decline in birthrate likely due to UNfriendly family policies

This articleWe’re having fewer babies. Could that kill the economy? popped up in my FB feed through The Olympian, apparently originally in the The Washington Post. It seems the US birthrate has been dropping a little every year, and the provisional 2016 population data released by the CDC showed the number of births had fallen 1 percent from the previous year, which brought the general fertility rate to 62 births per 1,000 women (15-44 years of age).

It seems this matters because a country’s birthrate is one of the most important measures of demographic health. It’s a number that needs to be within a specific range that will keep the population stable (neither growing or shrinking), a range known as the “replacement level.” If the birthrate is higher or lower than this sweet spot, there are problems.

Too high of a birthrate, and a country’s resources will be strained– they won’t have enough clean water, food, shelter, or social service programs to serve all their citizens/ residents (India is cited as an example, with the article noting that although their fertility rate has fallen over the last few decades, it still remains high).

Too low of a birthrate presents other dangers: not enough tax revenue to keep the economy stable (an even more pressing concern in light of current US actions re immigration), as well as the danger of being unable to replace an aging workforce. According to the article, countries which have typically faced low birthrates have implemented pro-family policies in an attempt to encourage couples to have children.

It seems the trend is driven by a decline in birthrates for teens and 20-somethings– apparently the birthrate for older women (in their 30s and 40s) increased, but not enough to make up for the drop in teens and 20-somethings, and now experts are wondering if this is a temporary problem that will soon level off, or the makings of a national emergency.

Personally, I think it’s option B. Like Donna Strobino, the professor of population, family and reproductive health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health quoted in the article, I agree that the fall in birthrates in teens is desirable and good– nothing to complain about. I disagree with her assessment that the highest birthrates now falling among women 25 to 34 years of age are a result of women becoming more educated and mature. Personally, I think it’s family-unfriendly policies.

Bear with me.

See, maturity is relative. What people mean by “maturity” changes according to their culture and values. In Promises I Can Keep, Kathryn Edin and Maria Kefalas noted that socioeconomic status played a large role in determining when someone became an “adulthood.” For women of lower socioeconomic status/ fewer opportunities, motherhood was the litmus test. For women of higher socioeconomic status/ more opportunities, it was things like graduating college/ first job/ first apartment.

Growing up mormon (and middle class), I was simultaneously taught to value and seek after an education, but also that my duty to god and the church was family above all– even at the sacrifice of an education and/ or career. So when I eschewed the opportunity to continue college at the age of 21 to get married, that (within my specific cultural boundaries/ values) was an acceptable and “mature” decision.

In the early years of marriage, when I attended church services and activities with my young infant, I was treated as a peer– as an adult. I never felt ostracized or stupid or “less than,” for my decision. If anything, I felt vaguely like an “outsider” because I was on the fence about having a second child, even as I was constantly questioned about when we would be having our next while I was still nursing the first.

What’s been interesting to me over the last 15 years is the complete juxtaposition of my experience in religious spaces and secular spaces as a young mother– at church, as noted, I was treated with respect, as a mature individual who, by dint of marriage and motherhood, had crossed the threshold from childhood to adulthood.

But in non-mormon and secular circles, I’ve had an entirely different and much less comfortable experience. When my son was a toddler in the early 00’s and I attempted to join local secular playdate groups, I was discomfited to find I was the youngest mom (and wife) present, by anywhere from 5-10 years. When I started cloth diapering him and joined online “granola mom” forums to trade tips, toys, and diapers, I quickly learned to obscure my age– the other moms were in their late 20s at the youngest, but more often mid-30s to early 40s; many of them first-time moms like myself, just a decade or more older.

When I was 27, I enrolled at the local community college as a late-start student. They had a free daycare program, and every hour my son (then 5) attended was half a family education credit for me. It was like pre-school that I not only didn’t have to pay for, I actually got college credits for! How great, right? The only mild awkwardness was that when I waited in the drop-off or pick-up line, the other mothers ranged from 17-20 in age. Its funny, because you would think the commonality of parenthood would erase all other differences, but it doesn’t, really– even if you want it to. We would make assumptions about each others’ situations which would lead to stilted, limping conversations– for instance, they would assume I was single and there was no dad in the picture; and I would assume they knew who the father of their baby was, or was on speaking terms with him. There, at least, I was recognized as a mother, though. Not so much on campus. In my campus classes, without a baby on my hip, people assumed I was just another late-start student. There were plenty of people in their mid-20’s attending the community college, and most people assumed I was a few years younger than I was. In one sense this was freeing; in another insulting.

People say the most appalling, presumptive things about young parents when they think there are no young parents around. And when they learn you are (or were) a young parent, oftentimes their shock and surprise negates any circumspection– most made it clear they assumed I had been a teenage mom forced into a shotgun marriage, and were (somewhat insultingly) surprised when I gently corrected them. That’s the secular cultural narrative of young mothers– lack of agency, lack of education, and a series of compounding mistakes.

Later, when I enrolled at Evergreen for my undergrad, I ran into many of the same assumptions again. Not from everyone, no– but from enough people that something occurred almost every time I went on campus.

I had a professor call me privileged because I informed her I was leaving class early because my son missed his bus home and texted me asking for a ride.

I had a professor insist that the increasing birthrate was a sign of better education and increasing maturity in women, and uncategorically state that any woman who had a child before the age of 30 was ruining her life– with myself and a 23 year old pregnant student in her class.

I had a classmate, upon meeting my then-11-yr old son, ask if I was ‘like 17’ when I had him.

I had a classmate insist that having a child in your early 20’s would “ruin your life,” because it would “stop you from ever being able to go on vacation or anything,” which was news to me. She argued it was preferable to get a dog, as dogs are less care-intensive, and I had to laugh– at least when my son was an infant and toddler (and I’m pretty sure as of this writing), nearly all public spaces accommodate human babies (often at reduced fares), which is not the case with animals. My son, I’ve been able to take on flights and long drives, in restaurants and to amusement parks, to museums and fairs and shopping and other sundry activities. My dogs? Yeah, not so much. I pretty much always have to figure out an animal sitter for them, or pay extra to bring them along.

