The United States of Faith

Ever since the inauguration of President HeWhoShallNotBeNamed I’ve been under a lot of stress thinking about the state of our country and the world. My Facebook feed and conversations I have with friends, family and co-workers tells me I’m not alone. But as I vowed last month, I’m trying to keep a positive attitude. One of the silver linings I see as a result of having a con-man in the oval office is a wave of Americans with a newfound interest in the inner workings of our government.

The other night, after watching the latest bad news about the chaos in the White House and the ill effects this could have on our nation, I settled myself into bed. While trying to ease my mind for sleep I felt a sense of faith which, despite years of being a devote Catholic, was unlike anything I have ever felt before. It was a very deep sense of faith in the American people and the values we share. In that moment I felt in my soul that our Constitution, written and framed to protect us from dictators, would stand and in the end we would all be OK.

The next morning I carved 20 minutes out of my workday and wrote a letter to Paul Ryan. It was a very sincere letter, containing the very things I would want to say to him if I ever saw him in person:

Dear Mr. Ryan,

I write to you from California. While I am not one of your constituents, I am an American citizen who is extremely concerned about the preservation of our democracy and Constitution. I therefore ask that you please support all efforts to form an independent investigation of the current administration and their potential ties to Russia.

Mr. Ryan, the good people of Wisconsin voted for you to SERVE not only their interests, but the interests of this nation. As a fellow gen-Xer who, like you, grew up during the Reagan years I am baffled by your lack of engagement on this issue of Russia and their potential ties to our president. We need to know the truth of what is happening.

We need leaders such as yourself to put the interests of the Republican party aside and stand up for the best interests of the American people. Listen to your heart Mr. Ryan. Do what’s right. We are depending on you sir.

Sincerely,

Karen Jessop

Castro Valley, California

The next day I wrote a letter to Jason Chaffetz. A lot about Jason Chaffetz makes me extremely ragey but I was able to put those feeling aside to also appeal to what I hope is his human side:

Dear Mr. Chaffetz,

I write to you from California, as a fellow gen-Xer (Granada High in Livermore, class of ’85!) and a concerned American citizen. I am asking you to please support all efforts to form an independent investigation of the current administration and their potential ties to Russia.

Our country is in the midst of a crisis Mr. Chaffetz. You know this and as Chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee you have a responsibility to get to the bottom of our current president’s ties to Russia. Your current refusal to do so has me baffled. You took an OATH sir. You took an oath to uphold the Constitution and preserve American democracy. Why are you not doing this?

We need you to be a leader Mr. Chaffetz. We need you to put the interests of the Republican party aside and stand up for the best interests of the American people. Listen to your heart Mr. Chaffetz and look into the eyes of your children. They deserve a father who is courageous enough to stand up and do what he knows is right. They deserve a father who is on the right side of history. They deserve a father who knows what it means to be an American. Stand up Mr. Chaffetz and be the American we all need you to be.

Sincerely,

Karen Jessop

Castro Valley, California

I was able to send Paul Ryan his letter though email. Jason Chaffetz will not accept email from people outside his district (another thing about him that makes me mad) so I had to print the letter out and mail it by hand. Will either of these congressmen even see these? Of course not. At best my letters will be one of many that may be a momentary prick on the conscience of their staffers. But more importantly, writing these letters and sending them out made me feel better. They gave me a beacon of hope and are a reminder that I am an active American who has faith in our system. And I believe that faith is what is going to get us through this.

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Romance Novels, Truth and Why I’m Pro-Choice

I was raised Catholic and taught from an early age and in the wake of Roe v. Wade, that life begins at conception. Naturally this meant that abortion was murder so of course it should be illegal. This belief influenced how I voted for the first time at 18 and later in my early 20s. I once attended a NOW meeting for a college class and found the experience extremely distasteful as the entire 2 hours was focused on pro-choice issues. To me “pro-choice” was just a euphemism for “pro-abortion” and an excuse for women to be selfish.

