Go Mo’Ne! Go Emma! Re-post

I am reposting this blog from a few months ago in honor of Mo’Ne Davis and Emma March, two girls in this year’s Little League World Series. As I type this, Mo’Ne’s team from Pennsylvania is ahead 3-0, and Mo’Ne has pitched 6 up, 6 down. Forty years ago girls were allowed to try out for Little League–that’s the year I tried out, documented below. Over the years 17 girls have joined Mo’Ne and Emma at the LLWS–I’m thinking we can do better, but I’m so happy to be watching them now. Girlpower! Here’s a link to a NYT article on girls in Little League worth reading.

Blog–

I was a pretty good baseball player when I was a kid. I could hit and catch and run. For my 9th birthday, I got a genuine leather mitt, one like the big league players used. My dad and I rubbed that mitt with oil and wrapped it up with a ball in the pocket. I sat in my bedroom, in my lime green beanbag chair and spent hours tossing the regulation hardball into the mitt’s pocket. I loved the solid thwap it made when it hit the webbing.

We lived in the boondocks, so there wasn’t really anyone to play catch with, but I threw that ball in the air as high as I could so I could catch it. I tried valiantly and in vain to teach my little brother how to throw. Poor kid—he was only five when he had to endure my berating his terrible arm and aim. Somehow the two of us and the occasional neighbor kid (I use the term neighbor loosely as no one lived within a mile of us) spent hours in the field behind the house playing the best version of the game we could muster amongst ourselves. Mostly our time consisted of shagging overthrown or underthrown balls or wild pitches.

I don’t know where I even learned about the game—we didn’t have television when I was growing up and neither of my parents was much for sports. I have vague recollections of watching the occasional baseball game on tv when I’d visit my grandparents, but the overarching memory there is one of sheer boredom. Nothing seemed to move more slowly than a baseball game on tv. I don’t remember anyone schooling me on the fine points of the game until I was well into my 20s, but somehow I knew the rules.

We played during recess at school. Once our 7th grade teacher let us all out to play on a beautiful spring day. I remember because  I made a miraculous diving catch, snagging a rocketed line drive and my teacher Ms. Allen lavished me with praise, a moment that crystallized in my memory and probably contributed to my lifelong affinity for the game. I adored Ms. Allen and would have gone to the ends of the earth to recreate that moment in time (this proclivity has created all sorts of issues for me, but that’s another blog).

I only tried out once for a baseball team though, in spite of my deep desire to play. Back in the day (way back, people, before Title IX), we had only Little League, and everyone knew that only boys got to play Little League baseball. But I had no alternatives. There were no other places to play, at least not in our little logging town—no girls’ softball through parks and rec and certainly no girls’ sports at the local junior high school I attended.

I didn’t know of any other girls who wanted to try out for Little League, but Billie Jean King had recently defeated Bobby Riggs in The Battle of the Sexes and obviously a seed had been planted in me. Remember try-outs? Remember the days when not everyone who showed up got a ribbon and a place on the team? I showed up for Little League try-outs in Sultan, Washington in 1975. I ran bases with the boys. I fielded grounders and caught fly balls. And I hit line drives out of the infield.

I still remember the ping of the ball flying off the bat the first time I took a swing in the batter’s box, but more than the ping, I remember the collective intake of breath from the onlookers. The shock that a girl could actually hit a pitch, a hard ball, a boys’ baseball, not some looping fat softball pitch (not to disparage my lesbian sisters who played softball). I made it to first.

I made it to first, but I didn’t make the team because an obstacle larger and more unbeatable than Bobby Riggs stood between me and my baseball dreams: Larry Stucker.  Larry Stucker was the stuff of legends in our little town, known to all of the kids anyway as Stucker the Trucker, the Mean Old Fucker.  He drove his own logging truck and his wife was the nicest, meekest woman who taught Sunday school at our church. I was in class with his kid, Shawn, a scrawny, big-nosed, big-eared kid who looked just like his old man and couldn’t play baseball worth a damn. Larry Stucker coached the Little League team I would have been on had he taken me on my merits but Stucker the Trucker wasn’t about to have any girls on his team. I hope he’s still alive and watching these girls demonstrate their talents.

baseballmitt2

My original mitt. I still have it and even use it occasionally.