The thing is, becoming a mother (ie, parent) in one’s 20s isn’t the problem here– it doesn’t indicate less or more maturity or education. What it indicates is that women don’t have the support structures that men have had for centuries.

Think about it: Men, for centuries, have been fathering children in their 20s and then popping off to school and/ or work to grow their careers, while the children stay with the mothers. Perhaps the father is married to the women and involved as parent; perhaps he just impregnated her and popped off unconcerned. Regardless, the weight of it didn’t fall to him– managing the pregnancy, the health of self/ baby, preparations for the new life, feeding and bathing and diapering– so he was free to focus on school and career.

And now women can focus on school and careers, and so they do– of course they do! Who wouldn’t? I mean, it’s fucking amazing! I’m not knocking education or careers at all, don’t get me wrong.

I’m just saying, for centuries, it wasn’t an “either/ or” choice for men. It wasn’t, “Look, dude, you can either get your education and build an amazing career or be a dad. One or the other. You can’t have it all. You want both, you gotta go education first, then focus on your career, then get married, then get a place, and then– maaaaybe— by your mid-30’s you’ll be set to start with the whole procreation thing. But you gotta give up your career once you start with the babies, for real, because childcare costs are a bitch.”

No, for centuries (and, generally speaking, even today), men can pretty much jump into it, woman willing– regardless of where he is on the education/ career/ income spectrum– and it’s still (generally speaking) socially acceptable for men to pick and choose how involved or un-involved of a parent they’ll be. A dad is still gushingly praised as “such a good dad,” and, “so involved!” for doing run-of-the-mill parenting duties like changing a diaper or handling a feeding or burping a baby. It’s like, uh, wow, being a little condescending to the poor guy, aren’tcha? Cause that’s just … being a parent, right there. Yep. Basic parenting. Clothing, feeding, caring for child. Basic.

So why are women putting off having children? Because, as a society, we’re not supportive of families. I’m not pointing the finger at men here, btw– this impacts families as a whole, fathers and mothers. I’m pointing out that, historically, men benefited from the childcare setup that allowed them freedom of movement and expected women (and their extended families of single female relatives– which is another aspect of historical childcare no longer accessible to most modern families) to handle the childcare, and when as a society, we provided women access to the same freedom of movement available to men (suffrage, education, employment), we didn’t account for childcare.

So now women, like men, can go to college. Women, like men, can work. Women, like men, can run companies. Women, like men, can vote. Women, like men, can influence public policy and become political leaders. Women, like men, have the right to leave relationships that aren’t working for them. Women, like men, can drive, own bank accounts, and apply for/ be approved for credits, loans, and mortgages without needing a spouse– and all this is fucking great! Talk about progress! Yes! Absolutely! Keep it coming!

But, unlike men, women cannot count on the presence– with nearly 100 percent certainty– on a free, round-the-clock childcare provider, should they choose to have a child. It doesn’t matter if they’re 22, 32, or 42. It doesn’t matter if they’re single or married. It doesn’t matter if they’re poor or rich.

Women can’t rely on someone else handling that shit. Men, overwhelmingly, can.

So yeah, obviously women are going to delay having children, because there’s nowhere else to spread the load. Despite the cries of MRAers, no-one wants men to lose their access to education and career growth– this isn’t a situation of, “Well, you got a free ride on childcare for 1,000 years, so we get the next 1,000 years. Time to get repressed, boys!”

No, this is a situation that calls for truly family-friendly policies that will benefit the entire family, like:

  • Accessible nationalized childcare for the first 2 children (reduced cost for more than 2);
  • Expanding WIC and lengthening the eligibility range (instead of pregnancy to 1 year, why not pregnancy through first 5?– but only for the first 2 children)
  • Baby boxes (for the first 2 children)
  • Free nationalized college and increased focus on non-college career training
  • Re-considering the child tax credit (instead of $1,000 per child, it should be something like $2,500 for 1st child, $1,500 for 2nd kid, and $150 or even $0 for every child thereafter– a formula that specifically rewards/ encourages replacement level birthrates).

I’m certain that policies such as these would raise the birthrate, benefit the entire family, and boost the economy. Policies like these would benefit both genders, because the ability to access nationalized daycare and low-cost early-life childcare necessities would give men a stronger position at the custody bargaining table– historically, men’s over-reliance on women as childcare providers have meant they’ve been forced to choose between ceding custody (childcare) or figuring out how to balance the demands of childcare and career. With a nationalized childcare program, that gender imbalance would be addressed: Men would have the freedom to choose to retain/ fight for custody of their children if they believed their exes were poor parents, knowing they had access to accessible childcare and low-cost care provisions; just as women would gain the previously-unaccessed freedom to pursue educations and careers alongside parenthood.

Affordable, accessible, nationalized childcare: Will bring jobs and increase overall education opportunities.

  • Building/ setting up childcare centers (construction jobs)
  • Training and certifying childcare providers (education and certification jobs)
  • Hiring and vetting said providers (HR and background certification jobs)
  • Childcare provider positions
  • Parents now free to pursue employment (in the public or private sector) and/ or education, without concern for costs of childcare.

The key, of course, is paying an income high enough to bring in people who are skilled and trustworthy, which (upon being paid) would be circulated back into the economy through their purchases.

Starting a Baby box program, expanding WIC, and lengthening the child eligibility age: Will create federal, management, production, supply, shipping, and retail jobs, and increase overall education opportunities.

  • Creating a baby box program would require an entirely new department necessitating federal employees, as well as private/ retail contracts.
  • Expanding the WIC program and child eligibility age will require more positions to be filled by federal employees, as well as increased private/ retail contracts.
  • The reduced costs on individual families for their first two children will combine with the nationalized childcare to incentivize focusing on education and/ or career growth, which in turn will allow families to spend their increased incomes and grow the economy.

Nationalized college: A perk for everyone. Nationalizing college education costs would take a huge student debt weight off young parents and families, and ease concerns about how to pay for their children’s tuition when they haven’t even paid off their own. It would reduce the pressure of college and allow people to pursue it at their own pace, when it’s most beneficial to them and their career– some 18 year olds just aren’t cut out for college, and some students get a lot more from higher education after they’ve spent a few years in the workforce.

