Tuesday, October 16, 2012

It's perfect.

My daughter’s 1st grade teacher, Mrs. W., had a parent volunteer project. Seemed easy enough. Make play dough molds of the continents.

Requirements: make the play dough (salt, flour, water), use supplied mold, press into form, let dry for 2 days, bring completed continents (six of them) to school for firsties to paint for the completion of their mapping unit.

Piece of cake.

I was the first to volunteer.  


So my daughter and I set out to make these creations. Started on Friday. Despite the use of an ample amount of cooking spray, they just don’t release like they should… and the first one is a little squished on one side. No big deal. Five more to go- next ones will look better.

Four down and I run out of salt.

Now we’re looking at exactly forty six hours to dry- assuming we get to the store and back by 10 the next morning and get them done.

We finally finish by noon. Forty-four hours of dry time. Cutting it really close. And, they don’t exactly look up to par, in my opinion.

Sunday evening and now I’m panicking. They are not drying like they should, and they are beginning to crack in places.

What the hell?

This is not turning out like I planned at all, and I am failing my daughter. So I decide to bake them- slowly. And they are continuing to crack. I decide to leave the rest as is. 


There’s nothing I can do now. They are what they are, and I don’t have the time to make them over. I feel like I’ve completely failed at my first volunteer activity. Not to mention destroying my daughters mapping unit. They will never be able to navigate the world now, and she’s never going to get to college.


So, I take my cracked, damp molds to school on Monday and gingerly spread them out below the windowsill in the classroom. Thank god Mrs. W. is not there yet. I send her an apologetic email indicating that they are not what I had hoped, and they are not completely dry- but if the kids use enough paint, they might be OK. I swear to her that I will do better the next time. I’m embarrassed and feel like a complete failure. She’s going to be pissed and disappointed and never ask me to volunteer again. 

That Mrs. W. sends me a one line email that says: “Thank you so much! They are perfect!”

I swear to you my heart just sang.

For all of my worry and panic and failings, these were (at least in her eyes) perfect. No wonder my daughter adores her. I do too. And I know that this is just the way she sees the world. The effort and the time and the dedication- regardless of the end product- is perfect

And I, of course, careen down the “life’s lessons” highway:  

So little in my life is perfect, nor has it been for a long time.

I am constantly cataloging my faults: my inability to keep up with the laundry and keep my house as clean as it should be- my lack of social life- my parenting skills- my failure as a friend- my job performance- my clothes, my weight, my physical condition... 

I could go on and on- and I do- often. 

I am cracked, and squished and not yet dry.

And I know that if I could just take one moment and look at myself through the lens of Mrs. W., I would realize that the effort that I have put into my life is worth something. That the journey to where I am going is just that- a journey. And that, ultimately, my own mapping exercise will teach me to navigate my world.    

Yes, I am cracked, and squished and I’m not sure when I’ll ever be dry.


It’s perfect.  

Thursday, August 30, 2012


My daughter started 1st grade this week. 1st grade outside of the protected bubbled environment of a private Montessori into a public, non protected, non bubbled school environment. She has been nervous. I have been too… probably more so.

When my daughter was born, I had one goal that guided my every waking moment- I had to keep her alive. It was as simple as that. Feed her- vigilantly watch her breathe at night- google everything. I worried excessively about her weight, her color, those obtuse little rashes… I kept track of each of her developmental milestones… and wondered constantly if I was doing a good job… and if I was a good mother.

And I don’t worry about keeping her alive anymore. I worry about other things. I worry that she’s not strong enough to ward off the bullies. I worry that she’s been too protected and insulated. I worry that she won’t fit in.  I worry that public school will not challenge her enough. And I still worry about being a good mother.

And the truth is that she will thrive as a 1st grader. She will love her new teacher, and the bigger classrooms, and the hot lunches, and the hoards of other kids. She will make new friends, and swing, and play on the bars, and laugh and grow.

