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November is for writing

My responsibilities at AgileBits have changed over the past couple of years. As with the rest of my experience at AG, I am incredibly fortunate that these changes are for the better. In addition to doing the technical support work that I love, I now have taken on some responsibilities for writing and editing.

I have always had a love/hate relationship with writing. When I am in the flow, I love it. But when I am blocked or my brain is overtaxed, I loathe it. And it seems that I spend way more time loathing writing than loving it.

One of the things that I have found helps is warming up the writing part of my brain. I can do that either through my blog or by writing in my poor, usually ignored, journal. I have never been a consistent journaler, as is evidenced by numerous partially-filled notebooks that have now relegated to a box in the eaves.

Part of my issue with journaling is that I couldn’t figure out why I should bother. I don’t tend to go back and read them and I figured that after I die they will just be part of a huge recycling dump. But my friend Sarah has convinced me otherwise.

Sarah recently lost her mother and is now working her way through her mother’s journals, letters and other writing. Although the experience has clearly been painful at times, it is also obvious that she is enjoying getting some insight into how her mother saw the world.  Reading Sarah’s reflections on her mother’s writing led me to wonder what I will be leaving behind for my (future) daughter. And the answer was, not much.

Ok, that is an understatement. She will have her paternal great-grandparents’ love letters to each other. She will have way too many sets of china from her father’s mother’s family. She will also have several journals and books about the history of the people to whom the china used to belong.

But except for scraps of writing here or there, she won’t have much about my life and my journey leading up to her joining our family. But I want to change that. I want her to know something about the grandfather that she will never have met. I want her to know that she should live on the Lower East Side of Manhattan at some point in her life so that she can be the fifth generation to do so.

I want her to know about my time as a dairy goat farmer from more than just some unlabeled pictures and old newspaper clippings. She should know how and why her father and I chose to live in Portland and came running back here after our stint in Philadelphia.

I want her to know just how perspective-altering the birth of her first cousins was to me. And how much I have learned about parenting by watching some of the greatest parents I know working their magic.

More simply put, there is so much I want to tell my future daughter about my life before her.

But embarking a parenthood is not the time to start a new habit (unless that habit is learning how to live in a horribly sleep-deprived state). So I am going to take this time while I am waiting for our child to join us to get into the habit of keeping a journal.

Wish me luck.




No news does not equal good news

Things have been crazy busy this month, but not for the reasons that we would have liked. There has been travel, niecelettes, a wedding, nieces, cousins and even an illness to keep me distracted. And we have grand schemes planned through January, although we would happily rejigger things for a phone call (hear that universe?)

Actually, I am looking forward to all of our scheduled shenanigans. Unsurprisingly, they all involve travel. David has convinced me to take a road trip to the Bay Area the third week in November to go see friends we haven’t seen in way too long. We are hoping that this will be our last chance for a crazy roadtrip for a while and are planning to make the best of it.  And four of the friends we are planning on seeing are parents themselves, so we can even justify it in the name of research, right?

In December, we are going to Kauai to hang out with David’s family. This will be our first time meeting David’s newish second cousin, so we even get some bonus baby time while we are there. On the other hand, it would also be a great time for family to dote on a newish baby of our own, so that one is likely a win no matter what.

And last, but certainly not least (especially knowing us) is my company’s annual get-together on late January.  This year we will once again be on a cruise, but it will be 7 days instead of the usual 5 days and it is on a much bigger ship. I love my coworkers and get to see them so rarely that I really want to go. And it may be something we can even pull off with a baby, but it will be much more complicated.

If we remain babyless into January, there is a group of us that are planning on arriving a little early for the cruise and hitting the Wizarding World of Harry Potter together. And since I will be on the east coast anyway, I am sure that I will be adding a trip to New York somewhere in there to see my niecelettes.

The only bad news about keeping busy is that it has really thrown off our purge mojo. It has been months since we put any serious work into the Great Purge and the clutter is somehow multiplying again. I have conjured up a short-term goal of moving my desk into my new office space (a move of about 20 feet) so hopefully that will get us back into the swing of things again.


