October was such an eventful month, that I’m ready for hibernation. 🙂 I spent as much time as I could gathering petition signatures in hopes of initiating a recall election in the Plattsmouth School District, while also balancing fun Halloween events, gaming sessions, and a little bit of time for myself. I have more to say about the ongoing situation with book banning in another post.
In October, I made the mistake of finishing House of Sky & Breath, which means now I have to wait until January for the next book. ARGH. The ending has a tie-in to the ACOTAR series, so… now I wait. Fortunately, I spent most of October reading Iron Widow by Xiran Jay Zhao and wow! That book was fantastic. I absolutely loved it. I will definitely read the sequel, Heavenly Tyrant, when it releases next year.
During the month of October, I returned my attention to Stay Gothy, a pattern by Grandma Be Wildin. She’s an adorable goth rendition of the Morton’s Salt Girl. Ta da! She’s so cute! I may change one little aspect of the pattern, but other than that, I am stitching as called for.
The fabric is Picture this Plus 14 count Aida in Dawn and, I have to say, the pictures of it online make it look much more green. That was the whole reason I originally purchased it, because I thought it would be fantastic for the Ouija Board stitch. But, no, it’s much more blue in person and it’s pretty, but it just didn’t scream Ouija to me. However, it’s perfect for Stay Gothy. I intend to stitch until it’s complete, since I don’t have any Yule or Christmas patterns. I’m not really a “Christmas stitcher” anyway, as much as I am an autumn, Halloween, goth, pop culture, and witchy stitcher. That said, if the right pattern came along, I would certainly go for it.
We had a character death in Cyberpunk Red and it was so sad. Our Medtech died. Honestly, I’m surprised the rest of us didn’t die, too, because we were on an extremely difficult mission. It was a hard loss because, besides the character being the one to patch us up after battle, he was just a good dude. Naturally, the player made another character for the next session, but when you have a character death, you don’t just carry on without acknowledging it. The end of the session and the following session are usually a time of mourning, tying up the deceased character’s loose ends, and informing next of kin, if any. A new character is usually introduced at the appropriate time, whether in the next session or another down the road.
Genesys is also going well, though I feel like we aren’t following the story threads all the way to their ends just yet. We got sidetracked by fae and those aren’t easy to deal with.
My D&D campaign is moving ahead and I’m very excited to play tonight (since I’m finishing this post on a Saturday). Because, speaking of threads, it’s time to pull a few together and see how it all goes down!
I didn’t see anything new in October. However, I also had very little time to plop on the couch and watch TV or movies. On the last Saturday night in October, I carved pumpkins while my daughter watched the new Haunted Mansion. I only caught bits and pieces of it, but it was a nice balance of a little bit creepy and very sweet. Rowan really enjoyed it.
We went to Bloom Where You’re Planted in Avoca with our Spiral Scouts circle. That is our family’s favorite pumpkin patch and, honestly, the only one I’ll visit. There is another one nearby, but it’s overpriced, crowded, and far too kitschy. Bloom Where You’re Planted has a more relaxed vibe to it, and I love the vintage aesthetic they cultivate, along with the pumpkins. It was a cool day, but the timing was perfect for some fall fun and picking pumpkins fresh from the patch!
I also have gotten involved in volunteering as a part of the PTO at my daughter’s school, which meant decorating for their Halloween event the last Friday of the month. In addition to the candy from that event, Rowan really enjoyed going trick or treat not once, but twice with friends. All in all, October went by too fast for me and I’m looking forward to a slower pace in November.
With everything going on not only in the town of Plattsmouth, Nebraska, but all over the United States, I thought it would be good to dig into some facts and definitions.
First of all, the women driving these book bans will tell you “We aren’t banning anything. You can still go out and buy these books.” This is a disingenuous and incorrect statement. A ban is defined as the removal of material and/or a prohibition on said material. Removing books from libraries is banning books. Period.
