Sunday, January 15, 2017

Being Our Own Kind of Good

Nux Gallica downloaded a makeover app. Lizard People unite!
"I don't want to be your kind of good." Some of my readers may recognize this as one of my favorite quotes, by singer Pink in a 2013 issue of Glamour magazine. I've been reminded of it often this month, as the world around me seems jazzed up to keep New Year's resolutions and "do something" about the incoming presidential inauguration and all that it may entail for us. Peer support is a great thing, and even peer pressure can be motivating. But, ladies. Let's not lose sight of the fact that teamwork means doing our own work, with big-picture purpose and authenticity and awareness of other people's diverse needs and gifts, not shaming each other into justifying our own actions by coercing everyone else to act the same way.

Last weekend, I committed the self-loving act of getting my hair done! (I'm sad to inform you that the Lizard People makeover picture is virtual. In the RL, I took the safe route of matching my hair color to my natural eyebrows as usual.) I went to my favorite local stylist and got highlights, a trim, and a blowout, paid with a cash gift from an anonymous fairy godsister at my day job. The gift came with a note directing me to spend the money on myself, not on practical needs but on something special. So I honored the fairy's wishes (and trust me, I've read enough fairy tales to know you do not want to piss off the spirits of generosity) by making myself feel pretty. It was a challenging act of self-care at a time when I feel guilt-tripped into sacrificing everything--my family, my dreams, my financial security, my personal safety, my carefully chosen priorities, everything--to "prove" to other people that I'm down with the cause.



Getting highlights takes a couple of hours, so I had time to vent my feelings to my stylist, K. She knows I can't afford to have my hair done often, so she asked if I had a special occasion coming up. I shared my weekend plans: that I'm throwing a small 6th birthday party for my daughter Nux Gallica, then going to an all-day writing conference the next day, and volunteering to teach a justice workshop for kindergarten and first grade children the next morning.

Sounds fun, right? AND I EXPECT AND HOPE ALL THESE THINGS TO BE FUN! And listen up, Puritans, fun doesn't make something frivolous or wrong. Fun makes hard truths digestible, especially for kids, but for adults too. This weekend will be an extension of my everyday mission to learn about effective anti-racist, feminist, and generally anti-oppressive storytelling and to educate and support children in their development as strong, compassionate people who will run the world in the near future.

Nonetheless, I had to confide to K that I've had to explain this weekend schedule to a bunch of people over and over again, because many of my family, friends, and colleagues have been demanding an explanation for why I will not be going to Washington, DC, or even our local state capitol, for the Women's March this weekend.

This is an irritating pitfall of working behind the scenes. For weeks, I've been connecting marchers with bus tickets and knitters with ladies in need of Pussy Hats. In public, I've kept my mouth shut about my skepticism about the chaotic, fast-paced organization of the March, because I supported the good reasons why so many people I know are planning to go. I didn't ideologically get "on board" with the March until they released their actual platform just days ago, but I supported my friends and colleagues and neighbors in their efforts all the same.

But my ideological skepticism was not the only reason I never had any intention of trying to join the marches myself. The main reason is that I have designed a very focused life around my top priorities, and my time and resources aren't flexible enough to drop the important work I'm already invested in so that I can use my hands, time, money, and energy to hold a protest sign this very second.

I'm not just opting out because my preexisting plans are more enjoyable (though I'm not sorry about that). I'm opting out because I believe my preexisting plans will allow me to do more good than dropping them to go hold a protest sign.

I'm feeling mighty irritated that women in my life are pestering me about why I have not canceled my daughter's birthday, the annual conference that helps me achieve my personal dream, and my volunteer work for children so that I can instead hire a babysitter with my nonexistent spare cash (or perhaps press another woman into free stay-at-home labor for me? Or ask my husband to give up his community-building and environmentalist work that weekend so he can stay home with our child, driving us further into debt to unethical banks by forcing us to take a harsh pay cut this week on top of protest expenses?) and interrupt the slow, unsexy, behind-the-scenes work my husband and I do for the betterment of our society so that we can support the cause the "right" way?

