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.