Swan Song, But With Geese

I’m writing by the river again, soaking in every glorious nuance because I’m all too aware this summer’s days are numbered. The first two years I came here, we had warm, lazy Septembers followed by those bonus days Western Oregon often gets in the first half of October, all golden toasty sunlight and piercing blue skies. Last year, though, much of September was cool and wet. I spent several of my river days stretched out across the front seat of my truck because it was just too cold to sit outside. Worse, the weather didn’t allow me to get here in October at all. Winter was hard, the hardest I’ve ever seen in Portland, and spring was laboriously cold and wet. Two hundred and seventeen days passed between my last time at the river in 2016 and my first time in 2017. That’s a full two-thirds of a year. And when I got here, when I backed my truck into my favorite spot in utter disbelief that this was finally happening, my eyes teared and gratitude swelled in my heart. I was home.

Maybe that’s why this year I haven’t been able to get enough. It’s been almost a compulsion, the need to be here. I’ve done everything I can to clear my schedule or organize my office work and business reading so I can bring it with me. I pack my lunch the night before, and lately, my breakfast too. If anything unexpected delays me I start feeling anxious and edgy. But when I get here, all the negativity falls away. I slip into the comfort of this place like most people slip into a pair of perfectly broken-in blue jeans. The calm rolls over me, still and soothing.

I’ve been trying all summer to figure out why I love this place so much, why I feel so driven to come here. Others say it’s beautiful, but there are a lot of beautiful places in Oregon. It’s more than just that. There’s an abundance of trees here and a distinct lack of wires. When I look across the water, to where Highway 43 lies hidden just beyond the smattering of houses, it feels like I’m way out in the country. That’s pretty amazing considering this place is only a few short miles from the sprawling metropolis of Portland. But, again, the magic is more than just that. I suspect part of it is leaving behind my ordinary life with it’s stress and anxiety. Leaving the expectations, the endless pile of things I can’t finish or fix, the labels I’ve been given or chosen but no longer want. In this spot, I define myself. I experience the peace and hope that I wish could infuse every aspect of my life. But again, that’s only part of the explanation. Honestly, I think there’s just something other about this place. Something sacred and healing.

For this year, my time here is growing short. Soon our first heavy rains will hit. We need them to quench the thirsty earth and dowse the wildfires. For those of you who don’t live in the Pacific Northwest, the fire in the Columbia River Gorge probably seems like any other, but to us in the Portland-Vancouver metro area, it’s an epic shock, a stunning sadness. To fathom its magnitude, you have to think of it in terms of what it would mean to Seattle if the Space Needle were to topple, or to New York if the Statue of Liberty met some tragic fate. So, with our beloved Gorge on fire, I’m thankful for that coming rain, but I’m also aware that it summons the final days of my summer. What I have left is the now. And you’d better believe I’m savoring it.

Today, some of the leaves are flushed with gold. The cottonwoods are beginning to toss theirs carelessly to the ground, as if they don’t realize fall is coming and they can’t afford to spare them. Cottonwoods are frivolous that way. As water-lovers, they spend their lives close to the river, so they tend to take the good things in life for granted.

Boats pass by. Canoes and kayaks. Those paddle-boards people stand up on, like Huck Finn on his raft. Jet boats full of customers who’ve paid for a river tour with a few abrupt turns thrown in to give them a thrill. Old, boxy boats. New, streamlined boats. Boats towing water skiers or kids on inner tubes. Occasionally, a sailboat, quiet and graceful, or a yacht with a big, softly chugging engine. I get a lot of satisfaction out of watching people on the river. I enjoy glimpsing their happiness, and it’s enough to vicariously experience the fun they’re having.

Birds call and sing. Hawks soar and osprey plunge like they’ve been shot, only to snatch a fish from the rippling green water and sail away. Small gaggles of geese fly by, so low it seems like you could almost touch them, the markings on their looming bodies as distinctive as their voices.

People come and go, staying a few minutes or for hours. Moms with small children that climb the boulders. Boisterous teenagers. Couples holding hands as they walk the shoreline. Older folks from the retirement homes up the hill. Some are newcomers, but most are regulars who stop by almost every day to walk their dogs, sit on the rocks, swim, fish, or just hang out. I have friends here, people I look forward to seeing, though in some cases I’ve talked to them for more than a year and still don’t know their names.