Michael Brown, Ferguson, MO, and WTH Country is This?

I’ve been thinking long and hard about writing this blog—frankly, the idea exhausts me. I don’t know if I can find the words to express the feelings I have about what is happening in Ferguson, what I feel about our country and our president and our law enforcement, how I feel as the mother of two African American children, how I feel as I watched protesters and journalists tear gassed and confronted by militarized police officers. Just the thought of putting my feelings into words makes me want to go to bed and pull the covers over my head. I am tired. But my feelings and emotions are nothing compared to those of Michael Brown’s parents, to those of the citizens of Ferguson, to the citizens of Chicago and Florida and Texas and Los Angeles and New York City and everywhere else in this country where the lives of black men have no value except as firearm fodder.

Don’t argue with me—the statistics are out there, the video is out there, the reality is that young black men don’t have a chance in hell against our culture. Even if they do everything right, even if their parents stay married, raise them in the suburbs, send them to the best schools, shelter them away at night, even then their chances of being stopped by police, mistaken for criminals, shot in the back, put in a choke hold, arrested for minor offenses no white person would ever be arrested for are astronomically high relative to their population. At every turn they are discriminated against—they have been portrayed in the media as simple child-like creatures and as frightening monsters, vilified at every turn.

Oh, I hear you thinking—they just need to behave better, stick around to raise their kids, stop acting like gangsters, and stop looting. But that’s the media telling you lies. I’m not here to prove it to you—I’m here to rant about it and let you do your own goddamned research. For starters read Ronald Takaki’s amazing book A Different Mirror, then read this article: http://www.alternet.org/civil-liberties/11-shocking-facts-about-americas-militarized-police-forces and then this one http://www.nytimes.com/2014/08/14/opinion/charles-blow-michael-brown-and-black-men.html?smid=fb-share, and then watch Marlon Rigg’s video Ethnic Notions.

Then, I challenge you to raise two kids of color and watch how they are treated differently. Consider being stopped and searched every time you cross the border back from Canada into your own fucking country. Every time. Think about being owned. Lynched. Flogged. Assumed guilty/stupid/inferior because you have brown skin. Then think about living in a systemic state of oppression and discrimination for the past 300 years. Imagine living in a country where all men are decreed equal but not being able to vote, get a loan, buy a house, get into college, or even walk down the street without being harassed. Imagine your every accomplishment and achievement being questioned, being assumed that your success is due only to affirmative action or cheating. Imagine assuming that your children have more of a chance of going to prison than of going to college.

Imagine that every time your children leave home, you may not see them alive again. Imagine them lying dead in the street, shot by the police who have vowed to protect this country’s citizens, shot not because they did anything wrong, but because they are Black. Imagine that you have no redress, that the cops won’t be held accountable. That the president of the United States has been silent (until today) on the matter–we’ve sent troops to foreign countries for lesser acts of aggression. He needs to stop being so fucking conciliatory and send in the feds (and hope they do a better job).

NOW tell me that you will sit quietly in your living room and wait for justice, that you won’t protest in the streets, that you won’t demand something be done so this doesn’t happen again.

 

Doin’ the Blog Hop

Way back in April, my writer friend and fellow AROHO attendee and Haiku Room contributor Lisa Rizzo invited me to a blog hop. Unfortunately, the timing of that blog hop coincided with the first week of graduate school and I never had the chance to write that blog. Earlier this week, my good friend Cami Ostman accepted an invitation to a blog hop, and though she didn’t explicitly invite me to participate, she did list my blog as one of three that she “keeps an eye on.” Both of these women inspire me and when I read Cami’s blog I realized with dismay that I’d never completed my commitment to Lisa. Then today I got a ping from my good writing buddy and recently published author Kari (Rhymes with Safari) Neumeyer asking me to participate in her blog hop. I am honored and yes! I will participate. Thank you for the invites ladies.