Um, NO. My personal presence at a demonstration this weekend would be wasteful, kamikaze martyrdom because my whole life is invested in creative, family, and professional work that can't afford to be interrupted in this way, at this particular moment. The same is not true for many other people I know; their participation in a march this weekend may very well be a good use of their time and resources. But it is hard to explain to excited, nervous people that an action that doesn't make sense for me is still a good thing for you to do. My personal set of commitments this weekend is neither a condemnation of everything I'm not doing nor an act of laziness or cowardice on my part. I simply have different jobs to do. That is what teamwork is all about.

It was nice venting about this a little to my stylist K, because she isn't the type to judge anyone else's kind of good. K is her own kind of good. She runs her own salon using less toxic, organic, and environmentally gentle products. She serves clients of many economic classes, within walk/bus/bike distance of less privileged communities, and charges very reasonable fees. On her own time and on her own dime, she rescues dogs and actively supports other organizations and individuals who work tirelessly for animal rights. In her home life, she is an attentive, nurturing mother who makes sure her kids aren't getting catfished on the internet or eating too much sugar.

But K also drinks soda and smokes cigarettes. Because damn, even superheroes need a break!

K didn't pass judgment on me for not trying to attend the March on Washington--because K hadn't even heard of it. She is spending the weekend in Detroit for the TransGender Invasion! Following her heart in this way inspires and supports her children, one of whom is dating a transgender boy.

K is a socially progressive, loving, brave, generous, GOOD woman. And she isn't hung up on being everyone else's kind of good. I want to be more like her--in attitude, not in lifestyle. We are people who don't just tolerate, we celebrate the diversity of human life. And that means honoring our sisters' and brothers' lifestyles and identities and choices without trying to police their conformity to our own.

Raise your hand if you want to be the jerk who goes and tries to tell the trans community of Detroit to cancel their event so they can join the Women's March on Washington like they "should."

Get off my lawn.

K and I talked about the goodness of freedom. Women's empowerment is about freedom and choice--in every realm of our personal lives, not just in crisis situations. K shared a story about how she went to the store dressed in some of her grandmother's vintage clothes, and strangers complimented her. A little girl pointed to her and said, "Look, Mommy, you can tell that lady is classy, because she has a hat on!" (Adorbs!)

Then an older gentleman agreed and commented that "all women should dress that way, like they used to."

K thanked the strangers for their compliments but vehemently disagreed with the gentleman's "should" statement, explaining that "I would never enjoy dressing this way if I were being coerced into it."

Because DUH. Authentic goodness requires the freedom to choose our own adventure, follow our own bliss, and help everyone else to do the same so that our world blooms with color and flavor and happiness and creativity and a healthy, natural division of labor. Who truly doesn't want that?

I don't even want my own daughter to be my mini-me. Of course, I enjoy sharing mutual likes and values with her. But I also enjoy and celebrate the ways in which she is different from me.

Nux tells me herself that she "isn't a book person" like I was (an independent reader at three; a writer of my own picture books by kindergarten). "I'm more of a numbers girl," says the child who counted to ten out loud as an infant in a stroller.

Before anyone gets up my butt about the importance of literacy here, Nux's definition of "a book person" is one who is as obsessed with books as Princess Belle. Nux considers it perfectly normal to read books every day (as we do) and to enjoy writing. She simply considers math to be a greater personal interest. Also, her casual, non-perfectionist attitude about writing gives her school writing assignments an adorable, heartfelt, honest quality that fills my heart with more joy than I could possibly experience if she were to focus her writing activities on advanced technical skill like I did at her age.

Here is the book Nux completed at school last week, followed by transcripts for those of you who don't read the language of Nux. ;)

"It is almost my birthday. Twelve more days to go. It will be so much fun. I will drink hot cocoa with rainbow marshmallows."

"Now just ten more days until my birthday."

"But now I am forgetting about my birthday. Now I am thinking about my loose tooth."

You see, I have a little girl here who is about to turn six and lose her second baby tooth.
She is bright and happy and smart, and I will own that some of that is due to my care and attention as her mother. She is my number one priority.

The Women's March has thousands of people ready to demonstrate.

Nux Gallica has one mommy.

Mommy works for progressive social change every single day of her life, for little pay and with little recognition, and gets to attend one writing conference every year.

Anybody want to ask me again why I'm not marching this weekend?

There is more than one kind of good and more than one kind of should. You do yours, and I'll do mine, and all my love to you.