She will continue to learn to read, and do math, and wonder about the world we live in.

She will do fine.

And I’m so very proud of her.

And although I don’t Google as much as I used to, I still worry. That’s my job… that will always be my job.   

Because I AM a good mother…

And I'm still nervous... 

Sunday, July 8, 2012

Good Grief.

So, I decided to get a “check up” from my therapist. It’s been awhile since the break up and the big move and I needed some affirmation that I was headed in the right direction. Just a little “atta girl… you are doing fantastic… pat on the back for you… and call if you need anything.”

Epic underestimation. I should have known.  

You know you are in trouble when in the course of an hour you discuss co-dependence, boundaries, grief and self-esteem.


“What I want from you” I plead “is for you to listen to my words, give me some strategies, and send me the hell out of here.”

“Yeah... not so much… we have some work to do… I’ll see you next week.”


In the past few years, I’ve experienced my fair share of loss. Loss of a job, loss of a parent, loss of a relationship and loss of time with my daughter. And on any one of those stress level scales, I have hit the jackpot.   

All of those things have caused grief, and all of those things I have survived. 

I have, I think, done OK. Not perfect, but OK. I’ve allowed myself the requisite amount of mourning, managed to continue to go to work, been a better parent, and basically taken care of all the “to-do’s” that life requires. I joined a gym, lost some weight, made some new friends, and have even gone on a few (disastrous) dates. 

All of that moving in the right direction. Right?  

But I still have grief—profound and awkward grief.  And one that doesn’t line up with the timelines of regular bad stuff that has happened. And it’s really pissing me off.

It’s that grief over losing myself. Or at least that self that I used to be. 

As complicated as it was, I knew how to be in my past lives. I knew how to love and be loved. I knew how to manage my home and my responsibilities. I knew how to be a parent in an intact family. 

And I knew how to nurture and breed my own insecurities—how to take on other people’s emotions—how to intervene and “fix”—and how to take the blame. And when push came to shove, I knew how to do that which I have expertise—how to check out.

And now, all of those things that I was sure of are not so much so. 

And now there is a big blank open space sitting there that I can’t seem to fill up. 

And as hard as I have tried, I can’t seem to check out. 

Not this time.   

Some people would be thrilled at the prospect of starting over and re-inventing their lives.

I’m terrified.

I am not, and never have been, good at being vulnerable and out of control. And this, quite frankly, feels like a free-fall into an abyss with no ropes.

Call it lack of self-esteem—fear of change—lack of spiritual or mental strength—inability to trust—or downright cowardice.


All I know is that I don’t quite know how to get there from here. I want a manual with step by step instructions. I’ll even take one written in Ikea—I don’t care. Just give me something—anything—that doesn’t require a big fat scary leap and a whole lot of pain.

Something that tells me that it’s OK to feel unsure and grieve for now—and that doesn’t make me crazy or dysfunctional.

Something that lets me acknowledge my past mistakes and make better choices in the future.

Something that tells me that I will get there and it will be better.  

And something that assures me that where I am now is exactly the place that I’m supposed to be- painful and awkward and terrifying as it is. 

For the record, my therapist is “excited” about this next chapter in my journey.

I think it’s going to blow.

And I’ll see you next week.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Real 1st dates.

I can honestly count the number of "real" first dates I've had on one hand (and a thumb). And by real, I mean those dates where you don't really know the person (if at all). I don't say that to illicit pity- I've had lots of dates, and great love in my life. But now in my forty (ish) years, and finding myself suddenly single, I'm just realizing how incredibly inexperienced I am in this new world, and it mostly sucks. And those real first dates have been mostly disastrous.

Let's start with the boys.

There was Larry Ling (real name), who I went to some formal dance with in college. With his blonde afro, powder blue ruffled tuxedo and me in my Gunne Sax dress recycled from my high school prom (hey, it was the 80's- they are vintage now. *sigh*). I had a lousy time. To his credit, however, he worked for a local beverage distributor, and I did get several cases of diet Pepsi out of the deal.