The various blogs had different questions, so I present to you a bit of a mash up:

What are you working on?
I am happy to report that I just finished my second paper for this quarter, this one for my Systems Perspectives in Family Therapy class, entitled (hang on to your hats, kids, this is really exciting) “The Butterfly Effect: Looking at Strategic Therapy Through a Dynamic Systems Lens.” So happy to have that one wrapped up. My pal Linda read it this evening and said that while it wasn’t my finest bit of creative writing, I’d done a heckuva job making an academic topic easy to understand. I’ll take that. A couple of weeks ago, I wrote a personal reflection paper for my Human Development in Context, Gender: A Lifespan Perspective course, entitled “A Heavy Gaze: My Gender Identity Development. “ I’m still pondering posting that paper to my blog—I found it much more difficult to write than I had anticipated as it touched on some very personal (and deeply seated) experiences. Between my papers for the Licensed Mental Health Counselor (LMHC) program in which I am enrolled, I dabble in haiku and non-fiction essay writing via my blog. I do, of course, still have the proverbial “book in the bottom drawer,” my memoir to which Kari referred that I pull out occasionally to work on. Mostly though, I just think about it and pilfer material from it for my personal reflection essays for school.

Why do you write what you do?
I write to make sense of my world. I know that sounds cliché, and I think Joan Didion said it first (and more eloquently, perhaps), but it’s true. Everything I write, academic papers included, puts my life in some perspective. The two essays I’ve had anthologized deal with my experiences as a lesbian and how I struggled (and still struggle) to make that identity work for me in a world that would prefer I be something than who I authentically am. I write haikus to make sense of daily occurences—quick, distilled sense of individual moments. My blog is a sort of sounding board where I put stuff up that I’ve been pondering to see if it makes sense to other people as well. Also, I write because I totally dig feedback. I love people’s reaction to my writing—I want to read and hear what they think about what I’ve written, the questions I raise, the points I make.

How does my writing process work?
I loved Cami’s answer to this question—she wrote about her very literal process, from blocking out the time on the calendar to putting her butt in the chair. For me, my writing begins with a niggling idea in the back of my head, a thought that won’t go away and begins to gain traction. I am a poor scheduler—I write when I feel so moved, when that idea can’t be contained in my head any longer. Then I pull out my laptop and sit my butt in the chair. That’s my process for essays/blogs anyway. With haiku, I’m more intentional. I write in my journal or, just as often, on my iPhone’s notepad application, and jot down a word or a phrase that has caught my attention. Then I word map/free associate and jot down related words or images. I try to think in metaphors and similes when I write haiku. Of course I count syllables. Occasionally, a haiku will come to me as if the heavens have opened up and the angels are singing the Alleluia chorus, but that’s rare. Exciting, but not very reliable.

Where do you like to write?
I am most productive when I write at home. I write a surprising amount of haiku while I’m in bed, either before I go to sleep or first thing in the morning. As I type this blog, I am in bed, in fact. That said, I am a very social writer. I prefer to write with friends in coffee shops around town or at our local independent movie theater, The Pickford where they have a nice selection of beverages and inexpensive popcorn. I like to be out and about—I begin to chafe if I am alone with myself for too long.

What are your favorite books to give as gifts?
For baby showers, I always give Anne Lamott’s Operating Instructions. Other than that, it really depends on the person. I like to give books that will speak to the recipient. Mary Doria Russell’s The Sparrow and Children of God are probably the ones I would give most often—they are absolutely one-of-a-kind books. Practically indescribable and altogether brilliant.

Three blogs—besides Kari’s, Cami’s, and Lisa’s—that I read regularly (but with whom I have not discussed a blog hop):

Jolene’s Life in Focus—Jolene takes amazing photographs and writes just as well. Her blog is a wonderful combination of travel adventure and photography. She has a great eye and is a funny, astute writer. We met in a memoir class and continue to meet regularly to write and to talk about writing and her memoir, Spirited Away which chronicles her adventures across Ireland.

Hooked: One Woman at Sea Trolling for Truth—I met my friend Tele in memoir class as well. Her book, with the same name as her blog, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books in the next year. When she’s not fishing in Alaska, she makes her home in Bellingham. A self-described feminist, yoga-posing, vegetarian, tree-hugging fisherman, Tele is warmth and grace personified, qualities that show up in her writing as well as in her life.

Jennifer Wilke—Jennifer is another Bellinghamster who writes with wit and courage about caregiving for her aging mother. Her blog is full of poignant and humorous moments—insights in the most difficult moments. She is also working diligently on a Civil War novel, The Color of Prayer, based on her great-grandfather’s letters.