3.30.2017

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.)

3.20.2017

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.

Anyway.

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.

But.

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.)

2.24.2017

Nothing Tastes As Good As...

Once upon a time a supermodel was asked if she had a motto, and she replied, "Nothing tastes as good as skinny feels."

For me, personally, that is utter garbage, because in my experience "skinny" feels pretty bad- weak and unhealthy type bad.  And I assure you, almost anything tastes better than not being able to lift half a couch feels.  But like most garbage, some good can be reclaimed from it- in my case by replacing the penultimate word:

"Nothing tastes as good as not-pain feels."

That, my friends, is a very true statement, and one I've been saying to myself recently, specifically in the wake of some particularly bad (sugar-induced) inflammation.  My joints have been shrieking with knife-sharp-agony (especially my left knee), so I just try to remember that feeling whenever I am tempted by tasty sugar-shelled chocolate eggs (just for random example...).  Sure, they're delicious, and I enjoy eating them, but not as much as I enjoy not being in agony.  Remember that, brain.

The phrase got morphed again today, as I tackled the physically hardest climbs I've done since returning to the gym: a 5.10- overhang, followed by a 5.10 overhang (I managed the first, but fell off the second multiple times until my grip was utterly shot and I had to be lowered).  I could feel my poor nutritional choices of the past week coming back to haunt me as I wrestled with those routes (joint pain, general tiredness), and I thought grimly to myself,

"Nothing tastes as good as climbing well feels."

My belay partner and I discussed how as we age, our bodies are less forgiving of inferior fuel, and that's something I need to keep in mind the next time I'm tempted to help myself to the chips Nathan is snacking on.  Especially if I'm serious about getting back into fighting trim, which I absolutely am.

All that aside, I left the gym feeling really good about my progress*, and really re-committed to climbing on a regular basis.  I want to up it to at least six times a month (and preferably twice a week), so that I can justify going back to a membership instead of a punch card.  That will be such a major victory for me, you guys, a huge step towards being the healthy Me I want to be.




*(finishing anything on overhang always makes me feel like a beast, and also a climber I really respect complimented me on my good technique, which was deeply appreciated)**

**(also my calluses are finally coming back!  Woo hoo!)

2.20.2017

Strangers in a Gym

So I mentioned that I'm getting back to the gym.  With that comes conversations with people- some I know, some I don't- and the other day it included a conversation with an extremely pregnant woman who was hanging out, waiting for her friend to get off work.  We got to talking about pregnancy and how having a kid changes things in unexpected ways (it's her first) and I want you to know, Gentle Readers, that I am very proud of myself, because I didn't tell her one single Horror Story- not one!  I mean, I wasn't making it out to be All Magical Bliss, either, but I think I did a good job of being the kind of mom I liked to chat with while I was pregnant: realistic about the challenges, but positive overall.  Mostly I focused on how much I enjoy Neeps these days- how much I like him as a little person.

And, honestly, I think she found it encouraging to hear that I'd gained around 50lbs while pregnant- because obviously I am not still carrying that weight.  (Never mind the amount that I am still carrying- that's beside the point).

We humans have to support one another, eh?  And that means not adding to/embellishing upon the anxieties our brains are perfectly capable of manufacturing on their own, thank you very much.

2.17.2017

Sharing My World(s)

My boss and I decided to change our office hours this year, and as a result I now get off early on Fridays (why yes, he is the best boss ever, why do you ask?).  As a result, I've been making it into the climbing gym once a week for the past five weeks or so, and I can definitely feel the difference.  Not just physically (although my goodness yes), but mentally and emotionally, as well.  Every time I solve a route, every time I push through trembling muscles to the next hold, I feel like me again.  Like my life has finally settled down enough that I can brush away all the dust that came from carving the new "mom" parts and re-reveal the old "pre-mom" parts.  Is that a simile that even makes sense?  I'm sticking with it, regardless.
Sweaty!

Anyway, the past couple of weeks I've been there, there's also been a father with his young daughter.  She's about five, and he belays her while she top-ropes.  It's freaking adorable, and I can't wait until Neeps is old enough to try.  He's recently become very interested in climbing onto things, so I've been thinking that pretty soon now I'm going to take him in to the gym to see if he wants to do a little baby bouldering.  Heck, maybe I'll even take him in tomorrow morning- it's scheduled to rain, after all.

Today it did not rain, however, so my bike ride back from the gym was glorious, and once I got home I did what I've been dreaming of doing for months and months- installed a toddler seat.  (I finally used my Christmas money and ordered it earlier this week: it arrived last night.)  And then I went and picked my son up from daycare, brought him home, helmet-ed him up, and took him for a ride.
Please note the adorably ruffled jeans, borrowed from daycare after too much playing-in-puddles.

He loved it, but I don't know if he loved it as much as I loved it.  Because for him it was just a new, fun activity- for me it was fun and emotional.  My heart was swelling up and singing joyously, so happy to be able to share another beloved activity with him.  Now we have hiking and cycling that we can do together.  And soon?  Climbing.  And eventually?  Him being able to do all of those things independently.

