Tag Archives: community

we used to know

26 Apr

We used to know without pause
which blouse, which skirt, which shoes,
which size was right –
what time work ended – how to connect
when one of us failed
to answer the phone.
If one of our kids
was melting down,
if it was too late,
we’d wait with each other
in public until it passed.
We used to know
each other’s allergies.
We used to understand
the village
wasn’t only for our kids.

We used to decorate ourselves
and our spaces, too,
with feathers and disco balls,
slippers and smoking jackets,
on fire with possibility,
forging bonds in that fire,
naturally
unbreakable bonds.

We cleaned each other’s houses.
We brought each other soup
and tissue and wine.
We watched each other’s kids on snow days,
holidays, sick days and in between.
But we never sealed the pact. There were gaps,
days we missed, moments we drifted off.
In the center of our lives
was this open-air home we’d built together
and I (because I can no longer speak for all of us
and probably never could) – I thought it would stand for

passion,
possibility,
perseverance,
strength,
creativity,
justice
all over the world
forever
and maybe,
just maybe
that was it.

Maybe that
was the cause
of its demise,
all those different signs
on one door.
I don’t know.
Maybe the mortar never set.
The walls didn’t match up.
Those signs
were too heavy.
It was never a home.
Too big,
too small, too restrictive.
It had too many rooms.
I don’t think
any one of us
can point to why in that singular moment,
the sledgehammer dislodged possibility
and we all came crashing into the here, the now.
I still don’t know
what caused the rubble –
I didn’t see –
a series of moments maybe,
a shift in our foundation.

A cluster of infinitesimal seismic shifts.
Dynamite. A lack of faith. Silence.
Divided loyalties.
It was preventable.
It was inevitable.
It was what it was.
Now it is what it is.

But as the sun
peeks through the trees,
I’ve noticed
each of us,
mourning,
wanders back to the site
and stands awhile.
We assess damage. We gather
what we treasure most,
each stone,
each mirrored shard
reflecting who we were,
who we wanted to become,
reminding
us

as we linger
by the hammer, still in the center
of what used to be the floor,
that if we decide
more intentionally this time
to build a village square,
it only takes one of us
to begin.

* * * * *
National Poetry Writing Month
30 poems in 30 days

Love Wins

22 Oct

Here’s how I  celebrated National Coming Out Day:

Wedding Pic 2

After dancing and drinking and eating and celebrating and sleeping (some) and celebrating more with family and friends who flew in and drove in from California, Wisconsin and Texas … half of whom crashed in our basement 🙂 … Kelly and I packed the Prius and took a honeymoon road trip from Chicago, Illinois to Asheville, North Carolina.

If you follow such things, you may realize this put us in Asheville THREE DAYS after legal marriage reached the same-sex couples in that state! We told EVERYONE we just got married – and they were elated. “Did you get married HERE?!” they all asked. All of them. Proudly. “No, we got married in Chicago,” we told them. “We’re here for our Honeymoon!”

20141013_Champagne

Champagne and chocolates awaited us in our room the first night.

I penned a few thoughts about marriage that first morning, looking out on this:

20141014_Honeymoon Morning

Someday, I’ll share those thoughts – about marriage itself, weddings, lifelong commitment, and agitating to be seen as a whole human being capable of love and family – but today is not the day. Today, I’m less reflective than all that. Today, I’m simply happy.

Our first full day in town, it poured down rain . . . but . . . we had a spa day planned, a spa DAY. I had never taken a whole day at a spa, or – let’s be real – even four full hours, Wow. Let it rain!

We dressed up that night. I wore a dress, which I rarely do — I know, twice in one week?!  Our waiter gave us free dessert.

 20141014_191733  20141014_203113

But my FAVORITE days were when we hiked.

20141015_111154      
20141016_113225

20141016_122021

20141016_113921

20141015_153803

20141015_153824

 … when we had tea at the Biltmore …

20141016_161733

20141016_163136

(very Harry Potter-esque, don’t you think?)

