Monday, February 25, 2013


Last year, I had the pleasure of teaching two sisters. K and C are amazing. They are both empathetic, smart-as-whips, and beautiful. They were not in the same class, so I was lucky enough to hear them talk about each other. They often referred to their "sister-bond." Now, I was their teacher, so it's not likely that they were going to air their squabbles to me, but we did spend a lot of time in their classes talking about our feelings. I feel like I know these girls fairly well. And the thing I love the most about them is how supportive of each other they are. They love each other and are proud of each other. I like seeing female relationships that take this tack. Too often it seems we ladies fall into the role of jealous and bickery rivals. The world can add to this competitive feeling in many damaging ways. I enjoyed seeing two sisters throw all that shit aside and revel in their individual and shared accomplishments.

Last Thursday, I drove down to the attraction area with my sister and our daughters to visit our grandparents.* It was great to have some uninterrupted time with my sister. You see, my sister is (my 14 year old self is struggling not to call her the bomb) fucking awesome. She's funny, tall, smart, beautiful, creative, smart, tall, and all around bad-ass. For proof of the tall, beautiful, and bad-ass part see below. This is us at the best New Year's Eve party ever, which she hosts. EVERY YEAR.

Back to Thursday. It was great because although we live near each other, we usually only hang out about once a week because I am a ridiculous home body. When we hang out there are usually tons of equally awesome people, which leads to great discussions and fun times, but not a lot of one-on-one sister time. We had to drive in rush hour traffic from our homes in real Orlando to where our grandparents were staying in Kissimmee, which means lots of time. We talked about art, life, books, the tattoos we will be getting soon (I'm so excited!), feminism, douche-baggery, our awesome brother, and lots of other things I don't remember. But it wouldn't have mattered what we talked about because my awesome, beautiful, intelligent, insightful, hilarious sister made a usually horrible drive wonderful simply by being herself.

Yay for the sister bond. Whether it be between biologically related sisters or non-biologically related sisters. Yay for the relationships in your life that make you happy even when you are doing things you hate the most--like driving. Celebrate the people you love. Celebrate the people who make your world a better place. Celebrate the people who make you want to use way too many adjectives in your writing.

*On an unrelated note, why do all relatives who visit Florida say they are in Orlando when really they are in Kissimmee? It's not the same place.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013


I went running tonight. I haven't been in about a week, which means I felt it. I'm still trying to learn how to run as an adult, and it isn't easy. I keep telling myself that it isn't about the results--I don't care how much I weigh or what I look like--it's about how I feel.

But that's not honest. If I'm being honest, I would have to admit that body image is something I struggle with. It's an old struggle. When I was about 14 or 15, my school, a conservative Christian school, went on a retreat (think camp, but in the middle of the school year). All of the girls were hanging out one evening when one of my friends, J, commented that I had a nice ass, for a white girl, and she was going to teach me to shake it. Now remember, conservative religion, dancing wasn't something I knew a lot about, but who doesn't like to dance? My god, this is sounding like "Footloose" or something.

After 20 minutes or so, my friend laughed and admitted defeat. I might have a nice ass, but I couldn't shake it. "You're just not sexy" seemed to be the consent of the girls, but they all made sure to remind me that I was funny and cute. And this is pretty much what I stuck to through high school. I was funny and smart and, on a rare occasion, pretty or cute, but I never felt sexy.

Fast forward 10 years and my friend, M, asked me if I would take salsa lessons with him. Since my daughter's birth, I had been trying to get back in shape, and salsa seemed like a fun way to begin. We went to the lessons and to my great surprise, I didn't suck. I wasn't great or anything, but I learned quickly, and more importantly, I was having fun. When I moved up to the second and then third group, we started switching partners. This gave me pause. I wasn't nervous dancing with M; he would love me no matter what, but these strangers might judge me based entirely on my shitty dancing skills. I know it's absurd to worry about how well you are dancing at a class teaching you how to dance, but that's what I was doing. M tried to reassure me, but I didn't calm down until a man told me he waited to learn the moves until he was dancing with me. When I asked him why, he very nicely told me because I clearly knew what I was doing. Thanks, friendly man at dance class. After going to class for a few months, I asked the instructor about a move I continually struggled with--it's a move designed to move your hands from one position to another. His response was simple: this move is sexy, and you don't do sexy. Loosen up more. This might shock you, but this advice didn't help me loosen up.

