#Shutdown2019 and Future Historical Fiction

Between the government “shutdown” (my husband is required to report to work, they’re just refusing to pay him for taking human traffickers of the streets) and my last project’s recent end, it’s been a scary week for our family.

A few decades down the road, the historical fiction written about the late 2010s is bound to be, in the words of my seven-year-old, epic. Probably good for a Newberry or two. But while I live history, my once-beloved dystopian novels hit too close to home, and I’m googling “easy-to-grow food plants”.

I had older relatives who could legitimately say, “When I was your age, I ate eat dirt and worms to stop the hunger pangs!”

As an hourly tech consultant, there is always a lot of pressure for me to work off the clock for free. I’ll admit, I got taken in a few times, only to realize there’s no honor in taking one for the team if you’re not really on the team.  Plus, time I donate to a client (usually an F500; do they need charity?) is time I don’t write. No thanks.

Oh, and FTR working off the clock is illegal, even in a Red State like this one.

“But you do all that writing for free, and complain about spec work for a client?” has been the rallying cry of non-tech-insider friends and family. And yes, that’s correct. Writing builds me up, gives me something I own, a part of the world says I was here and here’s what it was like. Yeah, it’s a frustrating, non-linear process, but I am moving forward. At least I think.

Often the politics and egos of enterprise client engagements necessitate weeks of swirling and work for work’s sake, which is absolutely not noble. Such practices are stupid, waste of human potential, and as a result, are rather evil.

My kids, ages six and seven, attend a very socioeconomically-diverse school where other families’ finances and employment seem to be discussed a good deal. They are very aware that Daddy’s forced to work for free; and that in looking for work Mommy needs to defend the time she chose her health/major surgery over her job.

Bread & Roses strikers, Lawrenceville, MA, 1912. The old textile mills are now hipster offices and condos, but has the US really changed all that much?

In the past, my son has asked if we’re poor because we don’t have (insert expensive keeping-up-with-the-Joneses-item here). This week, I’ve gotten to remind him that due to our (lack of) spending, we have savings and thus are not (yet) in danger.

People have offered our family handouts, which while I’m touched and beyond grateful, I can’t accept. My husband needs to be paid for his work; a CTO needs to look past my scars and limp to see I’m still smart and capable; and we need to be the ones giving to charity.

In short though, everything my kids are seeing now demonstrates pretty much the polar opposite of what I wanted to teach them regarding balancing work ethic and self-respect. I’m at a loss for how to undo this damage.

While I’m hoping this is temporary, I’m encouraged by authors such as Donna Gephart, Ann Braden, and Kate Klise who give kids windows and mirrors into the sneaky difference that is financial turmoil.

I’m a bit raw right now for a reread of old favorites like Bread & Roses Too.


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