Tag Archives: family

Door County, Wisconsin 2014

We are back in Door County this summer. Week two is coming to a close, but my head is still very much here. It is beautiful, it is home in a certain way, and it is vacation–time together for my sweetheart, M, my daughter, N, and me. The past two and a half years in my job have taken a huge toll on my real-time connections to both partner and daughter and I’ve literally been at work and missed more of our lives together than I can really stand.

My mom is with us for the whole trip and my sister, J, and her son, J-J, are on their way to join us tonight. We all love being with them. I have never stopped missing Lake Michigan since moving to the East coast. This big dose of looking at the lake at all times of day, while biking along the shore, driving, swimming and sitting on the sand helps me feel solidly connected to myself and to what is real and important.

We’re in a rented house right in Fish Creek and on my bike we are less than 6 minutes (yes, I timed it) from the entrance to the Sunset Trail in Peninsula State Park. We spend a lot of our time in Peninsula State Park and counting all members of the family who are with us for any part of the trip, we join the other 999,994 visitors to the park this summer.

The house we rented has been the perfect set-up for N in this phase of still-young-girlhood-and-now-a-teen life. There is a loft bedroom up a flight of stairs. The loft is her room and she keeps her stuff up there out of our sight and she stays up there for a few hours of “alone-time” at night after dinner and other times of day. From the living room I can hear her laughing while she watches silly you-tube videos and tv. Then she comes downstairs by her choice at about midnight (some nights well after I have gone to bed) to cuddle up and sleep. The teen and the young girl who needs her moms.

My sister, J, came by herself last Friday night for the weekend. Even more than Lake Michigan, I love being with her. We do our own thing which includes getting up earlier than the rest and heading out for a look at the water and decaf cappuccino from the nearby café. She is training for a half-marathon and last Saturday morning I biked with her on a ten-mile run/ride as her water carrier and sag wagon.

I have also fallen in love again with M on this trip. Not that I ever fell out of… but slowing down and being away from work has me able to feel why I loved her to begin with, why I love her now. We’ve been together so long now, have so many sweet memories of beach vacations together– with my sister and nephews and without, with daughter and before.

Tuesday was the 2nd of only two rainy and cool days. I woke up desperately fearful, worried about what is to become of me in terms of work. My job, which I want to leave, hopefully to regain some flexibility and resume mothering in the way I want to, ends December 31. But until I have something secured, I’m once again facing the possibility of unemployment. I’m scared and often hopeless about finding a right spot for myself. The combination of sexism and ageism aimed at women as we push well past 50 is fierce and it often feels as though those forces will win this battle and my desire for good work that I like and feel respected doing, will lose.

Those worries weighed heavily when I woke up Tuesday morning and I sat in the living room, twisting in my hard feelings. After a couple hours, as people were getting up, I figured that seeing Lake Michigan on a cool, windy, cloudy day and making my body work hard were the only ways out. So I biked alone to the state park and shore. I wasn’t exactly happy or hopeful, but I loved the dark gray choppy water, the wind, the hard work and loved being in my long-sleeved shirt, hoody and windbreaker. I arrived at Nicolet Bay calmer on the inside and spattered with gravel and dirt on the outside.

I know I have a battle ahead– against my own insecurities and against the real live sexism that will try to thwart me. I wish I could wage it with mighty Lake Michigan (and these particular people I love) a lot closer, but these two weeks are a start.

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West coast vacation– unfinished

My threesome; daughter, partner and me are nearing the end of a two-week vacation. We flew to San Francisco and spent several days with my long-time friend L and her guy/husband–S and their younger daughter, H. When I say that L is my long-time friend, you should understand that this year, this month, is the 40th anniversary of our meeting and becoming best of friends. L’s and my friendship, is rare, I think, in that it has never wavered. We have had our struggles and our fights but there has, in my memory (she can weigh in if she reads this), never been any question for either of us that this was a deep and permanent friendship. As we get close to the end of this time together I only want more, I am never satisfied that I have had enough of her and I love her family– each of them individually and each of them in their relationships now with M, my partner and with my daughter.

It was hard getting ready to leave town for many reasons– the biggest of which was saying goodbye for awhile to nephew/cousin Izzy who has left this morning for his semester in Ecuador. He will be gone from our summer of living together and will not even be in our city going to school this semester when we return. He brings to our household the joy of more family, a 20-year old’s enthusiasm, his own experiences and perspective, his own particular brand of boundless energy, his handsome, eager, open, presence and a lot of love for each of us–among many good things.

