Wednesday, August 24, 2016

It's not like you know me



One of the most disturbing comments anyone has ever made regarding the abuse I suffered as a child came from my non-biological sister when I was about 35 years old, maybe slightly older: "Well, you probably deserved it."

I'm not going to release her name; she knows who she is. And for the record, she is no more my sister than those lesbians out there in the world who claim they are mine...simply because there is some shared "history." Just because we grew up together, doesn't mean we're related.


Also, for the record, she never used to call me by my full name, nor by the shortened name many had started to, "Becca," ("Becky" was the usual, which I now despise), but she insisted on calling me "Mucca," which a tiny little neighbour girl had begun calling me when I was 12, because she couldn't pronounce my full name...and that's fine coming from a 4 yr old...but my (non)sister insisted on calling me this well into my adulthood. And when I finally asked her to stop, she started calling me, "Ree-becca," which is not how my name is pronounced at all. And I had to one day ask her to stop calling me that, as well. And she actually asked, "Well, how is your name pronounced?" 


I am very often not sure what to think of people. Even people I supposedly know. I have decided you don't really know anyone, not really, other than what you observe, and what information you are provided with, by them, or someone else...and what you are provided with may not be the truth either...so there you go.


I've been told I'm difficult to get to know, that I'm arrogant, and off-putting. As if those latter two are negative (they aren't, always). I've been told I'm brave, and strong, and old beyond my years, and (now) young belying my years...and I think, why don't people stop applying labels to people? Why don't people just fucking pay attention and ask questions and learn?


I didn't deserve the abuse I suffered up until I was 16. No one who has ever been abused would ever say to another who has been abused, "Well, you must have deserved it." Because, in the world of the non-abused, that's the only way it makes sense, right? Well, you asked for it. You deserved it.

Human beings are strange, complicated, and sometimes really stupid creatures. They have brains that allow some of them to create technology and machines that can build machines that sail them across the oceans, or through space. And they also develop machines and chemicals that wipe out forests, and wildlife, and human life...sometimes simply because they can. It's very, very disturbing.

And so when I look back on my pseudo-sibling, and her asinine comment, I think (as I did say that day), "How can you say that? How can you THINK that? I was a child. A CHILD. I knew nothing, and only trusted. You weren't abused. You can't even speak on this subject."

I think, I think, that she changed her way of thinking following that conversation. I don't know for sure, because we no longer speak, due to a poorly spoken comment she made following the death of my father. I've made it clear I no longer wish to speak to her at all (there's a reason why I moderate comments on this blog). The important thing is, I may not have had much control as a child, or a teen, or maybe not as a young adult, but I have control now, and no one gets away with shit now...no one.


It's not like you know me



One of the most disturbing comments anyone has ever made regarding the abuse I suffered as a child came from my non-biological sister when I was about 35 years old, maybe slightly older: "Well, you probably deserved it."

I'm not going to release her name; she knows who she is. And for the record, she is no more my sister than those lesbians out there in the world who claim they are mine...simply because there is some shared "history." Just because we grew up together, doesn't mean we're related.


Also, for the record, she never used to call me by my full name, nor by the shortened name many had started to, "Becca," ("Becky" was the usual, which I now despise), but she insisted on calling me "Mucca," which a tiny little neighbour girl had begun calling me when I was 12, because she couldn't pronounce my full name...and that's fine coming from a 4 yr old...but my (non)sister insisted on calling me this well into my adulthood. And when I finally asked her to stop, she started calling me, "Ree-becca," which is not how my name is pronounced at all. And I had to one day ask her to stop calling me that, as well. And she actually asked, "Well, how is your name pronounced?" 


I am very often not sure what to think of people. Even people I supposedly know. I have decided you don't really know anyone, not really, other than what you observe, and what information you are provided with, by them, or someone else...and what you are provided with may not be the truth either...so there you go.


I've been told I'm difficult to get to know, that I'm arrogant, and off-putting. As if those latter two are negative (they aren't, always). I've been told I'm brave, and strong, and old beyond my years, and (now) young belying my years...and I think, why don't people stop applying labels to people? Why don't people just fucking pay attention and ask questions and learn?


I didn't deserve the abuse I suffered up until I was 16. No one who has ever been abused would ever say to another who has been abused, "Well, you must have deserved it." Because, in the world of the non-abused, that's the only way it makes sense, right? Well, you asked for it. You deserved it.


Human beings are strange, complicated, and sometimes really stupid creatures. They have brains that allow some of them to create technology and machines that can build machines that sail them across the oceans, or through space. And they also develop machines and chemicals that wipe out forests, and wildlife, and human life...sometimes simply because they can. It's very, very disturbing.


And so when I look back on my pseudo-sibling, and her asinine comment, I think (as I did say that day), "How can you say that? How can you THINK that? I was a child. A CHILD. I knew nothing, and only trusted. You weren't abused. You can't even speak on this subject."


