If Only the Pensive was Real

There is something so beautiful to me about garden tools and plaid.

I tend to hide it, but in general I’m an incredibly nostalgic person.  It helps when you write poetry and stuff.  Because I’m so macho I have a hard time conveying actual feelings, though, but I am trying to get better.  So here goes nothing.
The neighbors were probably rolling their eyes at me as I eagerly began taking pictures of my shirt and hoe.  (Yes, I know they watch me from their porch – they’ve remarked to my mother that my siblings and I provide endless entertainment in our backyard over the years.)
It reminds me of farming.  I’ve been gardening for years now, but January – May of last year I worked in Louisiana on a real, live organic farm, a huge dream of mine ever since I can remember.  Flannel and farm tools were prominent images during that time.  When I saw my little accidental sculpture, I felt sad.  It was a good time that I’ll never have again.
That’s the problem with basically everything about my travel adventures.  I’m left with the most beautiful memories of people, places, times, and events, but it’s so hard to realize that no matter what I do, it will never be like that again.  If I go back to the place, the same people won’t be there.  The same things won’t happen.  I won’t have the same feeling, I’ll have a different feeling.  There will never be any of that anymore.  It happened and that’s it – I’m left wondering if it ever did, and what happened to take me away from those things happening.  I’m left longing to hold on to all of it – searching desperately to taste the full moment at least one more time.  My memories are so entirely vivid… but so entirely vague.
Dumbledore had his pensive.  I’ve seriously always wanted a pensive.  I think it was the best part of the whole Harry Potter series.  Way better than a time machine.
I have to not think of memories in terms of “dammit, they will never happen again.”  No.  Memories are gifts.  Imagine if God decided it was silly for us to have emotional memories.  Yeah, we could remember stuff, but not really remember anything but the basic facts about it.  Things like music and smells and sometimes visuals take us right back to specific times in our lives and all the images and feelings come flooding back.  But imagine if that never happened.  It would be worse than the pain of nostalgia.
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Posted by on May 1, 2012 in Gardening, Memory


My Two Cents on Gender

Gender is a funny thing to talk about these days.  In some circles, it’s practically forbidden – they must adhere to the cultural expectations of our given sex that have been basically the same for the past 200-ish years, up until the 40s or so.  (please don’t quote me on any dates I give: I am by no means a history buff – but I think I’m fairly accurate.)    In other circles, it is talked about exhaustively – the elements of the subject are discussed to death.  And, in still other circles, it’s very much a nonissue and is rarely ever discussed – people just are who they are and have bigger fish to fry. 