20141016_162045

… and, of course, when we discovered that we’d booked the wrong dates in our second hotel, got marked as a no-show, and took the only room they had available:

20141015_170440

20141015_170557

(I know: You’re hurting for us, right?)

20141015_170547

20141015_170535

“My friend just got married at the courthouse on Friday!” the young woman told us when she checked us in. We shared her excitement and her pride, and soon learned that her friend – and colleague – was among the first 19 couples to be wed in Asheville. What a moment to be gay, and alive, and here, and wed.

They gifted us with red wine, balloons, truffles and local honey.

“Love wins,” they say in North Carolina.

20141012_103238

I agree.

With every fiber of my being, I agree.

20141017_125949

Love Wins.

45 Things

6 Feb

I’m old. Well… no. I’m not old.

Not anymore.

My friend Cindy says that old is her grandmother at 92 – who can still, incidentally, spend the day shopping – so if I’m still chatting it up with y’all when I’m 92, then I’ll be old, but today, I guess I’m more on the cusp of something… spectacular.

Because even if my shoulder is freezing up again, my right knee is arthritic, and I’ve put on more pounds in the last five years than I care to share, my life improves with each year. So, to celebrate each of those years ~

45 Things I Like (in case you were wondering)

  1. Ice cream cake.
  2. Maple brown sugar Cream of Wheat – a “like” I’ve apparently passed down to my daughter.
  3. Imagine Dragons’ Demons.
  4. The poet Mary Oliver.
  5. A thin sliver of moon against a dark sky.
  6. Pulling into the alley behind our house, quiet in my car but bursting with anticipation.
  7. All the animals rushing to greet me at the front door. Yes, we have four pets and once in awhile, they ALL come running.
  8. 45 things mood lightingMood lighting during my morning shower – which I only know because our bathroom light fixture busted last week and I dragged in a living room lamp, which actually throws the perfect light for my slow-to-wake morning eyes.
  9. Sweet potato maki.
  10. A good long strong massage.
  11. Miss E playing cello.
  12. Frankie, our dog, running through snow – flying, really – with sheer exuberance.
  13. Waking to the sound and scent of coffee brewing on a lazy weekend morning.
  14. Grace’s laser-sharp focus, day after day, on her grad school applications – and the absolute lightness of her in the hours after she submits the last one.
  15. The way our cat Johnny poses – on the mantle, or on the rug, or on a dining room chair in that nanosecond after some human vacates it.
  16. Jimmy John’s freaky fast delivery service, especially when we’re in the middle of a polar vortex.
  17. When the words come out clean, real, unadorned, powerful, true.
  18. Flowers – popping out of the ground each spring or wrapped in florist paper with a packet of Flower Food.
  19. Long underwear.
  20. Road trips, where the conversation is rich and the road is open and we have nothing but time and time and (music and maybe snacks and) time.
  21. My co-workers, who I respect and trust.
  22. New black boots – dress boots – for that rare evening when I leave my house after dark.
  23. Spinach.
  24. Sleepover weddings – AKA, Destination Weddings. Maybe I have weddings on the brain because of the new Illinois law that takes effect in June.
  25. Making lists.
  26. Fall. Spring. Seasons with smells.
  27. Snowflakes on my eyelashes, on my windows, on my daughter’s tongue.
  28. Cliffs. Waves. Crashing water.
  29. The disappearing horizon – when you stand in that spot where you can’t see the other side and it’s perfect because you never expected to see it and that’s why you’re standing in that spot to begin with, because what you can see is far more breathtaking than the other side. That.
  30. A day, an hour, a moment when my list slips away, making room for something so much… bigger.
  31. Friends who bring me down to earth.
  32. Friends who understand my need to float slightly out of reach sometimes, who simply let me float, aware that I will return when I’m ready.
  33. Simply: Friends.
  34. Baby giggles.
  35. 45 things soccer shirtMartin Luther King, Jr.’s Birthday Holiday, right before I take Miss E and her two friends to the DuSable Museum of African American History, when she emerges from her bedroom wearing a Guatemalan soccer shirt – claiming her identity visibly, publicly, for what may be the first time.
  36. Coming back to a blog post I was going to scrap and realizing that perhaps it’s salvageable and maybe, just maybe, I suddenly have the tenacity or creativity or sheer stubbornness necessary to fix it up and spit-polish it for guests.
  37. Sun. (Remember that?)
  38. Snowbanks deep enough to sink a whole leg into.
  39. My journal cover that says, “Everything will be okay.” Because it will be. Always. Eventually.
  40. When the searing pain in my shoulder gives way to simple stiffness, and I know it’s time to start the exercises again and it feels… bearable to begin.
  41. Beer. Preferably, an IPA.
  42. When my little girl, after learning that tonight is my blogging night, says to me as I leave her bedroom, “Good luck” and my whole heart melts.
  43. That Huffington Post article, This is 45: The Eye of Life’s Storm by Emily Mendell, that my friend Miriam posted on her Facebook wall, because so many things in it feel true to me, too.
  44. Feeling heard. BEING heard.
  45. 45 things snowYou.

