Tag Archives: identity

Now That Marriage is a Choice

30 Oct

Fox JournalHome from our honeymoon, I’m back in my car office, wondering what I might write or which scribbled-down words I might tweak. This is my pre-writing hour, this time while my kid is in yoga class stretching her limits … I find it more challenging lately to stretch my own … I page through my journal, the one with a fox on the front …

Those words I wrote about marriage in Asheville …

Those words about being a child of mental illness, a lesbian growing up in a time when “gay” was not “cool,” a young woman whose parents finally – eventually, inevitably, thankfully – divorced …

The words I put down on the page right after my wedding, the choice I made to remove both rings from my finger while I sleep …

Words I’ve written, so many others I haven’t yet opened, unwrapped, let free inside my own mind …

The words I keep coming back to…

The words about marriage trapping my mom (and my dad, too, though it’s not something I’ve heard him say), haunting words that were given to me when I asked, “Mom? Do you want out of your marriage or out of life?” Her response, so shocking to me at seventeen, although it seems a common perspective for women of her generation – her response after two or three attempts to end her life – her response, which was a question but not: “Does it matter? It’s the same thing.”

And when I share that, it feels like if I’ve reached the crux of my own … hesitation … to marry, to hold a ceremony, to invite family and friends, to commit. These words are revealing. Pivotal. True.

But this is only part of my story.

The rest of my story is a thread from a larger story, a story of community, of hope and heat and strength and power and trying and flailing and loving and fighting and working hard and giving up and going on and being.

See, marriage is an option for me – for us – where it never was before – and it was hard-won – and it’s not an option everyone will choose.

We have built our whole lives with or without partners and without the option to marry. So now what?

If we’re part of a couple, how do we merge our finances if we haven’t already? Do we really want to own our partner’s car? Or debt? Or house? Is that who we want raising our kids if something horrible happens? We’ve never had to be sure. Until now.

As I said to a gay colleague on the phone, “I have the option to wear fishnets, too, but that doesn’t mean I will.”

The pressure!

And maybe it’s the pressure our straight friends have felt all along – When will you marry? Or – Still waiting for the right man/woman to come along?

Marriage was the right choice for me. I haven’t always known it – and, in fact, it hasn’t always been – but I want to say to every same-gender-loving person I know:

Make the choice that’s best for you. I’ll have your back.

Choosing not to marry your partner of twenty years – even choosing not to marry your partner of twenty years now – does not invalidate your love, or the life you have built for yourselves.

Choosing not to build a life or a family with one other person does not make you unlovable or unloved or broken or damaged or wrong.

The point of marriage equality is having a choice, having the option, and making the choice that’s best for you.

Queer people have spent their lives outside the mainstream to one degree or another, but we have found ways of being that work for us, that work well for us, ways of moving through our world and lives that help us feel strong and whole and proud. I see nothing wrong with continuing to be how we’ve always been.

And yet, who hasn’t called the question? Who hasn’t asked themselves sometime in the past one or two or three years: Would I or wouldn’t I? Whose life as a same-gender-loving human in this country has NOT been altered by this string of marriage wins?

Inside a romantic relationship or outside of one, we are seen differently now. We are seen more completely. We can live more openly. In some places. In some families. Sometimes.

We feel it.

Slowly, the tide is changing. Love is winning.

Let this string of wins be an opening.

I don’t want us now living in wedded bliss to come inside and shut the door, forgetting how cold it can be outside.

I want this to be an opening.

I want us to continue loving one another and supporting one another’s choices, whatever our political beliefs, our connection to the state, our personal histories.

I want us each to choose from a place of strength and hope and love.

Because beyond the choice to wed or not to wed, for me the goal has always been – and always will be – to feel and to be seen as whole.

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!”

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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:

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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.

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But my FAVORITE days were when we hiked.

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 … when we had tea at the Biltmore …

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

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… 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:

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

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“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.

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I agree.

With every fiber of my being, I agree.

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Love Wins.

Image

My LGBTQ Family

2 Jun

P1000150This is my family – my LGBTQ family – see? We’re two moms there on the left.

Here, we are in the back of a pick-up truck in Guatemala, on the coast of Lake Atitlan, exploring the birth country of our youngest member. Our new bisexual friend Tania ( 🙂 ) took this picture. We met her in the garden of the B&B where we were staying and she invited us to travel with her and a young guide, Casimiro, for the next couple of days. We were – all of us – delighted to do so.  Our day was lovely. Our trip was lovely. More pictures of our 2013 trip to Guatemala here.

This coming Saturday, Kelly and I will have been together twelve years. Our state began officially supporting marriages like ours yesterday. We haven’t done the paperwork yet, but it’s on the horizon. I promise to post pictures when we do – not of the paperwork, but of us signing on the dotted line to make our union, our marriage, our lives as a lesbian couple with two kids, a matter of public record. More thoughts on marriage here.

