Why Should We Help Puerto Rico?

I was ignorant about most of Puerto Rico – U.S. history until a smart woman I know planted the words “spoils of war” in my ear, and off I went. These brief points of fact should be known by all.  Read them here, at The Gloria Sirens and share far and wide.

Flags_of_Puerto_Rico_and_USA (1)




When Another School Shooting is Another Domestic Violence Shooting

Here, I take look at the domestic violence shooting at North Park Elementary in San Bernardino that took the life of a teacher, Karen Elaine Smith, and one of her students, Jonathan Martinez.


“School shootings and domestic violence shootings are two separate, complex problems—even when they become intertwined, as they have today. Crucial in the development of this tragedy is that the victim, Karen Elaine Smith, had recently left her abuser—the most dangerous time and circumstance for a battered woman. In our righteous grief and anger because this shooting took place at a school and included child victims, we must not forget the women like Ms. Smith who need us to address this story as a domestic violence issue.”


Read this in its entirety at the online magazine, The Gloria Sirens:

When Another School Shooting is Another Domestic Violence Shooting


Easter Egg Basket Fillers Kids Will Love– And They’re Not Candy

Why waste money on pre-made Easter baskets sold in stores?  The plastic dump trucks won’t last, and the beach pails are a cute idea, but they won’t last either, and what if you don’t live near a beach?  The cheap, flimsy toys and meager amount of lower-grade candies aren’t worth the money.  Neither are most of the things sold on the holiday aisle meant for you to stuff your Easter baskets with.  Those things are going to end up on the floor or in the garbage can before brunch, and you know it.  The obvious alternative is to stuff the baskets with candy.  You can do better than that.

Consider buying each of your children their own big, sturdy baskets with handles (not sold as Easter baskets) that you can spray-paint in colors they like.

Maybe they’ll look forward to finding out what’s in their very own baskets each year; this could be one more family tradition you make your own.

Stuff your kids’ baskets with the usual fillers: A good quality chocolate bunny or lamb, plastic eggs filled with gourmet jelly beans, speckled malted milk balls, and marshmallow peeps– or not; you either love peeps or you hate ‘em.  Maybe leave out the plastic eggs filled with money; they’re the least-creative thing ever put into an Easter basket, and what message do they send?

Here’s my list of Easter egg basket fillers that are actually worth your money and will give your children lasting pleasure.

