Monthly Archives: April 2012

Tectonic shift

We’re now officially less than one month away from my daughter’s 11th birthday.  I am pinned between the rock of her ever-increasing independence and growing up-ness (and all the complexities contained in that)  and the harsh reality of having gone from a lengthy, not chosen, stint as a stay-at-home-mom who fell completely in love with that job, hard as it was– to a 50+ hours a week working mom.  For those who equate tears and struggle with bad– you’d be hard-pressed to categorize how I am.  I’m doing great, I’m thrilled, and I feel just awful a lot of the time, and this job, and the things I do at work are the most fun I’ve had in a long, long time work-wise.   I mean really, serious fun.  And I am, as I said just the other day– bone-tired.

Since I’ve gained confidence on the job, and the first rocky, scary weeks of new-jobness have ended– I’ve turned my attention a little more outward.  As a result, I have been bursting into tears quite a lot when I think of the hours and hours I am not getting to be with my daughter.  I just can hardly bear it right at the same time I am loving what I do at work.  If you could grant me the 48 hour day and she could sleep quietly while I work, I would, I think, be happy.  But I cried with my boss on Friday when I realized I was going to have to work all day Friday and then a fair bit over the weekend.

And I burst into tears when I walked through the door at home on Monday night at 8:30.  I’d been at the very last of a series of in-the-evening community meetings.  And then, at the very end, they decided to schedule another meeting this week that I have to staff– for 5:00 p.m. tomorrow.  I literally barely kept it together at the meeting itself when they decided on a second this week.  And I will work this weekend while daughter and partner go ahead on a long-planned camping trip to a gorgeous park on a river where it is nearly impossible to even get a permit to go there and camp.   Me.  I have to miss that.  Aaaaachhh.

I wasn’t actually with my daughter all the time when I wasn’t working.   Sometimes I felt I was barely with her.  She went to school and camp and Hebrew school and basketball and drama club and wanted playdates with friends and… she was busy.   But I was with her a lot and I was available— and she knew it and I knew it.  Being truly available to a young person is kind of like being together though nothing like being together.

I’ve been walking around for days trying to pull up from some distant memory– or some non-existent memory,  a phrase I believe I’ve heard, for what I am feeling.  If after I write this, you know or want to make up the phrase– please do write me.  Comment.  It’s something like womb-loss or early-empty-nest but not really either of those.   I mean by that, not either of those at all.  Something else.  It’s a phrase that connotes excruciating, tectonic plate-shifting loss even though it’s really change and not loss at all.  Maybe the word I’m looking for is weaning, only it’s me who’s being weaned.  She’s busy, interested in her friends, her iPod touch, her YouTube videos, something she calls “alone time”, nail polish, friends, art projects, wrestling, playing hard outside (sometimes) and a whole lot more.  She misses me a lot, I know– she cried about it one night last week and I really felt terrible, like I’d let her down.  But I miss her more, I really do, though it isn’t a competition.  The fact is, this change has been hard on all of us, but then so are life-saving surgery, childbirth, writing and editing a book, starting a marriage or life with a new child, and training for a marathon to name a few.  I’m not sure which of those I’m in the midst of, but you get the picture.


I have posted, from time to time– my daughter in her school outfit for the day.    I love her style and I some mornings I feel like I can barely bear to part for the day.  These photos are from earlier in the week.  A cool morning when it was cool in the apartment.  Her great and comfy fashion sense.  A cooler day than the few before.

Mama C. reminds me that these photos have some resonance in a hard way, with current events in the world.  I am always conscious, especially as a mom, of the world we adults have participated in, created and also inherited.  And whatever you or I did or didn’t do to land us where we are, I think about our job as people and as parents, to leave the world and our young people with something better– in particular, a world in which we’ve ended racism.  I didn’t set out to write a post about Trayvon Martin or about his mama and daddy or about the racism in the world, and I wasn’t thinking about the world outside our door when I said, “go stand by the bookcase, so I can take your picture this morning”.   She (my daughter) and they (the pictures) are just beautiful.   I wish there weren’t such current meaning in these sweet, silly morning photos.  I’ll enjoy them and hope you will too–nonetheless.


I am bone-tired.   My body, exhausted from working, which is on many days, and for hours and hours and hours– sitting and writing and concentration.  And my mind is tired.  I had brokered a deal whereby I could generally, except when something urgent was happening, not work on Fridays–so I could spend time at my daughter’s school and get her after school, but it turns out there has been something urgent every Friday but one Friday since I started.

