The Fat Toad and The Foxes

Once upon a time there was a Fat Toad who sat at the very top of the highest hill of a Kingdom. He had very few neighbors at that great height, but those he did have were all male toads like him.

His view was one of beauty and wealth that incited never-ending desire, and when he looked down from his high precipice, he spied many objects of desire.

A large toad wearing a prince crown

Like all Fat Toads, this Fat Toad had dry leathery skin, warts, short legs, crests behind his eyes, and parotoid glands to salivate over the objects of his desire.

Though his subjects included Gent Foxes, it was the lovely Maiden Foxes that were paraded before him, each hoping that her hunting skills for the best sycophantic guests and her cleverness in distorting the truth would please him enough to be invited to become a citizen of his Kingdom. Only those Maiden Foxes with the most beautiful physical attributes were invited to become citizens of his Kingdom, with initiation rites that included their pledged loyalty to his absolute power over them.

But the Fat Toad did not find pleasure in the Maiden Foxes’ hunting skills nor deceptive cleverness. He only found pleasure in the sleekness of their form, the shine of their pelts, the brightness of their eyes, and the shapeliness of their legs.

When the Maiden Foxes would try to impress the Fat Toad with their cunning and talents, he waved his Fat Toady hand in dismissal and instead demanded that they rise before him to display their physical prowess and beauty. It was only these traits that pleased his senses and fueled his lust.

Nevertheless, the chosen Maiden Foxes toiled to put their prowess on display, even as they were forced to cross their shapely legs and exhibit their perfect teeth, because only then was the Fat Toad appeased.

Cute Toon Figure - Tiger

Most often in the Spring, when toads do breed, the Fat Toad would retreat to the glistening pools of water that surrounded his Kingdom, and begin calling females. To do this, he stretched out his dewlap, the fat and ugly pouch at his throat, to trill a song that would summon the Maiden Foxes to his cozy realm.

He would drool all over them, and then exert his unquestioned power to force them to do his bidding. The Maiden Foxes would afterwards descend from the top of the Kingdom, down to their lowly lairs, where they would silently lick their wounds and ready for the next encounter with the Fat Toad; for to do otherwise would mean banishment from the Kingdom that fed their families and their egos.

One Spring day in the year of our Lord 2016, a Maiden Fox who was one of the most beautiful in the Kingdom was summoned to the Fat Toad’s glistening hilltop pond. Several seasons before, she had been cast off her rock in the sun and pushed under a shadowy tree when she ran away from the Fat Toad’s sticky finger pads. The years passed, and she inched her way out of the shadows into the sun, only to find herself in the Fat Toad’s sites again.

But this time, the Maiden Fox refused to be bullied by the Fat Toad. Instead, she bared her fangs and raised her hackles, then reached into her Birkin and retrieved her ever-handy mirror, which she held up to him and declared, “You cannot command me to do your bidding! You are nothing but an ugly, Fat Toad!”

Princess and Frog

Back into the lower chambers of the Kingdom she descended, but she did not lick any wounds; for though she suffered humiliation, she had otherwise escaped unscathed.

But from that humiliation rose a great anger, and she vowed to topple the Fat Toad from his high perch. She growled out her grievances at the top of her lungs, until the volume of her roar reached every corner of the Kingdom.

Other Maiden Foxes, who had long despised the Fat Toad for his demeaning demands, climbed out of their lairs and entered the battle field to stand next to the brave Maiden Fox. They took up their loquacious swords and inflicted wounds onto the Fat Toad, slice by slice, until he was left bloody and crippled.

No number of denials and lies, which had always served him well, could resurrect the mortally wounded Fat Toad. Defeated, he was forced to crawl down from his powerful perch as he was pelted in a shower of shame. His place in the Kingdom had toppled, and his power was broken.

But he was a Fat Toad, who had gotten that way because all toads are predators and they eat a lot, and they will eat just about anything that fits in their mouths. So the Fat Toad stuffed his jaws with forty million insects, spiders, earthworms, snails and slugs that would ensure that he would always be among the fattest of toads. For Fat Toads are known to remarkably adaptable, and this Fat Toad, though older, uglier and wartier than ever, would certainly adapt.

And did the now-liberated Maiden Foxes pledge to Tell the Truth forevermore?

Unfortunately, no–that would be a Fairy Tale!

Busting the Myth of “For Women’s Safety”

Hospital weekdays life, unfocused background.

