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Breaking up is hard to do, but sometimes it is necessary

This week I  decided that I need to break up with the guy who has been cutting my hair for the past 3 years. He is more than just a service provider to me. During that time, he has become a friend and confidant. However, after he shared that he was going into business with a man who had voted for Trump, I realized that our relationship was over. I spent the ride home feeling queasy and uncomfortable and that feeling has stayed with me. Ultimately leading me to share my thoughts on the matter.

This friend is a young (25ish) white, gay man from the Portland area. He has been fortunate enough to grow up in a city that not only celebrates its LGBTQ population, but has now elected both a LGBTQ mayor and governor in races where their sexual orientation were non-issues. He is too young to know about the AIDS crisis and is naive to the homophobia that remains a serious issue in this country and the world at large.

When he mentioned that his new business partner had voted for Trump, he added that he completely understood that decision because he is a very wealthy man. He seemed oblivious to the hatred and venom that was an integral part of Trump’s campaign. The same hatred that Trump continues to endorse when selecting his closest advisors and cabinet members.

He is either unaware or unconcerned that his ability to marry is being threatened.  Or that fellow LGBTQ people are feeling threatened and/or suicidal as calls to the Trevor Project have increased to numbers last seen after the horrors of the shooting at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando.

While he was washing my hair, he asked why I was wearing a safety pin on my shirt. When I explained that it was to demonstrate my solidarity and willingness to step in and support those who are feeling threatened because of their race, gender, color sexual orientation, immigration status or religion, he was touched, but clearly did not see himself as a member of those communities most at risk.

But why should he? The world is a very different place than the one I grew up in. There have been great strides made in LGBTQ rights over the past decade and that is the only world he knows. Over the years, I have tried to explain how much things have changed and how important it is that we never go back to the dark ages where discrimination was the norm. Where men like Matthew Shepard could be tortured and beaten simply for the fact that they were born gay.

Although I understand how my friend’s decision to disregard his business partner’s vote comes from a place of naiveté, that doesn’t sway my decision. I don’t require that my friends agree with me on everything that I believe nor do they require that of me. But there are some lines that I am not willing to cross. The biggest one being an endorsement, whether implicit or explicit, of hatred for others.

Bastille Day

When I was younger and went to summer camp for 8 weeks at a stretch, my dad used to send me an annual Bastille Day letter. Even after camp, once we both had email, he resumed the annual Bastille Day missives for a while. The letters, emails and cards stopped years ago. And This is not the first Bastille Day without him.  However, I don’t think I will ever make it through a Bastille Day without thinking of him. Not that I would want to.

This is the first Bastille Day since we entered the adoption pool and it led me to wonder what kind of off-beat rituals my kid will associate with me after I am gone. I know that my dad would be amused to learn that this particular quirk has stuck with me for so long.  Just as he would be pleased to know that both my brother and I scored very highly on the vocabulary test making its way around Facebook these days.

As the wife, sister and daughter-in-law of rabbis, I really do understand the importance of ritual in life. I also know that it is particularly important when raising children.  But what intrigues me most (at least at the moment) are the family-specific rituals.

We recently returned from our annual week in lake Placid with David’s father’s side of the family. One of the highlights of this annual trip is playing Milles Bornes with my nieces. It took about 15 minutes after we all arrived for the younger of the two to go grab the box from the playroom. And it was in heavy rotation for the duration.

I like playing Milles Bornes (which is good because it is not an exaggeration to say that not a day goes by during our annual visits without at least 5 hands being played). But it would never occur to me to buy it for myself because at this point Milles Bornes is inextricably linked to my nieces in my mind.

Each girl has an established style of play. Which only becomes an issue when the 3 of us play together (which is happening decreasingly often).  And it should surprise none of you that I look forward to the day when I can integrate my child into the game (and someday their children as well, if they are so inclined).

It is possible that with time the girls will outgrow playing the game with me. They might decide that it isn’t cool to play games with an adult or they may simply decide that I am no longer cool enough for their time (one is a teenager and the other is just a few years away). I truly hope not. But even if they do, I hope that they eventually remember our ritual with fondness. And maybe, just maybe, if they become aunts themselves, decide to teach Milles Bornes to their nieces and nephews.

Moose and squirrel

We are back from our adventures in the not-so-wilds of Alaska. It was a great trip with lots of hiking (we hit our step targets almost every day) and fun day trips.  We originally thought 10 days might have been too long to spend in Anchorage, but we found it all absolutely worthwhile.

Often our adventures required a fair bit of driving, but every one of our forays had an amazing payoff. The worst part of our drives was never knowing what side of the road to watch for wildlife. Although David did spot of couple of bears from the car, we saw more moose in the city than we did in the wild.

Although spring came early this year (it was amazing watching the buds turn to leaves throughout the time we were there), the official season doesn’t begin until mid-May. The only things we missed out on were riding the Alaska railroad and checking out the Alaska Native Heritage Center.  What we didn’t miss were the hordes of tourists. It was great having the trails, museums and conservation centers almost to ourselves. Totally spoiled us.

