Jenny O and Date Night Tears

Well, we finally did it.  We finally paid an actual, non-family babysitter to watch over the Little Gentleman while we went out on a date.

I was worried that I might be anxious about leaving him with a near-stranger (someone I know in passing from the climbing gym, and who babysits a friend's kids) but as it turns out all my anxiety was reserved for updating my "So You're Watching Our Kid" info sheet, and making sure we had plenty of food available.  Once she was here (and it was established that the Little Gentleman considered us totally interchangeable) I yelled, "Later!" and Nathan and I sped out of there so fast I'm amazed there were no spinning heads.  Maybe there would have been, if they hadn't been so absorbed in getting ready for a walk.

For the first stop on our ultra-romantic date, we hit WalMart (as you do) to pick up a couple of packets of candy.  But then we headed over to the movie theater proper, where I cursed myself for being paranoid and pre-buying movie tickets (including their stupid "convenience fee") because there were, like, ten people there, and three of them were employees.  But whatever, it's fine, I'll know better next time.  Anyway, Nathan bought his popcorn, we found our seats (in the middle of a very non-crowded theater, yay matinee) and snuggled in for some child-free entertainment.

We sat through trailers that seemed extremely not geared towards us (lots of horror- why so much horror?) and then?  Then it began.

And by "it", of course I mean Wonder Woman.

I'm going to be a lady, and not discuss any spoilers, but I will say this: when the camera panned over a bunch of the Amazons in training, I started to get a feeling of pressure in my chest, especially when one glorious, ripped specimen got hit across the back and didn't even flinch.  And then later, when the Amazons go into battle, that pressure in my chest crept up and into my eyes, and then suddenly I was silent-crying in the movie theater, as I watched beautiful, feminine women kicking absolute ass with their bodies, with swords, with arrows, with all manner of elegant weaponry.  And I realized that I was crying because it was everything I'd ever wanted in a movie, when I was a little girl, and that it had taken until I was 36 to get it.  I won't say it was worth the wait, because frankly it's bullshit that I had to wait so long to see an entire screen full of women doing that, but it was glorious.  So glorious, so gorgeous, that I'm willing to forgive the movie its faults (which mainly have to do with a-questionable-grasp-on-Greek-mythology, and the clunky writing that often accompanies a combo origin/adventure story that doesn't know when to call it's ending).  Definitely the good outweighed the questionable, that's all I'm saying.

I came away from the movie totally energized (and inspired to work out again because damn) but also totally ready to get back home to my baby boy, who will hopefully never, ever understand what made his mother cry during Wonder Woman.


Becoming My Mother: The Early Morning Edition

As I sit down to compose this entry, it is 0532.  I've been up for just a touch over thirty minutes, and I've already done my yoga, and started a cup of tea to brew.  Now I'm about to enjoy it (and the sound of my own typing) in an otherwise silent house.

I am becoming my mother.

Every morning, my mother enjoys an early morning cup of tea (or two) out on the quiet of her deck.  It's not that I've ever considered it an odd habit, it's just that I guess I never really understood it, on a visceral level, until very recently when I happened to get up at 0500 and just... stayed up.  The yoga was obvious- that's what I do when I get up, so that's what I did.  But then I had all this time stretching out before me- over a full hour of time to do... whatever I wanted, without interruption.  And when you've been honed in the time-management fires of parenthood, a full hour is an enormous stretch of time.

So why not use it in quiet contemplation of my tea, and my stories?



I recently realized that, even tho my True Vision for my Winterhaven story is in graphic novel form, it's going to be a long, long time before I have the, er, time, to make that vision a reality.  And thus I made the decision to go ahead and write it out as a (short) novel first, so that at least I'm working on something.  I also figured that this way I can work out all the bugs in the medium I'm most comfortable with (ie the written word) so that by the time I do have time to do the art, I can focus 100% on that.  As such, I've spent the past couple of weeks writing, writing, writing on Winterhaven.