If the USA had a nationalized college program/ vocational career training, nationalized daycare, and an extended WIC program that reduced the initial costs of childrearing, imagine how different the years right after high school might look: Students graduate from high school, and the brightest and most academically driven continue straight on to college. They could marry and start families as they study, or right after graduation, without fear of the educational, financial, and career repercussions. By the time they’re in their 40s, their kids are graduating, and the parents are young and healthy and hale enough to enjoy their retirement– and their grandkids, when they come.

Those who aren’t academically driven — the middle/ low-end range of the class, who futzed around and paid little attention– don’t have to be herded into college before they’re ready– they can pursue vocational training and the usual related employments. If they happen to get married and/ or have kids, it’s not a life-ruining choice– they can still build a career, even go back to college and acquire a degree if they want.

All these policies together would mean that, as a culture, we could lose this ridiculous insistence we currently have on trying to get 6th graders to decide on their future degree/ career path. Sixth graders! Those kids are 11 years old! They’re trying to get 11 year olds to think about their college goals! It was bad enough in 1994, when they were telling us freshmen in high school to decide what our college goals were– now it’s 6th graders! Dude, I don’t think I ever landed on a ‘college degree path,’ and I have a BA!

Best case scenario, the restaurant, retail, and domestic labor sectors will be unionized/ brought up to a living wage– but even if they aren’t, just providing access to nationalized childcare, reducing early-years child-rearing costs, increasing the child-care tax credit, and providing no-string-attached nationalized higher education would be life-changing to thousands of lower-income people in their 20s across the USA. An entire generation would suddenly find opportunities accessible to them which were previously undreamed of, and the so-called American Dream once again a reality.

Finally, re-considering the child tax credit: Right now it’s a paltry $1,000, and that’s for every kid– essentially, the way it’s set up is that it doesn’t really incentivize the average person who’s considering parenthood (it’s like a nonissue when considering child #1, a conversation that goes something like, “Well, we’d get a child tax credit!” “Ha, right. What, like $1,000 a year? We could save that by not having a kid.”), but it’s great for, like, mormons or Catholics or those Quiverfull cult people– the ones who have so many kids they just set the oldest to watching the youngest for their free in-home childcare while the mom manages all the householdy shit.

Those types of families can get $4,000- $15,000 in annual tax credits (think I’m kidding? The Duggars, at one point, had 15 kids born between 11/4/1992 and 12/10/2009– which means for at least one tax year, they could claim 15 dependant kids under the age of 17, ie $15,000 in child tax credits. FUCKING HANDY, THAT.). I mean, there is a tipping point where the $1,000 child tax credit starts being worth it, but you gotta be willing to have a shit-ton of kids to get there, and you gotta embrace the lifestyle (a single-income family/ breadwinner, usually the dad, and a full-time stay at home parent, most likely the mom) to get to that point.

I’m just saying, instead of the current system– which does not incentivize replacement-level birthrates, but does reward crazy-cultish-level birthrates–we should revamp the whole child-tax credit structure to something like $2,500 or $5,000 per first kid, and half that for kid #2, and then like may a hundred or so (or nothing!) for kids 3 and 4, and then definitely, absolutely, no child tax credits for more than 4 kids. And, like nationalized daycare should be freely accessible to the first two children registered in a family, but subsidized by in part by (affordable) fees for any subsequent kids registered. Same for WIC and the baby boxes– these are all programs that should be freely and generously provided to the first two children born, but low (affordable) fees should be charged for subsequent children.

Now, obviously, families are different– single parents, married parents, divorce, remarriage, single parents, blended families. So some of the obvious questions are:

  • Would these benefits be available to teen parents?
  • Would they be available to single parents (single moms)?
  • What if Jane has two kids with Fred, and they break-up, and she marries (childless) Joe and has two kids? Do those kids get the benefit under Joe, or lose the benefit because Jane had kids with Fred?
  • What if Jane has a kid with Fred and she breaks up with him and married Joe, who had a kid with Susan, and then Joe and Jane have a kid together– does their child together get the benefit, or lose it because it has two older siblings?

These would (obviously) be questions up for policy debate, but my personal stance is:

  • Would these benefits be available to teen parents? The benefits should kick in at 18, no earlier.
  • Would they be available to single parents (single moms)? Yes, all parents, regardless of marital status, gender, or sexual orientation.
  • What if Jane has two kids with Fred, and they break-up, and she marries (childless) Joe and has two kids? Do those kids get the benefit under Joe, or lose the benefit because Jane had kids with Fred? The younger two get the nationalized childcare, WIC, and baby box benefits through Joe, but the child tax credit will be determined based on how custody of Jane and Fred’s kids are split (ie, if the oldest two spend most of the year living with Jane and Joe, and they claim them as dependents on their taxes, they cannot claim the younger two for the higher child tax credit. But if the older two spend most of the year living with Fred, and are claimed as dependents on his taxes, then Jane and Joe can claim the younger two for the higher child tax credit on their taxes). 
  • What if Jane has a kid with Fred and she breaks up with him and married Joe, who had a kid with Susan, and then Joe and Jane have a kid together– does their child together get the benefit, or lose it because it has two older siblings? Similar to above situation– the youngest child is the first of Joe+Jane, and second to both Joe and Jane, which makes it eligible for the nationalized daycare, WIC, and baby box, as well as the 2nd child tax credit. The first child tax credit will be determined according to who claims custody of the older kids and lists them as dependants on their taxes. (If Fred and Susan, respectively, claim primary custody/ dependency of the older two, then Jane and Joe could claim their offspring as a 1st child tax credit). 

I do think it’s important to nudge parents toward a replacement level birthrate, with policies that encourage, reward, and ease the path for 1st and 2nd-time parents, but are less inclusive toward 3rd+ parents. Not punishing or outright outlawing, because we saw what happened in China– but more like, “Eh, sure. You can have that 3rd kid … but heads up, all those perks like free daycare and a sweet baby box and fat child tax credit aren’t gonna be there this time around. The kid is your reward. Enjoy.”

Side note, I also think the IRS should allow up to $500 pet tax credit for a maximum of 2 large pets (dogs, cats, or horses) which have been licensed and registered, because vet bills, food, and housing are expensive, yo. But if you’re found guilty of animal cruelty, you have to repay the credits collected for the lifetime of the pet in question.

