Women of New England Desire to Vote

“Wait, Susan, women ALL OVER the United States don’t just desire, they DO vote.”

True, but in 1880, the did not and all they could do was express a desire.  Anti-women’s suffrage voices suggested that women really didn’t want the responsibility of voting. So Matilda Joslyn Gage asked them. As the owner and editor of the pro-woman suffrage newspaper, The National Citizen and Ballot Box, she compiled a massive list of notes from women all over the country who answered.

My friend JD thought it would be cool to share these notes but there were so many, he divided them up into states and asked friends to post them. He gave me ones from Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island–my home area. If you would like to fully appreciate these letters from all over maybe from your area, click over to Words from Us where JD has links to all of them. Individually they are meaningful; as a collection they are a powerful voice for women at a time when they were not always heard.

Pick a name, vote for a woman who couldn’t…or vote for women in your life now…or yourself, your children…just vote.

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The work of reading these thousands of postals and letters and selecting from among them for publication, has required the labor of two persons over two weeks, and a portion of this time three persons were engaged upon it. Although but comparatively a small portion of them has been given, they form a very remarkable, unique, instructive and valuable addition to the literature and history of woman suffrage.

They not only show the growth of liberty in the hearts of women, but they point out the causes of this growth. Each letter, each postal, carries its own tale of tyrannous oppression, and each woman who reads, will find her courage and her convictions strengthened. Let every woman who receives this paper religiously preserve it for future reference. Let those who say that women do not want to vote, look at the unanimity with which women in each and every state, declare that they do wish to vote,—that they are oppressed because they cannot vote—that they deem themselves capable of making the laws by which they are governed, and of ruling themselves in every way.

These letters are warm from the heart, but they tell tales of injustice and wrong that chill the reader’s blood. They show a growing tendency among women to right their own wrongs, as women have ofttimes in ages before chosen their own ways to do. Greece with its tales of Medea and Clytemnestra; Rome and the remembrance of Tofania and her famous water; southern France of more modern times all carry warning to legal domestic tyrants.

Regards,

Matilda Joslyn Gage

CONNECTICUT.

Believing that the world’s salvation depends primarily upon emancipation of woman, therefore I wish you and your noble compeers speed in this noble cause, a cause for which I would gladly live or die.—EMILY P. COLLINS, Hartford.

Yes, I want to vote, and I am not ready to die until I have done so, at least once. —GRACE SPENCER, Madison.

Earnestly, and anxiously working and waiting for the ballot.—HANNAH M. COMSTOCK, New Haven.

I most earnestly desire that women everywhere should have a legal recognition of every right, (suffrage included,) with no other conditions or limitations than such as apply to male citizens.—EMILY J. SENARD, Meriden.

Not till men feel our power will they respect our rights.—FLORENCE PELTIER, Hartford.

I think women should vote.—F. A. L. ROOMIS, Meriden.

Believing as I do that the ballot is not only the first right of woman but that it is for the best good of the country that she exercise those rights. *—Abbey J. Mathewson, Brooklyn.

RHODE ISLAND.

My wish to vote grows out of the inevitable law of progress in thought, so soon transmitted in civilized countries from men to women. Unless men are willing and able to restore the day of absolute rule in the state and authority in the church, they cannot consistently relegate woman to a lower intellectual place than such as the duties of the age require every thinking being to occupy. A long passive intelligence has matured into an active phase and man is powerless to arrest its development at just that point which may now seem to him most consonant with his tastes or interests.—ESTHER B. CARPENTER, Wakefield.

“With all my heart” I concur in an emphatic demand for an insertion of the proposed plank in the platform of each party, and if foiled by all in the claim, let there be a banding together to either throw the election into the House of Representatives or to execute the determination of A. S. Adams in 1776, “to promote a rebellion,” etc.—C. C. KNOWLES, East Greenwich.

MASSACHUSETTS.

I wish to express in the strongest manner possible my desire for the enfranchisement of women, and my deep sense of the wrong and injustice of depriving her of the right of self-government. —Arabell Browers Elwell, Lynn.