Sometimes when I'm hot on a project, I'll get time to write without having access to a computer.  When that happens I'll write it out longhand, but then of course I'll need to transcribe it.  And when that happens, there's a certain amount of editing that occurs (normally I try not to go back and edit too much, because that way lies never-moving-forward).  I transcribed the very start of Chapter 2 tonight ("From the Flames"), and I actually did a huge amount of re-writing.  It went from 196 words to 551 words, and in my opinion it's a lot stronger (although I'd still place it firmly in "rough draft" status).  Here are the two versions for comparision, if you're curious about that sort of process-y-thing:


All of Winterhaven was in mourning.

It had been four days since the giant earth-shaking that killed three of the four pfeni.  Avalyn, the sole survivor of the pfenix house’s destruction, lay in bed, too weak and traumatized to move.  She knew that she was now the spiritual leader of the Haveners, that she must say or do something, anything, to comfort her people, but she did not know what to say, or what to do.  She was only eleven years old.  She was nowhere near to completing her training.  And now there was no one left to train her, just as the world itself was turning against her people.

A tear made its way down her cheek, and she didn’t bother to wipe it away.  Why did Hukka have to go back in after rescuing her?  Now she had no one.

As if sensing her thoughts, Violet let out a wheedling whine and nudged her soft, blue-white head under Avalyn’s arm.

“You don’t know anything about leading, either,” Avalyn said softly, and stroked the fox’s fluffy back.  “But at least you won’t leave me.”  Violet snrked an affirmatibe, then turned to burrow beneath the covers.


Avalyn woke to the sound of muffled voices, and a weight on her chest.

For a moment she panicked, thinking she was still in the burning building, and tried to leap to her feet- but a wave of nausea stopped her before she was even halfway up, and she realized that she was laying in her own bed, safe in her own room.  The weight was Violet, who let out an indignant squeal at the sudden shift in her nest, but quickly resettled when it became apparent that there would be no further movement.  Avalyn squeezed her eyes against the light coming in through her window, and tried to slow her racing heart.

One of the voices grew loud enough to make out words.  It sounded like... her mother yelling at someone?

“...only eleven years old, and she’s my daughter!  It can wait!”

Another voice, which sounded masculine, wasn’t loud enough for Avalyn to understand everything, but a few phrases made it through.

“...two days, Elota…  only surviving pfenix… people need…”

Damn her past lives!”  Elota’s voice, if anything, was now louder.  “I’m worried about this one-”

A third voice interjected sharply- Avalyn suspected her father- and then the voices retreated.  Avalyn felt numb.

Two days.  She’d been asleep two days.  And all of the others had died?  Avalyn probed her fragmented memories- the body broken beneath the beam, she realized now it had been Argen.  The weight of the wood must have killed him immediately, and would have killed Avalyn if she hadn’t been thrown clear of the table by the first large tremor.  The long braid soaking in tea- that was Karsivahl.  She had been next to Argen- close enough to be pinned by the beam, without immediate death.  She had been the one yelling for someone- for Hukka, Avalyn now realized- to “protect her”.  “Her,” being Avalyn.

But Hukka had left her- he must have gone back, tried to rescue Karsivahl, too.  And instead they both died.

The knowledge suddenly blossomed in Avalyn’s mind that she was now the spiritual leader of the Haveners.  It was up to her to say or do something- anything- to comfort her people during this terrible time- that must be what the other voice was demanding, for her to fulfill her role as the pfenix of Winterhaven.  But Avalyn did not know what to say, or what to do.  Her mother was right: she was only eleven years old.  And with three other living pfeni, no one had ever seriously considered that she might one day have to lead alone- and even if she had, she was nowhere near to completing her training.  And now… now there was no one left to train her,  The world itself was turning against her people, and all they had for guidance was an untrained little girl.

A tear made its way down her cheek, and she didn’t bother to wipe it away.  Why had Hukka abandoned her?  Now she had no one.

As if sensing her thoughts, Violet let out a wheedling whine and nudged her pointed nose beneath Avalyn’s arm.

“You don’t know anything about leading, either,” Avalyn said softly, and stroked the fox’s fluffy back.  “But at least you won’t leave me.”  Violet snrked an affirmative, then turned to burrow beneath the covers.



The Mustache

My boss and I volunteer with Junior Achievement every year, in specific with second graders.  Second graders are loud and weird and funny (or sometimes quiet and weird and funny, but you can pretty much count on the weird part) and I do enjoy working with them.  Every once in a while, tho', you get a real... pistol.

