I Once Owned a Gun…

I once owned a gun. A real fancy, brand spankin’ new .357 Magnum. It was gifted to me on my 20th birthday by a boyfriend who happened to love guns. A lot.

I say this because he regularly reveled in his arsenal. Took them out, showed them off, handled them with the glow of true reverence. His pride was a .44 Magnum with a 9-inch barrel (“just like Dirty Harry!”). He loved that gun. He also loved his shotguns and rifles and who knows what else; I wasn’t clear on the inventory because I didn’t love guns. Including the one he gave me on my 20th birthday. I would’ve preferred a sweater.

Photo by Ekaterina Shevchenko on Unsplash

Though I spent my nascent years in the urban environs of the big city of Chicago, my early childhood was relocated to a small farm town out in the sticks where lots people probably had guns. I say that not because I know — I never heard or saw anything having to do with guns, ever, during my childhood — but because it was the Midwest, it was rural; there were likely hunters, farmers, and recreational shooters immersed in the culture. It just wasn’t a theme of social conversation.

My own family, however, did not own guns. We were neither farmers nor hunters, target shooting wasn’t on the agenda, so I’m pretty sure I never saw one in real life until I met my .357 bestowing boyfriend. And the only time I actually put my finger on a trigger and pulled was the one occasion he took me shooting, him with his trusty “Dirty Harry”; me, my shiny new revolver. He was excited to share this favorite activity; I was not. There were cans and bottles and fruit of various sizes and colors balanced on a fence across the way—you’ve seen the scene in countless movies—and shooting commenced. I’m quite certain I was a lousy shot… how could I not be? But frankly I don’t remember much about that day other than I hated the exercise. The violence of it; the recoil, the BOOM, the impact… the power. The clear understanding that this hunk of metal could impart incalculable damage, and my absolute confusion about why I would want to do that.

He was not happy with me and we never went shooting again. When we broke up several months later, I did not take the gift with me, leaving it, instead, for his closet arsenal. Though I do remember him threatening me and my new boyfriend with one of his guns when it became clear I was not coming back. I heard he became a police officer.

I never touched a gun again. Just not my thing. And though I’ve lived the bulk of my adult life in the much maligned and largely misunderstood city of Los Angeles, occasionally in dubious neighborhoods where crime was high and gunshots were audible, I never felt the need to own a gun. Maybe I’ve been lucky; maybe I’ve been smart. Maybe it’s circumstance, happenstance; the roll of the dice. Certainly I’ve been in dicey situations from time to time, but I always managed to extricate myself without the use of, or desire for, a firearm.

I do, however, understand that there are circumstances when having a gun for protection is logical, and I also get that some people enjoy the sport of shooting… to each his own. But the prevailing message of, “I need a gun for protection” is not true for many (most?) people. But it’s a meme at this point, driven by 2A zealots, gun manufacturers, right wing groups, the NRA, and those whose identity, sense of power, and need to present as well-armed (we’ve seen the pictures on social media) have aggrandized guns to the point of fetishization. Given the repetitive and relentless experience of mass shootings, given the Republican Party’s general gun recalcitrance (they have, after all, claimed AR-15s are excellent for shooting feral pigs, prairie dogs, and raccoons); given the cultish attachment of so many to their possession and protection of guns, what do we suppose will ever be done about this uniquely American problem of gun violence?

I don’t know. I’ve already written reams on the topic. My thoughts have been published in articles going back to 2013, even before the slaughter of Sandy Hook’s children, which should have sparked tangible change but didn’t. Click on any one; I don’t need to be redundant here.

• Let’s Stop Just Talking About Gun Control, 2013

What I do want to put on the table is this: Outside of discussions of mental health, background checks, age of possession, NRA influence, etc., is the fact that, in reality, the horrors and tragedies of mass shootings, as horrible and tragic as they are, do not comprise the bulk of American gun deaths. The incidences of gun owners using their weapons in protection of families and properties don’t either. In fact, the three biggest categories of gun mayhem and death, by a long shot (no pun intended) are suicide, and injuries and deaths that are “willful, malicious, or accidental.”

From www.gunviolencearchive.org

Which means, which proves, that the obscene proliferation of guns in America, exceedingly, excessively, greater than any other country on earth, is built on the lie that, “we need guns for protection.”

We don’t, actually, given how infrequently they’re used for that purpose, at least per the above chart. It seems that myriad other ways have been utilized to protect oneself, one’s property, one’s family. Statistics—pesky, undeniable, and oft-times humbling—make that clear.

Defensive use rates only sixth in the above chart of nine categories.

Which illustrates the confirmation bias and rejection of facts held by the more than 84 million Americans who own guns. At least the ones who rail and rally behind the disproven “need” to own them for defensive purposes. That disconnect has caused our country to horde and accumulate an obscene number of guns for the sake of a myth.

Right now Congress is debating various new legislation: raising the age of ownership of AR-15s, enforcing background checks more universally, various other band aids (and band aids are better than nothing). But the bigger issue is the delusion within the greater “American think,” the meme that tricks people into believing they must own a gun to protect who and what they love most. It’s a clever ruse, because who wouldn’t put their life on the line to protect their child, their spouse, their parent? Who wouldn’t defend their business, their workers, their colleagues?