When we arrived in San Francisco we did our brand of great San Francisco things for several days– family dinner at L’s house on Sunday night with her mom and another family, also old friends of ours now. We drove L and S to the hospital where they both work each morning and spent days taking in the views, walking the dog at the ocean, drinking coffee from just one of our favorite SF independent coffee shops– Martha’s– looking at the gorgeous bougainvillea that grows abundantly in this climate and being together. I had a great time and took great satisfaction spending more money than I intended at my favorite outdoor outfitter– getting a good fleece jacket and backpack for my suddenly-so-big daughter, N. and tee shirts, socks and hiking boots for me. I also went twice to the YMCA where L and her family belong– and worked out amidst a bigger and more diverse crowd– particularly a diverse group of women of all ages, shapes and sizes — than I ever see in our city on the East Coast. Going with L to this YMCA has become one of the highlights of my trips to San Francisco. We always run into her mother (also initial L, though she and my friend do not share the same first name). Her mother is 89 years old and walks with a walker to the YMCA where she works out. Inspiration for me.

A week ago today, we drove north to the mountains. I am still working to get my blogger’s rhythm back, and I so want to hit publish– I will share a few photos and save more for later.

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Lassen National Park, at 8000 gorgeous and scary feet high-- with daughter nearer a steep drop-off from a narrow path than this photo shows.

Lassen National Park, at 8000 gorgeous and scary feet high– with daughter nearer a steep drop-off from a narrow path than this photo shows.

My friend, L.  We were teenagers when we met.  Women in our 50's now.  Gorgeous.

My friend, L. We were teenagers when we met. Women in our 50’s now. Gorgeous.

Our gang, looking down at Bumpass Hell, geothermal area below, with water that steams and bubbles at over 200 degrees f.

Our gang, looking down at Bumpass Hell, geothermal area below, with water that steams and bubbles at over 200 degrees f.

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The general state of things, finding her sister and a few words about adoption.

With the little bit of time this season– this odd season of slowing down but commercial madness, the time the season allows a working mom, I am slowly unpacking all that has been jammed in over the past many weeks– both emotions-wise and activity-wise.

Until a week ago, I had been working at a fevered pitch– too-long hours again.  Things never slowed until the Friday before Christmas day.  In much of November and the first 2/3 of December I was leaving at office often at 9:00 p.m. or 10:00 p.m.  Some nights I walked out at 8:00.  Twice I managed to pick my daughter up at the end of aftercare and the couple of days I left at 5:30 felt like a full day’s vacation.  I missed my daughter’s school “Peace Concert” which I had never missed before.  I hadn’t gotten around to reading the school email update that announced it.

The legislation I have worked on since I walked into my office the first week of February, passed on December 18.  I am deeply satisfied with the work I have done and with what I have learned in this job over the course of almost a year.  I found skills, endurance, speed and political savvy I didn’t know I had– or didn’t have previously.

But I am still often sad with the hours and days that keep passing when I am not home after school or home to supervise homework or free to drive my daughter to Hebrew school.  I miss the kinds of talks that happen in the car, especially in winter, when it gets dark early.  I am sad about the volleyball games I missed which will never be seen again.  I miss talking about my daughter’s day with her while it is still fresh.  I know she misses me.

Thursday, December 13 was the start of the next phase of our expanding family.  We left the house at 7:15 a.m., took my daughter up the block to our neighbor/ one of our closest friends for them to feed her breakfast and bring her to school.  Then my partner and I got in the car and drove north two hours on the main highway, the main artery here where we live– to meet– my daughter’s sister’s mother.  The sister she has not met yet and we have not met yet.  We met at a rest stop– this one a very nice, clean newish rest stop with a Starbucks.  Until that day the mom and I had emailed but never spoken.  She made contact with us and we did a  lot of sharing and all our planning by email.  We decided that the adults should meet first before planning a meeting for the children.

We spoke to one another for the very first time when we were ten minutes drive from our meeting place.  She called on my cell phone (we had exchanged phone numbers before this trip)– saying she was there already asking if she could order coffee for us.

She laughed and I laughed– warmly– happily– when we heard each other’s voices on that call.  We had broken the barrier of the abstraction of virtual communication with live voices on two ends of one phone call.  When we arrived exactly ten minutes later, we couldn’t find her at first and then found her– in line waiting for our three coffees to be delivered by the barista.  We hugged each other– all three of us and she cried hard and I cried too.  I like all that in a woman– her open laugh when we heard each other’s voices and her tears and hug when we met.

We gathered our coffees and found the most private place we could.  She took us in when we sat down and she said, “We’re family, we’re family.”  I agree and am glad she that she is the kind of woman for whom that is a given fact– not a question.

We sat next to a window, and it was a gloriously sunny, warm winter day.  We, all three, took each other in and we took out our photos and talked for an hour and a half.  Our daughters, these two sisters, look a lot alike– both brown-skinned with pitch dark beautiful expressive eyes, both with very dark, brown hair and wide, round faces.  Their own faces, but faces very much alike.