Second, these women (because that is who is primarily behind this, self-proclaimed “mama bears” who often are members or admirers of the hate group, Moms For Liberty AKA Klanned Karenhood) are all following the same playbook. They are pulling from the exact same list of titles, going into school and public libraries, searching for these books, and then kicking up a fuss.
Third, many of the books being attacked are young adult. This term is fluid in definition, and can range from teens through twenties, and even into one’s thirties. In the publishing industry, young adult is specifically the 13-18 audience, while new adult is 18 and older. Young adult and new adult books often center on themes of self-actualization (aka finding yourself), coming of age, family, friendship, loyalty, and love.
Finally, the women fighting for book bans use inflammatory language to frighten and incite others. They love words like pornography, obscene, erotic, and sexually explicit, and refer to librarians, public school teachers, and parents who disagree as groomers and pedophiles. Once again, these are incorrect and inapplicable words.
So what are their definitions and why might there be scenes of sexual intimacy in young adult books? Good question. Here goes.
I had an extremely successful career writing LGBTQIA romance. I wrote erotica for fun (and still do). Then I moved to writing paranormal and urban fantasy, because that’s my first love as both a reader and writer. So this explanation comes from years of experience and involvement in various writing communities. Now, on with the definitions:
Pornography – The literal definition is “printed or visual material containing the explicit description or display of sexual organs or activity, intended to stimulate erotica rather than aesthetic or emotional feelings.” When I think porn, I think of the classics, like Debbie Does Dallas. If you read through the books challenged in libraries, you will find that this word does not apply to any of them.
Erotica – Literature or art intended to arouse sexual desire. In a story, the characters are DTF (down to f***). The end. There might be a plot or story, but you won’t find these books in the vast majority of libraries, and absolutely not in school libraries.
Literary Erotica – Plenty of sex happens here, but often to propel a story/journey of self-actualization or growth. Usually a plot or reason for the sex beyond “ooh la la, loin tingles.” Think TheStory of O. Absolutely not in school libraries.
Romance – Falling in love is the main plot. Often includes a secondary plot point of self-actualization, solving a mystery, or some other theme or trope that brings the characters together. Romance ranges from “clean” to “spicy.” Sex, whether on page or fade to black, is an important part of the narrative because it serves to solidify the relationship. Is not erotica. Sometimes found in school libraries.
Everything else YA to adult – All other fiction genres (except for juvenile and younger) revolve around one or two plots or themes, usually with additional supporting themes. Romance can be a secondary or tertiary theme, as in “romantasy” novels. If there is a romance subplot, including sex, that’s intertwined with a much larger story and character growth.
Sexual intimacy, whether described on page or not, does not mean the book is erotica.
Consensual sex in fiction exists to connect characters through the greater challenges they face together. It is part of advancing character growth.
The inclusion of non-consensual sex or other non-consensual events (such as Feyre’s sisters being forced to become fae in the A Court of Thorns and Roses [ACOTAR] series) often serves the purpose of creating conflict or adversity for a character that also propels their growth.
A final note on this: we authors don’t sit down, cackle, and go, “I’ll add sex here and here and here and here.” In fiction (not including the erotica tier), sex is included for a reason that makes sense to the narrative and the characters.
So, even with some explicit sex scenes, books marketed toward YA readers are generally appropriate for teens and older.
What does this mean? It means that you, as the parent or guardian, are the one who needs to be aware of what your kiddos are reading and decide if you’re cool with it. No one else should make that decision for you. However, you do not have the right to make that decision for others because every family is different.
These books are not porngraphy, but guess what? If you don’t like them, you don’t have to read them or allow your teenagers to read them. It’s as simple as that.
Here we are! It’s my favorite time of the year! September was warm and kind of icky, but now we’re well into my favorite month of all, followed by December and then November. It seemed like we had a lot going on in September, but I think the month was just a lot of “hurry up and wait.” I had a wonderful Labor Day weekend with both of my partners, and I can’t wait for us to get together again. There was also a Super Blue Moon on August 30, and I made appropriate use of it, with plenty of follow-up.
