering the victims of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting.  I had spoken to my twelve year old daughter and sixteen year old son about the event as I was sure they’d hear about from friends in their own schools. I needed them to know that they were safe. Perhaps telling them so made me feel just a little bit better as I prepare to send them back to school tomorrow. Yet I couldn’t bear to tell my youngest. As we are all aware, we grieve not only for the adults lost but for the smallest of voices silenced on Friday morning.

Allyson is the same age.  I can’t take that innocence away from her. Not yet. I can’t tell her news that would possibly make her feel unsafe or heighten her anxiety. It’s hard not to pull her into a hug at every moment, and I couldn’t share with her why we had gathered on the steps of the Church in town on a cold, rainy evening. Yet she stood there, quiet and respectful, whispering softly whenever she needed to speak with me. She sang in her boldest voice, though she did not know the words of the songs, and bowed her head though she has not been formally taught to pray.

A crowd of around one hundred  hugged and held candles that swiftly blew out due to wind. We prayed for the victims and spoke of forgiveness. We listened and cried  as each name was read complete with age, inciting anger and sorrow within our hearts.  We stared in awe as the last name was called and a small table stood beautifully bold and full of the fire of lives snuffed out just two days ago.

The candle that Allyson held in her hands quickly flickered out due to the wind. Unable to bear her disappointment, I gave her mine and held her darkened tea light. Lexie’s flame faded and was quickly followed by the light Will held in his hand. Allie found all of this quietly amusing until her candle once again succumbed to the weather. My father quickly remedied the situation, offering our family’s last light to her which held for the remainder of the ceremony.

My heart  is with the victims and the families of Newtown, CT. I reflect in silence and respect of the first and last responders who waded through hell and will forever remember the horror of that day.  As people, we grieve for those who were lost, whose lights were so quickly dimmed and smothered. As parents, unbelievable grief touches us in our souls and stomachs, wishing that no one should experience the void of a lost child, or mother, or son or daughter.

I stood there on those steps, watched my breath dissolve with each syllable of song and thought about all of this. This moment, these last few days, the passing, so thoughtfully of a flame from grandfather to granddaughter, so that she could cup that light in her hand. There was no thought to these actions. It was immediate, just as sure as the intentions of  teachers who selflessly stepped in front of bullets to protect their students.

To me, Allyson represented all those little lights tonight. She held them and protected them all in the last candle that didn’t go out.

It’s Only a Play

I have always been a believer in fate. That sometimes, we need to hear or see or experience moments that put everything we’re dealing with into perspective. It might be the words from a dear friend at 3 AM in a strange city, who tells you that everything is going to be okay. Or ideas from a movie or song or story that help you work past a difficulty.  I believe we often find ourselves in the right place at the right time. Some of us see it. Some of us don’t. I know that on more than one occasion, I have muttered to myself that things couldn’t have happened any other way.

Ever since coming home from the hospital, I’ve been struggling with a lot of different issues. Slowly finding ways to cope with the major surgery and recovery. The bouts of emotional craziness that follows when you’ve been opened up and pieces of you are taken out. Fretting on the  night before surgery that should something happen, your kids who just came to visit and wish you luck, may never see you again. Writing emotional letters for them to find on your hard drive should your fears be substantiated. Realizing shortly after your surgery is over that you are powerless on your path. Neil Finn sums it up brilliantly in the song, “Anytime.” (I hope you can infer the subject of the song without having to look it up.)

These thoughts and feelings mess with you on a daily basis until you learn to accept them. Initially, I found myself angry at my inability to be normal. Intermixed with periods of depression and bouts of crying, I just desperately wanted to feel like me again. I didn’t want to give in to idea that something in me changed during those fourteen days.

Having a particularly rough couple of days, tonight, I went and saw my son perform in “Our Town”. While I wanted to celebrate his success, I arrived and took my seat with the attitude that I was about to waste three hours of my life watching a bunch of high-school kids traipse around the stage and overact.

I was horribly wrong.

I don’t think they truly get it, these sixteen and seventeen year old children. How fleeting life is, how full of passion and anger and triumph and failure. As the third act started and the lump in my throat finally subsided as my son exited stage left, successful in his part, I finally understood the meaning of the show.

Death has taken Emily, one of our lead actresses in the play. We grow to know her in act one as a child. As quickly as the curtain rises in act two, so has she grown into a young woman in love. The whirlwind of life continues until shortly after we find out that a spot in the town cemetery has been saved for a woman who has recently passed away. The empty seat facing the audience has been held for our Emily.

In denial of her current predicament, she begs to go back and relive one, painless day in her life only to realize that she missed it all as it was happening. Full of regret and resignation, she returns to her plot and offers this revelation to those who’ve passed before her. Unsurprisingly, they all nod in agreement only after some of her new companions give up their own long-held self-resentments for their behavior while alive.

