errors

Of the season, and a milestone
art | beauty | business | errors | hard work | psychosis | redemption | Sabin Howard sculpture | WW1 Memorial

Of the season, and a milestone

My latest on Medium Online is “The End of the Beginning: Eight of Sabin Howard’s Doughboys Get Ready to Go Back to Europe.”

I wrote it to share–to celebrate–a milestone: Sabin and his stalwart team have finished principal sculpture on the first grouping of eleven figures from A Soldier’s Journey.

I’m so proud of our sculptors Sabin, Charlie, and “Raymond.” They’ve worked with focus and dedication through long hours and difficult situations.

I’m also terribly proud of our good-spirited models. They also worked hard over the last year, especially during the quarantine months. Everyone has made sacrifices and accommodations for the good of the project.

This achievement is hard-won. It’s sweet for us.

It makes it worthwhile, almost, to have to deal with the belligerence and incompetence of outside parties. They’re a necessary evil. Doesn’t make them easy to handle. I brace myself before every phone call, conference, meeting, and visit. I’m always relieved when contact concludes.

It’s true that I have a particular failing in not tolerating fools gladly. My shrink has been yelling at me for a decade about that. Regarding my lack of patience for a**holes and idiots: it’s not exactly ego syntonic, it’s just not exactly ego dystonic, either.

But back to the trolls. What’s the point of being an aggressive jerk with people who are working hard, in good faith, toward a mutual goal? It mystifies me.

We were actually threatened with a “bloody fistfight” because the global pandemic posed challenges for our shipping plans. Do you believe that? HELLO: THERE’S A GLOBAL PANDEMIC.

And we were threatened after we had formed a quarantine pod, lived together, and worked together, all toward this end: meeting our deadlines.

The “bloody fistfight” folks are petty and unhelpful. Then there are the incompetent folks: “Thank you for your patience while we slowly and belatedly attend to an important matter that you told us about two months ago and then again last week. That matter we assured you was well in hand a month ago.”

Grr.

And there’s the guy who actually tried to tell me what to write. I thought I managed that situation well. I explained that my diction could have been worse. I didn’t tell him to go f**k himself.

It’s frustrating. I’m frustrated. I surmise that everyone living within a 75 mile radius of Washington DC is some species of awful. People far from the Beltway incorrectly assume that one political party is awful and the other is okay, depending on their personal predilections, and which media they allow to them what to think. It’s actually far more widespread than that. The whole DC area is toxic. Political party doesn’t matter.

The sole exception is our brilliant attorney. But he’s from the heartland and he lived in Germany for a while. He hasn’t been spoiled with the DC power-lust.

And so this is difficult for me. And yet, and yet… Sabin and the team have completed the first 28% of A Soldier’s Journey, and it’s beautiful. Uplifting, gripping. My husband’s skill is amazing. I’m so proud of him and so proud to have served the process in my way.

My Letter to Portland Mayor Tom Wheeler
anarchy | criminal behavior | dystopian | errors | evil | harassment | horror | tragedy

My Letter to Portland Mayor Tom Wheeler

I emailed this letter to Portland Mayor Tom Wheeler

Dear Mayor Wheeler,

Like millions of Americans, I am shocked by the violence of Antifa in Portland, Oregon.

In particular, I am horrified at the assault on journalist Andy Ngo.

But the trouble in Portland has been going on for a while.

My husband and I have been hearing reports of how bad things are in your city. Last spring when our daughter in her last year of medical school was creating her list for internship and residency, we counseled her against Portland. She has a close childhood friend in Portland, and she liked the program where she interviewed, but we advised her to look elsewhere to complete her medical training.

We discussed with her how Antifa controlled Portland and harassed citizens who were not in line with their radical beliefs. That was before Antifa attacked Andy Ngo.

I said, “Antifa is an aggressive, psychopathic militia—like the Brown Shirts under the Nazis. Don’t be fooled by their claims of trying to help the unfortunate. They are an intolerant and totalitarian group of enforcers who use violence to achieve their goals. And they are being condoned by the Mayor and the governance of Portland. You deserve a safe and peaceful city for your medical training.”

She is a fine student and a splendid doctor and she was matched to her first choice: it was NOT Portland.

For your consideration, I am a registered Democrat. So is my husband.

I wanted to let you know that there are consequences for Portland when a group of thugs controls the city. Wise people avoid Portland.

Sincerely,

Traci L. Slatton

Mystery of Birth
anarchy | errors | healing | life and death | passings | redemption | vulnerability | wholeness

Mystery of Birth

Mystery of Birth

 

 

 

I had the misfortune to be the impecunious shiksa married into a well-to-do Jewish family.

