Tuesday, September 2, 2014

New Middle Grade Fellowship

Submissions now open!

The inaugural Christine E. Eldin Memorial Fellowship will open for submissions 1 September. A prize of $1,000 will be awarded to an unpublished middle-grade fiction writer whose work-in-progress reveals potential for a successful writing career. Visit the fellowship website for complete guidelines: eldinfellowship.org

Thursday, July 4, 2013

The Sparrow Fell

In November of 2009, a friend told me she was taking a break from her online presence. It was too exposing, took too much time away from her real life, put too much out there that she didn’t want strangers or her husband to read. She needed to work on her marriage and figure out what was going on with her moods. She’d made an appointment with a therapist to discover why she was crying so easily and not processing information the way she used to. She wanted to get a part time job, exercise more and be healthy.

Three months of light-hearted e-mails followed. She sent word of contests that I might find interesting. She had the part time job and liked it. Another two months later and the word depression surfaced again.

Almost a year went by before we connected for the last time. I was thinking of coming for a visit to scope out the DC area as a possible place to live. She was excited and wanted me to stay with her. For many reasons, I didn’t go. I wish I had.

She was Takoda, Church Lady, Rhinothongbutt (complete with picture), and herself - Chris Eldin - with such blogs as A Bench Press, Book Roast, Monkey Pee Monkey Poo, NaNoDeMo, Morning Latte, Alpha Bitch and her namesake. She came to L.A. for the 2008 SCBWI Summer Conference and we spent a wonderful evening chatting and laughing over vegetarian Chinese food. She was warm, gracious, funny, generous, caring, a talented writer with a wicked sense of humor.

I can’t remember when she talked about her fears. Was it over dinner? Did we talk on the phone? Both possibly. She was afraid her children would be taken from her. That her husband would get them passports, take them to Egypt, and never let her see them again. She was afraid of her husband’s business partners. Hints of shady dealings - crime on an international scale. Nothing she could definitively put her finger on. She felt trapped in her marriage. Dependent on someone she feared. And yet she said there was no abuse.

Perhaps there were no bruises, no broken bones, but her spirit suffered. She tried to keep her lifeline to us open. Tried in several different ways with the different blogs, but those avenues were closed off one by one until there was nothing left. E-mails to her went unanswered. Did she ever get them? No way to know.

We reminisced one day about how we all met - the wild connections that pulled this group of far flung writers together into such a tight knit community. Chris introduced some of us to each other, knowing we were friends who just hadn’t met yet. I searched her name that day but didn’t find the article that popped up months later.

This past week, another of our group found it. On the night of August 9th, 2012, Chris parked on the side of the interstate, left notes in her car and walked into traffic. Alone. Cut off from us to the point she may not have known how much we cared, how much we would’ve been there for her had we but known she needed us. Just like we have been there for each other in the past. Just like she had been there for us.

I can look back and see the signs. Of course. Such things are easy to see once the outcome is known. Not so easy to see in the moment. Not so easy to know what to say, how much to push, how much to stand back and allow loved ones to find their own way in this life.

I know, from my own experience, that twisted death spiral of eroding self-confidence, living in constant fear and emotional pain, that inability to see that life has ceased to be anything resembling normal, that useless agreeing to anything to try and keep the peace. But peace is never kept even when the isolation is complete. To leave is to risk being killed. Whether or not that is based in reality, the fear is very convincing.

Chris stopped the world so she could get off.

And we are all the lesser for it.

The morning we found out was a sunny day here in the desert of L.A. 0% chance of precipitation. Heat records in danger of being broken. Halfway through walking the dogs and it happened. Fat drops of rain for a minute or two.

God’s tears.

For Chris.

Wednesday, July 3, 2013

For Those Who Knew Chris Eldin

Chris took her own life almost a year ago and we just found out this week. There are a couple of efforts underway to memorialize her. From Stephen Parrish:

Phoenix Sullivan is putting together a digital tribute to Chris Eldin. Friends of Chris are invited to compose a testimonial for inclusion in the tribute.
It can take any form, including a eulogy, a letter to Chris, a favorite anecdote---anything you like. Let the style and content be a function of your personality as well as your own experience of her. If you want to submit something you've already posted, that's fine. If you want to keep things light, that's fine too; she was a natural humorist. Length is up to you.
Phoenix intends to publish the tribute next week, so please send your input to me at stephenparrish at hotmail dot com by the top of next week.

