Tag Archives: writing

Burn

In the hours before we say goodbye to February, 2014– a month in which I have been way too busy for comfort and have posted nothing on this blog– I’ll leave you with this– just to have touched down with this blog, for my own sake. I love this song and I love each of these interpretations of it. I love artists working off each other’s brilliance and making something new with something old or at least older. And I am burning to share more. Which I will do soon.

So here goes– The original. By Ellie Goulding.

And then the Maccabeats own beautiful, brilliant version.

And last but definitely not least, one of my recent favorites, Ashanti Floyd performing Burn.

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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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What I didn’t say: about work.

I posted something several days ago and then pulled it back.  The post had to do with stories that, though they affect me a great deal, aren’t my stories and I decided it was not the right time to share on one of the other people’s behalf.  But this too is a bit about the theme of what-is-on-my-mind-that-I-don’t-write.

There are things that come up that maybe cannot or should not be the subject of a blog post.  Sometimes I don’t write because what I am not writing about is exactly the thing on my mind.   There have been two such things, and the one will go up later.  But not yet.  Here is one other such thing.  Work.

My job, which was demanding but great fun and wonderful in some ways at the outset, took a big nose-dive for me in the spring, several months into it.  It got hard then bad and then it got worse.   I worked all the time and my boss grew critical of me. I became anxious.  I would wake up every night in the middle of the night with my boss and my worries racing through my head.  I would talk to my co-workers, those who had known my boss a lot longer, after some conversation where he berated and criticized me– and I would say “I think I am going to be fired” and one of my colleagues would shrug and say “if you are, you’ll find something else…just do your best.”  This was honest but not reassuring.  I was so thoroughly off balance and so thoroughly upset it was hard to figure out what to say about any of it.  I said a little, but not the extent of it.  Through the summer, which was emotionally terrible for me, I was convinced I would lose my job before the end of the year and I was terrified.

Then some different things happened and things turned around.  It was unexpected to me– so much so that the fact that things did turn around, even though I could not have seen it coming nor could I envision a way out just a few  months earlier — was a lesson itself.  This seemed an intractable, untenable situation.  And then it turned about 180 degrees, despite my certainty that it could not possibly.

What happened?  I don’t really know, except that at the moment it is going very well.  To some extent I just hit my stride.  I figured out in the way you find your way around a keyboard or a new computer– just how to do certain things, even though what I learned and figured out was somewhat imperceptible to me.  Some other things happened.  I did well with my part of the work in the context of a very difficult situation facing my boss early in the fall.  And there are some skills I have picked up that have always eluded me.  I picked up the pace on certain kinds of work considerably.  And at my age, I learned, in some ways for the very first time, to dig into certain projects immediately rather than later.  Those two changes have allowed me to do certain projects and have given me a great sense of accomplishment and competence.  And in view of the fact that a lot of my job involves writing, I think it is fair to say that I am developing skills I’ve never had as a writer.  All of this, I love.

So the anxiety is dialed back.  What isn’t dialed back is the demand.  I understand how to do many more things better and faster and more efficiently.  But the demand has grown immeasurably too.  And I feel the school year, and this 11- years-old-time with my daughter in particular, and with my partner flying by.  So many evenings and weekends, I am not with them.  Saturday before last I worked for 9 hours and then Sunday too.  I’ve given up Fridays at home.  My daughter is playing volleyball on a team, for the very first time and I don’t know that I will be able to see even one of her games.  So I face a dilemma about how to parent and do my  job and a dilemma about what I want.  And I have very little time to think about it.  Because I work a lot and then I come home to the other job I have, the one that is most important to me, and often most interesting to me– being a good mom and ally to my daughter.  So the quandary is– now what?  I don’t know but hopefully I will see my way clear to keep you posted.

Maladies: Fourth of July, adjusting to 11 years old

This year I kind of hated Fourth of July–which is not my very favorite holiday at all, but one that I often like a lot.  With some months (this time around) of regular work under my belt, I’m still having big trouble adjusting to some parts of my particular post-recession- back- to- work life.  Less money (a lot less of it than before I was laid off from the last job), hours that are too long and flexibility that is too limited nag at me.  A holiday on a Wednesday just exacerbates it.  I’m a long way  into my career but I don’t have enough annual leave accumulated to take a weekend plus two days off  and still have leave time for that two-week vacation we are having trouble planning.  So we just had this dangling holiday on a ridiculously hot day.  We actually had a wonderful time with close friends we’ve not seen in  months– and a fun time going to fireworks at a park that we could walk to– but still I wanted a long weekend instead of one short, hot day.  It was a glass half-empty day.

I love and am blown away by the growing-up human being who is my daughter, but I’m also having trouble adjusting to 11.  My daughter’s age now.  I don’t mean it’s bad, it’s actually quite good.  She’s truly thriving and a lot of things that she had been struggling with last summer and this school year have shifted and  come together for her beautifully.  But life with someone 11 is different from before.  As a parent every year, sometimes every six months is different, but 11 years old seems– well more different.

It’s a different identity– being the mother of a pre-teen girl.  My mother role is different.  I would definitely say it’s not less.  There seems to be more laundry, more forms to fill out, and there are more decisions to be made on a shorter time frame. There is so much to figure out but you figure it out differently.  It’s less hands-on.   It’s more hands-on.

You become a sleuth in a certain way.  You don’t, for example, go into the school or the camp or the home of her new friend and just watch what is going on to figure out what you think.  You watch, sometimes, from a greater distance and listen to conversations that happen in the back seat of the car while you drive and try to participate and try not to.  You have to be available a lot, a lot, a lot.  But you may save the whole day to be together only to have your child use your good attention and love and confidence in her to decide to call a new friend and then leave for the whole day.  I’ve not completely figured it out.  I’m looking ahead at her life as she grows up, at my life as she grows up.

May 20. Daughter’s birthday morning, inspecting her new, first cell phone with my sleepy and bandaged partner. (Partner will hate this photo but I don’t)

Morning city walk, setting up her voicemail– she is a digital native, no instructions, no how-to card…

All that said, I feel the same way, which was a very touching-sweet way– a mom who was a complete stranger described her feeling about 11 years old.  15 years ago.  It was Fourth of July weekend then and my sister had come to visit us for the Fourth with her older (4 years old) and younger (11 weeks) old sons.  We were walking around the Lincoln Memorial, and I had the 11 week old in a sling on my body.  A woman about my age stopped to peer in and admire the baby–she reasonably assumed he was my new baby.  She asked, how old is he? and I replied– 11 weeks old.  She smiled and nodded off into the distance presumably at her boy but I wasn’t sure which boy, of several in the distance, was being pointed to.  She said in a nice way, not a cloying or weird way– Mine’s 11 years old.  They’re just as special and wonderful at 11 years— and smiled and congratulated me on the new baby and left.  Her tone, her pleasure in her son, her pleasure at being the mother of someone who was exactly her son, at his exact age, was unforgettable and I have often thought of her.  I thought of her when my older nephew turned 11 and then again when the younger one– long out of the sling on our bodies– turned 11 and then again this year with my own daughter.

Still, I’m uneasy in my new working-at-a-new-job-mother-of-an-11-year-old skin.  And I’m having trouble writing– not just trouble fitting it in, but trouble mapping out what I want to say.  But I will marshal on and hopefully insights, more clarity, a sense of ease and well-being or at least a sense of humor and more writing will return.

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.

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.

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.