Musings Over Coffee: Spirit of the Wild Horse

I’m on Facebook reading a post by Judy Barnes who runs Spirit of the Wild Horse in Northern New Mexico and feeling heartbroken. She provides water for American mustangs who go to her ranch for water and right now, she’s got none at all. She relies on donations to replenish water for the horses who end up having to cross a busy highway to go to a ranch that has water and risk getting captured and slaughtered. Given that the Bureau of Land Management is culling the herds to take back land for cattle and gas or oil leases, Judy does what she can given that her ranch is in the perfect place to offer the horses water. She is an advocate for the wild horses, the same horses that BLM has sold for $10 each to individuals who then truck them to Mexico for slaughter. You can read more on Judy’s website.

Judy relies on donations to make sure the troughs are filled for the hundreds of horses who come. In the winter, she gets them hay. If you follow her on Facebook or her website, she talks about each of the horses and knows them by sight.

I donate each month to Spirit of the Wild Horse but she needs more to provide water for the horses every day. All donations are tax-deductible. So if you can spare a few dollars, please head on over to her website and donate, even if it’s a little bit. Every dollar counts. You can make a one-time donation or monthly, which is what I do.

Taos News recently did an article about her and her mission to save the wild horses and you can read it here.

5005-Mikey-Troy
Mikey and Troy – image by Judy Barnes
5322-Bolt
Bolt – image by Judy Barnes

 

“Right Through the Tire Hole” (Trigger Warning)

This one got me.

I was about fifteen or sixteen when I heard the sounds late at night, waking me from my sleep. The sound was replaced by voices but the sounds returned again. Curious, I crept down the stairs and saw what was happening. It was my mother telling her married lover that she was going to marry a nice American widower who promised to take care of her and her children, something he couldn’t do because he was never going to leave his wife. She knew that now. He didn’t like what she said and so he hit her. That’s when I realized what I’d heard from my room upstairs. I hadn’t realized they carried that far… or that they echoed.

That’s when it hit me: I couldn’t let him get away with this… or the nights when he’d slip into my room while she was still at the casino and tell me the only reason he stayed with her was because he wanted me or that one time I knew he was waiting for me in the shower stall and to this day, I pause at bathrooms where there are partitions. I could be at the world’s best hotel but I always make sure there’s no one waiting for me on the other side.

I remember standing up straight and tall on the top of the stairs where I’d been crouching. I remember seeing his hand raised up as if he was getting ready to hit her again and he stopped. They both looked up at me, their eyes wide. They didn’t realize I was awake.

“Don’t you dare touch her again,” I said… or that’s what I remember saying. Or maybe I didn’t say anything at all.

It was a foolish thing to do because he always came into the house with a gun. He was a police officer, after all, a sergeant who used to boast that they’d set suspects free in a remote field and make shooting practice out of them. But at fifteen or sixteen, your frontal lobe isn’t as developed yet. It’s the last part of your brain to fully mature because it needs the experience of learning from consequences. But I wasn’t worried about consequences then. All I remember was that I didn’t want to hear the sound of a hand hitting skin anymore. How could anyone ignore that sound?

I remember I was shaking. I remember glaring at him, my hands curled into fists, my jaw clenched tight. I didn’t cry. I was too angry to cry.

I watched his hand go down his side. I heard my mother tell me to go back to my room. I hesitated but I did as I was told. From my window which was over the back fence, I heard him leave through the back gate, the same way he went in and out of our house for years. Only this time, I don’t think he ever returned after that night. I threw it “right through the tire hole” although, with my uncle, I wouldn’t be able to.

My American stepfather would be the one to do that for me.

Seeing Red

angry.facebook-photo-squashed

So my son’s behavioral aide is changing this year and the new agency taking care of that touched base with me the other day because the school IBI supervisor hasn’t bothered to, just like she didn’t bother to let me know about the change until the new people showed up at the school during the last week of school ready to start the transition. Yep, last week of school. Even his long-time aide cried because it was so sudden.

When the supervisor finally did call me, it was only to say the agency shouldn’t have contacted me because she was going to talk to me tomorrow:

  • While my kid was already going to be with the new behavioral aide whom I wouldn’t be able to meet beforehand
  • In a new classroom with a new teacher
  • And after being bussed along with the same students who bullied him last year without an aide present to the new building across town because the current school is being renovated.

To her, it’s no big deal.

To me, I’m so pissed I’m seeing red. She didn’t even leave a number for me to call her back today so I sent her an email saying from here on everything has to be in writing.

Like it says in the damn IEP.

This year, I’m done being that “nice easygoing mom.”

I’m going to be that awful mom teachers and supervisors will hate. I used to wonder about that with other parents getting the bad rap, but now I TOTALLY GET IT.

Because no one will ever fight for your kid like you ever will.

No. One.

ETA: Why do I write about regular life when I’m supposed to be an author? Shouldn’t I protect my brand? 

