The amazing story of two 40-something women on the path to matrimonial bliss

It just keeps getting better...

Thursday, March 31, 2011

I'm a Doo-doo Head and You're a Doo-doo Head

I told Teri that she can be a doo-doo head (boy howdie!) but me?  Seriously?  As I like to say, "Flexibility" is my middle name! Teri points out that if I have to keep telling everyone that is my middle name, than it must not be so.  The point is--we are not always the easiest people to get along with and sometimes very human things like crabbiness, anger, annoyance, frustration and irritation pop up and take over.

I have also shared with Teri that things would go a great deal smoother between us if she would A. Do what it is I want her to and B. Anticipate what that might be.  Well, "Ditto" is what she has to say to that!  The fact is, living with anyone can be both fantastic and challenging.  I don't think it is a horrible chore to be endured, but I do think there are moments when peace and harmony may not be the order of they day.

Lately, we have started watching Mad Men-- (a television series) and one of the elements that we talk about (among many) is how trapped all the characters are by rigid stereotypes and imposed limits on who and what they can be.  Expressing oneself was not the way things were done in the fifties and early sixties.  Heck, I have been in relationships and jobs in my life where I wasn't heard or able to express myself as a full, flawed and complicated human being!  One of the things I absolutely love about being with Teri is that I can express myself without her taking it personally (and if she does personalize, she has the skills to say that out loud so we can take that into account) and she can get mad at me and think I am a doo-doo head without me thinking it is an indictment of the entire relationship.

The truth is, however, I am NOT actually a doo-doo head...ever...

Holding up a Corner of the Sky

This statue intrigued me.  I couldn't tell if she was a powerful warrior goddess on the offensive or throwing up her arms and weapons in surrender.  The fact that she is exposing her vulnerable belly with the shield to the back of her, but brandishing her rod or spear, makes me think it could go either way.  I can relate, I tell you, I can definitely relate!

It isn't often that I can get away with NOT being a grown-up.  In fact, as I texted my daughter yesterday, some days I feel like the universe is calling on me to have very broad shoulders indeed.  I am sometimes reluctant in my leadership (after all, as women, we are socialized to be very humble about even admitting or accepting roles as "leaders") and on the back side of every day of forging forward is the part of me that would like to be able to sit at the back of the room and let someone else take the lead.  I recently read an article that said the five traits of leadership are: honesty, being progressive or forward-looking, and being competent, inspiring and an intelligent.  As we all know, all those traits do not necessarily guarantee success.  In fact, when embodied in a woman, they have a tendency to invite all sorts of extra challenges, detractors and resistance.

Recently, one of my heroes, Geraldine Ferraro, died at the age of 75.  It got me to thinking how inspired I had been by her as a teenager just starting to step into political and activist shoes.  She was imperfect and tenacious and had a very non-privileged and American background and I found that relateable.  I remembered how watching her story unfold gave me insight into the gender biases, double-speak and unique strength required of women who attempted to step forward with strong-voices and competency in this "land of equality."

I choose to live with a political bent and I choose to step up and step into the ring when summoned.  No one is making me do this.  I choose to be out as a lesbian and accept roles of responsibility. As I have gotten older, I also work at having a high threshold for an open public service.  That doesn't always mean that things go smoothly and easily!  I, too, am imperfect and still learning how to maneuver in a changing world. Some days I feel tenacious and thick-skinned, and others I just want to throw down the shields and weapons and spend hours at work in the garden.

In the end, however, I am reminded of a little saying that I used to share with my kids when they were growing up: the more you do do, the more you can do...

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Kids are Alright?

When I confess that I worry about the kids, that is a simplification and an understatement. They are all young adults and Teri and I have varying levels of regular contact with them.  I am still negotiating around this adult mother stuff and am not always clear when/how/if to reach out, step in, or stay away or "on standby" as I refer to it. I don't know if they have any idea how much we worry, fuss, chat and wonder after their well-being and I don't think they really should be concerned with it.  I underestimated how challenging it would be to move into this stage of family-hood...