There is one of the current bunch that is a bit of a trouble maker.  I like him, anyway, but I also want to strangle him (::tries not to think about the many times child-Jenny-O caused that exact reaction in the adults around her::).  He has a tendency to say things he thinks will shock adults, to enjoy their reactions.  I must be terribly disappointing to him, because I never react the way he hopes I will.  For example, during an early session (during which they're supposed to imagine a new kind of doughnut) he told me he didn't have any imagination, because all he could think about was the devil.  I told him a devil's food doughnut was a great use of imagination, and moved on.

Today, as I was leaning over his desk to help him with something, he looked at me and said (in that 'I Shall Provoke You Now' voice) "Why does it look like you have a mustache?!"

Now Gentle Readers, I will admit that I had a moment- a brief moment- where shame and anger flooded my system, wretched remnants of the stupid Patriarchy.  Because as soon as I'd seen him looking at my upper lip, I knew what he was thinking- because it's been a long while since I've waxed.  But I brutally repressed those negative reactions, looked the little bastard in the eye, and said evenly, "Because I have a mustache."

He have a skeptical laugh.  "Men have mustaches!  Are you a boy or a girl?"

Again I kept eye contact, cocked my head, and calmly said, "What do you think?"

At this point I could see him starting to reconsider.  Which I figured he would.  A lot of class-clowns blurt out hurtful things for comedic value, and then regret them when they realize the hurtful aspect.  But I wanted more than that.  I wanted him to wonder why a woman having facial hair should even be funny or hurtful or at all remarkable in the first place*.

"Um, a girl?"

I shrugged.  "Girls have hair on their faces, too.  We all have hair all over our bodies.  See?  It's hard to see here on my arm, but it's there."

"Oh," he said, and actually sounded thoughtful.  And then I continued my lesson, and mentally congratulated myself for holding my own against an eight-year-old boy- and maybe, just maybe, providing a blow against the Patriarchy.

*(there's actually a really good blog entry in the exploration of my feminist values vs my personal standards for my own beauty... but I'm not up for getting that deep tonight.)

Morning Noon and Night Revisited

There are many bad things about social media, but there are also many good things.  One of those good things is the timeline feature, where Facebook shows me what I posted exactly one year ago today.  And one year ago today I posted this.

Go ahead and (re)read it: I'll wait.

It was so interesting to read where I was at, mentally and emotionally, on that first day of daycare.  And I'm so, so grateful that I was doing a 365 project at the time, because it means I caught many such milestone moments in my first year as a mother.

And it got me thinking about the difference between Jenny O, mother-to-a-six-month-old, and Jenny O, mother-to-an-eighteen-month-old.  Most specifically, it got me thinking about what I felt this morning, as opposed to that morning.

This morning I got up a little early, as I do on Tuesdays, because Tuesday is the day of the week I take Neeps to daycare.  We had our respective breakfasts, I loaded him into the car, and off we went.  On the drive over, he announced, "Red car!  Black car!  Red car!  Red car!"  (Identifying cars is the new favorite pass-time)  Once we got to daycare I unstrapped him, carried him into the building, and then put him down to walk under his own power to the classroom.  Which he did, with a brief pause to peek inside the kitchen and say, "Ello!"  ("Hi Neeps!" came the cheerful reply of someone I don't know- apparently my son gets around...)

I opened the door to let him into his classroom, delivered the various bits of detritus that go along with having a child in a daycare, and then picked him up to say goodbye.  He gave me a long, long hug (not usual: typically such affection is reserved for Daddy alone), then turned from my arms to his teacher's.  And I was suffused with a warm glow of satisfaction that he is so loved and cared for while I'm at work.

And then I went to work, and I didn't really think about him much for the rest of the day.  Except for when I checked Facebook and saw last year's post.  And then when a client came in and I showed off some photos.  And later when a product partner called and asked about him.  And later still when I mentioned to the second-graders I was volunteering with that I had couldn't stay forever because I had to pick my son up from daycare.  (One boy freaked out with joy when he realized that he attends the same daycare- it was super cute).  So yeah, okay actually I thought about my son a decent amount, but not with any sort of pain or longing.  Just love and pride and satisfaction.

