Saturday, May 16, 2015

"I pride myself on being an amazing mother"

When I see this picture, I imagine LB in another 15 years, wearing a hemp necklace and barefoot, hula hooping on the street.

That quote was actually written by someone in one of the big private online lesbian mom groups I'm part of.  And that, my friends, is what I love about the internet.  In my travels through '70s back-to-the-land/old school taciturn New England, and 1980s lower middle class New England, and some 25 years of urban America from Boston to Seattle to Boston to Chicago to Baltimore and now Providence, it never occurred to me that the above was something a person could think or say.

I just don't think mothering/parenting is Amazing-able.  Parenting is life, and you can tell yourself that you are amazing at life, but it's just a series of triumphs and disappointment, choices and things outside your control, learning and not learning that makes up what becomes a life.

We do okay here-my new house needs a name. And I've discovered there's another name for what I call "1970s parenting," which is as close as I get to a philosophy.  "Slow parenting," who knew?  This article about having a slow parenting summer has been making the rounds. Makes sense to me, although it's a little different for working out of the house homes, because I think we feel additional pressure to make summer fun if our kids are in summer childcare that is a lot like what they experience during the school year.

I'm hoping to take LB to this amazing event: the Urban Pond Procession.  Despite being focused on ecology, it's challenging to get to on public transit from our neighborhood.  If the weather is good, we'll go, but if it's rainy, I don't think we can manage.  My alternate rain plan is to take LB to see Alice: A New Musical at the local Jr. High School.  I'm a little worried about her ability to sit through without talking.  With a four and a half year old, would you try it?  Or I could just take my own advice and we could have a quiet day. I feel like I've been over-scheduling LB a bit, just because I don't want us to fall into a sitting sad and alone in our rundown apartment, but I've definitely overcompensated.

And, just now, my four year old got the pizza box out of the fridge and served me a slice of cold pizza. I'm going to pat myself on the back for some amazing parenting.

And, finally, we got a couch!  A kind friend not only gave me the couch, but brought it to me and set it up. People are really nice sometimes.

Sunday, May 10, 2015

How Hard It Is

I've been rocking it as an over-compensating, abandoned, soon-to-be-divorced, lesbian mom.  My introverted self has been constantly busy, and when I'm busy I'm happy.  This week brought a sinus infection and terrible allergies with a tightness in my chest, and it was time to slow down.  I wasn't worried about mother's day, because it's never been a huge deal to me.  But today with no fun plans (but rather, run, work, paint if energy remains), I feel a deep sadness for what I've lost.

There's a go-getum-girl school of divorce that says the way to get over your lost relationship is to get out into the world, and I do think it's good for me to be busy, but I think that school of thought conflates the period of time after mourning with the action people take at that time.  So right now, I can take all the actions of a person not in mourning, but I'll still feel the sadness.  And it sucks.  But it's an appropriate kind of sadness that leads to emotional health. Kind of like the way exercise hurts and leads to physical health.

I've also become the Cassandra of struggling and just-okay marriages.  I just want to scream: "if you want to remain married, you aren't trying hard enough! Your marriage is struggling and you can't find two hours to spend alone with your spouse, you've got to be kidding me!" Nobody hears that person, I didn't listen to that person, until it's too late.

But despite all that there is my wonderful little girl, who got me a pink toothbrush for mother's day, who said: "If you miss me and feel sad, just look at the flowers grandmom and I got you." I'm sad, but lucky.

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Or does it explode

My facebook feed has been full of two streams: anxious anticipation of the Supreme Court's hearing of a challenge to state bans on gay marriage.  This morning brings two and half hours of oral argument.  The best place to follow the action is always SCOTUS blog, and they have helpfully included some "in plain English" coverage.  Check it out here.

The other stream is the Baltimore protests/riots/uprising/as well as some kids being kids.  While I don't think of the Baltimore Sun as the best newspaper around, their coverage of present events includes important details not covered in national outlets.  The Sun has made all of their coverage freely available and it also includes timelines of the death of Freddie Gray and investigative coverage of the 5.7 million dollars the Baltimore Police Department has quietly paid out since 2011 for beating and otherwise brutalizing the citizenry of Baltimore. And if you want to know what that brutality looks like on the ground, check out Conor Friederdorf's article in the Atlantic, "The Brutality of Police Culture in Baltimore."

If you're looking for some analysis, Ta-Nehisi Coates does it again with his article "Nonviolence as Compliance." If you are watching coverage of the Baltimore protests on CNN and you're horrified and you are telling the tv "you're doing it wrong!" "why are you destroying your own city!" (I'm not even going to touch the "they are all animals!" commentary) then this article is a must read.