Someday, I’ll write a separate post about the interesting individuals I’ve encountered in this refuge, but for now it’s enough to say I’m part of the tribe. For now, it’s enough to say I love this place. The dogs and the people. The cottonwoods and the basalt. The golden, late summer grass. The river lazing by.

This place is more than just a geographical location. It’s a living thing with a heartbeat of its own. A heartbeat that pulses in perfect harmony with mine.

I’m going to miss it.

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What’s in Store

A few months ago, I confessed that I wasn’t going to be able to write a fifth Full Throttle book that would be of the quality you’ve come to expect. Many of you were incredibly gracious and supportive. Some expressed confidence that I’d come up with another idea. Others asked me what I planned to work on next. Now that I’ve had a few months to do some plotting and writing, I’d like to tell you a little about that project.

For fans of The McCall Initiative, it will come as no surprise that I’m working on Season 2. This season is going to be somewhat different. For one thing, instead of multiple short episodes, I have five full-length books planned. For another, I’ll be giving the series a slight genre twist. The first season was billed as dystopian and read more like action-adventure or thriller. Season 2 is going to be like a futuristic YA version of The West Wing. Readers of the entire first season will understand why that is. Those who are diehard Full Throttle fans might be disappointed. If that’s the case, you should know that there’s a connection between the books. I provided a hint about that in Episode 5, but I’ll come right out and hit readers over the head with it in the first book of Season 2.

I don’t have an expected release date at this point. I’ve written about a third of the story, and it looks like it’s going to be a longer book than I’d initially anticipated. Furthermore, while I set out to create a sequel (that is, I’ve written it under the assumption that the reader would be able to recall earlier incidents with short reminders), I’m now realizing that my genre shift opens up the series to a whole new audience. That means I need to go back and make some adjustments to earlier chapters, adding details to anchor those new readers who won’t have read Season 1. This is going to take some finesse, and (more importantly to all of you) some time.

I could give you an estimate of when I think I’ll be finished, but after six years of setting, chasing, and (mostly) missing deadlines, I’m tired of being under that incredible level of stress. I decided last spring that I’m just not going to flog myself that way anymore. The books will be done when they’re done. I know none of you expects me to spend every spare second writing—to forego vacations, weekends, and all sorts of other respites—but that’s what I’ve been expecting of myself these past six years. And honestly, it’s a hard habit to break. When I’m not writing, I feel guilty, not to mention a little afraid that if I lose my momentum, I’ll never get it back.

While I’m not going to commit beyond the release date I posted at the end of Season 1 (sometime before 2063), I will try to keep you better informed of where I am in the process. Thank you for supporting me and my characters all these years. I hope to have a book to you before too long that will make the wait worthwhile.

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My Happy Place

I’m sitting here at my favorite place, basking in the glory of a sunny, 83 degree day. The warm wind is blowing across my bare feet and legs as I watch a jetboat spin around on the river, and all I can think is, “I’m so fortunate.”

An hour ago I wasn’t thinking that. An hour ago, I was feeling like I could hardly breathe, like the future of humanity depended upon me getting here by three-thirty. (I didn’t make it until 3:55. Sorry, humanity.)

This favorite place—my happy place—is a little park beside the Willamette, just south of Milwaukie. Whenever I come here, peace slips over me, sinking deep into my bones. No matter what, I know I can come to this spot beside the river and relax. I’m not a person who’s skilled at doing nothing, but in this one place, I can manage. Never in my life has there been anything I could rely on to so consistently soothe me.

It’s small as parks go: just a couple of picnic tables and a two-seater restroom. The real perks come from what nature has provided. Cottonwood trees. An eight-foot high jumble of moss-covered boulders. A gently sloped expanse of grass that gives way to a rugged basalt shoreline. Because the rocks drop down sharply, and that’s where the fishermen and swimmers like to hang out, the place feels private even when it’s hopping with people.

Since I discovered this place in August of 2014, I’ve spent every available warm day here. The proof of that is in the current satellite photo on the iPhone map. There in the parking lot, in my favorite spot, sits my truck.

