Monday, October 12, 2009

It's Monday night and Julia's been running a high fever for going on two days. She's been okay in morning, both yesterday and today, but by lunch, she's weak and fussy. She can't seem to stay asleep for a nap, and can only get rest when she's lying on top of me. Even then, she begins squirming after twenty minutes or so, crying in this heartbreaking way. We change positions and she falls asleep again. She's also having a hard time keeping things down. She's thrown up a few times, which has been very disturbing to both of us.

I know kids get sick, but this is the sickest she's been so far. We called the doctor yesterday, and she said that it wasn't the flu, that kids get high fevers, that a stomach bug has been going around, blah, blah, blah. I know doctors and nurses see this all the time, and it's bound to be worse for me, since I haven't, and she's mine. I hate to see her stub her toe, much less vomit up her lunch. So I'm worried. She's down, and seems to be sleeping peacefully, but Karissa just took her temp again, and it's up to 103

Friday, October 9, 2009

day by day

I have a dull headache that will not go away. I've been reading my book for the last two hours, and as much as I want to continue, the baby will be up soon, and my eyes feel a bit strained. Karissa's in the back yard, such as it is, pulling up the dead lawn with a shovel. In the next few weeks, we'll be rototilling and spreading all manner of soil and compost before we lay our new sod lawn. The task still seem unbelievably daunting, but Karissa has a lot of energy and enthusiasm for the project still, and it's beginning to infect me again.

It's nice to picture Julia running around on her own lawn, on her own grass, and though I know it's a waste of water, and we have half a dozen parks within walking distance, I really want it for her. And for us. We've been here three months and have yet to have a housewarming. I really want to be able to have all of our friends over to see our new place, but without outdoor space, it's just too small. The living room has turned into a playroom for Julia, so we have almost no furniture, and no coffee table. It's in the garage, where our bookshelves will probably be soon, as they serve no other purpose than holding her stuffed animals. And of course, as soon as I put them up there, they become fascinating enough to immediately pull down, so it's a constant back and forth.

With the yard, we can eat outdoors, barbeque, put up a playstructure and a sandbox for little J, and on those days when I just can't bear the park, we can hang out back there, and she can feel the sunshine from the the safety and privacy of our own home. It's funny, ever since I became an adult, I've wanted to be in the city, and I have been. I've lived in Baltimore, DC, and then San Francisco. But just as soon as Julia came along, bam, I began longing for a little three bedroom house like the one I grew up in in Silver Spring, complete with a grass lawn, front and back. I'm a few weeks from being thirty-five and I finally feel like a grown-up. When I think of the urban life I've led for the past 12 years, it's funny that it also feels like going full circle.

Just a few weeks from thirty-five, and it's also the first time I've really kept up with housework. The division of labor with me at home has become something out of Ozzy and Harriet, and crazily enough, I don't mind as much as I thought I would. I think the thing about being a liberated woman in this day and age centers around having choices. If I'm expected to stay home, take care of my child, cook meals and clean house, then it's burdensome. If I choose to do it, then it's freeing to a degree. I think the fact that we're approaching this as an experiment, one that can succeed or fail depending on our individual contributions, gives me some relief. This is something we're doing now, while Julia is still young. It's not a forever thing, and it's not my only option. I can always go back to work; I can even go back to school, and there's no end of options for either choice.

Sometimes I feel as if this is a gift Karissa is giving me, and the only way I can show my gratitude is to make it worthwhile for her to have me at home. So in exchange for the stress of supporting Julia and I financially, she gets to come home to dinner and a clean house. And even given the work involved, and the fact that I think I'm working harder than I ever did with a full-time job, I get to spend my days with my daughter. And unlike a day job, if I don't feel like doing housework one day, I just don't. The consequences are pretty minor, as long as I don't flake every day.

The sticky thing is always money, though, isn't it? I'm also chief financial officer of the house now, and to keep us on track, we're on a pretty tight budget. It's not forever, just until we get some of our debt paid down, but it's hard sometimes to keep Julia and I entertained when the purse strings are so tight. It's basically, stay in the house or go to the park. And I know it's early in the game to be saying this, but the park is really getting old. There's this weird etiquette. You can strike up a conversation with someone, hit it off, your kids can hit it off, and you can leave the park an hour later never having even exchanged names, much less numbers or emails. And a lot of people seem to want to keep to themselves. Maybe I'd follow suit, but I've been blessed with a child that goes up to children and adults and says, Hi! boisterously, then again louder if she doesn't get a response. She's also at the age where she thinks every toy, ball, shovel, etc. is fair game, even if another child is playing with it. And then there are the kids who tease or provoke my child because she's younger and doesn't understand. Often their parent isn't watching or listening to them, but rather, is talking on a cell phone or to another adult. These are the exceptions, rather than the rules of the park game, but it's been enough lately to turn me off to the whole thing.

