Monthly Archives: May 2010

Happy mother’s day, three weeks and one day late, or Not in my Name and a few other things

Although it was a little over three weeks ago, I am still thinking about something I read in relation to Mother’s Day.

I am sometimes stunned by the level of deception in our world.  I have thought this for a long time, but the systematic deception of people in our society did become more striking– more obvious– when I became a parent.  The many seemingly “nice” things and the seemingly benign things that we don’t always question– that we either think are harmless or know deep down aren’t harmless.  Things about which we feel powerless and say, “oh whatever, it isn’t hurting anyone.”  As parents we all have many things to figure out daily about commercialism and our children.  

I think about these things because I so deeply want a world that is free of violence and racism and exploitation.  And the connections between violence and racism and exploitation–and commercialism have become more clear to me as a parent.  And I have to, as we all do, figure out my personal policies about these things.  I think about the bigger implications of these things and about my own choices.  I have made many significant choices about how to live that stand in opposition to all that– but I also think hard about the areas where I haven’t yet taken a stand.   I grapple with my own version of the tugs that many of us feel in some way or another to use the feel of looking at or buying something new as a means to “feel better” in a world that is in a bad way.  Some of us are very clear about these things, or not attracted to them.  Some of us use bigger expenditures– homes, cars, electronic equipment in this way.  All of these things are things to figure out– on an individual scale, and ultimately on a world-wide scale– the questions of what is enough, and what can I be talked into buying and what is the cost to me and to the world of producing the many things we want, use and inhabit. 

And in the U.S. there is big business in pushing us to buy things rather than to face hard things.   

Since becoming a mother, I think a lot about the effects of commercialism and greed on other mothers.  Factory working mothers, mothers without healthcare, mothers whose children are in prison, mothers from entire countries so poor they are faced with impossible choices trying to keep a child alive and with her– or to place a child for adoption.  I ask myself whose mother sewed the clothing I wear and for what hourly wage, whose mother cleans the places I go or prepares/cleans/ harvests the food I buy?  I think in more detail about it often being someone’s mother who does these things, than I used to.  

With that in mind, here is a sobering bit of information that I read about mother’s day in the U.S.   The prediction for this year was that roughly $14.6 billion would be spent in the U.S. alone– on Mother’s Day.  This figure comes straight from the National Retail Federation– and believe me they oughtta know what we are spending.   http://www.nrf.com/modules.php?name=News&op=viewlive&sp_id=918

That sum includes $2.9 billion in meals, $2.5 billion in jewelry and $1.9 billion in flowers.  All of this in the name of honoring our important, human unpaid labor.  I like the idea of a national day to pause and think about what we’ve done and given as mothers.  But if it didn’t involve buying things– if I weren’t so honored, and if instead our schools and childcare were properly funded and doubly or triply staffed with loving competent people– if there weren’t so many commercial dangers to watch for in my daughter’s life as she watches tv, eats food, shops for things in stores and learns to use the internet– well my job would be a whole lot easier.   It would really be honor enough to have a world in better shape, not driven by greed.  Then I and a lot of other mothers could really relax now and then.  

It would be a real honor if all working mothers earned a living wage with great health care and lots of time off to be with our children, go to their schools, hang with them and their friends.  A list serve that I am on indicates that someone calculated that the sum which we spent on commercial things for Mother’s Day this year is enough to pay for a primary school education for all 60 million girls around the world who aren’t attending school.  If that is true, I am thinking that with that sum we could end female illiteracy and probably end many other kinds of exploitation of girls and women. 

In my paid job we are painfully aware and involved in trying to challenge massive budget cuts in schools and human services this year, right here in our city.  Many, though not all, of these cuts will fall most heavily on women and children.  A very small bit of 14.6 billion would go a long way right here, for many women and children and others in need– in my own community.   

How shall we join together as a powerful group of women/ mothers to stand up against commercialism and greed– commercialism and greed with the added indignity of being masked as something especially nice for us– for moms and for young girls, for our children’s birthdays, etc. 

