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Coming from Pagan Writers Press on March 8, 2013!

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Monday, April 29, 2013

Do You Know Alice Paul? by Morgan Summerfield


If you are a woman, you should. Alice Paul was a feminist, suffragist, and political strategist, and helped to bring about some of the most relevant political achievements for women in the 20th century. She was born in 1885, to Quaker parents, which in itself speaks volumes. She was raised to believe in gender equality, working for the betterment of society, and staying in tune with nature.
She started Swarthmore College in 1901 graduating in 1905 with a degree in Biology. She went to Birmingham, England, in 1907 to study social work at the Woodbrook Settlement. While there, she joined a militant suffragette group and was incarcerated several times for breaking windows to draw attention to the cause of women.
On her return to America in 1910, she brought her newly found aggressive tactics and lit a fire under the women’s movement in this country. She was part of the organizing committee that had women marching up Pennsylvania Avenue as Woodrow Wilson was being inaugurated. The women were attacked while police looked on and did nothing. If one could say any good came out of this bad situation, it was the fact that it made headlines and elevated the cause of women to a national level.
Paul suffered more arrests and brutality along with her fellow suffragettes. When their mistreatment in prison found its way into the media, the public outcry caused President Wilson to reverse his position and announce his support for a suffrage amendment, calling it a "war measure." It was ratified in 1920. Women finally had the right to vote.
Acquiring three law degrees and still not satisfied with the limitations of the 19th amendment, believing it did not speak clearly enough to equality, Alice Paul penned what we know as the Equal Rights Amendment. "Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex." This amendment took years to find a life. In 1972, the Senate and the House of Representatives passed the amendment, and it went to the states for ratification. It still has not been ratified.
Alice Paul died on July 9, 1977, having devoted her life to the cause of equal rights for women. She was inducted, posthumously, into the National Women's Hall of Fame In 1979. This woman was a hero, and we all owe her much.
For more information on the ERA: http://www.equalrightsamendment.org/
***

Morgan Summerfield grew up an avid reader and by her teens was a hobby writer. As an adult she has been a teacher, a technical writer, an instructional designer, a consultant, and a freelance writer. Her recently published first novel, Blood and Magnolias, was a dream fulfilled. In a recent contest, the characters in Blood and Magnolias were given a 5 out of 5 rating. When she is passionate about something, it shows. Beyond her writing, Morgan is a painter and works with a domestic violence shelter and education council.



Friday, April 26, 2013

Everyday Heroine of the Past: Irina Sendler


Recently I came across a story that really got my attention.  The story was of a woman who had been nominated for the Nobel Peace prize the same year that Al Gore won.  The woman’s name is Irina Sendler, and she had the courage to silently fight the Nazis, some of the most brutal men and women in all of recorded history.   She was a nurse and a social worker who worked with an organization called the Polish Underground.  With the assistance of approximately two-dozen other volunteers, she saved 2500 infants and children from certain death by smuggling them out of the Warsaw Ghetto.
Irina was granted permission to work in the ghetto as a sanitation inspector due to an outbreak of typhus.  The living conditions in the ghetto were horrifying, filthy, and grim.  Many died in the ghetto before being transported to the concentration camps because of the “living” conditions there.  They were dying of starvation and disease.  The Nazis “tolerated” the presence of a group known as the RGO, or Central Welfare Council, a polish relief organization of which Irina and her crew were a part. 

Irina walked into the ghetto with her big, black bag.  She looked around at the despicable conditions of the camp, overwhelmed by the rancid smell of decay and death.  Though she had been there countless times, she couldn’t get used to it, the sadness and the bleak inhumanity to which these innocent people were subject.  She glanced from person to person, some still having a flicker of life left in their eyes and faces, others with eyes that seemed dull and lifeless.  The wind was blowing that day, soft and bitterly cold. She tilted her head back, and looked at the grey sky as the wind graced her cheek with just a hint of hope. The buildings were once teeming with life, and now stood ominously, coffins upright. 
That day, she knew she was there to visit a family with two children.  The young mother desperate, panting, eyes scarlet in color.  She would have no tears to shed, as her eyes had almost dried up. 
“Please, please take the baby,” she begged, seeming like she was on the verge of vomiting.  Her voice trembled and shook.  Her husband was quiet and timid, and Irina could sense that he must have been a strong man before the round up.  He had broad shoulders, and wore a tattered, dirty jacket.  The sleeves were too short, and she noticed he had no shoes on his feet. 
He spoke softly to his wife, so softly that Irina could barely make out what he said.  He glanced at Irina and said, “take her to a new family.  Give her…” At that, he choked and sobbed, and fell to his bony knees.  He looked up and silently, but furiously begged to a god he once believed in.  Why have you done this?  Why?  Irina had visited so many families like this one.  Families who, because of their Jewish identity, were rounded up like cattle and shipped off to die agonizing deaths if they survived the ghetto, hell on earth. 
She gently took the baby from mother’s arms and placed her softly inside the big, black bag.  The mother let out a soft, terrifying squeal as the baby was closed gently and safely within this bag of freedom.  This was the sound of a heart breaking, and Irina had heard it before. 