I used to worry about my brand all the time. I still do. I’ve taken Instagram courses that tell you to color coordinate your posts so your profile looks pleasing to the eye, to create stories every day and show your personal life so that readers can “connect” with you, to schedule everything and be brand appropriate, to smile smile smile smile smile and blah blah blah blah blah.

Well, my life isn’t color coordinated by a long shot, and my personal life is a mess in case you want to know. And the reason I write is because I need an outlet for all the rage I feel inside and to allow all my silly romantic and sexual stories out of my head. It’s a delicate balance—rage and romance and sex. But on paper, I’m able to strike that balance. I’m able to write out the demons and unleash all the passion I can’t unleash in real life because I’ve got so many things to do between laundry, homework, lunch, pick up and drop offs, and legal papers to fill out and making sure every i is dotted and every t is crossed in the Lil Dude’s IEP.

This is the life of this particular author, no color coordinated posts, no big smiles for the camera while I tell you to buy my next book, no dragging my Lil Dude in front of the phone so readers can “connect” with me. I write stories. That’s what I do. That’s all I want to do. But sometimes, I write about the real life that I know better than anything else… the ugly, the sad, and the frustrating parts of it.

Holiday Musings: The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Personal)

IMG_4856
Union Station in Los Angeles where we actually had fun exploring and the little guy got to talk to a very nice man named William who shared a brief history of the station.

So I’m pretty much done with holiday gatherings this year. This weekend, I drove about 250 miles from one end of Los Angeles all the way to San Diego, through traffic, getting lost around DTLA while picking up the oldest son, and then the next day, missing the pay kiosk on the toll road.

Me: It says 1 more mile before the Pay Station. I need to stay in the right lane and exit.

Hubby: Just keep going. You’ll see it up ahead.

[2 miles later.]

Me: Great. I missed it. It’s wide open from here to the next 10 miles.

Hubby: Oh. Guess you did miss it. They’ll probably send me the bill in the mail.

Me: Yup. And you pay for it, not me. That’s what you get for always expecting me to do the long-ass drives while being the backseat driver…

I actually used to love driving but mostly while I’m alone. I like being able to listen to my music or audiobooks or record myself plot my stories. But with other people in the car, especially those who love being backseat drivers, it’s not fun at all. But I’m also a terrible passenger so that’s why I end up driving… even if it’s all of seven hours.

One thing I noticed with talk that crops up about my writing with family is that I usually get things like, “I have a lot of stories inside my head…” to which I now reply by default, “get a ghostwriter.” I think the longer one writes, the less one wants to talk about writing… And then there’s always the classic question, “So, do really make money from your books?”

And the bad news…

While it was nice to see old friends and family (second degree and beyond) this weekend, it wasn’t nice to discover footage on my phone that my son took (he wanted to film his time with distant cousins he’d just met that day) of his cousins bullying him, knocking him to the ground and pouring water all over him after the girl his age took his hand and led him to where the other two boys were waiting.

Hubby had thought that the kid had simply played too much and it was perspiration (yeah, that it soaks right through), and because I’d been talking with my cousins (the kids’ parents) during that time, I didn’t know it happened until I was viewing the footage he’d shot on my phone hoping to see the world from his point of view.

And it sure wasn’t pretty. Newflash: there’s nothing cute about bullying.

I ended up bowing out of the steamy office box set even when I knew I’d say goodbye to the buy-in. I don’t care. I’m done with box sets and playing nice. I’m just going back to writing where I feel the safest and where I can process the “ugly” much better.

My mantra for 2018 will be this: Success is the best revenge and best to make it sweet af.

It’s long overdue.

 

Screen Shot 2017-12-17 at 8.41.01 PM
Saw this on Unsplash.com today and love it. Guess I found the face of my latest character…

 

You Do You, Judith Newman #BoycottToSiri

I first heard about this book last summer from its narrator whom I met at a book signing and after learning that I was, in general, about 95% of the time, a stay-at-home mom to my son with special needs, she told me about the book she narrated that was amazing and that I should definitely check it out and maybe it would resonate with me.

I actually added it to my Wishlist on Audible and thought nothing of it although when the audiobook came out along with the book (it’s published by a Big Five traditional publisher, Harper Collins), hubby wanted to start the Dark Tower series by Stephen King so that Audible credit went to him. And then I forgot about it.

…until this weekend when #BoycottToSiri popped up on my Twitter feed.

Judith Newman is the author of To Siri with Love, her “honest and illuminating love letter to Gus, your typical atypical non neurotypical human,” according to Jon Stewart, “a moving and witty memoir with a big heart,” according to Nigella Lawson, and “part Operating Instructions, part love letter to both her son and technology,” says Annabelle Gurwitch, author of Wherever You Go, There They Are.

I’m glad she got such big names to give her their testimonials in her book, but how can a “memoir” that makes fun of one’s autistic son and even goes to lengths to saying that she hopes he doesn’t have children and that when he turns eighteen, she’ll get power of attorney to have him sterilized be “beautiful?”