Meanwhile, October is shaping up to be quite interesting as the fight against book banning in the neighboring school district continues. I’m in editing mode on a new project and excited to see it move forward. School is well underway. And the leaves are finally changing.
In September, I read The Hate U Give, and I highly recommend it. Yes, it’s written for a young adult audience and that’s part of why I read it – because it’s one of the books the board member at the Plattsmouth school district wants removed from circulation at the high school library. My dudes, this book is so important. It is so many things. Read it because people challenge it, and challenge yourself to see things through the main character’s eyes. It gives us some small idea of what it must be like to be a Black girl in our world today.
I continued reading House of Sky and Breath a bit at a time, but started reading faster by the end of the month because the action really picks up in the last third of the book.
I continued to work on Summer Quaker throughout September, but now I’ve set it aside for something a little more gothy. I have 6 WIPs and that’s too many for me, so I’m focused on completing anything in progress. They are: “Stay Gothy,” “Ice Snake,” “Ouija Board,” “Mother’s Arms,” “Nature Trio,” and “Summer Quaker.” We’ll see what I can get done before the end of the year.
I’m still at it with my weekly gaming in Cyberpunk Red and Genesys, and DMing D&D once or twice a month. Cyberpunk is probably the most difficult to play, because I’m a Rockerboy and that means a whole lot of talking people up, being the “face” of the group at times, and then stepping back and letting fighting happen. I’m accustomed to playing a fighter of some kind in most RPGs, so it’s hard to play a character that is mostly all about the roleplay. But it’s also so much fun.
I didn’t see anything new in September, but I watched the Barbie movie again. The soundtrack to it is pretty damn amazing, too.
During Labor Day weekend, my partners and I enjoyed hanging out in the Old Market in Omaha. We went to a restaurant that was… ehhh. I didn’t care for it. It’s not that the food wasn’t good. It was a perfectly okay time, but I thought it was overpriced and with too few options.
We went with our Spiral Scouts circle to the Wildlife Safari Park and had a great time. Of course, my daughter adores animals, so she was stoked to see bison, elk, deer, bears, wolves, prairie dogs, a swift fox, and more.
It’s been an interesting transition into October, but more on that later. 😉
Yesterday was 9/11, the anniversary of the attacks on our country that, for a brief time, kind of, sort of, united some people in the U.S. This post will publish after I speak at the Plattsmouth School District Board Meeting about these very same thoughts. However, the public speaking forum is limited to 3 minutes there, so this is my opportunity to elaborate on what I said there.
I’m going to dig into something going on in the town where I live. In the interest of full disclosure, I live outside city limits, so my children did not and do not attend the school district in town. They attend another one nearby and I have nothing but good things to say about the schools, teachers, administrators, and board members. We are so fortunate. But the town in which I work is less fortunate in that regard.
There is a Plattsmouth School Board member by the name of Terri Cunningham-Swanson. I remember the first time I met her in 2020, because she gives off a vibe, and when she ran for office I warned people against voting for her. Unfortunately, she was elected and immediately used her role to challenge and remove books from Plattsmouth School District libraries. Why? Because she deemed them “pornography,” which is incorrect and misleading.
The list of books she removed – or wants “reviewed” and banned – from the schools have themes of racism, drugs, LGBTQ+ sexuality, and gender identity. The only thing “wrong” with them is that she personally doesn’t like the content. People like her (Christian fundamentalists aka fragile white women) can’t handle or comprehend the thought of other people’s children having the freedom to learn about the world through the eyes of another in books.