 

Republicans claim falsely that abortion is a dangerous medical procedure for women. But the following facts presented by David A. Grimes, Author, Every Third Woman in America: How Legal Abortion Transformed Our Nation and former Chief of the Abortion Surveillance Branch at the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) tell the true story:

“Because of difficulty in accessing abortion care, desperate women are once again attempting self-abortion.

Before Roe v. Wade in 1973, an estimated 200,000 to 1.2 million illegal abortions occurred annually in the U.S. The carnage was terrible. Incomplete abortion was a leading cause of admission to gynecology wards across America. In the year when I was born, more than 700 women died this way. Around the world today, unsafe abortion kills an estimated 47,000 women each year. After the legalization of abortion in the U.S., the risk of death promptly fell to less than that from an injection of penicillin.

 

Syringe and Vial / Filling Syringe from Medicine Vial.

The scientific foundation for safe, legal abortion is incontrovertible. Within two years of Roe v. Wade, the Institute of Medicine had concluded that legal abortion improved the health of women. All major medical and public health organizations today affirm the health benefits of legal abortion; these include the World Health Organization, American Public Health Organization, American Medical Association, American Medical Women’s Association, American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists, American Academy of Pediatrics, American Psychological Association, and American Psychiatric Association.”

Those are the facts. Yet Texas governor Rick Perry called a special session of his Legislature to enact strangling legislation that would close all but a handful of clinics in that state―under the guise of “concern for women’s health.” That legislation included requiring the physician who performs abortions to affiliate with a hospital within 30 miles, and that all abortions take place in ambulatory surgical centers. This would require expensive construction and equipment standards that do not apply to all other outpatient facilities where other surgical procedures like liposuction and colonoscopies take place.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals upheld the law, and went so far as to say that it did not consider a 300-mile round trip for nearly 1 million women of reproductive age to be a substantial burden because that number was ‘nowhere near’ a large fraction of the state’s 5.4 million women of childbearing age.

In June, 2016, SCOTUS overturned Texas’ law. In the majority opinion, Justice Stephen Breyer wrote that the restrictions “vastly increase the obstacles confronting women seeking abortions in Texas without providing any benefit to women’s health capable of withstanding any meaningful scrutiny.”

Yet the law was originally passed with the arrogant expectation that people are naïve enough to believe it was for women’s safety.

Sadly, in great part, their expectation is met.

Several months ago, I had a conversation with a politically-conservative man, a man who is highly educated and is one of the most brilliant attorneys I have ever known. While discussing my novel, Moral Infidelity, which has fact-based medical data about abortions in its pages, I mentioned that Texas had only six abortion clinics and Mississippi only one, due to this draconian legislation. He asked, “But isn’t that for a woman’s safety?” It was hard for me to fathom that such an intelligent person could be so clueless; and if he were that clueless, just how many of those who are not as educated or well-read or informed as he, held that same erroneous belief?

When I told him that women are 40 times more likely each year to die of a colonoscopy than an abortion, he was stunned. But then the brainy part of him kicked in and he said, “Yes, because of sepsis.”

Another medical fact worth noting: Women are 14 times more likely to die from childbirth than from an abortion.

We need to have these two simple statistics at the ready to impart to people like my friend who parrot the Republicans’ (and FOX News’) lies about the dangers of abortions.

I have whittled my argument against such ignorance down to this succinct phrase:

“It is a medical fact that women are 40 times more likely to die of a colonoscopy, and 14 times more likely to die from childbirth, than from an abortion.”

Even the most avid anti-abortionists have jaw-dropping moments when they hear this.

And I must say, it feels pretty darn good to trump ignorance with facts. I freaking love medical facts.

Wendy Davis Vindicated!

With its vote of 5-3, the Supreme Court struck down the Texas abortion law that would have closed down all but a handful of abortion clinics in that state. With this ruling, a message was sent to all states that are legislating away a woman’s right to a safe and accessible abortion: Back. Off.

I vividly recall Wendy Davis’s filibuster. She became a hero to me. When she was running for governor of Texas, I asked a friend who knew her to get a copy of my book, Moral Infidelity, about a hypocritical pro-life governor whose mistress becomes pregnant, into her hands. Tucked inside was a personal note of thanks and admiration, and a check. My very first blog here was titled, “One Year Later, I’m Still Standing with Wendy.” When her book, Forgetting to Be Afraid: a Memoir was published, I bought it, read it, loved it and reviewed it.

I’m a Wendy Davis fan, okay?

