Hey! Guess What? I’m Not Dead!

Surprise!

I think some of you might have noticed that I all but disappeared about a year and a half ago. I went ahead and blogged about our trip to Europe, which was fun. But that was where it ended. You may have followed me over to the new blog or you may have been relieved I stopped filling up your inbox :-). Either way, its about time I put my big girl panties on and explain.

There was a pretty huge reason or ninety that I stopped writing here. Its kind of funny because this format, the way I’m sharing what kept me away, reminds me of those essays that teachers assign at the beginning of the school year: Class, please write me an essay on what you did this summer. Ha ha. So yeah, here’s what I did last summer. And the entire year before that. :-)

In a nut shell, my excuses embody erotica, of all things, and my children.

Erotica made me do it: I started writing women’s fiction many years ago, and was surprised that when I finally figured out the formula for writing sex scenes, they just poured out. I was able to write manuscripts with very sexy scenes. This disturbed me in some ways. I actually went and deleted a ton of those scenes, they were so, um, detailed? One of which I was lucky enough to have published in an anthology. Go figure. It was clear to me that I didn’t want my children sidled with embarrassment and guilt because of what their mamma wrote. So I created Audrey Valiant and off went my stories in that direction. I decided it was time to keep my writing journey separate from this blog.

Or maybe it was the kids: A few months before the creation of Audrey Valiant, my then sixteen-year-old shared that he is transgender, and very depressed. I don’t know about you but when my child is in distress I totally shut down. He’s still living in that head space, but we have him in therapy and we’re a happy tight little family so its going to be okay.

So what’s different now? What is making it okay for me to tell you that Audrey Valiant and Jennifer Douwes are different brands of the same person? The kids are older now. They’ve known all along about my achievements. Before, hiding behind a different name was more because I didn’t want their friend’s parents knowing what I sometimes write. They’d have to work hard to figure out it was me all along behind the pen name. I’ve come to accept that we are, at our core, sexual beings. If the parents can’t deal with that, then I guess good riddance.

What’s different is that in all of that healing my kid is going through, he’s learning who he is. I find myself saying, “Be who you are. Embrace your amazing self. Fuck societal norms. You don’t have to conform to gender stereotypes.* We love you for who you are and that will never change.” So who am I to not do the same when I’m representing myself? What kind of role model is that?

Why am I back? There are a few reasons.

I really want to help others going through the same things I am. When I started this journey as a trans parent a year and a half ago, it was very surreal. Still is at some turns in the road. One of my best buds is quite educated on raising trans teens and guided me through it for a bit. After that I didn’t really feel like I needed any help. Turns out I was dead wrong. So I enrolled the help of my friends and family, and we’re slowly getting through this. The thing is, I know there are more people out there like myself.

Social Media is killing me. I’ll admit it, I look at Facebook and Twitter. There are so many ill-informed, fear mongering people out there that its driving me a bit crazy. I’ve held my tongue long enough. Okay, well, I did delete a few people off of Facebook for their ignorance after spewing information that probably made no sense to them. If there is any chance I can help these same people who make me want to scream understand some issues that I had to take the long way around to make sense of, that would be pretty great.

Especially when we live in a society that embraces hyper femininity, rape culture, and let’s face it, the over sexualization of women. I kind of figure that if it’s so difficult for me to wrap my brain around, I probably can help others who are battling the same issues. Kind of like a math teacher with dyscalculia. They are probably going to teach it better than a math teacher who it made sense to from the get go.

So beware, along with the normal stuff I talk about: wine, happy hour and the merit of wearing slippers to the grocery store, I’ll be lamenting about life with my trans teen and my daring diva – who really is a tomboy in a tiara, if there ever was one. ‘Cause this shit is hard.  I vow to *try* and stop editing what I want to say to you guys. It might be controversial. It might make you want to plug your ears (or cover your eyes.) Or maybe even flat out not like me. But its time, I guess, to just be who I am. If I’ve learned anything from having kids its that.

For the record, my other blog is still active, as I’m having new stories published now and again. But the rest of my writing will be under my real name. Because I’m not hiding anymore.

It might be a slow start as I get used to being transparent about the crazy life we lead. But haven’t you ever sat back and watched the kids screaming and rolling around on the floor while the dog barks madly, with the TV blaring ’cause grandma can’t hear it over their laughter while she waters the green carpet with her oxygen on, cigarette hanging from her free hand, and the only thing you can do is sit back and laugh?** Cause life is never neat and perfect. It’s messy. It’s beautiful. And kind of fucked up sometimes.

Its time to embrace my terrible beautiful fucked up self and get on with it.

See you around!

* Conformity is a touchy subject. Though I am a rule follower and conformist by heart, there is a very large part of me that can see all sides. If all sides don’t agree, then its time for some new rules. If no one is going to make new rules that make sense, then conformity is no longer advantageous and must be abandoned for better pursuits. If you can be a non-conformist with respect, then you’ve nailed what I’m talking about.

