The last 24 hours have been a quiet one in our household. Yesterday I broke the news through tears to my husband who then wandered the house repeatedly mumbling “Shit, shit shit. Well shit” to himself before disappearing into the bedroom to take a 3 hour nap (this is how he processes things). I cried myself to sleep next to him. We both idolized Carrie Fisher. The engagement rings we wear around our neck say “I love you” and “I know.” The His/Her towels in the bathroom read the same thing. Images of Carrie as Leia Organa are in every room of our house. Posters, book covers, my favorite coffee mug, even the handmade fleece blanket on our couch. She has been my hero since my dad first watched Star Wars with me when I was a kid. She’s everywhere I look. There’s no escape.

carrie fisher

Not that I want one. I want her in my life forever. A constant reminder to be as unapologetically me as possible. Wild, crazy, loud, truthful. A princess. A huttslayer. A general. A queen in everything she did. Her acting made her famous, her words made her inspiring, her personality and boldness made her larger than life. My fierce love for her spirit doesn’t end with her passing. She made it her mission to be honest about everything: her life, her mental illness, her past. She was an open book and never once apologized for it. I want to live like that. I’ll work towards that. To be an advocate like her. To be a beautiful, wise, fierce warrior princess with wit and charm that strike as sharply as a blaster pistol. It takes work. But Carrier Fisher did it all. The galaxy is emptier now without her.

carrie fisher

“I laugh a lot, actually. A lot. I’ve gotten to an age where I enjoy my life. I’ve spent enough time struggling with it, and at this point it’s living on one side of the magnifying glass; I stay on the side of making big things appear small. I enjoy myself and I have a lot of good friends, good relationships. You learn to get there. Having gone through a lot of stuff I’ve gone through—I don’t want to do that stuff anymore. I take care of myself best as I can. I do the best imitation of maturity I can possibly muster.” – Carrie Fisher

I will take care of myself best as I can and I will do the best imitation of maturity I can muster. Her legacy will not be forgotten. Thank you for everything, Carrie Fisher. You will always be royalty to us.

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EDIT: 12/28/16 8:00pm – Debbie Reynolds, I’ve just learned, miss her daughter so much, she joined her. I’m stunned. I can’t believe how fast people pass. How easy it is for someone to be here and then just gone. My heart and love and support go out to Debbie and Carrie’s family, friends, and fans. I’m looking forward to 2016 being done. This is just. Too much.

I Have a Voice and I’m With Her: A Biography.

I am me.

I am a woman with control of my own body and the life I lead.

I am a queer cis-female married to a straight cis-male but I love all people and have always been mostly bi/pan/lesbian on any given day. I believe everyone should have the right to marry the person they love.

I am pro-choice and believe that every woman should have the option of whether they want kids or not.

I am a feminist and believe in equality for all people no matter the color of their skin, the genitals in their pants, or the gender (or no gender) that they identify as. I believe everyone should be treated with fairness and respect.

I am Pagan and believe in all faiths and send prayers to my own personal Goddess and Universe. I believe all faiths and religions and beliefs should be respected.

I am chronically ill and suffer from fibromyalgia, arthritis, and seizures as well as depression and anxiety. I believe healthcare should be accessible for all. I believe health insurance companies need to be held accountable for all the awful things they hold against victims and patients who have no advocates for themselves.

I believe in a progressive education that either teaches all religions equally or teaches no religion at all. I believe education should include the outdoors, the truth about climate change and global warming, and should embrace the idea that all cultures are important and define who we are as human beings. I believe in protecting our Earth for our children and giving them the education and tools so they may do so for their own futures.

I believe in the separation of Church and State and that the Unites States of America should NOT be defined as a Christian government and that “Under God” should not be in our Pledge of Allegiance. I may believe in your chosen God but I do not pledge my allegiance to Him.

I believe that everyone should have the right to own a gun and I believe we need more gun control and tighter restrictions that people must meet in order to buy said gun.

I believe that land should belong to people and not corporations. That protecting people should always come before protecting a company. I believe that corporations and governments need more restrictions on what they can and can’t do to the land and water we depend on.

I believe in democracy and I believe our political system is corrupt.

I believe we would all do better as a species if we all spent a few weeks or months out of the year living off the grid and reconnecting with the Earth. Studying her and loving her and rediscovering all that she has given us. Not tied to wires and phones and satellites.