We talked about deep things–and we talked honestly.  We talked about the things parents often don’t share easily– what we worry about, what we most want for our children in the biggest sense– in terms of connection, now and in their lives forever–after we, their parents are gone.  We talked about the adults and other young people in our worlds who are the deepest connections for our daughters.  We talked about our daughters as Latinas and as Jews and about identity and what we have figured out about giving them a sense of place in their worlds.  We talked about our own real experiences and what is hard and what we have loved about being a single parent (she) and a lesbian couple (we).

We did not talk about the kinds of things that parents sometimes talk about–things that matter too– but that can easily slide into a conversation driven by competition or insecurity.  We didn’t talk about our daughters’ grades or ease or lack thereof in school; we didn’t really talk about their activities.  I have no idea if my daughter’s sister is a swimmer or piano player or the best singer in a choir or whether is in the girl scouts or loves animals or likes princess clothes.

We laughed easily and there were more tears in the conversation. She cried easily and tears welled up for me too.  My partner was the calm, warm, direct anchor that she is– with less rattling around right at the surface.  It was a good, good start.  I think we could have sat for hours and hours and hours.  And I liked her.   She is a Jewish woman, like me in many ways.  I felt hopeful, like I and we are not only on the path to my daughter’s sister, but to a close alliance as Jewish women, Jewish moms raising Latina, Jewish daughters.  There are things that need to happen and then the children will meet.  The sun shone through the big rest stop window and on our drive back.

At home at night, talking this over with my daughter, things were not so sunny.  When my daughter found out about her brother, she was nothing but smiles, and when we told her– several weeks earlier that her sister’s mom was ready for them to meet, she was thrilled.  But when we came home from that first meeting, sadness welled up.  Losses welled up.  She cried that her brother and sister don’t live with her and she cried that we have not added another child to our family– that what she wants is a sibling here at home.

I thought about the losses of adoption in ways I have not thought in a little while.  I feel grateful to have had chances to do a lot of the emotional work that leaves me grounded and not insecure about any of her expressions of loss.  Much of the time I can listen and not argue with any feeling she has.  I can understand that feelings of loss have nothing to do with the unfailing permanence of her love and attachment to us.

Some parents whose children came to them by adoption think, “it was meant to be, it could have been no other way than that this child became my child”.  I don’t think I think that way.  I don’t think that any child was meant to be left by birth family, or to be raised in another country or culture.  I do think that even though harsh circumstance shapes our lives– all of our lives, that good can and often does come.  It is nothing but good that we three are family– and it is nothing but good that her younger brother and younger sister are with their respective families.

She is fully and undeniably my daughter, my partner’s daughter.   It’s mine and my partner’s to help her through rough waters and I feel a sense of great happiness that I know she knows that.  We are hers forever and she is ours forever and that is indisputable.  Whatever twists and turns brought her to us, she is ours and we are hers and that is that.

Tuesday & Wednesday–August 14-15

The days are so full and the iPhone is so small–I can do just these short daily entries with photos. I won’t write what I’ve been thinking about my (still somewhat new) job from here or about big, important issues of our times some of which have unfolded here in Wisconsin during the time of this trip. I will say I have had a good chance to get much closer to my hard-working sweetheart– a very good thing.

There is a County park on the Lake Michigan side which is thick pine forest at the edge with a beautiful white/ grey flat rock outcropping into a deeper and often bluer section of the lake. It is wilder, rougher than the parts of the shore where most of our time has been spent.

Tuesday we all caravanned there stopping at a farmers market on the way. Tuesday night we said goodbye to my sister and nephews and yesterday was a quieter day, with a visit for my mom and me to a weaver’s small gallery, a mothers (partner and me) and daughter bike ride, a little beach time all together and a bike ride home from the beach as the sun was setting– for just my partner and me while daughter and her grandmother drove home and cooked. And then dinner– with beautiful organic vegetables and cheese and my daughter’s (she’s quite a baker) cornbread. Forgive me if photos are out of order– still figuring out this WordPress iPhone application.

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Vacation. With iPhone.

We are on day five of our 2012 vacation and day three of our 2012 Door County, Wisconsin adventure. I am trying WordPress posting from my iPhone for the very first time. And though it’s a cool thing to be able to do– my note to self and to you is that in general being in a place like this (so beautiful,no work and time with my daughter, partner & mother)– spent on iPhone and not just looking, looking, playing and enjoying is wrong… Nonetheless here are scenes from days one, two and three– today.

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Protected: Preview of the week to come. Brother. Sister. Thanksgiving 2009.

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