If the ballot educates man it will also educate woman; if it protects man, it will also protect woman. —Noretta E. McAllister, Lawrence.

I wish to vote because I take a lively interest in the welfare of my country, (more perhaps than half the men) and wish to see the government in clean and safe hands. Because women are taxed and should have something to say about the spending of taxes. Because there are many selfish and intriguing politicians who pursue the “rule or ruin policy.” Because I think there is a great good coming out of it. Because there are so many intelligent women who wish to vote. Because they are as well, (if not better) fitted for it as foreigners, negroes and Indians. Because woman suffrage means fairness, justice, liberty and equal rights for women, and because I have never been represented by any man. —Abby D. Hicks, Blue Hill.

Ella F. Weeks from Marlborough, sends thirty-seven names.

I wish to see the ballot in the hand of woman, first to satisfy my sense of justice, and secondly, because I should consider it a very great step toward her elevation, and consequently to the advancement of the whole human family.—Evelyn M. Walton, Saugus.

And most earnestly desire to see the day when women shall no longer be deprived of the ballot and the opportunity of developing and improving all the faculties, with which they are endowed. —Zilpah H. Spooner, Plymouth.

“Sink or swim, live or die, survive or perish,” I am with you in this fight for life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Yours for the right.—ELIZA F. DOANE, Athol.

As one of the 60,000 superfluous women in this little State of Massachusetts and one of several thousand young women employed in the three factories of Lynn, Mass., I want what I hope in due time all my sisters will want, it is to vote.—ELIZABETH O. ROBINSON, Malden.

We, the undersigned, being unable to be present at the mass meeting, desire to forward our names, together with our most hearty approval of your proceedings and our warmest wishes for the highest success of woman suffrage.—MRS. E. O. WILLIAMS, MRS. M. E. ORR, MRS. C. C. POWERS, Roxbury.

I would express with all the earnestness my nature will allow of and with all the emphasis I can bring to bear on any subject, that I here with send my name as one who desires to vote.—FENNO TUDOR, (widow,) Boston.

We all wish to vote,—MRS. C. W. BROWN, MISS CLARA WILDER, MISS MARY A. RICE, MISS KATH. L. WILDER, Barre.

May God speed the NATIONAL in the splendid work it is doing! That woman should have the ballot is my most earnest desire. I have always wanted to vote.— MRS. HARRIETTE R. SHATTUCK, Malden.

Pledged to labor for the right of suffrage earnestly until it is acknowledged to be ours. May yours efforts be crowned with success. Yours for Woman Suffrage.— EMILY EATON, Athol Center.

I am with you in thought and spirit as there are thousands of others who cannot be there in person. Hoping God will speed the day when women will secure the right of suffrage.—MRS. MARIA SWALLOW, Springfield.

I want the franchise of a citizen because I love justice, because I love freedom, because I am a woman.—CATHARINE B. YALE, Shelburne Falls.

Massachusetts School Suffrage Association. I shall be with you in spirit and feel it is one of the most glorious meetings ever held in our country. I trust all will be accomplished in giving us the right of full suffrage.—HARRIET LMIST, Boston.

Resolved, that the right of suffrage inheres in the citizen of the United States, and that intelligent women are citizens and should be so regarded by law.—MRS. L. C. W. GAMMEL. Holyoke.

I desire the privilige of voting, believe right of suffrage should be given to all citizens of the United States.—ANNIE LORD CHAMBERLAIN, E. Somerville.

I also desire to vote.—ALICE B. SAMPSON, Boston.