When I was 27 I read Heartbeat by Danielle Steel. The heroine, Adrian, is married to Steven. They are a successful couple, each with a fulfilling career, a beautiful home and a happy life. Despite the fact that they have decided to not have children, Adrian finds herself unexpectedly pregnant one day. She tells Steven and he insists that she terminate the pregnancy. She refuses so Steven leaves her. Adrian then meets Bill, the hero of the story, and the romance proceeds much in the way you would expect.

Many reading this book might see it has having a pro-life message, and a pretty common troupe for a romance novel. Danielle Steel describes her writing process as being highly focused. She spends hours each day, doing little else, and becomes hyper focused on each book she writes. I like to think this is because she pours her truth into each book. Sharing your truth with the world in a truly authentic way helps others see their own truth. However, each person’s truth looks different on the outside. The key, and this is the struggle the world faces, is learning to live with the various different faces of truth.

Danielle Steel poured her truth into Heartbeat and by doing so she helped me see mine. Instead of seeing Adrian’s husband Steven as an evil monster who wants to kill babies, I saw him as the pentacle of choice. He insisted that Adrian do what he wanted while Adrian realized she had a choice. Adrian was the one who was pregnant. Adrian was the one who felt life in her body. Adrian was the one in charge and Adrian chose to have her baby, husband or not. It was this book, Heartbeat, this book that contained Danielle Steel’s truth which on its face was saying “abortion is wrong,” this book helped me understand that being pro-choice means exactly that: choice.

I felt like I had a burden lifted when I came to this realization. It was one of the first times I can remember seeing things click together in my mind and having clarity. Helping others clear things up in their own minds is why I need to continue to write. I need to write my truth because truth makes the world a better place.

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Update on 2016

I don’t know about you but by the time George Michaels died on Christmas Day I was sick and tired of seeing people whine about how they couldn’t wait for horrible, terrible, mean old 2016 to be over. Yes, I know it was a bummer that a lot of iconic celebrities died but considering that other bad thing that happened (ie: a narcissist con-man got elected to run the highest office in the land, and just so you know my hands are clean on that one) our troubles have just begun. It’s quite possible that 2016 is going to look like a garden party by the time we hit October 2017.

In the meantime I’m trying to keep my spirits up. And while it may seem a little insensitive I’m going to gloat a bit here and tell you that 2016 wasn’t all that bad for me personally. Here are my highlights from this past year:

The year started out on a high point when I decided to do volunteer work with the Hayward Public Library Literacy Plus Program. I started with an ESL learner, a lovely young working mother who spoke Spanish and needed help reading in English. I enjoyed the time we spent together but eventually we had to stop do to scheduling issues. I was then placed with a 50-something woman who is working on getting her high school diploma. We are still together and it’s been a great experience.

In May Jerry and I took a lovely trip to Dallas Texas. Actually, the majority of our time was spent at the Video Game Museum in Frisco. But we also did some sightseeing in downtown Dallas. I also got to see my favorite author, Meg Cabot!

In July I went to the RWA National Conference in San Diego. You can read about it here. Another great thing that happened to me in July was that I got to take on some new responsibilities at work. At first I was a little sad about this because I was taking over the job of someone really great who was leaving the Company. I was also kind of scared about it. Would I do as good a job as the great person who left? But it turned out the new job is really fun and I think I’m pretty good at it, if I do say so myself.

In August Jerry took me on a wonderful trip to Europe. We spent four days in London and two days in Paris. We did have a little snafu with our luggage and spent four days in the same clothes. Also, the London portion of the trip was work related for Jerry, so not as fun for him. But I had a great time! Also did I mention that we flew Business Class?

By October I was hyper focused on the presidential election and by November completely depressed that a good portion of America had voted a con-man to the Oval Office. I’m still trying to keep an open mind about the whole thing. Who knows? Maybe Donald Trump will turn out to be a great president. OK, I know that’s a stretch. At this point I’ll settle for not getting us blown up.