The thing about this little campaign on her part is that she is taking people who already distrust public schools (often because public schools have been the place where concerns about their children’s behaviors, or how these people parent and/or discipline their children come up), and whipping them up into a hateful frenzy to trust them even less. Rather than trust the people who have gone to college and continue to pursue ongoing education to keep their teaching degrees and skills relevant, these folks act as though they know better than everyone else. Never mind the fact that most of them have no comprehension of education and teaching, or the safety net so many schools provide families and children.
There is an inherent selfishness in demanding that public education and teachers conform to their views. The goal appears to be to dumb down our future voters, keep them from accessing ideas outside the ones these folks find acceptable, and prevent children from developing and growing into their own identities. In one breath, they claim public education has an agenda and, in another, push theirs. Public education does have an agenda, and that is to give children the knowledge they need to function as adults, the thinking skills to make informed decisions, and to teach them civic responsibility.
The thing is, these fundamentalists are welcome to their personal beliefs. Whatever gives them comfort, whatever gets them through the day. They are also welcome to indoctrinate and dictate to their own children, but not everyone else’s.
If a person doesn’t like public schools, they shouldn’t enroll their children in them. There are private schools and homeschooling. I think homeschooling is fantastic! I homeschooled my son until, at the age of 10, he said he would like to attend public school. I chose homeschooling at the time, because schools aren’t structured to accommodate everyone’s individual learning styles and needs.
But when we moved to Nebraska, we found ourselves in an amazing school district that exceeded my expectations and I respected my son’s choice. When you send a child to public or private school after years of homeschooling, you go through a myriad of emotions… mostly self-doubt. Did I do a good job? Does he know what he needs to know? Will he be able to keep up with his peers. Yes, yes, and yes! He graduated from our local high school in 2021 with his peers. My daughter has attended our school district since preschool. She will graduate in 2031 and I couldn’t be happier with our schools.
That said, not everyone can afford the privilege of homeschooling or private school, so they have to place their children in public schools. But the beauty of that is you don’t need someone advocating for “parents’ rights,” the current extremist code words meant to frighten parents, just like “pornography.” You already have rights as a parent or guardian when it comes to your child’s education. For example, I opted my son out of ASVAB testing at the high school, after a talk about considering all of his career options, including the military. I opted my daughter out of the D.A.R.E. program in 5th grade, after a talk about why she didn’t want to participate, and clarification that she understands the dangers of drugs, alcohol, and smoking, as well as reporting things like inappropriate contact/touching of her body. Yeah. We have those conversations, because we’re involved parents, and we allowed our children to make their own decisions, because we respect their ability to think for themselves.
Let me say this again: You. Already. Have. Parents’. Rights. If you want to opt your child out of a certain class or test, request they not participate in a program or be allowed to read a particular book, you can do that. You can reach out to the teacher, librarian, guidance counselor, or administrator, and respectfully request this. Obviously, it’s not the time to get into your beliefs if you give a little explanation. It’s just literally, “Hi, I’d like for my child to not do the thing. Thanks.” If they ask for clarification, give as much as you feel comfortable giving, but avoid using that to cast doubt or blame on the staff or school. Everyone is just trying to do their job of helping prepare your child for the real world… and perhaps those same children will eventually be able to make the real world a better and more equal, inclusive, and fair place.
The big problem with people like Terri – and women often aligned with hate groups such as “Moms for Liberty” – is that they have made it their mission to take over these schools, to take away student and parent rights, and to disrupt public education. School boards are intended to be bipartisan, but these people come in with partisan agendas that have nothing to do with advancing public education, advocating for our teachers, or supporting our students. They use lies, disinformation, and emotional manipulation to do this, and they call out anyone who doesn’t agree with them or has the labial fortitude to stand up to them.
I am not a therapist, so I cannot presume to diagnose these people. I do think they are filled with fear and I occasionally feel pity for them. But the unhinged rants they post, the ways they conduct themselves in public, and the coded language they use to incite fear is all part of a larger strategy to exploit parents, none of which invites one to try to see them with empathy.
