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What is feminism anyways? One of the girls in my prevention class asked me this the other day. She has this long brown hair that reaches down her back and sometimes she wears red lipstick and Metallica shirts.

Feminism is the idea that women have the same rights as men. It was the only thing that I could think to tell her, the easiest way I could describe this idea, even though I knew that it left questions unanswered and that it didn’t fully answer her question to begin with. Do you think that women today are treated the same as men are? I asked the question to all of them.

Yeah, I mean, women can do the same things that men can. I mean, we gained the right to vote a long time ago, right? They told me that, and various other things about women’s suffrage and how we can go to work, just like men, and then the conversation switched to boys and boyfriends and I had the fleeting idea that maybe, possibly, they were right. That in their world women and men were treated the same. Maybe they were too young to understand the various inequalities, and maybe they were young enough to change those things and to live in a world where feminism doesn’t exist, where it doesn’t need to.

Then we talked about one boy, one boy that they talk about a lot, who has lots of girlfriends. Girlfriends that he cheats on and more waiting in the wing. They told me that if he attended my class he would tell me I have nice legs.

Why do you think these girls stay with this boy that treats them badly?

And they told me because they really like him, and then, with more prompting, because they may have low self esteem.

What if the roles were reversed? What if the girl were the one with lots of boyfriends? What would people think of that?

Well, then she’s a hoe.

And my heart broke a little then. At twelve and thirteen these girls, most of whom have never had a boyfriend and have never been through heartbreak and have not yet even had a first kiss, told me without even knowing that women in their world are not equal to men. Girls are not equal to boys. Some part of me had held on to the idea that my little princess bird could understand that she is a girl woman child, that she will be different than her brother and that she will grow differently and that she will understand differently, but that the rights that they share will be the same. I had hoped that maybe her world wouldn’t need feminism.

I knew that even after I explained the unfairness in that situation, and how harmful the word “hoe” is in the first place that it was one of those conversations that will take years to catch in their minds, if at all.

When I left class that night I stopped at the gas station to fill up so that I didn’t end up stranded on the side of the road. When I walked in to pay I blushed. I wore my work clothes, a conservative skirt with tights and a button up blouse and as I handed my money to the cashier he mentioned that I was “Dressed real nice”, as I turned to walk out a man nodded at me, another winked. I’ll be honest when I say I was embarrassed. Ashamed that I had worn heals to work, that maybe my skirt was too short. I’ll be honest when I say a very real part of me was terrified. It was 7 o’clock at night and my car is small and old and not very fast, it was dark out and cold and had any one of those men wanted to attack me, wanted to act out any scene that began to play out in their heads when I walked into the gas station, they very easily could have. I was defenseless. Because I am a woman and I am small I am almost always defenseless.

Girls from my counseling class, girls and women everywhere, and my tiny Wren baby, and even more my beautiful little boy-this is why we still need feminism.

Feminism is the idea that no matter how small bodied we are, no matter the outfit we choose to adorn our bodies with, no matter the way we walk or drive or speak, we have the right to be viewed as something other than an object. Feminism is the idea that I should feel safe when walking into a gas station. It’s the idea that men do not claim us or own us simply by looking at us or ever at all. It’s the idea that rape is rape and there is no in-between-and those that say otherwise are ignorant, because no matter how drunk a person is, and no matter how much make-up that person wears or doesn’t wear it is never okay to take from them the right to be a person and not a thing that has been put to use.

This is the frustrating thing about my job. I feel like most of the time when I’m confronted with these issues from these young people I can’t think of the right thing to say fast enough and before I know it the conversation has turned to boys or clothes or how “rancid” so and so is. How do you empower people this age? How do you change what their parents have told them and what they have seen on t.v. and heard on the internet? How do I, being a woman and small and maybe too young and inexperienced tell them that I’m learning with them (of course without telling them I’m learning with them), change things?

 

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My dreams

At this moment my life is kind of sort of playing out like some of my dreams come true. I can’t remember a time in my life where I didn’t want to be a mother. As a child I wrapped my arms around my dolls at night, one cradled around the waist, one around the neck. I honestly believed that they existed past the plastic and fiber fill that they were made of and I apologized when I felt they were neglected. My little flesh and bone babies now occupy the spaces between my arms and against my chest at night. When I wrap around and cuddle them to me some part of me is that little girl again, and I hold them and smell them and whisper to them. Sometimes I feel like I can smell the Cabbage Patch kid baby powder that filled so many nights of my childhood.

