When Was Your First Time?

Featured

The first time is something we don’t ever forget.

We may not talk about it with anyone, but it changes us. There’s a loss of innocence, and we carry that with us forever. We keep it secretly to ourselves, never willing to bring it out of the darkness or to share it at all.

But it’s time to be bold and talk about it — about that very first time.

The first time you tasted sexism.

It’s tough right now to be a woman.  You can’t turn on the television or scroll through social media without hearing words that aren’t just words to us, but for many are triggers that make us feel ill, alienated,  and hurting. Misogyny. Sexual assault. Rape culture. We’re learning ad nauseam the dirty details about lines being crossed and bodies being shamed, by word and by deed. Everything we’re talking about has to do with that “ism” that many of us don’t like to use.  We talk about Racism. Anti-Semitism. Ageism, even. But Sexism makes us pause and think twice.

When I was growing up as a little girl, I heard a lot of comments about females. And none of them were good. Women were bad drivers, scatter-brained, gossipers, irrational, overly-emotional, not to be trusted, and they only were interested in spending their husband’s money. With a gender description such as this, it’s amazing that I ever wanted to grow up to be a woman. 

Was it sexism? 

You bet it was. 

But did I know it at the time, or feel it was wrong?  Not really.  That’s how I was raised, and everything I heard in my family was also what I was seeing in movies and television. Like background music in an elevator or a dentist office, you get used to it after awhile and pretty soon you just tune it out. But there was one time I couldn’t tune it out. There was a moment in my life when something was said that made me hear in a new way, made me feel something deep inside, and changed me forever. 

It was the first time I truly understood the ugliness of sexism.

I was pregnant with my first child, and there are no words to describe the joy I felt as I carried a new life inside of me. With every movement within my womb, I felt a newfound pride at being a woman and being able to give life. My husband’s uncle called us one night to congratulate us — I was seven months pregnant, and nervous as hell.  He was a dear man, this uncle, generous and charming, and I loved him.  He was thrilled to hear we were going to be parents and offered us a bit of wisdom.

“You know it’s going to be a boy, don’t you? Our family only has boys,” he told me. 

“And if it’s a girl?” I asked in all innocence. 

He laughed at that thought, and then added, “Well, you know what they do in China?  They kill girls.” 

He laughed again and I felt ill.   

The conversation went on, and I just listened. 

Sickened. 

Not just by his cruel comment, but by my sudden silence. I didn’t have a voice to answer him.  Or to confront him for what he had said. I knew it was racist, but I had a hard time telling myself it was sexist.

I spent most of the night quietly thinking about what this favorite uncle had said to me.   How could I speak up to this when I didn’t fully understand the pain I was experiencing as a woman?  This wasn’t the first time I’d heard something bad said about being female in this world. Why couldn’t I just forget it, and move on? This man was a loving person, and someone I had always respected. He didn’t really mean the comment, I was sure.  So why not just forgive him? But by morning I couldn’t find it in my heart to let this moment go by. 

I spoke to my husband about it, and he laughed and said, “Oh, he was just kidding.” 

Somehow that wasn’t enough. 

“You’re Jewish,” I reminded him. “What if we replaced the word “girl” with “Jew?”  How would you feel?” 

It’s the only time in my life I’ve seen my husband truly speechless.  He understood.  He felt the pain that I’d felt for being treated as less, as inferior, as something without value.  This was the first time sexism became more than just a word in the dictionary. I felt it for the first time. 

But not for the last.

I have a theory about all those nasty, hateful terms with “ism” in them.  When we don’t talk about them, they linger. If we just let them happen, or ignore them, they don’t go away.  How can we find an answer, if we’re unwilling to talk about it with each other? 

There’s a conversation going on right now in our country and for the first time it has captured the attention of television cameras, radio microphones, and every bit of cyberspace of social media.  I know it hurts to keep hearing ugly words, and witnessing hateful attitudes we’ve spent our lifetimes as women experiencing.  But as painful as this might be right now, it’s the only way for this “ism” to get better. 