What do we do with that? I don’t know. All I know is, I held that .357 Magnum and could feel its weight, its heft, its power, and as I pulled the trigger, absorbed the kickback, and watched it blow apart whatever I managed to hit, I could only imagine what it would do a body. I put it down and never picked it up again.

I will defend myself, my home, and my loved ones to the death. I just won’t do it with a gun. Statistics tell me that’s a sensible philosophy.

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

I Am Unapologetically Pro-Life. I Am Also Proudly Pro-Choice

A contradiction? An oxymoron? A pander to roiling social debate? 
NO. Semantics, perhaps. But, in truth, a more complete view of what “pro-life” really means, despite its accepted, and conveniently limited, definition as, “against abortion.”
 A Republican congressman (white, older, male… of course) climbed on Twitter today to proudly announce that he is “unapologetically pro-life,” echoing a stance held by so many on his side, and asserted without a scintilla of awareness of just how myopic, insufficient, even dishonest the statement is.

Because to be truly “pro-life,” one must be for life in its every manifestation, offering care, concern, and protection not just for non-viable fetal cells inside a woman’s womb, but for life in all its most inconvenient, challenged, even repugnant forms, often found in those one fears, those who are “other; those who are dirty, poor, needy, and… living.

Photo by Miguel Bruna on Unsplash

Right wingers, Republicans, Christian conservatives, and social fundamentalists have made the issue of abortion a rallying cry of self-righteousness while keeping themselves insulated from, and blinded to, the myriad ways in which they diminish, demean, and endanger life for so many, and in so many circumstances beyond abortion:

Living children facing poverty, poor schooling, and lack of health care. The mentally ill left on streets to suffer homelessness, illness, and crime. The incarcerated, disproportionately BIPOC, often wrongly convicted or poorly defended, facing the antiquated barbarity of the death penalty. Immigrants fleeing drug wars, religious persecution, and lack of opportunity. LGBTQ and BIPOC who endure hate crimes, discrimination; profound inequity and inequality. Women struggling, in a still-patriarchal society, to earn enough to feed their kids, pay the rent, and find basic stability. Living, breathing human beings, all, in need of fairness, compassion, and protection.

But that’s so much less interesting, and so much more demanding, than huffing and puffing and pontificating about your loyalty to fetal cells.

Let’s face it; this debate is not about life; it’s about religious belief. Dogma. Not science. Not fairness. Not rights. Not empathy and compassion. It’s religious belief being pushed, shoved, and beaten into law, thereby enforcing a kind of theocracy Americans have long decried in other countries, particularly those who discriminate against and brutalize their women. The American right appears ready to follow their oppressive blueprints.

To be “unapologetically pro-life,” sir, one must be willing to look at, and act progressively for, all life, even life you wish to look away from. You can’t be selective and still pretend you give a damn. If your religious beliefs mandate an anti-abortion stance, so be it. Observe those rules for yourself. But your religious beliefs are not mine, not hers, not theirs, and your religious beliefs have no business in our secular, inclusive, diverse government. 

I believe in science. I believe in body autonomy. I believe in individual rights. I won’t tell a man what to do with his sperm (also a living cell), nor tell him he can’t take Viagra or get a penis pump. His choice. I also will not tell a woman what to do with the cells existing inside her body. Regardless of how they got there or what they’re doing. Her choice. Always her choice.

Which means I am unapologetically “pro-life,” by the truest metric of the word. I will fight for the rights of all women (and men) to have autonomy over their own bodies, as I will actively contribute to feeding hungry children, protecting the rights of marginalized groups, finding space and care for immigrants, seeking solutions for homelessness and the mentally ill, banishing the death penalty, working to reverse climate change, and raising women to an equal playing field with men. 

That’s pro-life.

The rest is noise and religion, semantics that should be struck down for their selective, deflective, dishonesty.

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

The Art and Craftiness of Critique

“I pay no attention whatever to anybody’s praise or blame.
I simply follow my own feelings.”
― Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart

“The trouble with most of us is that we would rather be
ruined by praise than saved by criticism”
― Norman Vincent Peale

Criticism. Getting it. Giving it. Ignoring it. Implementing it. It’s a fraught topic from any angle, and, as evidenced by the above quotes, even great people debated its impact and importance.

Where I sit? Somewhere between Wolfgang and Norman.

Photo by JESHOOTS.COM on Unsplash

Art is subjective, this we know. What one person adores, another finds grating and idiotic. But either way, every artist knows there’s no escaping the inevitability of critique. The question becomes: how do we healthily solicit it, and what do we do when we get it?

Peer critique groups or not so much? Is a famous writer’s opinion gospel or just another opinion? How’s it going with that writing coach you hired? What did the agent say? Beta readers, yes or no?

There are as many opinions on these questions as there are on art itself, so what follows is simply my take. And, as I assert with any notes I offer, “Keep what resonates, toss the rest.”

I once had a very wise mentor say: “Never give your work to a random bevy of people to critique, especially those you don’t know. No matter who they are, you’ll just get a bevy of opinions put through the filters of their personalities and proclivities, and the sheer range of potential contradictions can stop you in your tracks. Instead, pick five (or so) of the most trusted, skilled, and experienced readers/artists/advisors you know and stick with them. You’ll get consistently useful and qualified critique every time.” I’ve never strayed from that maxim and it has served me well.