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Every time I write a column…

Great, brilliant idea.
Write one paragraph of great brilliant idea and 800 words of crap.
Tell myself that I suck as a writer, ask myself what the hell am I doing? No one should pay me for this garbage. Your basic peptalk.
Destroy and rewrite eliminating great brilliant idea in favor of thread that sorta made sense that appeared in middle of garbage pile.
Realize deadline was an hour ago, freak out. Slice and dice and kill words down to 600ish or until that warm, This is It feeling glows in my gut. Or I imagine it does.
Sigh heavily, hold back vomit and file copy thinking, “Crap I’m going to get fired, this sucks. I’m a hack. I’m a hacky-wanna-be. They are going to see I am a hack, this screams ‘SUCKAGE’! Hello unemployment, Hacky McHackerson!”
Read piece when it runs a week later and think, “Hey, this isn’t too bad.”
Repeat.

A Lesson From Other Susan

When I was 16 she was born. I didn’t know it, our paths wouldn’t cross for another 30 years. She lived in one of those middle states that New England kids like me always messed up identifying on geography tests. I grew up divided between life on the ocean and life in a small town; she grew up in a small town that was not really like the small town I was in.

Life is funny like that–even when things sound similar on paper, they are very different.

map of us dotted

Despite our very different upbringing, somehow we both developed (or were perhaps born with, but that is a debate for another day) a deep affinity for the water. Not, ” Oh hey, yeah, the beach is nice,” but a deep attraction to water in any form- rivers, lakes ocean- the more mysterious the better. Magnetic. A magnetic attraction that makes us want to be in it, on it, near it.

Life is funny like that–even when people are raised differently they grow up not very different at all.

I went to college, had a career, got married, moved around a lot, had three kids and, seven years before our paths would cross,I landed in a small town in the same middle state where she had always lived. She went to work, got married, had a baby, then another in a small town an hour from mine.

I played around on a computer when kids were sleeping and I didn’t want to clean; she played around on a computer when kids were…well, I  never asked but based on knowing her, her chores were finished and a loaf of  homemade bread was cooling on the counter.

One day, both of us were playing around on our computers when we landed on the same message board at the same time. Hidden behind our own masks of avatars and screen names we knew nothing about eachother except that we were both moms.

Life has taught me that even when people share a title or job that involves very similar actions, those people are often very different.

But different doesn’t mean bad, it just means not the same. We were very different people with different lives who shared a few things including motherhood and the same first name. To differentiate between us I got to keep our shared name, she put “Other” in front of it.

Other Susan. OS for short.

Our differences were still there but – and this really doesn’t always happen with me- I never thought about them. I never thought that she was younger, that we had different educations and different life experiences- I just loved her in that way women love eachother in slowly built friendships. That way we know we can be our honest, differing selves and be loved in return.

Sometimes it’s those differences that give us insight we never would see on our own.

Three years after we met Susan taught me something very important. She isn’t a writer, she’s a do-er. She’s one of those people who says, “I need an electrical outlet here,” and puts it in herself; who thinks, “that should be welded on,” and welds it; that takes a pile of fabric and creates a beautiful quilt in less time than it takes me to stitch a pair of curtains.

But I am a writer and in 2011 I was freaking out about it. I was about to start my column, filling a space previously held by a woman I admire a great deal, and I was terrified. Should I try to be funny like she was? Should I be sentimental? Should I write with a message or entertain with a story? I didn’t feel like I was up for the job (although I already had it) and terrified of failure and public ridicule.

Other Susan told me: Stop trying to fit yourself into a nice, neat little box! You don’t want to be be in a box. You want to be a giant ball of awesome that can bounce around and be whatever writer you want to be.

I know her exact words because I wrote them down, printed them out and taped them to a file box I looked at every day.

Five years later they are still on that box, right where I can see them each and every day. In those same five years I have watched her bounce around and be a giant ball of awesome in her own life which is very different than mine.

Bouncing around being her own ball of awesome

Bouncing around being her own ball of awesome

Today, in my own way, I am celebrating her birth sixteen years after mine. I’m raising a figurative glass to honor the years she has lived, the woman she has become and the friend that I am blessed with.

And I’m sharing with you one of many lessons that she has taught me.

Happy birthday, Other Susan!

ball of awesome quote redo

 

 

 

Hey, what’s up?