My sincere conversion to Judaism, a religion I love, slightly blunted their dyspeptic view of me but didn’t resolve it. Not that my former in-laws were aware of their bias or their inability to accept me because of my differentness. They’re a generous folk. They mean well, by and large.

But the plot thickened some years after my divorce, when I did my first DNA test. The results came back with so many “Ashkenazim” notes that I thought there had to be a mistake. I phoned the company.

I said, “I don’t understand my results.”

The lady clerk said brightly, “Oh, you’re Jewish.”

I murmured, “Yes, but who knew?”

I figured my mother had some Jewish progenitors. There were large murky areas in her ancestry, though we knew they largely inhabited the Southern parts of the US, with some Native American Indian thrown in. I figured some lost little Jewish girl had got off the boat in Ellis Island and found her way down South, where the crazy Scotch-Irish were boiling up squirrels in their crockpots and alchemizing moonshine in the hills. As well as marrying themselves some Indians.

My father’s family had been in the US for generations. They all had quintessential American names like Foster and Taylor. They were English-Scotch-Irish, with some Native American Indian thrown in. His mother was dark-haired and claimed Apache blood. There was no way my dad had any Ashkenazim blood.

Then my mother and I both, coincidentally, took another DNA test, 23andMe.

I was visiting my mother when she mentioned she had her results.

“Oh, let’s see your Jewish roots,” I chirped.

She opened a web browser, logged in, and opened her results.

0% Ashkenazim.

This did not accord with the 25.5% Ashkenazim ancestry that 23andMe revealed to me.

For a moment, the room swam in front of my eyes. I had a sinking feeling that I had been switched at birth. My mother, whom I love dearly despite our sometimes fraught relationship, wasn’t really my biological mother.

She said, “I guess Jim was Jewish?”

Oh, right. My father. I said, “He had to be half Jewish because I’m a quarter and you’re zero.”

But this was all very odd. My father’s family was from Arkansas, had been there for generations, and I had a recent Jewish ancestor from the Lithuania-Poland-Russia-Belarus area. Very recent.

I returned home and shared my DNA results with my mother, and 23andMe kindly confirmed that she was, indeed, my biological mother.

That left the mystery of my father. He never fit in with his family. Looked nothing like them. Had at least 75 IQ points over them. Was basically given away to be raised by a prosperous farmer. Called himself “the black sheep of the family” because he was smart, and joined the Navy and moved away from them.

My mother says he never bonded with anyone his whole life.

I didn’t like the man. He was abusive and prone to dark, erratic mood swings. He was an alcoholic. He cheated on my mother and engaged in all sorts of nasty behavior.

But I began to think that there was more to the story than met the eye. I began to believe that he wasn’t biologically related to the people who had raised him so poorly–because none of them are Jewish.

On 23andMe, I’ve been able to eliminate all the DNA relatives from my mother’s side. The remaining DNA relatives fall into 2 camps: one is Jewish, largely Russian-Polish-Ukrainian-Lithuanian. The other side is largely British-Irish and German.

That would be my paternal grandparents. Among them, there aren’t Taylors or Fosters or Slattons, or any of the other surnames associated with the people who raised my father. There is no commonality with the Slatton family.

The question is: Who was my father?

There’s some possibility that the woman who claimed to be his mother was indeed his biological mother, and she had fooled around.

But I think it far more likely that my benighted father, may he rest in eternal peace, was swapped in the hospital. Some other family went home with the real Slatton boy. And the son of a Jew and a German-Brit went home with the Slattons.

So I am sleuthing.

Who was my father? What are my real roots?

Empowering Women
beauty | eros | errors | excellence | freedom | gratitude | hard work | healing | hope | kindness | life model | love | maturity | redemption | vulnerability | wholeness

Empowering Women

I have raised four daughters: Empowering Women is a force close to my heart.

“A mature person is one who does not think only in absolutes, who is able to be objective even when deeply stirred emotionally, who has learned that there is both good and bad in all people and in all things, and who walks humbly and deals charitably with the circumstances of life, knowing that in this world no one is all knowing and therefore all of us need both love and charity.”

– Eleanor Roosevelt

There are so many astounding Eleanor Roosevelt quotes that it was hard to choose just ONE. That great lady had it going on!

I travel a lot. I’ve been all over the globe, recently with my husband. Sabin has been involved with a national memorial–something that’s been all foible, all the time. But it has allowed him to seek out the means and methods for creating a world class, monumental sculpture. Note: Stay tuned for a novel called “Truth Be Told” about an author married to a sculptor who is making a national memorial!