A few months later my schedule changed, so I had to quit taking salsa classes. Since I enjoyed salsa, I started taking ballet at my college. It was a class of about 20 women. The women had a wide range of age, body types, and strengths, but for two hours each week, we came together and learned how to control our bodies. I was learning something new about my body: I liked dance. I liked the way it made my body feel, and although I never deluded myself into thinking I danced amazingly, I did feel like I was improving. One of the last steps we learned in class was the "pas de chat" or step of the cat. One day, I was jumping around feeling silly and fun, when one of my friends made a joke about less stepping more dying "of the cat." It wasn't meant to hurt me, but it did. It didn't matter that moments before I was enjoying myself and my point was not to look attractive, as soon as it was pointed out to me that I was NOT attractive while performing this move, I felt guilty for not being attractive.

So back to the whole running thing. I enjoy running at night. I like it for many reasons, but one of the reasons I like running at night (and I don't like the gym) is because at night people can't see me as easily. I like the anonymity because running makes me feel good in much the same way that dancing does, but just like dancing there are too many judgements involved when someone's gaze (mostly male) falls on me. It's no longer about the activity or the health aspect or even if I feel sexy. It's about how other people perceive my body and its sexiness. As soon as I am visible, my feelings no longer matter, but invisibility isn't good either. I deserve my space on the sidewalk and dance floor, but I can't seem to overcome my own insecurities about my worthiness on these spaces if I'm not running well and looking good. How can I overcome my fear of visibility? Or more importantly, how can I retain my good feelings in the face of a world that does not always agree?

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Love Day

I am a fan of any excuse to give presents. I like birthdays, X-mas, accomplishments, International Waffle Day, and even Valentine's Day; anything to celebrate the people in my life. Some people are easier to buy/make presents for than others, but no matter who the person is, I love an excuse to give. Even as an angsty teenager, I liked Valentine's Day. Don't get me wrong, I complained about not "having" someone; I bitched about the commercialization of every aspect of our lives (which is valid, but CHOCOLATE!). All the while, I secretly loved it. I loved giving my friends flowers and receiving some in return. Hell, I even liked passing out silly notes and being forced to give them to everyone in class. I spent a lot of time thinking of the right way to tell someone I didn't hang out with often that I appreciated him/her.

It's Valentine's Day tomorrow, so I'm going to take a little time out of my day to say how much I love and appreciate my family. As I type this, R is doing the dishes and the kid is dancing with a stuffed animal to the music playing in the background. I love these two people more than I thought possible. I'm an introvert and can easily imagine spending my life contentedly alone. But I would give up almost all of my alone time to go on adventures with them. Okay, not all of it, but a good portion of it, which is still saying something.

Today we grabbed smoothies and wraps and ate supper by lake Baldwin. The clouds were incredible. The kid was silly. The man-friend was handsome. We had a great time roaming around the park, looking at birds, going down by the water and finding secret spots.

After this last picture, we started heading back when the rain started. I followed the kid and R as they ran and laughed and (one of them) shrieked. It was a marvelous way to end the day. Right now, I feel filled all the way to the tippy-top with love.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Learning Skills

Growing up I liked sports: playing them and watching them and arguing about them. I had crazy, curly hair that my mother--who has the straightest, finest hair of any person I have ever met--had no idea how to tame, and I didn't give her much time or help in that endeavor. I liked cowboy boots and comfortable clothing. My family didn't have much money, and as I got older, I decided that I didn't care about clothing and accessories and make-up. Part of it was a coping mechanism--I couldn't afford what the other girls had, so why bother with any of it? The other issue was that being pretty was a bonus, but you were never supposed to try too hard or act like you cared about these things too much. If you did, you were vain, superficial, probably dumb. Girls were somehow, magically, supposed to be flawless seemingly without anytime in front of a mirror. So I ignored style and make-up and everything else I deemed "too girly." And I took away the lesson that I wasn't a pretty girl. I was smart and funny, but not pretty. That wasn't me.

Fast forward 10 years, and you have me today. A grown-up with no idea how to do my make-up or paint my nails, which isn't a bad thing except that I really want to do my nails and wear make-up. And this is where friendship comes in. My friend, L, always has amazingly painted nails, and the thing I love about it is how obvious it is that it is for her. She doesn't paint her nails because she has to; she paints them because she loves it. After commenting a few times on her nails, she generously offered to teach me. Something I always felt intimidated and embarrassed by has become one of my favorite ways to relax. I discovered that my weak, flaky nails hold up better when I paint them regularly. The painful breaking happens less often, and bonus, my nail color occasionally matches the colors in my tattoos.