Have I always agreed with everyone on my team? No. In fact, I recently got notes that stopped me cold, so disparate were they from my own perceptions. I put them aside, convinced they were ones I could “toss,” but later went back to reread them in a less kerfuffled state. To my chagrin, and though the tone was perhaps more brusque than I would’ve liked, they actually hit some very useful points, with perspective I couldn’t ignore.

I ultimately implemented a great many of them, which made my WIP significantly better. I also let the critic know how much I got out of her input, with, yes, some constructive discussion on how to better present it. She was grateful, as was I, so it seemed we both got something out of the exercise.

But I’ve also experienced the opposite: I ventured outside my trusted group to a paid consultant whose report was basically, “I don’t like much about this; it needs a page-one rewrite.” Was the book that far off or just not her cup of tea? I didn’t know, so I sat with her notes, pondered them, tried them on, but ultimately decided, like Wolfgang, that I’d “simply follow my own feelings.” That book went on to become very successful.

What does that tell you? Only that you’ve got to trust your own voice, and know the heart and soul of your work so well you actually can figure out when to listen and when not. That can be tricky, particularly, as in my examples, good notes can be clumsily delivered, or, conversely, bad ones can be offered with finesse. You’ve got to separate your emotional reaction from the value of what you’ve been given. That takes practice, but, hey, we get plenty of that.

As for the art and craftiness of delivering critique, many of the same rules apply. While style is always less important than content, delivery can determine how input is accepted and, therefore, how useful you’ll be in actually helping someone improve their craft. Giving critique is as learned a skill as any.

Early in my career, I studied acting with a teacher who was brilliant at critique, and who taught me his method so I could run one of his classes. It was quite simple. After the actors performed a scene, he’d ask: “What were you working on?” Then he’d critique that, how successfully (or not) they’d achieved their goal. He didn’t pontificate on other issues; he focused on what they were trying to do, and helped them figure out how best to do it.

It sounds stupidly simple, but I’ve used some version of that technique throughout my career and it’s been gold. With writers I ask, “What’s your intention with the story; what do you want me to feel, to get from it; how much detail do you want?” Then I critique based their answers, offered with a balance of what worked, what didn’t, in a tone that’s constructive and empowering. I know when I’ve hit the nail: “Good critique will excite the artist, make them eager to jump back in to do the work.” That’s something I’ve witnessed with others, felt for myself, and hold as a useful gauge.

Yet, ten other people will offer ten other opinions on all this. That’s how it works. So I “simply follow my own feelings” … with the concluding hope that you, too, find the best guidance in your own.

[Originally published at Women Writers, Women’s Books]

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Banning Books and the ‘Stupidfying’ of America

Let’s face it: America is getting stupider.

At least a good chunk of it is. And I know that’s not a word: stupider. Neither is “stupidfying.” But somehow the very idiocy of those fits the current, frothing state of American culture, which, in recent days, has been behaving badly at school board meetings, hissy-fitting against lifesaving vaccines; even—despite the original Nazis and Fahrenheit 451 being set firmly in the past—banning and burning books with impunity.

As they say on Twitter: WTF, America?

Do right wing adults want their children to be undereducated? Is that the goal? Or is the intent to pretend if one bans a book they actually have the power to make it invisible, like a toddler who closes his eyes believing he can no longer be seen?

Photo by Freddy Kearney on Unsplash

It is a confounding task, sorting out the stupidity of regression; the stunning, ignorant, backwardness of outlawing thought by ascribing nefarious traits to literature, most of it classic and brilliantly rendered. Because it seems that, as we advance as a society, as we purportedly modernize and evolve as members of the human race in the 21st century, a contingent of conservative, likely hardcore Christian, certainly right wing indoctrinated, Americans has decided to put their feet down, dammit, and halt progress. All this evolution, change, diversity, sexual identification, pronouns, asserting rights, freedom of expression, all so au courant these days, is just NOT GOING TO BE TOLERATED.

Teach children the unvarnished, unwhitewashed history of America? Are you kidding? All that truth about slavery and genocide and the decimation of Native lands and brutalization of bodies of color is just going to make our fragile white kids “uncomfortable,” feel “guilty” and “shamed.” So, no, absolutely not. We’ve branded that unvarnished, unwhitewashed history of America as “critical race theory” (again, WTF?) and decided it’s dangerous, upsetting, and possibly enlightening— I mean, possibly frightening—to our kids.  We will stamp our feet and legislate our schools to death so that nonsense like that will not be inflicted on those tender children.

(Phew… dodged that bullet, red America.)

They’re already making regressive headway on the “women’s right to body autonomy” front, with SCOTUS tilted right and long held Republican notions of small government that stays out of our body parts being shelved for a more invasive GOP that crawls into wombs to vote on what the hell is going on in there. Apparently the process of pregnancy, despite requiring a man’s full participation—or at least his sperm count—has been designated as “women stuff,” and, given conservative definitions of women as “those softer, less-self-determined humans men get to control,” body autonomy (for women, that is) is not a priority, nor does it subscribe to conservative Christian dictates. Therefore, it will be theocratically removed from the equation. Sit down and shut up, ladies, and be grateful we’re letting you go to college and get jobs.

(Hang tight, red America; we’re almost there on that one.)