Often, time itself gets short-circuited here, and I reconnect with that anything-is-possible feeling of a kid in summertime—that glory of pure freedom, pure possibility. There’s just so much about this place that makes me feel like I’m ten years old. The trains rumbling over the trestle. The jet boats careening in an abrupt arc to thrill their riders. That graceful giant of a dinner cruise boat, the Portland Spirit. The ancient rocks that seem to resonate with an enigmatic force. And the ever-intriguing flux of the tides.

There was a day last summer when I sat here writing from late morning until early evening—pretty typical for me, actually. But this particular day sticks out: a hot, sultry afternoon, with a balmy evening sweeping in on its heels. After packing up my computer, lawn chairs, and cooler, I went down and sat on the rocks beside the water to watch the sunset, the slow, steady warmth of the stone seeping up into my muscles. Crickets chirped, the sweet scent of cottonwood hung in the air, and the wakes of passing boats softly lapped the shore. At eight o’clock, the Portland Spirit motored by. As the sinking sun serenaded me with color, the warm shades shimmering off the water, a feeling of contentment—of pure gratitude—swelled up in me. I didn’t want to leave. I sat on the shoreline, watching tiny fish break the surface, and—because I am a geek of epic proportions—sang Oregon, My Oregon quietly under my breath. As the gloaming grew deeper, I wandered back up to one of the picnic tables, laid down on the bench, and looked up at the bats, flitting across the darkening sky. It was the sort of amazingly awesome evening I wait for all year.

While those perfect nights might be elusive, the soothing energy is present all the time. This feels like the only place in the world where I can let go. The only place I can truly breathe. When I come here, it’s like I’m a missing puzzle piece that someone’s finally fished out from under the refrigerator, dusted off, and pressed into place.

A few days ago, as I sat drinking in the familiar landmarks, the well-known hue of the afternoon sunlight and angles of the shadows, a random thought popped into my head. I realized this park is as much mine as my own backyard. But not mine in the sense of ownership. Mine in the sense that I belong to it.

Could there be any greater comfort?

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Discovering Baby Groot

For years, there’s been a little stick of a tree in Rivervilla Park. Just a Charlie Brown sprout, maybe three feet tall. This spring, it disappeared, but a few small green shoots emerged in its place. While I was speculating over whether it might have been clipped by the mower, a crazy idea popped into my head. This tiny sapling must be Baby Groot. Worried he would fall victim to another haircut, I decided to offer protection in the form of a sign.That sign’s been up for over two weeks now. Apparently, the county doesn’t feel inclined to remove it, the general populace approves, and it hasn’t yet been discovered by vandals.

My outdoor office sits in the shade of a neighboring cottonwood, maybe fifty feet away, which gives me a prime view of people discovering the sign. There was the hyperactive little boy who paused in his rampage to read it and say “Ha! Baby Groot.” The lady who asked if I knew who’d put it up, proclaiming it hilarious. The boy who began chanting, “I am Groot!” to his friends. The older couple who scratched their heads, husband asking, “What’s a Baby Groot?” The lady with her two kids who said, “Isn’t that cute?” and another who barked out a surprised burst of laughter, both of whom pulled out their cell phones to snap a shot. And then there was the woman who quietly consulted Siri before explaining the reference to her companion.

Baby Groot has had his picture taken many times, and my buddy Geoff says he smiles every time he sees him. That’s the overall reaction: grins and laughter. Even those who need to have the reference explained seem get a kick out of it.

There are a lot of regulars at Rivervilla. River friends who take walks, swim, or bring their dogs for a run. Several have asked me flat out if I was the one who made the sign, nodding and saying, “I thought so” when I admit I did. After seeing me shovel seven or eight cubic yards of mud and goose poop off the asphalt path following the flooding this spring, they know I’m a little quirky, a little nuts.

And you know what? I’ll gladly claim those labels. I’ve had as much fun watching people’s reaction to Baby Groot as they’ve had discovering him. I love that my crazy-assed imagination, a little bit of paint, and an hour or so of work has “given people a happy.” If that’s all I ever achieve in life, it will be enough.

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An Unfortunate Reality

I have some unfortunate news for Full Throttle fans. After months spent re-reading the first four books, making changes to my outline, and writing 85 pages of Never Surrender, I’ve come to the conclusion that this last book is fatally flawed. I had my suspicions since I began working on it in early December, but I made a promise to all of you, so I ignored those feelings of foreboding and tried to force the story. The problem is, the stakes just aren’t high enough. The scenarios I’ve put Jess and Cody in just don’t matter in comparison to what they’ve already been through. Some are implausible, while others seem contrived. If I were to continue writing, all of you would agree the series has jumped the shark.

