Monthly Archives: May 2012

Shout out around the world. Now shout back at me.

I don’t spend a lot of time on these comparisons but I do keep track.  Wordpress tracks your stats for you, your traffic.  Or to be clear, WordPress, the host site for this blog, tracks the traffic on this blog, my blog, for me.  One cannot tell if the same person went back to the site ten times a day or if ten people read on a given day but WordPress tells me when the site has been viewed ten or twenty-one or thirty times.

Because of this, I know I am not the most widely read Jewish mom, writer, wanting to end racism, adoptive parent blogger out there, nor the second or third most widely read.  This blog has not been picked up or mentioned by any one of several publications that might do so and thereby increase the readership.

The comments I do get from readers have slowed from a trickle to an intermittent drip.  (I say this with the deepest gratitude to those very few of you who carry the weight of the commenting–  and with great happiness that you read this, whether you ever comment or never comment.)  I also know that in year one the blog got a certain number of hits and in year two the readership increased by about 50% and this year my readership may well decline from that of last year.  The absolute truth is I have different feelings about these facts at different times.  I’d love a wider readership and I’d especially love wider and active conversation through comments, but I am very, very happy with the readership of this blog, just as it is.

But.  Get this.  One of the amazing features of WordPress– a recently added feature, is that it tracks hits on the blog, by country.  I now know that this blog has been read by people in something like 22 or 24 countries outside the US– including Spain, Taiwan, Kenya, Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Israel, Canada, Poland, the UK and Brazil to name just a few.

I must say, now I am intrigued.  And you could do me a favor.  Any and all of you could and should comment, I would love that.  I invite you.

But I would especially love to hear from you, if you are from outside the US.  Consider this your special invitation to write.  And especially if you are from outside the US and you are a woman.  Or if you are from outside the US and you are a mom or dad, or an uncle or aunt, or a grandmother or lover of poetry or a lesbian, or are a teacher, or a childcare provider or someone who is passionate about ending racism or if you are a writer or a poet or… I’d love to hear from you.  Tell me how you found me here and what your life is like where you live and what you have to teach from where you sit.  I’m shouting out to you and I hope you, really it is you I’m talking to, will shout back.

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Unfinished

You don’t need to hear all this to get my point, but I want to savor this particular memory and the details, so humor me.  Many years ago, in the final months of my partner’s ownership of her wonderful feminist bookstore–her shop (that means she) hosted, and I attended, a talk by the great feminist crime/mystery writer, Sara Paretsky.   It was an event that my partner knew would be a big draw.  She rented a meeting room in a hotel about a block from her bookstore for the event because her little shop could stretch to accommodate people for an event, but not that much.  The house was packed that night– with almost all women.

I adored Paretsky’s work and I only say it in the past tense because it’s been a long time since I’ve read something of hers.  Long enough that I should pick up a book of hers again.  All of her mysteries are set in my hometown, Chicago, and the descriptions of the city and places known and unknown to me are great gifts to me– like having someone else take all your jumbled photos of your earliest years and making a great album out of them and then presenting it to you.  I also loved and felt an interesting kinship with her main character, V.I. Warshawski and with V.I.’s beloved older woman friend and mentor–Lotty Herschel– a Holocaust survivor.

The talk she gave that night was about her journey as a woman writer.  It was a painful talk about the long, cruel, sexist invalidation of her by father.  And it was about the steps she took and what finally allowed her to go ahead despite the deep, ongoing meanness and invalidation she had faced–to go ahead and become a writer.  She is a woman who is not light and bubbly– the mark of the sexism and the antisemitism she faced growing up– all show on her (we all bear the hoofmarks of oppression, a teacher and mentor of mine used to say).  But she triumphed and has these amazing books to show for it.

At the end of her talk she took questions.  This was a very long time ago and I wish I better remembered the exact question and her exact answer, but I remember it fairly well– I’ve been quoting it for years.

She was asked, by a younger woman, something along the lines of what did she think was the most important gift, or skill or attribute, that a woman– in particular– needed to have, in order to succeed as a writer.  I will never forget her answer though I wish I remembered it verbatim.  She said that for a woman she thought it wasn’t talent, and it wasn’t something else or something else (I don’t remember what the other somethings were)– it was the ability to start and to persevere and then to finish a project.  

Although she didn’t say exactly these things, she did frame this in the context of sexism.  And if having the ability to finish something that matters to you is isn’t a description of one important swath of damage that sexism does to us– I don’t know what is.  Whether it is because our confidence has been undermined, or our ability to really know what we want to do has been taken from us, or because we do so much caretaking (and not just of family, but of organizations, schools, community gardens, childcare coops, pets, sick friends and relatives, you name it) or because we are treated as though our projects aren’t important and we get interrupted a lot– we have trouble finishing things.  I do.  I have so much trouble.

Although I wasn’t writing five days a week– I was rarely writing even three days a week– while I was a stay-at-home mother, I wrote more.  And I finished what I wrote and posted it right here.  Now, working full-time for a man– in my personal, at-home life, and my writing life– unfinished is the name of the game.  So when I went to begin to write again tonight, I pulled up the authors section of my blog with all my unfinished as well as posted/ published drafts– and there were a record-breaking (for me) five posts started but unfinished.   And there are so many other things unfinished too; the insurance forms that need to be completed, the literal messes that need to be cleaned up and closets and drawers gone through and culled.  There are the long talks I am waiting to have with different people, and the walks I want to take and the exercise I want.  The community organizing I would like to do someday, the good night’s sleep I want every night.  There is still a longing to get an MFA in creative writing and a longing for the second child I wanted to bring into our family and raise.  Unfinished are whole articles I’d like to write and also unfinished is the reading and playing and active and special time things I want to do with my daughter.  And more.