So that all the little girls to come never have to go through what we’ve gone through.

And all the little boys will never be burdened by such hatred.

Honoring the Girls of Central High

October 11, 2016 is International Day of the Girl which was first started by the U.N. in 2011 to “honor girls and work to improve their lives.” I can’t think of a better way of commemorating the day than by posting a link here to No Girls Allowed, the documentary about the first girls who attended the 147-year-old all-male public high school, Central High in Philadelphia.

Gafni News Conference

Yes, you read that correctly — public high school.  Central High was not some elite private school, making up its own rules. It was a public high school in the School District of Philadelphia that for 147 years prohibited girls from attending. No girls were allowed at Central High until 1983 – when the brave young girls in the photo above contested 147 years of gender inequality.

I made this film to celebrate those brave young girls.

People have forgotten about this story, and many more don’t even know that it happened.  When people forget historical moments of social justice, or victories over discrimination are not remembered and honored, we are doomed as a society to keep repeating those injustices.

If you’d like to learn more about the film, please read my post, No Girls Allowed.

If you’d like to watch it, just click the link below and it will take you to Vimeo, where No Girls Allowed is available for viewing, in honor of International Day of the Girl. If you’re a teacher or professor and would like a DVD to share with your students, please let me know in the comments below.

This is one story we should never forget.

The courage of these girls must always be remembered.

On International Day of the Girl, and all days.

Please CLICK HERE to take you to Vimeo and to watch No Girls Allowed…

 

 

Hello? Can You All Still Hear Me…?

It’s been three years since I’ve regularly posted here.

I’ll be honest with you — I’m not sure I remember how to do this.

I just finished writing 99,000 words, locked in the 1700s with characters who speak another language, live in another culture, and who are traveling on horses and mules 1500 miles to the promise land of California. I’ve just lived this amazing adventure, and I’m not sure how to come back here to my blog.

I’m having a hard time returning to the 21st Century.

But do you blame me?

This 21st Century isn’t easy to live in. There’s lead in the drinking water in Michigan. People are getting shot every day. There are hurricanes and Zika-bearing mosquitos in Florida, wild fires and earthquake warnings in California, 24 hour coverage of the nastiest political race that I’ve ever witnessed in my lifetime…and when I try to look away, to seek some solace in the words of my fellow 21st Century travelers on Facebook, Twitter, and in the blogs, I find sarcasm, snark, and insults. Sometimes even threats. It’s hard to stay positive with everything going on in the modern world around us. Harder still for a recovering agoraphobic to want to step out there into the middle of it all.

Some days I ask myself: Why aren’t there more agoraphobics in this 21st Century? After all, there’s nothing you can’t order online and have it delivered to your home. There’s no reason to go to the grocery store, the mall, the movie theater, or anywhere you need to purchase goods or content as long as you have the internet to do your shopping for you. There’s telecommuting for work, online courses for school and college, religious services, and dating. What’s the reason to ever step outside of our homes? To go out in the middle of such heartache and angst? Shouldn’t we all be hiding underneath our covers, cowering with fear and disgust? What pushes us out there every day? What gives us the faith to keep looking for the good in our world?

While writing this, I asked myself those questions. What makes me go out my front door every day, when I could stay warm and protected inside my house, with my imagination keeping me company, and without risking some unknown danger lurking outside?

The answer came easily – I didn’t have to look far.

Brown eyes.

These brown eyes…

stokely-headshot

This is my grandson, Stokely.

He was born in April, at the same hospital where my own son was born. It wasn’t planned that way – it was just one of those sweet quirks of Fate that make you smile and say, “Awwwww.”

If I stay hidden in my world, I will never have the chance to experience Stokely’s world. What I see when I look into those deep brown eyes are what make me forget about all the bad things that go bump in the night. This crazy-at-times 21st Century is his century too. Together, we have to navigate it. He knows no other century, no other world, and this crazy-by-my-terms 21st century is where he will be the most comfortable. Where I hope we can always make him feel comfortable. And above everything else—safe.