Stories need conflict in order to work, and to create conflict, you have to torture your characters. It would be hard to top the ways I’ve already tortured Jess and Cody. I’d have to be exceptionally cruel to them, as well as stretch plausibility, to make you believe so many horrible things could happen to these two kids. Furthermore, I left both of them in a pretty good place at the end of Redline. They deserve to continue from there living happily ever after. They’ve paid their dues. I don’t want to hurt them any further.

The thing that makes my stories work is the deep emotional moments shared by the characters. While I could continue with the story on a plot level and have things happen to these characters that might present some challenges, those plot points would not bring forth the opportunity for the emotional satisfaction you found in the other books. In the first 85 pages, roughly a quarter of the book, I haven’t written a single one of those intense moments. If I were to continue with this book, it would not be anything like the books you’ve read so far.

I’m sure all of you have seen a bad movie sequel. I’m sure many of you have read a book by a best-selling author who reached a point in his career where he could get away with lazy writing because the book would sell anyway. I think you’ll agree those movies and books were not worth your time or your money. What I’m trying to tell you is that if I were to finish writing Never Surrender, it would be just like those books and movies. I made a promise to myself early on that I would never allow myself to stoop to that sort of writing, even if I could get away with it. I have more respect for myself, my characters, and my readers than that.

I feel terrible that I made a promise I can’t keep about this book. Because I feel so strongly about keeping my word, I invested many weeks in this project even after my doubts became so loud I could no longer ignore them. I cut entire segments of the outline and re-plotted to them. I brainstormed with my husband and my writing friends, trying to salvage this story. The unfortunate truth is, it can’t be done. Several other writers have been watching me struggle with this book and they said long ago that I should abandon it. I told them no. I told them I’d made a promise, I owed this to my readers, and I would damn well write this book. The trouble is, I was fighting a losing battle. I was deceiving myself.

As soon as I began voicing my concerns to my husband and a close friend, I was able to see the deep flaws in this plot, and the reasons they can’t be fixed. I initially wrote the outline for this book in 2010, before I’d published anything and while I was still an inexperienced writer. At that time, I desperately wanted to hang on to these characters, much as you do now, so I buried my head in the sand and attempted to conjure something that wasn’t there. But the plot I came up with was forcing Cody and Jess to relearn lessons they’ve already learned. That’s boring to the reader and unfair to the characters. It’s fake and phony and desperate, the exact opposite of what you’ve come to expect from my books.

I’m sorry for letting you down. I’m sorry for disappointing you. I hope you’ll understand the situation. Thank you for sticking with me all these years.

~ Lisa

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A Quick Lesson in Not Shooting Ourselves in the Foot

Progressives need to realize something. Our use of language is hurting our cause. At a time when the odds are stacked so highly against us, we need to seek every possible advantage. This is just common sense.

One of the biggest problems I see in how progressives are presenting their arguments, whether through confrontations on social media or signs presented at rallies, is their use of profanity and sexual innuendo. There are several reasons this is tactically unsound. First, if you’re in a public place brandishing a sign bearing the F-word, you’re not going to look bold and edgy, you’re going to look crass and self-centered. Children don’t need to see that sort of language, and many other people (on both sides) simply don’t want to. (I already know what arguments some of you are beginning to sputter, so give me a second to circle back to that.)

The second reason is you’re triggering a hot button for the opposition. If your agenda is to cause unrest, you’ll certainly do so, but if you’re hoping to persuade those on the fence to come over to our side, you’re shooting yourself in the foot. Here’s why: just as fairness and protection are progressive values, moral purity is a conservative value. There’s no right or wrong to this; it’s basic psychology. If you want to influence a conservative in a positive way, the best thing you can do is respect their distaste for foul language and sexual references.

So back to the arguments and rationalizations. You don’t need to say a thing. I already know your objections: “They should grow a thicker skin.” “Well, maybe they need a wake-up call.” “They’re just words. I don’t see why everyone’s so damned sensitive.”