Despite all that is unfinished, I toast.  Here is to my female sisters and to myself– here’s to finishing things, to blogging and to writing and to publishing and to raising children and making our schools run and all the zillion other things women do.  And here’s to ending sexism so that we can get on with it–whatever of many, many, many things we really want to get on with.

A Birthday, An Adoption, A Yahrzeit

In that order.  I won’t look back right now, but I think I write virtually the same post at this time every year.  Maybe you haven’t read this blog for long, or maybe you haven’t remembered enough for me to be embarrassed for the repetition.  Or maybe, with things in life, like birth and death and adoption, it’s ok to repeat oneself.

May is a big month for me.  A month of no particular significance in my life until after I was 40 years old– but a big, huge month for me now.  On Sunday, my daughter, born in 2001, will be 11 years old.  I am already thinking a lot about that age and what it means– to her and to me and to us.  I am thinking about her and what I’d like to write about her and what I want to wish for her in the coming year.

Her birth and her adoption were obviously two different events– and I was there for one and not the other.  It is still unfolding year by year and I am still learning –as is she– what these facts mean to her– and what they mean to me.   In some ways the facts of her beginnings and then the facts of the family she got– have given her an interesting and broad perspective.  I know she loves the family she got and we so love her.   This year it was also more open and visible than in the past, that this part of her story– adoption– is a hard thing to carry with her.  I don’t think I’ve written them– but there were two different nights this year when I came home to find my daughter laying on the bed, crying and crying, openly and brokenheartedly– with my partner laying next to her, just tender and listening as she cried about her birth mother never having chosen to meet her.

Nine years ago today just three days before my daughter’s second birthday, my father, who was quite ill but not expected to die, died very suddenly and unexpectedly.  I was already grieving about him, because he was so ill.  But he when he died  I had not said goodbye and I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.  But I did.  I had to.  So we have a yahrzeit today and a birthday later this week.   I am full of so many feelings and I am at work and doing my regular things and at home a candle is burning and I do very much, miss my father.

Frayed

My partner and I were at a retreat the first weekend in May– weekend before this one that is just coming to a close.  It’s something we go to almost every year, on eliminating white racism.  It’s a powerful retreat and is worth writing about in itself but I mention it here simply for context.  The retreat was Friday to Sunday but we were there some at the same time and some at different times, to accommodate our childcare arrangements.  On Saturday afternoon I took a walk with the retreat leader who is an old friend of mine and who now lives on the West coast.  My partner organized a basketball game.  She broke her finger playing.

I knew as soon as I saw her that this was bad and that it was, in some sense, the result of the strain she’s been under since I took the job I am doing now.  It wasn’t her fault and it was just one of those bad luck sort of things and hell, it’s a finger, not a femur or a heart attack, but still …. I had a bad feeling about it.

That was Saturday afternoon.  I came home late Saturday night and she got home Sunday and the very earliest appointment she could get to see an orthopedist as she had been advised to do, was Wednesday morning.   Wednesday morning my daughter was quite sick and my partner’s appointment was early in the morning.

I started to write every detail of this– but the long and the short of it is–my daughter spent a long day in my partner’s office on Wednesday and I had an important budget-related legislative meeting that I was staffing at 1:00 with preparation and briefing to finalize and provide to my legislator.  There was  last minute jockeying and politics around various issues some of which involved me and most of which did not.

I had said that I’d try to leave work early and come get my daughter from my partner’s office by 3:30 to bring her home to rest.  When I finally extricated myself it was 5:45 p.m. and she had been at an office hanging out with her sinus cold since about 9:00 a.m.  At 5:45 I felt like both a lousy mother and, given what was going on in the office and what was still to be done, like I was skipping out early.

On Thursday the schedule was less crazy and I put my foot down and stayed home with my daughter who was still really sick.  I spent well over two hours on the phone with work.  So on her sick day home with Mama– my little daughter (who is not little at all, but is still a young girl in need of care from her Mama when she is sick)  fixed a meal or two for herself, fixed her own hot tea and was on her own way, way too much.  On Friday, I was back in the office at 9:00 and stayed until a cool 8:30 p.m.

In many ways my daughter and I are doing well– though she is vocal about missing having me there.  As for me, I just come home and burst into tears some nights about not being there.  Missing her, missing both of them too much.

Then one night, late at night, something happened between my partner and me– I can barely remember what except that I was mad and she was completely checked out.  When we talked she finally admitted that being the backstop for everything– the nights I work until 7:00, the nights I work until 8:30, the nights I work until 10:00– the sick days I can’t take off, the teacher conversations I’m not having, the science project, the early pick-ups, the Hebrew school– well she said juggling all of it had gotten to her.  Of course it has.

She’s frayed and fractured, and her  little finger is simply a metaphor.  But it’s also a broken finger.  That has to heal.  What I do know is that when I’m not working on my job, I’m working on this question– how to un-fray us and whether there is a way to do this job and still be the mom and partner I so want to be.