Wendy Davis Moral Infidelity

Which is why, with this SCOTUS decision, I’m so thrilled that Wendy Davis is vindicated! She won then (the deadline passed for a vote on that draconian legislation) and she has won now. Sure, Rick Perry called a special session right after her victorious filibuster to ram through the law that was ruled on by SCOTUS; but Wendy paved the way for this Supreme Court decision.

The assault on a woman’s right to choose has been relentless for the last two decades. But with this decision, SCOTUS has breathed new life into Roe v. Wade. It’s now time for us to nurture it, strengthen it and support it like never before.

And that starts with those of us who have benefited from that law since it was passed in 1973.

Those of us who are over 50 have reached that comfortable age when we no longer have to worry about an unintended pregnancy. For many, the issue of reproductive choice has faded in importance. But for our daughters and granddaughters of childbearing age, it should still matter–now more than ever. We who became sexually active in the ’70s finally had protections in place to safeguard us from unwanted pregnancy.

Then with the Supreme Court ruling in 1989 on Webster v. Reproductive Health Services, the first assault on Roe occurred. It opened the door for states to start enacting stricter abortion legislation. It took a while, then states gained momentum. Yet generations of women who are of childbearing age did not seem meaningfully motivated to halt this persistent march back to the days of no choice. They’ve lived with the victorious results of a hard-won battle that raged through the ’60s and early ’70s. That is ancient history to them, but it isn’t ancient history to those of us who saw the battle being waged and first benefited from its accomplishment.

The Women’s Liberation Movement required organization, dedication, and unification to be recognized. The impetus for that kind of solidarity is not there today. The pro-life movement, on the other hand, has burgeoned and gained strength day by day. Fortunately, Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, and stalwart politicians like Wendy Davis fought back on our behalf. They kept the fires burning when a flood of anti-abortion legislation was threatening to drown our right to choose.

At the age of 59, I’d had enough. I wanted to add my voice to the fight, and I wrote my first book, which was chocked full of abortion-related research but was entertaining and well written enough to win two awards. As I read, wrote books, blogged, and used podcast forums to keep women aware of the dangerous battle being waged against Roe, I wondered where the young women were who should be taking up the fight. I also wondered why more women of my generation weren’t speaking out more.

You may be one of those women, younger or older, who has been active and involved; but there are too many who have not. Perhaps it is because older women have become complacent, since child bearing issues are no longer relevant. Maybe it is because younger women don’t know about or can’t relate to the horrors of backroom abortions. They may know women who have had an abortion-a safe, legal medical procedure; but they don’t know women who died from a botched abortion.

Keep Abortion Safe and Legal
It is time for women of every generation to stop taking choice for granted. Let’s acknowledge that it is up to us to keep birth control and safe abortions accessible. This is going to require the older generation’s involvement. Those of us who enjoyed virtually worry-free sex must educate younger women about how difficult it was when women had no access to birth control or safe abortions.

It is time for our generation to rekindle the torch of choice, and to pass it down. It is time for us, the most outspoken, inspiring and audacious women in history, to shake women of all ages out of their complacency. We are on the verge of having one of our peers, one of our generation, one who has been pro-choice as long as we have, become the first woman president! With that, and this SCOTUS ruling, the wind is in our sails!

Our legacy should be the empowerment of younger women in constructing stronger, independent lives that aren’t lived according to ideals imposed by men. It is our duty to encourage them to fight for the continued right of choice, so that they can in turn inspire the generations of women who come after them to do the same.

If Hillary Clinton is not too old to be president, we are not too old to take up this battle. The Republicans will not give up the fight, and we need to be united as never before.

Let us give the younger generation the benefit of our experience and knowledge. We lived it, so we can talk of it with intelligence and confidence. Let’s start by engaging our daughters, granddaughters, and young friends in meaningful conversations about what the loss of choice would mean for them. Let’s emphasize the value of their vote, and enlist their support of organizations that support a woman’s right to choose.

Let us not go gently into our golden years. Instead, let us reinvigorate and do what we can now to preserve a woman’s most fundamental right–the right to have total control over her own body.

Yes, We Cheat When Our Husbands Go Out of Town

There’s a feeling of liberation when my husband goes out of town, and that liberation leads to acts of apathy, selfishness, indulgence, sloth, and gratification.

I am still in love with and attracted to my husband of 28 years. Many of our days and nights are spent together since we both work from home. During the day, despite being busy, we share a few quick kisses, interesting tidbits of news, and a few laughs. We still have very pleasurable and regular sex.