It's funny how my life has become this combination of super-fast and so-much-waiting.  On the one hand, Neeps is developing at a crazy rate: I love watching him figure things out and use new words and identify connections and basically just self-program his little meat-computer brain.  But on the other hand, let's face it- the past fifteen months have been a lot of me putting aside things I used to do all the time, so that I can focus on what needs my attention right now (poops and meals and naps and stacking blocks and reading Goodnight Moon for the umpteenth time) until I could someday come back to those things- and introduce my son to them, as well.

That someday is getting closer and closer.  And I'm so excited.
Adventure Buddies.

2.14.2017

Love Fest 2017

It's that time of year again, Gentle Valentines!

YES THAT'S RIGHT IT'S VALENTINE'S DAY WHAT GAVE IT AWAY??

Ha ha ha ha hah who am I kidding?  It's Second Best Holiday time, and I can't even pretend to be coy about it.  I've been sitting on this blog entry for almost two weeks now, and I'm super excited to share it with you, because this year, for the first time ever, I exploited my child for my own nefarious crafting devices.

Behold!  The Valentine Process of 2017!

I got it into my head that I wanted to do something with Neeps's foot prints.  I didn't know what, exactly, but something.  So when my good friend Kayla came up for a visit the other weekend, I took advantage of her presence to create a scenario in which the adults actually out-numbered the toddler (true fact: a two-to-one adult-to-kid ratio is actually an equal match) so that we could wrangle him into walking about on some poster-board with painted-up feet.

Looking suspiciously like evidence in a crime scene...
It was a good call on my part, and you'll notice that there are no photos of the actual Event, because Gentle Readers it legitimately took all three of us to make it happen without too much of a mess (Kayla and I still ended up with paint on our pants.  But that's why I bought tempera.)

We cleaned up his adorable little feet...
...mostly...

...and then I hurried up and waited for things to dry.  Once that was done, I armed Neeps with a marker and let him (somewhat) loose:
ACTION SHOT!

Yes, yes, nice use of linework to bring visual flow to the piece.
And then Neeps and I had a bit of a disagreement over whether or not markers are for eating:
This is the face of Ultimate Betrayal, in case you were wondering.
At which point he rage-quit over Creative Differences, and I finished the project up on my own by creating a heart template and placing it with Intention...
Oh-so-faint pencil lines.
...and then cutting and cutting and cutting.
I MAY have gotten carried away.  Maybe.
Ooo, ARTISTIC shot.
Then I came out of my Crafting Trance and realized I'd literally made over 70 little paint-splotched hearts.  Which turned out to be a good thing in the long run, but that's another story.  For now, let's take a look at how some of the Real Actual Valentines turned out!
Glue sticks and card stock are our friends, kids.

So are clever little quips.
And now, of course, the Annual Sharing of What I Did for Nathan's Valentine!
I used one of the more abstract images- it kind of reminded me of leaves.

Kind of a little throw back to 2015's Valentine*.

Our House Motto is "Secrets and Lies".  We're a strange family.

So there you have it- another Valentine Triumph.  And who knows?  Later today I might actually have some more to share, like whatever Nathan does for me.

EDITED TO ADD:
THIS awesomeness!!
(Nathan won Valentine's Day this year, the jerk.)


*In case you missed that year's entry

1.21.2017

A Girl and Her Boy

It's been a good day for mother-son bonding.

Not too long after getting up and dressed, Neeps "did yoga" with me (this consists of him stretching up in his best approximation of mountain pose, and then spending a lot of time lying underneath me and giggling as I go through the other poses).  Then, after breakfast, he helped me with the dishes (by closing the dishwasher for me) and the laundry (by tossing one shirt into the washer, shutting the door, pushing the detergent tray shut, and giving me a solid assist on holding down the "start" button).  After all of that, we got bundled up and went down to the waterfront for a little walk.

I knew we only had about an hour until the rain hit, so to start things off I strapped him into the stroller and we did a very brisk ten minutes over the land bridge and back.  Of course, during this very brisk ten minutes the rain was like "Ha hah have a little preview of what's to come!"  But it was okay because Neeps was wrapped in his Very Specific Waterproof Stroller Blanket, and I was wearing my newly-upgraded rain jacket.  Anyway, we got back to the car and I released him, stashed the stroller, and (since the rain had ended its helpful preview) let him lead for a while.

He did really great- walked a lot further and faster than I'd have expected, which warms my heart because one of these days he's going to be such an awesome hiking companion.  As it was he only had a few wipe outs, and only one bad enough that it needed Mommy-snuggles to get going again.  We looked at dead leaves and the river and rocks, and pointed out all sorts of people (who were all quite happy to wave and say hello) until I decided it was time to get him warmed up and fed.  So back to the car we went, and on the drive home we decided it would be nice to bring Daddy (who was stuck working) a specialty-coffee-beverage, so we swung by our favorite coffee stand and chatted with the nice baristas.

Once home we played, and then did a video chat with the grandparents, followed by a nutritious lunch that made me feel like a good mom, for a change (nary a Cheerio in sight).  And then?  Story-and-nap time.  And to show my solidarity, I took a nap, too.

