Sunday, January 13, 2019

We have #Snurlough.

I was skeptical last week when the weather forecasters started rumbling about snow in the forecast for DC -- and with good reason. In the almost 30 years since we moved here, I can't tell you how many times big snowstorms have been predicted for the region, but very few of them have amounted to anything. The immediate DC area seems to sit in a snow hole -- often areas around us will get measurable snow, particularly to the north and west, but where I live, we'll get skunked. And I expected this storm to follow suit.

I was wrong. 

It began snowing here yesterday around three in the afternoon. It's still snowing.

I went out around three o'clock this afternoon to see how much we had. My ruler showed about 5 1/2 inches of snow in the courtyard of our apartment building -- a long, narrow space that's fairly sheltered. So I shouldn't have been surprised to learn that Reagan National Airport, which is a couple of miles from us and is the official weather reporting station for Washington, DC, had more. A fair amount more.

As of 7:50pm, the airport had 9.8 inches of snow. 

Have I mentioned that it's still snowing? If we don't get at least 10 inches out of this storm, I'll be very disappointed.

I know 10 inches seems like chump change for a lot of folks, but Washington prides itself on acting like a Southern city when it comes to stuff like this -- which is to say we don't have the kind of snow-removal equipment a city farther north would have. Plus we don't get decent-sized snows that often, so people here aren't used to dealing with it. I saw a comment from somebody this afternoon who was kind of laughing at their condo maintenance crew for shoveling sidewalks earlier today. The commenters' reasoning? They'll just have to do it again after the snow stops. Someone sane then pointed out that it's easier to move six inches of snow twice than to move a foot of snow all at once. I thought about mentioning that shoveling multiple times for a single storm is standard operating procedure in a lot of places, like in northern Indiana, where I grew up. But I decided it would be pointless, as it likely wouldn't make a dent.

The big question now is what will be open tomorrow. Every school system in the area, I believe, has already thrown in the towel. My daughter Amy works for a nonprofit whose snow closing policy follows what the federal government decides to do -- but as you may have heard, the federal government is in the midst of a shutdown and a lot of federal employees are furloughed anyway. (Hence the unofficial name for this storm: Snurlough, a contraction of snow and furlough.) Now all those employers are going to have to decide what to do on their own. Amy's employer didn't wait; they've already announced they'll be closed tomorrow.

I expect whether my day job closes will depend on whether public transit is running. Right now, Metro says the subway will be operational but there won't be any buses in my neighborhood. I guess I could slog a mile on an unshoveled path to get to my closest subway station. And then sit in wet clothes all day at work. And do it all again at the end of the day. Gee, that sounds like fun.

Here's hoping I get a Snurlough...

These moments of snowy blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, January 6, 2019

Grown women aren't girls.

Copyright dimaberkut |
Few things get me worked up quicker than hearing a man call a woman a "girl."

I even wrote about it in Mom's House. On this occasion, my brother was mad at both my mother and me because of something that had happened earlier in the day. He felt the need to retake control of the situation, so first he needled Mom about her clutter, and then he declared we were going to the grocery store to get boxes in order to pack up some of her stuff:
So we all rode in Lar’s car to Al’s at Karwick Plaza. “You girls stay in the car,” he said. “I’ll go in and ask.”
I bristled. “I know you didn’t mean that,” I said warningly. He pretty much ignored me.
Later, Mom asked me why I was upset about Lar calling us “girls.” “We’re girls, aren’t we?” she asked. I just stared at her, speechless. How to explain thirty years of women’s liberation to an eighty-seven-year-old woman? 
I know there are women who, like my mom, don't see a problem with grown women being called girls. But trust me when I say that in this instance, my brother was not using an endearment. He was emphasizing that because he was the man, he was therefore in control -- something we had no business trying to be.

I bring this up because this has been an extraordinary week for the U.S. Congress. For the first time ever, 102 out of 438 members of the House of Representatives -- nearly a quarter of the membership -- are women. Eighty-nine of these women are Democrats; of those, 35 were elected just this year. They are diverse. Two are Muslim; two are Native American. And one is under the age of 30: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York.

Perhaps you've heard of Ocasio-Cortez. She stunned politicos last spring by staging a primary upset, upending the career of a Democrat who was rumored to be in line to become Speaker of the House. Then she went on to win her seat in Congress. She gets a lot of criticism from the right, and when it happens, she claps back hard. She's more than capable of handling her trolls herself. But I saw red on her behalf when I heard today that GOP strategist Ed Rollins had called her a "little girl" with a mouth on her.

Rollins is 75 years old. He has had a long career in national politics dating back to the Reagan administration. In short, he is just the sort of old, white guy who would see a young, smart, popular woman as a threat. And it's clear that in this instance, he did not use "little girl" as a term of endearment.