** Taking some creative license here, all of these things happened to someone I love, but not at the same time. But you get the picture.

A Year After Paris

Warning: Content may be a tad mushy this time ;-).

Its been almost a year since I got back from my 30 day trip to Europe. Here I am, in the tired old PNW and each day brings a new memory of the adventures we went on, this same time, last year.

Today, one year ago we were in Paris. Our last day there, we had the privilege to see the very end of the Tour de France 2014. It was a stunning sight.

Side note: Its been so long since I’ve written about the trip that I don’t remember if we talked about the Unicorn. Long story short, that mask traveled with us through all of France and Italy. We tweeted #EuropeanUnicorn for the entire trip. People would rush up to us and ask for photos. It was awesome. By the time we got back I saw pictures of people doing the same thing everywhere we went. Maybe, just maybe, we started a trend.

Back to the preprogrammed re-cap of my Why I’m Addicted to Traveling story:

I started out life with the need for adventure. I’d leave my house, five or six years old, and just go. I’d walk and walk. Get lost in a forest. Go hang out with the lonely old lady a few blocks away. Hang out with my friend whose parents were nudists. The pictures on the walls there were enough to make me not want to leave. Nudity was not “normal” in my house.

My mom would freak out, mildly. Usually, a sip of wine and she’d be happy again. My dad would spank me. Only, I never really cared. Sh… I never told them my friend’s parents were nudists. Why spoil a good thing?

I grew up and the urge to travel got squished out of me, right along with my two children. By the time I was 31, and ever so conservative, I’d traveled to only a handful of US states, plus Mexico, Canada, and the South Caribbean. My yearning to travel was dead. I totally missed the point.

When I looked up at the Eiffel Tower one year ago, my legs pulsing from the trek down the stairs, it all came back to me: My desire to be wild and free. The why of it was less angsty this time, more awe filled. So that’s what I was missing?! The strange feeling that I was part of something so much bigger than myself – something so amazing and soul fulfilling.

Eiffel Tower Day

And I want more.

My heart and soul grew last year on that trip. New York is up next, where I hope to find an agent and / or editor for my writing. After that?

Who knows.

Life is amazing.

** Side Note: If you were keeping up on my journey and wondered when I was going to finish telling you all about it, and share more pics… I’ll fix up a summary post in the near future. Thanks for your patience!

Title Here – Otherwise Known As “Here’s My Brain On Holiday”

I am sure slacking on finishing up my blogs from our trip to Europe! Sorry about that. I’ll get back to it soon. I’ve been busy writing (see my about me) and editing and reading and you know, doing that life thing.

There are a million things to do right now, what with the holidays around the corner. No trips planned in the near future, but I’ll keep you updated when there is.

Anywho, I still have my notes from Pisa, Cavi, Cinque Terre and Rome, so I promise to get to it when I uncross my eyes. Oh dear, that might just be in January. But I’ll do it, I swear. We even went on a surprise trip to Missoula, Montana that I’ll share with you later as well.

Be good! Or nice. Or whatever it is that you need to be for that fat man in the red suit.

Tuscany

We took the train from Rome to Florence. Once again, props to Italy for their public transportation system. Anyhow, once there we walked what felt like three miles to pick up a Ford rental car. Yup, you read that right. A Ford. In Italy. Go figure. The good news is that it was the easiest car to spot when we parked, as it was taller than all the rest. The bad news: have you *tried* to park a bigger car in Europe? Yeah, so glad it wasn’t me doing the driving. Woot to The Husband.

From Florence we drove to Lamporecchio, a city in the Tuscany countryside. Up a zig zag mountain road that reminded me what fear really feels like. We stayed at a proper resort, complete with a pool, breakfast, a funny little concierge man whose enunciation of “Okay” will stick with me forever, in a large two room suite. If you use the words “two” and “suite” loosely.

The pool was a big deal for the tiny one. Who isn’t really tiny and I should probably just call her Little Bear instead. There, that’s better. She swam for hours every day. Here’s a view from the pool. Felt like you could see forever if the haze would lift. Which it did not during our visit. Incidentally? I was digging the European swimsuits the men wore by the end of this trip. If women’s choices are limited mostly to skimpy barely there things, why not the same for men too?20140810_104150

But most importantly there were pomegranates growing! I have a memory of hiding behind a pomegranate tree when I was growing up. Could have been in Eastern Washington or in Concord, California. It’s a foggy memory, that one. We’d pick them and tear them apart, eating until we looked like murder victims with reddish-brown stains all over our faces, hands and clothes. Fun to share what they look like growing with the kiddlings.