I believe we should give more money to NASA because we cannot be the only ones in this great big Universe and maybe those others can help teach us to be better at living our lives and seeing meaning in the little things.

I believe everyone should adopt an animal or buy a plant and learn responsibility for another living being.

I believe in trust, faith, and pixie dust. I believe in things we can’t see. I believe in Karma and in reincarnation and I’m not entirely sure but I think this may be the first time I’ve been human because I still get very confused over daily human life.

I am afraid for the future of our world. I am afraid for our children’s children. I am afraid for the Earth and all the damage that is being done for her. I am afraid not enough is being done to save the Great Barrier Reef or the Arctic ice at the North Pole or Antarctica in the south. I am afraid I am only one person and that I am not enough to make a difference in what’s important.

I am afraid I won’t leave a legacy behind and I am most afraid that my name will not be remembered after I’m gone. My name is Nicole Joanna Audrey Jeske and I don’t want to be forgotten.

Husband and I voting.

I write this because I want you to know who I am. I want you to understand what I am fighting for and why today’s election is so important to me. Politics are personal, no matter what anyone tells you. People vote with their beliefs, with their heart.

I am a white, queer Pagan woman married to an outspoken liberal atheist man. I have a Jewish non-binary trans best friend and a beautiful nose-pierced baking pseudo-wife who are my heart and soul. I am made of the Love that surrounds me, it makes my heart continue to beat every day. I fight for these people, for my friends, for my family, for my community.

This election year has been one filled with much hate and contention. I have unfriended and even blocked several people this year on social media. Not for who they are voting for – but because of things they have said or done or posted in the name of politics. Because I cannot abide by hate. I cannot stand by and watch an old friend post a video of lighting a Pride flag on fire and stating they wished they could do this to “the abomination of gays.” I will not remain in ties to someone who posts that trans people should have their genitals mutilated to “show them who’s boss.” I will not continue to be “Facebook friends” with someone who shares anti-Muslim, anti-trans people, anti-gay, anti-POC, anti-equality anything. I cannot be friends with anyone so hateful and hurtful who would actively go out of their way to do others harm simply because they are different.

Inauguration 2009

On the National Mall for the Inauguration of Barack Obama, January 2009.

So I want to you to know who I am. And if you don’t like who I am, and you oppose the things that make me who I am, you are free to distance yourself from me. Chances are, we aren’t that great of friends anyway. I won’t hate you for who you vote for, but if you’re voting for someone because you actively and vocally spew hatred for another group of people you share this Earth with, I will not stand with you.

Today is going to be a very long and stressful day. I’ll be sending out as much Love into the Universe as I can.
Please join me.

about-iwd

Happy International Women’s Day! I’m actually more fond of what they refer to it elsewhere: International Women’s Rights Day, but regardless of what it’s called, this is a wonderful day to celebrate the amazing women in our lives that have inspired and motivated us. I have a lot of personal female heroes. So many that it was really hard to narrow it down so I limited myself to women who are currently still on Earth making it a better place while they live and breathe.

Mae Jemison

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How could I not choose Mae Jemison? She (along with Sally Ride) has been such a guiding star in my love of and yearning for space travel. Mae Jemison was the first African American to ever travel to space PLUS she’s been on Star Trek so she has most definitely boldy gone where no man has gone before (it’s extra cool because she was first inspired to join NASA because of Nichelle Nichols’ character Uhura). Not only is she an intelligent scientists, she’s also a talented dancer, and has founded numerous companies and foundations to advance technology in every day human life. Learn more about Mae Jemison.

Michelle Obama

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As First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama has been pretty much everywhere in the past eight years. Her dedication to improving the health of our nation’s children and passion for community gardens have been inspirational. She is one of the few First Ladies to ever directly address the issue of childhood obesity and her “Let’s Move” movement has been a huge success in schools. The Obamas even built the first garden at the White House since Eleanor Roosevelt AND had beehives installed on the South Lawn. Her motivation is astounding and I am constantly floored by all of the projects this woman has going. I am so sad that her time in the White House is coming to an end, but I know that no matter where she lives, she will continue her good work. Learn more about Michelle Obama.