She walked out the door, and out of the ghetto with that precious child in her keeping.  That child, along with approximately 2500 others, was saved by Irina Sendler, a true woman of strength, honor, and sacrifice.  She kept all of the names of these children in a glass jar she had buried in a secret location, and when the war was over, she attempted to find their families and reunite them.  Most of the families had been executed, but a few were reunited. 

Irina was eventually found out by the Nazis, beaten, tortured, and sentenced to death.  She was saved by members of the resistance group, Zegota, by bribing German guards, and until the war ended, she spent her time in hiding.   She died at the age of 98, in the year 2008 in Warsaw, Poland, the place where her heart would never abandon.  

***

Gina Tonnis is a part-time college writing instructor and a full-time mommy. She is happily married to her best friend, and they live in Atlanta with their two beautiful little boys. Gina is also a cancer survivor, which has given her the gift of appreciating each and every moment of her life.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Are You Lacey Wolfe's Everyday Heroine?


This month’s topic is Every Day Heroes. I sat and pondered a moment on this topic and thought, sure I could choose a police officer, teacher, mother, and so on. But then thought about it and wanted to write about women in general.

Every woman is a hero in some way. Whether she’s a stay-at-home mom who is raising the children, kissing boo-boo’s and such. Or a mom who works outside of the home to provide for her family. Teachers are helping mold children of today. And police officers are keeping us safe.

No matter what, you’re sure to find a woman you admire and can look up to. One of who is strong, doesn’t take crap, and fights for what she believes in. I bet she just popped into your mind too.

I’m proud to be a woman. I am proud of the women before me who fought and the women after who will continue to fight. If you sit back and watch, women are everywhere now and women aren’t taking no for an answer.

I can’t wait to see what the future holds.

***

Lacey Wolfe – HerStory: A Baby of Her Own
Lacey Wolfe has always had a passion for words, whether it’s getting lost in a book or writing her own. From the time she was a child she would slip away to write short stories about people she knew and fantasies she wished would happen. It has always been her dream to be a published author and with her two children now of school age, she finally has the time to work on making her dream come true.

Lacey lives in Georgia with her husband, son and daughter, their six cats and one black lab who rules the house.

You can find Lacey at the following places:
Facebook / Facebook Page / Twitter
Monday, April 22, 2013

Everyday Heroines: Kim & Tori by Laura DeLuca


Many years ago, a girl named Kim moved in around the corner. I knew she was special from the first time I saw her. She caught me singing at the top of my lungs on my front porch and she didn’t make fun of me. It turned out she was transferring to my school and was even in the same class. We wound up carpooling for several years and were pretty close friends in grade school. There are a few things that will forever remind me of Kim—punch buggies (our arms were always black and blue from hitting each other on the way to school), the musical, South Pacific (she had the lead and I was in the orchestra), and the fact that she was one of my only grade school friends who never acted uncomfortable around my aunt who had Down Syndrome.

Fast forward more than twenty years, and Kim and I are still living in the same little county in New Jersey. When the authors from HerStory decided they wanted to honor everyday heroines, Kim and her beautiful daughter, Tori, were the very first people who came to mind. In HerStory, I talked about my grandmother and how her love for her daughter helped her overcome all the odds. Kim and Tori have a comparable story with a similar happy ending.

Eighteen years ago, when she was scarcely twenty years old, Kim became pregnant with her oldest daughter. During her pregnancy, she was misdiagnosed with Lyme disease and treated with a drug she later learned wasn’t safe for pregnant woman.  Several months into her pregnancy, her baby started to develop problems. Two months before her due date, she was told the baby had died in utero. Where other people would have fallen into despair, Kim never gave up hope. She prayed every day for a miracle, and her prayers were answered. When Tori came into this world breathing, Kim was so grateful, it didn’t matter that Tori was handicapped. She was a gift from God, an angel.

Tori was eventually diagnosed with microcephaly, a disease where a person’s head is significantly smaller than average. She is missing two thirds of her brain and parts of her brain are deteriorating. Tori is unable to speak, to stand, or even to sit up without assistance. Kim was told her daughter would never live to see her first birthday, but like my grandmother Tessie, she has proven that a mother’s love outweighs any prognosis.  Although doctors claim Tori was the mental capacity of a three month old, Kim knows there is more hiding behind those beautiful brown eyes. Although she isn’t able to speak, Tori expresses herself through laugher and gestures her family understands.  One of the things everyone knows about Tori is that she’s a redneck girl at heart and loves her country music. She also enjoyed getting trussed up for her prom just as much as any teenage girl.

Not long after Tori was born, her biological father cut ties. Kim raised her alone for a few years until she met her current husband, Chris. Between the two of them, they have become a modern day Brady Bunch with five children ranging in age from two to eighteen. Chris legally adopted Tori and has helped make it possible for Kim to stay home with the children. This is important for Tori because her immune system is easily compromised. What would be the sniffles for the average child could become a two week hospital stay for Tori.

I chose Kim as my everyday heroine because, like my grandmother, Kim doesn’t see having a handicapped child as a trial. She doesn’t want people to pity her. Kim’s own words say it best, “Walking and talking are overrated. Having a perfect baby is overrated. Having a handicapped child isn’t a bad thing. We’re blessed. Tori is a gift and I wish more people would understand that. She smiles at me every time I walk into the room. She always appreciates me, and she makes even the most miserable person smile when they see her.”