I think, I think, that she changed her way of thinking following that conversation. I don't know for sure, because we no longer speak, due to a poorly spoken comment she made following the death of my father. I've made it clear I no longer wish to speak to her at all (there's a reason why I moderate comments on this blog). The important thing is, I may not have had much control as a child, or a teen, or maybe not as a young adult, but I have control now, and no one gets away with shit now...no one.



Monday, August 15, 2016

Letting them go

This morning my sweetie and I had to euthanize her elderly cat, LC (Little Cat). She was as close to 20 yrs old as you can get, without paperwork. She wasn't doing very well at the end, but even so, it was the first time she had refused her breakfast, and barely drank her water, she could barely walk, and the litter box, when she could get to it, was more miss than hit, so I think it was okay.

Euthanasia is not an easy decision to make. I've done it a few times, and it has never been easy. It's heart-wrenching. I've never slept well the night before, or even a few days before coming to the realization that it is, perhaps, time. 

LC was not the most lovable cat. I came into her life late, just over five years ago. I was warned she had bitten and scratched, that there was a red flag on her vet file, and not to handle her too much. She was beautiful, a Smoke Tabby, dark and striped on top, lighter beneath, with huge, luminous eyes. Small, but feisty, or maybe fierce is a better word. But she had her moments of need, when she would come to you for attention (affection?) and even then, you wanted to be careful, she could change her mind. And the dogs were wary around her, if only due to our cautioning...Except Samantha, as a wee puppy, had ventured too close and when we discovered her eye full of blood, realized LC had sliced neatly through her third eyelid with a claw. The eyelid had to be surgically snipped. Hank never liked LC, but never suffered any injuries. Lucas has only ever wanted (desperately) to herd her. Duncan, (the best dog ever), suffered a smart smack on the nose as a puppy that drew blood. LC pretty much ruled the house.

Still, I cared for her during my few years with her, fed her, picked her up once in awhile for cuddles and pets, took her to her vet appointments. I like cats. Even ornery cats. But I was very wary, right to the end. And when it came her time, she was not going to go without a final snarl and flexing of her claws. But as she was going, I kissed her head and said, Good girl, LC. Good girl. And my sweetie and I both cried, and said Good-bye.

(I have reprinted the below even though it is about dogs...it resonates.)


Passports
(Donald McCaig ~ A Useful Dog)

  
It is hard to kill a dog. We put it off and we delay and when we finally do it we ask ourselves afterwards if there wasn’t something more we might have done. And of course there was. Whenever you have to kill an animal, there is always something more you might have done to keep him alive. But after years with livestock and dogs, there comes a signal, faint but unmistakable that says: it is time. Ignoring that signal is cowardly: you are less willing to face your loss than the dog is to face his death.
   Moose and I never quite got together. He was a nervous sheepdog and I wasn’t a good enough trainer to soothe him. Oh, he could do routine chores alright and had a good life here on the farm. In the hot summer months he spent hours swimming in the river.
   Last fall Moose started limping and the vet found a lump under his front leg and maybe we could catch the cancer if we amputated. Three days after his amputation he hopped out to the corral to help with chores. Moose got around pretty good & even learned to lift his leg again but no, we hadn’t got it all, and a couple months later his right eye went blind and he started to smell bad. So now he’s in a place where the sheep don’t spook him; he’s much calmer and his new trainer knows better than I did how to handle a dog.
   The evening before I killed him, the three-legged, one-eyed sheepdog went out to help me feed. He kept the ewes off the feeders. All through the night he vomited and in the morning vomited his butter-enclosed aspirin tab.
   Moose died here, where twelve years ago he was born and he’s buried in the graveyard on the hill where I hope to be buried someday. Moose’s mother and father were already on the hill.
   We carried him to his grave on his sheepskin bed and set his letter underneath. My wife, Anne, writes a letter for every one of our dogs and I have never asked her what she writes. She says it’s a passport and I like to think of Moose coming to the last river he will ever cross and offering the boatman his letter. Oh, yes, I was a very good dog.

   But it may be, it just may be—all our dogs waiting on the far side of the river that Anne and I must one day cross—those letters may not be dogs’ passports. They may be ours.

Thursday, July 28, 2016

Judging a book by its cover



Let's talk cover art. 

I'm speaking of book cover art, obviously. Many readers take it for granted that authors have a huge say in the cover art of their novels. Surprise, surprise, this is not true, and is, in fact, not the norm at all.  Most authors have no say at all. Even John Scalzi has admitted he has little to no say in the cover art of his books, but he always has kick-ass cover art anyway, so that's a moot point, really. And even I, as a reader, had often thought that the cover art of many of the books I had read did not reflect the story or characters very well at all.