 

 

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worn down

Recently I reviewed some old blog posts from 2004-2005 (no longer online, but I have a personal archive), and I realized that I don’t really like to dwell on the negative, or blog about it.

This is pretty common, I know– there are no end of thinkpieces about people putting their best foot forward on social media, and not blogging or instagramming or FBing the difficult parts of their lives. A lot of those posts seem to assume this tendency is about “likes,” or online popularity, or embarrassment, or something like that.

I dunno. Maybe sometimes it is. For me, as I re-read those entries from 2004-2005, I find myself surprised at how forcefully cheerful I am– I chatter about sewing, baking bread, church, how much I love my husband and child, and holiday shopping. I recount visits with family, cute things my kid did, and social activities.

What’s interesting to me, reading those entries, is all the things I don’t say. At that time in my life, there was a fair amount of negative, unhappy things happening and a lot of heartache. I was pretty miserable, depressed, and lonely. I was still grieving my mom, yet incredibly angry at her. My husband and I were trying for a second child without any luck, and I was grappling with the reality of secondary infertility. I was furious, too, with my husband– we were in a rough spot in our marriage, and I felt disrespected, isolated, and lonely.

Almost none of this bleeds through in the entries. There are occasional throwaway lines about my disappointment over yet another failed pregnancy test, but the unhappiness of that era is most noticeable, to me, in the absence of mention: there are entries detailing endless fond anecdotes of my child, or my siblings, or my dad, or shopping trips, hobbies, and activities– but little to nothing about my husband or mom.

Mom used to say, if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

There are long gaps of weeks or months with no entries at all, and then a flurry of chipper entries recounting breathless delights. It actually reminds me of a film I’ve long enjoyed, Just Married. There’s a quote near the end from Tom’s (Ashton Kutcher) dad:

Some days your mother and me loved each other. Other days we had to work at it. You never see the hard days in a photo album… but those are the ones that get you from one happy snapshot to the next. I’m sorry your honeymoon stunk but that’s what you got dealt. Now you gotta work through it. Sarah doesn’t need a guy with a fat wallet to make her happy. I saw how you love this girl. How you two lit each other up. She doesn’t need any more security than that.

I think for me, writing– journaling, blogging, online posting, whatever– has always been a form of memory. Snapshots of life preserved for the future– both for myself, my children, and future generations. I suppose, growing up Mormon, it was inevitable that I would view journaling (and all related forms of autobiographical writing) as archival rather than personal, and have always written with the sense of recording memories. And like the character quoted above says, we don’t preserve unhappy memories– just the good ones. We preserve the ones that help us get through the unhappy times, in hopes the good times will return again.

It’s a self-preservation strategy, I think. A neurological tool by which we as a species, no doubt, deal with the realities of day-to-day hardships. Relationships, friendships, work–life is hard. If you don’t preserve the happy moments and consciously focus on them, prioritize them, it can be easy to get dragged down into a negative mindset where everything is hard and miserable and nothing is worthwhile. Where the only thought in your head is, “Why? Why do I bother? What’s the fucking point?”

Life isn’t happiness and roses. But sometimes, really rarely, it is. And I guess it’s nice to pretend that it can be more often than not.

I swear, it feels like every time I break my personal rule (don’t start a series still in-progress) it’s 11th grade and The Wheel of Time series all over again. I just want closure! I just want the end! 

I know books take a long time to write and it’s hard to force creativity and life is busy and there are all these other commitments eating up their time but I just

want

story 

closure.

I just want to know who wins the Game of Thrones. 

I just want to know if book!Jon Snow survived the stabbening. (I mean, probably yes, obvs, but some written confirmation would be great). 

And while I’m on the topic, Patrick Rothfuss and Brandon Sanderson are breaking my heart, too. I mean, c’mon, Rothfuss! It was 4 years between Name of the Wind and A Wise Man’s Fear, and it’s been six years since with a single novella that isn’t even from Kvothe’s POV, an announcement of a video game and TV show, and NOTHING on the pub date for The Slow Regard of Silent Things? 

Whyyyyyyy?

And Sanderson. Gods. Sanderson. So prolific. So inspiring. It’s reassuring, honestly. I mean, you look at the sheer amount of books and series he’s got published (completed and in progress), and the publication dates– every year, another book or three– and it’s like, oh, it’s safe to start one of his series. This won’t be a decades-long exercise of agonizing, suspended satisfaction.

NOPE. 
I made the idiot mistake of starting The Stormlight Archive, which (like WoT, GoT and TKC) is set in a politically and socially complex world with a large cast of characters. It’s great. It’s meaty and in depth and breathtaking. 

And the first book was published in 2010, the second in 2014, and the third is slated to be published this year (a promise I’ve heard before–I’ll believe it when I see it). 

So in the best case, it’s a 3-4 year wait between books (but they’re getting written and published, so yay!), or, if it’s anything like what happened with Jordan and has been happening with Martin and Rothfuss, it’s pushing back publishing dates, delays, announcing aaallllllllll these other spin off projects, and just … endless waiting. 

And I feel awful for being impatient, I really do. I get that these are humans with lives, not entertainment machines to dance for my pleasure. Rothfuss and Martin have both historically reacted really poorly to expressions of fan impatience, which I do kind of understand– I can’t imagine the pressure of fame and contract. And, I mean, they’ve got all these other projects going on. Plus, I understand at least one of these guys (I think Rothfuss) is actually the stay at home dad to an infant/ toddler, and I know what a distraction that can be. 

But still. At the end of the day … the spin off projects only exist because of the fan base from the original (unfinished) book series. 

I understand success must be a unique frustration and pressure in and of itself, especially for a writer (who, generally speaking, is not like the actor or comedian in seeking the limelight; the writer hides their face behind the page, and sometimes their name behind pseudonyms), but I also think it’s valid for fans who just want story closure to express frustration at the incredibly visible decision (because of the interview circuit and blogging and vlogging and tweeting about it) of authors to dedicate the vast majority of their time and resources to all these other projects.