As for books… well, we all know Catcher in the Rye has eaten the souls of countless American youth, and Harry Potter has lured whole generations into the occult. To Kill a Mockingbird makes white people cringe and includes a rape, and we can’t have our kids (forget that 90% of them watch porn or emulate its stars on the street) read about that kind of rough stuff. The Color Purple is unacceptable for teens, “due to its graphic sexual content and situations of violence and abuse,” despite the brutal video games they play or TV shows they watch. One could go on and on and on. This list here (which I can’t credit because I haven’t found who put it together), includes a staggering compendium of some of our very best literature, and, yes, I checked every title. They’ve all, indeed, been banned (and some likely burned) at one point or another.

It’s a great list. As someone on Twitter said, “I’m making this the summer reading list for my kids.”

(Good parent… don’t tell the other side!)

What are we doing, America? Seriously, WTF? When did reading books that depict life, both real and imagined, become (or, sadly, revert back to) something to ban, something to burn? What ignorance, what cluelessness, compels a parent, a teacher; a priest, a school board member, to decide that life, particularly as chronicled by some of our very best writers, with all its brambly edges and imperfect people, must be sanitized, censored, and shunned to protect the minds of children?

Have you seen teenagers in 2022? They are exposed to media, social and otherwise, that’s left them as savvy to modern culture, as versed in sexuality, as knowledgeable of the atrocities of bigotry and hate, as most adults… more so. They don’t need these books banned, they need these books taught.

They need to learn the truth of the Holocaust, not the dismissive denialism pushed by some. They need to learn the truth, the whole truth, nothing but the truth about the destructive path of Manifest Destiny, the horrors of slavery and immigrant labor, the tragedy of Native American genocide and theft of their lands to build a ” home of the brave” for white Europeans. They need to learn it all.

Because learning truth, all of it, even the gritty parts, is the only way to evolve. To raise consciousness. To prevent a repeat of those atrocities. To raise children free of hate, prejudice, denialism, arrogance, sexism, aggression, narcissism, and ignorance. To raise children who not only want to learn about the diversities and nuances of our country and the lives we all live here, but to embrace them.

Red America may believe if they close their eyes—or burn paper, binding, and torches in a show of fascism—the aspects of life they eschew will disappear, lose power, become moot. But that’s not the way it works. Smart people know that.

Hopefully, their children are smart enough. Hopefully they will reject the regression and backwardness, the censorship and shunning, supposedly being done on their behalf. Hopefully these kids will avail themselves of everything wise writers and brilliant teachers have to offer, allowing them to grow more accepting, better educated; less…stupider.

Until then, check that list, grab a book, and read.

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Aging While Woman… How Dare We

Photo by Luis Machado on Unsplash

I recently saw a picture of a very famous pop star (who shall remain nameless because this is not about shaming anyone), and I only knew it was her because the caption said so. Had it not, I might have guessed anyway but with fairly significant dollops of incredulity, because this particular pop star looked so completely alien to me, to her former self, that she was nothing like the sassy chick she’d been in the olden days of our mutual young adulthood. And not because she’d gotten older, but because at some point while getting older she completely re-manufactured her physical visage.

Which was sad. Because I liked her face. Now I can’t find it.

Let’s assume her cosmetic transformation was by choice — because it’s doubtful anyone could get this particular woman to do anything she didn’t want to do. But let’s also admit that the choice was likely pressured by the fact that she’s in an industry and at a time when youth and beauty are vaunted above all else, and her having the audacity to do that unthinkable thing — aging while woman — would surely have made the world stop spinning and fans fall to their knees in wailing protest had she not put herself through the plastic factory.

Which is also sad.

I’m not picking on this particular woman specifically. I could have just as easily seen a snap of any one of the preternaturally glacial mugs of any number of A-list actresses, singers, influencers, etc., and felt the urge to scream, “We are allowed to grow old, dammit!” Except… we’re not really, are we?

I read an InStyle article recently in which Sarah Jessica Parker, getting rightfully defiant about the sexist, ageist “chatter” of fans disturbed by her visible aging in recent photos, brilliantly remarked, “I know what I look like. I have no choice. What am I going to do about it? Stop aging? Disappear?”

Exactly. Though, given the ageist bent of the American zeitgeist, it’s likely a good number of people would have answered, “Yes. That’s exactly what you should do. Disappear.”

But they’re wrong and she’s right. Her defiance, her willingness to continue putting that lovely, aging face forward to continue doing her excellent work is quite applause worthy. That takes courage in today’s climate. And I love her aging face. I understand her aging face. Because mine is aging too. As is yours. We’re all aging, every day, every one of us, whether that cherry-cheeked three-year-old or the spry twenty-something over there smirking. We’re all in this together, just at different points of the ride.

Sadly, there’s another response to Sarah’s question, one that’s being articulated by many, many woman who don’t have her (or Helen Mirren’s, or Judi Dench’s, or Catherine O’Hara’s) confidence to boldly embrace their age: “What you’re going to do about it, you ask?? You’re going to get thee to a cosmetic surgeon tout suite, and do any and everything possible, imaginable, available to remove all evidence of your natural age, cuz, sister, we will not be defined by our lines, wrinkles, droops, sags, and gray bits!”

Though it seems we can be defined by our willingness to manufacture youth at any cost. I’m convinced it’s a form of Stockholm Syndrome.