P.S. This week's blog post is early because I have to get ready for a full and fulfilling weekend! I hope yours is equally blessed with true love and authentic expressions of the goodness in you.

Friday, January 13, 2017

Resistance Is Fertile

Here it comes... The Women's March on Washington happens next weekend! By all accounts, this hastily thrown-together, leaderless riot of women in hand-knitted pussy hats is now better organized, larger, and equipped with a clearer, stronger, more popular political platform than the incoming presidential administration which, if you haven't heard, is trying to pull together a lackluster inauguration the same weekend.

Ooh, the drama!

There is nothing like a real and present danger--an actual, nightmarish, looming monster that has crawled straight out of reality television to threaten the continued existence of democracy--to inspire bold and creative action.

In fiction and in life, conflict drives the story.

This time is ripe for new and bold narratives. What happens next?

If you plan on going to Washington or a local gathering next weekend, all my love and more power to you! And there are other ways to live and breathe in solidarity this month, even for those of us whose marching and sign-holding days are over, and for those of us who communicate most authentically in other ways.

Simply resisting the dominant narrative is a statement in itself. If you simply stay home and take care of yourself, make a child smile, learn how to cook something delicious and healthy, celebrate any part of life that doesn't feed the capitalist machine or give your attention to narcissist celebrity Putin-puppets--you are part of the resistance!

Next weekend, I'll be building community, networking with expert storytellers, and supporting children and families. I will throw a birthday party for my daughter, host my actual neighbors at a gathering completely isolated from political pageantry, attend an all-day writing conference to sharpen my craft and marketing strategies for my feminist narrative work, and volunteer to teach a radical, non-creedal Sunday school class for children about JUSTICE. (Last Sunday, they voluntarily play-acted scenarios of being excluded or bullied and ended class by spontaneously singing the theme song to Iron Man and drawing superhero masks.)

I ain't canceling MY plans for no political shit show.

But if you DON'T have plans and you just wanna join your sisters in fist raising, get on Facebook and ask in any women's networking or activist group who's got a seat on a bus. Grab a pussy hat, get on board, and crash the party. We gain strength with every form of resistance.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Normalizing Feminine Greatness

O Goddesses! The other day, my daughter compared me to Oprah. "Did you know she wrote a book, Mommy? She's an author like you!"


I love that my daughter's heroes are kind, warm, strong, smart women. I'm a little humbled to be counted among them, but I will own that I have cultivated my daughter's perception of feminine greatness on purpose. Instead of attempting the futile task of screening her from everything bad, disappointing, and degrading in the world, I simply fill her awareness with positive role models and normalize them. Last week, my daughter and I watched some beautiful TV moments online--Pretty Yende singing "Una Voce Poco Fa" and Michelle Obama housing homeless vets.

UPDATE: We just went and saw Hidden Figures! "Like Ghostbusters, but real!" said my five-year-old about this film about a team of female scientists. She came home and painted flight trajectories and math equations on a canvas.

And I'm not the only woman in my daughter's life who curates her entertainment and artistic inspirations. My fairy godsisters see what I'm doing, and they sprinkle their own fairy dust on our life.

Yesterday, I went out to my mailbox expecting to find the usual junk mail that I toss into the recycling bin on the way back to the house. But instead, there was all this color and glitter and--I swear--California sunshine and warmth inside there. Sometimes the sparks of energy that you fling out into the universe come back to you like shooting stars on the coldest, darkest day. Sometimes you mail out a bare-assed, sarcastic Christmas card and a friend sends you really nice gifts in return. Sometimes you pay a bucket of money for an artsy magazine subscription and kind of forget about it. And then you open up the mailbox one day and find this.

My little lady was thrilled when she got off the school bus to find such glorious loot on the table--the latest issue of Kazoo Magazine and some girl-power treats from artist friend Leyna. She immediately began identifying the famous women in the coloring book and making some sketches in a glittery gold Moleskine. Naturally.

My daughter is growing up in a home where women and femininity are celebrated in many forms and she knows that she is good and valuable and powerful because of--not in spite of--her femininity. And that makes me feel successful as a mother.

Now I have to work hard on stepping up my career success before my daughter discovers the difference between Oprah and me. ;) Shoot for the stars!