Some of the highlights of the trip were:

  • Visiting Denali National Park and Preserve. This is one of the places where we won by going pre-season. The park was open to mile 30, but normally private cars are only allowed to drive to mile 15. Everything else requires either a shuttle or a tour bus. But because the busses don’t start running until mid-May we were able to drive right in.
  • The Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. This is where we got to see brown and black bears (relatively) up close, as well as moose, musk oxen, wood bison, elk and caribou. We both really enjoyed reading about the origins of the animals (often they were injured or orphaned). They make a real effort to return their charges to the wild if at all possible. They have recently successfully reintroduced wood bison to the wild and have seen the first wild-born babies.
  • Our boat ride around Prince William Sound. There are very few tour companies who do winter tours, so we were very excited to discover that Lazy Otter Charters is one of the few that do. We tagged along with a group of reflexologists from throughout the world on a great tour where we saw whales (including one that David saw breach–he said it kinda looked like the creature from Empire Strikes Back that the Millennium Falcon escapes from), porpoises, otters, bald eagles and several glaciers. The glaciers have really receded in the past couple of years, which I personally found kind of depressing. On the plus side, we got to see a couple of them calve.
  • The Anchorage Museum. We found the first floor a little underwhelming, but the second floor more than made up for it with two great exhibits focused on Alaskan natives. They were in the process of changing the exhibit on the third floor, so we didn’t get to see anything else.
  • The Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward. We had originally thought this too was closed for the season and were delighted to discover that we were wrong. This is another place that takes in orphaned and injured sea life and do their best to reintroduce them to the wild whenever possible. The highlight for me was a peek into the animal rehab center where we saw two baby otters get their baths. One escaped out of its tub, much to the chagrin of the person responsible for it. It was ultimately put into the larger tub with its friend where they happily played with their feet, their toys and each other. We even got the full story on their history because the staff were relatively unoccupied with other folks.

Our next adventure (subject of course to the usual caveats about The Call disrupting our plans) is a weekend trip to Chicago to meet up with some friends in May.  After which I will head to New York for some niecelette time and David will return home to remind our cats that they actually do have humans.

 

We don’t need no stinking routine

It seems when I decide to keep my schedule full enough to distract me, I go all the way.

The last week completely breezed by, courtesy of my best friend’s visit. We did all of the requisite things, including eating our way through Portland, hanging with friends, seeing Peter Murphy and coworking together.  And now that she has returned home, we all miss her. Impressively enough even Nom Nom. Because even though it has taken us years to get Nom Nom to a place where he trusts us enough to pet him, he trusted her after mere hours.  What can I say, she is simply that awesome!

This coming week is filled with all sorts of plans, ranging from client work, to spending time with friends to a sleep study to speaking on security at a conference. The only day with nothing on the docket is Thursday. And the following week is already beginning to fill up too.

And we are also not-so-slowly creeping up on our trip to Anchorage. The closer we get our departure date, the more excited I am that we are going. And I am even more excited that I am taking the time off from work.

I am utterly and truely ready for a break from life for a while. The low point this past week was an update of sorts from our social worker. Seems that there are once again no babies in the pipeline. And the pool of adoptive parents has increased from 5 to 17 in the past month. The good news is that they have closed the pool to new entrants. The bad news is that it just means that there are more of us waiting for babies.

Although we will be keeping our phones charged and by our sides throughout the trip (you never know when a baby is going to fall from the sky), we will otherwise be shrugging off our routines and responsibilities for at least a short while. And while Passover will be keeping us from eating our way through Anchorage, we are very much looking forward to the new vistas and possibly even new perspectives the trip will bring.

 

Traveling makes the time fly by

When last heard from, our intrepid blogger was wallowing in the misery of waiting for The Call. Sadly, not much has changed on that front…

A few months ago I looked at my calendar and realized that between April 2015 and February 2016, I had never been in town for more than 35 consecutive days. And for about half of that time, each trip was planned with excitement and trepidation as we purchased cancellation insurance just in case. Then I spent February and March at home (although February was super fun and exciting because my niecelettes and brother came to Portland for a visit). March, on the other hand, was miserable.

With no trips to look forward to, I found myself at home just wallowing in my misery. In fact, I was so miserable that I didn’t even have the mojo to work on the purge, which had become a neglected project because I was never home long enough to work on it.

I began to realize that my travels gave me distinct chunks of time to focus on. The time at home was spent planning and preparing and the trips themselves were wonderful distractions from the wait. So I started looking forward and began to fill up my travel schedule once again.

April was already going to be a fun month. My best friend lives 3,000 miles away and even though we talk almost every day, I haven’t seen her in waaaaaaay too long. But today she is flying to Seattle where I will drive up and meet her tomorrow morning. We will spend the day and night there before we drive home for a week together in Portland.

Then comes Passover. The original plan had been to go east to be with family. But then David pointed out that we had not been on a vacation alone together since our honeymoon to Australia in 2006. With time (hopefully) running out for such things, we changed our minds and decided that an adventure was called for.  We tried to think of places to go that did not require an unreasonably long plane ride. But then the power of advertising paid off.

