Tag Archives: Blogging

Longest. Absence. Yet. and a plan

So with these long gaps, I am pulled, each time to write about not writing. Why I didn’t, what pulled me back, what I wanted to write about but didn’t. I’ll resist (mostly) except to say working in the job I have and the guilt I feel about the parenting time spent unavailable, working, or distracted or exhausted and the reality of the things that are at the top of my list with any free time– have all kicked my butt for some time now. And they’ve kicked it every time I sit down to blog here.

The very good news is that our household feels like it is going through sea changes– all good sea changes, but sea changes. (I’ll be less vague soon, but no one is breaking up, no new child on the horizon, just changes in our thinking and approach to some important things– and one new housemember to be discussed in the next paragraph.) I am developing a picture in my mind of not despair, but of what I really want my working life to look like and how to get there– several different paths. My partner and I are both thinking hard about what we want to be doing with this precious time we have in our lives, with daughter and with each other. My daughter turned 12 and with it is an amazing set of changes. With her growth, among other things, I am a stronger and stronger advocate for her at school and elsewhere too– less reluctant, less urgent, more relaxed and more determined to open my mouth and say it as I see it.

My older nephew has come to live with us for the summer which we all love. For me it is like one kind of dream come true. It’s just what he is doing with his life, but for me– I still remember vividly the night I spent in the hospital with him and his mom (my sister) the night after he was born. His dad had developed a terrible cold and called me to come stay overnight at the hospital. And I remember holding this little newborn boy– the start of a relationship unlike any I had ever had– and loving him and thinking “I am already closer to this boy than I have been to my aunts or uncles in my entire life! I will see to it that it continues this way.” And so to have him with us, besides being lively and interesting and fun– is a reminder that I have the power to set up many things in my life exactly as I always wanted– that the history, the limits of the people who went before me do not always have to define what is possible for me.

On blogging, I will say, I miss writing and love to write– so I have a plan to blog once every week until September and maybe even twice. If you’ve stopped visiting, come back. And cheer me on. Stay tuned.

Advertisements

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.

Bermuda Blog triangle

Here’s another post that begins like this, “Oh my goodness, OMG, oy, oy,oy.  I miss blogging.  I miss sitting at this very dining room table and in my light– (we don’t really get direct sun in this room), bright, quiet dining room and writing.  I miss it, I miss it, I miss it.”  I miss dropping what I’m doing at 3:10 and racing to school to pick up my daughter.  I miss a lot about my old life, but the thing is I am really loving my new job.  From my very, very brief experience, a legislative job is, just like in West Wing, full of long days and myriad dramas.

As for the work itself; It’s interesting.  Engaging.  Sometimes funny.  Fun. Fast-paced and demanding.  There is such a range of different and  serious and intellectually challenging and just interesting things to do and to learn and to master each day.  I often have to force myself to get up and walk out the door to get out for lunch– just to move around.  I could sit at my desk and work on the next thing and the next all day.  I’m having the most serious back trouble I’ve had in years and it’s not dissipating– and I miss my family.  But I am having fun which is not exactly what I expected to hear myself saying at this point.  I don’t know what I expected, but I am surprised in many ways.

All that said, I miss three things terribly– more time with my daughter and partner; being out and about in the world in a certain way during the daytime– and the breezy, or drudge-like or thorough, intent or inspired and contemplative work of writing.  I’ve been writing a lot in my work, but not here.

To solve one logistical problem I am determined to head out soon (as in soon in the days-not-months sense) and I will buy an iPad– because I have a lunch hour and I occasionally have that hour actually free for the start of an interesting idea to be written.  But one definitely should not blog at a government computer.   (Actually, that was a detail of the movie Julie and Julia that nagged at me and distracted me like a sore tooth– the fact that she wrote much of that blog from a government office– I worried the whole time that one of the sub-plots of the movie was going to be her getting fired for blogging at work…).  So for sure the purchase of an iPad will enrich someone other than me and perhaps that will be the extent of it, or perhaps I’ll get to write more often.  Get in a groove.

I have much more to say– about all kinds of things going on, but I am dead tired.  So, so tired.   Daylight savings time and a busy weekend did me in.  So I will just have to promise to write again soon.  Sooner than the last post which was Leap Year Day. 

Truth telling

I have a secret that is fast becoming not a secret.  I have a new job.  I haven’t started yet, but I’ll leave my good and very busy mothering-writing and thinking life– Monday, February 6.  I am honestly quite sad and fearful about leaving this extraordinary time with my daughter and this chance to write and to reflect and to do some other things.

I am a worrier.  I am not a worrier who argues that my worries and fears are justified.  But nonetheless, my brain is often occupied–  I was inundated somehow, early in my life, with certain Jewish patterns– patterns of fears and worry, and a hearty dose of sadness and loss.  A dose of “Oy, oy, the glass is half empty!”.