Should we start an anti-commercialism campaign centered around Mother’s Day?  Maybe we could call it– “Not in my name”.  How shall we begin to stand up for a real Mother’s day?  How shall we make Mother’s Day a day when we make meaningful progress to make things better for women/ mothers across the world; a day when no one gets to further greed and exploitation and loss in our good names.

Notebooks, anniversaries and running, not cupcakes.

I have a pile of differently sized, small, beautiful notebooks in a couple of different places at home.  Blank notebooks, waiting to be written in.  I have collected them over many years and with many of the individual notebooks, though not all of them, I can remember where I bought it and why.  Some are very small and were purchased so that I could and would carry them with me to jot down ideas for writing.  They sit.  On my night table, in a box in the guest room and in a basket on one of the bigger bookcases in the house.  When I started blogging, I was so taken with how you could really do all of this, the drafting, the editing, all, on the computer, I stopped buying notebooks for a while.  But I have not stopped making lists of things I want to write about.  I have several post-its crumpled and tucked into my purse with a list that grows longer every few days, of things I want to write about.  At this point many of the things I’d like to write involve material that is complex in some way and that I don’t I yet know how to, or haven’t had the time to tackle.    

But for now, a couple of shorter things.  Monday, as I indicated earlier, was May 24th which marks the anniversary of the day we got what, I explained in an earlier post, in the adoption world, is called– “the call”.  When our agency called and said that there was a baby girl four days old who could and did become our daughter.  This week, as we travel through the days my mind is very is full of things I remember doing 9 years ago and am feeling the very specific feelings of those days and nights as we worked our way to her.  This week my mother is visiting and she slept the first few nights of her visit, in my daughter’s room.  I remember working on that room in the heat of the days, and then late at night those nights, finally sitting down in it, or falling asleep and getting up to go into it at about 2 a.m. all those years ago.  I remember just thinking about her, what it would be like to hold her, to know her, to touch and hear and listen to her.  I talked to her too, before she came. 

Now here we are, 9 years later, with all the busy things and all the complexities of real relationships.  Things I have done well and things I haven’t.  Things she is easy about and things she struggles with.  Places where our household runs so smoothly and places where it really doesn’t.  But this is the week I get to remember what I hoped and expected and what it is.  There have been many surprises, but I can say I do not feel disappointed about any of it, except that it is going fast.  Too fast.   I remember those days of thinking ahead and here we are.  It is good to have this period of anniversaries, to reflect on our unusual and good family.

When I wrote of my daughter’s Girls on the Run race– I regretted being out of shape and not running with her.  A week of reflection like this one reminds me that I do want to live a very, very long life and to live every moment of it in the best possible health.  We got a late start on this parenting thing and I want years and years with my partner and my daughter and many, many more years of doing interesting and hopeful things.  So this week I revisited a milestone for me.  I put on my running shoes and ran– a very, very short-mini-run (6 and 3/4 minutes) for the first time in a very long time.  (Like about 10 -11 years.)  And then this morning I ran again.  9 minutes this time.  I remember my first run when I was 22.  We’ll see where it goes this time.  Running and playing hard is still my daughter’s way of life– but we adults, we give up at some point so it isn’t at all a way of life for me anymore.  But I am trying for something along those lines again.  So for this anniversary– at least for me– a run is so much better and sweeter than a cupcake and that’s just what I chose to start to mark these anniversaries this year.

She’s nine

She’s 9 years old today.  Nine.  Again, I confess– last night was a bad night with homework, a frustrated and in moments not very nice Mama (me), a big cry (daughter, though we’d have been better off if I had done at least some of the crying) and in the end, a finished homework assignment, a cupcake, a candle and a Mama who does know how to listen and apologize.  A late night pre-birthday party.  Though I don’t always hit it right– I did have what seems to be a terrific-to-her, pink, teenage-ish, little girl-ish sparkly dress wrapped in a box with a ribbon on it, first thing this morning.  She put it on right away.  And was, as she is, gorgeous.  I think I got this one right.

This will not be a day with time to write all that I’d like to about an important day.  But I will say this to her, for all to hear.