I’m not only seeing older women, particularly in the media though certainly not exclusively, succumb to this tortuous, expensive, sometimes self-mutilating response to aging (see Linda Evangelista, amongst others), I’m seeing younger and younger women jump on the train as soon as a line shows up on their face, leading to a strange demographic of attractive women who start early to resemble large, lovely, plastic dolls.

I’ve taken to watching international television these days not only because their series tend to be very good, but because I relish the opportunity to view men and women of certain ages being allowed to actually look those ages. That’s a revelation, really, considering that every FBI agent, doctor, cop, teacher, nurse, or firefighter on American TV looks like a model, something I noted in a Huff Post piece I wrote a zillion years ago called, Why American Women Hate Their Faces and What They Could Learn From the Brits.

As for that aging three-year-old: the difference between her and your fifty-something cousin Mary is that Mary is considered on the downslope of life and, therefore, she reminds us of death. We don’t like death, we don’t like being reminded of death, so we don’t like Mary. And even if we can put aside death as a trigger, we also don’t like Mary because she’s not as sexually appealing as Americans like their women, and once that happens, she’s of no particular value. Kind of like Tudor queens who lost favor and ended up losing their heads. We don’t behead our women for aging out, we just shame them into surgery.

We need to stop that. We need to evolve as a society past this sexist, ageist, self-flagellating attitude. Because it’s only perception, not reality. Once it’s been decided (as it has) that the only face of merit is a young one, we’ve demonized and made terrifying one of the most inevitable, unavoidable, and universally shared experiences of human life: aging. Certainly we women have it within us to reject that script.

As one commenter, Lucy Fox, so beautifully put it in our Twitter conversation on the “aging while woman” topic: “I embrace it, as I’ve known a few people who would have loved the chance to get wrinkles but they didn’t get enough time to. People need to recognise the privilege of aging rather than vilifying it.”

I couldn’t have said it better myself.

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

In the Image of a Father… Redux

Several years ago I wrote this piece about fathers and fatherhood, moved by the holiday to express some thoughts on the topic. As I sit here in 2021, thinking about my own father—gone now for almost 22 years—while blessedly, lovingly, still able to admire the parenting skills of the very alive man I married, I am once again moved by the role men play in the process of life’s continuation. The piece below makes reference to Mad Men, a series that, while not current, remains an interesting treatise on “fatherhood” from its anachronistic point of view… so it still holds; thought I’d “redux” it… Enjoy the read/re-read!   

  Noble fathers have noble children. ~ Euripides

I was not initially hitched to the Mad Men bandwagon as it hurled its way to phenomenon status; I missed the kick-off and never jumped on. But once the media analyses and water-cooler accolades became so hyperbolic as to raise the show to “Breathlessly Zeitgeisty Must-See TV,” I knew I had to get with the program; it’s bad enough I never watched an episode of Survivor!

So I’ve been Netflixing the series and, I have to say, it is a fascinating snapshot of a historical time teetering on the brink of explosion. It well depicts the era’s style and panache (now called “mid century”), and paints a clever and sometimes unsettling anthropological thumbnail of human nature at a point when society was remarkably different. While it focuses mainly on only one or two class sub-sets, it does a good job of breathing life into the anachronistic “swells” and “dolls” of the jargon, the girdles and slicked back hair, and the propensity for unrestrained smoking and drinking (after watching several episodes I felt both asthmatic and buzzed!). But what it illustrates most pointedly is the distance we’ve come in our gender politics.


I was a child during those years and though aware of the more superficial elements, was clueless to the nuances and expectations of the roles of men and women in how they related to each other and certainly as parents. It’s one of the truer clichés of the time that “women’s work” was mostly defined as homemaker, house cleaner (unless affluent enough to afford “help”), and primary parent. Despite the Madison Avenue secretaries and the exceptional women who worked their way up toward the glass ceiling (ala Mad Men’s Peggy Olson), most women carried the weight of child raising, and Dads would show up after cocktails to give big hugs, have dinner, then go off to do “man” things while Mom put the kids to bed. Fathers were loving and involved in their way, but the extent to which they were hands-on was minimal. And while certainly there are still fathers operating from the antiquated paradigm of Don Draper, they’re a different breed these days, the product of an evolving and equalizing culture.

Our views of motherhood have remained fairly constant; it’s the role of “father” that has fluctuated and changed with the times. Men’s life expectancy is still up to six years shorter than women’s so, to put it bluntly, Daddies die sooner. While more women work outside the home than ever before, men still rely on them to take the larger role in parenting, meaning Dad’s intimacy and influence with his children is commensurately less. Some family compositions simply transcend without a traditional father: post-divorce custodial mothers, families with deceased fathers, single mothers who never married, same-sex mothers, etc. Statistics show that these families can thrive and be remarkably “whole” and functioning without a male figure, so the question remains: How essential is a father these days?

tom-benIn families that have them? Very essential. It’s not whether families can survive without a father – they can, that is well documented. It’s whether a family that has a father has one that is fully present, involved, and contributing in the most effective ways possible for a child’s best shot at success.

Scores of books and studies have dissected, analyzed, and deconstructed the role and there is likely no man on this earth who doesn’t have at least some notion of the task based on his own experience as a child. Typically a man either admires the parenting he received and mimics it, or abhors his own father’s choices and becomes determined to make better ones. Which gets right to the point.

