Senator McConnell employed a seldom-used rule on Senator Elizabeth Warren last week, but in the end, his words unleashed a new battle cry for thousands if not millions of women.
His attempt to quiet her angered people to the point where his quote trended on Twitter and became a business enterprise of tee-shirts, cups, and demonstration signs.
He may have shut her up for the moment, but not in the long run.
This emerging battle cry pokes at tender memories of times when people attempted to shut us (women) up.
For me, the words, “Nevertheless, she persisted,” took me back to my childhood.
In the kitchen sat my uncle, the older brother to my mom. The thud of a Coors beer can hit the metal table. Something pissed him off. My aunt shooed us into the living room.
“What do you mean, school?”
Mom told him she signed up for night school to get her diploma.
“Mothers take care of their kids, they stay home. We live two hours away, who’s gonna watch them? Not strangers.”
His wife didn’t work outside the home. She took care of us during the summers, when Mom worked two jobs. Mom was divorced, four kids under nine years old.
Usually, my uncle was a loving brother, a responsible man who financially helped us whenever he could. My aunt always there with a burrito, glass of milk and a joke to make us laugh.
Mom gave him the details about night school, classes from seven to ten at night, four days a week. She had a babysitter for us, a neighbor. She could get her high school diploma in a year if she worked hard, and she promised she would.
“You don’t need a diploma to work the packing house.”
I could see her enthusiasm wane, her smile faded. She picked at her fingernails. Mom turned into a little girl before my eyes. I wanted to tell my uncle Mom worked hard, she stood for eight to ten hours, her hands sorting vegetables in a cold factory. Her plastic apron stunk, even after she washed it late at night. But he knew that already.
“I don’t want to work in the fields or a factory for the rest of my life. I want an education.”
My uncle made decent money working construction, they had a house, a car. We lived in the projects, no car and had to eat powdered eggs and have Spam for dinner.
“I can get a better job with a high school diploma, go to community college …”
His fist hit the table. “Ay, sí, college. What the hell are you thinking?”
Mom shrunk into her chair.
“You don’t even have a car,” he said.
“I’ll take the bus, like we do now,” Mom’s voice grew stronger.”Or walk.”
This scene persisted after my uncle and aunt left. A neighbor, a man who encouraged his sons to go to college, acted like my uncle when he heard Mom attended night school.
She received her diploma a year later. After that, she went to on to community college. My uncle bought her a beat up used car, but it got her to the next city to attend night classes.
Mom graduated with her A.A degree the same year I graduated from eighth grade. She scrimped and saved, sought out every scholarship, and applied for better jobs. Four years later, working full time, she earned two Bachelor of Science degrees from a Cal State University.
Rejection letters can knock you on your butt. And that’s okay, it happens, stuff hurts, rejection sucks. But you can’t stay on the floor, rubbing your a**.
1. Get your butt off the floor and go do something nice for yourself. Take a walk, draw, watch a comedy, play with your kids or pet. This includes eating or drinking-5 minute limit. Put on the timer.
After 30+ ‘thank you, but no thank you’ emails on one manuscript and going on 20 for another, I’ve numbed out when I begin reading text that begins with “Dear Author.” (As I type, I swear another ‘Dear Author’ email blurb popped up on my screen).
2. Don’t stuff your feelings. I usually say, “Ah, crap,” or “Pftttt.” Sometimes I whine, “I’m never going to get published….” You can ‘wau-wau’ ‘boo-boo,’ but only for five minutes-again, put on the timer.
3. Think of the ‘no thank you,’ like James Lee Burke (his novels have been made into films):
“Every rejection is incremental payment on your dues that in some way will be translated back into your work.”
—James Lee Burke
I’ve also had many more emails that begin with my actual name and say some nice things before the ‘NO’ comes. The agent tries to soften the blow. Bless his/her little heart.
4. With each rejection, I file the email in my little folder and then I either re-read the MS, or ask my writing sisters for more critique. Keep trying.
Twice, out of 50+ times, I’ve had what felt like B-12 shots to the heart.
“I’d love to read more, please send the entire manuscript…”
Six weeks later I get another type of shot, one in the butt.
“After careful consideration….Uh, no.” Well that’s not entirely true. One rejection felt like that while the other was thoughtful.
5. If someone gives you specific criticism, regard it as a gift. Let them know you appreciate their comments.
This agent took the time to explain why she didn’t accept the MS. She supplied some examples, some suggestions, all in a couple of paragraphs. I felt respected, overjoyed, and then grateful.
I shared the agents comments with my writing sisters. They were happy for me. Why? Because I know, we know, that I am much farther along the road to getting an acceptance than I once thought. I’m going to work on those weak areas for the next month or until I get it right.
“An absolutely necessary part of a writer’s equipment, almost as necessary as talent, is the ability to stand up under punishment, both the punishment the world hands out and the punishment he inflicts upon himself.”
Rejection letters are part of the process of writing. That’s just the way it is, for writers, for everybody. It takes a strong woman/man, a bien chingona to keep writing pass the hill of rejection letters.
6. Turn your rejection around and see what you can gain. Go get the timer again. Shut off your computer. Now, write out your feelings, huff and puff, or boo-hoo on paper. Rip it to shreds if you want. Slam dunk it into the wastebasket. Or put it away for when you need that kind of emotion in one of your stories or poems.
7. Keep growing. Attend a critique group. Enroll in online or offline classes. Keep reading. Attend at least one conference a year. Spend more time on your writing work than on social media. (You can devote more time to that area after you’re published).