I mean, it kinda feels like their books aren’t getting completed or published because they’re not getting worked on very often, and their anger at their fans when asked about publication dates is borne (in part) of defensiveness. 

I’m not saying they aren’t getting worked on at all– Rothfuss has posted video of him writing to refute such accusations, and Martin has released sections on his blog. I’ve never thought they just gave up. 

I’m saying it’s more like …  I have a goal of writing 1,500 words a day, 5 days a week. The days John is working. In a good month, that’s 30,000 words. Except I usually write more in the range of 2,500 words on an uninterrupted 5 hr writing day (John works 8 hrs, but Kiddo gets out of school n dinner won’t cook itself), so that’s more like 50k/ words per month. 

Obviously, I’d prefer daily output to bump that up to around 70,000/ month, or almost a complete draft. And if I had the resources (like, say, a best selling series), I would probably make arrangements to sequester myself for one or two months of the year to do exactly that.

But I don’t have those resources. And I do have a lot of demands on my time. Housework, meal prep, subbing, budgeting, research, and high-priority household projects with deadlines (taxes, applications, disputes, etc). And there are only so many hours in a day, and my family wants to spend time with me too, so my average writing output is around 3k a month.

That’s a huge difference. I’m still working on my book, but there’s no world where you can argue I will realistically have a manuscript to submit to a literary agent by 2018 when I’m working at a snails pace of 3k words per month. And that’s the situation I think Martin, Rothfuss, and (to an extent) Sanderson find themselves in. Too many balls in the air, not enough hands to juggle.

The worst part is, I actually have reading guidelines I try to stick to. I started this stupid fluff series in 8th grade that just ended after book 3, no continuation or resolution, and I promised to myself then that I would never read an unfinished series again unless:

  1. Each book can be read as a standalone (eg, Vorkosagan Saga)
  2. It was nearly complete (1 or 2 books away from resolution).
  3. The author has demonstrated publishing consistancy and it’s a really good book.

Even with this, I often bite off more than I want to. The Green Rider series by Kristen Britain? Yeah, when I began reading that, I wasn’t married and it was supposed to be a trilogy. The sixth book was published in 2016, and honestly? Good writing, not a lot of closure. Felt like it was still laying plot lines for another book.

But I was okay with that because I had Harry Potter, and J.K. Rowling met the requirements of Rule 3, and (for the first few installments), Rule 1.

A lot of times when I pick up a book to read, I’m not even looking to “get into” a series. That’s how I got hooked on both the Stormlight Archive and Kingkiller Chronicles. At the time I read the first book in both of those, they were the only one published, and I didn’t realize they were the first books of planned series. 

I only started reading Maas’s Throne of Glass series after quick research reassured me that a) 5 out of 6 books were completed; b) she published on a steady schedule; and c) book 6 was slated to release in 2017. 

GoT, though, that’s all on me. 

In my defense, I started reading it in 2010, with 4 books published and the 5th slated for a 2011 release, after hearing it was originally planned to be a trilogy but ended up with two extra books because the author wrote himself into a Gordian knot. So I thought the series was all but wrapped up, and it wouldn’t be this big emotional cliffhanger of falling in love with a story that won’t commit. 

Should’ve known better. Hate to say it, but male authors, dude. They’re like bad boyfriends. They have the sweetest words, but just keep disappointing you.

Alma mater

Shit has apparently been hitting the fan at Evergreen. It came up in my FB feed the day of, and I’ve been kinda watching the news/ keeping an eye on developments/ cheering for the protesters. 

At first, I was kinda lost about why this was news. I don’t mean why there was a protest; I mean why off-campus news outlets were giving a fuck. Evergreen has been doing Day of Absence/ Day of Presence for years— I’m not sure when it started, but I started in 2012 and it was a tradition. 

Basically, on Day of Absence/ Day of Presence, minority students retreat from the campus and don’t participate. For DoA/DoP, “minority” has generally included, as I understand it, both POC and LGBTQA persons. The purpose is to highlight their value and impact in our communities, and the effect (loss) to the community felt by their absence. It’s also to honor the memory of lives taken too early by persecution and discrimination, as well as (I always felt) a quiet reminder that we cannot take the danger threatening the lives of our POC/ LGBTQA classmates and professor’s lightly, and must fight to protect their rights and safety.

I lived off campus and was a night/ weekend student, so I wasn’t exactly in thick of campus culture. I learned about this, literally, after the first DoA/ DoP while I was a student. I had no forewarning. Just one day there were these signs and banners about Day of Absence/ Day of Presence, and some of my classmates weren’t in class. 

When I asked what the Absence/ Presence thing was and it was explained, I thought it was pretty fuckin’ cool. Like the 1975 Women’s Strike in Iceland, when 90 percent of the women refused to go to work, cook, clean, or mind the children; and the men felt the impact of that intentional absence.

Now, the thing is DoA/DoP has always had it’s share of controversy and detractors. Apparently one of the debates that came up when I was there was about staff and faculty participation– some of the POC/LGBT staff and faculty wanted to participate– staff by not coming to their shift, and faculty by either cancelling classes, holding classes off-campus, or going off-syllabus for the days classroom discussion. Really cool and totally in the spirit, right? Except nope. 

Apparently a bunch of whiny (white) assholes (students and staff) got butthurt at the idea of their needs not being served for one fuckin day and decided to complain on behalf of aaallllllllll the white ppl on campus about how unfair it was to pay for services and tuition and classes (on campus thankyouverymuchsir) etc etc and then not receive them for even one day. It was the height of injustice, the very height. To even imagine. Gasp. Horror. Oh, and also, apparently some (white) students felt it was unfair their minority classmates “got” to skip, and thought they should be penalized, and some (white) professors (like Weinstein, I’m guessing) agreed and would penalize students for missing class or failing to turn in work without a valid excuse.

Hearing about all this after the fact was one of those times I was like damn, I wish I was more of a regular/ involved campus student, bc that’s some bullshit.

Anyway, so when I first heard about Weinstein, I assumed his complaints were more of that vein: “Wah wah, minorities aren’t catering to me for a day, oppression, wah wah!” and my only real confusion was why the usual campus tension had blown up. And yeah, I read the linked Weinstein emails, but it still wasn’t initially clear to me. 

