On the Importance of Strong Female Characters

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From the Women’s March; Seattle, WA; January 21, 2017

I was fortunate enough to attend the Women’s March on Seattle, a sister to the Women’s March on Washington DC. Before I lose you, I have no intention of talking politics in this post. What I am going to talk about is something I can’t believe is still controversial: the importance of strong female characters in fiction.

As I marched with 175,000 other humans (the estimate at the time of this writing), I noticed countless signs referencing some of my favorite female badasses from fiction. I took in multiple nods to space rebels, vampire slayers, and warrior princesses and knew—without a doubt—that every last person who argues that female heroes aren’t interesting or “won’t sell” is absolutely full of shit. I saw little girls in Wonder Woman costumes and Princess/General Leia t-shirts (I was wearing a General Leia shirt myself), and knew—without a doubt—that the strong female characters we see on screen and read about in books really do have an impact on us and how we view ourselves, each other, and our roles in the world around us.

What would General Leia do?

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These three signs caught my attention, but you couldn’t swing a pink pussy hat without hitting a Leia Organa reference. Considering that Carrie Fisher was a badass in real life, this is not surprising. If the dead really do get to hang around and see what the living are up to, I’d like to think that she got a giggle from the “Carrie Fisher sent us” sign.

I’d like to think that she’d be proud to be our rebel leader.

Are you ready to be strong?

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Fans of Buffy: the Vampire Slayer not only know where the words on this sign come from, but many of us can recite the entire speech—if we can get through it without crying, that is. Submitted for your misty-eyed pleasure:

For people like me who rarely view embedded videos in an article, here are the highlights:

They were powerful men. This woman is more powerful than all of them combined. So I say we change the rule. I say my power should be our power…From now on every girl in the world who might be a slayer, will be a slayer. Every girl who could have the power, will have the power. Can stand up, will stand up. Slayers, every one of us. Make your choice. Are you ready to be strong?

-Buffy Summers

A whole damn lot of us made our choice and are ready to be strong.

And then there’s this:

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The picture says it all.

Xena will always have a special place in my heart. It was a Xena poster I hung on my wall to remind me not to take any shit, particularly from real-life Joxers.

I’ll never forget the time I told a guy that I was a big Xena: Warrior Princess fan and he responded, “You know Xena and Gabrielle are lesbian icons, right?” Well, I hadn’t actually known (naïve me, I guess), but the only troubling thing about finding out was this guy’s tone and his obvious suggestion that there was something shameful about being a lesbian icon. Fuck that noise.

So here’s the thing…

The articles reminding us that one march isn’t enough are already flooding my feeds—as well they should. Marching is great, but there is more work to be done. There are the things we can all do as citizens; then there are the things we can do that are more personal.

I’ve always known that the presence of strong female characters in fiction is important, but this march solidified for me what a great female character can inspire in real life women. As a result, my dedication to writing these characters has been renewed. I intend to contribute as many badass women to the fiction world as I can because…well…I can. And of course, I don’t want to do it in some pandering political way—obvious and boring as hell to read—but in a way that’s honest. A way that inspires.

I suppose I can call it my duty. I prefer to call it my privilege.

Excuses, Excuses!

“What’s your excuse, now?” you might be asking, and you’d be within your rights. After all, every time I’ve been quiet on the blog, or the internet as a whole for that matter, I’ve come back with some flimsy excuse as to where I’ve been, but this time the excuse is a good one. I promise.

Yes, I’ve been trying to find balance in my writing life again, but this time it’s because I’ve landed a new paying day gig. It’s a technical content writing job and it’s actually kind of perfect for me. It is also particularly significant because landing a full-time job was the final piece of the puzzle before feeling like I really live here. Driver’s license and registration updated: check. Registered to vote: check. Employed by a company in the Greater Seattle Area: check. Though I rarely have to commute (working remotely is nice, I’ve got to admit), there’s something about being able to complain about the traffic with the other commuters that just makes me feel like part of the community. Of course, I realize that as a transplant, I’m actually a part of the traffic problem we face.

There’s also the issue of getting the most out of the few remaining days of summer. It’s no secret that I hate going to the gym. I’d much rather get my exercise from an outdoor activity. So while I still have enough daylight to hike a trail or skate (inline) around the park after work, you better believe I’m going to take advantage of it. There are plenty of short, cold and rainy days on the horizon that will find me on a treadmill or a stationary bike.

Or maybe I can just suck it up and learn to be cold and wet in the dark.

I really hate the gym.

But time marches on. Summer is almost over and autumn is upon us. Aside of perhaps having to return to the gym (I say “perhaps” because I’m seriously considering that cold and wet in the dark thing), I’m excited for fall. I’m ready for hot cider and Halloween. Fall is also my most inspired and prolific time of year, which is good because I have a lot to do.