My goal for 2017 is to keep a positive attitude and to keep writing. In fact my motto for the year is something I borrowed from Robyn Carr who, when she accepted her Nora Roberts Lifetime Achievement Award at this year’s RWA Conference, said “This year let it be about the story.”

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Tales from the 101

Anyone who has lived in the San Francisco Bay Area for any length of time will tell you that the commute is getting worse all the time.  Luckily I am able to carpool most of the way with my husband, Jerry.  This really helps with the westbound approach to the San Mateo Bridge.  However, once Jerry gets to his destination in Foster City I am on my own for the next five miles to my workplace in Redwood City and this leg of the trip can often take up to 30 minutes.

Alternate routes are limited and equally congested so I am stuck going through the 92 interchange to southbound 101.  The traffic is almost always bumper to bumper and the drivers I encounter on this route have made me a pessimist about the future of humanity.  Traffic may be getting bad because there are more drivers on the road but the main culprit are people on their phones.

Yesterday morning’s asshat was in an old grey Honda Accord with a cigarette in one hand and a phone in the other.  I was behind him and saw in his side mirror, his eyes looking down with an occasional break to look up and take a puff on the ole cancer stick, blowing smoke out his open window.  When he almost rear ended the work truck in front of him I thought he would be scared straight and put the phone down.  But nope, he still couldn’t stop looking and instead slowed everyone down by hardly moving at all. I finally leaned on the horn to get him moving and as an added bonus I rolled down my window and stuck my head out and yelled at the top of my voice, “GET OFF YOUR FUCKING PHONE!”

To my surprise he actually heard me and amazingly the erratic phone driving stopped. Unfortunately I also scared him out of the lane and a few yards later he merged to the left, early and over the solid line. That’s OK because I was glad to be rid of him. I need to start screaming at my fellow commuters out my rolled down window more often. It was extremely satisfying and made for a better rest of the day.

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Takeaways from RWA 2016

Last month I went down to San Diego to attend my first ever RWA National Conference. It was the most inspiring four days of my life. I met a bunch of amazing romance writers, I came home with a pile of books and the best thing is I’ve been diligently working on my latest project ever since.

I spent the majority of my time at the hotel and saw very little of San Diego the entire time. Luckily I had a lovely view of the harbor from my room.

While the entire experience was four days of non-stop learning and inspiration, here are my three biggest takeaways.

Romance Writers are Awesome!

The first workshop I attended was the first timer’s orientation. This workshop helped set the tone for the rest of the week. Their big message was: welcome to the tribe where all writers are equal.

Granted, RWA has different levels of membership depending on where you are in your writing career. However once you are all in the same room the playing field is the same for everyone and the unspoken rule is be kind and provide support. I honestly believe this attitude stems from the fact that (yes I’m going to say it) 99% of the RWA membership is women. Women are completely different animals when men are not around. Men bring out our competitive side. Take them out of the equation and we are left to survive on our own and because we are nurturing by nature we help others do the same.

I also believe that the content romance writers focus on brings out good energy. What else can you expect when you bring together 2,000 women who spend their days thinking about unconditional love and commitment?

Nora Roberts is My New Idol

I was not planning to attend the “Chat with Nora Roberts” on Friday morning. I figured it would be standing room only and besides there was another workshop scheduled at the same time that I also really wanted to attend. I changed my mind at the last minute after chatting with a woman in the elevator who told me that hearing Nora Roberts speak would be invaluable. After a brief moment of
Sophie’s Choice I did an about face and hurried off to the “Chat with Nora Roberts.”

The woman on the elevator was spot on. Nora Roberts is not only a talented and prolific writer. She is warm, funny, authentic and swears like a sailor. When the hour was up I walked out of the room feeling like a better person.

Nora’s advice to writers is to write every day, stay disciplined and finish what you start. More than once she said “finish your first draft.” In fact at one point she said, “Finish that first draft. Puke it out!” The entire room chuckled at the joke but my jaw dropped, I found her statement so profound. Writing a first draft is EXACTLY like puking! It’s miserable, you don’t want to do it and you feel much better when you’re done. Not only that but the end result is NOT something anyone wants to look at. Knowing that even Nora Roberts, who has written and published over 200 novels still finds it hard really inspired me.