Teri and I have both different and similar experiences, aches, wounds, joys and mistakes around our motherhood and parenthood roles.  We both suffered some very intense losses and challenges around our stepping into our lesbian identities and there are occasional flare-ups. We want to feel connected to the kids, but we don't want to overstep.  We want to know what is going on in their lives, but we respect their right to tell us what they want to.  We acknowledge that there are histories, distances, differences, personalities, and experiences to negotiate and while they are learning how to be adults, we are also learning how to be mothers of adults.  Crap.  Much easier said than done (and it isn't very easy to say either!)

Teri and I have both had to learn to share our kids with other parents, step-parents, aunts, uncles, etc.  While intellectually, we are grateful that the kids have other loving and trusted adults to go to, we have had to let go of a sense of control or entitlement (or at least try to) as mothers and influencers.  Emotionally, however, I don't know if I will ever be able to completely let that go--in my gut I feel fiercely connected and protective and can't believe anyone else could possibly think they have more of a claim than I!

In my heart and mind, Teri's daughters are mine as well.  Of course, that is not how it is for them.  They barely know me and the distance and young adulthood make it even more challenging to create the sense of merged family that I imagine and desire.  I want everyone to feel included and connected and I don't always know how to do that and still respect those damn histories and precedent that existed long before I came on the scene.  I tell people that my partner and I have 5 adult children and even this feels awkwardly inaccurate.  In Teri's previous relationship, she was co-parent/step-parent to her partner's two children--helping to raise them for 10 years--and only one of those kids chooses to stay connected and involved despite her early post-break-up efforts.  They are adults, they get to choose, and yet it feels strange to me to get to claim one and not the other...

For my kids, Teri is not another mother but, as Lucy explained it, she IS family.  They are fortunate in that they live close and have gotten to know her and they get to spend time with us together.  Whenever I chat with my son or we meet up for lunch, he never fails to ask me "How is Tiger?" (if she is not along for the outing) and that means the world to me.  I get that this merging family-building is a life-long process, but it is the little things that make it start to feel cohesive.

The wedding is a way for us to include our children in a big piece of this process and yet, because of distance and differences, some are more involved and connected to the process than the others.  I don't know what to do about that!  I know that it is hard and painful for Teri not feeling the same excitement and involvement from her "side" as we have coming from mine.  It is hard not to personalize or feel the heaviness of what sort of a mother am I now?  We ask ourselves: Do they know me?  Do I know them? How can I stay involved without being over-involved?

I don't ever know any more if the kids are truly alright--I worry, I fuss, I shed the occasional tear and then, each day, I try to heed Teri's motto that "no news is good news" and trust that everything is going to be just fine (and when it's not, I'm on standby.)

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Guilt and Obligation--The Tipping Point

I have mentioned the guilt before--guilt over who we are inviting and guilt over who we are not; feeling obligation to represent, include and share with all the various facets of our world.  Like most grown-ups, we accepted long ago that we don't always get to do what we want, but when it comes to our lives as a couple and a family and especially as we are planning our ceremony and celebration--it has been an occasionally rocky road to balancing obligation with self preservation and care. To whom and to what do we have to feel obligated?

The other day, Teri and I were put under scrutiny and quizzed by an acquaintance who wanted to know who we had been socializing with, what we were doing with our time, and why we weren't doing the activities and events that she obviously thought we should be.  While there is little in the world of human behavior that actually surprises me any more, we were both taken a little aback by the inquisition.  After all, we'd just been enjoying our first leisurely weekend day together alone in our pajamas in weeks!  An uninvited guest for whom we adjusted and welcomed, who then proceeded to let us know that she had definite opinions about what we were and were not doing and who we were or were not spending our social time with. 