And if I can find that elusive little critter called balance, you might actually get to hear about it.

It’s Been a While

Hello all. It’s been a while since my last post and I figured it was time for an update lest anyone think I succumbed to the frustration of the job search, walked into the woods, and never came back out again.

While there hasn’t been a big, blog worthy event, there have been a few things worth noting and some thoughts clinking around in my brain. You have been warned. Read on at your own risk.

The Work In Progress

In my last post I talked about how I was having trouble settling on a novel to write. I considered whether I had a fear of commitment when it came to novel writing. Well, I have finally committed to a tale. I’m excited about it. I hope the excitement sticks.

The Ugly Side of the Internet

Social media, and much of the internet in general, gets ugly(er) during an election year. It just does. I’ve come to terms with it, and while I wish people could be a bit more civil in their discussions, at least the discussions are happening. That said, there’s only so much vitriol I can take before I hear a primal rage scream that, as it turns out, is coming from me. My sanity benefits greatly from closing the laptop, silencing the notifications on my devices, and walking into the woods—threatening never to return.

Unfortunately, election year also coincides with my search for full time employment. Given the kind of work I’m looking for, it’s not the best time to slash my internet time. Now’s the time to prove I’m a social media goddess who navigates the digital world with ease and panache. I need to be expanding my presence, not narrowing it. So, I spend a few minutes here, a few minutes there, and refuse to engage in the outrage, which brings me to…

Can We Please Talk About the Toddler?

Look, I’m not going to rehash the whole story about Harambe and the Cincinnati Zoo. Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard it. I’m not going to talk about the perceived negligence of the mother of the child who fell into the gorilla enclosure, nor will I discuss the merits of tranquilizer darts vs. bullets, or whether Harambe was protecting the child, or whether zoos should be shut down. Instead, I’d like to focus on the little boy.

Imagine, for a second, growing up knowing that there were people outraged about the decision to save your life. Imagine growing up knowing that a large number of people valued the life of a gorilla (that they probably hadn’t even heard of previously) more than yours. Doesn’t feel very good, does it? Of course I’m sad about Harambe, but my heart breaks for the child.

I just hope this child is being shielded from the outrage and that things on the internet maybe can disappear after all, buried under the newest news of the day, because if I had to live with the evidence of how little people valued my life, well…

I’d walk into the woods and never come back out again.

Marshmallow Peeps and S’mores

It all started when a former colleague posted this little gem on Facebook.

The Debate

Now, if you’re like me, you’re appalled that anyone eats these at all. Marshmallow Peeps, in my view, are Easter’s version of candy corn. Nobody in their right mind eats them when there are still chocolates and Starbursts to be had. I commented that, for this reason, I’d never actually eaten a fresh peep so I couldn’t properly weigh in on the fresh vs. stale debate. I may have also called peeps an abomination that could have only come from Hell to begin with.

However, as this very serious—ly hilarious debate continued, I started to get curious. I voiced the curiosity, stating that I wondered how peeps would be in s’mores made with peanut butter eggs.

And so here we are.

None of the companies represented have compensated me in any way. All opinions are my own.

None of the companies represented have compensated me in any way. All opinions are my own.

In case any of my readers have never been around a campfire, the recipe for s’mores is simple: toasted marshmallow and a square of chocolate pressed between two graham crackers.

I’m lucky enough to have a working fireplace in my apartment, so the microwave method of “toasting” peeps was out. If I was going to eat one of those sugary little bastards, I was going to toast it over a real fire.

Back! Back to the fiery hell from whence ye came, sugar demon!

Back! Back to the fiery hell from whence ye came, sugar demon!

As I unwrapped the peanut butter egg that I knew was already delicious enough on its own, I seriously considered abandoning the whole s’mores idea and just eating the damned egg, but since it was only one of four, and I truly was curious, I continued on.

Yes, I cleaned my counter first.

Yes, I cleaned my counter first.

I don’t have much of a sweet tooth; salty snacks are my jam. As curious as I was, I brought that gooey, diabetic nightmare of a mini sandwich to my lips in slow motion. My curiosity did not equate to a belief that I would like it. In fact, I was hoping to write a scathing review of this atrocity.

Instead, I need to go buy more peanut butter eggs so hubby and I can finish the remaining peeps. Seriously, that s’more was that good. It was the kind of good that must really be evil because nothing truly good is ever that enjoyable.

It's safe to say that hubby also liked it.

It’s safe to say that hubby also liked it.

Of course, now that I know I like Marshmallow Peeps enough to make s’mores with them, now that they’ve proven themselves a useful holiday candy, I almost feel bad about toasting their cute little sugar-butts.

See? I have a heart.

I Got Some!

Snow, that is.