20140810_191206Lamporecchio is a chill place. We mostly just stayed at the hotel, swam, walked around this very hilly town with narrow streets, or drove into the bigger town to do laundry. That was where we found the lavanderia with washing machines that came pre-loaded with laundry detergent and fabric softener. One day we went to Pisa then onwards to the Mediterranean, which I’ll share with you on a different post. Here’s what our hotel looked like – the orange one in the upper left hand corner with the elevator structure shooting up through the roof in front.20140810_193631

We found this delicious soda:20140809_202632And these very delicious ketchup flavored sticks:20140811_175256Next up we saw actual olives on actual olive trees. Some of you are laughing at me right now. I know you are. California was my home for a good portion of the years I spent growing up, and there were olive trees *everywhere.* And yet, here I am, an adult and up until this trip I couldn’t tell you just what it looked like when a tree was fruited. Is that even a phrase? I like it, so I’ll keep it. So here you go:20140810_193229I’ll wrap up this blog post with a pic of alcohol we found in the dining room. So, remember that crazy story about Joey Buttafuaco? I don’t know why but my brain had decided that was a made up name. (He’s the one who had an affair with 16-year-old Amy Fischer who ended up shooting Joey’s wife in the face, if memory isn’t pulling that one up for you.) Anyhow, here’s your Buttafuaco alcohol.20140811_093315Now you too can say it’s a real name.

Next up is Pisa and the Mediterranean.

 

Rome

I so wanted to title that When in Rome. Aren’t you proud of my restraint?

I left off with the travel blog portion of these posts a little more than a month ago, leaving you dangling. Sorry about that. We had just been to Toulouse, France, at that point, and we were making our way to Rome, by way of Easy Jet. Side note here – the flight was wonderful. I was shocked a puddle jumper could be so nice, even if they did charge you to go to the bathroom. No, just kidding. They charged for water though.

The taxi from the airport to our odd apartment complex turned hotel near the Vatican, was, shall we say, interesting. The driver wasn’t even looking at the road as he drove, yet he managed to make it there in twenty minutes instead of the thirty-eight that map-quest said it would take. People were crossing themselves, my eyes were closed, and everyone was silent. I assume trembling in fear or simply afraid to divert the attention of the driver who clearly viewed himself as a race car driver. But we made it without even a single vomit incident or traffic ticket.

The guy who checked us in had a low whispery voice ala The Godfather. He was terrifying. And handsome. He he. Would I stay in this area of town again? No. But I’m glad we tried it at least.

It was night time, or right on the crux of it, so we took the opportunity to grab a few pics of the Vatican. There were tour busses of young teenagers being dropped off at 11 PM, loudly singing and dancing in front of this place that felt so sacred. It was a little weird, the way people were acting in a place I felt deserved reverence. I swear, they were up partying until 2 am. What? Why? Anyhow, most of the pics were something you’d see anywhere, but this one took my breath away. I know, easily pleased. The wall-like structure around the Vatican.

20140806_210648

But just because I can, here’s another Vatican pic.wpid-20140806_212954.jpg

First up the next day was the Roman Colosseum. I got that bigger than me Oh-My-God-I’m-the-luckiest-person-on-earth feeling when we were there. The grandeur of it all – you could still feel the people walking around peddling their wares, from so long ago. Chills I tell you.R

We like to walk the streets of new cities, seeing what the local street venders and such have to offer, hopping on trains and such. The train and bus system in Rome rocks, just like much of France. Bonus! So we did that a fair bit the next day. The oldest, Bunny Wabbit, got heat stroke and had to stay behind that day. Here’s a bit too much info for y’all: we home schooled for nine years. During that time we went through a gazillion young adult historical fiction novels. We’d read so much about the Roman Bathhouses and Rome in itself that this part of the trip felt like we were stepping inside the pages of one of those books. BW was heart broken to be feeling like doodoo and missing even a fraction of this trip.

Here too I had that larger-than-me feeling when we toured the building. That they converted a historical landmark into a church amazed us – just why? But Michael Angelo supposedly helped them with the remodel so I guess that makes it a little bit better. My favorite pics were panoramas but I’m uncertain how that would load for some of you so I’ll just show you my favorite normal pic.20140808_153101

There were some weird statues that I thought were worth sharing.20140808_15415020140808_154015

A lesson I learned was that blogging from an android requires more patience than I have. Also, the iPad’s blogging app is buggy. It posted a blog I had deleted, and deleted the blog I had actually wanted to post, which made me grumble more than just a little bit.

Anyhow, here we are, back at home, with back to school night looming in the headlights. I cannot believe it’s that time of year again. How did that happen exactly? I think we have all recovered from our 30-day adventure, but I’m feeling a bit sad about not being in Europe right now.

Next up, a resort town in Tuscany; Montalbano. I’ll try and get that one up before too long.