Then there was Adam the Frenchman, who I met on the beach in southern California (also during college- when I was thin and tan). He had that accent that I immediately fell for, and lavished attention on me. Honestly, I think I was more flattered that this exotic guy was paying attention to me, more than really attracted to him. My roommate at the time IMPLORED me not to go out with him (which was odd, because she had absolutely no scruples then, and was a terrible influence on me. Again, I stress then- she's now all corporate and boring). Still I went. And on the way to some random restaurant I lost one of my contact lenses and spent the evening in this weird, dizzying, blind state (which was complicated by one too many saki’s). This was not good, because this was way before cell phones (and I think even cordless phones), so I couldn't call anyone for back up lenses or for general rescuing. Turns out he just wanted to have his way with me on the beach, and I was just too stupid to have figured that out beforehand. My roommate was right.

And then there was Woody, who was just as charming as his name suggests. I've mostly just blocked him out.

The rest of my 'boy' dates throughout my early years were with friends, or guys in my classes, or boyfriends of friends (which I’m still sorry for, by the way) or gay men. None spectacular (obviously), but fine. And when it turned out that I was gay (duh), my relationships were with those women that I fell in love with- slowly through friendships and agonizing self-discovery. I've been lucky to have had two such long term loves in my life.

Suffice it to say that my last real first date was a long long time ago.

Now I'm back in that world and have decided to try online dating. What a joke.

I've had three "dates." Each mostly horrifying.

The first I met for lunch (and I’m leaving out the names here because they live in my same state, and it just seems safer this way). She looked nothing like her profile picture and we had nothing in common. When I joked that what I really wanted was a drink, she, in all seriousness said: “but it’s not even Friday.” I should have just walked away. When lunch was finally over, we said our goodbyes and went on our way. I was more than just a little indignant that she didn’t even bother to text or email to say “thanks” (truthfully, I had no intention of doing it either), but I was even more pissed that she apparently deleted her entire profile after having lunch with me (it could be, I was reminded later, that she just blocked me). Whatever.

Then there was the Buddhist-Reiki therapist- bus riding- free-university massage therapist student- intuitive. None of those things, I should mention, are problematic by themselves- I am open to all kinds of possibilities- but mix in a little mental instability and low intelligence and it’s a crazy cake waiting to be baked. Fail.

And finally, there was my latest. Truly nice enough, and attractive (but I should mention that she also looked nothing like her profile picture- there should be a rule). Met in a decent restaurant for breakfast way out in the suburbs, and we had fairly good conversation. Up until the moment when she mentioned a story about her childhood that she “wasn’t going to tell right now.” I suspect, however, that it had something to do with the 28 year old girlfriend that she had when she was 14. It had middle school teacher (or for our people, gym coach) scandal written all over it. Crap.   

So here I am trying to figure out what path I should travel down. Should I continue to explore the “real first date” scene?

I’m thinking hell no… I’ve had much more success in the clueless stumbling, and I prefer it, thank you.

But here’s the problem- I have surrounded myself with mostly straight and/or taken friends. And they are fantastic. They are like a huge Snuggie wrapped around me keeping me safe and warm, providing endless encouragement, laughing at my stupid jokes, graciously tolerating my needy texts/emails and pretending not to know how extremely vulnerable and insecure I really am. All while keeping my wine glass filled. 

Honestly, I would date any of them. They are all beautiful and smart and talented and wonderfully irreverent and I love them dearly. I would love to seamlessly slip into the kind of relationship that I’ve always had with any of them. And did I mention that they are all straight and/or taken?

And perhaps that’s the lesson that they are here to teach me. That I can’t do that very thing that makes me the most comfortable anymore. That I have a different lesson to learn this time around.  That it’s time for me to step out and be a brave grown-up girl and experience a different side of life and try to make the most of more real first dates. That it’s time to be able to count dates on the rest of my fingers and toes.