Kim’s words are like hearing my grandmother whispering in my ear. Both of these amazing women understand that a special person came into her life for a reason. Tori has touched the lives of many people around her, but most especially her family. Kim told me that one of the lessons she learned from her daughter is the power of unconditional faith. Tori never worries about whether her family will be there for her. She simply trusts they will be. If we all held onto that simple faith, if we learned not to doubt ourselves and others, how much simpler and more beautiful life would be. I am so grateful for people like Tori, who touch my soul with their innocence, and for women like Kim who prove every day of their lives that you don’t have to risk your life to be a real hero. You simply need to open your heart and love unconditionally. 

***

Laura “Luna” DeLuca lives at the beautiful Jersey shore with her husband and four children. She is the author of six young adult novels and several short stories.
Friday, April 19, 2013

Happiness is a Choice by Megan D. Martin


My story Southern Daughter is based entirely on a fictional character I created, but this doesn’t mean that some of her attributes weren’t inspired by people in my life. For my everyday heroine I have chosen my mother. Her name is Paula and she is a very unique woman because she gives a real meaning to the word strength.

In 1992 my parents were in a terrible accident where my mom ended up suffering nerve damage in one of her legs. She had many surgeries to try and correct the damage, but none were successful. The damage ended up triggering RSD, which is a chronic disorder that affects the nerves. She deals with pain every day. She told me once that she has to wake up each day and decide that the day is going to be a good one and that this is the only way she can function on account of the never-ending pain.

It is this that makes her my everyday heroine. If you saw her, you would never think she dealt with pain based on the way she acts—she is happy and fun-loving. Something I don’t know that I would be able to do if I was in her shoes. She has taught me so much, but the main thing I’ve learned from her is that happiness is a choice. You can make the best out of your situation or you can spend the rest of your life feeling miserable. No one controls your happiness, only you do and if you remember this then you’ll be able to live a full and happy life for as long you live.

Thanks mom, you rock.

***

Megan D. Martin is a multi-published author, mother, student, and editor. In her spare time she enjoys decorating her house with strange things that do not match, playing her old-school Nintendo Entertainment System, and buying fish for her many fish tanks.
To learn more about Megan, check out her blog http://megandmartin.blogspot.com/.
Wednesday, April 17, 2013

It's the Little Things by Toni Rakestraw


Every day I see my hero. She gets up and comes downstairs. She spends most of her day online because it’s an effort for her to do much else. She’s my daughter, Ostara. Last week, she turned 16. 

Ostara has POTS. That’s Postural Orthostatic Tachycardia Syndrome for those of you who don’t know what it stands for. The doctors that deal with this condition estimate conservatively that 500,000 people in the US suffer from POTS, though they say there may be many more because it’s difficult to diagnose, and many doctors don’t consider it despite the fact it’s been written about in medical journals. POTS has several symptoms that make it hard to pin down, including a general feeling of dizziness, an increased heart-rate when the patient stands up, chest pain, nausea, headache, stomachache, joint aches, and brain fog. It seems to manifest slightly differently in each patient. It can occur suddenly or gradually, at almost any age. Women seem to get it five times more often than men. Ostara got it at age 13.

She was walking across the room. She stretched her arms, you know, like many of us do, and then she fainted. From then on, she’s been on a downward spiral. At first, she was dizzy off and on. The doctors had no idea what to tell her. She didn’t quite know how else to describe how she felt. Gradually, it got worse. We went to doctor after doctor until we finally discovered her current pediatrician. While she wasn’t sure what was wrong with Ostara, she wasn’t willing to give up. As Ostara’s dizziness increased and she began showing other symptoms, the doctor finally ordered a tilt table test last fall.

During this test, they were able to recreate Ostara’s fainting and we finally had a diagnosis: POTS. We had something to research. We found a book on the subject and learned a lot. Ostara has continued to worsen. She had to give up her walks around the block that she so enjoyed because her dizziness was getting so bad she couldn’t handle it. We ended up getting her one of those rolling walkers. Now on her good days she can go out. When she gets dizzy, she can sit down on the seat until she feels better. Her brother always goes with her so she’s not alone. She knows she’ll probably have a bad day or two after she does a walk, but she does it anyway. I admire her for not giving up.

She’s still willing to try anything her doctor suggests in the hope it will help. So far, nothing really has, but she’s always positive.

She uses her time on the computer to work on her art. In the past year her skills have improved immensely. She draws the cutest characters. I admire that she uses her time to improve herself however she can, despite the brain fog she often complains of. The brain fog makes it hard for her at times to put coherent thoughts together or concentrate for long periods of time. But still, she doesn’t give up. She has her sense of humor, she greets every day with a smile, and she’s always ready to laugh, even when she feels awful.
She’s my hero.