I left work to pick him up (a half hour later than I would have last year, since we've changed our hours), and got the pleasure of watching him unobserved for a little bit.  He was wrangling two toy vacuum cleaners- but then he noticed me and charged the door.  I scooped him up and was treated to another long hug, collected the various bits of detritus (some new), peeled off the random toddler who had attached himself to my legs, and off we went to Boozeday.

So there you go, Past Jenny O- you made the right choice for your family, just like you figured.  Neeps is happy, I am happy, Nathan is happy- we are better parents thanks to the caring professionals who take over for the childcare weekday-shift.  It's worked out better than we ever could have anticipated- and probably most of our other choices will, too.  Which, of course, means that Present Jenny O can breathe a little easier, too.


The BIOTI Fallacy

Sean Dietrich published an article today titled "Fat Girls", and while he makes one extremely excellent point, ("A woman is a hell of a lot more than a body.") I have some serious issues with some of the other things he says (although I understand what he is trying to say, and the goodness of heart that drove him to attempt to articulate it).

There are two tightly entwined things that need unpacking the article: his declaration of what is beautiful, and his declaration that a five-year-old-girl is "not fat".

Let's start with what is beautiful.  My main problem is that in his essay, Dietrich uses the classic, "Beauty Is On The Inside!" (BIOTI) argument, by substituting the word "beauty" for "character".  The BIOTI argument comes from mistaking "beautiful" for "valuable", as is often the case for objects. And I understand why he makes this connection- it's something our culture shoves down our throats from every angle, that your worth as a female comes down to your physical attractiveness, and if you aren't beautiful, you aren't as valuable as someone who is.  But that doesn't actually make it true, any more than calling peanut butter "almond butter" is going to keep someone with a peanut allergy from going into anaphylactic shock.  Because you are a person, and not an object, you have value whether you are physically beautiful or not- and that's something we as a society need to work harder at internalizing.  Because BIOTI is blatantly false- beauty is on the outside; character is on the inside- and children, who are not stupid, can clearly see that.

Now let's take a moment to talk about the word "fat".  What does "fat" actually mean?  I turned to my good friend Google, who gave me (among other definitions) "having a large amount of excess flesh."  That's right- fat is a nice, neutral adjective, with no moral worth attached.  Nowhere in the definition of "fat" is there the word "ugly" or "stupid" or "lazy" or "worthless" or even "not beautiful".  Nowhere.  "Fat" is not actually a pejorative, and we need to stop treating it like one.  
It's something I've had to consciously work on, myself.  There was a time in my life when I was fat.  Many people (who love me and don't want me to "talk bad" about myself) are quick to assure me that no, I wasn't fat- but I was, and I say that with no shame.  I was about 10 sizes larger than I should have been at that time (hello excess flesh).  I was also beautiful and smart and funny.  I lost that excess flesh and became skinny.  I was still beautiful and smart and funny.  I gained some of the weight back, and was still beautiful and smart and funny.  I could go on, but I think you get the point- the amount of flesh I carry (excess or not) has nothing to do with my physical beauty- or my worth as a person.

Because we unconsciously equate "beautiful" with "worthwhile", when someone tells our daughters, "You're not pretty," what we hear is, "You're not valuable", and because of course our daughters are valuable, we rush to reassure them, "You are beautiful!  Look at how nice you are to Susan!  Look at how you help your brother with his chores!"  Which is, in a completely unintentional way, reinforcing in our daughters' minds that only beautiful people are worth loving- and again, they can see for themselves that BIOTI is not true.

Those girls and women Dietrich mentioned?  In spite of his use of the word "beauty", we have no way of knowing if they're beautiful or not.  But he illustrates their character for us; he indicates that they are strong, loving, determined, compassionate, kind, generous, brave- and valuable.  So it doesn't matter if they're "beautiful" or if they're "fat" or if they're "left-handed"; those are descriptive words that tell us nothing about their value as people. The words "kind" and "generous" and "brave" tell us who they are.  Because, as Dietrich so flatly states, "A woman is a hell of a lot more than a body."

So maybe that five-year-old who got called fat, is fat. And- radical concept here- that's okay. If she is a healthy, happy, well-adjusted little girl, who gives a rat's ass is she's fat or skinny or freckled or near-sighted or any other valueless descriptor word? And rather than rushing to reassure her that she's "not fat" (and is therefore valuable!), maybe we should teach her to look whoever called her fat in the eye and say, "What of it?"

