kids running and leaping on hillside

We’re Not Children Anymore, Right?

Karin Kallmaker LIFE + STYLE 2 Comments

My mother brought little gifts and small books for toddlers at birthday parties, because little kids sometimes don’t get that the day is about someone else. Older kids, including hers, should know better.

Imagine being a completely grown up person who insists every party be about them and if they aren’t then birthday parties are unfair.

Time for Time Out?

I’m exhausted. Drained by abusers, by bullies. By liars, racists and gaslighters. By science deniers, and most all, white people pretending they’re adults while they play with guns and the health of other people. Exhausted by people who always want to be the birthday child. When you say “but all lives matter” that’s what I hear. That you need someone else’s party to be about you.

But it’s not a birthday party that’s going on all around us. This “party” is about being killed at a traffic stop. Hunted when out jogging. Dying in a holding cell. Oh wait, that’s not what you mean when you say all lives matter, is it? You don’t want that party to be about you, do you?

This “party” is also about thousands upon thousands of people being sick for months, possibly dying or left permanently disabled, wiped out financially, and long-term unemployed because some toddlers who look like adults refuse to wear a mask for 15 minutes in the grocery store or stay away from other people like everyone has the plague, which they actually might. Or sitting at the top of all their privilege, forcing their presence on other people wearing only what protects themselves, but not a mask to protect others.

meme love thy neighbor wear thy mask

White people, stop acting like children who were never taught to be kind. Not to hurt people. To accept some inconvenience to help others. Not to blow smoke in other people’s faces, or breathe out your potentially deadly germs on them.

I would put you all in Time Out, but you’re killing people. I can’t afford to ignore you, and black, brown, and indigenous people really can’t afford for anyone to ignore you.

And I’m very much aware that the people who need to hear this message aren’t listening to me. So now that the venting is over, I’m left with questions I’ve been asking myself these past few weeks, few months, and past few years. And a mish-mushy of answers.

Maybe I am Still a Child?

What if the resistance I’ve felt in the past and still deal with in the present, this automatic reflex to look away from racism doesn’t stem entirely from self-serving ignorance or ingrained white privilege?

I’ve been thinking about the few incidents in my childhood where I witnessed an adult hitting or screaming at a child. One incident was a teenage boy instructed to pour his father a beer, and he didn’t do it right. A tirade and slap were delivered in front of company.

I’ve never forgotten it – it’s one of my earliest crystal clear memories. Here’s what happened afterward: I looked away and conquered my fear and queasiness, and for years postponed acknowledging the truth that if that happened in front of guests, it happened a lot more when there were no witnesses. Later, my mother made a point of telling me she didn’t think what happened was right or in any way deserved. We never spent much time with that family again.

Abuse traumatizes all who witness it, not just the person it lands on.

While the circumstances around the 1964 murder of Kitty Genovese were exaggerated and misreported for years, it doesn’t change the fact that as a girl, teen, and young woman “nobody helped” was internalized as truth. I learned over and over how to keep my physical and mental distance from the ugliness of much of the world, to look away. How to conquer my own fear and queasiness at the evil people do to each other.

What Childhood Lessons Am I Still Carrying?

A long ago employer held annual conferences, and in my early twenties trying to navigate in an almost exclusively white older male world I listened to everything around me. I was too naive, at first, to understand what they meant when, in answer to where one man was, another said, “Over by the bathrooms of course.” There was uneasy laughter, lots of eye rolling. A couple of conferences later someone put it more bluntly: That guy needed to be told to stop hanging around outside the women’s restroom.

It seemed he had a habit of waylaying women, especially women who had retreated to the restroom to escape him.

Someone finally did tell him to knock it off. But not until after he’d served as president of the organization. Women were losing out on socializing and making contacts in the industry because they had to hide from him instead. His behavior was no impediment to his rise in the organization. I seethed when I put it all together, and feeling powerless, I made myself look away.

Am I Ever Going to Grow Up?