It’s not just the babies, though they would be more than enough, but I have a job that I love. I get to work with Middle School youth. I get to encourage them to speak without fear, to talk about what they look like and what they feel like and their fears and their accomplishments without being afraid of being judged or laughed at. I get to pretend that I’m guiding them, when in reality I’m just listening. The girls that come to me all have names that remind me of flowers; as if their mothers could feel them growing and blossoming inside of them and they couldn’t help but form words like petals that would belong to them for the rest of their lives. The boys are skinny wonderful half-men who take pride in the cracking of their voices and the way that their skin will blister with acne, “Like a man.” They tell me that they don’t speak Spanish, but as they describe their family in far off Spanish lands their voices take on a poetic tone and every word comes out uncracked and beautiful. Every time I’m around them I smile. I can’t help but think of my beautiful little people. My tiny little rose bud who will grow and flower and my silly little man child whose voice will crack and splinter and become entirely new one day. I love their baby years and mourn every day the loss of them, but I do get excited for watching them grow and seeing the wonderful people they will turn into.

Other than the babies and the work my life has taken on this chaotic and wonderful rhythm. Sometimes I feel like I’m trapped in a ball of string that keeps on bouncing down a flight of stairs, wound up pieces of me being left behind. We are almost always on the move, my little family and me, and if we’re not I’m finding time between feeding the baby and snuggling the toddler to write up lesson plans and do artwork. It’s a good feeling, like my body and mind have finally settled into the kind of pace that they have needed all these years.

That’s not to say that it’s easy. Even dreams can be difficult. Our days are hectic and most of them have at least a few tears (and usually not only from the babies). And the job, even if it is a dream and I get to work hours that work for me and do things I love and have a boss that encourages and understands me, does not pay much (as is the case with most dreams). I also miss writing. I also miss reading. I also miss bathing regularly. But, I know that all of these things will appear again in due time, and in the mean time I’m living my dream.

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Delila

Surprise Surprise Starlight Eyes

That up there is my little internet secret, making her second debut, the first being her round little face’s appearance on Facebook.

Some people may be a little confused as to why I never officially announced her, why my rounded belly and widened hips never showed up on their news feed, or why the first pictures of her, nestled inside of my womb were never proudly displayed. I’ll be honest, I’m not exactly sure. My first pregnancy was so public. I displayed my growing belly, my ultrasound pictures, the name my partner and I picked, love songs to my little boy. As I contemplated all of this it just felt too personal. This was mine, she was mine, and as many feelings I may have hurt by deciding not to share, I wanted to keep the little ball of human safe and secret and hidden deep inside of me.

As a result of my secrecy, or maybe just because she was tiny and petite inside of me and didn’t begin to show herself until she was nearly fully formed, I felt like maybe she didn’t exist outside of my body and maybe I didn’t exist outside of housing her. I tried to remember how I felt through my pregnancy with my sweet boy, how I felt not myself, full and round and exposed in public. This wasn’t the same. I forgot that the roundness of my body existed and along with it forgot that a tiny person would soon be naked and squawking her way into this world. I went where I needed to go and did what I needed to do and carted the Jude bug around. Squawking seemed appropriate, as her little body felt like wings that flapped and shifted and settled into my hips. The little Wren.

Her birth was nearly as secret as her formation. It happened early Tuesday morning, 1:35 am August 21st, nine days before her expected due date. It seemed like something was tight inside of me, but as I waited and snuggled the wee boy I figured I had hours left for the tightening to progress. I ran a bath and laid down in it. When I was in labor with the boy everything I read told me that water would sooth my body and the baby inside of it. When I was in labor with the boy this was not true. This time as soon as I laid myself down something that felt like the word calm surrounded me and something that sounded like thunder cracked outside. As the rain came down I wrapped around the tight little ball of my body and talked to the baby, “Little birdy, together, we’ll do this together”. By the time I realized this was “labor for real” I had about enough time to cry out to my father, hop in the car, and crawl through the emergency room door before the nurse on call delivered my little, surprisingly quiet, bird. At six lbs and 5 oz she seemed like a dream with tiny little feet that I couldn’t help but trace over and over.