  • A potted flower and/or potted herb. Or both!  I prefer Gerbera daisies because the size and colors of the blooms make a big impact, and rosemary because it gives off a strong, pleasant scent when watered.  Let your child tend their very own plant indoors in its pot or outside if they want to plant it.
    • Flower or vegetable seeds are often recommended, but I think they’re better in theory than in practice. It takes patience to wait for them to sprout, never mind how long it takes them to bloom.
  • A CD of children’s sing-along songs. Everybody needs music.  Play it in the car on the way to school to give them a happy start to their day, and you may find yourself singing with them.
  • New socks. No, I’m not crazy.  This was one of my favorite gifts to give—fun socks, maybe in cartoon or quirky prints for sleeping or wearing on cold mornings, and pastel socks, striped socks, argyle socks, or whatever you find that fits the bill.  Roll up each pair of socks in a ball, making sure the good side is out, so that they look a bit like Easter eggs.  You may have a child who insists on wearing the quirky print socks to school.  Ah, well.  When you’re a kid, life is supposed to be fun.
  • Fun undies, depending on your child’s age. Batman, Spiderman, LEGO, and Star Wars are some that are available for boys.  For girls, you can choose Frozen, Disney Princesses, Hello Kitty, Sesame Street, My Little Pony, and Justice League, among others.  Stores are full of choices.  Roll each pair into the best egg shape you can and tie with a ribbon, unless you can find plastic eggs big enough to hold one pair each.
  • PlayDoh.   Again, I’m not crazy.  If you’re worried about the mess, buy an inexpensive vinyl tablecloth with the polyester fabric backing.  Put the vinyl side up and let the kids play on the kitchen or garage floor or on the back patio.  You will not have Play-Doh matted into your carpet.  Also, the fabric backing keeps the tablecloth from slipping, and the vinyl can be wiped clean.  Then roll up the tablecloth and save it for next time.
  • Paint with water books. For little ones who aren’t so great with watercolors or crayons yet, these are perfect.
  • Shrinky Dinks. You may remember these from your childhood.  Because a hot oven is required, adult participation is absolute necessary. Draw or trace an image on the sheets, color them, cut them out, put them into the oven.  It’s fun to watch your creations shrink as they are heated.
  • A package of strawberry or blueberry muffin mix, prepackaged or homemade. All that’s necessary are the wet ingredients (berries, too, if you’re making them from scratch).  They’re easy to make, and your house will smell delicious on Easter morning.  Include some novelty paper muffin liners.
  • Kids love stickers Buy a couple of packages on the greeting card aisle and slip them into the Easter basket.
  • A Dymo labeler. You might have had one of these as a kid, too.  Stay away from the fancy labelers with keyboards.  The manual rotary dial labeler is a classic, and it keeps kids busy for a long time.  Admit it: You had fun with yours long after you ran out of things to label.  Your kids will, too.
  • A plastic egg with a gift ticket good for one game. “This ticket may be exchanged for [whichever game you buy] Candy Land, Operation, Let’s Go Fishin’, Hi Ho Cherry O (great for learning to count or practicing counting), Tiddlywinks, Uno, etc.  (If you choose Uno you can put the card game in the Easter basket, because it fits.) Of course, you will have already bought the game you’ve chosen so you can let your child exchange their ticket for the game right away.
  • A snazzy new toothbrush. Oh, no!  First socks, then underwear, now a toothbrush.  What could I be thinking?  I’m thinking that if you buy the right ones, your kids will love them.
  • Bubble bath or fizzy bath bombs. Mr. Bubble never lets you down.  Fizzy bath bombs are just what they claim to be, exploding fizzy bubbles in the water from the tub bottom up to the surface until they fully dissolve.  These were designed for adults, but that’s because we’re not supposed to outgrow fun.
  • And, finally, for the child who can’t abide a blank page, novelty pencils, magic markers, crayons, coloring books, drawing pads, or even (yes, some kids would be thrilled) a small packet of stationery cards for writing secret messages to pen pals, even thank you notes and notes to grandparents. Some dear little ones will write love notes to their parents.  Add a couple of rubber stamps and inkpads to this, and you have a winner.  Don’t forget the postage stamps!  They’re as important as batteries on Christmas morning.

Good luck, moms and dads, and have fun thinking outside the box—or basket.  Easter is under a week away.

*Note: I’m not an Amazon affiliate, and I receive no compensation if you buy these products through my links.  I included the links for detailed descriptions of the items and for your convenience should you be an Amazon customer.

Confessions of a Christmas Letter Writer

by Suzannah Gilman, first published on The Gloria Sirens


There is the art of writing letters, and then there is the art of writing Christmas letters, which hardly anyone masters.

To write Christmas letters, a person will ideally have a highly-refined sense of how much overstatement, embellishment, and lies by omission others can stand. But if a person has no such sense, it would help for them to have a sense of irony so that when people say, “I love getting your letters,” they won’t get a swollen head.

I was brought up in a family of braggarts, all of whom were strangers to irony.

The other day, I mentioned my disappointment over that to my mother and she said, “Um… well, can you tell me what irony is?”

Those who could master the art of writing Christmas letters, because they know how to avoid horn-blowing and because they are blessed with irony, are the last people on earth who would write them.

When I was a child, my grandmother got long, Xeroxed, pride-filled Christmas letters from a distant relative, the most hyperbolic rundowns of a rather ordinary middle-class family’s year than most people can imagine. Maybe my grandmother and I were the only ones who read those letters with awe, ooh-ing and aah-ing over such grand exploits as her fifth cousin driving a golf cart in a small-town parade. We were much below middle class, and we were darn proud of being related to such accomplished people!

So when I had children and for the first time lived a life that seemed successful to me,  (my husband had a full-time job, we were involved in our children’s education, we weren’t renters, and we had vehicles that were not in danger of breaking down), I started writing Christmas letters.

Read the rest here: Confessions of a Christmas Letter Writer







Transitioning Through the Holidays, a Mother Learns to Let Go

by Suzannah Gilman, first published on The Gloria Sirens

I have four children, all adults in their twenties now, one about to turn thirty, one married, one getting married in January, and the other two in serious relationships with women they adore.  I wanted this.  I wanted four children.  I wanted big family holidays.

This Christmas Eve and Day, I won’t see any of them.

