Monthly Archives: March 2013

Happy International Women’s Day 2013

My mom and me.

My mom and me.

My Mom and my sister, J.

My Mom and my sister, J.

Today is International Women’s Day.  You may be weary of this kind of caveat, but this will be a short post, not nearly all I want to write.  By way of explanation, I worked through the night Wednesday, until 5:30 a.m. Thursday morning, preparing to staff two hearings at work yesterday.  I was focused and effective yesterday and I pulled off a job despite having severely misjudged what it was going to take to prepare… but I did not go to work today–Friday. (I sometimes have Fridays “off” as the lingo goes when a working mother stays home and works at home rather than at her paid job.)

But.  I could not let the day pass without honoring International Women’s Day and reminding you to do so too.  So, here are a few thoughts for this auspicious day.  My first awareness and celebration of International Women’s Day was March 8– I believe when I was 19.  I was a student in Madison, Wisconsin at the time and I think it was about 18 degrees that day.  I remember the cold and the brilliant sunshine of that day, vividly.  In honor of International Women’s day, there was a day of workshops and talks and hands on activities at the Wilmar Neighborhood Center in Madison.  I remember many things about that day, but the thing I remember most was the sense of joy and energy and invigoration of being a young woman, celebrating International Women’s Day with many other young women.  My mind opened further that day.

This morning I drove my partner to work and remembered what day it was, just as she was getting out of the car and I wished her a happy International Women’s Day.  She paused and sat back down and said how lucky she felt that she had married someone (me, and no we are not married, but that is another story) who was a strong feminist.  She said she couldn’t imagine her life if her partner had not been a strong feminist as she is and as I am.  It was a wonderful, brief but deep talk and then she went on her way and I went on mine.

Then I called my old friend– a friend who was my housemate for many years in Madison.  We were friends and we were sisters together in feminism, and in figuring out many things for ourselves as young women.  She went with me that cold day to that International Women’s Day celebration when we were 19.  She didn’t remember the event at all, but was so glad I called.  We had a long-ish talk about her having made the decision to care for her mother at the end of her mother’s life which she did, intensively, for about 7 or 8 years and about the job of mothering.  We talked about what an honor it is to take excellent care of someone.  This fact is made complex by sexism and by the de facto requirement of sexism, worldwide, that women be caregivers without fully getting to choose and without pay and generally under impossible conditions.  Having this conversation with a beloved woman friend was also a good way to honor the day.

One of the important things I do every year for International Women’s day is simply this.  I remember that it is International Women’s day and I talk about it.  So.  Let this be a reminder to us, to take ourselves and our sisters and our daughters and our mothers and our women friends seriously.  Let us fight for justice and not ignore the injustices of our own lives, nor those of other women– in our neighborhoods, of our own race or other races, in our own country or far from us– let us see and let us fight for justice.  And let us enjoy our lives as women right now.

That’s it for now.  Except for one more thing.  I’d like you, today if you read this today, or tomorrow or a week from now, to do this, in honor of International Women’s day.  Remind someone that today is/ was International Women’s day and then spend a few minutes and each take a turn and have the other listen.  In each turn each of you should tell the other the names of five women in your current life and five women you don’t know (total of ten) you admire.  And why.  That’s it, just do that.  For me.  For you.  For all women.

Here today, just today at this moment, with my tired, fuzzy mind, here is my list.  It is not exhaustive (though I am exhausted).  It is not in any order.  These are not the women I admire more than others, it’s just my list for today.

A few Women I know and love and admire:

1.  My mother, R.

2.  My sister, J.

3.  My daughter, N.

4.  My partner, M.

5.  My friend and former teacher, Evi Beck

6.  My friend and family, Urvashi Vaid

7.  My friend and family A.S. in Wisconsin and L.C. and her daughters in California.   (I cheated and did seven-plus, you can also if you like)

From the famous and not known personally or no longer with us category:

8.  Adrienne Rich

9.  Audre Lorde

10.  Dolores Huerta

11. Hillary Clinton

12.  My beloved and so many others’ beloved, Grace Paley

13.  Courageous female union leaders: Mary Kay Henry, Randi Weingarten and Karen Lewis

14.  Senator Tammy Baldwin

15.  From the Torah, Ruth and Naomi– for sticking together

That’s my list and that’s it for today.  Make your list out loud with at least one other person and be sure to appreciate yourself  (if you are a woman) and be sure to appreciate many, many women in your life.   Happy International Women’s day.