I’ve been around these blog parts long enough to know that when people post UPDATE pieces what they are saying is, “Life has gotten in the way and this site has dropped low on my priority list.”

They then describe all the fabulous and/or tragic stuff that has taken them away from their blog; away from you, the reader.

This post is a little different.

Oh yeah, life has gotten in the way and this site has dropped low on my priority list

BUT

nothing fabulous or tragic has taken me away. Exactly the opposite.

I’m in a boring phase. I have a hard enough time coming up with column topics each week, coming up with blog posts, too? Too much work with not enough material and one of them helps pay the bills–guess where the idea goes?

Oh, sure fabulous stuff has happened, but you could read about it elsewhere. Like how our podcast, The History Chicks, is now part of the Panoply Network which is basically saying, “This show rocks enough to be included in this amazing line-up, you should totally listen.”* With that we upped our show production from once a month…ish whenever we were ready, to twice a month on a schedule. Day jobs can not be dispensed with as yet and the level of research and post production we do for each episode is a HUGE time commitment especially if we want our show to rock even more with each episode.

HistoryChicks w. Panoply.1400

And sad stuff has happened, my family is still missing the smiling, comforting, lovable face of my father who passed away last spring.  The huge hole in my heart isn’t ever going to be filled in, but the raw edges are smoothing out just a bit. On a lessor level my voice paralysis is permanent (there was a 50% chance of it self-correcting in a year- it’s been a year this month)-I’m back in voice therapy to help retrain my breathing and strengthen what I do have so the podcast doesn’t suffer.

But the rest? Boring. Kids, sports, oldest started college, youngest played fall baseball and basketball, and middle played football (although I do have a LOT of posts in me about THAT, but I promised him I wouldn’t send them into public until he graduates next year).

This kid loves this sport. Loves it.

This kid loves this sport. Loves it and I love watching him play it.

#50 loves this sport, I do not.

#50 loves this sport, I do not.

My very messy, unstaged desk where I sit a lot and make clickity sounds with my keyboard.

My very messy, unstaged desk where I sit a lot and make clickity sounds with my keyboard.

 

So by saying UPDATE! I mean that I care about this space far too much to slap crappy  writing on it and I haven’t had the pull to do so as life got in the way of late… but I miss it.

Happy New Year, I don’t want to piss on the parade of people who loved 2015 but from where I sit I am asking 2015 to kiss my fanny and 2016 to be better.

Not full of fabulous.

Not void of tragic.

Simply better.

Susan

2015 six

 

 

*Felicia Day agrees that it rocks.

Totally not gonna brag but we made it to an recommended segment on The Flog.

Totally not gonna brag but we made it to an recommended segment on The Flog.

 

 

Tell Me What You Read: Susan Vollenweider

A chat about reading (and some writing) where Kate gets me to confess what kind of books I have on my Kindle.

Kate Macdonald

In Tell Me What You Read I interview well-kenned folk in public life about how their reading has shaped their lives, in the past and now. 

SusanSusan Vollenweider, half of the women’s history podcasting dynamo The History Chicks, columnist for the Kansas City Star, mother, aspiring novelist, and school sports cheerleader

Tell me which authors, or what reading, you can see now were influential in your life and career?

I started reading fairly young so words and books have been a part of my life for as long as I can remember. I think everything I read influences me somehow, even the crap, but the ones who are on the base tier of influencers are: Dr Seuss, Shel Silverstein, Judy Blume, Erma Bombeck, Richard Bach and John Irving. I think all of them taught me that as far as writing goes, even if there are serious subjects I…

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I May Have a Problem

I knew I had a problem after I bought my first diaper bag in 1996. I suspected it before that when I was working and had an unusually high number of female sized brief cases, but the diaper bag situation really solidified my suspicions– I have a bag problem.

I purchased a diaper bag before my first baby’s birth.  In the store I was dreaming of sashaying about town with this stylish diaper bag over my shoulder and an adorable, clean and perfectly behaved baby in my arms.