Here’s to life! Thank you for celebrating with me.

Resolve

3 Jan
Walking the Labyrinth created in loving memory of Doris Godinez Phillips

Walking the Labyrinth created in loving memory of Doris Godinez Phillips

I made two resolutions in what I’ll call the dusk preceding 2014. I hadn’t planned to make any. It’s been years since I made and kept a New Year’s Resolution. Even this blog began in the springtime. I mean, who starts new things in the winter? Not me.

Still, the opportunity swelled like a wave approaching shore – and a holiday trip to sunny California provided me with sudden spring – so I held my arms out for balance and spoke into the spray.

That is, we were staying with my Dad in California, and one night after Miss E returned from an outing with Grandpa and her cousins, after I had slipped into my predictable post-holiday funk born of too many cookies, ample wine and that sudden … empty slate … which follows weeks of preparation and build-up, one night during our precious bedtime chat, my daughter asked, “What are your reso- revo – ro – revolutions, Mom?” There were so many answers I could offer. So many.

“My New Year’s Resolutions?”

“Yeah! Resolutions.”

What I understood as she formed the question was this: My daughter is beginning to reflect on her own behavior. She is beginning to set goals and strive to meet them. With the new year coming, and so much talk of intention, she was bursting with possibility and seeking guidance. A model. A kickstart. Something. She was relying on me.

So I blurted out the first two things that popped into my mind. “I will put more attention on my writing, on sharing my writing. I want to get something published.” Her eyes got big, but she didn’t speak. “Oh, and I want to be more active. I resolve to be more active.”

“That’s a good one, Mom!” My guess is she feels becoming more active is the easier resolution to keep. Me? I’m not so sure.

But with her as my witness, I resolved to market my own work and move my body. I resolved to throw myself into trying.  That’s what I want for her, to throw herself into trying, to set a goal and live into it. Which means I have to model that, right?

Now, a couple years into my blogging escapades, I find myself often resisting the page – it’s too cold, I’m too tired, there is laundry to be done – yet once I am here, I am whole. The words arrive or they don’t, and I learn. I untangle knots. I open myself, and I connect. With people. Like you.

This is good.

I resolve to do more of this, and not just on my own safe page. 

I must step out of my comfort zone.

I must access skills I’ve not tried on for years. Or learn new ones.

“What are your resolutions, Peanut?”

She rattled off ten grand sweeping plans, with fire and enthusiasm. “What’s the most important to you?” I asked. She wasn’t sure. She wants them all. She wants a horse; she wants to eat healthy – not so much junk food – she wants to be active; she intends to get better in math.

She’ll focus her efforts in some of these areas. I know she will. Others will drop off her list. (The horse, for example?) Or she’ll change course, find a fresh way to get what she wants, to be who she wants to be.

I have faith in her.

Walking with Mama for BalanceMy partner has faith in us both, and that helps. Tremendously. She sent me into my writing space tonight, in fact, when I was ready to sit down and watch TV. Because I’ve been resisting this page for weeks, she said now was a good time to begin. Again. To resolve. To show up. To write. She may not have used these words, but it’s what she meant. And here I am. Largely because she offered me that nudge. That shove. That reminder of my own intention.