Screen Shot 2017-12-11 at 10.06.58 AM
“autism-very-friendly”

On Twitter, she’s been blocking people left and right who object to her book. Autistic and neurotypical people alike have condemned To Siri with Love for exposing her son’s private medical information and for making fun of him, most of all for her plan to sterilize him.

She claimed that the audience of her book isn’t the autistic population (as if they can’t read, I guess) but the neurotypical crowd.

But even the NT crowd isn’t having that excuse because they also find the book deplorable. Well, not that she cares to know what they think. She’ll block them, too.

It’s a selfish act of a mother (or anyone for that matter) to do what she has done although in the world we’re in now, I’m no longer surprised at the lengths we take to humiliate people who have no voice. And I can’t imagine why she’d do it other than for the fact that a Big Five publisher said, here’s your advance. Now write us everything else you want to get off your chest about how you really feel about your autistic son. No holds barred.

I’m a mother of an autistic child, and yesterday, we went to see Peppa Pig Live. I didn’t care that he cheered and hooted louder than all the other kids his age (most of the other kids were younger), nor did I care that he wanted to dance around like the performers (who encouraged everyone, including the parents, to participate, too). I didn’t push him when he said we should go home when we could have walked around after the show and even ice-skated (the music was too loud for him). I accept him the way he is and I do my best not to ridicule him. And definitely not in such a public way, like a book.

But I guess in the end, you do you, Judith Newman. I’m sure you’ve got more than enough money from your advance already set aside for that power of attorney contract to have Gus sterilized ten times over. Good for you.

Oh, wait, you changed your mind about having him go through a forced vasectomy because of the backlash? Too bad, because you still said it (nah, you wrote it in all its hardcover glory), and wanna bet, you’d still do it if only no one said anything. 

 

Grateful

Today is Thanksgiving in the US and we’re all going to be joining family and friends and chatting about our lives over turkeys and tofurkeys. And although I’m grateful for being able to live the life I’m living every single day, today I’m especially grateful for you—for stopping by my blog and saying a few words.

One of the things I missed a lot when I went full-author three years ago was blogging and the friends I made while blogging. Suddenly, everywhere I turned, self-publishing gurus said that blogging was dead and was a useless endeavor for an author, that unless you had thousands of followers, you’re only writing to the ether. Time better spent on marketing and writing your books.

And for the first time since I had no shortage of things to write about or writing prompts (daily ones!) to tackle in the form of poetry or story, I had nothing to write. Would I write about my books again and again? I know I sometimes do. Would I write about the process of writing which I normally don’t delve into so much because I just write what I want to write? And who’d want to read that?

And so I stopped blogging regularly (or writing poetry for my poetry blog for that matter) for almost a year while finding myself immersed in the world of book marketing and promotions. But I never stopped reading blogs. I always loved seeing glimpses of people’s lives and the places they lived and visited and I still love it now.

A few months ago, while the same advice was given (writers waste their time on blogging), I sneaked back into blogging (here) and I’ve never been happier. It doesn’t matter how many followers I have. I see familiar faces and I smile. I read their stories, their poetry, and their opinions. And I smile some more. Sometimes I’m sad, depending on what they write but that’s part of the package of blogging. It’s about life and I love being given the chance to take a peek into others’ lives and their experiences and feel like I’m part of something else online besides just being a writer and writing.

So thank you. I’m thankful for you.

The Best Valentine’s of All

Today, my next door neighbor asked me if she could give my 7-year-old a big long hug.  I said yes, and then afterward, she hugged me.  She said she’d lost her dad this day ten years ago and they’d just had his memorial at the beach.  As we parted ways, I remembered something my late Dad did for me on a Valentine’s that has become the only Valentine memory I hold dear.

I don’t really remember celebrating Valentine’s Day growing up.  I went to an all-girls Catholic school and I don’t remember making Valentine cards for everyone in the classroom like my 7-year-old does, and if we did, I have no memory of it at all.

What I do remember is the anxiety I felt when I was in eighth grade and I liked a boy from another school – and everyone knew it.  It was especially bad when it turned out he was mean and made fun of me together with the mean girls he knew from my school.  And so when Valentine’s day was approaching and the girls asked me if he was going to send me flowers, I didn’t know what to say. I was so stressed out that I asked my Dad who lived in a different city because my parents were divorced to send me roses for Valentine’s Day, but that he not sign it.

And he did (even though years later, he’d deny ever doing it).

Later that year, I purposely flunked eighth grade hoping that my parents would transfer me to a different school and away from those mean girls – which they didn’t – and so I ended up repeating the same grade.  Despite the humiliation of having to repeat a year and being thought of as stupid or slow, it was the “Reset” button I needed in those tumultuous teenage years.  I wrote poetry that was published in the school paper, wrote stories that had die-hard fans in Homeroom, and while things at home were still horrible, I actually found a bit of happiness in school.

But I’ll never forget what my Dad did for me that Valentine’s Day, and it’s the one and only Valentine’s memory that I have – and this, from my son today:

I’ll try my best to add this sweet card to the memories. If not, there’s always this blog.