Let me explain something. Just because we don’t find a word or concept offensive doesn’t mean it’s a universal truth that this word or concept is benign. We don’t get to decide what someone else takes issue with, just like the conservatives don’t get to determine that  taking offense to un-PC language is an overreaction. We’re the open-minded ones, right? The people who take pains to be tolerant and honor diversity? So why is it laudable to be tolerant of someone’s skin color or sexual orientation, but not their moral values? Conservatives have just as much right to their beliefs as anyone else. Swearing bothers them. Sexual language bothers them. If you want to have an effective dialog and influence their opinion, the place to start is by understanding their sensitivities and working within that framework. If you choose to use that language with your own people in your own territory, more power to you, but it’s not necessary or beneficial to wave it around in public. And no, we don’t get to point out the irony of the conservatives becoming the over-sensitive “snowflakes” they accuse us of being. Even in the alternative fact world of 2017, two wrongs still don’t make a right.

Really, there are only two reasons someone might oppose this strategy. One is a lack of awareness. You just haven’t thought about it, so you didn’t know any better. Now you know. Problem solved. The other is ego. You feel the conservatives should get over it, or the behavior of someone on their side justifies your less-than-honorable response. Guess what? It doesn’t matter how you feel about this. It’s not about you. Your actions are hurting the cause. Tuck your ego away, look at this from a logical, strategic perspective, and do what’s tactically advantageous.

We’re supposed to be the ones taking the high road. We’re supposed to be the ones demonstrating integrity, empathy, and respect. Let’s start acting like it. Think about your word choices and demonstrate a little common sense. As Sun Tzu said, “the opportunity of defeating the enemy is provided by the enemy himself.” We’d be wise not to give the Trump machine any more ammunition than it already has.

 

Posted in Musings, Politics | Tagged , , , | 6 Comments

Why I Can No Longer Stay Silent

I’ve tried to avoid politics and religion on social media for a variety of reasons. For one thing, it’s not good business. For another, there’s already far too much hatred and divisiveness in this country, and I prefer not to add to it. Perhaps the most important reason, though, is that I want to be judged by my words and actions, not political or religious labels.

But things have changed. We’re in unprecedented times, where the leader of the United States is more concerned about the size of his inauguration crowd than the safety of his people. That simply isn’t acceptable. To me, the matter has nothing to do with politics. The lives of human beings are far more important than the agendas of either party. While there are a lot of uncanny parallels between The McCall Initiative and what’s going on in America today, one in particular stands out for me. The moment when Logan told Piper that with the executive branch in turmoil, Cascadia was at risk from outside forces. You can be certain this holds true for the United States right now.

We’ve reached a point where my reasons for staying silent have been outweighed by my obligation to speak up. This is a crisis situation, and it’s my patriotic duty to do everything in my power to defend the Constitution and prevent the fabric of this country from unraveling any further. However, I believe it’s possible to be true to my values without being disrespectful of yours. I proved that in my last post, where I wrote about a friend who’d spoken out against the Women’s March. When I showed it to her, she embraced my words and shared them with the people who’d argued against her. The two of us wound up in a long Facebook chat, discussing the nuances of our politics. It was amazing, beautiful, and affirming. And yet, she is conservative and I am liberal.

One interesting point that came up in this discussion was that both she and I had been afraid to speak up about our beliefs on social media. For her, it was because many of her friends in the writing world are liberal. For me, it was because many of my readers, family members, and high school friends are conservative. We both felt it was time to stop hiding and be honest. We also agreed it was important to share our beliefs in a loving, respectful, non-confrontational way.

I’ve always been something of a great blue heron—an animal that lives on the brink of two worlds, equally at home in each. When I started racing, I spent half my time in the liberal college atmosphere of Eugene, and the other half in the conservative blue collar speedway community. Not only did I learn a lot about people and life by having a foot in each world, I also learned that no issue is as simple as it seems. I took what l gathered from this experience and weaved it into all my books.

The Full Throttle series naturally attracts a conservative audience due to its stock car racing backdrop. I wrote it to give the world a glimpse of this family-oriented microcosm that so many on the outside have written off as “redneck.” Themes include compassion, forgiveness, grace, and equality, and I think we can all agree these are good values. The trouble is, each side tends to think they have the monopoly on them. This is something I’ve seen time and again on Facebook, Twitter, and the comments left on news sites. Whenever something unpleasant happens, people immediately offer snarky opinions about how the perpetrators obviously must be from the opposing party. After all, all those people are evil and stupid, right?