What do you resist as we open the new year?

Do you need a nudge? A hand? Words of support or encouragement?

What do you resolve?

Christmas Presence

20 Dec

Christmas Presence 2013My role for years, as the only kid in my family, was to believe. To believe in magic. To believe in love. To believe in the sanctity of our home. To make us a family. To be gleeful. To be sure my eyes lit up so brightly on Christmas morning that my Mom across the room would be caught in my eye-light’s high beam. My light made her smile. Still does, I think. Not sure.

But one year, after Mom returned to the hospital at the end of a one-day pass, I yanked down the tinsel garland draped over all the doorways in our house. I collected the shiny Santas and the snowman clutter from the tabletops and the top of our piano, and I shoved them all back into their boxes. I called an end to Christmas before the day was done. I was finished with the sham.

My dad stood stunned, stung, flabbergasted. I held my fists in balls and dared him to stop me. He would not. He knew I needed this. But through his eyes, I saw my own fury, and allowed it to ebb, ever so slightly – or maybe it was his open mouth that called me back. I did not right then, right there un-decorate the tree. For both our sakes, I left it to twinkle a few more days. Somebody (or something), after all, needed to supply light if I was done. I may have known that much.

What I didn’t know yet was that I had closed down my Christmas spirit for years to come. Maybe his, too. What I didn’t realize when I left that small tree to glow in my place was that Christmas is what we make it, what I make it, how I make it. This, it is taking me years to grasp.

How I make it — and I need to remind myself this every year, every hour, every minute of every hour every year when Christmastime comes around — is with presence. Not presents, but presence.

It’s the care I put into selecting or creating each gift. It’s the preparation of food on Christmas Eve. It’s the brewing of coffee on Christmas morning. It’s carols. It’s candles. It’s cards written to people I love. It’s the scent of evergreen.

It’s children – yes – and pets, too. It’s recognizing the magic in people I love – or in people I don’t yet know. It’s the neighbor who leaves just what I need on my doorstep (cookies, a snow shovel, the scarf I left at her house the other day). It’s someone’s hand in mine. It’s locking eyes with my Honey or my girls for a moment between photos.

It’s what I make it, how I make it, who I make it with.

It’s the last-minute text message from a close friend inviting me clothes shopping one week before Christmas – clothes shopping for ourselves. It’s dinner out with another dear friend – sushi, back home for beer and bourbon, TV, conversation – up the next morning, hanging out in my PJs with this same friend, coffee in our steaming mugs, everyone’s hair a mess.

I remind myself daily – more than daily now – to open my Christmas presence. Simply open myself. To what is magical. To what is fresh. To what is.

And I remind myself to share the light. However crookedly it sits on our darling tree.

Crooked Christmas StarMerry Christmas.

From our house to yours.

With love,

RoiAnn

Guatemala: With Words

30 Aug

Family Photo San Pedro Aug 2013I expected our trip to Guatemala, our first trip back since we adopted Miss E, to be challenging. I anticipated daily explosions – emotional outbursts – born of too-tight quarters, a lack of Spanish language skills in two of us, our dependence on translation by the other two, and most obviously, I imagined this odyssey to my daughter’s birth country would set off fireworks inside us all.

I was wrong.

This was quite possibly the smoothest, warmest, most beautiful family vacation I’ve ever had.

Ever.

This isn’t to say we avoided every possible conflict. This isn’t to say we spent nine days holding hands and squeezing one another with overwhelming love-hugs, our lips turned up in smiles without pause – but WE WERE AMAZING. Yes. I will brag on us all. Miss E was the very best nine-year-old traveler I’ve ever had the pleasure of traveling with – yes, even (especially) when her fever crept past 103 one frightening night. (She is completely fine now, finished her antibiotics with not a trace of illness left.) Grace’s ideas — like a 7 a.m. swim in the middle of three volacanoes in a place of peace in an off-beat area one simple boat-ride away from where we slept — her ease with us all and with herself, her Spanish fluency, her flexibility, her curiosity about unfamiliar things – impressed me and touched me, endeared her to me. Deeply. It’s been years since we spent so much time all together. And KellySue, who handled our money, our lodging, our transportation, who was an endless font of ideas for where we might explore? She rocks my world. Daily.