But they had better have a glass of wine waiting, because mostly, it still sucks.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


They say that the best way to solve a weed problem is to get them by their roots. Really dig down deep, and pull them up where they start. And then do some "preventative maintenance" and install a good weed barrier.

Rinse. Repeat.

It’s a cinch when it’s rained the night before- mostly. They generally come up pretty easy- except for those insidious broad leafed ones that spread like wildfire, and whose roots are like an aspen grove. And it’s even more of a pain when your front yard is rock, and the weeds grow in between. But you still try to get em. And those that come up instantly are very very satisfying.

But those with the deep roots are a pain, and no matter how hard you pull, dig and will them out of the ground, they just stay stuck. And sometimes it’s hot. And sometimes you’re just tired. And sometimes there's a really good Lifetime movie beckoning.

So you take the easy way out and lop them off. As close to the roots as possible and enough so they are hidden by the neighbors. But you know full well that they will come back with a vengeance.
It's good for now. And those weeds won't kill you. You also know that it's going to be harder when they come back again.  You've calculated the risks and know the consequences.

It's the same with kids.

Sometimes those lessons that you try to instill are as easy as wet soil and a good yank. Brush your teeth, put your shoes in your closet, choose your own clothes, three books and bed, be kind to others. And you know full well when you're being played... no, those puppy dog eyes won't get you an extra dessert... no, that whine is not your ticket to an extra cartoon... yes, I know that dance is hilarious, but you still can't play with the I Phone… and ouch, that pinch in protest is still not getting you out of taking a bath.

But sometimes it’s just harder to get at the roots. That obvious conning to get more free time. That sneaking of the extra several M&M’s. That raging tantrum accompanied with flying objects and “you’re not my mommy anymore.” That sobbing devastation at the refusal to read yet another book.

You know that not tackling the behavior right now will result in it being more difficult the next time.

But still you cave.

You give the extra time, knowing you’ll be late. You pretend you didn’t see the candy lifting. You crack open one (or two) more books. And you reward the sobbing with cuddles and hugs.

You promise (again) to be stronger next time. To conscientiously install that protective barrier and finally stop the spread… on another day.

Besides, it’s hot, and I'm tired, and there's a really good Lifetime movie on.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Coming out straight.

We tried... we really did.

I've heard it said many times... and the science is clear... gay parents breed gay kids. Perfect! We would raise a little baby dyke just like her mommies.

Before she was born, we painted her room in gender neutral colors (sea and sand), purchased mostly yellow and blue clothing, pledged a not-so-silent vow against Barbie, and looked forward to raising our little girl in our image.

We had plans... big plans. We would indoctrinate her immediately. We would surround her in the subversive gay culture, give her early exposure to Glee, shop at J.C. Penny's, unabashedly hawk Thin Mints, and fill her head with the music of the Indigo Girls, Michelle Malone and K.D. Lang.

Hell, we were even hoping that, one day, we would be able to walk her down the aisle into the waiting arms of her girlfriend, and send her off into the sunset in a U-Haul with a toaster oven and a tool belt.

Plus, she had both the genetic and the nurture thing going for her, right? 

But I'm afraid we've failed. Despite our best efforts, we think she is headed down the wrong path.

She's only five... but she has all the signs... her favorite drawings are of fairies and brides, she has a ton of Barbies, insists on a pink room with princesses, loves to shop for shoes, and (gasp) has a huge blushing crush on a boy in her school.

Oh, we still try to encourage her options. Shopping one day, she stopped dead in her tracks in front of a wedding gown display: "Mommy- that is the most beautiful dress I ever saw! I want to wear that in my wedding!"

"That is beautiful, honey," I urge. "You can wear that dress in any kind of wedding you want! You know, you can marry whomever you love, a boy or a girl."

And, with that incredulous, indignant glare, she responds: "I already told you Mommy, I am marrying a boy... now stop talking about it!"