Wrong. Here’s the bottom line. Conservatives love my books. Liberals love my books. They love them for the same reasons. That means all these people have something in common: a deep core of compassion. So why can’t we focus on that? Why can’t we be like my friend and me, earnestly comparing and contrasting what we believe—loving and supporting each other implicitly, despite knowing that at some point, we will vote in opposite ways? Respecting each other doesn’t mean deserting our values. Respecting each other means we refuse to abandon human decency and civil discourse, despite the fact that we will at times be working in opposition to each other.

So, yes, it’s time for me to start speaking up on occasion. I want the opportunity to explain the reasoning behind my stances. I want the freedom to talk about the world in general without having to worry about stripping out every hint of my political leanings.

My readers will have the advantage of knowing my heart. A writer can’t help but have its contents spill out onto the pages. In all my books, there is a thread of open-mindedness and compassion—a “why can’t we all just get along” sort of theme. I think, just from knowing my characters, you’ll realize that at my core, I’m all about reaching out, being fair, and listening to everyone, no matter their label.

Moving forward, when I address political topics, respect and empathy will always be at the forefront, and underlying that, the deep-rooted conviction that we are more alike than we are different. In addition, I’ll be as likely to call out liberals as conservatives, because along with resisting Trump’s agenda, I intend to educate people on the art of effective, respectful political discourse. If you’re politically opposed to me and can’t accept this, I’m fine with us parting ways. But I hope you’ll stick around. I think my books offer proof that what I have to share can help us all understand each other a little better.


If you like my books and want to make it easier for me to write them, please consider one of the following:

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A Matter of Perspective

I’m still whittling away at Never Surrender, but it’s been difficult for a variety of reasons. First, it’s been four years since these characters last skulked through my subconscious, and it’s hard to lure them back. Second, by necessity I’ve had to spend a lot of time on a revenue-generating project that hasn’t yet panned out. And third, I’m missing and mourning the characters from The McCall Initiative. But the biggest problem, really, is the political climate. It’s been such an enormous distraction. I can’t go on Facebook without reading a shocking post made by a person I’ve always respected. I can’t read a news story on a local channel’s website without being blindsided by the ugly comments below it. The perpetrators aren’t people who merely disagree with each other. They’re so full of hatred and bitterness that they use the most insulting, angry, vitriolic language they can muster. It used to be that people could disagree on a topic but still respect each other. Now, if they can’t immediately wrap their head around what another person is thinking, instead of taking a moment to try to understand, they simply pull out their big red “WRONG!” stamp and slam it down on the conversation. They use their righteous indignation (which usually isn’t so righteous) as permission to condemn their opposition without giving any consideration to their reasons.

Sometimes it’s not ugly and hateful like that, but it’s still a mind-blowing difference of perspective. Case in point: the Women’s March. One of my Facebook friends, someone I have the utmost respect and compassion for, had a surprising interpretation of a statement some women made about marching for those who couldn’t be there. This individual thought that meant they were marching on her behalf, against her will. This couldn’t be further from the truth. The people I encountered when I attended our local march here in Portland weren’t trying to force any belief down anyone else’s throat. In fact, one of the basic principals of progressive thought is “What you believe is your business, so long as you don’t try to force it on me or anyone else.” If these people said they were marching for other women, they were talking about women who supported the cause but couldn’t be there. Women like my friend Rose, who uses a walker and was incapable of navigating the crowd, or my friend Alice who no longer feels comfortable driving unfamiliar roads, or countless other friends who were recovering from nasty bugs.

Another misunderstanding (magnified by the language choices of some celebrities at the Washington march, as well as the prevalence of pussyhats), was that any positive messages brought about by the event were outweighed by dirty, low class immoral ideas. I’d like to explain the whole pussyhat thing to those who don’t get it. It’s not about being vulgar or defining oneself by a certain body part. It’s about reclaiming usurped power. It’s about defiance. The first thing to understand is that the majority of these women aren’t bandying about low-class terminology merely for shock value. They simply see the word “pussy” as less offensive than the misogynistic, bullying, entitled attitude behind the incident that spawned the whole movement. An attitude that absolutely must be addressed. They see this as a way to shine a light on a dangerous, backward mentality. I actually saw someone arguing that this term shouldn’t be used because it brings up something Trump said that is best ignored. The trouble with this reasoning is that Donald Trump is not a bratty child whose negative behavior can be moderated by pretending we didn’t see it. He’s the leader of the free world, and that means—for the safety of not just everyone in this country but everyone on the planet—he has to be held to the highest of standards. This is a man who can start a nuclear war with one careless tweet. And if you want to dismiss that thought as paranoid, you might take a moment to consider some of the crazy individuals who are leading other countries. People with terrorist mentalities who would gladly assume the role of suicide bomber for the planet in order to be right.