I generally want to be polite and inclusive and Teri is often much more sensitive about others than I am--I do tend to get crabby at having my boundaries over-run and push or pull back. Over five decades, we have both developed some skills in how to gently extricate ourselves from unwanted social situations.  This only works, however, when the other party or parties get the hint.  Several weeks ago while out dancing, I tried to politely decline some persistent invitations to dance.  There was the attitude that I had an obligation to say "yes" simply because I'd been asked.  Seriously?  At this age?  It made me all the more determined to hold my ground.

Wedding Planning Land had exacerbated this sense of obligation and a desire to be "nice" for me.  I truly didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings or exclude anyone.  Recent developments, however, have pushed me over the tipping point to the other side.  There are such things as compromise, compassion and consideration, but at some point, I DO get to choose how much of who and what I want up in my world.  As it is, there will always be elements of obligation; I will always make adjustments and let manners and basic social skills guide how I conduct myself and I don't really want to hurt anyone's feelings ever.  I don't get to truly control very much in this world and Teri and I are prepared for the inevitable "fall-out" from the fact that we not only have just so much room, but we also want our day to be about us and our closest family and friends (with some adjustments and allowances, of course.)  We don't always get to control our environment, but it seems that on a wedding day and in our own home, we should have a sense of peace and comfort--without the guilt and obligation. Thank goodness I'm letting that go!

Monday, March 28, 2011

Why We Decided on an At-Home, Backyard Celebration

I was reading a couple articles and then a smattering of comments about the challenges, expense and limitations of having a wedding ceremony at home.  As with many of the articles and comments I’ve read during this wedding planning process, it was both not really relevant to us and a bit inaccurate.  It did get me to thinking, however, about OUR path to making the choice in venue and all the reasons and realities with our at-home, backyard celebration.

One of Teri’s concerns when we were initially looking at venues was public vs. private and how comfortable we could be as a same-sex couple.  While I tend to be quite thick-skinned about such things, I had to admit she had a point.  If we chose to have our ceremony in a public garden or place, we would be subject to any hecklers or individuals who wanted to use our ceremony as a “teaching moment” or public/political spectacle.  In choosing a typical venue, outing ourselves as a same-sex couple was par for the course.  As I was contacting potential places: hotels, inns, bed and breakfasts, etc. that was part of what I had to disclose and while I did it, there was the open potential for less-than-comfortable interactions.  One of the first places we went to visit was an inn owned and operated by a lesbian couple.  I had to agree with Teri when she stated that she wanted to be able to feel comfortable and focused on our incredible day—without any detractors.

As we continued our search and narrowed our choices, other limitations began to pop up.  Some places, we had to use their recommended caters, other places (a couple historical ones) we were limited in what sort of food and beverages we could have because of the possible damage to historic rugs and furniture.  In the process of exploring possible venues, Teri and I got closer and closer to qualifying WHAT we did want and the feel, ambiance and environment we wanted for our ceremony and celebration.  It was both an “ah hah” moment and quite liberating when we decided to have the shindig at our home.

Now, we do not have a huge home and the large garden and yard is not a smooth expanse of well-clipped grass.  There are vegetable beds and big old trees and winding paths over uneven terrain.  We only have one bathroom and one small-ish kitchen.  While we’ve mapped out where the tables and chairs will go, the reality may be a bit different than the sketches.  We have estimated how many guests we can handle and if there are more, well they may have to stand during the ceremony or spread themselves out on quilts and blankets.  Our mantra has become “There will be plenty of room.”  We are not frightened by these articles that tell us we must hire tents and port-a-potties and get special licenses.  It is not going to rain on August 13th and 70 people can take turns using the bathroom.  We have insurance.  If someone one block over decides to mow their lawn or the neighbor’s rooster goes on a crowing binge—it is not going to detract from our celebration.