***

Toni Rakestraw is an editor by day and a writer by night. She has written another short story, The Longest Night, for Pagan Writers Press. She also co-authored Titanic Deception, a full-length novel, with her husband John.
Monday, April 15, 2013

"That's my Aunt Betty!"... Dorothy Abrams's Everyday Heroine

Image courtesy of Pixomar
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My mother's sister, Helen Elizabeth, was a singer. A woman of the 40's, she sang on WFBL in Syracuse with the Jim DeLine Gang until she got fired because she refused the advances of someone important on the set. It's not that she was a prude, or even a virgin. She often told the story of going to NYC to audition for the Fred Waring Singers. She refused the audition couch and did not get the job.

"We just hired a red head," was the comment, but it wasn't what they meant. My aunt would tell the story and look at us seriously.

"I may choose to give it away, but you can't buy it," she proclaimed. She had been the lover of a local classical musician for a long time. When it came right down to it, she wouldn't marry him. I don't know why. My mother put off marriage for a long time too. She said she was having too much fun, and I suspect that was true of my aunt as well.

I, of course, knew them both as properly married ladies of the middle class. My aunt directed the Methodist Church choir and my mother sold Avon. Well, that was a masquerade. Neither of them was very proper. All of the women in my family told me the same thing in different words. You are married for a long time. Get your living done first. My mother said "Don't die not knowing" when it looked like I might be a career woman. My grandmother said, "Don't get married until you have to."

That was what they said, but it was my aunt that showed the way. In the 1950's she finally agreed to marry another show business person. He was a local magician, a friend of the great Blackstone and he loved music. He loved my aunt, but only on the rebound. It didn't last. My parents caught him with his girlfriend and that was the end of that. I was there too, but young enough not to understand. I thought two people were simply listening to the new HiFi my uncle had purchased. So my aunt divorced him over the HiFi. Well, that was one name for her.

My aunt was really scared when she fought for her house and furnishings. She hadn't worked except at the church for the 10 years they were married. She heard all those nasty things men say when they are mad. You'll never be able to keep the house, you can't earn a living, you'll die poor. If he believed that, he was a fool. First she went to work teaching music in a private religious high school. She had to leave off her makeup and jewelry, so it wasn't a good fit. Then she was hired to work for the Department of Social Services, first in Auburn and then for the county when the services merged. She was a welfare case worker, one of the few with compassion.

I used to ride with her when she went out in the field for home visits. They did that in those days, just to see how folks were doing. Then we'd have lunch in some local diner and talk about life and music and what was I going to do with my life. She opposed my choice of schools—a Christian college. She was likely correct in that, but I had already learned from her to go full steam ahead no matter what people said. She liked that, even though she was mad at me. By the time I was in college, my aunt was a supervisor of one of the social work teams, able to encourage kindness and well as a heavy dose of skepticism in her workers. There is no point in being gullible, but you don't have to be mean just because you know better.

I was immensely proud of my aunt. There is a family story about that. When I was a very little girl, we all went to a Christmas Eve service where she was singing a solo, probably "O Holy Night". She could nail those high notes. I slipped out past my mother's knees during the song, got all the way to the front of the church and waited for her to finish. When she closed her music folder I turned around to the congregation, pointing at her and announced, "That's my Aunt Betty!"

I always felt that way. When I lived in DC, she'd take me off to Williamsburg Colonial Village, her favorite place. "I used to live here, you know. The musician's house is this way." She meant she lived there in a past life. I wasn't sure, at the time, I believed in past lives but I noticed she never got lost in Williamsburg.

When I was ready to move back home, I stayed with her while I looked for work. She handed me the newspaper ad that put me in touch with the local anti-poverty agency. "Here. You'll like this," she said. She was right. I loved it. I was the human services coordinator, hired to stir things up and inspire my staff to do the same thing.

When my aunt retired she met with the social security people and the state retirement fund to find out how she was going to make ends meet. I don't think she had planned it out, but it was time. Computers were on the way in, and she didn't understand them. There was a reason for that. The man behind the desk looked at the figures and whistled in surprise.

"You have really done well for a woman." She arched those eyebrows and gave him a straight look. The numbers were good.

"I've done better than most men," she corrected him. It was true in a factory town like Auburn. Her ex-husband had lost everything. His words came home to bite him.

Aunt Betty enjoyed her retirement. She had a great bird feeding station off her back deck where she coddled the cardinals and shooed off squirrels and blue jays. She could sing dozens of bird songs. She knew them from the calls they made, whether they were visible or not. She still sang in the choir though she had given up directing it. She had an occasional solo. We went to concerts together. She hosted the family dinners if I didn't. I knew things had progressed to the point I needed to take over when she sat in the mashed potatoes on Easter. Running out of counter space she set them on the chair and then forgot where they were. It was funny, but it wasn't.

All the way through her last years, I'd call and ask her how she was. Her response never varied.

"I'm good. I have to be you know." Yes, I did know that. She had diabetes, cognitive losses and balance problems but she never gave in to them.

My aunt, as it turned out, had Huntington's chorea. That is the debilitating nerve disease that Woody Guthrie had. I was with her when she got the diagnosis. She was too far gone to understand what that meant. She had broken a hip and was in a rehab center that meant to keep her. The family rallied around her because she wanted to go home to the house she had paid for, the one she did not lose. We brow beat the social workers into submission and arranged for 24 hour care. My mother did at least 1/3 of it for free because we are family. The money wouldn't have stretched far enough otherwise.