Ocasio-Cortez wasted no time in responding. She tweeted, "If anything, this dude is a walking argument to tax misogyny at 100%" and followed it with a winking emoji. I'm glad she can laugh it off, but I'm tired of making excuses for men who are old enough to remember Women's Liberation but would rather ignore it.

Stop with the misogyny already. Grown women aren't girls. Knock it off.


These moments of furious blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.

Sunday, December 30, 2018

That New Year's baby had better be smiling.

I thought I had a topic all set for this week's blog post. I mean, here we are, in the liminal days between Christmas and New Year's, when the Lord of Misrule is in charge, and...yeah. Turns out I wrote about that last year

Which is too bad, because 2018 was quite the dumpster fire in a lot of ways -- worse than 2017, which was pretty terrible, and way worse than 2016, which only got super sucky toward the end. Remember our 2016 dumpster fire ornament? Boy, did we ever jump the gun.

Now 2019 is looming around the corner, and Baby New Year doesn't exactly look like he's ready to give us a joyous smile.

For me personally, I'm pretty sure this coming year will be better than the last few. We're in a much calmer living situation, for one thing, having fled the continuously-under-construction apartment building this past spring. (It's still undergoing renovation. Unbelievable.) And we're coming up on the one-year anniversary of the denouement of the decade-long saga of my mother's house and estate. (For more information on that, go here.) I thought publishing the memoir would be the end of it, but old family stuff never dies. I've spent the better part of this past year processing that, along with a bunch of other stuff.

But I'm ready to start writing again. I won NaNo last month, after all. And by the way, I want to thank y'all for your kind words the short-short story I posted last week. I'm going to dive into editing Rivers Run and writing the sequel as soon as I finish posting this. No, really. 

And for those of you following the #escapevelocity countdown, today's magic number is 341. 

Have a terrific New Year's celebration. See ya in 2019!

These moments of anticipatory blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell. Happy New Year!

Sunday, December 23, 2018

A holiday tale for my readers.

Alert hearth/myth readers will recall that last Yule, I wrote a short, holiday-themed story for the blog. I had so much fun with it that this year I've done it again.

The main character is Raney Meadows, who also happens to be the protagonist of Rivers Run, the NaNo novel I wrote last month. This story is a prequel to the novel, but not by a lot. Hope you enjoy it. 

Happy holidays!

Copyright glayan |

So here’s why I gave the ex the old heave-ho. I refer to it as the Christmas mermaid incident.

Don’t look so surprised. Elementals celebrate Christmas, more or less. My mother, who’s an undine, knows Water Elementals who were there when Moses parted the Red Sea. They weren’t acquainted with Jesus, Mary and Joseph, of course, since they lived in the desert and all. But the sylphs of the Air carried the story to the Land, Fire, and Water Elementals, although some details might have gotten lost along the way. Sylphs are Air-headed, my mother always said.

Anyway, the point is that Elementals do celebrate human holidays, particularly when they’re passing as human, as Mam and I were. I’m half human anyway, and Mam thought the best way to keep my father from finding us was to live as if we weren’t Elementals at all. “Hiding in plain sight,” she called it.

I didn’t learn why we needed to hide from my father until much later.

I’m getting ahead of myself. Focus, Raney! Do you want people to think you’re a sylph?

We moved around a lot when I was a kid. Mam would get a feeling that my father was closing in on us and she’d whisk us off to a new place. A lot of the time, we left in a hurry, with not much more than the clothes we were wearing. But Mam always made sure we saved one thing: a Christmas ornament in the shape of a mermaid. Now this wasn’t one of those Disney princesses, or some sexy siren in a coconut bra. This lovely lady wore a black off-the-shoulder bodice with white trim, and her blond hair was in marcel waves. I thought she was the most beautiful, most elegant creature in the world. She’s probably the reason I decided to become an actor. I wanted to be just as beautiful and elegant as her.

Anyway, wherever we washed ashore, she was the first thing we hung on our Christmas tree. Mam said if she was there, we were home.

When I got my big acting break – the lead in a TV crime drama – and I bought the beachfront house in Malibu, Mam gave her to me. “She’ll like it at your house,” Mam said. “It will be like going home for her.” She pretended she wasn’t crying, so I didn’t say anything. I just got a stand for her and put her on a table in the living room that overlooked the ocean. That’s where she was when the ex moved in.

I don’t want to say his name because it might draw him back, but you know who I mean. Our relationship was in all the magazines. He was tall and hunky, and I was short and cute (I could do beautiful, but not without a couple of hours in a makeup chair). Unfortunately, he knew how good-looking he was. And the only thing he was really interested in was money.