In a good way. 🙂

Now I don’t have a coherent story of our being there – for me, these things take time (that is, if they come together coherently at all, they do not come together right away), but here are some glimpses, according to my pen on the page in those rare moments when I stopped JUST BEING long enough to write:

August 14

Our trip so far:

  • Rooster alarm – a ring tone, not the real thing – awake for the day by 3:00 a.m.
  • Piled into a cab by quarter to 4:00. In the morning.
  • Cuban breakfast in Miami and a new camera from the airport shop because – no – I do not want to whip out my camera-phone in the middle of a Guatemalan market.
  • Miss E sleeping in the breakfast booth beside me.
  • Facebook
  • Changing dollars for quetzales, trying to get a handle on the exchange rate and mistaking a giant pile of bills for the quetzales we were getting back (#SillyAmericans) – making the bank agent laugh.
  • KellySue and her Angry Birds
  • Grace’s muted eye roll
  • The colors, the beauty of takeoff – both times – rising above the clouds over Chicago, the skyline, the towers, the red-pink-gold of dawn as the sun crested swiftly – too soon for my phone to turn on (and the new camera still in its’ box, stowed away) – breathtaking.
  • Then lifting off from Miami over the water, the generous shades of blue green turquoise aquamarine, boats leaving white wakes in the water miles and miles below, rocks and algae, green shores… and then up in the sky beside me, my girls on either side with their iPad and iPad mini screens – Percy Jackson, Breaking Bad – and me with a book called “Bloom,” subtitled “finding beauty in the unexpected,” an honest memoir by the mom of a child with Down Syndrome. All of this makes me (breaks me) open.
  • Remembering our last trip to Guatemala nine years ago – to bring home our baby, our love, our joy. Remembering dinner in Antigua before endless days in a Guatemala City hotel with occasional day trips to a giant market, to the Embassy, to dinner. The glimpses we had of the country then, I recall in something like snapshots through the haze of becoming a mom – the abundance and amazement. Watching my girl for hours, mesmerized, looking up sometimes to share the love, to notice where we were. In a hotel. Sitting on the floor.
  • Flying through the air today back to our baby’s birth country.

August 15

She’s nine now, lying on my bed – after giggles and a chat, after dizzy spells in the restaurant, two hours or more of rain, a new hand-sewn perrito dancing along the blankets, my new shoulder bag, a lovely beautiful day and an adventuresome boat ride.

August 17

A day of tiny mishaps and high emotion, snippiness, hunger, picky eating, a sprained wrist, and high-arch shoe inserts soaked through in the rainstorm. My first zip line.

Zipping across the canyon blew my mind.

Today, Miss E wishes desperately for the familiar. She is shocked by the freedom and responsibility of her Mayan Guatemalan peers.

P1000236“Everyone here looks like me,” she says.

She surprises, them, too, as much as they surprise her. They watch her with the camera, observing her attire, her hippie-tourist, tie-dyed t-shirt, her deeply dark hair which is not pulled back from her face, her eyes, her round bronze cheeks.

“That is the name of my sister,” one artisan tells our family, making friends with us to sell her bracelets and bags.

All I can think to do with this hour we have before our next excursion is: Eat, sleep, or shop.

August 18

How do I catalog my adventures in real-time?

What to say about the tuk tuks, the motorbikes, the relaxed safety standards, two children dressed alike in Mayan dress, one three years old and the other more like ten, and an eight year old nearby, clearly connected to them, laughing with them, maybe their sister, dressed in a turquoise tank top, sequined, with black skinny pants and black flats? By her attire and her likeness to my daughter, she could have been a student back home.

I want to tell the women we meet – when they ask about Miss E – is she mine? is she Kelly’s? – that she’s theirs, too, but how do you say this in Spanish and have your meaning clear? Layers of meaning. Layers of belonging. Because she is ours. And she is theirs, too. Both.

I don’t know that I can explain this in English either.