Their actions are also an exploitation of Christianity, as they often invoke God and the Bible, but only so far as it serves their interests. When you call them out for hypocrisy and un-Christlike behavior, they ban you like a book. Their detachment from reality is to the point that you absolutely cannot reason with them so, even if you want to try to meet them with civility, it’s best not to waste your energy, because they are not going to respond with the same courtesy.
Terri Cunningham-Swanson has a public support group where you can see this behavior for yourself. There are plenty of examples of her calling people out and then watching her followers pile on with abusive language, demonizing anyone who disagrees with her. They have done it to an 18-year-old (odd for people who claim to want to protect children; the age of majority in Nebraska is 19) who spoke out against her to the local news. Her justification for this? “He doesn’t live here.”
This young man grew up in and graduated from the same school district as my son. This is an incredibly small county (just over 30,000 people according to a count in 2021). All the towns are inter-connected through activities, sports, and more. Those of us in rural Plattsmouth neighborhoods share a zip code with this woman and her growing cult. A woman who isn’t from Plattsmouth, but then turns around after crapping on people who grew up in this zip code to state she “chose” to live here, and therefore believes she has more right to say what goes than anyone else. Her words have more twists and turns than a labyrinth.
She further went on to do the same to me, except this time she and her followers hurled abusive language and discrimination at me based on my religion. Obviously, because these are Christian fundamentalists, they don’t respect other spiritual paths, let alone care to understand or accept them. To a religious extremist, those of us who are non-Christian are considered fair game to discriminate against, mock, belittle, and name call. This is, again, exploiting Christianity as a whole by making anyone who identifies as a Christian appear to be part of this hate group, when in actuality all Christians don’t share the same views.
How frustrating must it for my Christian friends and acquaintances to have to let people know you’re a safe person, a loving and accepting person, and that these bigots don’t speak for you?
It is clear that, besides giving their religion a bad name, Terri and her followers don’t respect the Constitution or any other human’s rights. If they knew how to look deeper, they would stop and think about their actions and assumptions. Because many of us have done more for this country than they could ever comprehend, not that they care.
What I am, for those who don’t know me, is an involved parent who has successfully raised a son to adulthood, and is now facing the challenges of raising an adolescent daughter. Yes, I identify as someone on a Pagan spiritual path, specifically practicing as a Hedge Witch. No, I have not indoctrinated my children to think or believe like me. My first husband was Christian, and we raised our son with exposure to Christianity, Paganism, Buddhism, and found a lovely compromise as a family with the Unitarian Universalist Church in Dover, Delaware. I was a founding member of that church and loved every moment of it. With all of that opportunity and varied spiritual experiences placed in front of my son, he is an Atheist. I absolutely approve of and accept this, and have zero judgment about it.
My daughter knows her spiritual decisions are her own to make, too. I don’t believe in hurting anyone, not even a fly if I can help it (just ask my husband or co-workers). But I also don’t believe in making decisions for others, except for the safety of my child as long as she is under the age of 18. Sometimes, we make parental decisions after discussion with our daughter. Sometimes, it’s a “because I said so” parenting moment. We parents set the boundaries in our household, but we also give space to my daughter to set her own boundaries. Respect goes both ways.
I work in a law firm. I have worked in law since 1994, and at this particular firm since 2019. This firm serves not just Plattsmouth, but the greater Omaha metro. In my capacity as our client engagement manager, I am often the first person people speak to or see. It is a position that requires tact, respect, diplomacy, and empathy. Many people in Plattsmouth are familiar with this firm and have had direct contact with me. They know the kind of person I am, that I do care about what they might be going through and want to help them.
Last, but not least, and pertinent to my remarks at the school board meeting last night, I was a military spouse for over 20 years. My first husband, whose military service began in 1984, and I were married in 1993, a month after I graduated from high school. The attacks on 9/11 were a watershed moment. I remember turning to him and saying, “You’re going to leave soon, aren’t you?” He did. My friends’ husbands left. Everyone around Dover Air Force Base had places to be and duties to fulfill in response to the terrorist attacks on our nation. Our lives changed significantly. My friends and I worried and fretted and lived each day with uncertainty until our husbands returned. Ours did return. We were the lucky ones. And then I had my post-deployment baby, my son.