When the baby arrived and I realized that the cute diaper bag was only good for short runs to- maybe- the mailbox, not for full hour long adventures to such exotic locales as Target and the post office. (also if I had any chance of a clean baby, I needed more stuff than that stylish bag could carry)

So one diaper bag lead to an entire wardrobe of Not The Perfect But Really Cute and Suitable For Certain Situations Only diaper bags.

This problem remained semi-dormant after the diaper bag years, probably because I rarely shopped for myself. My purse collection which was stashed on a closet shelf , was a jumble of discount store grabs, flea market finds, mother-in-law hand-me downs  and a very rare, sweet leathery splurge. I carried the same black bag to church for over 5 years, used a cross body most days until it looked like hell then replaced it with another; I had one clutch that I found at a resale shop when my daughter was buying jeans.

Then I spotted a Vera Bradley purse.

Actually, I spotted a torrent of Vera Bradley purses. Not being one to follow a fashion trend or purchase something for the label- I silently mocked those carrying them.

“Pfft, Please. Everyone and their 11 year-old daughter are carrying these things. Talk about a uniform,” I would say as I scrolled through the Vera Bradley website.

But then I fell victim to the colorful fabrics that added whimsy to  my friends outfits; sunshine to a dreary drop-off lane.

But I couldn’t carry a bag like that, too flashy.

So I bought a wallet.

I love this wallet.

I love this wallet.

 

I love that wallet. Perfect size for my stuff, it holds my phone and has a wrist strap if I ever need it. Which I do.

I loved that wallet so much that I got a messenger bag.wpid-20140922_080928.jpg

Perfect size to schlep books and all the file folders I use when we record podcasts or the materials I use when I talk to classrooms. Plus, that pattern! It says, “I can function as a mature adult, but really? I’m not all that serious.”

One day I was in a store and a cross-body  bag not only leapt into my hands, but it flopped itself down at the cashiers counter, grabbed my credit card and then, mysteriously, my purse contents were quickly organized in the many pockets and slots inside. (I think my friends, the birds and mice did it all while I sang.)

I have no idea how this ended up in my  possession.

I have no idea how this ended up in my possession.

 

“STOP!” I told myself. “You have enough. No  more Vera “I’m One Of Them Now” Bradley purses or wallets or eyeglass cases. NOTHING!”

Apparently I listen to myself about as well as my kids do.

It matches 80% of my wardrobe. Really, how could I not?

It matches 80% of my wardrobe. Really, how could I not?

 

Before I would allow myself to unwrap this one I went through the closet shelf that was overstuffed with bags. I collected the totes, the cross-bodies, the clutches and the wear-on-my-arm bags of many styles. I thinned the collection down to just a few favorites and gave the rest to a group collecting women’s clothes and accessories.

There are more bags here than this innocent photo suggests.

There are more bags here than this innocent photo suggests.

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The pile of junk retrieved from the pile of purses. (What? You can’t be far from a tampon when you need one, you know?)

 

And now, I am done.

 

I think.

 

 

 

OOH! That’s What It Is!

“Well, this is a pretty easy one to figure out,” my doc began and then it all made sense.

This crappy summer, the crappy spring, the gloomy winter- it wasn’t entirely life, it was also my chemical make up. Why? Sure life struggles played a role, but also (I gulp before admitting) peri-menopause and maybe it’s just the way I was made.

I didn’t feel better by being diagnosed, and I didn’t feel better by popping one pill- actually I felt worse for a few days. Stoned.

Out of it.

Sad.

Tired.

But then, all of those started to float away. I’m on my third week of meds now and feel so much better. Lighter. I’m getting shit done. I have a novel that I had been working on last fall then just about abandoned over the winter although I really, really liked it (“loss of interest in activities once pleasurable you” Oooh, that’s what it means). It’s a story about the power of women, the deep love that is our friendships and Blackberry Mead told through the adventures of two women who bear a remarkable (yet contemporary) resemblance to a couple of very important, very real historical figures. Women! Booze! Accomplishments! Hi-jinx and History! Weston, MO! (which is quite lovely, if you don’t know it you should google it) And I just abandoned it.