I guess in the end, it comes down to who you are as a couple and what sort of ceremony and celebration suits you.  Fortunately for Teri and me, we have been pretty darn simpatico with our wants and wishes.  It isn’t as if I was craving a big formal church thing-y and she wanted to stand on a beach!  The must-haves that kept coming up for us were: comfortable, abundant, warm, inclusive, private, wonderful food, participation, special and charming, but non-fussy.  We discovered that we didn’t want to be limited by time constraints or unable to serve up our home-brewed beer; we loved the idea of stepping off our deck in our bare feet and lovely dresses into a garden brimming with family and friends…

That is why WE decided that the at-home, garden wedding was for us!

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Sneaking up on Wedding Dresses

I shared with Teri that the title for this blog came to me yesterday as we were actually out doing a little shopping. Well, not so much shopping as stalking, circling and sneaking up on potential dresses for Teri to wear in August.  I know that those of you who have been reading along with us know that after fussing and tackling my dress, I have mine tucked away with all the accessories waiting for the big day, but up until yesterday, Teri had not started her dress quest. As I have said before, we are two women with a great deal in common, but we are still two entirely different people with entirely different paces and approaches!

It started with a little online perusing to build confidence--sipping coffee and snuggled up in bed with our fuzzy robes yesterday morning, we pulled up a few sites and Teri started to clarify what she wants.  I realized after about fifteen minutes that I was totally controlling the laptop (for those of you who haven't figured it out yet, I was the eldest child in my family and Teri was the youngest--that is my explanation and while some of you may call me bossy, which is Teri's preferred term, it is often NOT intentional) and as soon as I did, I passed it over to her and made an excuse that I had to go to the bathroom.  Just so you realize the lack of driving focus for this quest, I climbed back on the bed with a coffee refill to find she was shopping for swimsuits!

A few hours later, we actually left the house with the goal of heading over to Macy's to possibly--gasp--try on a dress or two. The dresses she found online she liked were on the Macy's site and we thought they might have some in store to see in person.  First stop...Jerry's Home Improvement.  We didn't actually need anything there since we were just at that hotspot for tool-savvy lesbians and hetero men a couple days ago, but she managed to find several items that we needed to price and measure. After reading packages of solar garden lights for twenty minutes, I now know more that I thought possible about the batteries, materials and light longevity than I imagine I can retain.

We did eventually make it to Macy's and Teri parked at the far end.  I realized once we got in the store that we were not actually heading directly to where the dressy dresses might be.  Like Dorothy in the Wizard of Oz, it was a maneuvering, circling, meandering path by which it felt as if we were stalking and sneaking up on the elusive and rare "possible wedding dress."  There were trousers, shorts, swim suits, boots and any number of other commodities that stood in the way of us and the dresses.

After finding nothing remotely appealing at Macy's, Teri decided that we would make the trip from that end of the mall to the other in order to get to JC Penney's where they just might have some possible dress contenders but where there would also be swimsuits and such to check out (to be fair, we are planning a long weekend get-away two weeks from now to a McMenamin's lodge with a soaking pool so suits are in order.)  There are many, many stores between Macy's and JC Penney's--stores selling books, shoes, ham, Build-a-Bears, children's clothes...

In the end, there was no actually trying on of dresses BUT Teri did take a photo of one she liked with her phone.  We celebrated with dinner from the little Japanese restaurant in the food court where they grill your stuff while you watch. It was a success, a start, and I completely understand when Teri shares how there are so many areas of her life where she has to move on other people's agendas that for this very big, important event, she wants her part of it to be on her terms and at her pacing.  I get that.  It is SO not the same approach that I take but that is just one of the many differences I enjoy about us.  It was a fun day and I felt incredibly fortunate to be invited along for the hunt!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Working for a Living

While it would be lovely to be independently wealthy--we aren't.  We work and right now it seems that not only are we working a lot, but for both Teri and I, our work is also quite demanding.  It can make it tough to focus on what really matters when one comes home exhausted, stressed, and just needing to talk and talk and talk about all the drama going on at work!