Now, I would like to disclaim that, in case it wasn’t clear, the following are my thoughts and opinions only.  I do not claim to fully understand any perspective besides my own, because that is really and truly impossible.  I may generalize, and if I do I beseech that if it offends you to please know that I didn’t mean it that way.  I do not want to be judgmental and at the end of the day, even through ideas and suggestions I am only writing about this subject as it applies to how I live my own life in my own mind and body.
I also talk about male and female body parts, so if the mention of them makes you want to throw up… yeah. 
Gender, to me, is largely cultural.  Gender roles have evolved with the societies in which they operate.  People’s minds and bodies have evolved likewise to function thusly.  Now, I consider myself a follower of Christ, and/but I do not claim to know how the world was created or exactly how man came to be.  The bible illustrates how it happened, yes, but there are so many interpretations and theories even pertaining to a simple creation story that it is clear that wejust don’t know.  So I won’t waste anybody’s time on the miniscule details on how we came to be the evolving creatures we are.     
What I do believe, and what seems apparent by simple biology, is that men and women are made differently physically.  Men have always had penises, testicles, and the corresponding pelvic structure, have never had boobs, have greater muscle mass and ability to build muscle, and have this astounding ability to grow hair on their faces and extra hair where women just… can’t.  Women, on the other hand, have vaginas, uteruses, ovaries, and corresponding pelvises, mammaries that produce milk for the children they can bear, more fat mass, cannot grow hair on their faces, etc.  Not being a huge science buff either (though I really, really try), it mostly seems to come down to hormones (via the sex chromosomes).  Women have more estrogen, men have more testosterone.  These hormones do a lot.
Because of these differences, it has made sense for the men to be the protectors and the breadwinners in the past – let the stronger people defend the land and use their agility and brawn to hunt for food; and the women, who delivered the children and already have a bond forming with them seem most capable of continuing to take care of the children, and do the things that need to be done which do not so much require being super strong. 
This all builds on each other.  Some of you might want to point out that perhaps it was the other way around: the ones with the penises got all brawny because they went to do the hunting, and the ones with the vaginas got more pudgy and motherly (I know it sounds condescending, but remember how I’m not talking about feminism right now?) because of what they were usually doing.  And perhaps that is true, though you could go round and round with this a million times, but to me it seems that if you cannot ever settle something like the nature-nurture debate, then it must come down to both with very blurred lines. And, if that is the case, is the “which came first” question really relevant to us anymore?
The questions that do seem to matter to us now are those of cultural gender versus core gender. 
Cultural gender is what we have learned from the society we live in about what is expected of those who are sexually female and those who are sexually male.  These are mostly made up of stereotypes, such as women who like to cry over romantic movies, or men who like to build business empires.  They, like all stereotypes, have a good measure of truth in them because stereotypes spring up out of truth.  More women like to cry over romantic movies than men.  (I am not one of them.)  More men are business leaders than women.  Men who cry over romantic movies are looked upon as weak and feminine – not strong husband material.  Women who are business leaders are looked upon as tough and a little too masculine – not dutiful wife material. 
Core gender is what we, genetically, are.  This goes back to the primitive societies I was speaking of earlier where the men hunted and the women took care of the children.  The thing is, in Western culture today, we do not operate in a way that necessitates core, genetic gender differences.  The 21st century has such a wide variety of occupations that it does not matter what your physical or mental capabilities are or are not: there is something out there you can do to earn a living.  Brawn, particularly, is becoming less and less essential as more and more machines are invented to do the hard work for us. 
So, what are we left with?
A bunch of people doing things that people do. 
But what about the cultural gender?  What about all those stereotypes we weigh ourselves under each day?
There is no one pat answer for that. 
Some people are not aware that these stereotypes exist, or that they rule their lives – but then you have to question, do the stereotypes really “rule”?  Are these people victims of the box culture has put them in, or are they perfectly happy to live the lives they have being the people they are?   
Some people are too aware of the gender stereotypes – so aware that they are in danger of becoming victimized not by the stereotypes, but by the fear and/or detest of them.  Stereotypes limit them as much as they limit the people who are unconscious of them – because they tend to either live their lives as if they are threatened by people/society attempting to control and limit them, and/or they spend their time trying as hard as possible to not fit into a stereotype, so much so that they are at high risk of not being true to themselves and what they would really want to be doing, despite what gender stereotype it might fit in. 
(Watch “Benny and Joon”; that’s all I have to say.)

These are observations I have made about others and myself.  I never mean to assume that every person is like this: however, I always encourage that you do look at yourself and ask yourself whether you are selling yourself short in life, in any area, but especially by victimizing yourself to some circumstance or another.  I think and talk about self-victimization a lot, so you’ll see more about what I mean in future posts. 

However “aware” you feel, or however important of an “issue” the gender topic is for you, remember that you should never let anybody’s assumptions of you, or your assumptions of anybody else, get in the way of your genuine respect of your authentic self.  And I think that is the best way to put cultural gender stereotypes behind us: to forget them altogether and simply do what we like and be who we are.  If you don’t think and talk about something, it goes away.  The positives and negatives become neutral because actions speak louder than words.  The fact that people are people speaks for itself when we decide we no longer have to.    
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Posted by on April 30, 2012 in Gender, Identity, Sexuality, Soap Box


How Much Can I Move in an Hour?

Usually I am a very active person.  Walk, run, bike, swim, climbing stuff, endless cartwheels, bouncing around, dancing randomly… I don’t stop.  I can’t stop.  Peaceful moments are nice, but even then my hands and feet are usually still moving.