In other words, as scared as I’ve been about not having a job, I am that scared and then some about having gotten this job.  It’s a legal job; it’s a legislative legal job– which is to say I’ll be doing work on a particular set of issues with a legislative body and not with individual clients.  It’s a good job.  It lines up nicely with many of the things I wanted to do next.  I’ll tell more about it as time goes by or I won’t– but for now suffice it to say, getting this offer and then accepting it–has been a huge roller coaster.  Mostly a roller coaster that has felt as though I was on a downward, gravity-intensifying plunge.  And I didn’t know what to say, or how I could tell it– or whether it was prudent to tell as real decisions were being made.  So I went silent here for almost 20 days which is way, way too long for me.

But this silence reminds me of something I’ve been thinking about for a while.

It’s about this kind of blog and what does one tell?  What does one omit?  How do I figure out those things and how do you, a reader, come to know what it all means?

In the course of my job search, one morning following a particular night of sleeplessness because the panic dial was turned up high–I emailed an old friend who I know from this city and with whom I was very close for many years– a long time ago.  Later, but still a long time ago, he moved to California.  We’ve had a few ups and downs in our friendship.  But I count him and I think he counts me, as a Good Friend– across the miles.  He’s a very good, smart, interesting, Jewish gay man.

So on the morning after the afore-mentioned very hard night, I emailed him and simply told him what a hard time I was having.  How alone I felt.  I didn’t do that often with many people when I was right in the thick of it.  It hadn’t occurred to me that he could help, but he wrote back immediately and offered up five old friends of his here–for me to contact.  He did some other important things for me too.  But the most important thing was that he rose to the occasion, put his brain in gear, offered some concrete help and that bad morning I remembered I wasn’t doing this alone.

I followed up on one of his suggestions pretty quickly and then my mother-in-law had surgery, my daughter was having a particularly hard time and some other things were happening but I hadn’t written about them here.  Partly I didn’t have time– and partly I didn’t have insight; I had complaints and worries.

Sometime after my friend offered some actual help and  I had done some follow- up with one of  his leads– and all the other things I just mentioned had been  taking my time and attention (mother-in-law’s surgery, partner gone, daughter having a tough time) here is what happened.  I didn’t blog about the hassles and upsets and I stopped emailing my friend for several weeks.  Not on purpose; the time just passed as things were happening.  Eventually, he wondered why I’d not followed up with him and with some of the leads he gave me.  He emailed, just wondering, was there perhaps something wrong?

I took his email as pressure and wrote something sort of defensive at best, but with a kind of “would you get off my back?” tone.  This– to my friend who had offered help in my time of need.  Then there was more communication and I  had the good sense to back up and explain at least a little about the mother-in-law surgery, the traveling partner, the daughter who battled about not wanting to go to school in the morning.  Then I  apologized.  I hope sufficiently.

But in the course of straightening it out he said something that I’ve kept thinking about.  He said “I had no idea things were so hard– I had even gone and checked your blog….and it sounded like all was well.”

I thought a lot about that.  The difficulty and strangeness of the possible answers ran through my head.  Should I say, “Well you can’t really expect to find out what’s actually, truly going on with me here can you?”

Or worse, “Well, you never know, sometimes I reveal a lot of what’s happening with me here, but sometimes I just can’t write the hard stuff and you just don’t know which is which as you read”.

I’ve been thinking about it ever since.  What is the blog anyway?  It’s not a short story.  It’s not a poem.  It’s not a how-to book.  Maybe an essay from time to time.  But it’s not a diary or a newspaper either.  It’s intimate but it’s also not a comprehensive account of anything.

It made me think about the questions–what is worth telling; what do I choose to tell; what do I omit and how does a reader piece it all together?  I have many strengths and many failings and fears to deal with– but many of those are too embarrassing or too private (whatever that means) and many of them are just not interesting.   What can I or should I in good conscience tell when it involves telling on someone else?

As a woman who wants justice in this world, a woman who thinks good stories and poems and songs are part of what will help us get there– and as a mother, my business is the business of the Jewish-mother- of- a- daughter- of-color-who- came- to- me- by- adoption and a woman-writer-blogger.  And in my business figuring out how to talk truthfully is a pretty important thing.  My business is about raising a child, as Grace Paley once said, “righteously up”; about talking as straight as I know how about adoption, and about myself and about race and Jews and gentiles and sexism and homophobia and now at my daughter’s age, about bodies and women and fairness and a lot of other things.  I do subscribe to the old saying I heard long ago– that two half-truths make one whole lie.

