Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Stealing Fire: An Ask, and an Offer

EDIT: The DFW Writers Workshop is currently reviewing funding for its programs. The Writers Bloc will continue uninterrupted, but this Patreon drive is on hold for now. (I'm leaving the post up, because I'm proud of it.)

Friday, November 25, 2016


Y'know, back when my grandparents were living, we made the four-hour drive to Houston to visit them for all the big holidays. I have vivid memories of Game Boys and apple-juice boxes in the backseat, and waving to the big statue of Sam Houston as we passed, and a dog or two that always woke up and whined whenever we got off the freeway.

But I also remember Mom and Dad explaining that there were some things we talked about at home that we weren't going to talk about in Houston, because it would upset Nana and Pawpaw. I'm sure my sister and I messed that up a few times, but overall it was the most natural thing, the understanding we had through our whole lives: our parents were liberal, and our grandparents were conservative, and that meant that there were some things we wouldn't agree on. It never kept us from playing gin rummy or making flapjacks or watching Nana cry when we played Leontyne Price's "O Holy Night" on Christmas Eve. (EVERY time, y'all. Every time.)

It was only later, as a teenager, that I realized that what our family did was not universal - that lots of families couldn't enjoy each other's company at all - and only MUCH later, as an adult, that I realized that there were legitimate reasons for that - that some people just can not control their emotions or behavior, and are not safe to be around. So I will never question or criticize anyone who chooses not to visit their family.

But y'all - this year, of all years, I am more grateful than ever that our parents went the extra mile to make sure we did not miss out on having grandparents. I am so, so glad that they made sure we spoke thoughtfulness as a first language. And for all you guys who are doing that same work this weekend - choosing your words carefully, focusing on the things you CAN do and discuss together, taking care to make the time enjoyable for everyone at the table - you have my deepest appreciation. We need you now, maybe more than ever before. And the values you're living right now will last longer and reach farther than you know.

Monday, November 7, 2016

The Edge

This is a crosspost of the newsletter that I write for my friend Kristen.

You know, it’s funny what travelling does to you. You understand intellectually that there are billions of people in the world and no two exactly alike – and yet it’s not until you actually walk in to the Super 8 motel on the south side of Toledo and actually meet the young man behind the counter that he stops being a hypothetical person and becomes Justin W., your bespectacled, soft-bodied, keycard-programming fellow human. He’s still a stranger, but now you have to save him if there’s a fire.

Kristen and I thought about what we would like to say in this newsletter. It’s the last one before the US election, which absolutely everyone is sick of. So we would like to have a different kind of discourse here.

You know that we have strong feelings about the failures of the workers’ compensation system here in Texas. That large businesses and insurance companies have used the Texas legislature to sew up the system so tightly that it’s almost impossible for wounded workers to access fair treatment and compensation. You can probably guess that that pits us firmly against our state’s status quo.

Unfortunately, we have to vote on candidates, not individual issues – and this is far from the only issue on the table.

So let’s step back and picture the table itself for a minute.

It’s big and round, glass-bottomed, and there are a bunch of little people on it. All of them can look down through the glass and see how awful it would be to fall off, what a long drop there is between them and the floor – but some of them are closer to the edge than others. Some are so close that one jostle, one bump, will push them right over.

That’s not so bad, most of the time. There’s enough room for all of them, and for the most part they can be neighborly. But sometimes the table gets bumped by a huge unseen thing far below, and that scares everyone. They push and shove to get closer to the center of the table, where it’s safe – and the people in the center start pushing back.

The bump was bad, but the fighting that follows it is tremendously worse. Everyone is so focused on who does or doesn’t deserve to be in the center that they stop looking outward. They don’t notice the people who are getting pushed off the edge in the chaos, maliciously or by accident. People fall off, and they aren’t missed. Nobody ever saw them slip. (This is something Kristen frequently remarks on. “Before my injury, I had no idea that this could happen to people. I had no idea that the system had gotten so bad.”)

And what’s really unfortunate is that most of it is preventable. Bumps will always happen. Some tablefolk will always be closer to the center than others. But if they stopped pushing and started pulling – if every one of them took hold of just one person who was dangerously close to the edge – it would be so much harder for anyone to fall... and downright impossible for it to happen unnoticed.

So that is our wish for you, our fellow denizens of Floorland. We are bigger than the Tabletopians. We can make better choices. And even though our media urges our attention relentlessly toward the center – to the politicians, athletes, celebrities, and headline-writers who live and die according to our attention span – it is our moral imperative to look back to the edge. Look to the edge, where we have always found the best in ourselves. Look to the edge, where everything truly exceptional about our country was born. Vote with one hand, and give the other to someone who’s standing at the brink of the abyss, and you will never wonder whether you made the right choice – because you will have chosen more than yourself.


P.S. If you're wondering who this Kristen person is, start here.