Time is Not an Excuse

I attended a workshop on time management, taught by Caridad Pineiro who has written and published over 50 books. She talked about making a plan and scheduling in time to write. She also shared her techniques of “thinking out her story” before she sits down to write for the day. I loved her many suggestions but then Caridad revealed something else that won me over for good: she is an attorney who works full time at a New York City law firm and she writes her books during her commute on the train. Also she has children!

If a New York City lawyer (she’s a partner no less!) with children can find time to write romance novels anyone can. Even me!

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Carson City Dispatch from Mrs. B

It’s me, Mrs. B. My mommy neglects her blog so horribly that even a cat can hack into it.

I’m writing this from the hell that is our Nevada house. My humans clearly bought this place so they’d have a way to torture me. Yesterday they captured me from my favorite hiding spot under Jerry’s desk, shoved me into that horrid carrier with the broken handle and took me on a six hour car trip. That’s right, SIX HOURS! I had to pee like a mo-fo when we got here. And to add insult to injury, they are making me use cheap ass cat litter from the 99 Cents store. It doesn’t clump and it stinks to high heaven. Jerry is responsible for this I’m sure.

Mommy did her best to fix my litter by putting a layer of Tidy Cat on top. She’s scared to death I’ll revenge poop outside the box. I have never in my life left my mommy a revenge poop but I’m considering it in light of this weekend. These people need to realize that I’m getting picky in my old age.

Mommy is also scared to death that I’ll keep her up all night when I’m up her. I’ve done it before but that was when I was still an outdoor cat. Just between you and me, I don’t mind being in the house all the time anymore and I don’t mind letting my humans sleep now and then. But Mommy still doesn’t trust me and tried to get me to take a kitty-xanax last night. She tried to hide it in my food (amateur) but I held strong until she finally broke out the last of the Japanese cat treat rations.

Japanese cat treats laced with kitty-xanax. MMMMMMMMMMMMM!!!!

I have no idea what she’s going to do to get me to calm down tonight now that the Japanese cat treats are gone. I’ve been sleeping all day in this heat. As soon as they turn the lights out I’ll be bugging the shit out of those humans.

Meow for now!

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Ending the Silence with Reading, Writing and Most Importantly, Mrs. B

This morning while I was in the shower Mrs. B sat by the door like she usually does. If I stay in too long she starts meowing like she did this morning. I opened the door thinking she would be happy to see me. Instead she just poked her head in the doorway for a brief moment and then turned and walked away to her sleeping spot under Jerry’s desk.

This moment of cat mommyhood inspired me to break my blog silence this Mother’s Day evening. Taking care of Mrs. B, who has been a full time in the house cat for almost a year, has been one of the things keeping me busy these days. Scooping the cat box, sweeping up kitty litter and trying to keep Mrs. B from escaping out the front door seems to take up a lot of my time.

Somewhere along the line I also decided to try and write a romance novel. This is something I have wanted to do for a long time. Now that I’ve started, I’m wondering if I will spend an even longer time figuring out how to complete a single novel. I’ve been working on my novel for months and seem to have nothing to show for it. It stars with my mind buzzing with characters and plots and conflicts. I write these things out into something that I think resembles a story. I then make the mistake of actually reading it and see that what I have is not really a story at all but just a bunch of really stupid dialogue about super boring plots. So then I stop writing for a while until I feel lazy and depressed and realize that the only thing that will make me feel better is writing out more stupid and boring stuff, kind of like this paragraph.

And because taking care of Mrs. B and writing a stupid sounding, boring romance novel is not enough, I also decided to start volunteering for the Hayward Literacy Plus program. Like writing a romance novel, teaching people to read is something I’ve always wanted to do. I am currently tutoring a woman who is a native Spanish speaker and the experience is teaching me so much! (She is also learning some things too, I hope!) I highly recommend volunteering for a cause you believe in. Going home after a session with my “learner” makes me feel so much more productive than a busy day at work could ever do. It’s also never boring or stupid.