Last weekend I opened the document, started at the beginning…and revised six full chapters. Happily! With a sense of both delight and accomplishment. This is huge.

I’m here, writing this! Not just to make an excuse for why I don’t post often! Not filling the page with pictures of flowers! But content! Also huge.

If you want the version that appeared in The Kansas City Star Click Now. If you found me because of that article- hello! Nice to meet you! I love email. 

For anyone, if you google “signs of depression in women” this is what you get:

depression signs

From the National Institute of Mental Health

I should have googled it a few months ago, I had all of those. If you do, or you suspect that you may have any type of mental illness PLEASE talk to your doctor. I don’t even mean find a psychologist or psychiatrist (that is in your area, accepts your insurance, comes recommended…yeah, that’s a lot of effort for a person who has fatigue and decreased energy)- I first talked to my primary care physician and she got me going down the right path. It was hard and I wasn’t very eloquent but I got it out.

And then I said, “OOH! That’s what it is!”

And here is a picture of a daisy, because I can’t help myself.

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Happy Flu Year

Happy 2014. Yes, it’s a week and a half into the new year and I am just now passing along my greeting. Why? Flu.

Bottom line: I had a flu shot but, for some reason, it didn’t protect me like it has all the years in the past…and all the years in the future. The last two weeks have taught me that I want to do EVERYTHING in my power to not get this again. This might be shocking, but I don’t care WHY I still got it, I do care that  no one in my family did.

Two weeks- really sick. Not the way I had planned to spend the kids’ winter break. When life got really busy, I’ve often thought, “Some day I’ll break my leg or get sick and then I’ll be forced to slow down. THAT is when I will (insert sedentary activity here…like uploading pictures to snapfish and creating albums, or work on our podcast Pinterest boards). Did I do any of that? No, I did not.

I slept.

And I woke up and whined on facebook.

And I slept some more.

I am married to a germaphobe of the highest order- he took good care of me and my germs by quarantining us in the master bedroom. He’s not much of a cook, so most of my meals looked like this.

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Which was fine since I had very little appetite. Mostly I ate to shut up his nagging to eat. 

I saw high fevers and broke out in hives; I had to work hard to keep from getting dehydrated. I was a mess.

A mess, I tell you!

A mess, I tell you!

It sucked.

Sick bed selfie. The flu is not pretty.

Sick bed selfie. The flu is not pretty.

But I’m lucky.

First off, the flu can kill or send you for a hospital stay. It’s no joke.

I had people to take care of me, and I didn’t have to be any place. My family does not rely on my income for the necessities of life. I wish I could say I took one for the Mom Team and got it for the women who don’t have that luxury, but that’s not how things work. What I DID do is keep the germs to myself. I followed the CDC suggestions to stop the spread to a T. No one in my family got it from me, and I didn’t spread it to anyone.

Of course it looks stupid, but it kept my germs away from people. (And fogged up my glasses)

Of course it looks stupid, but it kept my germs away from people. (And fogged up my glasses)

It’s all I could do, and I am grateful that I could.

Now….back to 2014.  I have a theme. Admittedly it is crass and quite unlady like- but it has a certain simplistic honesty that appeals to me right now. This year is pedal to the metal- I want to see what I am capable of.  I want to toss my excuses and fears that hold me back down the crapper. If I’m heading down the wrong path for me, I want to know it. I’ve learned a lot from this path, but I have to find out if there is more. This year I want to find that out and the only way that I can is to work hard, smart and with purpose.

outhouse two redo

November Something Something

I began the month by writing myself a note:

Dear Future Susan,

Welcome back to the party. It’s barely 7AM on Friday, November 1st, 2013. You were out Trick or Treating last night, and slept VERY well (with Noah, he wanted to snuggle). The kids have the day off from school, Luke is watching Sports Center (really loudly, I might add), Noah is playing Minecraft on your phone in your bed, and Bekah is still asleep. You are in your basement office.