At any rate, regarding our travels. There’s a lot of America-bashing that happens abroad. For example, in New Zealand, a country stuck in the 1950’s, where women are treated like it is 1951, it is quite the vogue to bash America and our materialism.

But those backwater Kiwis are missing the point. The point is that the United States produces innovation and ingenuity. We are a generative force for new ideas, new technologies, new strategies, new businesses. The US has ambition. It takes risks. It’s the most generous nation on the planet. It doesn’t know its place. And that’s what’s brilliant about the USA: generosity and boundary-lessness.

Eleanor Roosevelt didn’t know her place. She redefined what it meant to be a First Lady. She got out in front of the public eye and did humanitarian good. She said, “Do what you feel in your heart to be right, for you’ll be criticized anyway. You’ll be damned if you do, and damned if you don’t.”

Eleanor Roosevelt said, “The battle for the individual rights of women is one of long standing and none of us should countenance anything which undermines it.”

I’m an American woman and proud of it. I do what I feel is right in my heart. I don’t know my place.

Plenty of men wish I did.

There’s a male fantasy of submissive women. It’s a weak male fantasy; it’s part of the attraction of porn, a visual representation of low consciousness in human sexuality.

The strong male dreams of strong females and their contribution, their partnership: “Too often the great decisions are originated and given form in bodies made up wholly of men, or so completely dominated by them that whatever of special value women have to offer is shunted aside without expression,” said Eleanor Roosevelt.

Women have something of special value to offer the world.

Now Sabin is working with an initiative for empowering women, and he would sculpt some of the Great Women who’ve done that by example. I’m so excited for him! Can you imagine Eleanor Roosevelt sculpted by Sabin Howard?

In a rich and deep way, his work has led to an extraordinary conversation between the two of us.

“What do you think an empowered woman is?” I asked him.

He gave a thoughtful reply about human beings.

I said, “Women are a subset of human beings, we have our own special contributions to make. Power means something a bit different for women.”

So here’s the cool thing: my husband and I have begun a new conversation in new terms–about Women’s Empowerment.

“Remember always that you not only have the right to be an individual, you have an obligation to be one.” – Eleanor Roosevelt

Factual Error in The New Yorker: Is this how fake news starts?
anarchy | art | authors | autobiography | criminal behavior | dystopian | errors | hard work | healing | hope | literature | love | marriage | maturity | Memorial | politics | psychosis | Sabin Howard | Sabin Howard sculpture | vulnerability | WW1 Memorial

Factual Error in The New Yorker: Is this how fake news starts?

Factual error in the New Yorker: I write this post not just for myself, but for all women whose ideas were misattributed to a man, and who were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat.

New Yorker Factual Error

My husband Sabin Howard is making a national memorial, the National World War I Memorial.

He began with drawings. He drafted several iterations of a relief that would tell the story of the Great War.

One morning over breakfast, he was talking about the design and showing it to me.

“My goodness,” I said. “You’ve got Joseph Campbell’s Hero’s Journey there.”

Sabin said, “Explain that?”

So I did. As a novelist, I’ve worked with Campbell’s ideas for years. For the purposes of storytelling, the beats of the hero’s journey are useful and important. I’ve been so entranced by Campbell’s work that I’ve talked about getting a PhD in it.

And so, with my explanation over coffee and scrambled eggs, began a critical and oft-repeated piece of the story around the WWI Memorial. The Hero’s Journey connection has been publicly broadcast, by Sabin and by others associated with the Memorial, including PR people.

This is my contribution to this worthy endeavor and I’m proud of it.

Sabin is an honorable man. He consistently credits me with telling him about Joseph Campbell. He says, “My wife told me about the Hero’s Journey…” in every public venue where he’s spoken–including at a meeting of the Commission on Fine Arts in Washington DC.

In the worlds of literature and academia, claiming credit for someone else’s work is called plagiarism. Sabin is well aware of that. He is extraordinarily brilliant, but I was the one who came up with the Hero’s Journey.

The idea is to give credit where credit is due. As a matter of integrity–don’t take credit for other people’s work. Sabin doesn’t. He’s honorable.

Then came a big opportunity: The New Yorker magazine decided to do a Talk of the Town piece on Sabin and his sculpture at the New York Academy of Art.

The publicist for the NYAA was happy and excited. She had done a great job! This piece would add luster to the NYAA, to Sabin, who was showing the WWI Memorial Maquette at the NYAA, and to the Memorial itself. This was a coup!

Sabin was happy. Despite the extraordinary–unparalleled–quality of his work, he has struggled for acceptance here in the New York art world.

“A prophet is not recognized in his home town,” I tell him.