For years, my four have been saying that they wanted out of Florida, and three of them have gone.  Two moved in January of this year, so this season is the transition challenge for me.  I never imagined that the day would come when my children would all live in different places.  I’m glad that I never imagined being without them on Christmas.

If I dwelled on this long enough, I could have a rollicking pity party.

This hardly seems like Christmas.  I didn’t even put up a tree; I decorated the mantel.  I won’t be staying up half the night on Christmas Eve wrapping presents. I won’t be cooking a big meal. My fiancé and I are grilling steaks.  A single friend is coming over after he has dinner with his brother and his family.  I didn’t do any holiday baking.  I bought a huge tin of cookies at Costco.  Now the song “Blue Christmas” means something to me.

So instead of thinking about what I don’t have, I’ll think about what I do have.

Read the rest (286 more words) here: Transitioning Through the Holidays, a Mother Learns to Let Go


Leslie Salas: When You Need to Break Bread with Voters from the Other Side


Originally published on The Gloria Sirens.

We’re in that weird space between last week’s election and next week’s day of Thanks. And in that middle space, we’ve all had to face some uncomfortable feelings about our nation, our communities, and even our friends and family–especially as we gear up for some potential awkwardness, discomfort, or downright hostility and fear around the turkey and stuffing. Many open letters have been written in the aftermath of this election as a way of dealing with these feelings, and many of them seem to be written toward daughters about their uncertain futures. One of the letters that stands out to me the most is Mira Jacob’s letter to her son.

In her letter, Jacob relates how being brown impacted her life in post-9/11 America and speculates as to how it will continue to impact her life–and the life of her half-brown little boy–in the wake of Trump’s win. In particular, she discusses a conversation she had with her 8-year-old prior to the election:

Your father’s parents are Republicans living in Florida. For years, this had led to the kind of dinner discussions we’ve all tried to avoid, with your father devolving into righteous incoherence as your grandmother cites Fox News references. But even though he falls far from the tree, your grandparents love your father dearly, and he loves them back. With you, they are gentle, funny, loving, and wise, which I think is maybe why you’ve been so confused as national events have played out. In the last few months, your questions have become particularly acute.

“Grandma and Grandpa are really voting for Trump?”

“Last I heard, yes.”

“But aren’t they scared that Trump is racist?”

“I don’t think they think of him that way.”

“So he’s not racist?”

“No, he is, but…I think they don’t really look at that part. They are voting for him for other reasons that make sense to them.”

“But won’t they be scared for us if he wins?”

“Your grandparents love you a lot.”

“But what if—”

“A lot.”

And then in bed that night, just when I thought you’d conked out, “But can’t you just ask Grandma and Grandpa not to vote for Trump? Can’t you say, please, you live in Florida, do it for us?”

I said no quickly and firmly and we had to read a whole other book just to get you to go to sleep. But that night, when you were sleeping, I typed up an email. Dear Mom and Dad, I wrote. I made the best case I could. Please, I wrote, for us. I cried as I wrote it. I read it three times to make sure it was the absolute best letter I was capable of writing. Then I deleted it because the only thing worse than having to beg them to imagine our lives would be hearing them say no.

As a Floridian person of color and new mom to a biracial little boy, I faced the same dilemma as Jacob over and over again.


Read the rest of Leslie’s post here:

When You Need to Break Bread with Voters from the Other Side


Best 50th Birthday Ever – Literary Death Match, Orlando Ep. 4

When Adrian Todd Zuniga invited me to read at the world-renowned Literary Death Match on November 15, how could I say no?  I mean, what better way to spend your 50th birthday than at a FREE birthday party where you have an audience and get to read with some stellar writers? I was in, baby!  And perhaps the best reason of all to be involved is that our local Burrow Press, founded by publisher Ryan Rivas, benefitted from ticket sales.  LDM was held at the Lowndes Shakespeare Theater in Orlando.


Pre-Literary Death Match Frivolity –   Glendaliz, Adrian, Chrysanthe Mum, Moi, Ama, Cody, and Kay

Literary Death Match has been called “the most entertaining reading series ever” by the LA Times, and this event has been touted as being “like a reading meets American Idol meets Double Dare.”  I’ve seen two Literary Death Matches and now participated in one, and I can tell you that’s true.  So if you ever get a chance to go to Literary Death Match, do it!