On the day you were born, I didn’t know you were being born, and I am sorry I wasn’t with you right away.  From what I can tell, the first few hours and days were hard, lonely.  You made it, though.  You are incredibly smart, fiercely strong, so much fun, full of interesting ideas and wickedly funny.  You have as big and as open a heart as a person can have and your Mommy and I (your Mama) are both so happy you were born and lucky you are our daughter.  The world is far better, more fun, brighter and infinitely more interesting and hopeful with you in it.  You have many aunts and cousins and a brother and his two moms and a few uncles and two grandmas and many, many friends and family– young and old who love you so much– because you have changed our lives just by being yourself.  And on Sunday we are going to have what I hope will be exactly the very cool spy birthday party you are wanting. 

I love you, N.

xo Mama

Birthday girl, birthday dress, birthday #9 morning. May 20, 2010

The job of mothering

I posted a comment recently on Sarah B.’s blog which I like a lot (the blog, not my own comment, though I do like that as well).  The comment was in response to something she wrote, and in response to some comments she got about the question of whether mothering is a job or not.   This is one of those things I think about a lot, and since I’ve never tried writing about this particular thing, rather than speaking it in conversation, I thought I’d post it.  There was discussion, if I am characterizing it correctly, about whether mothering is too personal and personally satisfying and too motivated by personal choice–and whether the real crux of mothering– a give and take relationship, renders it ineligible to be considered a job.  Here’s what I said.  Slightly changed.   

I definitely do think of mothering/ parenting as a job. It is the most interesting and genuine good work I’ve ever done. I love it.  And I have had the chance to do some incredible and deeply satisfying, deeply connected, paid work.  Embedded in the discussion of why parenting shouldn’t be considered “work” there are some assumptions or assumed ideas about jobs/ work that I don’t agree with.

First and foremost, I don’t think that loving to do something or having a deep personal connection to something makes it other than work. I think there are jobs– many important jobs that have great love and passion and deep human connection at the root of them; jobs that have a spiritual dimension, and jobs– some of them paid– that are deeply and profoundly fulfilling– where you get as much doing the job as you give to it. So I don’t think that the fact that parenting can be and is, for many of us, all those things, moves it out of the category of work.

I think about mothering/ parenting as a job in the sense that world-wide it is an essential set of tasks to which large numbers of people (and though it doesn’t have to be so, it is large numbers of women)  must dedicate many years—in order that the world of humans and each society continue and flourish.

I think of it as a job because unlike things that aren’t jobs; for example, a hobby or a religious practice or some other things that you can pick up and set aside as your feelings ebb and flow—in the case of parenting, once you take it on, there is a lot of work to be done and you must do it—whether or not you’re in the mood on any given day. The world as a whole and the individual societies in which we live and actually the economies of our societies are as completely reliant on this work we do, as they are on the production of food, energy and shelter. Parenting, or again to say the word that reflects the bulk of the parenting work world-wide, mothering, is completely necessary to the world and demands so much of us over a sustained time—and that’s what I call a job.

 

Sunday run

It’s Sunday.  My daughter ran a 5K race today.  Her first.  Her birthday comes next week and every day I cannot believe the time flying by, the things she can do, the things she does do.  I need to be crying all the time, it’s just so lovely and so scary this speedy, speedy passage of time. 

Today’s race was the concluding race of  the season of a program for girls called, Girls On The Run– which trains girls mostly in groups associated with their schools, on issues of health, nutrition, good body image and running.  They prepare for and run a 5K race.  Today was their race.  I want to be very honest here.  It wasn’t elegant here at home.  There was a fight which included raised voices, and other general upset about something as we got ready to leave for the race.  We were all a little off our game by the time we got there.  My daughter was very scared though she wasn’t saying.  And I, who used to be a runner, felt badly that I haven’t taken care of a problem with my foot (which I could take care of if I devoted some real time to it) and I’ve stopped running.  I’m out of shape and I’d really like not to be.  I realized this morning how good it it would have been if I could have run with her.

But run she did– with her team.  She took a bad fall and scraped up her knees and elbow around mile 2.5, but she finished off the race, crossed the finish line and got her medal.  And I got her to pose for a picture with me– my prize.  I’ll keep you posted on whether I start running again.