To sum up, things are good. And the challenges are about what I expected. It doesn't make them easier, per se, but at least I feel like I went into this thing with my eyes open. I guess when it comes down to it, I'm still looking around, sorting out this new life of mine.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

I quit, cha cha cha

So much has happened since I last wrote, but my last entry was a pretty good preview. I was unhappy, and we were in financial turmoil: rent-poor, dissatisfied with our day-care situation, I was heart-sick with missing Julia. Just when we thought that my staying home was an impossibility, Karissa got a promotion that opened up new avenues.

In sum, I quit my job, and we moved to Berkeley. For the last three months, I've been a stay at home mom. The reality of the hold on my teaching career has only recently hit me. I finished out the year, and this would be the time I'd be going back. And I'm not. I miss my school. I loved it, and I loved my job. There were problems, yes, but I had a real attachment to the place and my place in it.

But I really felt I was missing everything from my daughter's life, and at the most important time. This is all I'm going to get, all the time I get with her. I can go back to teaching, but I can't ever have this again. Even if I have another child, this is all the time I get with Julia. So I cast aside all of the doubts and fears I have about parenting, about not working and what it will do to my career, my identity, my feelings of self-worth, and I made myself face the truth. If I have the opportunity to raise my daughter, and I don't take it, I'll probably always regret it. There were other factors to consider, but they all melted away in the face of this realization. Not that they won't come creeping back, these insecurities, but I have to keep reminding myself that what I'm getting in return is far more valuable. And Julia makes me see it in some small way every day.

An East Bay friend of mine has warned me against calling Berkeley "the suburbs," but it's definitely more suburban than the Haight. The streets are tree lined, and we're walking distance to parks as well as cute cafes, shops and the like. Making friends at 34, in a new town, with a young child who needs my constant undivided attention is a challenge to say the least, but we go out every day, and I attempt to chat up other moms and nannies. Not everyone's nice (nor is everyone's kid), but there are plenty of well-intentioned people out there, and the whole experience has made me value the friends I already have even more.

So I'm looking at the little battery icon on my computer, and given that I only have thirteen minutes before I completely lose power, I'll sign off for now. More to come about Berkeley, parenting a toddler, and being a housewife in the next entry:)

Sunday, April 19, 2009


It's Sunday night, and Karissa's out grocery shopping, Trader Joe's to save a few bucks and get us some easy dinners.  Dinner has been such a nightmare lately, and along with "money problems," I know I sound like I'm living every married with kids cliche in the book all of a sudden. But it's true, dinner is the most daunting meal of the day, even if the kitchen isn't a mess, and there is a clean pot to cook in, which is a rare scene.  

The other day, we were exhausted after putting Julia to bed, and the only thing in the freezer was a package of veggie buffalo wings, and not the good Morning Star ones, either.  We have high standards for our meat-substitutes, being that neither one of us is actually a vegetarian. So it said on the package that microwave cooking was not recommended, but neither one of us had the energy to battle the million-year-old oven lurking in our kitchen (that I've stopped caring is a twin for one Alice Waters owns), so we popped them in. If you've ever breaded a sponge and tried to eat it with barbeque sauce, you can relate to our experience.  So I'm hoping with Karissa's shopping expertise, we have better eating experiences this week, as I'm not planning to have any more energy or be a better housekeeper.

Much of this weekend has been spent out of doors with the amazing babe.  I've been hit time and again with how precious she is, how smart, how wonderful.  It's so bittersweet, especially today, when I know I'm going to have to leave her for the week.  It seems clear to her that we are her family, but I'm constantly awed at how outgoing she is.  At the park yesterday, she kept crawling to other people's blankets,  waving like Miss America to anyone who would look her way.  I was a shy child, (and am still quite shy, though I have learned the skills to seem like an outgoing person), so this behavior stuns me, and also, forces me to strike up conversations with strangers, as I follow her around.  I guess this is just one way child-rearing is a growth opportunity.