The other readers blew me away.  Glendaliz Camacho, the current Writer in Residence at the Kerouac House (where Kerouac wrote Dharma Bums), memoirist Ama McKinley, whose birthday is also November 15, and Trevor Frasier, who managed to keep his job at The Orlando Sentinel despite its parent company’s (the Tribune) tendency to fire fine people, and who is a creative writer with a land planning graduate degree, all read pieces that informed and entertained.  Bravo!  (See my bio below.) One of the things I most love about reading competitions (I’ve also read in Jesse Bradley‘s “There Will Be Words” slams three times) is the camaraderie that develops among the writers.  We’re in competition in name only.  The goodwill and admiration we share makes me feel like the world isn’t so bad, no matter what.  And you know what the what is.

Thank you to the audience who sang “Happy Birthday” to Ama and me, substituting the line “Happy Birthday ending in zero” for the line “Happy Birthday, dear ____,” which suited us both.


Thou shalt love thy judges and host, and Glendaliz and Ama as they wait for their verdict

Our fine judges represented the diversity that is Orlando.  Kay Rawlins, Co-Founder, Vice President of Community Relations, and Foundation President of Orlando City Soccer Club, judged the category of Literary Merit.  Chrysanthe Mum, drag queen, hairstylist, and host of SHEnanigan Saturdays at Stonewall Bar, judged the category of Performance.  Cody Bush, who works in finance and is a dedicated improviser at SAK Comedy Lab, judged the category of Intangibles.  They were funny, and they were kind to us all.


Trevor and me, doing the beauty pageant “The tension is too much to face alone” pose as Adrian entertains the audience with literary tales

Ironically, a couple of hours before LDM, I had hives down one leg, which I thought was an intangible that could work to my benefit– because I was reading my piece, “I’m Allergic to Being Allergic.”  But they went away, which bummed me out.   (In their place came a sinus headache that threatened to become a migraine.  Thankfully, it didn’t.)


The one, the only Ryan Rivas, founder and publisher of Burrow Press

I respect Ryan Rivas so much for his vision and determination in starting up Burrow Press, who has published some fine writers, including Vanessa Blakeslee and Philip F. Deaver.

And wow, what luck a reading competition is.  At the end, it was apparent that “This competition is tremendous, folks.  Yuge.  But it’s rigged.  It’s rigged, folks.  Believe me.  That’s what people are saying.  I have tremendous respect for the people who say it’s rigged.  Nobody knows Literary Death Match like I do.  I know it better than Adrian Todd Zuniga.”  Well, I have to agree.  It must have been rigged.  On my birthday, in a red dress that matched the medal, I won when we all deserved the medal because we’re all winners.  But I’ll take it.  And take it I did– running out the door in case someone thought there was a mistake.


The most lightweight piece of the night, “I’m Allergic to Being Allergic”

Actually, it is luck.  I’m not sure I’m supposed to reveal exactly how the show ends, but I can tell you that there is a zany competition involving two teams.  My team was losing, losing, losing, but like the Chicago Cubs in the World Series, we pulled it off at the last second.  Thrilling!





Hail, hail, the gang’s all here: Kay Rawlins, Adrian Todd Zuniga, Cody Bush, me, Chrystanthe Mum, Glendaliz Camacho, Trevor Frasier, and Ama McKinley– founder and host, judges, and readers of Literary Death Match, Orlando Episode 4.  (Except where was Ryan Rivas?)

About Suzannah Gilman: I am the author of a poetry chapbook, I Will Meet You at the River, the mother of four adults, frequent traveler, and a licensed attorney who represented victims of domestic violence under a grant from the U.S. Dept. of Justice Office on Violence Against Women. My poetry, essays, fiction, and nonfiction have in such in such publications as The Florida Review, Pearl Magazine, Calyx Journal, Green Hills Literary Lantern, Pearl Magazine, Prick of the Spindle, Slow Trains, The Cafe Review, and The Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry.  I compete in flash fiction slams, winning every one I’ve entered– so far. I won Literary Death Match, Orlando Episode for on my 50th birthday.  Twice nominated for a Pushcart Prize for my poetry, I now concentrate on blogging for The Gloria Sirens and writing fiction.

Why Won’t She Leave Him?

Don’t tell her what to do; talk to her and listen. Offer your help, but understand that to leave or not to leave is her decision. Respect it. And tell her you respect her.
Acknowledge the pain and turmoil she is in, most especially the emotional turmoil. If she doesn’t leave him, don’t give up on her leaving him. Give her love, respect, support, and time. It’s going to take all of that.