If you wish to add a link to a blog post, please check in with Paca here. That's also the place to go to read what others are saying about her and this tragedy.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Theme Of The Year

Last year the theme seemed to be Discovery.

This year it looks like it will be Renewal.

Happy New Year to us - we get a new kitchen and small bathroom and flooring and some walls.

And we got the present of knowing we are asbestos-free. Woo Hoo!

Grateful today for damn good insurance.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Considering Marriage?

Becoming married within the boundaries of your state without being married federally has some unique features.

Legal recognition: Our marriage is recognized within the state of CA. It’s recognized in a handful of other states, but I don’t know what hoops that recognition requires if any. It’s invalidated in quite a number of other states. Then there are states where the status is unknown. Federally it’s in court limbo – almost recognized but not quite.

We have not traveled as a couple outside of CA since we got married. Neither of us wants to be unmarried even for a moment. There’s something intangible about marriage that changed our perspective. There’s something precious about recognition of our marriage, too. It’s one of those things that you have to experience for yourself.

In the case of wills, power of attorney and healthcare. etc. for whenever we do travel: we would have to pay a lawyer to draw up those legal pieces of paper to cover some of the rights that marriage should give us automatically. Luckily nothing happened to me on my one trip to a state that considers our marriage against the law and against the state constitution (because, you know, our marriage is so threatening that one ban isn’t enough.)

Healthcare Benefits: For companies that provide for spousal healthcare coverage, the trouble is we are a separate tax category. Healthcare benefits for us are not taxable in the state, but they are taxable federally. Setting up this new category costs companies money and some (most?) don’t want to do that.

My wife is covered under our Domestic Partner designation even though she has never been my Domestic Partner. She is listed as my “friend” since listing her as my “spouse” is automatically rejected by their chosen options which exclude same-sex spouses. I have to send an e-mail to the Benefits department with any changes to my healthcare elections during open enrollment because they didn’t bother to upgrade that software either. In that, they are consistent with their Domestic Partner benefits – those require e-mails to update, too.

My W2 has to be examined every year to be sure these tax distinctions are made between state and federal reporting. Issuing a corrected W2 was required the first year but not the second. Last year, I sent an e-mail prior to the generation of the W2s and requested they make sure the numbers are correct the first time. That worked.

Taxes: My best advice is to get someone else to do this. At least until DOMA officially falls. Generally, state taxes are filed as married, federal taxes are filed as single. However these forms are interdependent. So that means filling out forms for both married and single to know what to put in the linked boxes.

Then there’s the added complication for community property states. The feds decided that had to be taken into account but they weren’t sure how, especially since not all community property laws are the same. So it’s up to us to interpret our laws and decide how to split up our income and deductions. An interpretation that is subject to their approval/rejection.

Because they themselves don’t know how to look at our federal tax forms – married, filing single, taking community property laws into account – we have gotten odd results from our filings. Still waiting for them to figure out one of the latest issues so we can get the next issue straightened out. I have a feeling this won’t be completed until DOMA falls and we re-file as married for the past several years.

Be prepared to be audited because this whole mess raises their red flags. And don’t count on e-filing. It won’t always let you because of the required number discrepancies. This last time, my wife could e-file but I couldn't.

The vote for marriage equality this week was amazing. It gives me great hope that the end is in sight after all. That's a lot considering I never thought marriage would be available to me in my lifetime.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Flash Fiction Contest

There's still time to enter The Lascaux Flash Fiction contest. Six days left to put together 250 words based on the prompt (can be very loosely based - like not at all.)

Prize is publication and $250. How to enter

My entry

Saturday, August 25, 2012

I Have Succumbed

Haven't been here in quite awhile - obvious from the date of my last post. Since the dreaded pirate Sir FB allowed us to basically follow close friends in an easy manner, I've moved on to where a good portion of my EE Minion friends reside (or at least where they kill time not working on their writing.)

Me on the Dark Side

Would love to see you there. (actually would love to see you at a bookstore near me getting your book signed.)