If like me, you feel like you're trapped in the way back machine, you can check out the Kerner Report, commissioned by LBJ in 1967 to explore the causes of riots (Watts, Newark, etc.) it was released shortly before the massive nationwide riots after the murder of Martin Luther King, Jr. The famous quote from the report is "Our Nation is moving toward two societies-one black, one white-seperate and unequal." There is a lot of video of the 1968 riots available online-the most interesting thing about these videos is, once you get past seeing armed troops on the streets of an American city, they are boring.  Most of what happens is people standing in the street.  This video does illustrate the role the 1968 Baltimore riot played in the mass incarceration of black men that now decimates cities like Baltimore.  If you look at arrest rates by race historically, 1968 shows a huge bump that just keeps rising over the following decades.  Here's some NPR coverage from 2008 on the 1968 riots and their aftermath.

Baltimore's the only city where I've felt so freaked out walking that I turned around and went back.  And that was after years spent traversing the South Side of Chicago.  Baltimore just has such a high percentage of busted/broken/non-functional compared to the parts that do work. Despite that I've spent a good amount of time in parts of Baltimore where white ladies don't usually go, and, as is my usual experience, people have always been good to me.  Shortly before I left Baltimore for good, I was walking a group of my students through a historic old black neighborhood in Baltimore, telling the history through the architecture.  Looking at abandoned buildings, an open middle school with its huge windows thrown open and no screens, the few limping businesses.  A neighborhood still filled with apple and cherry blossoms. Wondering what the Dean would say if anything bad happened.  Nothing happened.

My Baltimore was filled with love and threat and suffering.  Filled with the friendly and loving people, who could not fix the crumbling infastructure, the massive disinvestment.  Baltimore is a colonial outpost where the wealthy extract what they can-the University studies the local population, where strong young men go to prison to work for free.  Baltimore is the most civic-minded place I have ever lived, where local people know that if you want something done you have to get your neighbors together and do it, because the city will never show up to help.  My Baltimore was one of compassion fatigue, where every educator, health care worker, law enforcement officer created a hard shell to survive in the face of so much suffering-and so did I.

B and I were once driving through some shitty neighborhood in East Baltimore-not the one that looks like London after the Blitz, a different one, with people.  I was in the passenger seat fiddling with the ipod as B pulled up to a light.  I looked out the car window and a young Black man caught my eye. As he looked a me, he moved toward the car reaching.  I looked at him and my arm moved to hit the lock on the car door.  He drew his hand back and laughed, and I laughed.  We had both played our parts pitch perfect, the way we were born to do.

Violence isn't the answer, but neither is peace.  When I see the young people of Baltimore throwing rocks, I see Palestinian children, I see the children of northern Ireland.  When you've got nothing, when you'll never have anything, when your only recourse is to gather the gleanings of the wealthy and powerful, you pick up a rock.

We are all bound together in this world.  I hope for a Supreme Court ruling that will be LGBTQ people closer to equality-closer to fundamental protections for our families and our bodies.  But even as we get more, we must remember that we are still "the least of these." Our strength as LGBTQ people is that we are a cross section of everyone.  We are rich and poor, people of all races and religions, of all genders, of all political orientations.  Our shared oppression, throughout history and in the present, can have meaning if it makes us more empathetic and compassionate to the suffering of others.  We are all bound together and our victories only have meaning if they make the world more just, more equal for all people.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Choose Happiness

LB and I made a spring tree with eggs and birds, and the apartment is slowly coming together. I am so sick of scrubbing and painting.

And then:

Wednesday, March 25, 2015


I knew it was spring in New England when I walked by the Dunkin' Donuts closest to my work and they had the front door propped open with a chair.  When we lived in Baltimore I loved the mid-Atlantic spring, so soft and warm.  New England spring is thin and chilly with a stiff breeze to remind me that I've lost my hat.  LB loves to look out the windows of our new apartment and track the slow disappearance of the snow in the park across the street and the slower reappearance of people in the park.  Last night, LB was at her other home, but I listened to some raucous basketball at dusk.

We made this spring tree with dyed eggs and painted paper cranes.  The drugstore didn't have a regular egg kit with the little dye buttons, so I had to get a terrible one with dye pouches, and then mostly used food coloring because the pouches were terrible.  But we got it done, and in the pictures you can't see that the eggs are attached to the strings with scotch tape-that is some kind of metaphor for our lives.

Things are okay here.  We like the new house, and it's slowly coming together although I'm worn out from my first burst of energy.  LB seems to be working through the transition with elaborate pretend games drawn from Frozen.  But I feel sad. Now I have space for all the loss to settle and pool.  And as much as I don't want to feel sad, and sad isn't really my emotion, this seems like where I need to be.

Sunday, March 15, 2015


We have something resembling a new home. With thanks to family and friends and coworkers and even B. I got a special bloggy surprise in the mail that is going straight on the fridge. My parent stocked my pantry and fridge straight out of 1935. They are almost boomers, born in 1945, and despite their countercultural years, it shows. They will show up for their daughter's divorce with 20lbs of flour, 10lbs of rice, canned corn, and laundry soap. I love it.