This is why I can’t read the news…

Content note: violence against children, rape, racism, Trayvon updates

So the other day I was just chillin’ at the Einstein’s, killing time.  And there was a newspaper.  And I thought to myself, “Hey, self, we haven’t read a newspaper in forever – let’s pick up this here front page section and see what’s going on in the world!”

So I start flipping idly through it, and the first thing I come across is… a story about the testimony a mother is preparing to give about the incident when she saw her two sons shot dead right in front of her outside of a bar.  It described how the boys – age 20 and 22, if I recall correctly – were trying to run as they were gunned down.  How their killer fired even more shots into their dying bodies as their mother watched.  How he then pointed the gun at her and said something to the effect of “you want some too, bitch?”  It described how his lawyer thought he might get away with it due to the Stand Your Ground defense.

I almost burst into tears.  I almost threw up.  I had to walk away and go shake in the corner for a few minutes, hoping no one would notice. 

Apparently since I became a mom, I am hyper-sensitive to children being harmed – like, to the point where I can’t even watch or read fictional descriptions of it.  Apparently this also extends to adult “children” when told from the POV of their mother.  The thought of something happening to my daughter, of being there and seeing it and being helpless to stop it… it’s absolutely the worst thing I could imagine.  I can’t even imagine an “after” of something like that; it would end my world.  So for a while there I was good for nothing but taking deep breaths and hugging my baby (who wasn’t sure why she was suddenly being squeezed tight, and wasn’t sure if she liked this new development…)

Eventually I went back to the paper.  Turning the page, there was a story about a serial rapist who may be set free soon.  At this point I said “check, please” and turned to the damn comics instead.

………………………………………………………………………….

…speaking of the Stand Your Ground law, this happened.  George Zimmerman’s brother got butthurt that someone called his racist murderous brother a racist murderer.

…Ok, to be fair, I see where he’s coming from.  I, too, love my brother.  Love him to death.  If he were ever accused of doing something horrible, I would believe with every fiber of my  being that he was innocent, and I too would happily ignore any evidence to the contrary.  I would fight for him like a mama bear.

But, dude?  A kid is dead.  He’s dead because of your brother’s actions.  Even if you think he was perfectly justified at the time in taking those actions, the kid is still dead.  Trayvon Martin is still dead, his family still grieves, and your brother made that happen.

Now may not be the time to engage in attacking people because “he’s totally not racist, I swear!”  Makes people think you don’t care about the child shot dead for no reason.

So no shit there I was.

So no shit there I was.  Downtown Orlando, driving my friend S to an appointment.  In the back of the car, I had my infant daughter.  What I did not have, notably, was my cell phone.  Nor any money worth speaking of.

We stopped at a stop light, like ya do.  When the light turned green, I stepped on the gas pedal.

And nothing happened.

So I tried to restart the car.

And nothing continued to happen.

So about this time, S jumps out of the car and begins pushing it into a nearby parking lot.  Out of nowhere, a guy shows up – in the middle of heavy downtown traffic! – and begins pushing with him.  Once there, S has to take off – he has to get to this appt, and it’s only a few blocks away by this point.  Su and I head inside to the pet store, hoping to gain use of a pity-phone.  (At this point it begins to dawn on me that I know tons and tons of people who can help me out – and their numbers are all in my cell phone, which is charging merrily away back at the house.)

Fast-forward an hour.  I have secured a tow truck from my insurance company and my father is on his way to give S and Su a ride back to my house (tow trucks being notoriously lacking in places to secure a baby seat.)  I don’t like calling Dad, since he lives in another city, but as his is one of two numbers I actually know by heart, I don’t have a lot of choice.  (For the record, the other number is Spouse-Man’s.  As was later relayed to me, Spouse-Man was taking a nap, but left his phone on just in case I had to call him.  Imagine his frustration at receiving 5 calls from an unknown pet store number!  “Shut up,” he growled at the phone, “you’re only on in the first place in case my wife calls!”)

So.  Dad gets there.  The tow truck gets there.  Dad picks up S, packs Su into his car, and we’re waiting to see if a jump will get me home or if it’ll have to be towed.  And – wonder of wonders – the jump works!  Yaaay!  So the tow truck driver goes on his merry way and we head off home.

I stop at a stop light to turn onto the street that will take us home.  When the light changes, I push the gas pedal.