A reviewer once commented on the cover art of my second novel, Falling (2015), stating:  "The cover is fine. But this book deserves a brilliant cover, not one that is just fine." I cannot even begin to tell you how much I agree with this statement. And the cover of Falling was a point of contention for a few weeks, while we went back and forth and back and forth. I am grateful I was allowed input at all, trust me...because this is what was first put forth:



It's not terrible, though a bit ambiguous...but it didn't have anything to do with the story. So I said, Um, nope...can we try again?

This was the next offering:




I nixed that one immediately. The title font, the butt shot (I am completely against butt shots, yet, ironically enough, many lesbian novels fall victim to them, sadly), even the colour of the font, was all wrong. I liked the headlights in the distance, the concept art of the female hitchhiker...so I asked my sweetie, who is a graphic artist, and a very successful business owner, to see what she could come up with. She tried a couple of things, and I sent them in, and again asked, "Can we try again, please?"

This is what I was offered, a combination of something my sweetie found, and something already in play, which is the cover we finally decided on:




However, my sweetie went one step further, and also constructed this:




This is my favourite. I like the clear, no-nonsense attitude of the young woman, I like the foreboding, storm-approaching sky, the highway stretching out before her (it's only missing the headlights)...THIS is the cover the aforementioned reviewer was thinking of. This cover IS brilliant. Unfortunately, when I sent this in, it was nixed immediately, precisely due to those things we liked about it...it was too dark, it wasn't inviting enough, there was no "romance" to it--but if you've read the book, you know it IS dark, it's NOT very inviting (though it is captivating), and while there is some romance, it's NOT a romance novel. 

I am still incredibly grateful to have been allowed a say at all, don't get me wrong. And the cover art of both of my novels is fine, let me be clear on that. But when readers think that authors have any control over the cover art of their books, they must be made aware that this is rarely the case...and sometimes, when it is the case, the author may be an even worse judge than the artists themselves, who likely have only read the blurb, and have no clue what the book is actually about, and so are completely objective. Objectivity is not a bad thing, in such cases. It is, in fact, essential. 












Sunday, January 18, 2015

Birds I've come to know and love.

I haven't posted a blog in almost a year. January 30th of last year was the last one. I've been writing them, I just haven't been posting them. My blog is sometimes just a vehicle to vent, things I need to get out, that perhaps I don't wish to burden my sweetie with (I don't have (m)any friends that I can chat with much anymore, vent to, discuss ideas with -- for some reason or another many have failed me. It's very sad). So I use my blog for that. Even though I don't get any feedback, it still serves its purpose, and I need that.

For my first blog of 2015 (hopefully there will be more, hahaha!), I'm posting about a topic that I've had in mind for some time, and that I care a lot about: Birds. That sounds like a pretty broad topic, but I'm going to limit it to birds I've come to know since moving to North Carolina, specifically the ones which visit our feeding stations, and even that is a fairly extensive list. And THERE WILL BE PICTURES! (I have taken some photos, but for this purpose I am going to use images scavenged from Google.)


The bird I want to start off with is the bird that instantly caught my eye during my first visit to Hillsborough, North Carolina. The Northern Cardinal:




I had never seen one in my life, though they are present in parts of Canada, just not the part I come from. Males and females are very striking. They have gorgeous, liquid songs.They are very prolific at the feeders, cracking open sunflower seeds with their beaks. Their very strong beaks: a much younger Lucas managed to get hold of a male once, and I heard a huge amount of squawking, went outside to see what was up, and had to rescue the bird. For my efforts, that bird bit me HARD, amazingly hard, three times. It was incredibly painful and completely unexpected. My sweetie had to shout at me to let it go, and I tried, but it was hanging on! Finally, I managed to toss it out of our yard, and my sweetie laughed and laughed at me, and said if a bird doesn't need to be saved, it's going to let you know. 


Then there is the Tufted Titmouse:





They are much smaller than a Cardinal, and more skittish. They swoop in to the feeder, grab a seed or peanut, and then scram to the nearest branch to crack the seed open. 


The Carolina Wren is one of my favourites:





A feisty little bird with a HUGE voice. The first time I heard one of these, I had no idea what was making that sound. When I saw it was this tiny little feather puff, I was astonished. They hop and flit about, and go absolutely everywhere in search of food, seeming curious and courageous at the same time.


Then there's the Carolina Chickadee:





Similar to the Black-capped Chickadee, but with a slight variation in colouring, difficult to distinguish without looking close. Many people are not even aware of Carolina Chickadees, even here in North Carolina, calling all Chickadees, Black-capped. Here you can see the differences, Black-capped on the left, Carolina on the right:





Another of my favourites, again one I'd never seen until coming here, is the Eastern Bluebird (female top, male bottom):




It's been very startling at times to see such vibrantly coloured birds, even now, when I've been here for three years. I constantly marvel at them, and these birds are very common here, they are everywhere. They only visit the feeders for suet, since they are insect eaters. In the spring they show up more often, since they have young to feed, and will bring them by once they have fledged.