1.19.2017

Jerk Brain VS The Unicorn Blessing

I've been having some issues lately with Jerk Brain.  Which is to say, Jerk Brain has been saying stupid things like,

-I am fat
-I am slovenly
-I am lazy
-I am greedy
-Everything is terrible
-Let's just not leave bed ever okay?

So the past few days have been a long slog of actively ignoring Jerk Brain, and forcing myself to do Normal Things, like get up and do yoga and go to work and, oh, I don't know, eat.  But I've been managing, and yesterday I sent out a plea to various loved ones to send me pictures of unicorns to cheer me up.  I specified that stick-figure squiggles were 100% acceptable.

It worked ridiculously well.  And now I'm going to share those unicorns with you, in case you also need cheering up.

Fierce
The first one I got back was, appropriately enough, from my husband.  I married him for his drawing skills, so obviously I have a high bar for his sketches, and he definitely came through with some technical greatness.  Not to mention spousal greatness for actually responding so quickly.  Plus look at how that unicorn is tossing it's head, as though it's slicing open the belly of Depression.
Pink Power
The second one back was this gem, which I thought was deliciously 90s, and also pretty fierce.  This pinky-purple unicorn is glowing with the ability to trample Jerk Brain into the ground.
Annotated
This one is actually my favorite- I loved that my friend was sitting, waiting for his appointment, but he heard my cry for attention and grabbed the nearest thing at hand to satisfy it.  Also, as a fan of words + pictures, this gets bonus points for utilizing both.  That uniorn beast and that magician are going to magic Depression back to the dark ages.
Sparkly!
The artist of this fine specimen informed me that he is "fertilizing the world with happiness!" which seemed like exactly what I needed.  Not to mention I can just see this unicorn crapping happiness all over Depression until it drowns in it.  Because Depression can't swim, which is why it can't follow me into the ocean.
RAINBOW
The final unicorn came in the evening, lighting up my after-work-hours with a neon rainbow and a certain Psychotic Glee in her blue eyes that will surely be the last thing stupid Depression sees as her multi-color horn pierces its skull.

My little blessing of unicorns was just freaking miraculous.  It made me so happy that my friends cared enough to indulge me in my random demands for comfort, especially since most of my friends don't consider themselves artists.  They did something they're not comfortable doing, just to help me out.  Now that's freaking magical.

1.07.2017

Personal Plan 2017

I just finished up my rewrites on The Oathbreaker, which strikes me as an excellent time to make good on my vague promise to share part of my so-called Personal Plan for 2017 (as opposed to the Business Plan I wrote for the office- it's not business, it's pleasure!  Hah!).  After all, I've already achieved one of my strategies for a major objective!  Woo!

Vision Statement:  I will be a happy, healthy person who feels good about her accomplishments in life.

Objective:  Have a happy and healthy family unit
    -Strategy:  Make it a point to have a date with Nathan at least once a month
    -Strategy:  Do at least one family-hike per month
    -Strategy:  Get out camping at least three times this spring/summer/autumn


Objective:  Feel good physically
    -Strategy:  Do yoga at least 3x a week starting 1/1, upping it to at least 4x a week by 3/1
    -Strategy:  Ride my bike to work more often- at least 3x week during nice weather
    -Strategy:  Create clean meal plans with Nathan


Objective: Become a published fiction writer
    -Strategy:  Finish re-writing "The Oathbreaker" by 01/31
    -Strategy:  Submit a collection of short-stories to at least one literary agent by my birthday
    -Strategy:  Write at least one new novella-length (or longer) story by 06/30


That isn't all of it, but it is the most pertinent parts.  I've already made a good start to it, what with doing yoga four times this week (eight I guess if you count morning and night) and riding my bike to work four times (in spite of the face-flaying cold- sheesh).  And Nathan and I had a lunch-date yesterday, which totally counts.  We may not have refrained from talking about Neeps the entire time, but we did keep our phones put away, which is pretty huge.

And now?  Now I start rewrites on my original Princess and the Pea retelling, because I think it will pair nicely with Oathbreaker in a short-story collection.

1.04.2017

On a Random Wednesday in January, I Miss You Terribly

I'm walking down the street, in the bitter bitter cold, and I'm talking to my mom on the phone, and she's probably having a hard time understanding me, because my voice is breaking as I'm speaking and I'm trying so hard to keep from crying and failing utterly and I don't know how coherent I'm being, anyway.

"I'm so pissed that I'm so... so pathetically desperate for stories of my father that I'm willing to ignore that part of my brain trying to warn me that something might not be right in this situation.  And part of the pain and frustration comes from... it's just... I do deeply appreciate my friends who want to be there for me, when I'm missing him, but what I really want, what's really contributing to this sadness, is my craving for people who knew him.  It's just- I only have so many memories of him, and I don't get to make any more.  So sometimes... sometimes I just want to supplement with other people's memories."






(Never stop telling stories of people you once knew.  In the end, that's all we have.)