(One last thing- "fat" is just a descriptive term, neither good nor bad, but "lard-ass"?  "Lard-ass" is not neutral, and therefore no one is a "lard-ass", no matter how much excess flesh they carry.  Even if they are physically repulsive, even if they are the world's biggest jerk, they're still not a "lard-ass", because again, your physical shell has nothing to do with your character- and vice versa.  If someone's pissing you off by being a horrible human being, you need to focus your commentary on that, and not on how they look [even if they look like a deranged Cheeto].  And if someone calls you a lard-ass, you know that they're too immature to articulate their actual problem with you [or, more likely, themselves], and you can safely ignore them.)


Tacos and Tiaras

Except that it's my birthday, not my son's.  Although he was the one to wake me up well before sunrise.  Not to wish me a happy birthday, per se, but hey- I'll take what I can get.  Especially when was I can get is him to go back to sleep so I can sleep for another hour or two.


As mentioned, today is my birthday, and a very good birthday it was, indeed.  I've been dealing with some Stuff, lately, so the days leading up to my birthday had put me in a very Forlorn sort of mood, to the point where I wasn't looking forward to my birthday at all, and in fact I was pretty sure it wasn't going to be a particularly good- let alone special- sort of day.  This is very much the opposite of my typical, "MY BIRTHDAY IS COMING ALL HAIL MY BIRTHDAYNESS!" frenzy that generally kicks in around March 1st.


After the 0430 False Start, I woke up for the second time and sung very quietly to myself in a sad sort of way as I got out of bed and started my yoga.  About halfway through my sun salutation, Nathan leapt out of bed and rushed downstairs, and by the time I was breathing myself into a deeper pigeon pose, he'd come back up the stairs and placed a piece of chocolate birthday cake in front of my nose with a flourish.

"It's gluten free!" he crowed, and I smiled.  It smelled like Birthday.

I managed to hold off eating it until I finished my yoga, but when I did I found that it was oh-so-delicious, as well as being gluten-free.  Good job, husband!

Thus fortified for the day (he also made me eggs),  I decided to try wriggling into a dress I haven't worn since having a baby- and it fit, which was definitely a Birthday Triumph.  So naturally I decided that what the outfit really needed was red lipstick and a tiara, and thus I applied the one and stuck the other in my pannier.

The ride into work was just perfect- a welcome spring morning after so much rain- and once I got my bike safely stowed I took the time to put on my Birthday Tiara:
Not practical for under-helmet-wear.

By the way, here's the dress:
Feeling all mod like Gwen Stacy.

The Captain came in a bit later, and darned if he wasn't carrying a balloon!  He presented me with said balloon, which was delightful because a) everyone loves a balloon obviously and b) I knew it would make Neeps's entire evening when I let him play with it*.  The Captain also gave me my favorite candy bar (two of them!), a funny card, and later bought me tacos for lunch- because he knows I love them.  Mmm, tacos...

Nathan swung by a few hours later to present my birthday gift (a gift certificate for an hour-long massage!  Woo!) and after that my buddy Jerry popped in to present me with this bit of awesomeness:
Cap'n Tight Pants, Sir
which I cannot wait to get hung, probably in Neeps's room because every boy need a pragmatist-with-a-heart-of-gold idol.

Throughout the day I was bombarded with well-wishes via text, email, and FB, each and every one of which serving to lift my spirits.  People are so kind, and it was just humbling to have so many people reach out to me on my day.  By the time I left early (another gift from my excellent boss) I was feeling quite buoyant, much like the balloon I tied tightly to the back of my bike:
What could POSSIBLY go wrong with this scenario??
Nothing!  At least, nothing that wasn't solved by a quick stop to re-tie it closer to the rack!
Since I was home early, I got to go with Nathan to pick up Neeps, and then the three of us picked up some Birthday Pizza, and then we ate it, and all was right in the Birthday World.

Thanks, World.  Days like today make it easier to ignore Jerk Brain.

*(which, by the way, it totally did, right up until he ripped its balloon throat out and deflated the thing.  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a biter.)