I think it’s part of the human survival instinct to compartmentalize upsetting events, and extrapolate them into habits of self-preservation. Being able to do it successfully is a kind of privilege, yes. It is also a way to cope with the sheer magnitude of it. I don’t think I’m alone in knowing intellectually that 3 out of 4 women have been sexually assaulted and having to push that knowledge into a place where rage and despair don’t derail me.

I know that bullies, racists, and harassers rarely get the justice they deserve. Or justice comes too late. Sometimes they’re elected president. Sometimes a movement, like #MeToo, takes some of them down.

inner child spelled out in alphabet cheezits

So I learned well how to look away, conquer my fear, and fight down my queasiness. Those skills learned in childhood were honed all through my life. And they have and continue to tell me it would be so much easier to look away. Racism is social abuse of a group of people, it’s massive, unrelenting, brutal, murderous, and it pushes that same impulse, to look away.

I’m neurotic enough to wonder if my inability to unknot systemic sexism from systemic racism is my brand of intersectionality or another mind ploy to look away, sort of.

But of all the things I can do, what I do best is build worlds where there is hope and survival, love and kindness. And I can do a much better job of showing those worlds with black, brown, and indigenous people in them. Life makes art makes life. If there is one thing I know about myself it’s that, while it may take some time, eventually the words will be found to reflect what I see in the world and create what I want to see in the world.

Black Lives Matter. That’s Not a Question.

#BlackLivesMatter movement brings righteous, furious energy to take down racists, and a racist social structure that celebrates racists, hides racists, allows racists to gaslight, and looks away from racism. To destroy social imperatives that separate us, and amplify our fear of being unsafe, alone, overwhelmed, and exhausted. To upend a way of life that encourages everyone to always look away. Finally, for eight minutes, the entire world couldn’t look away.

#BlackLivesMatter has forced hard conversations and self-examinations throughout my larger circle of friends and organizations about laws and norms that embed racism into daily life and allow it to permeate our work and industry. It has renewed my commitment to lift up and amplify black voices and black storytellers in the small ways that I can, because many drops make a tidal wave. That reminds me, when you finish here, check out Renee Bess’s blog Excuse Me While I Burn a Few Bridges*. I promise, she’s way more succinct than I am.

#BlackLivesMatter has shown me, in this weird and wearying pandemic, that racism doesn’t social distance and racists aren’t even bothering to wear masks. #BlackLivesMatter has made me feel safer and given me words and ideas to express my feelings about racism, and other evils that I’ve compartmentalized for years. I’m learning, and learning to listen.

Which is why “all lives matter” is not only racist, and self-centered, it’s useless. It doesn’t ask anyone to do anything about diddlysquat. It doesn’t even tax the brain. (I could insert here a long-remembered lecture in college that explored how “Black is Beautiful” changed our mental status quo by forcing new neural pathways between concepts of beauty and skin color. But I won’t. You get the drift.)

This is the drift:

So Here’s Looking at You

Bullies, abusers, racists, especially in gangs, especially empowered by law, and backed up by weapons, is not something I alone have the power to change. I have to accept that I don’t have the strength, capacity – call it what you will – to see everything. I have to choose how to spend my energy and make it count while I continue to learn how to cope with the queasiness and the fear, and the disgust.

So I’m looking at you, bullies, racists, abusers and you childish, selfish white people. I see you. I will sabotage you if I can. I will resist you. I will not be counted among you.

I’m Not Racist

That sub-title is deliberately provocative scroll bait. Sorry/not sorry.

I implore anyone who skipped over all the above and hopped down to here because they’re queasy and afraid and defensive and thinking “but I’m not racist” – please, comfort that child inside. That little person was powerless when you learned that abuse happens and people you trust don’t or can’t stop it, and that most bullies win.

That little person is still there as you deal with reality: that many men don’t take no for an answer, that insanely wealthy people expect us to die for their money, and cops kill black people more often. All the while deeply embedded systems exist to let them cover up their evil or simply get away with it, unashamed.