And nothing happens.

Again with the pushing.  At this point I find jumper cables and Dad jumps the car.  We limp a little further home before it dies yet again, this time in front of the Orlando Science Center.  A trio of picturesque guys doing – freerunning?  breakdancing?  something physical and attractive – in the park run over to help S push the car to a safe place where it can be jumped again.  Finally, finally, we get home.  Once there, I call the insurance company back, let them know what’s happened, and get them to send the tow truck out again.  They take it to the nearest mechanic, getting there after they’ve closed for the night.

This was Thursday.

Friday, I spent the day talking to the mechanic.  Finally, by the very end of they day, they call me back.  The car is fine – the battery was simply completely drained.  And since it’s a newer car, with a computer system, it does need a certain amount of battery power just to keep it running.  They put in a new battery, no fuss no muss, I could go get it.  My ex-roommate’s ex-girlfriend (it’s… complicated) gave me a ride, and I brought it home.  Yay!

Then this morning, I went to the car to go to Spouse-Man’s restaurant for breakfast.  Went to start the car.

And nothing goddamn happened!!!

…called the mechanic again, while walking to the damn restaurant.  They sent guys to the restaurant, to pick up my keys, then to the house to jump the car and bring it back to the shop.  Got it back this afternoon – apparently although the alternator was putting out the right amount of charge, the diodes inside were busted, which meant for all the charge it’s giving the battery, it’s also draining the battery!  So yeah… also needed a new alternator.

And… this is an experience that I kinda feel like I ought to be pissing and moaning about, but… the emotion I’m getting most strongly?  Gratitude.  I kinda feel like I want to thank a whole lot of people.

I want to thank S for never once making me feel bad for inconveniencing him – even though I totally did.  I know he didn’t want to be doing physical labor under the hot Florida sun in a dress shirt and slacks.  I know he could have been kept from this appointment if it hadn’t happened to break down so close.  I know he wasn’t happy about being essentially stranded, no way to contact me or anyone, no way of knowing if someone was coming to get him or if he was SOL.  But instead of getting upset at being put in a bad situation – which I would totally have understood if he had, cuz yeah – he treated it as a “we’re in this together, let’s just focus on getting it solved.”  I appreciated that.

I want to thank the guy in traffic and the freerunners in the park for pitching in unasked.  No one had to explain the situation or flag them down or convince th to help – they just saw a guy pushing a car out of the road, and without even asking questions ran over and lent their strength to the effort.  It was a minor thing – a minute or two out of their day – but it took some of the strain off of S’s back and shoulders, lessened the amount of time people behind us in traffic were inconvenienced, and generally reinforced the message that the world, all in all, is still more benevolent than otherwise.  That’s a lot of positive effect.

I want to thank the cashiers and manager at PetSmart who not only let me use a phone, but helped me figure out how to give the best directions to the place, helped entertain Su while I was busy on the phone, and generally made me feel like I wasn’t an imposition at all, but someone they genuinely wanted to help.  I took up their phone and a cash register area for the better part of an hour, but no one acted impatient or asked if I was leaving yet – just expressed concern and made sure I would be ok.

I want to thank my dad for driving down to Orlando on a moment’s notice, even though it’s very much out of his way and even though he had a class to prepare for that night.  I honestly do not know what I would have done without him being there; every alternate “what if?” scenario I can think of ends with me blocking traffic during rush hour, dependent on the kindness of strangers to even get out of the road, with an overheating baby in the back seat whom I still couldn’t get home even if the tow truck came right back out.

I want to thank the folks over at Geico.  Seriously, whenever I’m asked to give an example of customer service done right, I talk about the times I’ve called in to Geico.  Their phone menu is easy to navigate; if I DO make a mistake I get transferred, cheerfully and politely, to the right department, everyone is always helpful and patient and informative and honestly trying to make my day better, not worse.  You’d think that would be the standard for customer service, but so often it’s not – Geico gets it right, and I really appreciated it.