So, no epidural this time either. Go figure.

Our little family is settling in together. The small mister needs maybe a little time to adjust, but that’s okay, maybe I do too. Our little bird is just as sweet and chirpy as she was in the womb.

Us

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So, how do you all feel about this season?

I’m pretty conflicted about it. The babe is going to be bombarded with piles of stuff stuff stuff. I can’t help myself. This is the first year that I know he’ll be excited about Christmas, about presents, and I want to feel excited too. It’s selfish, I know that, but I don’t mind. It’s so hard for me to hold on to something happy about Christmas that I’m not going to let this go. It took me so long to let myself feel happy, to tell myself that happy is okay, that I don’t really want to admit that I’m spending money that I can’t really spend to give the babe things that maybe possibly he doesn’t even want. All because I want the smile. The squeals of joy. The, “Christmas! Presents!”, that will come when he wakes up.

Three years ago sister and I went from store to store scouting out unique gifts. We made plans, we split the cost, and we wrote both our names on the package. It’s hard for me now to write just mine, and so on every gift I write, “From Jude.”

The gifts may not be healthy. I know it’s not a tradition I want to start with the babe, piles of meaningless things that I bought. But I know too that a lot of them will be fun for us both to play with, a lot of them will encourage outdoor play, and a lot of them will be tossed to the side. I wish that I had spent time making them. I wanted to make puppets and a puppet house and a cardboard kingdom. I guess it’s okay though. Christmas doesn’t have to be the only time for gifts and fun.

We spent yesterday at the plant nursery looking for herbs and playing in the “Jungle”. We looked for lions and the babe swam in the gravel.

The babe with his can full of gravel

Passion Fruit blossom

What's that over there?

A lovely green anole, deceased at the park

I know my pictures kind of stink, they’re blurry and out of the phone (not even an Iphone at that!), but I like to look at them and I hope you do too 🙂

I look forward to the rest of this season and the rest of the year. I look forward to Christmas and presents and cookies and I feel happy. Happy. I hope all of you out there do too.

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The babe is in bed, he went to bed early, and now I don’t know what to do with myself.  I feel like I have so many different things that I’d like to do.  Shouldn’t I be writing?  Reading? Cleaning? Doing all of those things that I put off because I feel like I don’t have the time concentration peace of mind? I’m watching “Sister Wives.”

It’s like I just don’t know what to do with myself outside of the babe. When he’s up and I’m working on homework or blogging here or anything else that isn’t playing in the puppy tent or swimming, or doing fun baby activities I feel like I’m being neglectful.  But then when he’s sleeping I feel so overwhelmed with possibilities that I shut down completely and sit in front of the t.v. to engorge on some polygamist drama.

Ugh.

In other news: I pet the kitten cat.  Fleetingly and apprehensively I reached out with my fingertips and stroked his back while he was eating.  I approached from the side, like the internet told me to do, and averted my eyes, like the internet said.  He flinched at first, backed away and made a little hissy sound.  But I persisted, and then, he just sat.  Underneath my fingers his fur felt soft and clean, and underneath his fur it was all bones and fragile.  I was shocked at sharpness that lay so close to my fingertips.  Despite the two feedings a day of a canned and dry mix that I put into the rooster bowl, he’s still a little bony thing that seems like he could break down and get buried under leaves where no one would ever find him again.  His legs also seem strange.  Bent funny, like it’s too much energy to move them.  He’s so light, though, that he moves in and out of my eyesight without me noticing.  He makes no noise on the ground and his only signal of approach is the mew that he lets out when he’s hungry.  I’m worried that I’ll find him one day covered in flies, but I’m too afraid to capture him.  I don’t know what I would do with him or where I would take him or how I would change him.

I need to though.  His legs worry me.  If anything else it would be to put an end to my suffering.

“Teen Mom”, now.  Let’s hope the babe wakes up soon.

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My sweet little baby bean turned the big 2 today (or, yesterday, depending on the hour in which I post this).

WEEEE!

Nom Nom Nom

Just a finger in the picture, nothing to see here, folks

We had a dinosaur themed party and all of his lovely family and friends came out to celebrate.  Obviously, the splash pad was a hit.