Modeling. A father is the first male role model a child has. In most families the father is the BIGGEST, most influential authority figure to first set boundaries, examples, and expectations. Through him a boy conjures his first idea of a man, picking up the nuances, proclivities and emotional expressions he will emulate in his own version of the role. In a father, a girl sees All Men – at least in the early years. She learns what to expect from other men by virtue of how her father treats her (and her mother). Through him, she sets her bar for the level of respect she’ll require, the honor she’ll demand, the self-confidence she’ll exude, and the aspirations she’ll pursue.

It’s a big responsibility, no doubt about it. We have come a long way from the Mad Men who saw their children as so many props, but new eras bring new problems and in a world where too many young men advance into adulthood needing anger management skills, a better understanding of how to be strong without being a bully, and a clearer sense of the purpose of honor and integrity, a father’s work is cut out for him. When a daughter sublimates herself in her relationships with men, loses her sense of confidence in the face of career adversity, or can’t determine how strong a woman to be without losing appeal, she clearly needs wise fathering to help reconstruct her perspective.

There are as many ways to be a good father as there are fathers and this is not to say a mother is any less important to the outcome of a child. But a father’s role is unique, specific, and very powerful. As we celebrate Father’s Day, it merits mention, as Euripides stated, that “noble fathers have noble children.” So wear that well, Dad, celebrate your nobility. Embrace your role and never forget you hold center stage – and always will – in the eyes of the children celebrating this day with you.

A very Happy Father’s Day to all the “noble fathers” in my life.


LDW w glasses

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

Empty Nest, EPILOGUE: He’s Getting Married In the Morning…

OK, not actually the morning, more like “late afternoon/evening”… and I doubt bells are gonna chime — I’m pretty  sure they don’t do that for the smaller events —  and certainly I’ll have no trouble getting to the church on time; I tend to be relentlessly prompt… but still… well, you get the gist.

The boy whose tales I’ve detailed throughout my six-part “Empty Nest Series” is getting married to the woman of his dreams on what will be a cool, sunny Friday after a maddening year of fits, starts, and global mayhem, arriving at a milestone that’s as sweet and life-affirming as milestones get, and well… let’s have a whopper.

I have found myself awash in every kind of memory and emotion as we’ve approached the day, bouncing from excited anticipation to the sheer incredulousness that we’ve reached the point in each of our trajectories that this event is absolutely natural, welcomed, and celebrated. A new family of their own to build, a new daughter-in-law for us to love (as we already do); a new family of in-laws, warm, loving people we’re delighted to get to know and join in creating a circle of wagons for the newlyweds.

But still… wasn’t he just putting Pokemon binders together, clanging around the patio with his skateboard, hollering “you’re not my fwiend!” every time he disagreed with my parenting choices? It’s such a cliche, one of the most ubiquitous in fact, yet one that proves itself to be oh, so true: it all flies by so fast. Even when you’re paying attention; even when you remind yourself it’s flying by; even when it still feels like there are years and years and years of childhood, and family trips, and teenage meltdowns, and college essays left to wrangle. There were… and now we’re here, many years past those moments, to a new moment, a new chapter, a new milestone.

I spent months of the 2020 lockdown digitizing our countless home videos from the early 90s on, and let me tell you: you try doing that and not getting caught up in an existential wonderland of tripping timelines and time-travel confusions about who and what is in the here and now, and why does then feel so real and close and tangible — touchable — when now is what is?

I sat transferring those tapes of him at two, three, ten, fourteen, and it was like that boy, that young, crazy, hilarious little boy was, indeed, the son I know and love. So viscerally familiar, so HIM, so right here… in this moment. And yet he’s not, not that boy, not in the here and now. That boy is relegated to tape, to memory, to the cloud, the past. And here, now, across the room, in a full beard, with glasses and headphones as he conducts a Zoom meeting with civil engineers he’s managing on a major Los Angeles mall project, is the boy that is. The man. In the here-and-now. I adore him. And I miss that crazy little boy. I feel both. It’s nuts, I know, but that’s how it is. I have a feeling I’m not the only one who wrestles with that paradox.

And that bearded man is getting married in the morning (well, not the morning… but we’ve already been over that) and I feel… happy. Grateful he’s found someone to love who’s good, honest, passionate, connected, and inspiring. Who’s dedicated not only to making their lives as a couple, as a family, as good as it can possibly be, but is driven to make the world around her a better place, too. There’s so much about her to admire, so much to love and celebrate; she makes a perfect fit for this man I parented who embodies those same traits and characteristics. They are a good match. And having made my own good match to a good man, I know how essential that is. It’s everything.

So I feel joy. I feel peace… and satisfaction. I also feel another little letting go. As it should be. As it must be. I know I will always hold my mantle of mother, teacher, mentor, and beloved friend, but I pass to his beautiful new wife the role of “primary.” As it should be. He’s in good hands. As is she. We’re a lucky family all around.

“Ding dong the bells are gonna chime”… even if only in my smiling imagination.