Since being broken, I’ve had to re-think a lot of things, but primarily I’ve had to re-think movement.  My metabolism has slowed down significantly – I no longer snarf down my food and usually can’t finish even a plateful.  I also chew a lot slower, having become less rushed and more contemplative in general.  (It scares me a lot, actually.)

The biggest issue, though – the eternal question – is how to get back in shape.  I had surgery on my leg (are you tired of hearing about this yet?  I am!) and couldn’t move it for several weeks.  This was long enough to all but completely lose all the muscle in my right leg.  It was a toothpick.

Physical therapy has been extremely encouraging.  I’ve gone from feeling like I would never walk again to being able to start jogging as of this week.  But I’m having trouble remembering how to be an athlete – how do I get back in shape again??

Since the end of January I’ve been attempting to devise workout routines for myself, but it seems, largely, that I’ve just lost all motivation.  Besides that, I have trouble sticking to schedules, getting started on things, and I have a lot of leftover laziness from my long stint of laying around watching Netflix.

Then some epiphany came to me, and now I’m back to working out all the time.

You probably think I’m kidding, but I’m not.

I took a look at my past life: like I said, I was moving constantly, on my own accord.

What if I just started moving?

My lifestyle (of writing all the time) is more sitting-down-based than ever before, so actually moving has become more of a challenge.  So I thought, what if I just determined that for a set amount of time, sometime in the day (mornings work best for me), I would just start moving and not stop till the time was over?

So that’s what I did.

I started small; as I mentioned, I’ve only recently begun to regain the muscle back in my leg; for a while I was unable to stand up by myself.  Then the workout was only my physical therapy, which took about 15 minutes.  When I was better off, I moved my arms a bit and did some stretches for my back.  I worked up to half an hour.

Now I am at an hour and feeling SO GOOD I could burst!  I love feeling strong.  I love feeling accomplished.  And it’s all just giving myself an hour in which to move constantly, however I please that day.

Here is what I did yesterday morning:

After a little stretching, I followed this for the first 15 minutes:

I found it on Pinterest, and it most certainly is a challenging workout all on its own!

I continued with half an hour mainly of physical therapy leg-stuff, coupled with some extra arm, back, and core moves that I’ve found complement the PT (I will do a more detailed post on this particular workout soon).  To top it off, I spent the last 15 minutes half on the stationary bike and half jogging to the stop sign and back a couple of times.

All of this to say, I highly recommend the “How much can I move” workout!  You can do an hour, or two, or three: or you can do 45 minutes, 30 minutes, 15, 10, even 5 – the point is, you are moving!!

Some things you might want to think about as you start your “Moving Time”:

  • What muscles are most important to me, what areas do I need to work on?
  • What movements with those muscles/groups are most important to me, how do I want to utilize these muscles in my daily life?
  • What skills do I want to work up to (e.g. athletic goals – rock climbing, running, yoga, etc.)
I hope this helps anybody who is feeling stuck!  Let me know.  🙂
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Posted by on March 31, 2012 in Fitness