In 1992 Aunt Betty choked on a piece of pizza at her kitchen table. It was pepperoni. Her favorite. We used to go out to the Italian Village and have pepperoni pizza. The aides with her did all the right things and got her to the hospital, but she had been without oxygen for too long. She died after my mother got to her side. I was too late, too far away.

The funeral was nice. Not as crowded as I thought it might be, but many of her friends and colleagues had gone on ahead of her. The music was beautiful. Her friend Joan sang the "Lord's Prayer". I couldn't do it. One of my guiding lights had moved across the veil. She sends cardinals to me even now so I know she is near, but it isn't the same.

I went to a costume party once, dressed as my aunt. We were supposed to find a costume and go as a woman in history we admired. I thought of Kate Hepburn, but when I dressed up I looked like Helen Elizabeth Russell, so that is who I was for the night. When people asked who that was, I bragged:

"That's my Aunt Betty."
Friday, April 12, 2013

Everyday Heroine: Aunt G.I. Jane

When you were a little girl, there was that woman you looked up to. She hung the moon in your eyes. She was just COOL. You said, "When I grow up, I wanna be just like her!"

Mine was Aunt G.I. Jane.

Due to her current occupation, my aunt wishes to remain anonymous and I am giving her a code name of her choice. It suits her. Not because she looks like Demi Moore, but because she has been in a position such as G.I. Jane more than once.

At the moment, she rises and works really long days (we're talking over 10 hours) with all male prisoners. She dresses in Battle Dress and starts her day with a morning wake-up run. Then she proceeds to do things we aren't allowed to reveal, but she is the ONLY woman drill instructor out of ten, disciplining 60 male prisoners.

Can you put yourself in her combat boots for a minute? You think it's awkward maybe giving a presentation in a room full of men? Imagine how she feels running, yelling, commanding, bossing men all day--and remember they've been put in prison for a reason. I'm sure more than one have a nasty attitude toward women.

Sometime in the afternoon, she runs again for 2 miles in 17 or 20 minutes.
There's also marching, cadence, drill movements, and other things.

Why does she do this job? you wonder. "Surely it's to help the women's rights movement," you declare.

She does this job because she got tired of working in a sawmill--not tired of the work itself, but tired of worrying about the constant layoffs and if she would have a job from day to day. There's nothing heroic in her career choice. She says that some of the greatest women in history didn't do what they did to prove anything to anyone but themselves. Instead of saying, "Look at me. I'm doing this," she says, "They did it to prove to themselves they could do it."

And that is how my aunt is. She does what she feels is right. She's not out to impress anyone, just prove things to herself.

She worked in a sawmill for seventeen years, another male-dominated profession. She witnessed fingers being cut off, arms pressed flat, and her first day on the job, a man actually asked her, "What are you doing here? Are you lost?"

You know what Aunt G.I. Jane said? 

"No. What, are you afraid I'm going to take your job?"

She says the man retired shortly thereafter, but other men doubted her at first. "Oh, you better go help her. It's going to get nasty", was a common attitude when she was around, but not for long. They would come to "help" her and she'd outwork them by doing both her job and theirs.

On top of this, her own family wasn't supportive of her career choice. "That's not a woman's job!"

I picture her back then, my aunt, chin up, eyes narrowed, a spunky grin on her face, as she puts on her hard hat and gloves. I imagine she looks much the same now as she gets up and puts on her BDUs and laces her combat boots. And I know what's going through her head as she did/does these things because her advice for women in male-dominated professions is quite simple: "Don't take their shit. Stand up for yourself. Keep your head up and trudge on."

My aunt never intended to be a feminist. There were no motives behind her life choices beyond "get a job, keep a job, do my job", but she's an everyday heroine. She's my everyday heroine. When I was a kid, teenager, young adult and I was trying to choose a career path for myself, I heard a lot of "You can't do that. You're deaf". But if anyone dared to say to me, "You can't do that. You're a woman", all I had to do was think of my aunt. "Look at this woman! Look at all she does and has done! Now tell me again a woman can't..."

She's a woman who faces obstacles everyday in her work, obstacles such as "She's a woman. She better be careful. Go help her. Is she lost? That's not women's work", yet in her mind she only has to prove herself to herself. That's tough. How many of us can say the same? That we don't have an agenda beyond ourselves for whatever we are doing?

What's HER idea of an everyday heroine?

"A person who does great things without expecting a reward or a pat on the back."

What's yours?


***

Tara Chevrestt is a deaf woman, former aviation mechanic, writer, and an editor. She is most passionate about planes, motorcycles, dogs, and above all, reading. That led to her love of writing. Between her writing and her editing, which allows her to be home with her little canine kids, she believes she has the greatest job in the world. She is very happily married.

Her theme is Strong is Sexy. She shares a website with her naughty pen name: http://tarachevrestt.weebly.com/index.html and they have a Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Tara-Chevrestt-Sonia-Hightower/218383211513877.






Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Mary Terrani's Everyday Heroine

When you hear the word heroine, most people’s minds immediately go to someone famous or for some, even a superhero. For me it’s a person that I have known for years and today I’m going to tell you why she is a heroine to me. 
Let me tell you a little bit about Sarah. She’s a wife, a mother, a blogger, an author, a crafter, a sister, and a friend that you would be lucky to have in your corner. In addition to all of that she is an advocate for her children. All three of her children have special needs. Denver and Kennedy have Cystic Fibrosis and Molly has Autism. 

Every day she works and strives to make sure that none of that defines them or their family. She shares what they go through on her blog not only to help herself but to help others that might be doing the same thing. Each day she deals with the struggles that come with each need of her children. Whether it’s a doctor’s appointment or an everyday need, she handles them with a grace that I could only wish to possess. Through hospital stays and meetings with teachers to make sure all of the kids have what they need she still finds time to be there for her friends and extended family. 

Being that we live 12 hours apart it makes it hard for us to be there for each other beyond the telephone, but she’s there. Despite everything she has going on in her life I know that if I ever need her she is there. It could be a text, a phone call, email, or even an instant message she is always there pushing me and prodding me to be a better person, a better writer. We are there for each other no matter what.

When I sit back and look at our relationship it is not only something that I am grateful for but something I cherish. I wish I could do more to help but distance makes that hard. We’ve laughed, we’ve cried, we’ve fought just like sisters do. 

In the end though I can only hope for one thing. To be more like her. She is not only a heroine to her husband and her children. She’s mine.

***

Mary Terrani is the single mother of two boys—tween and teen. When they aren't keeping her on her toes, she writes to soothe her long-standing passion for the written word. Not satisfied with one genre, she dabbles in young adult romance, paranormal, and is also working on a post-apocalyptic piece with fellow author, Sarah Cass.
Monday, April 8, 2013

Be An Everyday Heroine by Fighting for Your Rights by Toni Rakestraw


2012 was a banner year for women’s issues to be at the forefront of political debate. Unfortunately, it wasn’t to expand our rights, but to limit them. Politicians deigned to define what constituted rape and what did not. Employers wanted the right to decide whether the medical coverage they provided covered birth control. After all she fought for, Margaret Sanger would be rolling in her grave.

As many older protesters have declared, they can’t believe they’re STILL fighting for these things. It should be a done deal. A no-brainer.

Writing for HerStory is just a continuation for me. I’ve long been involved in birthing rights for women, so why not all reproductive rights? The right not to procreate is as important as the right to birth your baby the way you want.

Women have had to fight for a long time. Our ancestors fought for the vote. They got it in 1920, when the 19th Amendment was passed. As I wrote about in The Woman Rebel, Margaret Sanger led the crusade for the right to control our own reproductive decisions. Birth control was gradually accepted after many servicemen returned from World War I with veneral disease, and by the mid-1940s, birth control was fully embraced by the medical profession in the United States. In 1965, a physician was convicted for helping a married couple obtain birth control, but his conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court. Birth control was legal…for married people. It wasn’t until 1972 that it was legal to distribute to single people.
Whew! It took most of a century to get to that point, yet by January of 2012, Time Magazine’s Adam Cohen was asking if birth control could possibly be made illegal once again. With the big conflict over birth control and the conservative attempt to defund Planned Parenthood (arguably Margaret Sanger’s greatest accomplishment), will America’s women end up any better off than we started at the beginning of the 20th century?

In January of this year, the Republican National Convention has resolved to defund Planned Parenthood in its entirety based on its history of providing abortion services, but it seems they are not only against abortion but against birth control. Cohen quoted one New Hampshire lawmaker as saying: “I am opposed to providing condoms to someone. If you want to have a party, have a party, but don’t ask me to pay for it.” Iowa Representative Steve King suggests that if birth control is too easy to get it might destroy America. “If we let our birth rate get down below the replacement rate, we’re a dying civilization.”

And don’t get me started on the Personhood bills that have been presented in state after state, giving fertilized eggs more rights than the full-grown women gestating them. That’s an argument for another day.
The Affordable Care Act, the long-awaited healthcare-turned-insurance-reformation law put a good portion of its provisions into effect on January 1 of this year, when all insurance companies that participate in the national health care system were mandated to provide birth control without a co-payment or a deductible.

Time will tell whether the Affordable Care Act will be able to maintain what it promises or not. States and insurance companies alike are still fighting it. As for women, it looks like we’ll still be fighting for the same rights we already won just to keep them.

I encourage all women to be aware of what is going on in our government. Don’t be afraid to write your legislator on any topic that concerns you. You don’t have to go to jail like Margaret Sanger to make a difference. Make your voice heard. Women make up half this country and we count. We vote. We deserve to be treated as whole persons.

Caffeinated Thoughts. RNC Passes Resolution to Defund Planned Parenthood. January 25, 2013. http://caffeinatedthoughts.com/2013/01/rnc-passes-resolution-to-defund-planned-parenthood/
Cohen, Adam. Birth Control: Could It Be Illegal Again? Time, Jan 30, 2012, http://ideas.time.com/2012/01/30/birth-control-could-it-be-illegal-again/

***

Toni Rakestraw is an editor by day and a writer by night. She has written another short story, The Longest Night, for Pagan Writers Press. She also co-authored Titanic Deception, a full-length novel, with her husband John.
Friday, April 5, 2013

Lorraine Nelson's Everyday Heroine

There is a young woman who works at a grocery store in Moncton who I admire. I don’t know her name, although I’ve read it on her nametag several times. She has Cerebral Palsy (I think) and works full-time. She sits on a stool, the only concession to her handicap, and runs a cash register. 