So why would I want to cheat on him when he goes out of town, seeing that I’m so happily married?

I’ve talked to dozens of women who do the same. Shocking, isn’t it?

Here’s how we cheat: Apathy: We may not bother to get out of our pajamas. Selfishness: We most definitely won’t give much thought to “What’s for dinner?” Indulgence: We eat our favorite delicious and fattening foods, and we may eat them while lying in bed, watching a chick flick. Sloth: We leave cereal bowls and wine glasses in the sink. Gratification: there’s a good chance we’ll fire up our vibrators.

Chocolate!

We are reverting to “all about me” behavior that we took for granted as single women. With a man constantly sharing our space, we have to be considerate of his wants and needs. A happy marriage entails mutual consideration, but sheer self consideration can be pretty darn pleasing, too.

For women whose husbands are retired, it’s a notably celebrated event when their husbands go out of town. Retired men are around so much more than working men, and their interests–other than perhaps golfing or fishing–are not as plentiful and varied as women’s. In large part, they still look to their wives to direct their social life and to put a meal on the table–or to decide at which restaurant they will eat.

With men at home full time, many women, if not working, develop even more outside-the-home interests. They may take to playing bridge, volunteering, or long lunches, just to get away from the insistent male energy that permeates their lives day-to-day. I know one woman who bought a horse. That’s riddled with symbolism, don’t you think?

Another friend whose husband retired just last week texted me that she had to go out to her garden and pretend to weed, just to escape his voice. The nattering that had been acceptable during the evening and weekend hours now washed over her, threatening to drown her, in its 24/7 excess. She ended her text with, “He’s going to Palm Beach to visit his son next week, thank God!”

When our husbands are out of town, we can just relax. There are no “helpful suggestions” being offered, no rhetorical questions being asked, and no pressing decisions to be made (other than which flavor of Ben & Jerry’s we choose to eat.) Sure, we eat Ben & Jerry’s when he is around, and we may even share it…but we indulge with a glutinous glee when he’s not.

Because I not only love my husband, but also really like him, I don’t wish he were somewhere else. But when he does go on a business trip, there is a freedom from conscious thought and action that leads to a state of languor.

Not every woman adopts this attitude in her husband’s absence. Some look at it as a time to catch up on things, using their excess time and energy for achievement, rather than powering down into indolence and indulgence. But I know from talking to many other women that I’m far from alone.

To further test out my theory, I conducted a survey (of sorts). One of my books was included in a ten-novel romantic anthology. We authors hosted a Facebook party, with each of us asking questions and awarding prizes for clever answers. I asked, “What yummy foods do you indulge in when your significant other is out of town?” Thirty-five women responded, and all of them described a calorie-laden indulgence, except one, who cited baked salmon. Her husband (I deduced) must not like the taste and smell of fish; but with him gone, she didn’t have to consider that.

Look, if given a preference of being single–either through divorce or widowhood–ninety-nine percent of us would say no thanks. We love our husbands, but sometimes it can be draining to have someone around who, without even knowing it, usurps so much of our time, energy, and even patience.

I recall an occasion when several of us were having fun describing our indulgences when devoid of our husbands’ company, and the pleasure of having time to ourselves. A younger, insightful woman added, “That’s how I feel when my kids are at camp. I love them, but it’s just nice to be free of their demanding energy.”

I’m not going to draw any parallels between the energy-draining behavior of men and children, but…okay, I’m going to draw parallels. They’re hungry, they want to eat. They’re bored, they want you to entertain them. They have a thought, they want you to listen to it. They have a grievance, they want to air it to you.

Is it any wonder that we want to shed the responsibility of meeting needs and being sounding boards when given the opportunity?

And here’s the benefit for the man: When he comes home, we’re refreshed, more energetic, more contented, and ultimately, quite glad to see him.

We may be part of a couple, but we’re always, first and foremost, ourselves. And sometimes, we just don’t feel like sharing so much of ourselves–or our Ben & Jerry’s.

Do Book Awards Matter?

Readers' Favorite Awards Ceremony, 11/21/2015, Miami, FL

Readers’ Favorite Awards Ceremony, 11/21/2015, Miami, FL

There was a debate raging on LinkedIn recently, when someone asked the question, “What value do you put on authors when they describe themselves as ‘Award Winners?'”

Responses ranged from vitriolic to meh to upbeat–the last provided by award-winning authors, for the most part.