THE Year

And I think to myself: this was supposed to be my big year!  The year I got off my butt and did all those Big Things, made plot points in my life, etc., etc…. and now I can’t because I have fallen completely on my butt and it will be a long while before I’m up again.  For a youngin like me, it seems like forever.  Now I can barely work to make enough money to go do those Big Things, and my computer is next to broken.
When I think these things, I get really antsy.  And then sad in another antsy sort of way.  I just want to run out the door and sieze the branches of the trees and send myself flying into the realm of success and dreams, but then I can’t – I’m stuck in bed or hobbling around for another long while until my leg gets strong enough again.  
Woe unto Jessica.  
Then I roll my eyes: I sure do get whiny about the stupidest little things.   
The truth is, every year has always been THE year.  Something, usually lots of things, always happen to me, and/or I go do things that change my life, whether I realize it right away or not.  If that wasn’t so I would still be teetering along in baby ballernia classes and spending my days gluing dried beans onto popsicle sticks for some reason (however, it’s entirely possible that my habits have simply evolved to take on the appearance of age-appropriate sophistication).  Every year things happen, and I grow and change and I become a lame beggar (who blogs) sitting on her (air mattress) bed in her (parent’s) house who starts to complain and then decides to marvel at how life and the world and God work instead.  Everything has always lead to something else, everything yucky is always working out for some other good – I’ve tracked these things, it’s crazy – and every time my life is about to reach a plateau, Tarzan swings in and crashes destructively through, throwing everything up in the air.   And by Tarzan, I mean the Fist of God or something.  Gentle, but really scary.
At the glorious mead-guzzling age of 21 I’m young and impatient – I wanted to go to work with wolves this year!  This was going to be my break, the thing I always wanted to do, the thing that is going to prove to the world that I can do what I bloody well want, and cry those tears of blood and sweat because I had finally, finally taken the rope of my future into my own hands, thrown the grappling hook perfectly, and dextrously hauled myself up to the tower of my dreams.
Instead, I tore up my knee last Thanksgiving and I’m left recovering from surgery for half the year, unable to work the way I had planned to so I could save the money I would need to pay for my room and board for the internship I’ve lusted after for five years now, always putting it off for a lovely “someday.”
I actually came up with a HUGE list of goals for 2012 – initially.  It’s depressing to look at it now.  (I’m depressing – oh, another Eeyore sort of day I guess.)  I attempted in the first week after surgery to work on everything all at once (that was possible to do while sitting down), justifying that I am ADHD and this must be the best way to work, ignoring all of the other times I (and my parents) have tried this in my life:  if there are a lot of things, but they are planned for specific days at specific times, IT STILL DOES NOT WORK. 
This helped me narrow things down; it was actually useful to try it all and then realize what I truly wanted to be doing most of the time and what I would rather do only occasionally.  This second week I’ve been employing the “do what you want when you want to” rule and it’s working out splendidly: I’ve narrowed all the everythings down to five goals (with their reasons, a la this blog post):
1.  Learn Spanish – for future travel in Spanish-speaking countries
2.  Learn Chemistry – for better understanding of ecology and DNA (I want to be learning Chemistry??  WOW, this is new) 
3.  Create College Rebelliona community with a wide range of resources based off of my Life Without College blog.  This dreadfully depends on this SOPA and PIPA thing, which I recommend you go call your senators about.  –  for the purpose of helping more people and perhaps making money as an online business someday
4.  Learn to Drawto illustrate my stories and for personal enjoyment and benefit
5.  Write new stories and edit the ones I’ve already written – for The People.  (i.e., I love telling stories and would love to share them worldwide someday, along with their corresponding illustrations once I can figure out shading!!  Bah humbug!)
And as this list came into fruition I realized: every day can be THE Day of My Life.  You fill life with a million little “aha” moments and you get art, wired substance reaching to a thousand hearts, almost suddenly, what-will-you-do-with-your-hands (I never know what to do) and there is your life, every second of it is that second, and there it happens…
What.  What can I do with this second, minute, hour, day, week, month, year, in that order?  So what if I want to know everything?  All I have is the position of the sun or the moon in the sky and not a moment before or after.   
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Posted by on January 18, 2012 in Life Pursuits, Transitions


Black Sheep Femininity

There are sometimes still that I legitimately wish I were a man. Of course, I have been attempting to discover for years what makes me think this, and it is really a lot of things. Sometimes practical little things, like how it would be safer to travel; but I think there are two main reasons that, distinct as they are in my mind, are also very hard to explain.
One is that I think men are easier to relate to now, and if I were a man, it would somehow finalize things. As in, it would not be Jessica plus The Guys. It would be me, a guy, hanging with the guys. (Not the beer and football all the time guys, but the more [I think] masculine creative types, the Gary Snyders and Tim Burtons of the world.)
And that brings me to my other reason, which is to have the subconscious cultured respect for my creative work that is simply not very often granted to women; I don’t even grant it to women very often, unless they are of the tongue-in-cheek variety, calm but authoritative, somewhat brooding but very bright and confident – traits that those men, such as I have mentioned above, possess.
When someone asks me who I admire most, my list is exclusively male; but when it comes to women, the type I just described inspire me more than anybody else, even as I often forget it. Their air far from that of a trying-too-hard feminist, I see myself in them: black sheep of the Gucci-sunglasses-pink-princess flock of girls in western culture. Often awkward when they are young, and beautiful when they’ve finally grown into that full bloom.  By then, though, they hardly care to realize it, much less show it off – somewhat “hiding” under hats and in darker, duller colors, nothing inherently complementing their face or figure, but in truth they look the most beautiful this way, subtly wild and fervent, doing the things they are best at.