After the race, daughter and me (and lolipop) Sunday, May 16, 2010

May

We are at exactly the midpoint of the month of May.  Although May had no particular meaning for me for much of my life, May became a beautiful and forever significant month for me nine years ago and then again seven years ago.  The events that I now honor in May unfolded not in this order exactly, but they happened all in May.   In this month there is Mother’s Day.  Then there is my daughter’s birthday.  Then in our family we remember sweetly and with great, breathless tenderness– the day on which we got, what is known in the adoption world as, “the call”.  The call notifying us that there was a healthy baby girl, born four days earlier and ours if we chose to adopt her which yes we did.  

For several years before my daughter was born– and the Mother’s day that turned out to be just days before she was born, Mother’s Day was a sad time for me with all the feelings of longing and loss that I felt during the years that I hoped to become a mother but hadn’t.  But now it is the month of perhaps the most breathtaking changes of my life. 

Two years after my daughter was born, almost to the day, my father died.  Although he was very ill, he died very suddenly– unexpectedly and I was not at home where I had grown up and where he and my mother still lived; I didn’t get a chance to say goodbye either in person or on the phone.   

On Monday I will mark my father’s yahrzeit– (anniversary of a death).  This weekend right before the yahrzeit or the equivalent several days leading up to his yahrzeit, are always incredibly difficult for me.  They are full of memories and feelings, many good and some very difficult, they are full of gratitude that he was my father, they are full of sadness at the permanence of his absence in our lives and the things I would like to do or say again with him, or at least one more time.  The rest of the world goes on, but over these couple of days I feel strange and heartbroken inside–and I’ve still not quite found the right thing to do other than to plow forward (and sometimes yell at people for seemingly no reason– sadly the people at whom I yell are almost exclusively my partner and daughter.  Yes, I admit it– that is what I do with my grief at times.) 

In addition to mother’s day, my father’s yahrzeit, my daughter’s birthday and the anniversary of “the call”,  May and then June hold a few other deeply significant dates for me.  Both my partner and I have an almost video-like recollection of many things we did during the frenetic week between learning of my daughter’s birth and flying to her home state of Texas and bringing her into our family forever.  Some of the things we did were deep and touching, some mundane and some hilarious.  We talk and laugh, just the two of us, about many things that we did during that week.  Everything about the week could have been forgettable except now will never be forgotten.  

And then there is June 1st– the date we flew to Texas and met all seven pounds of our 12 day old daughter and fell in love with her and took her back to our hotel and began to know her and to help her know us and to try to get our bearings in a city far from home and in our new lives as parents.  I know that my daughter was sad and scared on that day, though we were elated, and I know that many days to follow were not simply easy and joyful for her as they were for us.  But it was our beginning.  

And then there is June 8th, which is the day we said goodbye to Texas and brought her to this city, this block, and this apartment where she and we have lived ever since.  And then nearly one year ago– on the very last day of May of 2009 , I believe, we had the remarkable meeting for the first time with my daughter’s beautiful younger brother, and his two very wonderful moms.  We spent a single, very full day with them. With one opening game of chase and rough-housing and then lunch in a diner, a walk to a park and an unplanned average dinner at our dining room table, they became our family all at once on that day. 

I have the luxury today of having the two people I love and live with every day– away camping with the Girl Scouts and I have the apartment all to myself.  I am listening to beautiful music, studying Hebrew, writing, writing and fixing the simplest meals possible– because there is so much to take in, such fullness of heart and mind and memory in May. 

daughter in the first piece of clothing I purchased for her-- July 2001

daughter, July 2001

daughter, first vacation at the beach, Provincetown, August 2001

Daughter and me. I loved to hold her but she didn’t like to be slowed down for a photograph. It’s 2002 and she’s about 15 mos. old.

Good night.

Good night. May 12, 2010

As a follow up to the previous post.  It isn’t me, it’s my partner.  And daughter.  Just after daughter fell asleep.  She (my partner) is more handsome and more beautiful than this photo reflects.   