I had this one image/ experience of DoA/DoP in my head, and nothing I was reading clarified what was different this year to precipitate all this, until this article in The Olympian: In wake of race protests at Evergreen, one lawmaker proposes to make it private.

So, basically, (I’m guessing bc all that white butthurt protest about any effective action by minorities to absent themselves from campus neutured the impact of the day) the organizer said (more or less), “Fine. You won’t let us leave campus on our terms for one day? Then how about this: you leave for the day. Go do your thing and let us have the campus to ourselves for a day without any racism or persecution fucking up our learning/ teaching/ working experiences. 

One day for Evergreen POC/ LGBTQA workers, students, and teachers to spend an entire day without having to deal with the bullshit. The cafeteria staff employee who pretends they don’t notice the exaggerated, fake accent that one white student uses “as a joke” when he orders while his friends laugh? He gets a day off from that bullshit. The black teacher who’s constantly being challenged by white male students half her age who are convinced they know the material better than her, even though she’s got a PhD and a career of experience? She gets a day off from their mansplaining, racist bullshit. The LGBTQA student with a white classmate or professor who insists on misgendering them, or joking about their identity? One day off from it.

One day to move through a small slice of the world with freedom and peace. One day where, instead of having doors closed to them, they close the doors.

Beautiful. Beautiful and heartbreaking and challenging and not nearly fucking enough.

Unless, apparently, you are Weinstein and/ or Manweller (the GOP fucker who wants Evergreen to go private as punishment for practicing free speech on the public dollar– btw, anyone else seeing the hypocrisy exposed here? Aren’t conservatives the ones beating the drum on the ills of the public dollar and the value of privitization? Isn’t DeVos trying to privitize public education nationwide? But Manweller goes straight to privitizing as a proposed punishment? Huh.).

Look, I actually agree with Manweller’s statement that when a public university (or, really, any publicly funded institution) sends the message either directly or indirectly that someone is unwelcome based on  skin color, a line has been crossed. It’s just that the asshole obviously doesn’t realize that is the fucking point of Day of Absence/ Day of Presence! Because the message has been and continues to be sent, overwhelmingly and disproptionately, that POC and LGBTQA students are unwelcome, and that crosses a fucking line! 

Recognizing that discrimination, inequality, and disparate impact exist and acknowledging it does not translate to white people being persecuted, wtf.

Also, what the FUCK is up with with white mainstream conservative christians co-opting historical persecution against religious and/or racial minorities to justify their narrative? That’s so fucked up. 

The Nazi’s were white christians who persecuted Jews, POC, Romany, LGBT, and the disabled, y’all, but Manweller actually fucking compares the POC, LGBTQA, and white ally protestors to Nazi Brownshirts. Like wtf, dude. Maybe don’t.

Sunshine

After a long, wet slog of a winter (and a horrific windstorm which may or may not have been a mini tornado; accounts differ), summer has arrived. 

In early summer, I wake at 5 a.m. without an alarm, roused by sunlight and birdsong. Eventually, I’ll adjust and begin sleeping in until 7 or 8 am. For now, I’m waking an hour before my alarm, to a long stretch of warm, golden hours, and the air smells of honey and fresh cut grass.

Yesterday we were coming home from a doctor’s appointment when something kind of upsetting happened. We’d stopped for some medicine, and as we were getting back into our car to leave, noticed the Kia Soul (Eco/hybrid model) parked in the spot next to us with two small dogs inside– like, very small, chihuahua-size– and the windows were barely cracked, with  vehicle parked in full sun with temperatures in the upper 70s/ lower 80s. 

Over the roof of our car, my husband told me we should call animal control. 

Well, the owner was actually nearby– apparently they’d just parked and were within hearing range, and when they heard my husband say that, the guy got very angry and confrontational. I’ll just call him Tryinta Killadog, since I never got his actual name.

Mr. Killadog stormed back, yelling, “You don’t think my dogs are safe? Look at them! Look! The windows are cracked!”

They’re barely cracked– so infinitesimally, it’s hard to see the gap of air against the rubber track cushioning the window frame. Less than a fingers width. My husband points this out.

Mr. Killadog protests they were “barely” going to be in the store, and would be out in less than 5 min. Note: He was going into Costco– tell me the last Costco trip that took less than 15 min, max. Even a 15 minute trip is either  just browsing or a lucky fluke with no lines, which you can’t count on!

For reference, temperatures inside a car can increase by 20 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 min; 30 degrees in 20 min, and so on. So while the outside temp may be a balmy 70 degrees (or 75, as it was yesterday morning), inside the car it can quickly reach temperatures in excess of 100. Dogs also have a higher body temperature than humans and a different thermoregulation biology, both of which put them at increased risk in hot vehicles.

Mr. Killadog storms up to his car and jabs an angry finger at the Eco/Electric insignia, almost frothing at the mouth as he screams, “It’s electric, you morons! The air conditioner is on! They’re fine!”

The a/c was not on, btw. First, and most obviously, even an electric motor makes noise– it’s not the distinctive growl of a carburated motor, but anyone who’s ever used any sort of electric motor or cooling unit (think computers, gaming consoles, pool pumps, etc) knows they aren’t absolutely silent. Quieter than carbureted engines, sure. Absolutely silent, to the point you can’t tell if they’re on or not? No.

Second, if it was on, why was that Mr. Killadog’s third response/ defense? First he pointed to gapped windows, then the brief time he claimed they would shop, and then he flailed to the a/c defense.

Third, what kind of idiot runs their a/c with the windows cracked? If the a/c was on, why crack the windows at all?

Anyway, so Mr. Killadog’s companion (apparently waiting at the store entrance) appeared at this point to take the membership card from him, then left. Mr. Killadog invited us to go ahead and call the police, saying he’d wait with us, and got into his car. He rolled down the window and turned on the a/c (we heard the hum of the electric motor and the a/c compassion pump kicking on). 

Well, there’s not much to call the cops about at that point, other than the concern that as soon as we leave this asshole will lock his dogs right back up in that hot oven of a car. And since Mr. Killadog clearly thinks treating his dogs like this is harmless, and is loudly mocking us while filming us from his vehicle, we go ahead and make that call.