When we got home I assumed my initial, “haven’t finished homework” panic mode, and began scanning the room for distractions while I frantically skimmed over passe compose of pronomial verbs in French.  But then I looked at him, all 28 lbs of him, and I wanted to just stop it all and play.  So I did.

I climbed into the puppy tent with my little puppy and we screamed and rolled around.  The pup said, “We’re stuck!”, and we pretended to claw our way out.  He said, “How get out??” and we rolled around more and made the tent fly all across the family room and into feet, legs, and little cousins in our adventure.

When I look at the pictures of my just born baby bean, his tiny pudge cheeks and his little o mouth, and then at my walking talking genius toddler, I feel a surge of panic.  I can’t pinpoint where it comes from.  Me not being where I wanted to be when he turned two, not having accomplished what I set out to accomplish, not necessarily raising him the way that I had planned on raising him.

Some of it is that as he gets older the time between when sister was here, and the time I’ve had without her, grows longer.  And she doesn’t get to see him.  And I’m becoming more and more years older than she was.  I know that it doesn’t help anything by saying it, because it will never be true, but I wish she were here to help me with him.  I wish she were here to see what a beautiful and wonderful person the Babe is, I wish she could be proud of me for helping this sweet person to grow.

I guess that falls into the category of one of those things that I can’t help, so I have to move past.  I can be strong enough to raise this little person, and to help him to see a life that grows more bountiful and wonderful with each passing day.  I know a lot of it is him, but I like to think that his shining face and sweet spirit has been helped along just a little bit by me.

Two years ago this sweet face showed up at my doorstep 🙂

Happy Birthday my sweetie Jude, keep on growing and changing the world, you’ve changed mine fo’ sure.

 

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So, I’ve been neglecting this blogarooski for the past few days.  I apologize.  I’ve even been neglecting my photo project, but I do have a couple for you:

The other day

One of the little bean:

Yes, that is underpants on his head.  Who doesn’t have an awesome underwear head picture from their salad days??

And, one of myself and the baby bean together:

We both look ridiculous.

This little experiment has been shaping up to be more interesting than I once imagined.  I thought that I would grow to appreciate the photos that I snapped, accept them, maybe kind of like them.  I didn’t expect that I would start to like them more than pictures that I have deemed “good.”  I took this picture, posed, smoothed my hair, used the mirror as a guide, to see how I would look in one that I had control over:

The posed picture.

See?  I look pretty here.  I like it, but, see that one at the top?  I like it better.  I look happier, I look cleaner and brighter, and maybe it’s too closely cropped, but it looks more like me.  And that’s what I wanted.  I recognize that face more as me than this face that I’ve carefully watched and photographed to look like the me I wanted.  I’m starting to like the me I am without posing.  I’m starting to recognize the me I am as opposed to the me I have in my head.

I think I’ll keep on with this.  I’m developing it into a project that involves youth of a middle schooled age.  It’s a work in progress but it’s something I’m pretty excited about.

In other news- I stared back to the University this week.  That’s part of the reason for my absence here.  My classes are interesting.  I have a French professor who is sweet and short and has an accent that doesn’t sound quite french.  He’s maybe sixty and his face reminds me of a basset hound.  When he speaks I focus less on the french and more on his mouth.  I like to imagine his face when he was young.  I like to imagine his first kiss.  His lips are flat and rosy and dry looking, but at one time they were moist and red.  At one time his face was pulled tight and his mouth was moving against the parted lips of a black haired french girl.  I like to wonder where this girl is now.  I have a feeling this semester of French is going to be another one full of challenges.

I also have an internship at The Florida Review.  Our first meeting with the Editor in Chief was yesterday and the whole atmosphere was one of creative anticipation.  Our Chief also mentioned a certain disorder that goes on in the brain, in her brain, that affects ones ability to memorize a face.  She mentioned that some are so harshly afflicted that they can’t recognize their spouses.  Some can’t recognize themselves.  When she mentioned this I thought of my little project here, and how doing something so public was one of the only ways I could force myself to recognize me.  Or at least recognize me as someone I enjoy looking at.  Maybe my brain is affected by a similar malady, except I can recognize all but myself.

I’ve also not been here because my mind body person has been slowly stewing around all the death in my life, and the loss of my dog, and the loss of my sister.  I need some time to sit down and write it out.  Expect some blogs in the near future.

Baby bean turns two on Sunday!  Get excited!

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