Jane Goodall

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When I was in sixth grade, we had to do an oral book report. Most kids just stood up front and read from a piece of paper. But me? I was already a little ham (and a nerd) – I dressed up as Jane Goodall and did a report on Through A Window, complete with a stuffed Gorilla at my side and lots of crouched over antics impersonating Jane impersonating the gorillas. Jane Goodall isn’t just someone I admire now, she had a very large impact on me growing up. I even ended up going to college to become and outdoor educator like her. Jane Goodall’s books and teachings have opened our eyes to the animals around us and have been instrumental in how we perceive the natural world. Her work is deeply inspiring to me and her words continue to remind that there is still a sense of wonder to be found in our planet Earth. Learn more about Jane Goodall.

Commander Shepard

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Okay so she’s not a real person but I am not limiting this list to just reality. Commander Shepard means a lot to me. Her courage and her commitment to getting things done no matter how hard and long the battle is are an inspiration to me over and over again (no matter how many times I play these games). She’s a reminder to keep going when the going gets tough. She’s a leader and a friend and a hero to not just humanity – but to the whole galaxy. She is fearsome and snarky and always willing to get the job done. She’s there for her friends when they need her and she knows just what to say to piss the right people off. My Shepard might be just who I want her to be, but she’s who I want myself to be too and through her I can model my own action and remind myself of the path that I want to follow through life. She is a survivor and a reminder that I am too. Learn more about my love for Commander Shepard.

Nellie Jeninga

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Now this is a name that most people probably won’t know. Nellie Jeninga was born and raised in Heerlen, Holland in 1935. Growing up, she and her sister loved to perform and sing and eventually became quite good at it – they were even recorded and had a very promising future. But Nellie was headstrong and in love. In 1958, she threw away her fears and followed her heart to Toronto, Canada to be with the man she loved. She left behind her country, her home, her family and everything she knew for a new continent with people who didn’t speak her language. It wasn’t the last time her stubborn nature would lead her on adventure. In 1961, Nellie, her husband, and their two children moved to the United States, to Wisconsin, in the middle of a severe snowstorm. Settling down in Wisconsin didn’t stop her tenacious thirst for travel though and over the years, they would often pack up the kids and roadtrip around the country. She passed down that wanderlust and bravery to her oldest daughter (another of my personal heroines) who then passed it down to her daughter. Which would be me. Nellie Jeninga is my Oma and my favorite person in the world (that’s us in that picture). She has never let fear stop her from following her heart and she has been the steadfast rock in my life that I can always come home to. I am proud to say I have her bravery to travel and experience the unknown and I most definitely have her stubborness and headstrong nature. Because of this, I have to add her to my list of inspirational women because she has made my life better over and over again. I love her dearly.

Happy International Women’s Day!

These are only five of a very long list of women who are important to me. Others include Sally Ride, Madeleine L’Engle, Amelia Earhart, Annie Oakley, J.K. Rowling, Laverne Cox, Grace Murray Hopper, George Sand, Audrey Hepburn, Ada Lovelace, and so many many more. Thank you for paving the way and making it known that women can do anything they absolutely want! We are strong and empowered and we have a voice. You can find out more about Internation Women’s Day here.

Who are you celebrating today?

Best Present: Custom fem!Shepard Funko Pop!

So for the past few months, my fiance Jake and my sister Madi have been hinting that I would be getting the greatest Christmas present ever, but that it would just be late. I had absolutely no idea what it was. Well I finally got my present today and it was 100% worth the wait because it is the best present in the entire world. In the entire galaxy.

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I’ve always been very sad that there is no femShep funko so imagine my surprise when I opened my present and discovered MY VERY OWN CUSTOM COMMANDER SHEPARD FUNKO!! Isn’t she amazing? And they MADE her for me. They discovered that the head of the Rachel from Friends funko pop looked just like my Shepard so they took that head and put it on the maleShep’s funko body. And then painted on my renegade scars. She’s so perfect I could cry. I have such an amazing family.

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If you missed it, Commander Shepard is my personal hero so this is pretty much the best thing anyone could ever make me (the bar is now set really high). I still can’t get over how similar she looks to my personal Shepard. I don’t think they could have gotten her any better. My perfect Commander Audrey Shepard. ❤

My personal Shepard as drawn by the talented Cheyenne next to my in-game Shep.

My personal Shepard as drawn by the talented Cheyenne next to my in-game Shep.