To get back to the whole pussyhat thing, I understand that some people find that sort of talk vulgar—that it honestly offends them. It took a bit of thought, though, for me to reach a point where I could empathize, because this position is outside my own experience. The language doesn’t bother me. It’s not that I condone it, it just doesn’t trip my censors the way it does for some people. So what does offend me? People who abandon their cat when they move because “it’s not a real pet.” People who cut the ears off dogs for kicks. People who make snap judgments about Jews, Hindus, Muslims (and yes, CHRISTIANS), based on nothing but a label. People who make fun of a little boy on Twitter because they don’t agree with his father’s politics. People who think it’s okay to brag about dominating women by grabbing them by their genitals.

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But I’m getting off topic. The point is, I understand the perspective of those who have issues with certain elements of the Women’s March. I get why some people would be offended by seeing women ring their faces with hats shaped like giant vaginas. (Yeah, that actually happened.) I respect that they don’t want to look at things like that. And I certainly wouldn’t be inconsiderate enough to do something crass like show up to their dinner party wearing a pussyhat to get them to “loosen up.” (That sort of bullying, self-righteous attempt at “education” does nothing to promote understanding and only demonstrates a lack of compassion.) The bottom line is, I don’t expect these people to agree that references to this part of the anatomy aren’t offensive. I simply hope they’ll consider my insights so they’ll no longer harbor misconceptions about the motivation for the Women’s March.

Do you see what I did there? *Makes an I’m-looking-at-you-gesture at culprits on both sides of the political aisle.* I made the effort to understand an opposing point of view instead of simply condemning it. I didn’t attempt to talk anyone out of their beliefs. I simply implored those who disagree with me to try to wrap their heads around how I see things, not so they’ll change their position, but so they’ll comprehend my perspective the way I comprehend theirs. So they can say, “Yeah, that’s totally not where I’m at, but I get why you believe it.” So we can continue to respect one another and focus on the things we have in common.

Wouldn’t Facebook and Twitter and family get-togethers be a lot less stressful if we could all step up like that?

Wouldn’t it make it a lot easier for me to write this damned book?

~ Lisa


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A Quintessential Crisis

There’s this expectation in my family: if we’re going to get together, I have to make the arrangements. For a while, we met once during the summer and again on Christmas Eve, but after I stopped planning the summer gig, it died out. I’m now at the point of stepping down altogether.

Though I’m at odds with my family when it comes to politics, normally it’s not an issue. I’ve never been the sort to reject someone over how they voted or what they believe. In fact, I’m the peacekeeper, the one who counsels the individual family factions, convincing them to let go of their grudges so we can all be together. But this election was like no other in the history of the country, and my issues with it go far beyond political affiliations or agendas. I simply didn’t have the stomach for subjecting myself to small talk about it.

A couple of weeks before Christmas, I finally relented and called the brother who hosts the event. When I confessed that I wanted to skip out this year, he assured me we wouldn’t talk about politics. Then he added that he didn’t think the two of us were quite on the same page about the subject. Now, I know where most of my family votes, but I’d always thought my brother was more moderate than the others. His statement was a little unexpected. I told him I was probably more middle-of-the-road than the family gave me credit for, and he responded with, “I think the country will be more middle-of-the-road under Trump.” While I was still stunned into silence by that statement, he added “I think he’ll pick good people.” Just for clarification, this was after a month of controversial selections that had been raged about on every possible news and social media source.

“I haven’t seen much evidence of that so far,” I said.

My brother laughed. “Like I said, I don’t think we’re on the same page when it comes to politics.”

Shrugging it off, I told him I’d get in touch with the rest of the family and see him on Christmas Eve.