We can still hope. But despite our best efforts, we're pretty sure that she's straight.

I guess we've known all along.

A mother always knows.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

A free-er feeling Mother's Day.

Today is Mother's Day. And for many reasons, today feels different. Today is the day that I decided to scatter my mother's ashes... she passed away over a year ago. Today is my first Mother's Day in my new(er) house... without my daughter, who is at her other parent's house. And today is the first Mother's Day where my life is the topic of a national conversation on equality.

I am a mom, who is parenting an amazing, brilliant little girl with another mom (get the title now?). And this is my story of that journey into and through motherhood.

My partner and I had been together for about five or six years when we seriously began to have the conversation about having children. The plan was simple. She would have a child, and then a couple of years later, so would I. It does sound so simple, right? Seems like the natural progression of things... committed relationship, stable jobs, start a family...

And we jumped in with both feet. Began exploring donors, and setting up appointments with doctors, and... well, just dove. It was all very exciting...a time filled with possibilities and happiness.    

The simplicity wore off, and was replaced by just plain hard. Really hard. Infertility treatments, multiple miscarriages, surgeries, and finally (three years later) the realization that my partner had no problem getting pregnant, she just was finding a pregnancy difficult to maintain. Without much conversation (a decision that we both will always regret), we decided that she would stop trying and I would begin to try to conceive. And I eventually did... and we had our daughter.

From a lesbian parenting perspective, we did everything "right" prior to her arrival. We signed medical and financial powers of attorney, ensured that our beneficiaries were each other, co-owned property, and even petitioned a judge to have each of our names listed on our daughter's birth certificate. We anointed ourselves "mommy" (that's me) and "mama," read (okay, skimmed) parenting books, and had spectacular baby showers thrown by amazing friends. We had discussions about the importance of speaking Spanish in the home, (mostly) organic foods, having male influences in her life, and the roles of our respective biological families. It was decided that I would stay home for at least three months, and then we would have a nanny until she went to kindergarten when she was five.

And, in retrospect, I still think that we mostly held true to our intentions. Our little girl will be entering first grade next year. Mama speaks as much Spanish to her as possible. We have wonderfully supportive friends (both male and female... gay and straight). She spends as much time as practical with both sides of the family. She is a happy, healthy, smart little girl with a great sense of humor, dance moves to envy, and good friends embroiled in lots of five-year-old drama. She is the center of our lives and neither mama nor I would change any of the joy that she has brought into our lives.

But there was lots that we didn't talk about as we prepared for, and embarked on this journey of parenting. We didn't talk about the still present grief over my partner's original attempts at becoming pregnant. We didn't' talk about what our roles would be as parents (in heterosexual relationships, that part is generally assumed). We didn't talk about co-sleeping, or the length of breastfeeding, or weather or not to use the whole cry-it-out method. We didn't have a back up plan when the first nanny decided to go back to school (followed by the second who did the same, followed by the third who got pregnant). We didn't talk about the impact of losing and changing jobs, or losing parents, or just the plain old boring duties of maintaining a household.

But mostly, we didn't talk about the people that we were and who we were becoming in these new roles as parents... as mothers... and as partners. 

And in the end, those things that we didn't talk about were those things that eventually (and very sadly) broke us up. We are good people, and good parents, and we will always love each other. And we will always do what is best for our daughter. But now we have shared nights and weekends, and separate houses, and parenting agreements. And now life is just more complicated as each of us figures out how to move forward... as parents... as mothers.

It's really just that simple, isn't it? Relationships begin with wonderful dreams and good intentions... dreams of good careers and great friends... dreams of growing old with the one person that you love... dreams of raising a family. And sometimes life works out in just that way. And sometimes it doesn't.

And as the nation and my state watches and speculates and judges about what it means to be a family, and who it's okay to love, I can't help but wonder... all things being equal... is my journey really so different?

Happy Mother's Day.