Have you ever read the wonderful and odd books for very young children by Todd Parr?  His book called The Mommy Book has a line I love; “All mommies love to watch you sleep.”  We really, really do, don’t we?

More visuals anyone? Everyone?

This is one of those kind of navel-gazing bits of writing which when done by others, I sometimes enjoy enormously.  And sometimes cannot stand.  It might not interest you at all– though it does reflect something I am trying to figure out.  If it doesn’t (interest you at all) forgive me. 

When you enter WordPress.com  there is a page called Freshly Pressed which features ten new blog posts daily.  These are great to peruse and if you are a blogger like I now am, I think (though I have never been selected for Freshly Pressed) this is phenomenally great advertising.  Being featured there is a great way to increase your traffic, virtually speaking. (On our commutes to work we’re looking for less traffic; on our blogs–more.)  A few days ago, I stumbled upon a short article at WordPress.com which consisted of five pieces of advice about how to get featured on Freshly Pressed.  They were as follows– but not in this order and I quote some directly and also paraphrase below:

1.  Write unique content that is free of bad stuff.  Don’t plagiarise, write hate speech or porn (a paraphrase of their words).  Check.

2.  Add tags.  It has to do with how they can surf around and find things they might be interested in perusing further.  Mostly I add tags, though not always.  Check-minus.

3.  Aim for typo free content.  Well again, I always aim that way, and I believe I often, but not always, achieve said goal.   (By the way, you should email me when you notice I have posted something where I forgot to finish a sentence or there is a misspelling or other typo.  Privately would be nice, but however you do it, I’d like to know.  I do want to correct typos.) I’ll give myself a “mostly I succeed with this” grade.  Check.  

4.  Cap off your post with a compelling headline.  It says that your headline should stand out, avoid excessive punctuation, swear words or vague statements.  Who knows if my headlines stand out or are compelling but there are no swear words nor do I use excessive punctuation.  I’ll give myself a check on this, even though meeting this standard is more subjective and vague.   Check-ish.

But as we come to a critical piece of advice, I fall apart almost completely– if Freshly Pressed is my goal.  I have some work to do before I can even hope to be featured on Freshly Pressed. (And maybe they are right and this is a general failing of this blog.)  On their list it wasn’t last or least (it was actually second on their list)– they say;

5. Include images or other visuals.  This they say should be an element of most blog posts. Most.  Oy– by this standard, this blog’s a loser.  Or if I want to take a more constructive approach, I have some work to do.  Let’s leave it at that.  No check at all– a near failing grade on this one. 

So, you readers out there, what’s your vote?  More visuals?  Visual images with every post?  And you bloggers out there… I need guidance.  Clearly.  Do you use only your own photos?  Do you have a scanner?  Do you know where to go for stock photos or images of things– that are free and don’t pose copyright violations problems if you post them? 

I am also very aware that while there are some beautiful images of my daughter and snow on this blog, there are no images of me.  The gray in my hair, the wrinkles around my eyes.  For sure I should do some more internal work on the beauty of middle aged women.  Or I should have started blogging younger.  Anyway, I think I need more visuals. 

Suggestions?  Send your ideas about this.  And be patient.  One day maybe you’ll find me Freshly Pressed.  Or not.  Perhaps I’m really an old fashioned hard copy girl, posing as a blogger.

Happy Mother’s Day– two days late

I have been away from this for a while.  My absence bothers me, whether it bothers you or not, but it is entirely related to being a mother.  A working mother.  A working mother with some significant interests and commitments in addition to mothering and working. 

Let me pay a little tribute to a few mothers who pop to mind.  If I don’t refer to you, and you are a mother, well I should have written about you specifically.   Because you deserve it.  There are literally dozens and dozens of mothers who come to mind–for your interesting ideas, your hard, hard work, your deep love, your sense of humor, your willingness to try things out and to challenge yourself in the name of being a good parent.  All the brave and hard things you have done and faced as a woman and as a mother. 

I won’t refer to even  a quarter of the women whose work as mothers easily come to mind as deserving of mention.  But I will say a few things about a few mothers in my life.