I received an email from Alaska Airlines announcing a fare sale. Turns out we could fly to Anchorage for $91 RT/person. Clearly the fates were saying that it was high time we hit Alaska. And since it has been on our list of places to go since pretty much forever, we jumped at the opportunity.

Now traveling on Passover is always an interesting proposition. But we rented a house with a full kitchen so we can cook for ourselves and we are planning on bringing matzah and other assorted Passover necessities with us. After all, with airfare that low, we can easily afford to check a bag.

May is also beginning to fill up. With a weekend trip to Chicago in the works to meet up with friends either followed or preceded by a trip to New York for some quality niecelette time. In June we are hoping to be able to make it to Virginia to see David’s brother, sister-in-law and the nieces. And July is just off the charts, with the annual trip to Lake Placid, followed a couple of weeks later by David’s brother’s wedding.

No word yet on August, but I really and truly hope that our travel window will have closed by then.

 

So many drafts, so few publishable ones

This may be the longest stretch I have gone in a long time without posting anything here. It is not for lack of writing. The drafts are busy piling up. But I have withheld them all because they were little more than me whining about just how hard waiting is. Trust me, it is hard. And you will just have to trust me unless you have personally waited for that call. Because despite the heartfelt warnings I received from my numerous friends and family who have been where I am now, it is turning out to be harder than I ever thought it would be.

I have a friend who is in the early stages of her pregnancy. She has miscarried twice, both early on.  She is sitting on pins and needles as the time ticks by. Each minute is a minute longer that she has not miscarried. But she has no idea what the next minute holds. I can commiserate with her as we both agonize about how awful waiting is. But I cannot truly know or her anxiety that her body might betray her once again.

My friend and I commiserate about just how hard waiting is. But that is all we can do, because I have never walked in her shoes nor she in mine. There are even days when I struggle to convey what I am feeling to David, the one other person who should know exactly what I am going through. But David and I are dealing with the situation differently. Which is absolutely fine. Different people have different coping mechanisms. But it does mean that there are moments when I feel like there truly is no one who understands.

And those are the moments where I have been turning to writing. And, while I do share a lot on this blog, some things are just meant to be kept private. Thus my extended silence.

Rest assured, I will be shouting it from the rooftops when we do get The Call. I promise I will post the news here. But until then, all I ask is that you not ask me how the adoption process is going. Because we are long past the point where I had any control on its progress. Now we are just waiting for that moment when the stars align and there is a pregnant birthfamily who has chosen us to parent their child.

Thank you for following along with us on this journey and for your understanding and patience with my extended silence. I can’t honestly say how well I will be able to keep up on blog posts once there is an infant in our lives, but hopefully the posts, when they do appear, will be exhaustedly joyous.

 

Silence is not so golden

Once again I find myself struggling to write blog posts. The drafts are beginning to pile up so I thought I might give it another go. Since I know many of you are checking in here for news of the adoption, let me assure you that there is nothing going on. There continue to be no birth mothers in the pool, so there will either be a last minute baby or we are in for quite a wait.

The wait is turning out to be harder than I imagined it would be. And having so many friends and family who have adopted, I (wrongly) assumed that I was prepared going in. But, like so much in life, waiting for “the call” is one of those things that you can’t prepare for. It is just something that you need to go through to understand.

But, I am trying very hard to keep my focus anywhere but the wait, which has been made simpler by the fact that we are about to head out of town for a couple of weeks to meet up with David’s family in Kauai. We are both looking forward to the trip and keeping our fingers crossed that we will make it through this trip without any major medical incidents.

After Kauai we are home for a few weeks and then we head off to Florida for AgileBits’ annual gathering. This year we are planning on heading out a few day early so we can go to Orlando and visit The Wizarding World of Harry Potter with some friends. As it happens, these friends are also my coworkers, so after overindulging in butterbeer and magic, we will all head over to Ft. Lauderdale to board a ship for a 7 day sail.

The cruise is going to be the first trip we have taken since we entered the adoption pool where we will not be able to immediately head home if we get the call. The decision to go anyway was not an easy one. But everyone keeps telling us that we need to keep living our lives and I am really looking forward to getting to spend some quality time with people I really enjoy.  So in the end we decided the risk was worth it.

Every time I question that decision (which I do often), I just remember my friend Tricia’s advice. When we first started down the adoption road Tricia was one of the first friends I reached out to.  She adopted both of her children and is generally wise in many ways, so she is always worth listening to.  She told me that no matter how long it takes and how many roadblocks and false starts we hit, when it happens, that child who is ultimately placed in our arms is the one meant to be our daughter.

As eager as I am to meet our child, I am trying to be mindful of all that we are able to enjoy during our remaining period of childlessness. That includes a full nights’ sleep, the ability to pop out and do whatever we want with zero forethought and the quality time we have to devote to our cats. That last one is important because it makes me realize just how pissed off our little monsters will be when they cease to be our center of attention. Especially Dancer.

 

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.