Kissing at Bridge photo by Dillon Wilke
Heart in Sand photo by Nick Karvounis on Unsplash

To read the entire Empty Nest series, click links below:

• Empty Nest Pt 1: My Very Cool Roommate Is Moving Out…
• Empty Nest Pt 2: Empty ‘Next’ Syndrome…Coming Home
• Empty Nest Pt. 3: See You In November!
Empty Nest Pt. 4: He’s Leaving Home AGAIN… Bye Bye
Empty Nest Pt. 5: It’s a Wrap… Well, Almost
Empty Nest Pt. 6: the Final Chapter: With Keys In Hand, He Flies…
Empty Nest, EPILOGUE: He’s Getting Married in the Morning

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

VoyageLA Takes a Moment To Discuss Mine… Voyage, That Is

It’s always nice to get a little interest from a splashy city paper, and I’m always happy to share some background & perspective on what it is I’m about and have been doing all this time.

To learn a bit about my “story” (as they put it)—potentially more than you’d ever want to know—start below, click to continue at VoyageLA, and I hope you enjoy this little slice of my life. Thanks for reading!

Hi Lorraine, it’s an honor to have you on the platform. Thanks for taking the time to share your story with us – to start maybe you can share some of your backstory with our readers?

My backstory starts in Illinois as one of a large, rowdy family of very creative people who immigrated from Chicago to the hills, lakes, and farms of the northern part of the state. My mother set the stage as someone who reveled in style and design, whether her “going out” ensembles, the clothes she made for our baby dolls, or how she put the living room together. She had music playing throughout most days, loved to dance, and no one appreciated theater and performance events more than she did. Happily, she found a good partner in my father, an avid reader and writer who not only loved music and live theater as well, but infused our childhoods with musical soundtracks, play readings, and books of every kind. It was almost a foregone conclusion that we eleven children would emerge driven by creative impulses. We all were, in one way or another…


Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

So, My Hubby Wrote a Novel….

Life goes on and people do what they do, and then one day a person you know very well does something creatively unexpected and you’re so very surprised but, at the same time, not so much, because they’ve always been surprisingly creative, and, after exploring the situation in depth, you discover how incredibly impressive and amazing it all is, and you’re delighted to have the opportunity to talk about a book that has nothing whatsoever to do with yours! 🙂 

My very talented husband, Pete Wilke, just published his first novel, an “irreverent legal drama” titled CONFIDENTIALITY.

The short description:

Exploring the ephemeral meaning of its title, Confidentiality jumps into the tumultuous world of private practicing attorney, Robert Sinclair, currently tangling with a crumbling marriage, a persistent brain injury, and an alluring associate while defending the most complex, and potentially dangerous, civil case of his career. A slate of colorful characters bring to life a narrative that’s compelling from a legal standpoint, provocative from a psychological one, and as wildly entertaining and unpredictable as the roller coaster ride that is Robert Sinclair’s life.

It is a wild read.

For those who don’t know him, a little background: Pete is a long-time Los Angeles-area attorney specializing in securities, private placement, and investor documentation, particularly for emerging businesses, and independent film production and its many ancillary elements.

That’s his legal practice.

He’s also a writer and producer; his original musical, Country the Musical, was produced to critical acclaim (LA Times, etc.) at Santa Ana’s Crazy Horse Steakhouse & Saloon in 1999, and later for a taped production (in 2000) at Buck Owens’ Crystal Palace in Bakersfield. All twenty of the soundtrack songs (music and lyrics written by Pete), were recorded in both Nashville and Los Angeles, and can be heard by accessing the Music Page on the show’s website, or by clicking over to the show’s SoundCloud page.

Additionally a solo singer/songwriter in his own right, he wrote, produced, and performed a 12-song album titled, Down From Montana, which was recorded in Nashville with some of the city’s finest players and producers. The project has been enthusiastically received by listeners across the country, including Montana radio stations, and can be accessed on YouTubeSpotify, and SoundCloud.

Then, more recently, he decided take another creative leap—this time in “novel” form. He conjured up a story that taps his estimable legal expertise, his appreciation for irreverent humor, as well as his unique storytelling voice, and came up with Confidentiality. It’s a complex, sexy, suspenseful read, and I know he hopes you enjoy it as much as he did writing it… and he enjoyed it very much!

I hope you’ll grab a copy, e-book or print, and enjoy the ride! And since you’ve heard me say it many times, I know you know how helpful reviews are, so hope you’ll leave a line or two after you’ve had a read!

A preemptive “thank you” for supporting my  guy!

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.

America. Land of the Free, Home of the…Incredibly Selfish?

Listening to an elected congressman, too-loose mask slipping below his nose, finger pointing, voice crackling with indignation, demand to know just when Americans can “get their liberty and freedoms back,” might have, in other circumstances, inspired a round of applause. After all, our liberties and freedoms are what make us uniquely American, for God’s sake, so any attempt to diminish, limit, or impose upon those vaunted privileges is certainly something to protest.

Of course, in this case we’re talking about ever-contrarian, “I scream before I talk” Republican congressman, Jim Jordan, whose permanently aggrieved brand of discourse has been painfully endured for years (who could forget the Benghazi hearings?), and who’s now decided that Dr. Anthony Fauci, with his prescription of precautions — masks, distancing, hand washing — designed to mitigate the already horrific death toll of COVID (nearing 600,000 Americans), is to be excoriated for the audacity of presuming Americans give a damn about each other.