For half of the first six years of my son’s life, his father was gone. I spent the first year parenting alone, and subsequent years on our own for months at a time. But I had wonderful communities around me – military, Pagan, and UU – and was honored to be appointed as a Key Spouse for my husband’s squadron. It gave me the opportunity to be a support and resource for other spouses separated by deployments and remotes.
Eventually, my first husband and I went through an amicable divorce, and then I married my second husband, who was also in the Air Force at the time. We were living in England when my husband’s enlistment ended and we had to decide where we would settle our family. We agreed to move to the town where we now live in Nebraska. My husband spent his early elementary school years in this town and the school our daughter now attends. His father, who passed away in 2004, was stationed at Offutt Air Force Base and my husband’s happy childhood memories are what brought us here.
I certainly had my reservations, but I found everyone here in our small town welcoming. One lovely aspect of this area is how many prior military families also live here. They understand the unique experiences and challenges that I, as a military wife, have had, and I understand theirs.
My husband and I are both bisexual/pansexual, and I had a very successful career as a LGBTQ+ author before I decided it was exhausting. I still write and publish, but not full-time. Besides loving books as both a reader and writer, I am also a genealogist and DNA enthusiast, and I teach classes about genealogy, DNA, and writing as an adjunct instructor at one of the local community colleges. I also love cross-stitching and making jigsaw puzzles, and playing both video games and RPGs. D&D is my favorite as both a player and DM, but I’m always up for Star Wars, Cyberpunk, and other RPG campaigns.
So that’s me, the oh-so-scary Pagan lady living in rural Plattsmouth. I’m just sitting here, cross-stitching something or making a puzzle, reading a book, or trying to figure out if the story about my 3rd great-grandpa dying at his home in Italy during WWII at the age of 104 is true.
All this to say that, of course, what I and others gave and sacrificed as a military spouse or member isn’t something people like Terri Cunningham-Swanson and her followers respect. They say “God Bless America” with a straight face, but what they mean is only an America that conforms to their narrow-minded beliefs. They claim to respect the military, but only cis-het white military members and spouses who fit a stereotype. They fail to recognize that the military is incredibly diverse, as are both our country and our small community.
When you walk into my house, you will see a doormat that says In This House We Believe:
Black Lives Matter
Love is Love
Science is Real
Feminism is for Everyone
Humans are Not Illegal
Kindness is Everything
I think it ought to add that Transgender Lives Matter. Also, if you don’t agree with the above sentiments, all of which my children have grown/are growing up with, I don’t want to be your friend. But I do want to know where any or all of these things hurt you so much and understand the hateful place your heart is in, because I try never to lose hope that everyone can eventually accept everyone else.
Diversity scares the people who believe in banning books and they will continue to fight for a homogenous society that makes them feel safe, in all their heterosexual, white fragility. This is why I pity them, because I don’t understand their fear. But fear is powerful and often drives people to hurt others. They think it’s “for your own good,” like when they use physical punishment against their own children. They can always find a way to justify hurting people.
Be mindful of that and consider taking this terrible experience with Terri and her followers as a lesson: a lesson that teaches us take a closer, more critical look at our local elections. Hate often dresses itself up with language designed to appeal to you, and you may never recognize it until its too late.
Again, I get that these people are scared. The world is always changing. There is no going back to hiding in a closet, and many of us were never there in the first place. I understand that these people fear what they can’t control. And that’s what they want, to control everyone else. They may claim that’s not the case, but why else would they deprive as many people as possible of access to information, of the freedom to make their own choices?
In the end, people like that are often seen for who and what they really are, anyway.