Teri's job as a counselor for a nonprofit youth resident program has been especially challenging lately and while I try to stay zen and I do trust that she can handle whatever comes her way, I wouldn't mind a free pass to go down there and do my grandest impersonation of Ursula--the fabulous antagonist from The Little Mermaid.  The program is new (Teri was hired at the beginning) and aimed at providing treatment for teenagers ages 11-18 who have mental illness and are extremely unmanageable.  It is co-educational (seriously!) and there is little structure--kids are allowed to swear, act out violently, leave whenever they want and basically behave however they feel inclined--all because that is what the program director thinks is "best practices."  For her first foray into this sort of social work, it has been frustrating and dangerous on a good day--it is very much a "program" where the inmates are running the asylum (no offense) and the lack of colleague support and supervisor back-up has been enough to make me furious and her feel horrible.  Of course, it isn't about me, but I can't really speak for her except to say that it has her seriously questioning whether she wants to do any sort of social work, volunteer work or work as part of a nonprofit and she was so eager and ready to give that world a go!  Needless to say, it is an organization that I won't ever support financially again and I had thought they were one of the "stable" human service organizations in the area.

Meanwhile, there have been some major changes in my work world and I have an expanded job with more responsibility and some big organizational transition to manage.  Both Teri and I have found ourselves taking turns and trading "processing" as we try to stay focused and energized to deal with the challenges life is asking us to tend to.  Unfortunately, it hasn't left much time for fun!

Last evening, as we were debriefing in the living room, I declared a one-hour moratorium on "work talk" and Teri suggested we get out and do something...anything!  We decided to head to the nearby home improvement store, Jerry's, in search of some solutions for closing in our compost bin to keep the critters (a.k.a. dogs really) out.  We wandered the garden area, the lumber area and actually had a good time thinking about plants and stepping stones and bird baths--what a delightful relief!  How nice to connect with each other outside of the recent patterns of work and stress!

Leaving the multi-acre store with several cement stepping stones and a honeysuckle vine, we decided to go out for a burger and a beer before heading home.    More simple fun.  My sister actually joined us and while we let ourselves talk about work again, some of the focus had shifted and things didn't feel so heavy and urgent.  Like good 40-something gals, we finished off the evening with a trip to Sweet Life for a trio of yummy desserts and hot coffee. While we may have to work for a living, we still have to remind ourselves to do some of that LIVING!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

A Labor of Love

For the past few days, the garden has been my therapy.  We have had a few breaks in the weather between cloudbursts and it has been wonderful respite from the challenges at work.  This is not the sit-in-the-shade-and-admire-one's-work time of year--this is the dirt-under-the-fingernails, trellis-building and perennial-planting time of year and it feels especially weighted this spring since the garden will be the setting for our ceremony and celebration.

Our yard has some wonderful "structure" in the way of huge old trees and established shrubs and fruit trees--those can be both a blessing and a curse since they can be overwhelming and make it tough to garden freely in terms of planting. Some of the trees are quite old and in need of a good pruning or even cutting down altogether.  I am still building up my confidence in terms of tree-hacking.  Cleaning up leaves, twigs and branches is an ongoing task and after a good wind and rain storm, it looks like the Big Bad Wolf just made merry with the Piggy's house of twigs!

Fortunately, we have been through an entire year of seasons in this house and that means we not only have a reasonably-established vegetable garden, but we also have a good idea about what grows where, where the sun hits and where it stays muddy, and some ideas about how we would like to do things differently this year.  As I am tucking in daisy plants and lily bulbs, and scattering seed packets of miscellaneous annuals and perennials, I have somewhat of a vision of what I hope the beds will look like in a few months.  Of course, one of the other challenges of a decades-old garden that has suffered some years of recent neglect is that the weeds have established a happy hold--as I try to put new items into the garden, I am busy trying to pull up the ones I don't want while the ground is still soft and wet!