When a sitting congressman frames commonsense steps to help keep each other healthy and safe as denials of our “liberties and freedoms,” you know you are in the Land of the Selfish. Jim Jordan is, apparently, a leader in that land

As we watch and listen to right wing pundits, Republican senators and representatives, conservative media, et al., take “bold” and outspoken stands against science, against logic, against any notion of “for the greater good,” I’m struck by how uniquely selfish Americans are. Maybe we always were — considering Manifest Destiny and the scourge of slavery that seems a good bet — but at this particular historical conflation of a deadly global pandemic, systemic racism, and the ongoing, never-ending, deeply disturbing epidemic of gun violence, that selfishness has come into high relief, making clear how destructive misunderstandings about the true definitions of “liberty and freedom” have become.

If you were to listen to a Republican, whether a stalwart oldie or one of the newer, more incendiary of the party, you’d believe that “liberties and freedoms” mean, “I can do, have, be, own, behave, respond, react in any way I want, regardless of impact, damage, or injury to others.” This blanket mandate extends to everything from wearing a mask during a pandemic, supporting logical gun laws, right up to everyday things like keeping your dog on a leash, or not calling the police when a Black person sits in a Starbucks.

Why are Americans so selfish? How have they twisted the notion of personal freedom into expressions of “carelessness” in its most literal definition? Societies and communities have survived over the hundreds of years of this country because of rules and laws that evolved out of need, as a response to events, reaction to problems; the understanding that a thriving whole is nurtured by the compassionate one.

What we’ve got now is a toxic brand of individualism that’s really more about entitlement mixed with hardcore self-centeredness.

According to Jim Jordan and other hissy-fitting right wingers, just the simple, self-and-other protective act of wearing a mask during a raging pandemic is his — their — “lost liberty.” Rather than frame it as a small but effective step they can participate in to help keep others safe, help the country overcome the pandemic, even help keep themselves from being infected, they’ve chosen to stamp their feet and declare such an “ask” as something oppressive, an infringement, because, dammit, that cloth on my face is just an intolerable assault on my personal liberties and freedoms!

The sheer childishness of that kind of response to a thoughtful, simple action meant to assist the “greater good” is just one small example of the great plague of American selfishness. Instead of the solidarity of, “we’re all in this together; what can we do to help our fellow Americans?”, we get a grown man waving his arms around, demanding that the renowned scientist he’s berating give him a date, a metric, dammit, for when all this foolishness will be over. Even the question is the height of stupidity, given that NO ONE can predict when this will all be over, but asking is endemic of the juvenile, tantrumming position this man and others have taken.

Meanwhile, the daily average of new COVID cases is over 70,000, but JIM JORDAN WANTS HIS LIBERTIES BACK.

I sometimes think about Great Britain in WWII, how the citizens of that country had to work together, in union, solidarity, and with great deprivation, to survive the almost-year-long Nazi “blitz,” and imagine that if Americans were asked to make such a sacrifice, Jim Jordan and the Republicans would be screeching about the oppression of blackout curtains and rationed butter. It seems whatever admirable independence is part of the American DNA has been, for far too many, subverted into a kind of corrosive civic narcissism. “What I need, want, think, demand is all that matters, damn the Nazis!” Would we have survived as well as England? I doubt it.

We see that same American egocentrism play out in the deadly, relentless gun debate, where rabid 2A zealots like Lauren Boebert, Marjorie Taylor Greene, and so many others have prioritized their rights and freedoms over any discussion whatsoever that might help mitigate the over-ease of gun purchases, the lack of enforced regulations and due diligence of gun purchasers; the rethinking of a Constitutional amendment that is antiquated, misinterpreted, and couldn’t possibly have foreseen the current rash of assault weaponry and the country’s appetite to own such guns. As we’re daily met with news reports of mass shootings, domestic gun violence, suicides, gang wars, death on a massive scale, there feels to be no answers, because that egocentrism is so pervasive, so loud and threatening, so almost-violent in its pushback, that sane people looking for solutions to our gun violence epidemic are shouted down and finger-wagged much like Dr. Fauci in front of a sputtering Jim Jordan.

What is the answer? I don’t know. Well, actually, I do know: the answer is that Americans have to evolve beyond their conviction that their personal independence — “liberties and freedoms” —is rationale, justification, defense of selfishness. Just as Brits joined in solidarity to survive the deadly onslaught on their country without framing it as a loss of liberty and freedom, so can Americans do the same regarding our particular “wars.”

Of course, that would take an attitude adjustment. A reframing of “united states.” A willingness to care about, empathize with, and humanize those outside our personal circles to actually DO what’s best for the greatest good. Are Americans capable of that at this moment in time?

As I watch Jim Jordan haranguing Fauci, as I read Boebert’s and Greene’s toxic pro-gun tweets, as I note the racism and bigotry insinuated in our systems, as I witness continued refusal to take necessary steps to stymie the gun wars, I fear that Americans of the 21st century have lost their ability, their will, their compassion to act in global, national, and personal solidarity to make the world a safer, more just, more functional place for all people.

Are we really going to let that be our American identity? I hope not. My liberties and freedoms are not threatened by wearing a mask. By pushing for better gun laws. By considering equity as essential. In fact, my ability to participate in and contribute to those goals IS what makes me a good American.

Think about that, Jim Jordan.

Photo of Jim Jordan by Gage Skidmore @ Creative Commons

Visit www.lorrainedevonwilke.com for details and links to LDW’s books, music, photography, and articles.