You’re not powerless now. Get to work, please. Other people have their foot all the way down on the gas. You need to get in the ride, buckle up, and join the parade.

Black lives matter, and until they truly do, it damages all of us, and our children, and their children. You only have to look as far as that rally in Arizona where several thousand college kids, nearly all of them white, to see that for them, racism is a feature, not a bug.

Look at them. See them and all like them. Don’t let them count you one of them. It’s hard, but among many hard truths we are all facing, it’s essential.

* My mention of Renee Bess does not mean she endorses anything I have to say.

Copyrighted material, share with attribution.
four people spell love with their hands

It’s Unexpectable! Audio and Virtual Events and Stuff and Things

Karin Kallmaker Because I Said So, Events and Appearances, Sisters of the Pen, Unforgettable 0 Comments

You have probably heard that there’s a pandemic going on. All of us are learning new ways to stay in touch and share our lives and work. I can certainly say that I’ve done more audio and video events in the last month than in perhaps the last five years. And there’s more on the way. Thank goodness for YouTubers with tips on everything from camera management to make-up! I may have watched more than a few.

(FYI, you can click here to see all posts in the “Events and Appearances” category. Interviews and podcasts are here. Readings are here.)

Bella Books Author Corner: High School Reunions

Bella Books is hosting a YouTube Authors’ Corner with lots of delicious video readings from a diverse collection of lesbian fiction. (You should subscribe to the channel so you’ll know when new ones are put up!) My contribution is now online – a reading from late in Unforgettable when Rett Jamison and Angel Martinetta might finally get past the past they never had. Read More

sleeping baby in pink fuzzy

The New Normal Includes Sleep Loss – Resources that Might Help

Karin Kallmaker LIFE + STYLE, Resources 0 Comments

Are you having trouble getting to sleep or staying asleep right now? The issue is being commonly mentioned by friends. I’ve had trouble sleeping for most of my life, but for many of my friends, this is a first. They can’t fall asleep. Or they can’t stay asleep. Or they find their 8 hours is now at best two 3-hour sets.

I went looking for helpful, reliable advice to share, but what I found didn’t address what we’re all going through with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The Usual Solutions for Sleep Loss

It’s easy to find reputable articles online that deal with occasional and intermittent sleep issues, travel time zone changes, or the off-kilter adjustment period after daylight savings. Here’s a quick set of resources with the “usual” sorts of advice. I’ve left the URLs exposed so you can see where the link will take you. All links will open in a new browser tab. Read More

lesbian review banner review because I said so a perfect ending

The Kitchen Table, Mahjong, and an Audiobook Giveaway

Karin Kallmaker Because I Said So 25 Comments

The comment period for the giveaway is now closed. All winners have been chosen – see my 02/10/2020 comment.

We Must Eat to Live – and Maybe to Love

Have you ever noticed how many of life’s dramatic moments – at least in romantic stories – happen over a meal? I think it’s one way love stories reflect the real world. As Poet Laureate Joy Harjo wrote,

The World Begins at a Kitchen Table
No matter what, we must eat to live.1

We laugh, mourn, celebrate, and weep at the kitchen table. Devastation and revelations are served up between the meat and the pudding. Hook ups begin at tiny bistro tables, and break ups in breakfast nooks. Read More

rows of high speed computing connections

Why, How, and When to Use the New Off-Facebook Activity Privacy Tool

Karin Kallmaker LIFE + STYLE 2 Comments

This tool was rolled out in batches to users. It ought to appear for everyone now.

You should know this up front: It’s impossible to completely protect your privacy online. This new tool from Facebook, however, gives you the power to sever the silent connections between your use of Facebook, and everything else you do with apps and sites on your devices.

ICYMI, a Brief History of Facebook’s Data Abuse

Facebook has been caught collecting, using, and sharing data without user consent. They also continue to say it would be somehow unethical to limit known lies shared on their site by groups who pay Facebook to help target you with their lies.