In my last post, I talked about how much I missed the snow. Readers are lucky; they only had to deal with my lamentations for the length of the post. My poor husband had to hear it all week, which made our Saturday plans pretty clear. Stop whining about it; get in the car, and make the drive to Mount Baker to go play in the snow.

The squee-ing started right about here.

The squee-ing started right about here.

It’s safe to say that I was in a bit of a funk last week. The writing life was not satisfying. The job hunt even less so (but I can type “motivated self-starter” in my sleep now; so that’s something). And we all know how jealous I was when I saw pictures of the east coast snow littering my social media feeds. Okay, maybe it was more homesickness than jealousy, but you get it.

Anyway, this cheered me considerably:

Snow Day

It also cheered me considerably that my car and its serious snow tires performed just fine. The roads were actually very well maintained and the weather conditions at the time were no worse than anything I’d faced driving in Pennsylvania or Connecticut. I guess I was being a bigger baby about that than I had to be.

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When Joe and I spend a day playing on any one of the seriously majestic mountains around here, it’s standard procedure for us to stop for dinner on the way home. It’s also standard procedure for us to order whatever the heck we want (diets be damned!), because it isn’t as if we spent the day on the couch. This Saturday was no different.

We stopped at a little place called Crave ‘N Burgers & Brew that has fried cheese curds so good that I will never eat a standard mozzarella stick again. Well, no. That’s not true. I will eat mozzarella sticks again because fried cheese of any kind is pretty delicious, but I will cry because nothing will ever stand up to the glory of Crave ‘N Burgers & Brew’s fried cheese curds. I’m not joking here. I enjoyed my burger and my fries and my brew too, but I will dream about that tasty, cheesy decadence.

I was certainly in a funk, but it seems all I needed was a day in the snow and some artery clogging, fried appetizer goodness to set me right again.

Look out world! I’m back to my usual bright, cheery…

Nope. I couldn’t even finish typing that with a straight face. We’ll just say I’ve been renewed and refreshed.

 

Yes, Actually, I DO Miss It

Back when Joseph and I were still living in Connecticut and merely considering our move to the gorgeous Pacific Northwest, I bombarded him with questions about the climate. He had lived in Washington previously while serving in the Navy and so he could tell me whether I would still see fall foliage (I would, but none nearly as lovely as I’d witnessed in Pennsylvania or in New England). He could tell me, when I asked about snow, that it would snow, but not enough to bother taking our snow shovels with us. I balked a bit at this, but was reminded that if I really wanted to see snow, I could drive to the mountains and there some snow would be.

Well, that’s just not the same. I’m going to say it loudly and with confidence: I miss the snow! Given that the vast majority of my friends and family are back east and under feet of snow right now, I can anticipate the responses of those currently snowed in. So before anyone gets the chance to impart collected snow-time proverbs, here are my collected snow-time proverb responses.

You wouldn’t be saying you miss the snow if you had to shovel it.

You talk like I‘ve forgotten. I assure you I haven’t. I mean, you can’t really forget this:

Waterford, CT; January 2011. I know; I know. It’s not me in that picture, but I assure you, I did some serious shovel time that day too.

Waterford, CT, January 2011
I know, I know. It’s not me in that picture, but I promise I did some serious shovel time that day too.

Approximately two weeks after that photo was taken, we left on our trip to Iceland where we not only got a break from the cold and the shoveling, but also sympathy from Icelanders about the harsh weather we’d been experiencing back home. Apparently, our weather made news there. Then we came back home to it.

No, I have not forgotten how annoying it is to finish shoveling just for it to start snowing again. I have not forgotten the floods of tears I cried when I finished digging out the mailboxes just to have the damn plow come by and cover them again. I have not forgotten about the expert maneuvers required to pull my car out of the shared driveway because the neighbors couldn’t be bothered to clear their side nearly as well as we cleared ours, opting instead for some seriously dicked up parking jobs.

I haven’t forgotten and I still have the audacity to miss it.

But you get the best of both worlds! You really could just drive to the mountains.

First, that’s not entirely true. Those mountain passes do get a lot of snow. That means that those mountain passes often close. While you can still get to the snow line (ski resorts depend on this), you’d better have the right vehicle. I can put snow tires and chains on my Charger all I want; it’s still rear wheel drive and not built for snow. I always laugh at those Dodge commercials that have Chargers just a rippin’ through the snow like it’s nothing. I hold my car in higher regard than I hold most people, but I’ve seen romantic comedies more realistic than those commercials. Not only that, but those mountains are a bit further away than they appear. I’d have to drive at least an hour just to get to the weather people avoid driving in. Point is, it’s actually much less convenient for me to get to the mountains than one might assume.