She is a professional…prompt, courteous, and friendly, regardless of the snickers from those waiting in line or the people who stare and look down their noses at her. This woman is a valuable member of the work force. Her drive and ambition does not allow her to rest on her laurels. Instead, she has carved out a spot for herself, and I know it couldn’t have been easy. Just watching her walk is pure torture. I feel for her. I hurt for her. But I do not pity her. People need to understand that those hampered with disabilities can live full and productive lives. 

All I can say is “Bravo!” 

I, too, am disabled. The most difficult thing I had to face in my life was accepting that I cannot do all the things I used to do. At least not without enduring excruciating pain for days afterward. But I can write. J To craft believable stories that people are buying and reading has made life worthwhile for me again. 

Do I wish I had my health back? Of course! 

Am I any less of a person because of the disabled tag? No!
I’ve worked, raised a family, and catered to the needs of others all my life. I was considered the strong one, the practical one, the go-to person for everything. And you know what? I still am. J

***
Lorraine Nelson is a multi-published author who lives in rural New Brunswick, on the east coast of Canada. Always a bookworm, she’s read many novels of romance and mystery over the years, finally deciding to put her pen to work at writing one.

“To write romance and romantic suspense is my dream come true, although my mom says I was born with an avid imagination and pencil in hand, crafting stories from an early age. Now my children have grown and have lives of their own, I have time to indulge my passion for writing.”

Lorraine lives alone with an independent yet affectionate tomcat, enjoys spending time with her three sons and five grandchildren, with a sixth due in December. When not at the computer, you can find her spending time with family, gardening, baking and, of course, reading.

Lorraine’s books are listed on her website. You’ll find blurbs, excerpts, reviews, and purchase links there. http://lorrainenelson.weebly.com

She loves to hear from readers. You can keep up with Lorraine’s releases by visiting her at the following locations:

Website - http://lorrainenelson.weebly.com

Blog – http://lorrainenelson.wordpress.com
Thursday, April 4, 2013

Seeking Guest Authors

We are opening the HerStory blog to outside authors. Here's the deal: each month we have a topic/theme. Any author who wishes to participate needs to send me a blog post following that theme along with your author bio/links. HerStory is a blog about women in history. Use common sense when deciding if your work is a good fit. We are looking for posts/essays/very short autobiographical stories, NOT book spotlights or blurbs. The themes we are currently seeking are as follows:

April: Everyday Heroines
May: Our Mothers
June: Women & Marriage

Posts need to be sent to tchevrestt(at)yahoo.com
Wednesday, April 3, 2013

Kate – a Slice of Life: A Story About Everyday Heroines from Morgan Summerfield

Standing behind the counter of the convenience store, Kate eyed the clock anxious for this Friday to be done so she could collect her girls from school and get her check cashed. A customer approached the register and Kate smiled congenially. The customer was not in a good mood, tossed her purchase on the counter and snarked, “These cost eight cents more than last week!”

Kate attempted to negate the customer’s dissatisfaction, “They are really good. I guess people are snapping them up. Is there anything else you need?”

The woman shook her head ‘no’, paid for her purchases, and departed only slightly appeased. Shooting a glance to the clock, Kate sighed. The store often got busy around this time of day and sometimes her relief was late, causing her to go over on her time. The manager was very strict about going over on the clock. Even when it wasn’t her fault, he would reprimand her and, unless it was thirty minutes, he didn’t pay her for the extra time. Though she knew that was illegal, she couldn’t afford to lose her job by confronting him. She hoped this day would not be one of those run over days. Five more minutes and another day would be done. The time dragged. It was now five minutes past her shift end and there was still no sign of Carl, the third shift attendant.

The store became thick with customers as people were getting off work, buying gas on their way home for the weekend, and stocking up on snacks or last minute items. A good number of customers came through the line. Apparently, her distress was showing as the woman now standing before her asked, “Are you alright?”

Shaking off the anxiety that was making her tense, Kate responded brightly. “Yes, thank you. I am just ready to go home.”

“Long day?”

“Yes,” Kate answered as she attended to the woman’s check out then asked, “Is there anything else you need?”

The woman glanced down to the lottery tickets in the counter display and said, “Yes, give me two of the Jackpot tickets.”

Swiftly, Kate tore off the tickets and the woman handed her payment. Kate gave her change and the receipt. The woman delayed her departure, smiling broadly at Kate and pushing one of the lottery tickets toward her. Patting the ticket, the woman announced, “That’s for you. Good luck.” Then, the woman scooted out the door.

In shock, Kate looked after the woman and managed a thank you just as the woman exited the door. The next customer was waiting, impatiently. Kate tucked the ticket into her pocket and went back to work. Just short of the thirty minutes that would get her paid, her replacement appeared. Kate hurried out, eager to pick up her daughters.