Why did I let him move in? It was the classic Hollywood story: We shot a movie together, during which we spent several hours every day in and out of bed. Pretty soon it felt real.

The trouble started the first time he didn’t see me in the pool. As an undine, I have an affinity for water. Which is to say that when I’m in it, I can become one with it.

It’s not a thing I let many people know about, because they tend to react the way T&H did: “Where did you come from? One minute the pool was empty, and the next, you’re climbing out of it naked! It’s like you materialized or something!”

“Or something,” I said. “Hand me that towel, would you, sweetie?”

He struck a pose and smirked. “Maybe I’ll just let you get out on your own.”

It took several months, but eventually he got the full story out of me – and then he started pestering me to go public with it. “You should tell Sid,” he said one day as we sat on my sofa together. The French doors were open to the pool deck and the ocean breeze.

Sid was my agent. I got cold chills just thinking about what Tall and Hunky was suggesting. My father was still looking for my mother – if he heard about the undine in the movies, it wouldn’t take him long to track me down, and then her. “That would be a bad idea,” I said to T&H.

“Why? You could make millions of dollars from this gimmick!”

“It’s not a gimmick,” I said. “It’s part of my nature.”

“Nature, schmature,” he jeered. “You just don’t want to be rich.”

“I thought we were doing pretty well already,” I said, pointing to the view. The conversation was giving me an urge to run out onto the deck, pass the pool, and swan dive into the waves. Strong emotions do that to me.

“I’m sick of this, Raney,” he said, pulling out his phone. “If you won’t call him, I will. What’s his number?”

I took the phone from his hand – he was strong, but I was Elemental strong – and tossed it out onto the deck. “No!” I said. “It’s too dangerous! You don’t understand what you’re asking me to do!”

He stared hard at me. “Oh, I understand, all right,” he growled. Then he pushed past me – to retrieve his phone, I thought. But he snatched the mermaid ornament from its stand. “You care more about being a mermaid than you do about me!” he said, clenching her in his fist.

I gasped in fear for her. “I’m not a mermaid,” I said. “Give her back.”

“Call Sid!”

“Not until you give her back!”

An evil smile lit his face. He wound up like a major league pitcher and threw the ornament out the open door. It sailed in an arc over the pool and the deck beyond, and was gone. “You were never gonna call him,” he said.

I was so livid, I didn’t stop to think. Instinct caused me to call upon the water in the pool. It rose up in a towering wall and, with a surgical strike, swept T&H off his feet and out my front door.

I followed and watched him tumble down my driveway to the street, screaming all the way. “And don’t come back!” I called. “I’ll ship your junk to your wife!” I slammed the door and locked it.

Then I sat on the sofa, trembling, as loss and relief tumbled around inside me. True, I’d averted disaster for my mother and me – but at what price? The man I’d spent three years loving was gone. He’d proven himself unworthy, but still. And I’d lost the mermaid ornament – my only tangible connection to my childhood.

I walked to the other side of the deck and peered over the side. It was a sheer drop of hundreds of feet to the surf below. Nope, she was gone for good.

I turned and and bleakly regarded my empty pool. If I hadn’t been so upset, I would have thought to leave enough water in the bottom for a soak.

My bathtub was a poor substitute, but it did the job. I submerged and dissolved, letting the water leach my overwhelming emotions from each individual molecule.

Sometime later, after I’d reassembled and gotten dressed, I called Sid. “Look,” I said. “I need to get out of town for a while and clear my head. I’m going to…to…” My eyes lit on a Blu-Ray that T&H had left behind: A Walk in the Woods. I smiled and said, “I’m going to hike the Appalachian Trail.”

Now? Can’t it wait ‘til shooting wraps for the season?”

“No, it can’t,” I said, thinking fast. “If I want to start in Georgia, I need to go now, before it gets hot.”

He gave me a long-suffering sigh. “Okay, Raney, I’ll call the producer and see what he says. But you know the show’s teetering in the ratings. If you take off, the network might just cancel it.”

“I won’t be gone long,” I said. “I just need to get out of town for a while.” Long enough for T&H to convince himself I wasn’t magical – just crazy.

As I ended the call, I thought I heard a giggle and a distant splash. Puzzled, I walked into the living room – and stopped. 

A watery trail led from the deck railing to the table where the mermaid used to hold court. To my surprise, she was back – dripping wet, but otherwise undamaged. I swear she winked at me.

I rushed to the railing and yelled, “Thank you!” into the wind. I wasn’t sure what I’d done to deserve the mermaids’ favor, but I was grateful anyway.

Little did I know that payback time was coming. In just a few weeks, in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, I would find the body of a kayaker who wasn’t a kayaker but who was definitely dead.

But that’s a story for another time.
These moments of damp but festive blogginess have been brought to you, as a public service, by Lynne Cantwell.