But truth-telling is a wide open field and very general as a guideline.  The rest I have to figure out, week by week, word by word, blog post by blog post.  As for you, in the name of full disclosure, I’ll offer advice.  If you want to know reliably whether a particular day or week was one where I soared or hid under the covers– whether I laughed a lot or cried or just got by– you should call or email.  Because to be truthful, I’m not always telling all that here.

 

Sorry I never write and I never call…

It is a strange blogospheric phenomenon that I have an audience in my mind as I write.  I don’t know all of you and even among those I really do know, I don’t know who reads what when.  Nonetheless, you are to me, a very personal audience.  This kind of blogging falls somewhere between emailing some particular group of people one knows and publishing something in the more distant way that one writes for publication.  (When writing for publication, you write and then you let it go and hope for the best in but you don’t really do it as part of a dialogue in the true sense of an actual conversation.)  But in the case of this blog– as I write I have some sense of talking to someone.  Like you in particular.  Even if I don’t know you at all, you should figure I am writing to you in particular.  It is a good thing to talk to you.  So, that said, I’m sorry that I keep going days and even weeks without writing.  Really– I miss talking to you when so much time passes by.  And I wouldn’t mind if you wrote back a little more often.

Another mother writer wrote this and it stuck with me– that the days of her life with her children were passing like water falling through your hands.  And I do feel that way.  This unemployed life is moving that quickly also.  I’ve written about panic and fears and self-doubt and I’ve told about that far less than I’ve felt those things.  But there have also been extraordinary things on the other side of the ledger.  Certain kindnesses and instances of great generosity from total strangers that this person or the other connected me to in my job search.  An old friend who I told I was panicked emailed me back and came up almost immediately with three or four  names of people for me to talk to.

Another friend connected me with a Jewish woman who has done work similar to one kind of work that interests me– and that woman– a complete stranger– was so lovely to me and spent about an hour and half on the phone with me when I finally reached her.  She was, and continues to be so generous in a way that is really reassuring– about my own life and about the world.

There is a complexity and there are new dimensions or deeper dimensions in my relationship with my daughter.  Partly because she is older and things happen differently.  We can talk differently, more directly, about certain things.  But there is also a habit she has developed of calling me two or three times a week on the telephone from school at lunchtime and she knows I will almost always be available to talk to her.  I love hearing from her during her day.

Having my 18-year-old nephew, Isaac here is also new and that too adds a new dimension, a different rhythm to things as I figure out when to call, how often to see him, what works well for him and for us to do together.  And there is more; nothing mysterious but not easily captured except to make lists that I won’t make because they aren’t interesting, but the days fly by faster and faster and even the short days, with darkness coming very early, haven’t made me sad or lonely.  But I’ve missed this writing.

Hello again. Gone two weeks and didn’t even leave a note.

We are just back from a great, long 10-day trip for my daughter’s spring break.
I meant to leave word that I was signing off for a bit.  I meant to write while I was away.  I meant to say happy Passover.  Or happy spring.  When it started to look like I wouldn’t get the time or privacy to do this writing on our trip, I meant to post pictures.  Daily.  Getting out of town, especially for a longer trip, is sometimes challenging around here.

Just before I left I spent several interesting days at a feminist conference, had a couple of informational interviews, applied for a job, did an inordinate amount of laundry (I really mean an enormous amount of laundry– how do three people who aren’t coal miners or professional athletes generate all that?) and did about a zillion other things.

We went to San Francisco where my very close, old friend, L. (my first blogging partner) lives with her daughters and partner/husband.  We adore them.  I’ve wanted to write about Passover, this particular Passover and the meanings Passover has for me at different times.  The wonderful seder we made.  The spinning classes I went to with my friend at a YMCA in San Francisco.  The YMCA there full of women and men from ages 16-87 in all shapes and sizes.  The clusters of old Chinese women speaking English with each other.  Jewish women, Black women, fat and skinny women. There were things to write about being with my partner and daughter and my mother– and with my friend’s mother.  Our two mothers met for the first time in the 30-plus years of L’s and my friendship. I want to write about suddenly being old enough to have 30-plus year friendships.

There were visits with two other important friends in San Francisco and there is always the beauty of the scenery and the light there.

The second and third parts of the trip were Chicago.  My Chicago.  City first then suburb.  My sister and my nephews joined us.  We adore them.  The particular way I can relax, laugh and cry when I am with my sister.  My nephew J. and his very interesting and wonderful mind.  We all love him.
My nephew I., whose birth I was at– who now towers above me, drives, travels to foreign countries.  We all love him.  Being with my mother in her home.