***

It was Saturday morning and the rain was falling hard. Forced by the gusting wind, it beat against the window pane. The day echoed Kate’s emotions. After putting gas in the car, buying a few groceries and setting aside that week’s portion of the rent, Kate’s Friday pay was reduced to $3.48 cents. Having lost her well paying job eleven months ago, by no fault of her own, along with her condo in the better part of town, life was looking bleak. Her meager savings account was depleted and she was concerned that she wouldn’t make it to her next paycheck.
A small voice broke her deliberation, as her youngest daughter queried, “Can we go to the movies?”

Washing away her melancholy, Kate turned to her daughter with a smile, “No, honey. We can’t afford it. How about we play a game instead?”

Nine year old Ellen’s face puckered into a pout as she complained, “We always used to go to the movies on Saturday and we don’t have television. Couldn’t we, please.”
With affection, Kate soothed, “I know. I wish we could afford television or go to the movies, but there just isn’t any money for that right now.”

“I don’t like being poor.”

Collecting her daughter in her arms, Kate admonished, “You are not poor. We have more than many people. We have a roof to keep us dry and food to eat, that is much more than some people have.” As Kate issued these words, her thoughts were filled with the potential of what could happen if she missed even one day of work.

Wrapping her arms around her mother’s neck Ellen whispered, “I’m sorry.”
“Me, too, but we’ll be okay.”

Ellen’s big sister, Kelly, was leaning in the doorway. At the ripe old age of eleven she was very wise and caring and she smiled at the two asking, “What game are we going to play…as if I didn’t already know it will be Scrabble, since that is the only game we have.”
With a high pitched titter, Ellen announced, “I’ll get it.”

The three played several rounds of scrabble, laughing at some of the words and challenging others with look ups in the dictionary. It was Kate’s turn and she was mulling over what she might construct with the letters on her tray. Seeing she could make the word ticket, she placed the tiles on the board. As she dropped the last letter, she remembered the lottery ticket still in her pocket from the previous day. Not wanting to raise hopes only to dash them, she excused herself and secretively located the ticket. Gently, she scratched off all the coverage on the ticket and examined the results several times—just to be sure. The ticket was a twenty dollar winner.
The tears would not be held away. Kate slid down the wall and whaled, unable to contain the emotion. Promptly, Ellen and Kelly came to her, covering her over with love and affection in an attempt to console her. When her emotion finally found ground, she showed them the ticket and asked, “So what movie do you want to see?”

***

There were a number of everyday heroines in this little slice of life. First, there was the woman who chose to ‘shine a light’ on Kate. Though the woman didn’t know Kate, she connected with her distress and made a small gesture toward acknowledging it. Second, there was Kate, who typifies many single mothers of today faced with hard choices, including the choice of staying within the ‘light’ of love and caring rather than falling into the ‘dark’ of drugs, abuse, and neglect. Then there were her daughters. They chose to be supportive and stick together.

As we go through our lives, we often become oblivious to the people around us that we do not know. When was the last time you actually looked the cashier, receptionist, attendant, or waitperson in the eye? Take the initiative to ‘come aware’ of those around you. That is the only way you will ever see an opportunity to change a life. Sometimes even the smallest of kindnesses offer huge impacts. Something as slight as a smile could be all it takes. Commit random acts of kindness for you never know when your kindness will be just the thing someone needs in that moment.

“In a world filled with darkness, choose to be a light.”

***
 Morgan Summerfield is a published author, a painter, a mother, and a grandmother. Many say she is possessed by her passions. She will tell you she is infatuated with fiction and an avid seeker of knowledge. Her background is diverse, having worked in many areas, including, teaching, bartending, construction, and consulting. Currently she works with a domestic violence shelter and education agency. A quote from Morgan: “There are a few really important things in life, then there is everything else. Pay attention to the few.”



Monday, April 1, 2013

What Others Are Saying About HerStory

On Amazon:

"When you combine a powerfully potent topic such as this with writers such as Lorraine Nelson and Dianne Hartsock, this is a book that has all the hallmarks of a winner from the very first page. Having read these authors' previous books, it is difficult to imagine a better choice for bringing to life characters that create an intense, moving and memorable read. I am looking forward to reading more and suspect I won't be the only reader who feels this way." --Michelle Fayard

"What a unique opportunity. Twenty seven authors offer twenty-seven different voices and a variety of stories on women of the past. If for no other reason than the collaboration of such a diverse group, this book is worth the read. For those who are younger, it is a glimpse into the lives of your mothers, grandmothers, great grandmother, and ancestors. For those who have lived the past, it is a reminder of how far we have come." --Flawedflower

On Goodreads:

"This book was absolutely amazing. There are about 30 tales, all of which revolve around strong heroines. Its takes you on a walk through time. You start out all the way in ancient Rome and the very last story is set in the future with a woman who is part of Doctor Without Borders. There are stories of woman overcoming abuse, of women fighting for their right to vote, and mothers who love their children unconditionally. There are sword swinging warriors, queens who made sacrifices, and even an African American cowgirl! I wish I could leave a review of each story, because they all deserve one, but then this post would go on forever. All I can say is, this anthology is a masterpiece and a must read for any woman who is looking for a little empowerment!" --Gloria Defeo
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