Sisters. part one.

Two sets of sisters.  Me and mine, my daughter and hers.   This post is her (daughter) and hers (her sister).  Another to follow about me and my sister.

We went on a very cold, kind of dreary day, to another city, about an hour away to see my daughter’s sister.  Two weeks ago tomorrow this was.   Sister and her mom (a single mommy) life about three hours away, but the grandmother of my daughter’s sister, a grandmother called by the Yiddish name, like my mother is called– Bubbe lives in the city an hour away and we agreed to meet there.

We were all nervous and filled with different emotions, but at the same time we all– my daughter included, I think– felt a little bit like old hands at this.  We’ve known her brother and his two moms for almost four whole years now.   It’s an interesting set of things you become expert at if you have a family by adoption.  The occasion was no less profound, no less heart-stopping, no less scary or beautiful or amazing by virtue of our experience.  But it wasn’t quite brand-new unknown, mouth-hanging- open, tremblingly new.  It was a familiar kind of heart-stopping if that makes any sense.  On the way in the car, there was some kind of fighting and upset about what time we left, when we should have left, whose fault it was but I cannot remember it now.  Happily it passed.

What have I said, not said?  This sister of hers is a sister.  She is Jewish, like my daughter.  She is Latina, brown skinned, dark eyed and gorgeous– like my daughter.  They look– not exactly alike, but like family, like sisters.  We got a little twisted around heading to the specific meeting place and called the mom several times on the cell phone.  She was warm and reassuring and we relaxed a little bit.  We drove to the supermarket parking lot where we agreed to meet.  When we finally got out of the car and spotted them and began to walk toward them, younger sister was holding her mom’s hand tightly and jumping.  Jumping up and down.  Jumping.  My daughter was suddenly the 11 year old who was thrilled, and touched, but doesn’t jump up and down.  She chuckled.  She laughed (not at, but in pleasure) and gathered her small gifts in hand and sprinted ahead of me.  And they met.

I am not going to tell the whole story of the day, but it was a good day.  A good day.  Not good, like in, “have a good day.”  But good like in the Torah, good like in biblical references.  “And then G-d did such and such.  And it was it was good. ” I loved the mom again, as I had when we met almost exactly two months earlier.  I loved the Bubbe and they both loved my big girl, which is always a big hit with me.  And N. and her little sister, they bonded.  They did things together, they hung out, they talked though I don’t know exactly about what.  There were wonderful things that happened and normal things, like the tuna fish salad and green salad and challah dinner that was delicious and familiar and that we ate at Bubbe’s table all together.

But one of my favorite moments was this.  A moment that made me laugh inside and out because there is something about the spirit, the temperament of these two girls that is so similar– down to the expression of it.

N’s younger sister had just gotten– and the girls decided to watch– her new Curious George DVD.  My daughter who will watch a lot of DVD recordings of tv shows almost anytime she is given the chance, has grown a little old for Curious George.  But sister, at age 8 is not too old for it.  They watched episode after episode after episode.  I worked at the dining room table drafting clues then walked throughout the apartment and building–  to create a scavenger hunt for them, that would take them out into the halls, the elevator, the lobby of the apartment building.  I wanted them away from the tv, in league with one another, whispering, conspiring, laughing, moving around.  My daughter, who can take a lot of tv, was about spent, but patient– wanting to be with her sister.

Finally, at the end of one episode, I intervened.  “How about you both pause it now and do the scavenger hunt?  Then you can watch the rest of the episodes later.”  Without missing a beat sister said brightly, “the pause button is broken, we can’t stop it!”  and that was that– she plopped herself down and my daughter gave me a look like “what’s an older sister to do?” sighed and in her generous, good-natured way, sat down to watch the rest of the Curious George dvd.  Then later, eventually, the scavenger hunt ensued.  They ran around, flushed, laughing, with the modern day twist of hiding but calling on a cell phone, and had a great time.  That was their/ our beginning.  I look forward to more of the spirit, the warmth, the stubborn singleminded- ness and humor of this new girl in our lives and to seeing the two girls and their brother too– grow and play and and scheme and laugh and occasionally cry, together.