How do I write about the young children peddling their bracelets, that feeling of overwhelm when they’re all flocking around, and our new traveling friend who pays each of them something small just because? Or my reaction – a brief smile, a quick glance, no real engagement – my reaction, which I’m not proud of?

[By then, we’d met Tania. We talked and played, and it rained, and Miss E got sick, and we loved our time, all of it, but I didn’t write.] 

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Days Later – Back Home

We loved where we were – with its’ tin roofs and luscious green, with public boats and people mixing – locals, tourists, jeans and Mayan dress – effortlessly, simply – all ages, all of us taking it in.

How do I describe our return to the States, to so much STUFF, knowing that in a few more days, this will all feel normal again – this here, this life, this… microwave?

My girl raises her head and grins ear to ear each time her Aunties ask, “How was your trip?” It was right for us to go.

And our new friends! Totally brought our trip to life. Jenna, our hostess, and Tania, our traveling companion for a day… Jenna’s dogs, Tania’s tales, and Casimiro, our guide the day Tania invited us to come along. The day we decided to go back and swim. Early. By the hot springs.

P1000254

Thank you, Kim and Anna and Jen and Sadie and Cindy and Loretta and Tania and Jenna for all your ideas about where to go and what to do.

Panajachel. Iximche. Santa Catarina.

And thank you to our friends and family who responded to Facebook photos and called and emailed when we got back, who brought us donuts and fruit, who invited us to dinner, and who’ve loved us each step of the way.

We are deeply grateful.

xo

P1000335

Small Blog Love

2 Aug

liebster2A few days before I left for BlogHer ’13, I got a note from Rachael which made my whole summer. It is quite something, isn’t it, to hear you’ve touched someone? Especially someone you know only through your words on a (web)page?  Rachael nominated me for the Liebster Award — which is a way for small bloggers to discover and recognize other small bloggers. “Small” is defined as 200 followers or less.

Here’s how it works:

  1. Thank the Liebster Blog presenter who nominated you and link back to their blog. (Thank you, Rachael!)
  2. Post 11 facts about yourself, answering the 11 questions you were asked and create 11 questions for your nominees.
  3. Nominate 11 blogs who you feel deserve to be noticed and leave a comment on their blog letting them know they have been chosen.
  4. Display the Liebster Award logo.
  5. No tag backs, meaning you can’t just re-nominate the person who nominated you.

Curious about the award’s origins, of course I Googled it, and found an intriguing history on the award on Sopphey Says. Thank you, Sopphey!

But here’s what most resonated with me – first said apparently by Solo the First, although I read it in Rachael’s Liebster post, “The real purpose behind these nominations are not only as an accolade from a fellow blogger and let’s face it, nothing gently strokes our little writer hearts more than someone telling you they appreciate your work. In addition to the back patting we need to receive from time to time, it also allows us to get a little more personal as we get to know our increasing blogging community. It also helps drive traffic to your site as we reference one another.”

So here are Rachael’s questions with my answers:

  1. Paper Book or Electronic? Paper! How do you get that dusty smell with electronic books? How do you flip through their pages wondering whose hands have been on them before yours, marveling how words and stories are passed along from generation to generation?
  2. Who would you have dinner with if you could pick anyone ever? Kelly Sue, pretty much all the time. My partner. She’s one of the funniest people I’ve ever met. Plus . . . I love her.
  3. What kitchen utensil would you be? A spoon.
  4. If you met the president, what would you say to him? I would thank him for this and leave the rest alone. I think it’s hard to be President. Probably. Sometimes he gets it right and sometimes he doesn’t, but I sure couldn’t do any better.
  5. What’s the hardest lesson you have had to learn in your life? Do not take apart the floor boards looking for termites every time something gnaws at you. Leave your house alone. If you need a fresh perspective, step outside. Do not START by Taking. Apart. The. House.
  6. What’s the best decision you ever made? Writing regularly. Opening my heart to our two beautiful, powerful girls.
  7. What’s your favorite musical? “Fiddler on the Roof.” It can still make me cry. No lie. I love “Les Miserables,” too, though, especially after seeing it on the big screen with my Dad.
  8. What’s your biggest pet peeve? Insincerity.
  9. What’s your greatest accomplishment? Parenting with sanity. Some sanity, anyway. Sometimes.
  10. Where do you see yourself in 15 minutes? Pouring more coffee. Reading? Checking Facebook? Hard to say. Finishing this post?
  11. Where do hope to be in your life by the time you are retired? Somewhere with water, trees, and space for friends to visit and children to giggle in the grass and catch frogs.