I am amazed that state by state, day by day, our country shifts, making us free-er to share who we are, wherever we are. I am impressed. I am excited. But we still need models and we still need to model for one another. We need to remember that life on our own terms is possible and beautiful, no matter who we are. We still need days like today, Blogging for LGBTQ Families Day, to remind ourselves and each other there’s a wide wonderful embracing world out there, whether or not we can see it right here, right now.

And we need to stand up for one another. For our lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender friends, and for strangers, too. Because not everyone lives in a welcoming place, has a welcoming home.

This is how the world changes. This is how people begin to understand. By seeing our faces, hearing our voices, reading our words.

This is how the world changes. When we make ourselves visible.

And when we create a circle of safety for the people around us to make themselves visible, too.

 

 

 

 

Mother’s Day 2014

8 May

DSCF0116“I love you, Mom.” My ten year-old wraps her arms tightly around me. I feel her heart beating. “I’m glad I’m not an orphan.” My breath catches.

“I love you, too, Sweetheart.” I wait a moment. I kiss the top of her head. I imagine there will come a day when the top of her head is harder to kiss, but today, she is the perfect height for head-top kissing. “Why are you glad you’re not an orphan?”

“I mean I’m glad I don’t live in an orphanage. I’m glad you’re my mom. You hold my hand when things are hard, and take care of me.” She has stepped back a little, and is looking at me intently. She wants me to feel what she is saying. I do. I feel her. I love her. I smile. My whole heart melts.

“I’m glad I’m your mom, too.”

We talk about orphanages for a couple minutes – our conversation not hard this time, not deep or intense – we talk about people who care for kids in an orphanage, how they are and are not like parents, how many kids live in one space together and eventually, she tests an idea she’s tested on me before. “If you and Mama didn’t adopt me,” she suggests, “I wouldn’t have a family. I might live in an orphanage.”

She’s wrong, but how do I tell her? Before she was allowed to live with us, while we waited for the endless paperwork to clear, she lived with her foster mom. She never lived in an orphanage, and she never would have. It isn’t how the system in Guatemala was set-up. Not the system she was in. But how do I explain? I decide it’s only reassurance she needs today. Her probe for details and information feels different to me; this conversation is all heart. I go with my heart.

“Honey, your birth mom made a plan for you – she made a plan with an adoption agency, to make sure you found a forever family.” I go on to tell her how I feel we were matched intentionally. By spiritual guidance. By hands unseen. She likes this idea. I’ve never said this before, but it’s true. It’s how I see it. She decides – for now – that’s how she sees it, too. We are silent for a stretch, comfortably so.

“What does she look like? My birth mom?”

“We have a picture of her on the side of the fridge,” I remind her.

“Oh, right!” She runs into the kitchen and pulls down the magnetic frame. As I follow her, she is already removing the black and white photo from its hot pink frame. She hesitates. “Should I – I mean, do we –“ I assure her we have another copy of the picture, and I feel her hesitation give way to hope, relief, glee.

“Can I keep this one?”

“Of course!” I tell her.

She scampers off into her room to find a place for her birth mom’s photo right by her bed.

“I love you, Mom,” she says again, an hour later or more, before nestling into her blankets, ready for sleep.

“I love you, too, Precious.”

And there it is – my Mother’s Day complete, and it’s not even Sunday. Yet.

 

Witness to the Fall

18 Oct

brown leafSometimes, there are no words, only

leaves, orange leaves, yellow streaked,

a thread of green snaking through the middle,

something fresh, not yet ready to fall,

clinging to the branch

for as long as the wind and the storm and the rain will allow.

Sometimes, there are only leaves

falling,

red leaves soaked in rain, burgundy

swirling at eye level,

unwilling to land.

Sometimes there are brown leaves crunching underfoot.

Sometimes, there are no words,

no poem but this floating.

This floating.

This one

leaf

loose,

floating

down

to rest

among the boards.

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.

Listen to Your Mother!

10 Jul

Really. Listen.

The “Listen to Your Mother” videos – from Chicago, and from each of the other 24 cities – are NOW LIVE. So grab a coffee. Grab a martini, a bourbon, a beer. Sit down with a friend. Relax. Enjoy.

  • Looking for the Chicago Playlist? Click here.
  • Wanna know what I look like on stage? Here’s me.
  • Curious to see what our AWESOME producers and writing/social media mavens, Tracey Becker and Melisa Wells had to say about us all? Go here.

And now – I’d love to stay and chat, but I have to pick my daughter up from camp. You know how it is.

Going to BlogHer this month? Tell me! I’d love to make a new friend.

Our Family in London

12 Apr

London ZooNot that long ago, when we were expats in London, everyone I met tried to guess the relationship between my daughter and me – at the park, the store, the library, on the bus back home:

“Is her dad… dark?”