Her nap times, in contrast, have been taken up with laundry, kitchen cleaning and bill paying, i.e. lamenting that month two of our spectacular "living within our means" budget has resulted in more debt and no progress. We're not poor by any means, but we spend more than we make, which is an increasing problem when considering the current economy and the future in general. More than a third of our combined income is going towards debt repayment, so we're paying for past sins, but making a dent in this debt amounts to going without things we're not yet prepared to sacrifice, mostly organic/prepared food, and stuff for the baby.  The result, more charging, and we're back to where we started from.  Does it really have to be this hard?  I'm not a math whiz, but I understand basic arithmetic, and I don't have problems creating a budget.  It's following it that gives me trouble.  

The issue is a simple one.  Spending.  Too much.  Still, I'm far from being a "shopaholic."  I haven't had a new pair of shoes in over a year!  Our electronics are five years old!  My computer was free!  I don't feel like we're living a life of excess, far from it, but we live in an expensive city, and with a new baby, there is pressure to get things we and the baby seem to need, but probably don't.  

We're also rent-poor, and so, as soon as our lease comes up, finding a new place is priority number one.  Sigh.  I only wish it all didn't have to be so hard.  It's taking it's toll on both of us emotionally, and interfering with a sense of well-being that I'd like to have given all the other day to day stresses life has to offer.

Once we move, we then have to figure out what happens with the care situation.  Scenario one, we're close enough that our share situation/nanny doesn't have to change.  It may anyway, because the other family may be interested in leaving the share, but we'd be solid.  We'd move the share to our house, find another family if need be, and everything would be fine.  Scenario two, we move out of the neighborhood.  Janet may or may not be able or willing to commute to our place, and we may have to find a completely new situation.  This means I would get to stay home with Julia for the summer, but I'd also have to spend a good deal of time interviewing and investigating, which is scary, stressful and time-consuming.  I hate that this is up in the air, but there it is.  Of course, I could still quit my job, but the real window for doing this has closed, so doing so would damage my credibility, and it would wreak such financial hardship on us that would make the situation we're in now seem like cushy living.  So, as I've said before, that's not really realistic.  Of course, moving itself is an expense, so the pressure's on to make a good choice.

We keep playing with the idea of moving just out of the city, just over the Golden Gate bridge, to some little town, where the rents could be way lower, but it's difficult to imagine how we'd adjust.  As much as SF isn't a city like I imagine New York to be, a concrete jungle, fast-paced, gritty, it's a city.  You can feel lonely, but there are people everywhere, there's bustle, noise, sirens (could do without these), a bit of commotion.  There's an erie quiet to the suburbs I haven't lived with in a long time.  I don't want to feel that sense of remoteness that I'm afraid I might feel after living in a city for almost fifteen years.  

And yet I'm hungry for that American dream-type scenario.  Friends of ours just bought a little house with a big yard and white picket fence.  They're expecting their first child in August, and I'm so happy for their son-to-be, to have such wide open spaces to play in.  It's funny, though, as we were leaving their place last weekend I saw other things, pickup trucks jacked up with huge tires.  And of course, in my queer citified way I jump to conclusions about the politics of the place and if it would be a safe place for my family.

There isn't a one size fits all solution, and for us, the size that fits most may or may not fit us. So many of our friends have given us what they think is a clear-cut, obvious answer, but what's right for their family doesn't feel right for us, either because of our biases or our family structure.  I've grown up feeling all the time at once completely unique and also quite run of the mill.  Fringe-y in some ways, but with a pretty typical upbringing and predictable tastes. Maybe that's true of all gay people or of all artists or wannabe artists, but it's true of Karissa and I and Julia's now a part of that.  She's going to have a pretty typical family and a unique one.  I envision her going to school, playing soccer, taking ballet or piano lessons.  She'll have a dog and a best friend and like swimming and riding her bike.  And she'll have two moms.  I want her to grow up somewhere where that's typical too, even if it's not in the big, wide world.  Every choice we've made and make will steer her life too, and that's why this one seems so, so important.

Sunday, April 5, 2009

rhyme and reason

A few days ago, an old friend who's been following my blog asked me why I'd stopped writing.  I wanted to use this entry to try to sum up the answer to that question, and see if it will jumpstart my desire to keep posting at the same time.

I've been journaling for a long time now; off and on since I was nine.  Off and on, never consistently, mostly because journaling is a kind of therapy for me.  It's not a way to relax, it's a way to process.  Sometimes I'm okay and don't feel the need.  Sometimes I can't articulate all that's going on, all that's wrong, all that's worrying me.  It would amount to facing things I'm not ready to face, because they're happening.  When something's too close, I can't reflect on it.  