 Your hair is a mess, and you have just now (cheers, by the way), celebrated the beginning of Nanowrimo 2013 with your first sip of coffee (light, hazelnut creamer). You are in your pajamas.

You are about to unleash Sukie Abrams and Bess Stanhope.

These two women have been haunting you for about a year.

They brought friends who are lining up behind them waiting to share their stories with you. You might want to stock up on coffee and liquor. Just saying.

Sukie and Bess have been very patient while you did other things this past year, but they want OUT. NOW.

Take another sip of coffee and make it so.

Happy Nanowrimo.

Be kind to yourself, trust the process…and maybe comb your hair.

Love,

Past Susan

Ps: Noah is going to come downstairs just as you type your first word and ask where Brian hid the Halloween candy. Brian won’t tell you because Noah cussed at him. You will coin the phrase, “spawn of an asshole.” Not directed at anyone in particular, it just made you laugh. Use that one someplace.

 For 19 days I stole time to sequester myself from the family in my office. Several beverages (11 cups of coffee, 10 hot tea, 8 ice water, 3 iced tea, 2 hot toddies, and 2 hard ciders) later…I saw this: 

nanofinish13

I forgot to take the picture yesterday, that’s why it says day 20

I love the image of someone alone with their thoughts, able to give in to the voices in her head , getting up to pace and ponder… but the fact is that I stole the time from other things, the kids talked to me sometimes while I typed or they sat on the sofa next to me and read. I missed a few writing days organizing notes and recording another podcast with Beckett…and have yet to do my part in getting the shownotes ready for that episode’s release.

I didn’t watch any TV except one episode of Once Upon a Time and one of Glee and only because they are shows I watch with a kid- even if the kid who is supposed to be watching the former with me really does it so he can steal my phone, snuggle me on the coach and play Minecraft. Family tradition always trumps voices in my head.

I had other work to do, food to get on the table, daily chores that needed to be done- life went on as normal and I stole the time I could to cross the finishline.

The part of the fine print of Nano that I doubt most who undertake it the first year realize: 50,000 words is  not a novel. Women’s fiction, which I’ve been writing, is at least 70K (for a Chick Lit) and up to the 90K range. When I  posted the victorious achievement Rocky music on my facebook page the story that I am writing was only 3/4 finished. And 3/4 of a rough draft at that. Like most every rough draft that I write, it was slapped down very quickly. I don’t even know what’s really in there.

Yes, many Nanos have gone on to be published…most have not. But this doesn’t diminish the achievement for anyone. The completion of the act was the goal, working that to a readable condition is a whole other race for another time.

I can prattle on about what just sitting my fanny in a chair and writing towards that 50K line has done for me personally, but I won’t. I’ve done that before- but I will say this: This is my 4th Nano. Each year has personally been as different as the stories I wrote.

Last year, 2012, over 340,000 people participated in Nanowrimo, just over 38,000 finished. That is 38,000 different stories, 38,000 different people with 38,000 different reasons for participating.

And this year I add my fourth story, my 4th reason and my 4th set of challenges to my own personal tale.

Maryville: Hitting close to home

“Did you see this?!” I shoved the front page of The Kansas City Star in my husband’s face last Sunday afternoon. “Did you read this article? Two barely teenage girls raped- one left in freezing conditions passed out on her mother’s steps- cell phone video, a confession, physical evidence…and the two teenage boys both arrested- and then set free.” I tried to remain calm. My own teenage son walked in the room and I pointed at the paper now in Brian’s hands.

“I want you to read this article,” I said calmly, well, attempted calm. ” I want you to know that ‘no’ ALWAYS means ,’no’. Drunk ALWAYS means, ‘no’.  I want you to be a guy who doesn’t think with his penis, but thinks and acts with his heart and brain. I want you to understand the harassment and victim shaming those poor girls had to endure in their high school and small town; I want you to know what it looks like. No girl should be called a ‘skank’; a ‘whore’. Never. But high school kids did that to these two girls after they were raped. I want you to imagine  how you would feel if this happened to your sister and I want and you to remember that feeling tomorrow.”