In response to getting caught, Facebook promised they’d help users take control. This new “Off-Facebook Activity Tool” is the result. Read More


Chocolate Nut Candy in the Crock Pot – Recipe, Variations, and Tips

Karin Kallmaker Chocolate and Inspirations 2 Comments

The Love Affair Began on Facebook

Gleaming chocolate nut candy bites and the words “so simple!” alongside. I was immediately smitten. After all, I like chocolate. I also like nuts. And I’m always looking for simple recipes that consistently please and always turn out.

So I looked at the various recipes for Christmas Crack in the Crock Pot. After scrolling multiple screens past short paragraphs interspersed with a lot of ads to finally find the ingredients and methodology, my reaction was, “It does seem easy. And great result for the labor involved. But YIKES! That’s way, way, way too sweet.”

I gave it try – already ramping back on the ultimate sweetness level by cutting out some of the white chocolate – and it was indeed simple, and the result very addictive. Even so, I found it still too sweet. Nevertheless, the first batch disappeared quickly, mostly because my brother-in-law’s lizard brain said “oh look nuts, nuts are healthy” and he was eating it for breakfast. Read More

Zola ad snapshot lesbian kiss

Hallmark Uncaves, Says All the Right Things

Karin Kallmaker LIFE + STYLE 5 Comments

It was a Busy Weekend

My gay agenda for the weekend was full: an audiobook drawing, holiday shopping, candy-making (cut my thumb, ouch!) and dueling Community Days for my Pokemon Go and Wizards Unite fixations. Still no shiny Ralts. Drats.

Oh, and Hallmark banned an ad with two women kissing at their wedding, then unbanned it and issued an apology. Maybe you heard?

I’m mostly going to repeat what I posted on Facebook over the course of the weekend because not only did I vent my shock at Hallmark’s gutless caving to a fringe group of homophobes, I learned something that I should have already known: Hallmark’s holiday programming is nearly 100% white. In 2019.

I’ve read the apology and it says all the right things. They’ve got hiring practices and LGBTQ cards, and are partnering with a prominent LGBTQ organization to broaden their perspective. That’s all good. But my concern about their other commitments to diversity, namely racial diversity, remains. Such a stunning lack (see below) – is inexcusable at this point.

So no, they can’t buy my LGBTQ eyeballs with only LGBTQ representation. I want comprehensive representation or my eyeballs will go elsewhere, permanently. There are plenty of other places to aim them while I wait and see.

In case you missed it on Facebook, here’s the whole rundown of events from my perspective.

The “Controversial” Ad from Zola Airs

It’s super cute! Read More

joy candles reflection

What’s Your Comfort and Joy?

Karin Kallmaker Comfort and Joy 20 Comments

Drawing and comment period is now closed. Winners announced in the most recent comment. Short version: Everybody won!

Two women in uniform meet in a cemetery on Christmas Eve. The uniforms aren’t subtle: one is a soldier, the other a pastor. The attraction is immediate, but dimmed by the reality of their professions. On the surface, at least, they seem incompatible.

Faith is a tricky subject. For example, along with politics and sports, religion is a topic forbidden from posh dinner parties. We certainly are living in times where discussing some subjects feels about as safe as playing softball with a hand grenade.

Keep Calm and Love On Poster

I can’t find the quote to attribute it correctly, but I tend to agree with my memory of this one: “So much of the conflict in the world comes from the idea that someone has to be right about religion.” For what it’s worth, that leads me to one of my personal philosophies: “I have nothing against guns and the Bible. I just don’t like them pointed at people.”

So how will Milla and Tyna bridge the distance between their first impressions and a surprising, unexpected physical attraction?

That’s the gist of Comfort and Joy, a short novella I wrote a few years ago in an inspired frenzy. The opening scene came to me in a single “download” from the creative heavens, so to speak, as did several others. It’s funny, heartfelt, and sensual, in keeping with the season. And yes, they talk about faith. Read More