Here are my nominations:

And here are my eleven questions for those bloggers above who choose to accept the nomination 🙂 (and for anyone reading who feels like answering below):

  1. What did you have for breakfast this morning?
  2. Train, Bus, Bicycle, Car, Skateboard, or your Own Two Feet?
  3. Paper or Plastic?
  4. If you could retire tomorrow comfortably, would you?
  5. If you’ve ever been locked out of your house, how did you get back in?
  6. What is the first book you remember reading and really, really liking?
  7. What is something you say every day?
  8. Have you ever jumped out of an airplane?
  9. How do you celebrate New Year’s Eve?
  10. What are the printed words closest to you right now?
  11. How old were you when you learned to ride a bike?

Let’s hear it for discovering new ideas and making friends online!

xoxo

Speed Dating at BlogHer ‘13

28 Jul

BlogHer TapiocaWe are standing in concentric circles – three or four or five thousand women, getting to know one another in 30 seconds flat, one after another after another. The idea is that somewhere in these twenty tiny conversations we are about to embark on with women bloggers from all over the country and beyond, something – or someone – will “click.”

Well, that’s my idea, anyway, misguided though it may be.

“Do you blog?”

“I do.”

“What do you blog about?

“Being a lesbian mom, an adoptive mom, a stepmom . . .”

“Oh, that’s . . . nice.”

Is it?

“What do you blog about?” I say.

 * * *

“Do you have a blog?”

“I do have a blog. Do you?”

“Yes!”

“What do you blog about?”

“Fashion. Food. Sometimes I post recipes. How about you?”

“Life as a lesbian mom, an adoptive mom, a step –“

“I see,” she cuts me off before I finish my response. Did she not get the memo? It’s 2013. “Have you been here before?” she asks.

Clearly, I have been here before. Moments ago.

“No, this is my first time at BlogHer. Have you been here before?”

“Oh, no, not at all. Never. It’s really . . . big . . . isn’t it?” She smiles at me and shuffles her feet, her eyes now scanning the room.

What is she looking for?

* * *

“Hi, my name is — and I blog at —-. Do you have a blog? Here, let me give you my card. That’s me. Do you have a card?”

Thank God. Someone chatty. I may not have to say anything this time.

I hand her a card. “That’s me,” I say.

“What do you blog abo-“ She reads my card. It says at the top, ‘Queer mama co-parenting by love, step, adoption and the skin of my teeth.’ “Oh!” she exclaims, and I can see the steel wall come down behind her eyelids. I can almost hear the loud THUD as the steel hits cement. I want to snap my card out of her hands.

Are you kidding me?!?

“What do you blog about?” I ask, instead. This time, I’m the one eager to move on. Or out. Completely.

* * *

“What do you blog about?”

“Parenting. Poetry. Life,” I respond. “Last week, I blogged about ducks.”

* * *

I do not run screaming from the room.

I feel hollow.

I want to find my tribe. But how? And who?

There are lesbians at this conference. I know there are. I met them briefly. Maybe if I find them again, I’ll gather courage to go on telling people who I am and what I really write on my blog.

Maybe.

Hours later, I see them gathered in a group, so I stop for a long, deep breath. Butterflies rise through my chest and throat and scatter out the top of my head. I can do this. I know I can. I stride over with purpose before I lose my nerve. “Hello,” I begin. “How’s the conference so far?”

“Up and down,” comes the response, after a time. Yes, I know what you mean.

But I cannot say what I’m looking for, somehow. Surely, they know. Surely, they’ve all been where I am now, but I cannot explain. I have no words for this sense of… unease. Besides, they are friends already and I am just someone who writes on the internet, occasionally well.