The Talk of the Town piece went live online yesterday.

It contained a factual error:

“I realized, Oh, my God, this is like Joseph Campbell’s ‘the hero’s journey,’ ” Howard said. “It’s a very simple story that everybody in every single culture has experienced.”

Sabin was out when I texted him about the error. He stepped away from a meeting to contact the publicist at the NYAA and ask for the article to be corrected for factual accuracy.

Here’s where the story gets interesting.

The NYAA publicist was less than enthusiastic about the update. She forwarded the request to the writer at The New Yorker.

Then she emailed back, “Anna…consulted with the fact-checking department on the request, and they feel since the piece doesn’t go into “how” the realization was made, it should stay as is.”

This is disingenuous. Sabin was directly misquoted and asked for his words to be represented correctly. He always says, “My wife said, “This is Joseph Campbell’s hero’s journey.”

The New Yorker‘s misquote creates a factual error in the piece.

Sabin and I continued to push for accuracy. Sabin felt it was an injustice that his words were manipulated and that he was misquoted.

The NYAA publicist responded with increasing unpleasantness. She even told Sabin, “The story wasn’t pitched to The New Yorker as a piece about you and Traci.”

I emailed her,

Adding the words, “My wife remarked…” certainly does not make it a story about me and Sabin. Three words could not do that in a piece of this length. It does, however, become factually correct. It gives the piece an integrity that it currently lacks. Whether or not the magazine is attempting to be vindictive, they are acting in a way that has become a sore point with the parties involved. The magazine has been informed of a misquote and has chosen, this far, not to correct the piece.

The publicist was so appalled that I would continue to stand up for myself and my ideas that she got the head of the New York Academy of Art to email Sabin to tell me to back down.

Is that how the NYAA chooses to behave: by attempting to bully women who are standing up for their contributions? By attempting to get an authority to squelch the quest for accuracy and integrity? Women applying to the New York Academy of Art: BEWARE!

Regarding The New Yorker, here are my questions:

Is this how fake news starts: with journalists twisting subjects’ words any way that pleases them, and being unwilling to correct their piece when told about the error?

If The New Yorker makes a mistake and doesn’t correct that error because of specious and disingenuous reasoning, how is this publication any different from the fake news outlets they descry?

It’s disappointing that a venue that lauds its own integrity isn’t showing its integrity.

And there’s one more wrinkle in this sordid story. That is, there’s a concern about vindictiveness. The NYAA publicist and the head of the NYAA wanted us to stand down for fear that we would alienate people who had “been on our side.”

The NYAA publicist wrote us,

No press will be inclined to write on Sabin again, because it appears that he goes and attacks press who cover him. In addition, “fake news” is very inflammatory language to use and the New Yorker takes accusations like that extremely seriously – they have to, because of their political journalism. Claiming that the New Yorker is publishing fake news will attract a lot of unpleasant attention to you.

It’s a craven concern, but a real one. In today’s world, with its emphasis on expedience, the press might just step away from a subject who insists that his words be accurately represented.

Sabin said to me, “The New York Academy of Art will never work with me again because of this.” In order to uphold his personal integrity, he himself has to make a personal sacrifice that directly affects his career.

And so…I write this blog post for myself, for all women whose ideas have been misattributed to a man and were told to leave it be and not to rock the boat, and–come to think about it–for all the wives who are the unsung heroes supporting their husband.

Sabin Howard and Traci Slatton

Sabin Howard WWI Memorial relief drawing

Tender Loving Care for a Marriage
anarchy | beauty | eros | errors | gratitude | happiness | hard work | healing | hope | kindness | life and death | life model | marriage | maturity | missing people | real friends | redemption | Sabin Howard | vulnerability | wholeness

Tender Loving Care for a Marriage

Tender Loving Care for a Marriage

Sabin and I came to a dark and stormy place in our marriage.

That diction belies the fresh and cutting pain of such a place and time.

When we both returned to the marriage, we sought help in putting things back together. There are books, websites, and videos that have helped us, and that continue to do so. I write this blog for people like us who are working to strengthen their marriage.

It’s a deeply heartfelt journey to restore a marriage to love and harmony.

One resource for us is Dr. Dana Fillmore’s Strong Marriage Now site, www.strongmarriagenow.com. Her videos and blog posts tell it like it is, spell out effective strategies for working through marital issues, and offer hope to a bewildered spouse floundering with the despair of a marriage on the rocks. There’s not a moment of fluff. She talks about personal responsibility and strategies for effective communication. Of particular note are the videos on “How to Get Your Partner Checked Back In,” “Get Over Past Pain – Forgive,” and “7 Steps to an Effective Apology.” I also liked her “Surviving an Affair” series.