Poor Luke, he just wanted to sit down and watch the Chiefs play but he had seen Mama Rants before, he knew it was best to pay attention. “Why tomorrow?”

“Because your football team plays the former team of the boys who raped those girls.”

The very next day that article, (THIS ARTICLE), the story of what happened in Maryville, Missouri went viral. It was everywhere I turned online, in the news…people were talking and a lot of the talk was angry and negative; a lot of the talk was aimed at the town.

Later that day, I traveled the 90 minutes from my home to the football field at Maryville High School to watch my son’s team play.

By the time I left home for the game I was a wreck. I had spend a good chunk of the day reading what the online community thought of small midwest towns like Maryville, like where I live.

While the town where I live is closer to a major metropolitan area than Maryville is ( the closest larger town to them would be St. Joseph. Where? Exactly) it’s not completely different. When giant swaths of stereotypes are painted, I live in Maryville: A small rural town in a flyover state. According to that paintbrush, the residents are morons, the police are allowed to be corrupt, the town is governed by decades long social rule of a group of established families, and local sports are king. The town will do anything to preserve order and outsiders are not welcome.

This is not true. It’s not entirely true of  Maryville, and most definitely isn’t true of my town.

Do shades of it ring true?

Probably.

But that day, after reading what people thought of the town, the people who allowed this to happen to those two girls, the potential cover-up, legal maneuvering that got the charges dropped, the speculation of what really happened…being in Maryville  was the LAST place I wanted to be. I thought that the town would attract the vigilantes looking for a highly visible target, and a stadium in the high school where the kids in the case all attended is very visible.

But my son’s freshman team was long scheduled to play. The Maryville Spoofhounds varsity team had come to our field the previous Friday night and smoked us with a 50-10 victory. The football program at Maryville is beloved by many in the town, their 22 straight victories brought enough visitors 90 minutes away to our school to fill the guest bleachers.

I was a wreck of conflicting thoughts:

I wanted to stay home and keep my kid home.

I wanted to go and make a peaceful statement in support of the girls who were raped then shamed and re-victimized.

I wanted our freshmen boys to kick some Spoofhound ass.

daisys for daisy

I put two daisies in my hair, one for each girl. I didn’t know if this was foolish or bold, but I felt like I couldn’t pretend it was just another day, another game in another town.

I have a fairly overactive imagination. On the drive to Maryville I envisioned many scenarios when locals saw my daisies. As the afternoon unfolded:

No one said anything when we stopped at Burger King for dinner.

No one said anything when we sat in the bleachers and cheered on our team.

No one said anything when I went to the snack bar or the ladies room.

(Probably because I looked like this most of the game. It was rainy and I huddled with my younger son and husband under an umbrella.)

maryvilleDuring the game I looked at the other parents, the boys on the field, the cheerleaders. I wondered if they had participated in any way. Then I wondered if it  came as a surprise to them when they had read the same article I did. I don’t have answers for that, only they know.

Do I want justice for the girls?

Hell yeah.

Do I want those who wronged and got away with it to accept what they did and face the consequences?

Hell yeah.

Do I support broad, generalized strokes of anger directed at every citizen of Maryville?

No, I can’t.

There are so many lessons that anyone, anywhere can learn from this case. So many lessons that we can teach our kids including- and certainly not limited to- victim shaming, rape culture, respect for others, cyber bullying, lying, throwing political weight around, Old-Boys networks, and teaching our kids to accept consequences for their actions.

Mostly I want parents, myself included, to continue to have those talks with our kids- all of our kids. Not just the boys, but the girls, too. And not just once, not when the next Maryville happens, but all through their childhoods and teenage years. As long and as often and as creatively as we can, even if they sometimes come out as rants because variety in presentation gets noticed by our kids; rote repetition gets tuned out.

Maryville may not resemble your town, it might not be near to your town, but as parents the lessons learned from Maryville land very close to home for all of us.