In Jewish practice there is a period called shloshim (which means thirty).  It refers to the first thirty days after a death.  It refers to that very intense period of intense pain and awareness in the thirty days following the death of an immediate family member.  My father’s yahrzeit (anniversary of a death) comes on May 17.  Passover eight years ago was the last time I was with him while he was alive and then he died very suddenly.  Since his death, I experience my own shloshim in the 30 days before his yahrzeit.  An acute awareness that he is gone, that things were hard, that he was a good, Jewish man, that I learned from him and struggled with him.  The pain of having lost him suddenly, without having had the chance to say goodbye.

Now we are back in our home.  Besides this intense period of time leading up to my father’s yahrzeit, it is mundane right now.  I threw my back out so badly hauling luggage up the stairs of our walk-up at 1:00 a.m. when we finally arrived at our building from the airport last night I am twisted into the shape of an S.  I know my chiropractor will bail me out on Wednesday but for now it feels like my father just died on the one hand and on the other, my hurt back keeps me occupied with questions like, “hmm, can I lift that milk into the shelf in the fridge without a wrench?; Can I walk from the car to there or should I look for a closer parking place?”

Once I see the chiropractor, my back will regain it’s straight strength and with straight back my brain too will unkink and I will think and write interesting thoughts again about many different things.  But for now, sorry I left without so much as a note.  Photos to follow.

Columbus sailed the wide ocean and my daughter’s big mind.

I don’t like to face it in certain ways, but we are just a little tiny– I mean teeny, bit out– from my daughter turning 10– which seems like a big milestone in the life of a young person and certainly in the life of this mother.  I don’t know exactly how this post will work (as in well or poorly) but I am trying to write some about the mind and perspective of my daughter as she gets older.

This is also my call to those of you with children who are no longer very young children, to do the same.  Sarah— more, more about your older children!  Mama C. get ready, and tell us more as Sam gets a little older and then later, Marcel!  Others of you blogging about young people 10 and up, more about their ideas and the things you are discussing with them, wrestling with– and watching them wrestle with– not just how problematic it is (and no longer cute) to pick up their laundry, and not just about the feelings we have as they turn their attention away from us.  But I want to hear more, and learn more about issues of identity, perspective, ideas– theirs.  I want more about what is on their minds and then what is on yours as you listen.

I almost never write about going through elementary school again which is, in a certain way, what one does as one’s child goes through elementary school.  For sure I am not going through it again in that I am not subject to all the arbitrary and harsh and often unfair rules, I am not subject to the oppression of being a young person, and I don’t get out there and do great things like run around and use my body every day the way many (mine among them) elementary school students do each day until they are made to stop.  I don’t learn new things at the drop of a hat, as my daughter has taken up Latin Dancing with barely even a nod from me. (Really, she learned about, went to one Latin Dance class after school, and then decided to rearrange a standing tutoring session so she could attend Latin Dance– who knew?)

But I did stand at the counter, making dinner the other night, and asked my daughter to pull out her homework and work on it in the little table in the kitchen with me.  I learned that she was doing a segment on Columbus.  Oy, I sighed silently to myself, and silently, inside of me said, “another instance of mother-needing-to-pull-against-the-grain to teach her something real.”

I began mentally trying to figure out where on the shelves did I put the book I bought many years ago, the Rethinking Schools publication called Rethinking Columbus.  I mean this was a big moment.  My Chicana daughter learning about Columbus.  What and whose perspective was she going to learn?  I said to her, testing the water, “what have you learned so far?”  She answered matter of factly.

And these were, I think, her exact words, “that he slaughtered a lot of people.”  I said something like “well that’s a useful thing to know” and I asked (because she works with several teachers in her bilingual school) who was teaching this unit?  It was Mr. R.

This year she has a young, African American man as her teacher– Mr. R. (also Coach R. because he coaches the 4th and 5th grade boys basketball team)  and he is great.  He is the essence of “cool” and she and other young people love that– but that isn’t what I love about him and actually, when I think a little more deeply, I don’t think that is really, really at the heart of what she or they all love about him.

What I love about him is quite simply, his perspective.  For one thing, he likes them.  He likes the boys who are always in trouble.  He likes my daughter.  He gets her, as far as I can tell, in a way few of her teachers have really understood who she is.  And besides liking and getting her, his whole perspective, as far as I can tell, is quite different from any she has encountered yet in school.  Actively anti-racist, actively pro-young people in a very profound sort of way.  Much later, that evening, when I talked to my partner–and told her what my daughter said to me about Columbus, she just said, “think about who is teaching her this.”  I did and I do.

I could see her mind, as she wrestled with this material, was really at work, in very fine form, engaged in thinking about the “discoverer” and the so-called “discovered”.  I won’t go on about the writing she did about Columbus with me listening and helping a little, but I am tempted to publish the short piece she wrote and if she gives me permission I may yet do so.