I want to thank the guys over at Advanced Automotive Works.  They really did impress me.  First of all, they explained what was happening and why, clearly and patiently, neither condescending nor talking over my head.  There’s a lot of mechanics that would not do that, especially as I’m a woman who obviously knows nothing about cars.  On that same note, while they did let me know what else needed to be worked on in the car, as well as how vital each issue was, there was no attempt to pressure me into getting it done or to push services on me that I didn’t want or need.  And when I called them this morning, he reacted immediately, sending his own folks out to get the car, even detouring out of the way to meet me at the restaurant instead of making me meet them at the house.  They stayed late – they usually close at two, but they said they’d stay as late as they needed to to get the car fixed and back to me.  On top of that, they piled two discounts on top of each other to kep me from having to pay too much.

And finally I want to thank Spouse-Man, who took one look at me and S, saw that we were exhausted, and immediately took over baby- and dinner-related chores so that I could just collapse into a chair and slip into semi-consciousness.

…Geez, I’m starting to sound like I just won an Academy Award.  And… the argument could be made that nobody really went above and beyond here.   (Well, maybe my dad.)  Companies should treat their customers professionally and courteously.  People should pitch in when they see someone in trouble, especially when it’s not going to take up more than a minute or two of their time.  We should be able to expect that family and friends will be supportive when things go wrong that are beyond anyone’s control.

I guess why I’m so surprised, so gratified, is  that we don’t expect it.  Whether through experience or just being told, we’ve internalized this idea that the world is a harsh place, where people are only out for themselves.  That we should just expect to find mean-spiritedness, pettiness, bureaucratic obstruction, stupidity, apathy, and just sheer bloody-mindedness at every turn.   Well… I didn’t.  I didn’t find heroes; I didn’t have to.  Just a whole bunch of people being quietly competent, being civilized, being kind.  For one weekend, the world worked the way it should work, and it turned what could have been a nightmare into something that was, not fun, but not really terrible either.

It’s a good thing to remember.  Making the world nicer for everyone doesn’t always take huge heroic efforts; sometimes it’s just small moments of being a decent human being that make all the difference.

Randomly…

So… I’m finding that I occasionally find it hard to post, not because I don’t have a topic in mind, but because I’m not sure if the topic I have fits with the “theme” of the blog. ‘Cuz blogs have to have a theme, right? All the blog-writing-advice websites say so. And so far the theme seems to be parenting as it applies to social issues, or social issues as they apply to parenting, one or the other. So I find myself searching for ways to connect, however tenuously, my social issue of the hour to how it affects my daughter, and my latest baby-news to some sort of political or philosophical statement, and sometimes it just doesn’t work. (Not to mention sometimes I just want to write out my thoughts on something completely unrelated to either.)

So. I’m not doing that anymore. Yes, feminist-parenting is still the overarching theme of this blog, but dammit, not everything can be political and not everything can be baby-related and sometimes it’s ok to be neither.

(Not that I think this really matters, ‘cuz I’m pretty sure I have, like, a reader, but at least I have now formally given myself permission to post more often and hopefully that’ll lend itself to getting more readers. Maybe? Perhaps?)

This was cute and it is late so you get it, so there.

1. State your name: Jennifer Christine, aka Kristy
2. State the name that your parents almost named you: Siobhan; Mary-Michael
3. Which of your relatives do you get along with the most? my mom and/or my dad, depending on the situation
5. Did anything embarrassing happen this week?  lessee… I managed to  not only get my ass thoroughly beat 3x in a row at racquetball, I also “caught”  a ball, full speed at close range, with my soft vulnerable midsection… that was kinda embarrassing
6. Do you miss your ex?  Ehhh… I see him online sometimes, and it’s always nice to talk to him, but we’re both different people now… I miss him in that mildly bittersweet way you miss any old friend.
7. White chocolate or dark chocolate? yes please, both or either!  (I cannot be a chocolate snob.  I’ve tried.  White, milk, or dark, it’s all lovely in different ways.)
8. Do people praise you for your looks? sometimes, but never in “normal” ways.  It’s never “hey baby you so hot,” it’s “wow you have a great smile” (for example)
9. What is your favorite color of clothing to wear? currently developing the teal-love.  Also I oddly adore pink, probably because I hated it for most of my childhood.  Also recently discovered that I’m one of maybe 7 white girls on the planet who can rock the color yellow.  Flaunting this accordingly.
10. How do you wear your makeup? rarely and lightly
11. What are some of your nicknames? …I call myself “Griff,” does that count?
12. How many bedrooms are in your house? 3
13. How many bathrooms? 2
14. Do you have a job? not currently
15. Do you have a car? yes
16. Do you work out every week? …does racquetball count as working out?  If so… well, still no, but closer to yes!!  (in my defense – baby!)
18. Have you ever kissed someone you never saw again? yup
19. Have you ever sung in front of a crowd?  hell yes – caught the bug as a small child and haven’t lost it yet
20. What kind of bathing suit do you wear? either one that covers everything, or nothing at all.  There is no in-between. 
21. Do you like your eyes? I do!  They change colors depending on my mood, the day, the lighting, and the clothes I wear – it’s pretty awesome.
22. Do you think you are pretty? damn straight I do
23. Who was the last person you talked to in person? Shaun
24. How much money is in your account? lol like none
25. Are you single? no
26. Do you want kids? i damn well better, as this is a mommy blog 😉
27. Tell me what your backpack looks like: …blue?  srsly, what the hell kind of question is this??
28. What celebrity do you think is hot? The guy who plays Hardison from Leverage has the most amazing eyes that I could just fall into…
29. Last movie you saw in theaters: The Avengers…. I think?
30. Are you dating the same person you dated last year? kinda married
31. Has someone you were dating ever cheated on you? …soooorta?  and that’s how I found out I’m polyamorous, because my immediate reaction to the confession was the relief of “oh, that’s all?  I thought it was something serious!”
32. Have you ever cheated?  not… really?  my life is complicated…
33: Have you kissed someone whose name starts with a ‘J’? yes
34: What doyou like to do in your spare time? futz about online