I sent out the email, heard back from no one except a sister who said she probably wouldn’t make it, and went about my business. But I couldn’t stop thinking about my brother. It wasn’t how he’d voted, it was that he seemed so woefully unaware of what had been happening since November 8th. It was his casual attitude, shrugging this off as if it were like any other election—and Trump like any other president. If this was where he was, it stood to reason that a good part of the country was in the same place. And that was a staggering thought. The uproar on both sides of the political spectrum—that seemed like a logical reaction—but this obliviousness was boggling.

As Christmas drew closer, I began to dread our get-together. It’s always stirred up a bunch of crap I don’t want to think about, and for the past couple of years, it hasn’t even been much fun. Despite that, I’ve continued to go because I knew it was expected. But as I was taking my walk on the night of the 23rd, I started to wonder about that. Why was it expected? Other family members had blown it off. Why did I always have to be the one to go the extra mile? Why did I waste so much energy doing the right thing, when so many people didn’t return the favor? What would happen if I just said “screw it”?

When I got home, I shared my thoughts with my husband. He had no trouble with bailing, but for me, it wasn’t an easy decision. I felt like I was violating some sacred ritual, and I was sure I’d catch hell for it. Besides, I’d never let politics get in the way of a relationship. All my adult life, I’ve reached across the lines to maintain friendships in groups that were traditionally at odds with each other. Unlike many, who stick mainly to their little red or blue bubbles, I’ve been able to find common ground with just about everyone. My Facebook friend list is a mishmash of political purple.

So I slept on it. But then, on the morning of Christmas Eve I sent an email to my family. Instead of getting into the ugly truth, I told them I had a cold and didn’t want to share it with them. I expected the emails to start rolling in within hours: people giving me crap for bailing, telling me I had to go, harping on how it was tradition.

I didn’t hear a peep. Not an email, not a phone call, not even a text. Even though this is standard operating procedure for my family, it caught me off guard. I guess the biggest surprise was realizing what an idiot I’d been, forcing myself to organize and attend these events all these years simply because I thought it was required.

I’m still not sure how I feel about my motivations, or how I can justify them. This decision feels like it’s leeched away part of the essence of who I am. Let me explain. The growing divide in this country is a source of deep pain to me. I’ve always wondered why we can’t just get along. And when I saw the episode of The West Wing where the Republican Speaker of the House told the Democratic Press Secretary, “The things that unite us are far greater than the things that divide us,” I stood up and cheered. Peacemaking and mediation are in my blood. So how could I not only violate a thirty-year tradition, but also let politics be the reason? If I can’t resolve this lack of acceptance in my own life, how can I expect people who’ve always been at each others throats to do so?

I don’t have an answer for that question. No, scratch that. I’m convinced there is no answer. The truth is, no matter how much you might want unity, no matter what pains you take to be fair and accepting and to not offend—there are times you have to voice your opinion and stand your ground. There are times when the political situation is about more than just the politics.

I honestly think we’ve reached a point where it’s impossible to bridge the political gulf in this country.

But that’s a topic for another blog post.

~ Lisa


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Free eBooks

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McCall_CVR_SML_LRWhat if the Pacific Northwest seceded from United States? In 2063, it has.

The climate change that’s devastated all but the Northwest corner of the U.S. has been around since before Piper Hall was born. She doesn’t spend much time thinking about it, the secession that created Cascadia, or the closed border, erected to keep out climate refugees. All she wants is to get through high school and earn a degree in medicine so she can pull her family out of poverty. Piper’s sure her little brother’s stories about poor people vanishing are just rumors—until she comes home to an empty house. Losing her future, her family, and her freedom and forced into hiding, Piper has to find a way to get to the bottom of the disappearances. But the only one who can help might be the very boy whose family has displaced her own.

RunningWide_CVR_SMLCody Everett has a temper as hot as the inside of a combustion chamber, and it’s landed him at his uncle’s trailer, a last-chance home before military school. But how can he take the guy seriously when he calls himself Race, eats Twinkies for breakfast, and pals around with rednecks who drive in circles every Saturday night?

What Cody doesn’t expect is for the arrangement to work. Or for Race to become the friend and mentor he’s been looking for all his life. But just as Cody begins to settle in and get a handle on his supercharged temper, a crisis sends his life spinning out of control. Everything he’s come to care about is threatened, and he has to choose between falling back on his old, familiar anger or stepping up to prove his loyalty to the only person he’s ever dared to trust.

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