I don’t describe myself anywhere as “an award-winning author.” I do say, “Author of the two-time award-winning book, Moral Infidelity.” My input on that LinkedIn thread was that I thought I wrote a good book, I wanted validation, and so I entered two contests–and I won in both. And yes, there was a fee for entry to both The Great Southeast Book Festival Book (GSBF) Award Contest ($50), and the Readers’ Favorite (RF) Book Reviews and Award Contest ($89.) This *fee* sparked a lot of, “If you have to pay for it, it has no value” comments.  

Not so, I exclaim!  Paying a modest fee to enter a competitive, professionally-judged contest is by no definition “pay for play.” When I learned from the President of Readers’ Favorite, James Ventrillo, at the awards ceremony in Miami on November 21, 2015, that there were over 600 entries in my category of Fiction: Thriller General, I felt there was indeed value in that award. I had won a bronze medal–third place–in a category that was highly competitive. In fact, there were two silver and two bronze awards in that category; and as Mr. Ventrillo explained, there are five judges awarding points to each book. In my category, there were actual ties for the silver and bronze awards. So, technically, I was in the top five of that category. I don’t know how many entries there were in the Great Southeast Book Festival, but I do know there was one winner, one runner-up, and ten honorable mentions–of which Moral Infidelity was one. As a result, I feel my book has been, well, validated.

In addition, I received a glowing 5-star review from one of the Readers’ Favorite reviewers, and I was able to use it on my Amazon book page under “Editorial Reviews.” I also peppered my social media pages with a high-resolution bronze digital medal that looked pretty spiffy alongside my Great Southeast Book Festival Honorable Mention gold digital badge. I photo-shopped both onto my book cover, which I feel adds interest.

Moral_Cover_June_2014_fin

Now, I admit that when I won the GSBF award in January, 2015, I myself pooh-poohed it. It didn’t get media coverage, and sales of my book did not budge. I had to pay for the gold stickers to use on the book ($25) but didn’t find that exorbitant. When I received notification on September 1, 2015 that Moral Infidelity had won the bronze in the Readers’ Favorite contest, I walked into my husband’s study and laconically informed him. Of course, I had no idea of the level of competition at that time, so I couldn’t assign a lot of value or enthusiasm to the award. But I decided we would attend the awards ceremony in Miami (any excuse to go to Miami, where I had lived for 30 years), so I went to the Readers’ Favorite winners’ page, made reservations, and ordered the complimentary bronze stickers.

After winning that second award, my proud husband contacted a friend who had been a book reviewer for three different national newspapers, asking him if he knew of anyone with a major periodical who could review my book and get it more exposure. He mentioned both awards, and surprisingly, the reviewer replied, “If she’s won the Great Southeast Book Festival award, she’s already accomplished something. There’s buzz about that award in the industry.”  Who knew?  There was an awards ceremony for GSBF winners being held in California, but I didn’t even consider going. Learning that there was some measure of prestige attached to that award, I now wish I had.

Readers’ Favorite posted the information about the winning books on numerous social media sites, including Facebook and Twitter. They put on a heck of a fine awards banquet, and delivered some high-quality photos that can be used for marketing and promotion. So do I feel I got $89 worth of value from Readers’ Favorite? You bet I do! Best of all, sales ticked up that awards weekend when I ran a promotion, and Moral Infidelity entered the top 5,000 on Amazon for the first time. Do I feel I got my value out of the $50 Great Southeast Book Festival Award (plus the $25 for stickers?) Hard to say, but I know that I am now almost as proud of the GSBF award as I am of the RF award.

For those who think any paid entry for a contest makes it bogus, I would like to point out that someone has to read and review the entries, and someone has to read and judge those entries. I can’t imagine any organization that is altruistic enough to pay those persons on authors’ behalf. I can’t imagine any reviewers who would read dozens of books and review them as a favor. Somehow, the costs for the banquet venue and food, the medals, and the photographer, had to be paid. That booth at the Miami Book Fair International, where the award-winning books were displayed, was not free. When you consider all that Readers’ Favorite delivered, I think $89 is a bargain.

So yes, I feel I got my money’s worth…Validation, promotion, and a fun time in Miami, where I met so many interesting authors. Book promoters and marketing specialists were there to offer advice, along with their services. Of course, the promoters and marketers have other (paid) services to offer, and for those who wish to take it further, they at least have a place to start.

I’m now working on my fourth book, and though at this point I have no idea if it will be good enough to win another award, I might just pony up the modest fee and go for what I originally intended to get out of the entire awards process–validation. Where’s the flaw in that?