One Super Girl at a Time

The other day a friend stopped by with her two daughters in tow, all bright smiles and freckle-faced freshness. Her older girl, bordering on middle school, smiled and gave me a sticker which, I was told, she’d been keeping for me because she thought I’d like it.

Sweet, right?

Look, I scream and use a lot of four letter words. I rage and sometimes but not always fantasize about pulling lighting crackling down from the sky. Some days I put on my pointy witch hat and sweep away the bullshit. But when it comes to kids, I’m kind of a marshmallow, so of course I was touched.

I put it on my laptop, which is home to a selection of sticky slogans, and the more I thought about it, the sappier I got–and not just because I’m probably going to get one of those freak, out-of-nowhere periods that seem to happen when you’re in your late 40s.

I got a little misty because it’s working.

What I do, the way I live my life, the attention I pay to detail, what I speak about, how I talk to girls and boys, the screaming, the shouting, the listening, all of it. It’s working. Because here was this bordering on middle-school girl, half-way down the path to young woman, a girl who is going to, probably sooner rather than later, face the inevitable: comments about her body, catcalls from men who should know and act better, someone, somewhere dropping a comment about her being just a girl–or crying like one, throwing like one, acting like one–as if any of those are inherently bad. She is a girl, which means she’ll pick up on clues from folks who think she’s not worth as much as a boy. She’ll overhear a conversation between boys she knows talking smack about another girl’s body. She’ll overhear a conversation between girls she knows doing the same.

And along comes a sticker, and I thought that seed is planted. It’s buried now, deep down. And it will take root and it will blossom.

Because you see, now she knows she doesn’t need Superman. She doesn’t need Supergirl. Because she is her own super-girl.

I nearly whooped with joy.

My own boys know what I’m like and what’s important to me. But they’re mine. I’m the chief baker and molder of their environment cookie dough. I have been since they were cooing and ga-ga-ing in their Baby Einstein Exersaucer and every day since. But other people’s kids? It’s a pretty great feeling to know that a tweenage girl could see an image, an image evoking female strength and independence, and think of me.

Sweet, right? And I don’t mean in the sugar and spice sense there, I mean in the long drawn out sweeeeeetttt sense.

I think–and hope!– that through these pages, through my actions, my love and respect for my sons is evident. But there are times when I live vicariously through my friends’ daughters, not so much to fill a gap in my heart, but to get a pulse on today’s girls and what they are like. Once I had a conversation with two friends about the things I miss out on being the mother of  only sons.

“I’ll never get to share that first period moment!” I lamented.

They thought I was crazy, but I kind of meant it. Let’s face it, the first nocturnal emission just doesn’t seem to have the same rite of passage feel about it. And to be honest, it’s not something they’ll likely tell me, although if they do, perhaps we’ll share a ritual passing over of the tissue box, who knows.

So my friends message me when a daughter does something they think I will like or find amusing or just kick-ass.

C called out her tennis coach when the medal she got only featured a boy;
R does a fist pump and says “Smash the Patriarchy” when I see her;
E regularly tells boys they aren’t allowed to touch her without her permission;
Another R writes essays and challenges gender stereotypes in her high school hallways; and
S saw a sticker of Supergirl rescuing Superman and thought of me.

These girls are being raised by strong women. Whenever I get a text or a message–or a sticker–I think, if I had a daughter, I’d want her to be just like yours, or yours, or yours. All of them different, but strong in their own ways. All of them Super girls.

And I feel, just for a moment, just for a split second, like I got to play some tiny part in that, like I get to change the world just a little bit.

One super girl at a time.

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America is a Gun

No one needs an assault rifle. Or a semi-automatic rifle. Or whatever the semantic difference is that people think is important and is really not because that’s not the point.

No one needs an AR-15 to defend themselves.

No one needs to open carry a semi-automatic weapon.

No one needs one to protect themselves from whatever Boogeyman the government is shilling that day.

No one needs one to protect their land from gophers.

No one needs one to protect themselves against government tyranny because if the government’s got you surrounded at that point, sweetie, you are up the proverbial creek and all your AR-15 is going to be good for is paddling.

No one needs one for shooting deer. Or rabbits. Or grouse. Or clay pigeons.

No one needs to keep one in their back seat in case there’s an alien invasion on I-95.

No one needs an AR-15.

People want them. That’s the difference.

People want them because they’re “fun”, because it’s enjoyable to use them for target practice, or as I saw one person write, blowing charcoal briquettes to bits on a long, dusty road.

People want them because the NRA tells them that they might not be able to get one soon.

People want them because goddamn it, no one can tell them what they can or cannot have. (As the argument goes, if we start calling guns ‘uterus’, then we’ll be able to successfully regulate the shit out of them).

People want them because they fear over-reaching government.

People want them because they believe that because they are responsible, others will be too.

People want them because they believe in the absolute of a sentence written 250 years ago.