I am crying buckets by this point in the show and no matter how much I try to compose myself, I can’t.  Emily told me what I needed to hear — death is inevitable. Worrying about it only steals time from the people who matter most in our lives. We do not get to relive the happy and sad days after the curtain has closed. We are  doomed to only see the things we did not do, the people we didn’t appreciate, the places we never got to visit and lament the love we will never feel again.

I brought my two daughters to this show. As we walked back towards the exit, I asked Lexie to distill the meaning of what she saw. At the innocent age of twelve, she turned to me and said, “Don’t be afraid to live life to the fullest.”

The tears I thought I had under control surfaced again.

“It was only a play, mom.”

“And what about you, Allie?”, I asked my youngest, biting my tongue in protest of my rising emotion.

“The last part made me sad.”

“Me too, hon. Me too.”

Perhaps I am wrong. Maybe each on their own, the seven, twelve, sixteen and seventeen year old kids do get it on some level. I’d like to think that as we mature, what was raw emotion experienced by a young child evolves into understanding and further grows into action. Perhaps one has to be in the right place at the right time to really understand what it is to truly live a life.

I can’t tell you how to spend the remainder of your days, short as they may be. Time passes in the blink of an eye, after all. The only thing I know is that I will be far more focused on the living part of life than the dying.

It is so much more than a play.

 

 

SFF Weekend Breakdown : FRINGE

I am so glad I don’t have a real social life. This allows me to indulge in science fiction and fantasy shows and for the last few weekends, it’s been heaven. Fringe Fridays, Doctor Who Saturdays and Game of Throne Sundays.

Unfortunately, this past Friday marked the end of the season for Fringe so I guess I’ll have to do something else that night now.

*****
Spoilers Ahead
*****

So lets start with the season finale of Fringe. From what I’ve read on the intarweebs, this was to be a series finale had it not been renewed for season four. Had it been the former, I would have broken all the glass items in my living room, including my TV. I’ve never been so upset with an ending since the Twin Peaks series or the false earth episode of BSG. Those two masterpieces illicited an amazing emotional response. Fringe was the same.

Losing Peter to an inter-dimensional abyss on the premise that he never existed made my blood boil. “He served his purpose.” What? I can possibly understand him disappearing after connecting the two worlds, but to never have existed doesn’t make any sense. It creates the ultimate paradox. Granted, I know it’s a TV show, but really, I spent my three years with this show only to be told the entire product was a lie? There was no payoff. If Peter had never been born, how did Walter start the events that lead them to where they are today? Is the season opener in September going to show Fauxlivia, Walternate, Walter and Olivia staring at each other witnessing the very first fringe event? If Peter never existed, how did Walternate start the machine if he and Fauxlivia’s baby never existed. Not to mention why bother having the observers prepare Walter to let go of a son he would never remember. It’s so messed up.

Stupid.

The only thing that could possibly make sense is a really interesting theory that states we create yet another world when we time travel. An off-shoot of the multiverse theory, every choice leads to a time line branch. No paradox is created because we start each world with a blank slate. So while Peter is erased from these two worlds, perhaps he exists in another.

What I would probably guess is that we’ll be spending a lot of time in the future with our cast, possibly with a Peter who still exists but who is not Peter. Hello, mind games. Regardless, I am very curious as to how they’ll solve this one.

Massive world-changing plot holes aside, John Noble needs an Oscar. I know, they don’t have Oscars for television, but he still deserves one. At the very least, he should get an Emmy and a Golden Globe for best ensemble cast. He plays what, six versions of himself now? The range of that man is incredible. We also saw very strong performances from Joshua Jackson, Anna Torv and Jasika Nicole. although, I will confess I was a bit taken aback at the aging. Joshua pulled off an older Peter, but the believability factor was just not there with Anna as almost 50 year old Olivia. Unless of course, there is just fantastic Oil of Olay products in 2021.

One of the more interesting questions the episode was whether or not I would procreate in the face of certain death. My initial answer was that if I knew the world was ending in my lifetime, I would not have children. It would weigh too heavily on my heart to know they would not have a full life and it would constantly be tinged with fear and imminent danger. Yet, this morning as I write this, I think my mind has changed.

A lot of the world complained we were offering so much media coverage of the Royal wedding a week ago. Even I rolled my eyes, but as I watched the union of two people who actually look as though they love each other, it softened the horrible things that have been plaguing the news headlines of late. It actually brought a happy tear to my eye. I’m not saying we should forget or push tragedy under the carpet, but its in those moments of happiness and joy that hope springs forth and propels us to continue.

Having children in the future world of Fringe would be a comfort and a continual driving force to try to change the future for their benefit. It also makes the strong point that as bad as we think this real world is right now, things can be exponentially worse. We create fear and are a fatalistic race of beasts. Imagine if there was certain proof that world was to actually end in our lifetimes.

Regardless, I will be tuning in come September to see where JJ and the crew decide to take me.