“Is she yours?”

“Your husband must be South American.”

“Are you the babysitter?”

When our family was all together, no one asked. We fit their expat framework, I guess, despite the absence of a man in our home. There was my partner, the breadwinner (corporate HR), our 14-year-old, clearly her mother’s daughter, and the baby – usually in my arms. I was obviously the nanny. No one questioned this. They simply assumed. If anyone had asked, I would have set things right – but no one did.

Then there was coffee one morning after Gymboree. It was our second month in town and I was desperate to make friends.

On the way out of the mall where Gymboree class was held was a coffee shop, with small tables spilling into the more public walkway, not far from the most giant fish tank you’ve ever seen, where all the Gymboree toddlers would meander and oooo and ahhhh and hide and giggle and point and squeal before and after class.  Usually, I packed a snack for my girl and we’d stroll peacefully out after class with a banana or some tasty crackers, sometimes making idle chit chat with another mom or a nanny along the way. No one else walked home, though – so once we hit the big glass doors, we were on our own – and those afternoons were starting to feel really, really, really long.

So one morning after class, one of the moms who often chit chatted with me briefly and lightly on the way out invited me to join her and some friends for coffee. Of course, I said yes.

Nearly the entire class was there, each kid with a mom or a nanny. Some kids had brownies – others carrots – some were trying to stick straws up their noses. Mine sat quietly in her stroller, nibbling on the same cracker the entire time we were there.

We each ordered (at the counter, thankfully), chose a seat, sat down. Somebody sang their kid a song. Somebody else told a story about dinner with the family the night before. And somehow, I don’t even know how it started, pictures were out and being passed around. “This is her brother John,” someone explained, “and this is my husband George.” Family after family came out of back pockets and books and wallets, and popped up on the screens of small phones.

My daughter nodded off in the stroller, her cracker now a small nub in her hand. It was naptime, after all. Should I take her home?

I didn’t want to. Not yet.

I cooed and gasped and exclaimed over each family as they were displayed. Then it was my turn. There was a family photo in my daughter’s bag. It would have been easy enough to shrug it off, say I had nothing – no harm, no foul, no questions asked – but I decided to give it a try. I pulled out the photo. “This is Miss E,” I stated the obvious, with a quick nod in her direction.

“Ohhhhh,” a few of the women answered, finally putting the name with the kid. “Ohhhh,” they said.

“And this is her sister Grace.”

“Beautiful,” they all said.

“And this is me, of course.”

“You’re her mom, right?” (Mom of Miss E. I understood.)

“Right,” I agreed, relieved we’d come this far. “And this is her other mom, my partner. Kelly.”

“What?!?”

“This is my partner, Kelly, Miss E’s other mom,” I repeated, hoping to let it sink in. I couldn’t be the first lesbian for everyone here. Right? Right?

“Oh,” one woman said, visibly shutting down.

“I see,” said another.

“No,” replied one.

“Yes,” I said, laughing just a little now. “She has two moms.”Again I nodded towards my daughter. “My partner, Kelly, and me.”

“She’s your mom?” the woman asked – the same one who said ‘No,’ a nanny from Eastern Europe. English was not her first language. She seemed sure she didn’t understand. Was it unkind for me to press on? Should I try to explain?

“No, my partner and I are – it’s like – we’re married.”

“No,” she said again, shaking her head. “Where’s her dad?” No one else said a thing.

“We’re a family. Miss E has two moms. We’re both her moms.”

“No,” she said, one final time.

The group moved on to another photo, another family.

But I had managed to come out. After two months, starting from scratch, I had managed at last to come out. It almost didn’t matter how it had gone. Almost. My daughter was sleeping and I could let this last one go. Everyone else there knew what I meant. Some of them still met my eye.

I kissed my daughter on the head and we stayed a few more minutes – looking at photos, sipping coffee, telling stories.  It was good. It was social.  It was a way to pass the time.

Eventually, I made friends at a playgroup across town. They met my family. I met theirs. We went to the zoo. We picnicked in the park. We swam. It was good. It wasn’t awkward. We had carrots. And crackers. Sometimes coffee.

And sometimes wine.

Meet Kaya

28 Dec

Kaya with EdamameKaya is the newest addition to my family – requiring her own daily hair brushing, a breakfast of fresh vegetables pulled directly from her garden, and a morning riding lesson in my dining room.  Kaya has clothes from 1764 and from the present day.  Today, she has riding gloves and fashionable shoes. Which she wears without socks.

Yes, Kaya is an American Girl Doll.

We caved, Kelly and I.  Or . . . We had a change of heart.

We grew to appreciate our little girl’s consistent and – periodically but not petulantly stated – desire for an American Girl Doll.  She’s wanted one for two solid years. Unwaveringly.