I’m Commander Shepard and this is my favorite present on the Citadel. ❤

Reflections of a Snailbird as We Head into 2016

Well this was a year of unforeseen life changes for yours truly. It was an incredible year and also one of the most heartbreaking. A lot happened, good and bad, but I think, overall, 2015 and I are on good terms. There was a lot more good than bad at least. Some highlights of my 2015:

  • Introducing Jake to snow (and my family)
  • Running Catan demos at SXGaming for Mayfair Games
  • Getting engaged to the love of my life
  • Attending SDCC and being nerds with a bunch of old & new friends
  • Seeing the Pacific Ocean for the first time
  • Having my sister move in with us
  • Introducing my sister to the Atlantic Ocean for the first time
  • Seeing Star Wars and having it be GOOD
  • Getting to be home for Christmas for the first time in 6 years

And so many more. Overall, it was filled with amazing experiences. And as a person, I am vastly different from who I was in 2014. I am healthier, at least mentally (my physical health is always touch and go), and have managed to get my life together and organized and that in itself is a pretty big deal. I have a good family, a good job, and a good idea of where my life is going. I’m happy and decided to do a little reflecting on what I’ve learned this past year.

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Reflection One: The Universe is Full of Surprises

2014 saw me entering into a relationship that completely changed my life for the better with a man of all people (first real relationship I’ve ever been in with a man (I thought I was a lesbian for years (I’m still not entirely convinced I’m not but I love him so))). 2015 saw the two of us getting engaged, driving across the country to meet tons of family, flying to California together for our first San Diego Comic Con, and becoming temporary parental figures to my fifteen year old sister. We’ve packed a lot of life into just a year and I am more in love with him now than ever before and I can’t wait to marry him. May 4, 2016 is going to be an amazing day. Not only is it Star Wars Day, but it’s our wedding day as well, and it’s going to be the geekiest wedding the Universe has ever seen.

I never saw myself getting into a relationship with a man. I NEVER saw myself marrying one. But the Universe brought Jake into my life when I needed him most and what I’ve learned from this is that I need to always keep my mind open to whatever the Universe brings into my life because It usually (always) knows better than I do. And the Universe likes surprises.

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Reflection Two: You’re Never Ready to Say Good-bye

June 1st I had to say good-bye to one of my favorite people in the entire world, and one of the most important: my Opa. It was hard and I wasn’t ready. The silver-lining is that it wasn’t a surprise and he told everyone he was ready to go. But it doesn’t make it easier. He had been a constant presence my entire life – he and my Oma were there for everything for me and I grew up with them. Ted Jeninga was always there with a smile and a joke and a plate of cookies and my heart still hurts so badly to know he is gone. This Christmas was the first time I was able to go home and it was a shock to my system for him not to be there when I walked through the door. It’s still hard to handle. I wasn’t able to go home for the funeral in June because I was still very sick (I was on short term disability from May till July and couldn’t leave the house except for doctors appointments) but my uncle read the memorial I wrote for him and I know it was a beautiful send-off.

But it still hurts. And even when you know it’s coming, you’re never ready to say good-bye to those you love. I still haven’t really accepted it yet that he’s gone and I’m not sure if I ever will.

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Reflection Three: You are Stronger Than You Know

I’ve gone through a lot in my life. I try to use what I’ve learned to help others. Sometimes, this comes back in very surprising ways. This year, it came back in the form of my fifteen year old sister. I won’t go into details because that is her story and only she can tell it, but back in October she came to live with Jake and I and her strength and dedication and willpower to get through all the things she’s been through has been inspiring. And I know she’s been surprising herself with her own strength. It’s been extremely hard for her, but she has pushed through and every day she is stronger and I am so proud of her.

Because of her, I’ve discovered a strength in myself. I go through moments where I’m scared I’m not enough to help her, but through her I am gaining control of my own fears and doubts and just like her, I’m surprised by how strong I am. A lot of it, for both of us, has to do with Jake, our rock, who has been there for both of us and has kept me sane through this whole thing. We don’t ever know how strong we can be until we are faced with difficult choices.

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Good-bye 2015, Hello 2016!