And again, it’s just not the same. Part of the joy of snow—yes, I said it—the joy of snow, is sitting by your own window with a hot cup of tea (spiked or not), watching said snow come down. I miss that. I also miss the, “Oh, hell no!” look in my cat’s eyes when his little black paw touches a big white drift. I miss posting the obnoxious but obligatory Facebook picture of the winter wonderland. And yes, I even miss bitching about how damn much shoveling I’m about to do.

I guess the “grass is always greener.”

Yeah. That’s sort of the problem. You know where that green grass should be? Under snow, damn it!

Not under this:

This was our courtyard the other day. If only the temperature had dropped enough for this to freeze…free ice time!

This was our courtyard the other day. If only the temperature had dropped enough for this to freeze…free ice time!

I’m sure a clogged drain had as much to do with that accumulation as the rate of rainfall did, and I love rain as much as the next guy. No sarcasm. I really do love the rain, but this is just so not what I think of when I think of winter. Ned Stark promised us that winter was coming. Well, screw that Stark honor! Ned’s a damn liar!

This section comes with a bonus proverb. “Just imagine if all of that was snow!”

Again, that’s sort of the problem.

I am imagining that all of it is snow, and I miss it. I really, really miss it.

Coloring Books for Grownups: I Endorse This Trend

When I told my husband I wanted coloring books and nice markers for Christmas, I think he thought my simple request was much too good to be true. But we were doing a modest holiday (the eventful year was also an expensive year), and the subject of adult coloring books was peppering my social media feeds with increasing frequency. With artists tweeting about the availability of their recently published coloring books, friends on Facebook talking about how they’d forgotten how much they just loved coloring, and my nostalgia for Saturdays spent under a blanket fort convincing myself that Wilma Flintstone may very well have had some purple lipstick, it was clearly time to suck it up and embrace the trend. “No, really!” I assured my husband. “Coloring books and nice markers are precisely what I want this year.” Then I added, “And socks. I definitely need new socks.”

What I did not know was that at that very moment (okay, probably not that very moment, but it sounded nice, right?), my mother was putting together a holiday box for me in which she dropped, among other things, coloring books, colored pencils, and an epic box of crayons I would have killed for as a kid. Between my mother and my husband, I ended up with this stack of awesome:

Seriously! What kid didn’t dream of that box of crayons?

Seriously! What kid didn’t dream of that box of crayons?

It occurred to me that with a haul like that, I had damn well better enjoy coloring as an adult.

I needn’t have worried.

Art as Therapy

Art as therapy isn’t a new concept, so I’m not going to go over it again here. I will simply say that there are all sorts of emotions I can work out on a canvas or a sketch pad or whatever I choose that day, save one. Frustration. As a creative person, I get frustrated when the picture on the page looks nothing like what I had in my head. So sure, I’m working out sadness or anger or whatever when I paint or draw, but I’m replacing it with frustration, which is no more pleasant. Coloring books solve that. The picture is already there. It’s somebody else’s art; I’m just coloring it in. There’s no real pressure to make it perfect. Peace restored.

That is not to say that I don’t shout an expletive or two when my hand slips out of a line, or I’ve made the wrong color choice, but coloring books cut the expletive output by a good 80% or so.

L, completed with crayon. R, in progress with colored pencil. Approx. 16% cussing total still to come.

L, completed with crayon. R, in progress with colored pencil. Approx. 16% of total cussing still to come.

Easier Than Meditation

Also frustrating for me is meditation. I can’t help it; my mind just wanders. It’s loud in my head and even guided meditations often can’t quiet things down. You know what does? You guessed it. Coloring. For me, it requires just enough attention that I can clear my mind of all of the noisy but inconsequential BS and make room for some real contemplation.

I’m aware, as I type this, of how cheesy it sounds, but it’s amazing how much I’ve learned about myself by doing no more than considering how I color: where on the page I start, what my favorite colors are, how boring the picture becomes when I rely solely on my favorite colors. Yeah.

I’m not actually a fan of yellow, and yet these are my faves.

I’m not actually a fan of yellow, and yet these are my faves.

It’s Just F***ing Fun, Okay?

Look, being an adult is freaking hard. Commutes, work, bills, random life crap that inevitably happens because, “That’s life.” The fact that adult coloring books have become a trend (hopefully one that sticks around for a while) tells me that I’m not the only one who sometimes longs for the days when the biggest thing on my mind was who had my red crayon because, damn it, I need my red crayon or Wilma Flintstone will have purple lips!

After a day of long commutes, solving problems at the office, and scrambling to pay the bill that was not in the budget–a result of some unexpected life crap, adults deserve a little childlike fun.

So yeah, I endorse this trend. I endorse the hell outta this trend! I won’t be putting my coloring books down any time soon; in fact, I expect to be through my current supply by the time the holidays roll around again. Just in time to request more.

And for those who were wondering, I also got those socks.

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