Here is my question: At what point in the evolution of society do individuals look at on the daily carnage (18 school shootings in the first 45 days of 2018. 28 mass shootings in the first 45 days of 2018) and say: I am going to rethink my enjoyment of target shooting with (fill in the correct semantic) weapon because it’s important for me to contribute to the well-being of society as a whole?

At what point does the individual say: Hey, I can protect myself and my family, I can hunt and target shoot, defend myself with the myriad of other weapons out there, and as much as I may WANT a semi-automatic, I can see that they are responsible for a lot of that daily carnage. In fact, between the years of 1994 and 2004 when there was a ban on assault weapons, I managed to do just that. And so, for the greater good, I’m going to push for a ban on those weapons of carnage. Even though it means I personally might lose out on my enjoyment, or my want.

At what point does the individual say: I can see that the other factors always listed in these instances–mental health, criminal activity, intent to do harm, that those things do not exist in a vacuum. Other countries experience violent crime, but nowhere close to the gun violence ripping through the United States, on a weekly, daily, hourly basis.

At what point does the individual say: Enough, my tenuous and questionable right to own a weapon meant for quick and efficient killing of other human beings (and let’s not fool ourselves, it wasn’t created to shoot clay pigeons or those human shaped targets with concentric circles they like to show on CSI–it was created to efficiently kill human beings) is stripping away the fundamental right to life of other human beings. Other human beings with whom I must share the planet, the country, the city, the school with.

At what point does the individual say: Why should my questionable right (and indeed, it depends on which way the Supreme Court wind is blowing that decision) to own, collect, or use an assault weapon come above the rights of 365 million other Americans–the rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

I guess I’m asking, in my typically long-winded way, is at what point do we rise, as a whole and agree that there must be, in any evolved society, a hierarchy of rights. And where are we, as a whole, as a nation, if we cannot agree that the rights of children to grow into adults, for spouses to grow into retirement, for colleagues and others to live to their full potential–the right of all of us as citizens to walk, as protected as we can possibly be, through a life unmarked by violence– comes above someone else’s ‘because I can’?

I know there are going to be folks that read this and immediately defend 2nd Amendment rights. I’m not advocating for the confiscation of all guns. I am absolutely advocating for a ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines. I am arguing and advocating for clear and sensible gun regulations, safety and responsibility. We can and should wrap into this conversation issues surrounding access to health care, including mental health. But please, if you are going to advocate for mental health changes, give me a detailed plan. What, when, how, who’s going to pay for it? Because while a ban on assault rifles, like the one in the decade between 1994 and 2004 will help, a lot, it won’t solve the problem of why so many American boys and men (statistically speaking, almost ALL) feel entitled to take out their rage on others. Let’s figure out why. But in the meantime, let’s not give them an easier way to do it.

Here Lies Dina, She Was Rarely At a Loss for Words

So there it was, at the top of my stats page, the number of posts which have appeared on Wine and Cheese (Doodles). The last one, about my son’s extreme origami frustration was number 499.

Which makes this one…500.

That’s a lot of posts. Like, seriously a lot of posts. Now, full disclosure, some of those have been re-blogs of old posts, especially during the summer months when everything slows down to a hot climate pace. One was a post I ran from a source who wished to remain anonymous, but we’re still looking at a hell of a lot of ideas, passionate pleas, complaints…and words–some of them four letter.

My posts average about 800 words. That means that, even conservatively, we’re looking at between 350 and 400 THOUSAND words.

Damn.

For comparison:

The word count of The Hobbit is 95, 356
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix? 257,045
A Game of Thrones: 298,000
Even 500 posts later, I’m still well under Infinite Jest at 483,994. Which is just fine by me.
Consider also: The average first time novel is around 80,000 words.
That means there are nearly four novels worth of words about parenting, living abroad, sex, marriage, kids, feminism, politics floating around here.**

I have, beyond my wildest intentions, achieved my objective. I’ve amassed a body of work. It’s a body which sometimes resembles Frankenstein’s monster, stitched together higgeldy-piggeldy, but it’s my monster. Some of it has even been pretty damn popular.

Nine Expats You’ll Meet Abroad has been viewed about 75K times
Four Expats and a Funeral, approximately 30K times
The Revolution will be Uterized a little over 20K times

Plenty of others have been viewed (and hopefully read) between five and ten thousand times. Not bad for a middle-aged woman sitting behind a desk who doesn’t like to shill her stuff too much.

Some posts have been singled out by the powers-that-be at WordPress over the years. When Freshly Pressed was still a thing, three of my posts were chosen by editors.

Ladies Who Lunch
The Elephant in the Room, and
Love Poems are a Dime a Dozen

Since then WordPress has switched over to their Discover feature and the blog’s been singled out twice:

A Proportional Response, and
Sorry I’ve Been a Shitty Friend: A Multiple Choice Letter

WordPress claims it has 75 million blogs.
Not bad.
Not bad at all.