Soon after my last blog entry, I took a bad fall down a flight of steps.  This led to a problem with my thyroid (or the thyroid issue was what indirectly caused the fall, I'll never be sure), which led to a problem with my heart.  Around the same time, I went back to work, which continues to be really challenging.  As a "working mom," I'm not the best mom I can be; I'm not the best teacher I can be, and beyond the fact that I miss my daughter, I have a really hard time not excelling at things I'm good at.  I don't like to show weakness, I don't like to cry in front of people, I don't like to ask for help.  And yet, I've done all these things in the past six months or so.  I've been juggling new parenthood with a super challenging class, and extra responsibilities at work, and trying to fit in umpteen bazillion doctor's appointments through it all.  I have the sneaking feeling that as much as everyone is saying I have every right and reason to slip a little in my responsibilities, no one is actually cutting me any slack, and I'm steadily losing intangible things like clout, cred, authority.

The upshot is, I'm fine, but as a bonafide "glass half-empty person," the stress has taken it's toll. A few times, I've broken down, decided I'm quitting my job, and Karissa has talked me off the ledge.

We've juggled the numbers six ways to Sunday, with the same result.  I can't stop working without putting my family in some financial risk.  And stopping work would also mean a big move, out of SF, into the 'burbs.  It would mean starting over.  It could mean isolation, at least for a time, for me and maybe for Julia.  It would mean living on a stricter budget than we're already on, living from hand to mouth, standing still on debt and putting nothing away for the future.  It would also mean I get to be with my baby, which is something I long for, but am not willing to mortgage her future to do.  So we're not ready to do go there, but I still shoulder a heavy ambivalence about my decision to return to teaching in the fall.

So we've decided we're going to move anyway, try to take a huge chunk out of the rent expense, so we can pay down debt and save for a house.  Meanwhile, we may be starting to try to get pregnant again, provided I have a clean bill of health.  I'm physically, though not quite psychologically, over my first experience with childbirth, but as the saying also goes, I'm not getting any younger.  It's a lot to think about, much less try to sum up in a few cleverly worded paragraphs.  

Another thing that's prevented me from writing, is frankly, Facebook.  I've become really skeptical of social networks, as I don't seem closer to any of my friends, and seem to have open up many cans of worms, dredged up a lot of nicely buried feelings.  Then I created a signpost on my Facebook page, in a fit of self-confidence and accomplishment, for all of my so-called friends to see.  So some of them are my actual friends, or people, while distant, I still cherish fond memories for and about. But with these lightning-speed reconnections come old associations, some unpleasant, and with them the fear of rejection, the fear of being judged by people who have already taken a chunk of my self-esteem, whether in middle school, high school or college.  I "friend" them to prove that I'm over it.  And in the process of doing so, I realize I'm not.  

Then I became Facebook "friends" with my immediate family.  That was the last straw.  Given how close we are, it's amazing how much they don't know about me, and I like to keep it that way.  I realized with my blog url obvious on my profile, they could have access to it in a matter of seconds.  It's not that I had written anything incriminating about them, it's just, well, I'm vulnerable on this thing.  I don't know everything, I'm not super confident, and everything is not always okay.  And, needless to say, this is different from my family persona.  

When she got on Facebook, I had a flashback to my mom reading my diary when I was in high school, then later confessing this to me and commenting tearfully about how sad I seemed. Given the fact that I rarely wrote in my journal when I wasn't sad, I knew she had a skewed view of my inner life, but my anger at the violation of my privacy and exposure of all of my secrets was coupled by guilt that I had worried my mother.  Because when my mother worries, she WORRIES.  Even if she had a reason to worried, it was not like she could do anything about it then, and the same goes now.  She's three thousand miles away, and frantically calls if Karissa or I post a troubling status update. It's just not worth the stress or the blow to my rep in my family as the one who "has it together."

So I've taken my blog off my Facebook page.  Biggest issue resolved.  Julia's on a reasonable napping schedule, which allows me some time to write when I'm home with her.  I've decided to accept being vulnerable if it allows me to be authentic.  I have confidence that the people I really care about and respect will find a way to keep reading, and the rest will just ignore my trite observations on life, lesbianism and motherhood.  In short, thanks for asking.  Thanks for reading.  I'll start writing again.  I can't promise that it will be consistent or coherent all of the time, but as least it will show, in stops and starts, a life moving forward, risks taken, and problems (knock wood) solved.