Yesterday I went into the office and worked and when I was sort of closing in on the end point, I realized had another big writing project due.  So I went to the office of my boss next door and started to cry– “I have this wonderful 10-year-old daughter, she is my priority and I have to have more time with her.”  She pulled out kleenex and told me to close the door and listened to me.  Then I left and picked up my daughter and brought her back to work.

I was so, so happy to see her.  We stopped at a great downtown professional art supply store and at a food cart for a hot dog and  then I brought her back to the office and stayed there and worked with her until 8:00 p.m.  It helps a lot that I work in an absolutely beautiful building with a beautiful view out the window.  It helps a lot that because I work in a legislative office I have a small 13-inch tv with cable in my office.    Having my young girl come and sit in an office and watch me work for hours goes completely against my ideas about what a young person should get to do after sitting in school all day and against what a young one should do and get and have with a parent after that long day at school.  It is completely contrary to what I want to do  with her.  Still, I realized yesterday that we had an especially sweet and close time together and it was a good thing for both of us.  I loved going to work with my father when I was young, but by the time I was 10 I pretty much didn’t get to do that anymore.  For her to see me and be with me and my colleagues at work.  For me to have her with me even though I wasn’t playing with her, I was working.  Hard.  And I love what I do and she gets to see that.

I have probably never, ever worked this hard at a job, except in the first years of my work at the HIV Clinic where I worked in the 90’s and on through 2004.   In those first years we published a 300-page AIDS Advocacy Manual which we, the legal staff with caseloads and two legal clinics to run and other responsibilities, wrote and edited annually.  At that time, the world, in terms of AIDS and the law– was changing so fast it was a big project, re-writing and researching things that had changed year by year.  Then we decided it was just too much to do on top of our caseloads and my boss contracted with an editor.

The other hardest job I’ve ever done was when I first graduated from college, I worked full-time as a daycare teacher.  I worked with young people 1-2 years old and then later we had a mixed group of 1-4 year olds.  I had to be at work at 7:00 a.m. and I was living and working in Madison, Wisconsin and for many of those months it was winter.  It was cold, with a capital C and dark with a capital D when I’d leave for work.  The work with young people was tiring because it was both physical– very.  And it was work that demanded your mind– all those interested and busy and demanding young minds wanted a working mind in return.  So it was non-stop physical and non-stop attention, and when I came home at about 3:30– I’d just lay down on our couch in the living room and sleep a deep and heavy sleep– for two hours before I could stand and do anything.  Bone tired.

But I love this job– for many reasons.  The writing I get to do and increasingly the thinking.  The breadth of the job and doing work that is rooted in my own geography, my community, the issues of the day in the place where I live.  And as I get to know him better and better, the legislator I work for– who often stands against easy, angry opinion and does the right thing.  Right now we are fighting hard to see if we can prevail against a tide of welfare cuts — the latest attempt to vilify poor people and to “balance” a budget if you can call a government budget that is so punitive “balanced”.  There is more, but it is daylight now and a beautiful spring day this Saturday morning and I need to go and get out with that daughter I love– in her last weeks of 10-ness and move my body and breathe fresh air before it turns to the time I have to go back to work.

there’s no place like home…or all around the world

There was a special luxury– and I do mean luxury– on the days when I was unemployed and when I managed an early shower and to sit and write this blog quietly at the dining room table for a couple of hours.  Rainy days offered one sort of luxury for writing, sunny and cold another, and sunny and warm and breezy still another.  I miss it.

I will not stop writing this blog.  I will not stop writing this blog.  I will not… Please don’t stop coming by to visit.  I’ll be back in the swing of this, one of these days soon.  Tonight I blocked out about an hour to write, and then realized there were two problems with our email that really had to be solved.  So instead of sitting and writing– I called Verizon.  I am not exactly a booster of Verizon but tonight I cheer the fact that I didn’t have to wait in a queue at all and reached successively– Unippi, in India and John, in Mexico.   They were both excellent.  Capitalism really, really stinks in so many ways– destroys lives and people and things we love.  But I did like reaching Unippi and John in their respective places in the world.  Each helped me a great deal.  I hope their lives are not made miserable by their work.  And that they get paid a decent wage and have health benefits for themselves and their children and clean water to drink and time away from their work too.

This is simply update.  No more, no less.  I have serious things to write about and funny things as my daughter approaches her 11th birthday.  I have things I’d like to write about my work and what I am learning not only about the world, but about myself, in this job.  And I have a need for sleep and so I say goodnight.