A month has passed since my two youngest moved to Colorado, to a city outside of Denver. I’ve had thirty days of tears, fears for their safety, and anxiety. The youngest son (YS) began college and my daughter (MD) wanted to start her new career in a new place. She’s in the health field and was certain she could find a job in the first week.
Parenting is hard, long distance parenting harder still. There is that fine line between ‘being there’ for them and gently pulling the apron strings from their hands. Kind of a holding on and letting go motion. In this case there was no gentle pull, but a sharp yank.
During the first week, YS had his bank account robbed-his entire summer savings-taken by someone who used his account number on the internet to purchase items from Macy’s. He found this out while shopping for groceries at the local market. He was pissed, MD mortified that they had to abandon their grocery cart and walk out with nothing.
YS made a flurry of phone calls to his bank and to me. Their Wi-Fi wasn’t working and they don’t have a printer so he had to fill out forms on his smart phone at Burger King and print the forms at school and mail them out. It’s a helpless feeling to know that your kid got ripped off, you can’t make it right for them, and you hope he’ll calm down enough to follow the long process to get his money back.
I wanted to FedEx them groceries, wire them money, do something. I imaged them starving. Instead I had to stop and think the situation through and have the kids do likewise. Yes, they had basic staples, beans, rice, and pasta. And that’s what carried them through. YS received his new ATM card and had his money returned in a week and a half.
Lesson: Listen first, don’t dive in to fix things. Do not keep your ATM card number stored on websites, change your password every 90 days, and check your account online frequently. Keep your pantry stocked with staples. Give kids recipes for making Mexican rice, sopita (alphabet or angel hair pasta in spicy sauce) and beans de olla (beans with onion, spices, in the pot) before they move.
The second week the kids new microwave wasn’t operating properly, burning popcorn, not heating. MD called complaining about the micro. We had a conversation about whether they could do without a microwave. She took it back to Walmart and used the $54 for groceries they hadn’t bought the first week. The internet in their apartment is still glitchy, MD doesn’t have a job yet, she ‘s getting worried, I’m getting worried about November’s rent. YS takes MD to a job center to do a job hunt the old fashioned way. MD and YS argue about the chores. His position “she’s home,” her position, “I’m not a maid.”
Lesson: Listen some more. Ask questions that help them solve problems. Luxuries come after necessities. When all else fails get back to the basics. A chore list is posted on the refrigerator.
The third week, MD called at 9 p.m Colorado time. With a trembling voice, she said she smelled something like gas and firetrucks were rumbling into the parking lot of the apartment complex.
“Get your coat, shoes, important papers, cat and get out of there,” I told her.
“I can’t find the cat,” she wailed.
“Leave the patio door open and get out of there,” I repeated.
She hung up. I called back, no answer. I called YS and told him to hightail it back to the apartment. FIve minutes later MD calls, crying. The firefighters told all the residents to evacuate a minute after our phone call. YS was visiting a friend, she couldn’t find the cat, and she was standing in 38 degree weather with her robe and slippers shivering. I did blow my top then almost shouting, asking her why she didn’t do what I told her to do.
“I had to find the cat.”
In my mind I shout, “F*ck the cat,” (sorry but I did), instead I reiterated that the cat has an exit through the patio door and I’m glad she got out with her cell phone. She had to hang up again. MD calls again, she can see the fire fighters walking on the roof above her apartment, then she yells “They’re chopping through our roof!” And I about faint. We lose our phone connection. I start praying and taking deep breaths.
Three minutes later she calls back and says all the residents had to walk a block away from the complex. She tells me how nice the neighbors are to her, noticing that she is alone, offering her a coat to wear, telling her cats are resourceful and keeping her company until my son arrives. We think of a game plan of where they will stay the night in case they can’t return to the apartment. YS wants to sleep in the car so they are nearby. Three hours later they get the all clear that they can return. MD finds the roof axed open, leaving a large gaping hole, a foot away from her front door.
We FaceTime a lot during the next couple of days. I check my airplane miles, I have enough to use for a round trip. I book a flight for the end of October.
Lesson: If you smell gas, and the fire engines are entering your parking lot, get your clothes on, take your wallet/ purse, and get out of the area. Post a sign on the inside of your front door specifying you have pets and their names. Appreciate the kindness of neighbors. Sometimes FaceTime isn’t enough and you’ll only feel better when you hug your kids in person. (This is the let go/hold on part).
The fourth week MD says YS is hardly home, he’s with friends he’s met at college and the skate park. She doesn’t have a car and stuck at home. I encourage her to walk her neighborhood, go to the rec center a couple of blocks away. “I don’t want to do that alone,” she says. The chore list isn’t working. Finally she has a job offer, but it’s not in the health field.
“But it pays well enough to cover all the bills and have money left over. It’s ten hour days, four days a week,” she says. “I start November 1st.”
“Good enough for now,” I say and exhale.
While Southern California endures scorching Santa Ana winds, my YS calls, “It’s snowing.” He’s never driven in snow. The kids send me photos of snow covered trees and cars. They complain that it’s “Freaken’ icy cold over here.” They find boots, warmer scarves and hats at the Goodwill.
And then they send me a photo of a squirrel on their balcony. “It’s so awesome over here.”
I breathe easier. So many obstacles in one month but we made it through. My worry hasn’t dissipated altogether, but I do have hope, faith, and pride for their accomplishments, and mine, to carry me through the next month.