Nail polish was the tip of the iceberg for me. I decided I was going to embrace the side of me that likes sparkly things and always wants to buy eyeshadow palettes at the drugstore even though I don't know what to do with them. Enter another awesome friend, S--at this point, you are probably thinking I'm just rubbing in how many awesome friends I have, but that's not the point...or at least not the whole point. S is great at make-up. Sometimes her make-up is subtle. I can't even pinpoint what she has done or if she is wearing it at all, but she looks fabulous. Other times her make-up is funky, or sexy, or loud, but it always works for her. On Friday, I went over to her house, and she taught me how to do my make-up. Because she is great, and fun, and smart. I didn't even have to ask. She called me up and told me to come over because we were going to have a fun time playing with make-up. She broke it down for me in terms of painting, which is something I can understand. She taught me something I really wanted to learn, and she helped me overcome an old lesson.

Growing up I felt a lot of pressure: to look a certain way, to know a certain skill-set, to care about certain things. I rebelled against the gender pigeon-holing which I found to be stifling, but I didn't leave room in my rebellion for the other side. The side that embraced these things without embracing the misogyny. The side that liked nail polish, clothes, and make-up AND liked football, climbing trees, and science. Through my friends' know-how and their support, I am learning to embrace all the sides of me instead of belittling the parts that teenager-me found "too girly," while secretly longing to know more about them. I'm learning that pigeon-holing oneself in response to outside pressure is as bad as bowing to that pressure. I'm learning that I can be pretty, smart, funny, or almost any other adjective I wish--except tall, I'm never going to be tall.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Ode to Grapefruit

When I was a kid, my mom would peel grapefruit for us. She would take the outer-skin off, but she would also peel the pith away from the juice vesicles--the pulpy bits that hold the juice. This is a visceral memory for me. I can see her hand--palm down, fingers cupping the fruit--dripping juice as she passed each bit to one of us kids--my siblings and whatever cousins were around--or my dad. I can see her throat when she would lean her head back and eat one of the sections herself. She would put the peelings in a bowl on her lap, which a towel would cover. After peeling a few grapefruits, she tossed the peels to the chickens or on her hardier plants. She only did this with grapefruit. With oranges, she would roll them on a hard surface, put her thumb through the peeling, and suck the juice out, or occasionally, she would slice them for us, but grapefruits were special. Always special. My dad is the only person in the family that I can recall eating a grapefruit any other way. He would peel it with his knife and eat it like an apple if we were outside, or slice it in half and add a little salt if we were inside. Everyone else would wait until Mommy felt like having grapefruit.

For a long time, I couldn't figure out my mom's technique. Every time I would try to peel away the delicate liths--the skin that makes the segments--I would end up bruising the fruit and end up with a soggy mess. It was still good; it just wasn't magical. It turns out her technique is patience and practice.

Grapefruits are my favorite citrus, and I haven't had any good white grapefruit yet this season. White grapefruit can be hard to find in grocery stores. Most sell the pink kind, but I have always been partial to the white grapefruit. It's smaller, and a little more sour, and it's what we always had growing up. This last weekend at the market at Lake Eola, I bought a big bag of white grapefruit. Tonight, I peeled two grapefruits. The kid saw the towel and bowl laid out near me, and probably asked five times if I were going to peel grapefruits tonight. The grapefruits are delicious, just like the older man who sold them to me promised; my hands smell wonderful; and my little one is perched on the arm of my chair like nothing so much as a baby bird or me as a child waiting for the wonderful fruit. If I were Pablo Neruda, or a poet at all, I would write an ode to peeling grapefruit, but since I'm not, I'll blog about it. That's nearly as good, right?

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Running - 2

I usually run at night. My partner, R, runs in the morning because I like to sleep as long as I can. I like my night runs. At night, the world is quiet. It's cooler, which is great for me--a medication I take makes me extremely susceptible to the heat. Beyond all of that, I just like nighttime. While I run, I listen to audio books. Right now, it's Duma Key by Stephen King. I feel like it makes me run faster because it's scary, but that's probably wishful thinking.

This week has been hard. I've had two severe headaches, so my running has been mediocre at best. However, the nights have been beautiful.

The moon was full, and it was gorgeous. It made me wish I had my good camera rather than my phone camera, but trying to run with a camera wouldn't work.

After my run I like to cool down outside. I'm lucky enough to have a Banana Hammock made by my good friend, B. These hammocks are great because they can be hung anywhere. It's revolutionized my cool down. I can combine two of my loves--reading and hammocking. It might be fair to say that I run so I don't have to feel guilty about spending my evenings reading in my bright pink hammock.

P.S. I am in no way affiliated with Banana Hammock Republic. B's product is amazing, and it makes my life better.

P.P.S. How cool is Florida? It's January, and I'm relaxing outside in shorts and a hammock.