Words and deeds

It should come as no surprise to anyone who has read this blog or talked to me for 15 minutes that I adore my twin niecelettes. David aside (he fits in another category), they are the two most important people to come into my life since my brother was born many years ago (he just had a birthday, but I am choosing not to disclose his age because it makes me feel old).

The girls know this fact and love hearing me tell the story of the day he came home from the hospital. Ok, what they really love about the story is that I was a naive 6 and a half year old who didn’t understand male plumbing. So the first time I changed his diaper, he peed in my face.  Apparently this is a story that they just can’t get enough of!

I have shared my anxieties already about how my relationship with my niecelettes will change when our baby arrives. However, at this moment, I am feeling fairly confident in the solidity of my relationship with my them. Sometimes they are wiser than I give them credit for. They have both been very clear with me that they understand that the new baby will be my first priority but that they will be my niecelettes forever and I will always love them.

But lately I have been worrying that I have been giving my brother short shrift. After all, he is the primary parent of two of my favorite people in the world! And as much as I adore them, they would not be who they are without him. I know he thinks I only come east to see his daughters, and that is an impression that I constantly reinforce by not being able to get enough of his girls. But the fact is that I really admire my brother and am extremely proud of him. And those are both things that I need to get better at articulating to him.

My family of origin is not one that verbally expresses affection. Love is expressed through deeds more than words. So while I find it very easy to tell David that I love him, I have a much harder time verbalizing that to my brother. But I do try my best to be emotionally supportive from across the country. And I do what I can to ease his daily chore-load when visiting him.  To me, this is the equivalent of telling him that I love him, but I don’t know if he perceives it that way.

I have absolutely no doubt that my brother will love his new niece unconditionally. That is just who he is. But I think it is important that my daughter know what a mensch her uncle is.  And for her to understand that, I need to add words to my deeds. So while I know it will be awkward at first, I am going to try my best to start telling my brother how much I love him and how important he is to my life. And not just because of the great children that he fathered. But because of who he is and all of the gifts that his existence has brought to this world.



Practicing Patience

I generally consider myself a patient person. Enough so that I am fairly confident that I would make it through the marshmallow experiment without issue. But lately I feel like my patience is really being tested. And I see that as a good thing. I figure the more I am able to determine my limits before the baby shows up in our lives, the better prepared I will be.

I knew the wait for a baby would be hard. I have been with friends during their wait and saw their struggles first hand. But our agency had such an influx of babies for placement this Spring that they set our expectations for a short wait. But then real life intervened. There has not been one baby available to be placed since the beginning of the summer.

I know that this will change. I know that at some point, there will be a baby girl for us to parent. I also know that this could happen tomorrow or 3 months from now.

But in the interim, I have found some new challenges to keep myself occupied. The first is trying to figure out how to answer well-meaning people when they ask if we have children. David simply responds “not yet.” For reasons I still don’t understand, I keep insisting on opening a can of worms and explaining that we are waiting for a baby to be placed with us.

This elicits the usual excitement, which is always nice. But it has also led to some awkward exchanges. For example, I have been told by one woman not to take the first child offered. I tried to explain that open adoption doesn’t really work that way, but I am fairly sure that my explanation won’t change her attitude or advice on adoption.

The second was being told about a family who had adopted two children and had a third “of their own.” I know the woman sharing the story didn’t mean to suggest that the two children who had been adopted were perceived as less than the couple’s biological child. Regardless, I felt compelled to explain why that language was potentially hurtful to all of the members of that family.

I am not a fan of PC language for the sake of political correctness. But, I do try to be careful with my language. I know from firsthand experience how hurtful language can be. But these recent experiences remind me that despite the number of adoptive families in my life, I may very well have, with the best of intentions, said some things that were hurtful to these people that I care deeply about. And for that, I would like to apologize for any hurt I may have caused in the past.