I’m working on that.

And that’s what gets me out the front door. Every. single. day.

What gets you out of your front door?

After Three Long Years…!

felipephotopr-2jpg

Name:  Californio

Born: August 30, 2016

Weight: 99,000 words

Height: 8 1/2″ x 11″

Length of Labor:  Three years

The baby needs to be cleaned up, bathed, swaddled and nursed before he can go out into the world. But when he’s ready, you will be the first to meet him.

—The proud Momma

Today Was Kind Of Special For Us

Image

Today was the day the Craviotto family walked through our 100 year old Shop to look at all of the tools, scrolls, machinery, and memorabilia, deciding what items to keep and what to sell.

It’s time to say good-bye to Craviotto Brothers Ironworks.

634 Anacapa (50's)3

The business has been a part of the Santa Barbara landscape for almost 100 years, but now it’s time for its corrugated iron doors to close forever. A “Going Out of Business” sale will take place April 25 at what our family has lovingly called “The Shop” ever since three generations have worked there.

It was started by this man, Erasmo John Craviotto.

EJ:Workers copy

E.J. Craviotto bought the land in 1914, but when WWI called his name and he went off to Europe to fight, he left the Shop in the capable hands of his brother, Fred Craviotto.

FA:Saddleshop

That’s when the Shop was named Craviotto Brothers.

When E.J. came back from war, his brother moved on, and E.J. ran the business until 1958 when his two sons, Charlie and Danny Craviotto, took over.

CCC:DFC 2 EDIT

When most people think of Craviotto Brothers nowadays they think of these two brothers. You almost never saw one without the other. They used to finish each other’s sentences, and sometimes they didn’t even need to finish them to understand what the other one was saying. They went everywhere together, did everything together – work, play, and vacations. You could see them at lunch time, sitting in the open doorway of the Shop, eating their sack lunches, watching the girls walk by, and commenting on the world for thirty minutes a day at noon. Some of us called them the unofficial mayors of Anacapa Street. Danny used to say, “I couldn’t have picked a better brother, a better friend or a better business partner.” Charlie never said the same thing because he didn’t have to – his brother said it for him. They were as close as any two brothers could ever be except for twins.

YoungCharlie&Danny

Danny, on the left, and Charlie, on the right.

Two Brothers

Charlie, on the left, and Danny, on the right.

Charlie passed away in 2004 and Danny followed after him in 2011.

But the Shop still remained.

Craviotto Brothers

Now, it’s time for the Shop to go.

Today, Danny’s widow, Carmen, and the children and grandchildren of Charlie and Danny, walked through the shop and had to do an impossible task – We had to choose the artifacts of 100 years of hard work that our individual families will keep, while allowing the rest to be sold to the public.

While we did this, two pigeons (two, not one, or three, or any other inappropriate number) flew into the Shop and perched in the rafters high overhead, watching us as we worked. And there sat those two pigeons for the whole day, just watching us pick through all the artifacts from a business that was started in 1914, passed off from the father of those two boys, who groomed and grew the family business into a Santa Barbara tradition, a tradition that saw three generations of workers trained there, learning not only how to be iron workers, but also how to be Craviotto men. And here’s the thing: It was two pigeons, not two sparrows, or two Jay birds, or two hummingbirds. Two pigeons.

Danny Craviotto used to raise and race homing pigeons, with his pigeon coop in the backyard of his ma and pa’s house over on San Andres Street.

Uncle Danny with Pigeon

That’s Uncle Danny and me with one of his pigeons. He really loved those birds, and he especially loved that he could take them anywhere, release them, and let them fly high into the sky, flying far away.

But they always came home.

I never see a pigeon without thinking of my uncle, and it always gives me a sense of comfort to know that a pigeon will always recognize his home and know how to get back there when he’s ready.

