I started 2017 by reading two autobiographies of well-known people. I usually have a hard-copy book in my living room and something on my Kindle for reading before I fall asleep. Tired of reading books in the genre in which I write, I ended up with these two nonfiction titles without realizing the significance. And I’m finding inspiration in both of them.
From two different eras and sensibilities, Debbie Reynolds and Bruce Springsteen have something in common. When faced with failure, both believed in their passions and had personalities built on tenacity, which allowed them to get up and try again.
Debbie’s death, the day after her daughter’s, hit me. I loved both Debbie Reynolds and Carrie Fisher, mainly because their personalities filled with humor in the face of adversity, had always impressed me. After reading half of Debbie’s Unsinkable: A Memoir, I understand even better that with Carrie’s death came a completion for her. She’d done her job as a mother. And despite set back after set back professionally and romantically, she carried on and saw her precious archives of Hollywood memorabilia go to those who paid top dollar and who preserve them. Her life was complete, and after all she’d gone through, she was just plain tired.
Now Bruce is still alive and rocking, but his story is equally compelling. I’m sure he had an excellent editor, but I know the writing voice is pure Bruce in Born to Run. There are times when I feel as if I’m falling into one of his songs. That’s how lyrical his prose is throughout his book. Bruce may be an icon today of working-class America, but he earned every bit of his blues-blowing credentials by living that life for more than two decades. And the rise to his amazing success would have flattened a person without his instinctual knowledge that he was a songwriter in the style of Dylan and a rock and blues man with talent. He never wavered from his belief in himself. And after every broken promise, every downtrodden dream, every false word of encouragement, he still rose and wrote and played his guitar.
Both Debbie and Bruce followed the same course, and it inspires me to keep trying with my passion. There are days when I feel like giving up, but then I continue to rise, filled with ideas and stories, and I put those down on the virtual paper on my laptop. I’m done following the crowd.
This year my goals are simple. Write, write, then write some more, and follow my own path to success after gleaning what I can from the success of others. And I plan on ignoring the bragging of other writers on Facebook about their output, their sales, their acceptances. That’s not where I want to spend my time. I’m investing in me and wherever that takes me, at least I’ve managed to follow my passion.
So here I am in the world of 2017 declaring to you that I will not give up. Nor should you.
Happy reading. And share the love of reading with those around you. We need it now more than ever.
It’s been a rough couple of months, but yesterday I felt hope for our country for the first time since November 8. I marched with more than 14,000 others in Florida’s capital city, Tallahassee.
I borrowed an idea from my cousin who attended the Women’s March in Washington. She wore the pink hats and attached hundreds of ribbons to the top of it, each one containing the name of a woman she was representing at the march. My great-grandmother and grandmother were there. I was there, too.
She inspired me to do something as well, including marching where I could in the town where I lived. I took an index card and wrote down the names of all the important women in my life, past and present, who I wanted to come along with me. I taped the card to the back of my sign, so as I marched I looked at their names. It gave me courage and a sense of purpose.
The weather loomed as a threat yesterday morning. Thunderstorms, lightning, hail, tornadoes–scary stuff. I drove to the location in Railroad Square, expecting only a couple of hundred people to come out. Instead, I saw thousands of all ages and colors. My husband didn’t think he’d be welcome at a “women’s march,” so he stayed home despite my cajoling and telling him that we needed men to be there. He wouldn’t have stood out–maybe a third of the crowd were men. Umbrellas clashing, signs soaking, and thunder providing the background drum beat, we began to move slowly. A group of college-aged African-Americans joined and stepped into place in front of me. Both male and female marchers, carrying signs. One of the young men’s sign said, “Stop the Rape Culture.” I smiled broadly at what was happening.
I estimated 10,000 marchers. When I was a reporter, I was trained how to count crowds in meetings halls and auditoriums, but I had no way to estimate these numbers. But I knew it had to be in thousands. The paper reported this morning that the Tallahassee police said more than 14,000 people participated.
I posted my photo on Facebook. After I came home and dried off, I looked at my feed on Facebook and saw my friends’ posts from around Florida and the country: Gainesville, St. Pete, Jacksonville, Tucson, Atlanta, Washington.