I've also seen a Mountain Bluebird once:





He hung around the feeders one spring for a couple of days early each morning. Then he was gone. I've never forgotten how shockingly blue he was.

Other birds, which come and go throughout the seasons:


Pine Siskin:





White-headed Sparrow:





Purple Finch:





House Finch:




People sometimes get those last two confused, but the Purple Finch is often described as "a sparrow dipped in raspberry juice." 


There is also the Goldfinch, another of my favourites:




They are very common in the spring and summer, not so often in the fall and winter. They have the prettiest little song, and they will congregate in groups at feeders. It is quite the sight.





What else? Oh, these guys, White-breasted Nuthatches:



Very conspicuous little birds, who usually scoot down a tree trunk, as opposed to up. They also often feed upside down.


There are Dark-eyed Juncos, more common in the winter:




Eastern Towhee. When I first saw one of these, I actually said out loud, though no one was around, "Whoa! What the hell is that?": 





Blue Jays, Crows, and Mourning Doves come to the feeders:








Also, Downy Woodpeckers and Red-bellied Woodpeckers, who come to the suet, bark butter, and peanut feeders. 






The Red-bellied woodpeckers often bring their youngsters once they've fledged to the peanut and suet feeders, and then those youngsters will continue to visit as they mature. It's pretty cool.


I saw an Eastern Whip-poor-will once, in one of the raised planters:




They really do blend in that well. I didn't see the one in the planter until I was practically on top of it, and then it burst out and flew off.


And Baltimore Orioles, males and females (it may be the same pair I see), come by several times a year, no matter the season, always for suet and bark butter:























And finally, one of the coolest birds: the Northern Mockingbird:




Mockingbirds only show up at the feeders during the winter months, and then only for suet and bark butter. I've had one occasionally pop into the platform feeder and grab a few shelled sunflowers seeds, but it's rare. They have gorgeous, varied songs, and are very attractive, athletic, and sometimes aggressive birds. 


And that's pretty much it for unique birds that I've come to know since arriving in Hillsborough, North Carolina. Maybe it doesn't seem like a big deal to some, but to me, birds are amazing, beautiful, and fantastic creatures, and I, for one, love them, and do not take them for granted. Perhaps some day I will post about some of the other birds I've seen around the area and the state. For now, I think this is enough.

Thanks for reading!


Thursday, January 30, 2014

The wedding poem


I was married September 7, 2013. 

I, who have always wanted to be married, but never really thought I would be. 

I am married to someone I always knew I should be married to, but not someone I always knew, or thought I ever would know. 

I was, or we were, married by someone who understood how rare, how special, how...perfect this marriage, this meeting, was. Is. Someone who took the time to find a poem that was as touching as it was unexpected. 

A poem that was as much a surprise as the woman I married. And perfect. As she is perfect.

Perfection is never expected, and thus, is always a surprise. 

(Here is the poem Jill Malone chose for us.)

Today when persimmons ripen
Today when fox-kits come out of their den into snow
Today when the spotted egg releases its wren song
Today when the maple sets down its red leaves
Today when windows keep their promise to open
Today when fire keeps its promise to warm
Today when someone you love has died
or someone you never met has died
Today when someone you love has been born
or someone you will not meet has been born
Today when rain leaps to the waiting of roots in their dryness
Today when starlight bends to the roofs of the hungry and tired
Today when someone sits long inside his last sorrow
Today when someone steps into the heat of her first embrace
Today, let this light bless you
With these friends let it bless you
With snow-scent and lavender bless you
Let the vow of this day keep itself wildly and wholly
Spoken and silent, surprise you inside your ears
Sleeping and waking, unfold itself inside your eyes
Let its fierceness and tenderness hold you
Let its vastness be undisguised in all your days

~Jane Hirshfield "A Blessing for Wedding"


"With this ring, I thee wed; with this body, I thee worship."







www.rebeccaswartz.com

Friday, January 24, 2014

Women and Words

I was chatting with Andi Marguette (http://andimarquette.com/) over the holiday season, and she invited me to write a guest blog for Women and Words. I thought it was a great idea, and a great opportunity to promote my work.

It's not always easy to come up with a topic for a blog, which is why I'm not very regular in posting them. It's even more difficult to come up with a topic when you've been invited to be a guest on another site and are given a deadline. It was a great experience though, and I enjoyed it. Click on the link below to head on over to the Women and Words site to read my blog on research. And then check out the rest of the site to see what else goes on. There's never a dull moment with the ladies over there!

http://lesbianauthors.wordpress.com/2014/01/24/research-research-research-by-rebecca-swartz/#comments



www.rebeccaswartz.com