You guys, I don’t know if I’ve ever been more excited for an upcoming year. Yes, most of it has to do with the fact I’m getting MARRIED next year (almost four months now), but it also has to do with the fact that my life is on track now. Things are going well. For the first time, I’m not entirely in the dark about my own life. Stability is an amazingly underrated thing, and I feel very adult saying that. I love change, but I’m also a fan of having a solid foundation and I have that now. I’ve worked very hard to bring myself back up from a very very low period of time in 2014. So many things have happened this year and I am so grateful for where life has brought me. I don’t regret anything and I would never take anything back, but I feel I am lucky to have come back as well as I have. Things were good this year, despite the sickness and death and rough patches I had to deal with. I know 2016 will have rough patches too but I’m looking forward to it and I can’t wait to see what the future holds for us all.

2016 is going to be a year of creativity, of building, of community and of stretching the limits of our imagination – it is going to be MY year and I can’t wait to get to work.

Happy New Year, Universe! I’m ready!

Brody: 1 Year Ago.

One year ago today, our Brody was whisked away from us. A neighbor left the door open and Brody, our beautiful little golden pup, took off out the door and was hit by a truck. A truck that didn’t even stop to see if he was okay. I still have nightmares about it, seeing it all happen over and over again. It’s been a year and certainly doesn’t feel like it.

We miss you so much Brody. You were the happiest dog in the world, our Dalai-Lama of dogs.

In which we drop from 22 to 21.

Morgan and Me

Morgan Niels-Jeske
“The Valentine Baby”
January 1, 2008 – February 5, 2010
Adopted into our family February 14, 2008

She no longer has the burden of an old body, but I’m going to miss her so much. Here’s an excerpt from the journal entry I wrote about her on Valentine’s Day of 2008. The best Valentine’s Day ever.

In my hands was a tiny, beautiful baby girl rat. Seriously, all I did was stare at her for the longest time. I couldn’t formulate any thoughts and I hardly dared hope that she was mine, so I kept asking stupid questions like “Where’d she come from?” and “What is she doing here?” I know I kind of made Ash nervous that I didn’t like her, but I was just in shock. And then when it finally started to dawn on me that this little girl was mine, I began to tear up and almost started crying. She’s so beautiful. She’s mostly white with a dark gray hood with a white line like a scar down her face to her nose and a dark gray spot on her back. I couldn’t take my eyes off of her.

We love you, Morgan.

Missing Our Dalai-Lama Dog

Our BrodybearIt doesn’t feel like it’s been seven months since he’s been gone. Last night my dreams were full of our Brodybear. I’m working on an art/design trade with the talented artist Rachael Rossman; I’ll be working on a new design for her and she’s painting a picture of Brody for me. Ash found a ton of pictures of Brody that I had never seen before when we went on a hunt for references for Rachael, and last night I poured over the images and cried and it just hit me that he’s not here. I’ve never really let myself think about it. He was taken from us far too soon. We saved him from a kill shelter, only to let his one dangerous habit get the best of him. I don’t know why he hated cars so much or why he felt he needed to protect us from them, but in the end, he died because we weren’t fast enough and the road was too close to the house, and there was just too much bad timing on so many people’s parts. I don’t think any of us will forgive ourselves.

Brody was the happiest dog you’d ever find. Always smiling, always playing; that dog laughed through life. He was our golden Dalai-Lama dog, from the day we picked him up from the pound one year ago. Has it really been a year? On the fifteenth of January, 2009, he came into our lives, a furry little skittish pup. He quickly took all of our lives by storm. He loved everyone, he loved the dogs, he loved water, he loved camping, he loved the world, even the worst of it. I miss him so much sometimes it hurts, and I try not to let it show, but there are times I feel like my world is caving in. I know he’s with Brandy waiting for us, two golden angels on the other side of the bridge, waiting far more patiently than we ever will. Time heals, but sometimes it’s also a punch in the gut.

I miss you, Brody.

Illustration preview!

Here’s a preview of an illustration I’m working on for Ash for our upcoming comic.

Us

I’m tired and off to bed. Texas is cold. Apparently yesterday it was colder than Alaska. WTF world? That’s not what I signed up for when I moved here.

(It’s all weird-colored because it’s actually a picture I took with my phone, not a scan. You’ll see better quality when I finish it.)

Well wishes for a Rat.

I’ve posted this before, but since we’re worried about Morgan (the rat on the left), I thought I’d put it up again.

Morgan and Meetu

Please send good thoughts to our girl. She needs them. We’re bring her to the vet tomorrow. <3