Here’s hoping the blog silence is finally over for the Lady Jessop!

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Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana

Book number one in my Summer Reading Challenge was Mindfulness in Plain English by Mindfulness in Plain EnglishBhante Henepola Gunaratana, a book recommended by a friend.

Earlier this year I started practicing mindfulness meditation. I was telling my friend Sue about it and was pleasantly surprised to find out that she had started meditating as well. I use an app called Headspace which is a series of guided meditations designed to teach you about the practice. Sue takes a class and also started reading a book which she recommended to me, Mindfulness in Plain English by Bhante Henepola Gunaratana.

It turns out that this book is exactly what I had been looking for. With chapters like “Meditation: Why Bother?” and “Structuring Your Meditation” and “Meditation in Everyday Life” Gunaratana clearly explains the principals of meditation, the benefits and how it is done. It’s a great resource for someone who is just starting out their practice.

I started out reading this in big chunks like I would with any book. While I did enjoy the book, I found that reading too much of it at a time was overwhelming. Therefore I took Sue’s suggestion which was to read just small sections every day. It took a few months to get through this way but it worked out better for me. I was able to get more out of the book and incorporate Gunaratana’s guidance and many suggestions.

Mindfulness meditation is in fact a Buddhist practice. Bhante Henepola Gunaratana is a Buddhist monk who was ordained at the age of 12. While he does get somewhat into the spiritual aspects of the practice, I did not find him preachy.

If you are interested in learning more about mindfulness meditation or would like to develop and existing practice I highly recommend this book. It is currently back on my shelf but I plan to go back to it again and again. Because of this I give this book a Shrimp Coma Mrs. B.

Mrs. B rating shrimp coma

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Castro Valley Dispatch: Home Sweet Home!

This morning was a typical Carson City “half day.”  We got up early (6:00am, thank you  Mrs. B) and Jerry did some small projects around the house while I made eggs and toast and pretended I was helping.  We also had a contractor come by to look at our master bath and the Amerigas guy came by to check the tanks.

We were packed up and headed home by 1:45pm.  The drive over 88 was uneventful.  We did not even encounter any traffic or activity prompted by the Butte fire, contrary to our anticipation.  We listened to Howard Stern’s fantastic interview of Carol Burnett and Donald Trump’s “babble-prompter’’ speech about nothing.

It goes without saying that Mrs. B is extremely happy to be home.  Me too.

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Sleepless in Carson City

I’ve been up all night with an insomniac cat.  I know that Mrs. B has had plans to secretly kill me for some time now.  I realize now that this, THIS is how she will do it.  I will die of sleep deprivation.

This is one of the reasons why I do not like coming up here and when I do, it’s why I stress about bringing the cat with me.  Because the weather was very hot yesterday we had to sleep in our one air conditioned room with the door closed.  This did not sit well with Mrs. B at all.  In addition to being stressed about being far from home (I hear you Mrs. B, believe me!) Mrs. B does not like closed doors and freaked out as soon as we turned the lights out and went to sleep.  She crawled out from her spot from under the bed and began pacing around the room meowing and begging for me to get up.

I tried giving her some kitty xanax but that stuff did nothing.  NOTHING!  I eventually got up and hung out with her for a while, playing with her and brushing her and then just sat while we glared at each other.  Every time I tried to curl up on the couch (a very small couch…the only piece of furniture we have in the living room) Mrs. B would freak out and start meowing.

She eventually let me sleep at 2am but woke me again at 4am.

It’s about 6pm now and I’ve since had a chance to rest up for the big event of the weekend, annual “HOA” meeting up here with the neighbors and what do you think?  Mrs. B is passed out next to me on the couch.  I should totally wake her ass up.  Karma’s a bitch Mrs. B.

Mrs. B sleeps

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