The truth is, she cares well for the 18-inch dolls she has, each one purchased with her own money — money saved for weeks or months each time.  She enjoys their various outfits.  They’ve accompanied us on multiple trips. They have their own wardrobe bag, their own chairs, sleeping bags, and tent.  She cares very much about their well-being.  But what she really wants has always been an American Girl Doll.

And she has begun to understand money – not so much the counting of it (which she still abhors), but the price attached to things we want, the true value of good workmanship and the sometimes-faux-value of well-marketed brands.  Isn’t this what our “No” was meant to teach?

Kaya RidingTo her, an American Girl Doll is worth the price – with her beautifully crafted knees (more carefully shaped than the knees on her other, less expensive 18-inch dolls), her flexible legs and arms, which not only go up and down but also rotate at the joints like a real person’s.  And her chin!  Her other dolls, my daughter tells me, don’t have chins.  American Girl Dolls have real chins. I hadn’t noticed, but I trust her. She knows what she’s talking about.

And those stories for all the historical dolls!?  My little girl, for the first time ever, eagerly picked up a book about Native Americans. She read it from cover to cover without stopping. My little Mayan girl.

It’s capitalist marketing, I know.  But it’s girl power, too.

When we stood in line at 9 a.m. the day after Christmas, the mom behind us wanted to know how many dolls my little girl had at home (none) and made a big deal over how we were waiting here today to buy her very first one.  Her daughter had eleven American Girl Dolls.  Four came with them.  The girl stared at me coolly, hugging one of the dolls tight to her chest, holding back a smug smile. Barely. She was probably ten years old.  Maybe eleven. My daughter fidgeted, and glanced ahead to see if the doors had opened yet.

This is why we said “No” for two full years – this sense of entitlement, this insatiable need for more, more, more.

Kaya and Miss EAnd yet – after fifteen minutes in the store, so perfectly arranged, so pink, so … educational?… I began to feel the appeal. There is a lure. A feeling to bask in … all that… girl power, all that… history, all those… dolls.

Our daughter is set apart from her peers in so many unchangeable ways, but here is one club to which she can belong. She is thrilled. She is… beyond thrilled.

“You should pick the one who looks like you! She’s the most special,” my niece insisted weeks ago, when my daughter wanted to bring only her pale blonde doll on a trip. The one who looks more like me.  She was going to leave the beautifully brown, black-haired doll at home.

“The blonde one looks like you.  There’s nothing wrong with that.  You’re her mom,” my colleague said, wanting me to see her choice in a new light. Yes. But in our society, and in our family, it’s important for her to see the one who looks like her as special. Most special.  We’re at a tricky age here, when decisions get made that last awhile.

Kaya ChosenIn the end, it was historical Kaya who won my daughter’s heart. She looked most like her, too, thrilling me greatly.  The contemporary look-like-you dolls, as it turns out, weren’t quite right.

My daughter did a cartwheel in the aisle of the store.

I’m beginning to love this doll.

And I do think avoiding the hugest deal for little girls since… well, I don’t know since when. Since Barbie maybe?  … well, it’s just not a practical strategy.  Not for us. Not anymore.  So…

Here’s Kaya, my daughter’s very best friend. And the newest member of my family.

Kaya with Miss E

I Dream

16 Nov

Before I was a mom, I was a performance poet. People do continue their art after becoming parents (speak up! I know this is true for many of my friends) but it wasn’t something I could manage until recently.

Here’s one of my favorites, from my days on the stage:

I

I dream

I dream up

I dream up ways

ways to drop

ways to drop my female lover

into your conversations,

on my way to work

wearing her clothes, wearing her

perfume,

on my way past security,

into the office, answering phones.

You say my

sexuality

does not belong

in the workplace.

But who obsesses

about sex?

You.

Not me.

You.

When I tell you I prefer women,

you suddenly begin longing,

wanting, hoping.

You should not have

expected that.

I never owed you.

***

Have you been there?  Man flirts with woman. Woman says, “I prefer girls.”  Man does a little happy hopeful dance.  Woman feels sick.  Just a little.  Does this sound like the workplace today?  Or does it place me rather squarely in my own generation, harking back to a time when laws and attitudes were different?

This blog-dentity crisis – which I blathered on about a couple weeks ago – may be doing me good already.  I’ve made two coffee dates with real people in my real life, and I’ve decided to write about something else – is there something else? – something besides being a mom?  I remember, vaguely, my life before kids.  I can read my old poems and remember more.  But that’s not what I mean, not quite.  I still want to write about now, about me, about life, about work, about the world and my family in it.  And the heartbeat throughout, I’m quite sure, will be that of a mom.  But my stories will not all be about my lovely little strong and stubborn, original and curious girl.  I wonder how my writing will change.  Or my perspective.

Have you ever put something on hold to make room for the people in your life?  Did there come a time when you picked it back up again?

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