After a moment, I wave – warmly, I hope – and walk away.

It isn’t that I am completely alone. I’m not.

My Listen to Your Mother cast mates – lovely and talented, friendly and funny – invite me to join them for lunch, dinner, drinks and parties each day. And I come, mostly. And it’s good. Really good.

It’s just that…

They are new friends, tentative friends. And I don’t have words for this “floaty” feeling, but I want to land back on the ground. In the meantime, I hardly know what to say.

Bloggers more seasoned than I share personal stories from the podium, powerful stories. I feel connected. I feel whole. After the session, I approach one of the women who spoke. She sees a friend as I open my mouth to say hi. It isn’t personal. I know that. But she just nods to me, and strides by.

I do not reach out again.

I don’t even know what I’m reaching for.

I listen to stories on stage that make me cry. I party with Listen to Your Mother friends. People sing. And laugh. Take pictures and share them all over Facebook.

I fill my plate with turkey and healthy greens on the last day, and sit with someone who’s alone at a table, scrolling through her phone. Someone I don’t know.

“Hi,” she says, introducing herself. “Do you blog?” Good God. Is there no other way to begin?

“I do. Do you?”

“Sort of,” she says. “I work for the Strong Families Initiative…” She doesn’t expect me to understand.

“You DO!?!” I ask. I cannot believe my good luck. “I LOVE Strong Families.” I have wanted to connect with them for a year.

“You’ve heard of Strong Families? You know who we are?” She turns her chair towards me, eyes hot, and this is the most present I’ve been since I arrived. She is from the Bay Area, blogging for social change, and she wants to have a conversation.

“I DO know!” I tell her. With every fiber of my being, I feel it’s true. And we talk honestly, for a long time.

Stop: Mom with a Blog

19 Jul

Stop Sign

“Why do you have a pictures of a stop sign?” my daughter asks, scrolling through photos on my phone in the backseat.

“Sometimes, I take pictures for my blog – to go with the stories I write.”

“You write stories about stop signs?”

“No. I haven’t used those yet. I just took them, in case I write a story about… stopping something.”

“Oh.”  Silence. A long silence, during which my writing life suddenly makes no sense to me. No sense at all. We drive by a mural we see every day. “Take a picture of that!” she commands me, daring me, waiting to see what I’ll do.

“The world? You like worlds?”

“I like a world with a chain around it.” A what? “A chain of people.”

“You think I should write a story about the world?”

“You should. A story about the world with a chain of people around it holding hands. A story about peace.”

regarding the stone ballNow that’s a story I want to write. But how does one begin?

Duckling

5 Jul

Kelly and I walked along a stream – me with my shoes off, her with them on. The sun was shining. We were just walking in the woods, talking, dreaming aloud . . . happy.

Three girls came downstream giggling, one of them with gym shoes slung over her shoulder, another with hands cupped and held out from her body, the third craning to see and coo over some live creature inside her friend’s (cousin’s? sister’s?) cupped hands. The one with gym shoes called out as she came toward us, “Have you seen any ducks around here? A mama duck? We found this baby – lost – upstream.” There was a worry, an edge to her voice.

I shuddered for the life inside her two hands.

As I slowly picked my way through sticks and stones, Kelly sat on a rock a few feet behind me. I could see the baby – black and white and fluffy, no bigger than a girl’s palm.

“No, we haven’t seen any ducks,” I replied. They worried and chattered. They believed they could help. They wanted to carry the duckling to safety, re-unite him with his family. They didn’t know how. Neither did we.

They decided to set him free. They knelt by the water and the girl with the cupped hands let go. Immediately, that little black and white fluff ball swam out of reach.

Then, he paddled madly, strongly, single-mindedly . . . valiantly . . . upstream.

Where he’d come from.

Before he was carried away.

I ached for him. We all did, I think.

The girls scurried up the trail.

I walked barefoot for a long time with Kelly, mostly silent.

*  *  *  *  *

Two weeks have passed, and still, I can’t stop wondering: Where is the little duckling now?

%d bloggers like this: