Right to Speak

~   ~   ~ I really dislike the term “thick skinned.” As in… “Ya gotta be thick-skinned, Danika, to be able to take the slings and arrows of life.” I have an idea. Why don’t people just stop slinging and arrowing? This is truly the age of the bully, as social media has given bullies megaphones and permission to use them. To put yourself out there risks a world of complete strangers turning against you. It can be a nasty, nasty place online. (image by Michael V. Manalo) There’s a 2015 TED talk by Monica Lewinsky called The Price of Shame. My immediate reaction when I first came across it was why would I want to hear THAT woman’s story? I watched it anyway, and I encourage you to do the same, because my reaction was the whole point. Monica was basically the...

Found Mourning: a poem and writing exercise

In a previous post I wrote about how I grew creatively stagnant after the US election, how I couldn’t convince myself that what I did as an author really meant much in the scheme of things. A few days ago I was wandering about my unfinished pieces of recent work and came across a poem I forgot I had written. It was dated Nov 10, just a few days after the election. I guess I wasn’t completely creatively stagnant after all. I probably forgot about it because I went numb for a few weeks after that. The same kind of numb I felt after my father had died. The kind of numb that happens when one is in mourning. Writing through mourning is a great way to work through it. To sort out your thoughts and feelings and place it in the world so others can connect and...

Doing the Love is Enough

I haven’t posted in my blog for over four months, which I’m sure is a new record. It’s not that I haven’t wanted to, it’s not that I haven’t started draft after draft… it’s that every time I sat down at my computer to work on a post, what I wanted to write seemed insignificant compared to what’s happening in our world. It seemed unimportant in the scheme of things. How could I, with my little creative writing corner of the internet, face up to the grand global disappointments or another unsympathetic executive order or further descent into madness. As the EPA was gutted, climate science denied, school and health programs endangered, I sank deeper and deeper into the mindset of, “What I do doesn’t really matter.” How could being a children’s author matter...

Help Her! She Spoke French!

Bonjour et bienvenue. A few months ago I started learning French via the website Duolingo. Anyone close to me knows just how amusing this is. I have a history of bludgeoning the French language. I’ve dropped out of two French courses. Small children have made fun of me for my particularly bad pronunciation. I can never keep the conjugations for “avoir” (to have) and “etre” (to be) straight. My husband is from Quebec and speaks lovely French. When we were visiting Montreal, strangers would address him in French and then turn to me and speak in English, as if the words “Don’t even try” were stamped on my forehead. When people spoke French around me, I was sure they were making fun of me. And still, I’ve always wanted to learn French. On the outside, I laughed...

Life Savers

“Our lived lives might become a protracted mourning for, or an endless tantrum about, the lives we were unable to live. But the exemptions we suffer, whether forced or chosen, make us who we are.” ~ Adam Phillips* When I was growing up, there was a Life Saver’s commercial featuring a little girl watching the sunset with her father and just after the sun slips down past the horizon, she whispers, “Do it again, Daddy.” I’ve always loved that commercial. I easily placed myself under that tree at sunset with my own Dad, who I believed knew everything. I hadn’t thought about that commercial for many years until after my father died. I was brushing my teeth when a vision popped into my head of myself on my own death bed, my father waiting for me on the other side,...

Queer as Folk

A few weeks ago I attended an art gallery opening for queer artists. I started chatting with a lovely, quirky woman about upcoming events for our local Pride Week. As we then talked about where we were from and the kinds of things I taught, she awkwardly fished for something else, but I wasn’t sure what she was getting at. Finally, she got flustered and said, “I’m trying to ask if you’re queer, but you’re obviously not, because you’re not picking up on any of the language.” “I don’t know the secret handshake either,” I deadpanned. She laughed and offered to demonstrate. She had caught me off guard. The thing was, neither “yes” nor “no” felt like the right answer. Neither would have been sufficient in expressing my personal journey nor revealing...