They are the Elizabeth Bennets and Jo Marches and Anne Shirleys of the modern, real-life world: they make me proud to be a woman, as mismatched and discomfited and flat-chested as I am. I can’t name most of them, but when I seem them I know who they are in my heart. I don’t smile at them and they don’t smile at me and it is better that way; we don’t say but instead know that a pretentious smile is what it is.  And, in a moment, we smile real smiles, knowing we are kindred spirits.

(One person I can name is my Aunt Susan, and I know she is a huge part of my confidence in myself, whomever I may actually be.)

We have our girly friends and we love them and we have our guy friends and we love them in another way (and of course we have each other), and some of us find someone crazy enough to love us and, indeed, crazy enough for us to love; but I think most of us try romance for a long enough while and eventually find it trivial compared to the other invigorations we have found on this incredible planet.
All in all, these women are inspiring to me because they have embraced who they are, no matter what, without over-thinking what they should be in mind, body, or soul. They remind me that it doesn’t matter, no matter what “it” is, and that nothing further than “it” not mattering needs to be discussed – just get on with things and stop doping around.
Okay, I’m going to stop doping around, wishing I was a man. I don’t have time for this! I’ve got things to write, pictures to draw, animals to play with…
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Posted by on January 15, 2012 in Gender, Identity, Soap Box


What is "Socialization"?

I am rather hot and bothered at the moment, so I’m going to write about it.
There is a great number of poop-headed, ignorant people in this world who are a bit big for their britches and cannot ever seem to say anything of even remote value to society.  In fact, the only thing they do is make people like me very upset.  (Admittedly, I’m quite sure I have been this person before.  Oh, God, help me.)
I know I should not let unceremonious, obstinate bastards get to me: it isn’t as if what they say matters.  I guess I mainly have this urge to put them in their place; to culture and educate them in these areas they obviously have not been exposed to.  If someone assumes that homeschoolers are not “socialized”, but are amiable and willing to see that is not the case, then that is one thing.  But if one is barking around on public forums declaring that, basically, it is certainly a scientific fact that socialized homeschoolers are the exception, not the norm, and that all parents who choose to homeschool their children are irresponsible prudes bent on sheltering their children (which was not even the topic of the conversation), then it is very clear to me that you, sir, are the one who has not been “properly socialized.” 
A properly socialized person has been acquainted with a great diversity of people: people with different religious, spiritual, and philosophical beliefs; people with different upbringings and educational backgrounds; people of different races, cultures, sexual orientations; people with different life experiences that paint their own unique worldview and story.  And a socialzied person would take the time to listen and learn and love the people different from themselves.
Additionally, a socialized person understands social boundaries: they can recognize when is an appropriate time to say something and when is an appropriate time to keep the facehole shut.  They can sense when they want to say smoething and then don’t, because it actually isn’t something relevant to the conversation, or it would interrupt someone who is talking. 
Socialized people know good manners… they know it is rude and sometimes even hurtful to bash certain groups of people just because can. 
Of course, this makes me realized that most everybody in the world, I included, are probably not as well socialized as we really could be.
Oh, well.  Ima go work on that now.
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Posted by on January 9, 2012 in Soap Box, Unschooling


My Secret Happiness Formula

1. Read good books
2. Eat good food
3. Listen to good music
4. Love the beautiful people and land, and the God who created them.
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Posted by on January 7, 2012 in Happiness, Photography

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