Today, we looked up at those two pigeons sitting high up in the rafters of the Shop and we smiled at them.  We also shed a few tears just seeing them there. Here’s a photo my cousin, Dan, took with his phone.

2 pigeons

We were all in agreement that Charlie, the big brother, was on the left – looking puffed up and wanting to take on the world, while Danny, the younger, was on the right, still at his side, always the loyal brother.

Sometimes life just makes you shake your head and say, “Wow!”

Remembering A Soldier I Never Knew

On the 100th anniversary of the Great War, I’m reposting this to honor the men in my family who served and fought…

Darlene Craviotto

(In honor of this year’s Veteran’s Day, I’m reposting this in memory of all those who fought and lost their lives in the Great War.  It was also called World War I, and it was fought with the hope that it would end all future wars.  Sadly, that was a dream never realized.) Mort du France

I first met him as a name carved into a marble memorial. That we were connected as family was lost to me at the time. I was only 24 and my vision was limited by my youth.  It was only years later when I visited his town again, and I stood once more in front of that monument that I began to wonder about the man beyond the name. Gratien Ocafrain. A name so foreign, yet so familiar.  He links me to this day we celebrate every year – Armistice Day it used to be called.  Veteran’s…

View original post 2,148 more words

Just Because I Haven’t Written Doesn’t Mean I Don’t Care

Featured

I miss you.

Every one of you.

If you’ve ever left a comment here, or somehow let me know you’ve been reading my blog, whether reaching out to me by email, Facebook,or Twitter: I think of you when I sit here all alone and write.

Or at least try to write.

That’s what I’ve been doing for over a year now – writing a novel.  This is where I’ve been writing it…

Stowe Grove Redwoods

That’s the view from my office – from a picnic table in the middle of a redwood grove.

I’ve never been an outdoors-type writer – I prefer the comfort of a computer screen and indoor plumbing. Hot cups of tea, and an occasional nap in an armchair. But I’m writing outdoors now because the story I’m working on is an outdoor adventure – about the first Californio families who traveled over a thousand miles on mules and horseback to start their lives in a place called Nueva California. Somehow being outdoors makes me feel a little bit closer to these people who I’ve just recently met on the page.

It’s not easy to write a novel.

Not.at.all.

Fiction writing makes writing screenplays seem like finger painting in kindergarten. The average screenplay uses 15,000 to 20,000 words to say what it needs to say. I’ve written 52,000 and I’m maybe halfway done. Adult fiction can run from 75,000 to 100,000 words, so I’m guessing mine will come in long. But I’m a wicked editor and I love to use my red pen, so (unlike dieting) I have no problem slimming down my words.

In the meantime though, while I’m still in the throes of a first draft, I try not to edit or I’ll slow myself down. In fact, on those days when my persnickety internal editor is working overtime, I find it hard to write at all. I sit there in the middle of those beautiful trees and wonder why I’m even doing this. Why am I struggling with this story when it would be so much easier to not be writing at all?

That’s when I think of you.

Some of you have photos to your names or avatars, and those cross my mind. Others are only email addresses, but my imagination pictures you there beyond the .com. When I’m stuck and searching for a way to continue, for a reason why I should keep going and not give up, you come to me in my thoughts, and I think about you some day reading this story. And remembering that makes quitting this novel not an option at all.

The joy of writing comes from sharing. From connecting with another human being. That’s why I wrote screenplays. That’s why every time one of my screenplays became a film, on the big screen or small,  I was sharing, connecting with other people. The words had found their purpose. That’s why I started this blog, and why I miss coming here more often. You keep me writing. You keep me battling with that pesky editor, keep me focused when the squirrels are scrambling in the overhead branches, and the people are walking their dogs past this strange woman scribbling on legal pads and mumbling to herself. You keep me going forward. Knowing that you are here is what keeps me on this path, taking this journey and finishing this story.

That’s why I’m writing this today.

To let you know how much I miss you.

And I can’t wait to share this story with you.

REV Cover_ebook-1

An Agoraphobic’s Guide to Hollywood