We will not be defeated on any of the issues so important to the heart of the United States and its government. Criticisms included the name of the marches. That might be valid–my husband a case in point–but when the organizers began making decisions that seemed to be the best title. I don’t think anyone knew what would happen. People were given a chance to publicly participate in democracy and voice their concerns and fears. No one knew the numbers that would attend. Or the issues it would bring out, which was another criticism I’ve heard in the last twenty-four hours. Disorganized, no core issues to work around, the pundits said. Who cares? People came out. Millions across the world. They did it peacefully. I saw no anger amongst the crowd where I marched. Only anger at what could happen and what did happen on November 8.
As I marched next to a woman perhaps two decades older than me using her cane to walk up the hill, I cried. How far we’ve come in her lifetime, only to be shot back down in the swift and fatal tweets of the man now occupying the Oval Office. I looked at the names of the women on my card and felt a lump in my throat.
I did it for you, Emilene Stephens Hooper, who had two children out of wedlock back in Cornwall in the 1890s, yet went on to marry and became a pillar of her community. She ran a boarding house with her two young sons–one of whom was my grandfather–when she met Fred Hooper, who married her and raised her sons and their other children. My grandfather emigrated to the United States in 1900. So, yes, I’m an immigrant, too, I suppose.
I did it for you, Anna Mary Sweet Camburn, who was in her forties when women gained the right to vote. I did it for you, Ethel DeFord Stephens, who had given birth to seven children by the time women could vote.
And I did it for you, Anna Christina Camburn Behnke, who I brought into this world and raised to be a feminist. You will be a fighter all your life against bigotry, prejudices, and injustice, whether through your actions, words, or paintings.
I feel hopeful this morning despite the rain still pounding outside. The heavens are crying as some of us have been doing for the past few months. Those tears will nourish and feed the ground, just as ours inspired and pushed us out the door and into the streets to voice our love of democracy and rights afforded us thus far.
We must keep up the good work.
What happened in your town? I’d love to hear about it!
I’m not living lightly right now, at least not when it comes to politics and the state of our union. I’m scared.
And for the first time that I can remember, I will not watch the inauguration of the new president.
Others who have suggested the same thing or who have declined to attend the event are subject to ridicule and to charges of being undemocratic. I disagree. By not participating in Friday’s events, I’m displaying the highest action afforded by living in a democracy. I am being highly democratic by using the freedom granted to all citizens of the United States and given to us by the rebels of the eighteenth century who protested highly the actions of the British monarch.
I’m not going to flee, but I am going to use my First Amendment rights to show that I do not support a president who tweets insults for every little thing that is said about him in the media. His impulses scare me, and I will in no way condone what he tweets in the early morning hours from his golden palace in the air. Nor will I condone or support a man who lies and says whatever he needs to say to win.
The day he starts to show me he can be a diplomat and that he really does care about each of us rather than his name, his business, and his blown-up–yet fragile–ego, then I will be the first to support him. However, I will not apologize for my feelings and thoughts right at this moment. He hasn’t earned my trust, and he certainly didn’t receive my vote. And I have my doubts about the legitimacy of the election. I believe in my heart that our democracy was highly compromised by the FBI and by Russia. Whether the president-elect’s team had anything to do with either, I’ll leave to the professionals to decide.
I watched the “press conference” last week. A press conference with a cheering team paid by the president-elect doesn’t qualify as a press conference by me. And deciding which of the press is legitimate and which is not by the president-elect reminds me more and more of a dictatorship than a republic. Now the transition team is seriously considering removing the press corps from the White House. Control of the press is the first step. Or perhaps it’s silencing your enemies. The tweets are the first step to that end. Did I mention that I’m scared? I haven’t even mentioned foreign relations because I can’t. It makes me quiver to think about where we’re headed.
I do care about his tax returns. And I’m tired of him and his team, saying, “I speak for all Americans . . .” You do not speak for me. Not now. Not yet. Maybe never.
Saying you speak for me is denying the beauty of our country’s cultural, religious, racial, and sexual diversity. No one speaks solely for everyone in our amazing country. I love the United States, and today, my heart aches for it.