Dr. Fillmore emphasizes time spent together in her valuable “StrongMarriageNow System.” At least 8 hours per week, she insists. Eight hours per week, every week. I think back over the past few years with Sabin and I realize, if he and I had been spending 8 hours a week together, we never would have come to the treacherous shoals of near divorce. Her “StrongMarriageNow System” is important. It’s worth the investment of time and money for anyone who cares about their marriage. Buy it now.

Note: I’m not an affiliate! I used her program and found it helpful. Her program became a springboard for me to explore the wealth of published wisdom on strengthening a marriage.

Somewhere in Dr. Fillmore’s website or blog, she recommended “The 5 Languages of Love,” and I bought this book by Gary Chapman. Sabin and I both took the quiz, and we discovered that his primary love language is Physical Touch, and mine is Quality Time. Neither of us had our love language spoken to us when we were separated by vast distances. It was a recipe for disaster.

I liked this book “The 5 Languages of Love: The Secret to Love that Lasts” and I recommend it for couples. It’s worth exploring how you and your mate each feel and receive love.

Isn’t that ultimately the point of the sacred union of marriage? To share joy and communion and to make each other feel safe and profoundly connected to each other? To be the one person who is the bulwark against the vagaries of fate, the one person who’s always there for your mate.

Googling online one morning over my coffee–coconut sugar and heavy whipping cream, please–I discovered a YouTube Video of Dr. John Gottman speaking. He was giving a lecture at a Rotary Club on “Making Relationships Work.”

I was electrified!

Dr. Gottman is an MIT-trained researcher with more than four decades of experience in carefully studying marriages, what makes them work and how they fail. His “4 Horseman of the Apocalypse“: Criticism, Contempt, Defensiveness, and Stonewalling shocked me with their truthfulness. I saw immediately that Sabin stonewalls, and that I, yes, alas, I am critical.

It was evident that I needed to work on myself so I wasn’t critical.

In a general way, our pattern is mirrored by men and women at large. Dr. Gottman says that 85% of stonewallers in a heterosexual marriage are men.

Defensiveness is when we don’t take responsibility for our part, or any part, of the problem.

Worst of all is contempt. “Contempt is sulfuric acid for love,” says Dr. Gottman, and it actually erodes the immune system.

It hit me like a lightning bolt across the steppes to have these 4 toxic styles of relating articulated so clearly. I don’t enjoy having my failings pointed out to me, but I want my marriage to work. I don’t want to be a critical wife. I want to be a loving and respectful wife. Not a doormat–a loving and respectful wife. In fact, I intend to be a loving and respectful person.

Dr. Gottman also discusses what makes a marriage work, the strategies employed by “the Masters” who have happy, successful marriages. He talks about creating an atmosphere of fondness and admiration; about turning towards each other, especially when one spouse makes a bid for connection; about exploring each other’s love maps; and about accepting influence from each other. Especially, he notes, a husband accepting influence from his wife will strengthen the marriage.

I watched all the Dr. Gottman videos I could find, and then I bought some of his books. “The Seven Principles for Making a Marriage Work” is wonderful. The sections on ‘Solving solvable conflicts’ and ‘Coping with conflicts you can’t resolve’ are useful in the loveliest ways. Every marriage endures conflict, even the happiest marriage. What matters is how conflict is handled.

It’s no easy thing to rectify and restore a marriage. It’s no easy thing to keep a marriage strong. Besides the internal relating styles that can complicate matters, there are external forces working to dissolve a marriage.

There are predatory women who want to scoop up other women’s husbands; there are low class women who come for a job interview and drop their knickers. There are selfish men who, if they want her, don’t care whether or not a woman is married or if there is a child involved. These sorts will manipulate to achieve their own ends. Their manipulations can be devastating for a marriage.

There are other negative outside influences that can derail a marriage. There are nasty in-laws. There are so-called “friends” who want to break up the marriage for their own spiteful or self-interested purposes. In my opinion, those types should be avoided as soon as they’re identified.

It’s easy enough to get married but hard to stay married. It’s the hardest thing we do, perhaps. It requires constant self-monitoring and constant accommodation and regular sacrifice.

Marriage requires sacrifice because it is sacred. Sanctity requires hard work and sacrifice. It’s the most poignant endeavor of all. It’s the hardest road to walk–and the most important, the most human.

To anyone out there who reads this blog post hoping for help for their painfully unsettled marriage: Welcome, and God Speed. I pray that these suggestions help you. I offer you my blessing.

Sabin Howard and Traci Slatton