The police promise to send someone out, but also advise us to leave the immediate situation and not engage with the confrontational, angry man, which makes sense to me. So we drove away, with Mr. Killadog yelling, “Oh, oh, where you going? Huh? I thought we were waiting for the police? Huh? Where you running off to, huh?”

But instead of actually leaving, my husband circled around the building returned to parked a few rows behind the car. That was at 11:48 a.m. The initial confrontation began approximately 9 minutes prior.

Mr. Killadog stayed in the car, windows now up, for a few more minutes. Then he exited the vehicle and began pacing around it. He leaned against the driver’s side window, back to us, apparently scanning the parking lot. 

At 12:04, he straightened up, apparently spotting someone, and left the vehicle to meet his companion. 

In other words, as angry as Mr. Killadog was about our “invasive” and “unnecessary” intervention, it probably saved his dogs’ from heatstroke (at minimum). 

The shopping trip–even (presumably) curtailed due to our influence, still lasted 16 minutes if you’re counting by the timeline most forgiving to Mr. Killadog; the one which begins some 10 min after he initially locked the dogs in the car and walked away. 

If you start from when we first noticed the dogs, at 11:39, that’s a 26 minute shopping trip– nearly half an hour the dogs would have been in a sealed car when it was 75 degrees outside.

The only reason the dogs had a/c and fully cracked windows during that time was because we spoke up, and their owner (angrily, defensively, mockingly) complied with our objections to prove he had his dogs best interests in mind.

It was uncomfortable and upsetting. I dislike interfering in other people’s affairs, being yelled at, and being filmed/ photographed without my consent. Everything about the interaction was extremely uncomfortable and anxiety inducing for me. 

But it was also the right thing thing to do. We had no way of knowing how long the dogs had been and would be in the car, and even after the owner returned, his belligerent aspect and manner implied he did not believe there was any risk to the dogs’ health.

I don’t think anyone has any idea what to do here.

I’ve been developing a theory about why people (on both sides of the aisle) are so slow to submit articles of impeachment on Trump.

Article II of the United States Constitution states in Section 4 that “The President, Vice President, and all civil Officers of the United States shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other High Crimes and Misdemeanors.”

Impeachment isn’t just reserved for the president. It can be done to nearly everyone in the administration tainted by this Russia thing, or the data-analytics/ psyops vote-tampering campaign manipulation tactics being covered by The Guardian, or who engaged in collusion and obstruction of justice, and really, I think it’s obvious that almost his entire administration is corrupt and inept. Even those Trump appointees who came on-board with no previous involvement to either the Russia thing or the Mercer data analytics psyops voting manipulation thing are now tainted by the administration-wide efforts to obsfucate, conceal, and impede the investigations.

And the thing is … we’ve never dealt with that. It’s unprecedented. There’s no blueprint. 

Nixon was impeached (resigned to avoid impeachment, whatever), near the end of his term, and replaced by Gerald Ford, who seemed to have been generally unpopular guy, and failed to win a consecutive term as the incumbent candidate.

Clinton’s whole drama wrapped up right at the end of his presidency, and we just transitioned from a Clinton administration to the Bush administration.

So what’s the replacement protocol when an incoming adminstration has failed to fill a majority of the necessary positions of government, and of the appointments they filled, nearly universally chose unqualified persons based on nepotism or other dubious connections to Trump, Russia, and/ or the Mercer family? 

I don’t think Congress or our Senators know. I don’t think anyone does. A US president has never been impeached just 6 months into office. A US presidential administration has never been impeached, ever.

Maybe that’s why our politicians are hesitating to move on submitting articles of impeachment? 

Because think about it: who’s supposed to lead the government while Trump is impeached and his adminstration cleaned up?

Are we supposed to give Pence a pass? Let Trump’s VP pick– the stalwart Trump apologist and ready spin machine, who’s colluded in the White House obstruction of information? I don’t think so. He’s just as culpable as Trump and the rest.

Thus far, presidents have only been replaced by vice presidents. The current presidential line of succession provides for 17 high office appointees after Pence, and they’re all compromised in some way. Those untainted by Mercer/ Russian/ nepotism issues prior to their appointments have spent the last 6 months colluding with the administration in their efforts to subvert the Russian investigation and obstruct justice through talking points and minimization. And one–Ellen Chao–isn’t even eligible to be president, as she’s not a natural born citizen, which shortens the list by one.

Then there’s the issue of the GOP-dominant House of Representatives. They might be convinced to agree to impeach Trump, but definitely not the rest.  

With their hands tied, knowing that submitting the articles of impeachment will go nowhere in the current House, Dems might be hoping to flip enough seats for a Congressional majority in the midterm elections, and then submit the articles of impeachment for a vote.

The GOP might surprise everyone and start the impeachment of Trump themselves. It would go a long ways to redeeming them politically with moderates, and there’s a possibility it could satiate the resistance enough to diffuse (temporarily) the loudest protests. Correctly timed, the sacrifice might even preserve their Congressional majority.

Hypothetically, if we went ahead and pushed for a full administration impeachment, who would oversee the government until a new president is elected? Would we have a midterm presidential election?

A logical compromise seems like an interim bipartisan council-led leadership, with a midterm presidential election, but is that a good idea when we don’t know if we have adequate protections against the psyops/ data analytics manipulations of voting behaviors that landed Trump in the White House? 

And who would form the leadership council? Former (living) presidents? Have Senators draw from a hat? 

I think the most obvious solution is to impeach the administration, pass an amendment which dissolves be the electoral college with a clause stating the amendment applies retroactively to it’s passage up to a specified amount of years, and install President Clinton, the winner if the popular vote.

I also think the GOP would cry foul at that and run around screaming like they’re chickens with they’re heads cut off. Weird how they’re totally chill–like, stoned levels of cool–when the GOP president spends every weekend at a golf resort, alienates allies and praises dictators, causes a crisis a week, and unnecessarily riskes the lives of intelligence agents, special ops forces, and US soldiers … but freaks out by a democratic president being polite to international allies. (Anyone remember “apology tour”? Fuckin’ GOP.)