I don’t want the take-home from this post to be people tip-toeing around me on the subject of adoption. I want people to ask me questions and share their stories. What I am asking is that people be open to a conversation on the subject of adoption. A conversation where they are open to hearing ways to possibly make their language less hurtful. And that they understand that any suggestions I make are meant to educate and are not judgments. And most importantly, to understand that I am only speaking on behalf of myself. Because all families are unique.

How Do You Get to Carnegie Hall?


Yesterday I took care of a friend’s 7 month old while she went to the dentist. This is not news. I have been babysitting since before I hit double digits. But this time felt different. This time it felt like a trial run at parenting. And not just because I got the opportunity to manage a hungry baby while I had a contractor over so I could sign paperwork to get our roof redone.

Even though Little D was only here for a couple of hours, she taught me a lot. For example, she helped me realize that not all cat toys are baby friendly (although Little D never caught sight of the one I put away after she arrived). She also taught me that our rocking chair is not a comfortable place to hang out with a crying baby. Which made me even more grateful that Little D’s mom passed on a super comfy glider chair (which is upstairs in the future baby’s room, which is why I wasn’t sitting on that).

But the most important thing that Little D confirmed for me is that I am ready to be a parent. Not in the way that the social workers determined that we would be fit parents for a child. I actually never had any doubts about that.

Being in an adoption pool (even for such a short time) has provided me with more than adequate time to obsess on my own fears and anxieties about becoming a parent (which I should add, are mostly irrational) But hanging out with a 7 month old today, when it was just the two of us, felt very natural to me. And I am choosing to take that as an indicator that I am as prepared and ready as I can possibly be to become a parent.

I am fully aware that I will not know how to manage every situation that comes up and that I will be relying (heavily) on my friends, my reference books and my pediatrician for support. I understand that parenting is best done in community. But when push comes to shove, it all comes down to the parent(s). And that kind of responsibility is, to be completely frank, kind of terrifying. But it is also something I am feeling ready to do.

Since I didn’t publish this yesterday after I first wrote it, I thought I would add an addendum. Today my arms are sore in unusual places which I attribute to holding a squirmy baby yesterday. I want to hold on to this feeling to keep me motivated to go to the gym and strengthen those muscles while I still have the time.


All Quiet on the Western Front. Well, sort of…

We have been fully approved and are now in the adoption pool. We’ve contacted our adoption lawyer, are editing our wills and have all the basics we need for the first week of having a baby at home. From here on out we just wait for a call asking if we want a given birthmother to see our book. We have no idea when that call will come. Or even if the first, second or third call will result in a birthfamily choosing us.

As you might imagine, this is making future planning a bit of a challenge. Not that that has stopped us. This summer David and I have already been to Bermuda and Lake Placid, NY. In addition, I have made one trip alone to Westchester to see my brother and his family.

Coming up in the next few weeks we have tickets to see Wicked, my Mother and Stepfather-in-Law are arriving in town, I head out for a week of work in Toronto and I return home to a friend visiting from out of town. Then in October we head out again. This time to Western Massachusetts for David’s stepsister’s wedding.

Looking at my life now I have no idea how we are going to fit a baby into it. And the short answer is we aren’t. When the baby comes we are going to fit our lives around her. Not the other way around. That’s just the way things work when you have 24/7 responsibility for a tiny human being. And I am completely okay with that.

I love traveling and I love theater and I love my work and all of the other things I do to keep myself busy. But if the past few months of reading baby books and writing essays and responding to endless questions has taught me anything it is that I am ready for a change. A big, scary, somewhat overwhelming change that will come with serious sleep deprivation on a level I can barely fathom. It will also come with some very disgusting moments involving bodily fluids not my own. But it is not all about fear and anxiety. It is also about the wonder and joy that comes with raising a child.

I have certainly spent my fair share of time wondering who my daughter will be. But I more often than not try to stop myself because I do not want to be too prescriptive with my expectations. What I want more than anything else for her is that she grow up to be herself. Whoever that may turn out to be. So I am patiently (well, at least most of the time) waiting to meet this little person who will become the centerpiece of my life. And in the meantime, I am just continuing on with my busy, occasionally chaotic life.