After five years and 500 posts, I’m still none the wiser. I can never tell which posts will resonate. There have been some I’ve loved that have sunk faster than a stone, like If You Told Me I’d Be Quoting Kenny Rogers and the more recent The War on Christmas. There have been others, personal favorites, like What It Feels Like For a Girl or Nine Expats You’ll Meet in a Galaxy Far Far Away or which, for whatever reason, haven’t done as well as I would have thought.

I’ve done poetic, I’ve done heart-felt, I’ve done satire. I’ve done funny, serious, sad. I’ve done marriage, parenting, siblings, sex, politics, women, men, rage, writing, feminism, race, history, movies, obituaries. There aren’t too many questions I see posed these days where I feel I don’t have a blog post which addresses or answers it. There are times I don’t even comment anymore, but just leave a link to an old blog post. Those posts usually capture my feelings about any given subject with more nuance than I can manage in a comment box or a 140 character tweet.

I’ve had a multitude of pieces run on other sites like Bust Magazine and Scary Mommy…(really, there have been too many to list here, but hey, there’s this: Publications)

Basically, I’ve done what I set out to do. Actually, I’ve probably tripled what I set out to do. And I’ve done it all on my own terms, organically, without advertising, or following just for follow backs. I have a limited amount of time on this mortal coil. If I follow your blog, it’s because I like what you have to say. If I interact with you, it means it’s because I appreciate you. If you’ve reached out to me and I haven’t gotten back, it means it’s gotten lost in the shuffle of a middle-aged mind.

I’m pretty proud of this body of work, the heart that’s gone into most of it, the calloused fingers, the numb ass.

So here we are:
5 years.
500 posts.
400,000 words.

What the hell do I do now???

All suggestions welcome.

Love,
Me

**Fwiw, this isn’t including the number of words in the actual novel I wrote. Or the one I’m writing now. Or the even higher number of words edited out.

I suppose then if, upon my headstone, it read: Here Lies Dina, She Was Rarely At a Loss For Words, I’d be just fine with that.

 

 

The One in Which My Son Attempts Origami Jujitsu and I Learn a Lesson

I spend a lot of time reminding my children to do things. Shut doors. Flush toilets. Turn socks the right way out before they go in the laundry. Brush teeth. Make good choices. Be kind.

Kindness costs nothing, I say.
To treat others with kindness, I say.
Be kind, I say.

And on an on.

The other day I was sitting with the ten year-old, he of the high anxiety and high self-expectation. He was attempting some ridiculously complicated advanced origami witchcraft. And, as usual, he was being incredibly hard on himself. There he was, frustrated to the point of near tears over this ridiculously stupidly complicated origami voodoo contraption that he couldn’t master on the first go–because you know, it wasn’t good enough to start with the origami equivalent of “is this your card?”.  No, it had to be some jujitsu paper engineering feat with moving parts. Whatever.

It suddenly became painfully clear I’d neglected something crucial in my kindness reminders.

I’ve forgotten to remind my son to be kind to himself.

Be kind. We teach it. We preach it. We speech it. We cross-stitch it on sweet needlepoint circle things. We put it on posters with cute otters. We repeat it, endlessly. Be kind.

But how often do we remember to teach the necessity of including yourself in the group you’re being kind to?

Be kind to the new kid, the awkward kid, the one who sits alone at lunch.
Be kind to the asshat who is not so kind to you, to the teacher, to old people crossing the street, to dogs, to frogs, to the environment.
Be kind, be kind, be kind.

We keep forgetting be kind to yourself.

Would you be so hard on someone else who couldn’t do this folding wizardry on the first go, I asked him? If a friend was trying to do something, even something easy, let alone an origami self-perpetuating motion machine, would you make fun of them? Would you tell them they were crap? Would you make them feel bad about themselves?

So why would you do that to yourself? I asked him. You need to be kind, not just to others, I told him, but to yourself too.

Cut yourself some slack, boy. Give yourself a break, son. Understand you’re not going to be a Jedi origami master when you’re still a paper padawan.

Did Luke give up and go home to Tattooine when Yoda was riding his ass? No.
Did Rey leave the rock in the middle of nowhere when she didn’t master the force right away? No.
Was there any real reason to bring Star Wars into this?
Correct answer: there is always room for Star Wars references.

I’ve spent so much time teaching and preaching kindness, but I forgot to teach him to be kind to himself.

There was no ice cream this time. But together we mastered the origami force. Or really he did while I sat next to him and reminded him to go easy on himself. And the ridiculously complicated paper engineering feat with moving parts worked. And he celebrated by making sixteen more and now my house is filled with them.

Be kind. Absolutely.

But don’t forget to be kind to you while you’re bending over backward to be nice to everyone else.

I may not be an origami Jedi, or even a paper padawan. But I’m getting pretty dang good at learning what this ten year old is teaching me.