So, yeah. I think part of the reason nothing’s happening is because the entire Trump administration is corrupt, and no one quite knows how to go about replacing e an entire government less  than 6 months after it replaced the last guy. And we can’t even bring Obama back as the gap/ interim president, both because that’s against the law and the GOP would freak.

So instead everyone just basically watches as Trump has a pressure-induced meltdown, and I honestly would not be surprised if this ends with Trump having a heart attack mid-tweet tirade, or hanging himself in despondent self loathing when he finally realizes how unpopular he actually is.

Glad game

I think I’ma do this once a week. I’m not good at remembering to post nightly. But I’ma stay with the whole person/ place/ thing format, because that’s easy.

So. This week, as I play the glad game, I find myself thinking about how glad I am for …

Person: My husband. Aww, you knew he was gonna end up on this list eventually. He always does. I’m particularly glad for him this week, because my latest venture into the (contract position) workforce started with a 3-day position that covers two of his days off. So he’s been doing sahd-stuff, manning the fort and handling chores and making dinner and dealing with the hours of non-adult interaction. It’s been nice to come home and the chores are done. I really like it.

Place: Leavenworth. I like the town. I like the architecture, the shops, the kitchsy German feel of it … I dunno. I just like it. I think it would be fun to stay there for a weekend. Or a month. I like the mountains, too, and the whole pretty landscape. The place just makes me happy.

Thing: My parent’s Matryoshka doll. I’d forgotten her, but there’s a little Russian shop in Leavenworth that reminded me–my sister and I used to spend so much time taking her apart and lining her and all her sisters (babies?) up in a row, then nesting them one inside the other. I’d always try to line up the edges of the painted flowers flawlessly.  My parents had steamer trunks of treasures from across the sea: matryoshka dolls and dirndls, bunads and lederhosen, tyroleon hats and real woollen Norwegian sweaters. There were treasures from the past, too: black and white photographs, or those 60’s color tinted ones, of a young and unrecognizably playful couple; a handful of political ribbons and a too-big button saying NIXON; a black and white photograph of a gangly young teenager, smiling at the camera from the 1950s; an armful of cured buckskins from real live deer that had been hunted and shot and skinned by that smiling boy from so long ago. It was always a treat when they opened those trunks and revealed the mysteries of such foreign lands as overseas, or the past. I loved it. I guess that’s more of a memory than a thing, since I don’t have the matryoshka doll, but that’s okay. It’s still a thing that makes me happy 

Friday glad game

Person: Blu, who showed me what to do and where to go on my first day, and was patient with my questions.

Place: My happy place only exists in my imagination, like Cosette’s castle on a cloud. Mine is no castle, though– sometimes it’s a rambling beach house with a wraparound porch, the whitewashed rooms open and bright with natural light. There are windows everywhere, and wooden floors, and it is sparsely furnished. The taste of salt spray lingers in the air, and the crash of waves is a drumbeat on the shore. Sometimes it’s a little cottage in the mountains, cozy and snug, nestled in a glade of evergreens where the tips of the trees meet far overhead in a delicately tracery of branches criss-crossing like a star against the pale glow of the sky, and a stream runs clear and bright behind. 

These are my happy places. They may only exist in my imagination palace, but I’m glad of them.

Thing: Mom had an embroidered flower pin brooch she used to wear to church that ended up with me after her death. I turned it into a necklace. Every time I wear it, I remember sitting on the corner of Mom’s bed, watching her get ready for church. Watching her carefully pin that brooch to her blouse, just above her heart, and the way she would catch my eye and smile at my reflection.  

Today I am glad for …

Person: For my son, who played the glad game with me while we did errands. What a cool kid, right? The topic of grandparents came up, and we talked a little bit about my mom– he wishes he could’ve known her. He asked me if she would like him, and I couldn’t help laughing a little. I was like, “Yes. She would adore you, and she’d love watching me raise you. I bet she’d get a real kick outta that.”

Mom used the parent’s curse a lot: “I hope you have one just like you!” 

Welp. I did. Bet she’d love that. (She actually would, and not like in a sarcastic way).

Place: I am glad I have​ a comfortable living situation. Our rent is affordable, our neighborhood is quiet, we have a cute backyard and some pretty trees, and when something breaks, we email the property manager (who’s a fantastic landlord– timely and responsive when needed, and otherwise makes herself scarce). 

Sometimes I miss the house, but it’s curious– it’s never home ownership I miss. I don’t miss fixing things (or paying for it, haha), or dealing with the bank or mortgage company. 

I miss things like the way the sun came through the kitchen window in the morning and washed the entire room with a soft glow, or the warm colors of the wood parquet flooring, or the dog darting across the vast brightness of the backyard when freshly mowed in spring. I miss the airy, open feel of 1500 sq ft in the early spring, with the windows open and a honeyed breeze wafting through the rooms.

But those are moments, flashes of memory that really have nothing to do with whether we owned or rented. And I prefer the storage options in our new place (no hall closets or linen closets in the old place; none!), as well as the neighborhood, schools, town, location (good walkability, close to shops, freeway access) and vastly shortened commute (House=40 min one way. Rental=5 min one way).

Just really glad we live here. It’s a good place.

Thing: A thing I am grateful for … hmmmm. I’m pretty grateful for the Constitution and Bill of Rights, and the constitutionally-appointed Supreme Court currently doing their best to stop some moron from pissing all over them.

Wednesday gratitudes 

Person:

I have two amazing women in my life who are great friends and inspirations to me, and I’m pretty lucky because they’re my Unbook Club pals, too– I can pretty reliably count on the pleasure of at least one of them accepting an invitation to Unbook Club, so I don’t feel like all alone. Of course, the beauty of Unbook Club is that you’re never really alone among fellow book-lovers– I have to say, I’m glad I found Unbook Club, and met the lovely regulars.

Place:

Keeping with the bookish theme, I do like the wine bar Unbook Club is held at. It’s got a nice, casual vibe to it– laid back and welcoming. The food is good, the menu is affordable, and the few wine flights I’ve tried are pretty nice.

Thing:

Going three for three, I am glad for books and publishing. I’m glad to live in this era, when literacy is common, it’s acceptable for women to read, and books are both plentiful and affordable. These are all things that make me happy.