….ok, where did 4 and 17 go????

Birthday presents and gender roles

So.  Coming up in the not-so-distant future is my goddaughter’s third birthday.  YAAAY!!! 

I swear, I never imagined shopping for a birthday present – for a 3-year-old, of all things! – would be so fraught with politics.  I blame the feminist blogs.  (…I don’t really.  I LIKE the feminist blogs, they make me think.  And possibly over-think.)

So here’s the conundrum.  I do not like the idea of “gendered” toys.  I highly, highly dislike the idea that we should be prescribing “proper” gender behavior by giving little boys toys that deal with building and science and sports and war, and giving little girls toys about fashion and cooking and make-your-own-makeup and glitter.  I dislike that little boys can access every color of the rainbow, while a little girl’s toy must come in pre-approved shades of pink, purple, and white.  (Not even joking.  It was the exact same toy – I checked.  The boy version came in every color.  The “girl” version came in those three, and those three only.  That was the only difference.)  And Godbaby’s mother agrees, and also incidentally hates the color pink.  (I actually like pink, in certain shades and in the right proportions.  However, I think that’s directly linked to the fact that I wasn’t inundated with it at a young age – otherwise I’d probably despise it.)

But on the other hand…

As if to prove that children are their own person (people?  Whatever), Godbaby loves the color pink.  And princesses (especially the Disney variety.)  And all things uber-girly.

Soooo… what do I do?  Do I stick to my guns and give her a present that’ll broaden her horizons and cause her to think outside the box, even if it’s not what she would have chosen?  Or do I stick to my guns and respect her choices even though I don’t like them and give her a girly-girl present that I hate buying for her?

In the end, we compromised.  We got one big present – an age-appropriate marble-maze set, where you build your own essentially roller coaster-type track to shoot marbles down.  I don’t care who you are, that’s cool.  Hell, I’d play with that NOW, nevermind that the age recommendations are 3-5 years.

And then we got her a shiny purple-and-green Tiana princess tiara, so that she can play dress-up.

If I had to make a prediction, I’d predict this.  The tiara will go over far better, at least at first.  (And honestly, it’s a pretty cool tiara, and Tiana is my favorite “princess.”  And it’d be pretty hypocritical of me to begrudge her a love of shiny things – lord knows I can be swayed by a pair of dangly sparkly earrings even today.)  But in the days and months and years to come, I’m betting she’ll wind up playing with the marble run more and more often.

Or maybe not.  Maybe she really will have no interest in it, and will always prefer the world of pink glittery girly fashion.  That’s a valid choice and if she does go that route in the end, I’ll still think she’s the bee’s knees, because she is.  But it won’t be because no other options were ever offered or supported.

(…But we still got the marble run in the full-color “boy’s” version, rather than the pink-purple-white “girl’s” version.  The boy’s one still had pink in it.  It just also had all the other colors.)