I have actually not yet told my own mother about this blog.  I don’t know why exactly, but I haven’t yet told her.  But she deserves some special mention.  She is funny and she is loyal and good and generous and just up for so much and she is alive and well and doing a great job now as a grandmother as well as mother.  I love you, Mom. 

If you haven’t used the link to MamaCandtheboys— you should.  She, Mama C,  is a mother to know and to read.  I cannot remember when I started reading her blog, but she has been an amazing person for me to know.  She is doing a number of things writing-wise and organizing-wise, that I want to be doing–and her work and victories move me forward.  There are many things about her life and her work that inspire me.  Some of them can be found on  April 13 and her poem on April 18, We Your Boys.  Just to mention two that don’t require me to reach very far back in the memory bank.

Poet Patricia Smith is a mother who has recently changed me in some of the ways I continue to want to be changed.  Go.  Read her work.  Buy her books.  Read Teahouse of the Almighty.  Read the poem, Scribe, and the poem, Building Nicole’s Mama.  And then tell someone else about her work.  Buy them her books and give them as a gift to someone you love. 

I cannot even imagine what it would be like to try to be a mother without my sister at my side, behind me–but actually ahead of me and leading the way.  It was a gift to get a sister, five years younger and then a gift that she became a mother eight years before I did.  Her mothering and her two sons are huge gifts in our lives but also for me it is a gift to have the chance to follow her lead on so many, many things.  She has thought about and understood so much; she is unflinching her assessment of things, she is hilariously funny, has eyes open wide to the world and its sorrows, its sweetness too, and she can and does play a mean game of basketball.  Happy Mother’s Day, J.  You rock and you should know it. 

D came into our lives as a caregiver for my daughter when she was eight months old and my partner and I both had to go back to working regular schedules.  I was fundamentally opposed to in-home care because I did not believe I could find someone trustworthy enough to  leave alone with our very young daughter.  I knew that caring for a very young child is hard work, that you lose interest at times or just lose it at times.  We interviewed D as a favor to a friend with no intention of hiring her.   But there was something about her, her gentleness, her fierceness, her seriousness.  She seemed so grounded in the reality of  and the meaning of caring for a very young girl.  We told her we’d get back to her.  And then as she left the apartment after our interview, we looked at each other– my friend K was also there, visiting from out-of-town and had sat in on our meeting.  I said to K and to my partner– should we run down the stairs after her?  She’s the one, isn’t she?  There was no disagreement.

She came to work for us a week or two later and worked for us until last fall.  D is an immigrant from Mexico, who has welcomed my Chicana daughter into a big, extended Mexican family.  My daughter has a home with them and they love her.  We’ve been through a lot all together.  She is now the mother of two daughters– one typically developing daughter and one daughter with a very significant disability which has made D into a fierce and experienced special needs mama.  She is a best friend, like a daughter to us at times, a sister– someone who has made me a better mother through her help, her friendship and sharing her family with us. 

And then there is my own partner, co-conspirator, sister, friend, love and sweetheart–M.  I cannot even begin to imagine this household, this work of thinking and doing and loving and driving and planning without her.  And I don’t want to.   Her basketball skills and her ability to pack an enormous picnic lunch in 7 minutes and her love and tenderness for our girl, but all the young girls and all the young boys in our lives, barely scratch the surface of what is wonderful about parenting with her.   I do want to say that my partner was very resistant to the idea of parenting for a very long time in our relationship, before we adopted our daughter.  And though I have said it many times over at home, I will say it more publicly here.  M– you love being a mom and you are an amazing mom and our daughter and so many other young people love you.  So this is one of those times when it is very sweet and good to be able to say “I was right, I told you so.”  

Mothering is not a singular experience.  If we are white or brown or black, if we have health insurance or not, if our children are healthy and typically developing or face disability or health struggles, if we are lesbian or heterosexual, Jewish or gentile– working class or middle class–all of these things make one mother’s experience very different from another’s.  But we are all part of a sisterhood of women, reaching for a world that is human and humane, fighting to fix this messy world and I am grateful to all of you.  Happy Mother’s day.