That Unsettled Feeling

I am back in Portland and fully recovered from my jetlag. We also seem to be on a short hiatus from the awful heat. By all rights I should be going for a walk. Right now.

The heat has definitely thrown me off my walking. As did my travel. But I think what really did it was that the unsettled feeling that motivated me to get out of the door disappeared. I had long suspected that my walking was associated with the loss of my father. The timing always made sense and now that the acute grief has passed, my old inertia has returned.

I have made some progress though. I am 126.8 miles into my second 500 mile walk. However I seem to have also lost interest in tracking. I now regularly go out for walks without my handy app tracking my mileage. The good news? When I do hit 1,000 miles I will be confident that I have undercounted my mileage. The bad news is that I have no idea when I hit my second milestone. To rectify this situation, I just invested $15 in what is basically a fancy pedometer. It tracks my distance whenever I wear it and it syncs to an app on my phone.  This is a massive improvement on my old method. RunKeeper, the app I have been using to track my mileage, used to crash my phone, so I always had to bring my mother’s old iPhone with me to run the app.

The bigger question is why bother tracking at all. if I am walking, that is all that matters, right? Well, yes and no. Yes, the goal is to walk and I have not abandoned that completely. But I am hoping that getting back to tracking without having to drag a separate tracking device with me will help keep me motivated to at least achieve my goal.

I hate not achieving a goal. Especially one that I have already given myself a reward for. I have decided (somewhat arbitrarily) that my Fun Home ticket was my reward for the second 500 miles. Therefore I need to retroactively earn it. Obviously the fact that I am typing out this post rather than walking when it is only 67 degrees out means that I still have some work to do when it comes to motivation.

But I have not been a complete slacker. I have been redirecting a lot of my walking mojo towards the purge. Which is all for the good. And believe me, is quite a workout in and of itself. So here is the deal I am making with myself today. This afternoon when I finish work, I will either put 30 minutes into the purge or go for a walk. And now that I have said that publicly, I will really have to do it.

Ring of Keys

Today, at long last, I am finally getting to see Fun Home. I have been a fan of Alison Bechdel’s since I discovered her Dykes to Watch Out For series in 1988. When I first encountered her, she was an obscure lesbian cartoonist whose compilations were published by an obscure lesbian publishing house which went out of business mid-series. Now she is a MacArthur Genius and author of two amazing (that is not just me talking, the critics agree) graphic novels about her life.

When Fun Home first came out I had to almost physically carve out space to read it. My life was filled to the brim with CubeSpace and reading was a pleasure that I had pretty much given up. Nevertheless, I bought Fun Home almost the minute it came out and devoured it quickly. I then passed it around the CubeSpace staff to read because it was that good.

Back then I was very fortunate to get to see Alison at Powell’s read from Fun Home. This was before the hordes realized what a gem she had produced. The room was small but even so, not all of the seats were taken. Despite her obvious nerves, she was very frank and upfront about herself, her writing process and her family.  She also spoke about the challenge of being an incredibly private person writing a very personal memoir.

One of the other reasons I came into New York this time (besides, of course, having an opportunity to dote on my niecelettes) was for the unveiling of my father’s gravestone.  Even though it has been 18 months since my father’s deaths, seeing his name on the stone felt like ripping the scab off a wound that hadn’t quite healed.

I didn’t intentionally set out to go see a show about a daughter and her father on the same trip as my father’s unveiling. But I am glad I did. And not just because it meant I had my choice of seats because I got my tickets before Fun Home won 5 Tony awards. What I am trying to say is that I am confident that I will end up in tears at least once today.

Unveiling aside, my father has been very present in my mind since we started the adoption process. I know he would have been thrilled at the opportunity to become a grandfather again. And I am very sad that my daughter will never get to meet him. But I hope he will still be a presence in her life through me.

Love is Love

My brain is still agog with joy at this morning’s SCOTUS ruling that marriage is a fundamental right for all. I have never understood the opposition to marriage equality. It served no purpose, protected no one and simply served to make some families lesser-than. Today’s ruling corrected that injustice. And I can honestly say I did not expect to happen in my lifetime.

I was born into a post-Stonewall world, so I have no experience of a time before gays and lesbians started the fight for equality. I was also around for all of the hideous homophobia and general hatred that followed the emergence of HIV/AIDS. That also means that I was around for the community solidarity that emerged from that (ongoing) crisis. I am not willing to go so far as to say that HIV/AIDS was or is a blessing in disguise. I cannot say that about a disease that continues to kill so many people worldwide. But I am willing to say that I believe it was a catalyst. And I do wonder if we would be where we are today without it.

We are living in a complicated time. A time when same-sex couples are being granted equal status while blacks in prayer are killed for simply being black. A time when pop culture celebrates a trans woman of color (as we should, she is awesome), but men of color are killed for being “thugs”.  And I am in a position now where I need to make some sense out of this because I will have the responsibility of explaining this all to a child.

We do not know the race or color of the child who will be joining our family. And in some very important ways, it makes absolutely no difference to me. But in other very important ways it is a very big deal because the conversations I have about race and equality with my child will likely be different depending on her own racial and ethnic make-up.

A woman of color will most likely have a different set of challenges in her life than a white woman. That was a difficult, but important sentence to type. Difficult because it is a reality that I wish my daughter did not have to face. Important, because it is a reality that we, as a society, need to own and correct.

I remain hopeful that my daughter will grow up in a world where the cultural aspects of an ethnicity will be celebrated while the barriers associated with skin color diminish. And decisions like this morning’s give me hope. But we still have a far ways to go.

Struggling with my thoughts


I have been working on this post for 4 days now. I keep getting about 300 words in and the deleting it all. My thoughts are all jumbled in my head and the words just don’t seem to want to cooperate. Every time I write a post I keep reminding myself that every one doesn’t need to be a home run. Even with that admonition to myself, I just can’t seem to get to first base.*

Regardless, I am stubborn and don’t give up easily. I keep rewriting this poor post in the hopes that I will eventually get the words out in an order that makes some sense.  So please bear with me as I try to get my thoughts out in bits and bytes.

On Father’s Day, a friend posted an image of himself with empty arms. He and his partner recently lost their daughter while she was still in utero. This was meant to be his first Father’s Day and instead of celebrating his joy he is left bereft and alone. I struggle to describe just how devastating that image is to me. Suffice it to say that he, his partner and their daughter have been constantly in my thoughts since Sunday.

I have had friends suffer miscarriages in the past and I have done my best to comfort them in their pain. But when one suffers that devastating a loss comfort doesn’t come easily. As with all losses, it is only time that makes life bearable again. And these friends have not had near enough time yet.

I have another friend who has just been told that her chances of having biological children are very low. She and her husband had hoped for a large family and she is struggling painfully to accept her new reality. These friends are very resilient however, and have started down the long road to adoption. Accepting one’s reality does not always come easily. They still need to mourn for the children that will never be.

Both of my friends’ situations remind me of just how little control we have in our lives. I find this thought disconcerting. I like thinking that I am in charge of my own fate. I like the idea of cause and effect. And there is plenty of that in life too. We cannot just sit passively and expect good things to happen to us. But at the same time, no matter how hard we try, there are way too many forces involved to be sure of any outcome.  And it is that uncertainty that I am struggling with right now.

I am on the cusp of handing over the reigns of the adoption process to some unknown force. Until now, the pace of the process depended solely on my ability to make things happen. From here on out, we will need to rely on any number of forces to come together and bring us our daughter. And I am finding that uncertainty and loss of control very discomforting.

People keep telling me that the uncertainty and loss of control is helping me prepare for parenthood. Perhaps they are right. I don’t know. I have never been a parent before. What I do know is that I have yet to make my peace with my own helplessness.


*I really should know better than to use baseball metaphors. My brother, husband and father-in-law are all avid baseball fans and therefore know what they are talking about. Whereas, I can easily screw up and show my ignorance. So to protect the innocent, please understand that any baseball metaphors used in this post are reflections of my own ignorance and bear no reflection on those in my life who actually have a clue about how baseball works.