When I refer to gardening as therapy, I want to say that working in the garden never fails to lift my spirits.  Whether I am planting or weeding or hauling away debris or organizing pathways or pruning, it makes me feel grounded and hopeful and connected.  That is not to say that I won't end up with a stiff back and sore muscles--especially with this early-season forays into the garden, but other than the daily dog poop-bagging stroll, every bit of it is a labor of love...

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Sunday Morning Crafts & the Paper in Bed

Ah, how well I remember those early, gooey days of love when we would spend days sequestered away at Teri's or my house--peeking out just to tend to business or wrangle a cup of coffee before hiding away from the world again.  Times change and eventually two gals have to come up for air and get back into the swing of every day living.  But that doesn't have to mean we totally give up the leisure of a slow-paced Sunday morning (it just might not be quite as saucy as a couple years ago!)

We only get the local paper delivered on Sunday mornings.  We used to take it every day but an entire week would go by without my even looking between the pages and while Teri has been better at reading it, we made a joint decision to take it just on Sundays--and now we SO look forward to coffee and paper in bed! 

With our work and life schedules being crazy hectic lately, we have had about as much time to work on Wedding Planning tasks as read the newspaper, and some of those ambitious DIY projects have been piling up. With Teri's recent triptych of graveyard nights, I decided to start working on some of those projects AND sort and organize the boxes and piles of decorations, supplies, and other necessities that have been stacked out in the utility room off the kitchen.  One of the daunting tasks we've been putting off was the construction of these "award ribbons"--made completely out of ribbon and cotton, we plan to use these to identify the food and desserts on the buffet service tables during the reception.  A sort of "State Fair meets Cake Walk."  Lucy was going to come and help with them, but she has also been crazy busy with finals and important 21-year-old scientist stuff. 

So, this morning, with rumpled hair and hot coffee, Teri and I worked on award ribbons AND read the Sunday paper--stitching away with our needles and thread and catching up on much of the conversation we've been missing with our criss-crossing schedules. It was productive and entirely pleasant--not to mention we now have a shoebox of ribbons tucked away in that newly-organized stack of stuff in the utility room!

The Brides' Pies

Of course you can buy a ready-made pie shell, but it's a shame not to have the know-how yourself. --Julia Child

As I wrote almost two months' ago, before the tradition of Wedding Cake, there was the bride's pie which had a gold ring baked in it.  With all this fussing and planning for what sort of cakes we want at our wedding, I have not done justice to the fact that Teri and I really are all about the pies.

In the story that is our courtship, there was a Saturday in May when Teri and I spent a late morning and early afternoon wandering the Eugene Saturday Market together (I actually ended up with a sunburn!) and then went to the store to gather what ingredients I didn't already have so she could make a blueberry pie for an event she was going to later that night. She made and baked the blueberry pie in my kitchen and if memory serves, I made up a pitcher of sangria which we sipped while the pie was baking.

Since then, there have been dozens of pies: pumpkin (Teri's favorite), apple (my favorite), Key lime, blackberry, blueberry, pecan, and Incubus (an old recipe for a sort-of cake-pie called "Colonial InnKeeper's" pie which my kids re-dubbed Incubus Pie years ago--it is yummy--cake-y and fudge-y) and more.  We have taken pies to parties, made them for our own celebrations and dinners and during the week in Roseburg after my dad died suddenly, Teri must have made ten pies in my mother's kitchen.  Pies are Life.

Pie was the first thing that Teri and I collaborated on and learned to make together in a shared kitchen.  Often, she makes the crust an I make the filling (although we both have a decent hand at making pie crust and actually share a similar "secret" ingredient.) We have different versions of apple pie--both delicious: Teri prefers cubed apples and lots of cinnamon; I prefer sliced apples and a combination of cinnamon, ginger and freshly grated nutmeg.  Both of us slip dollops of real butter between the mounded filling and the top crust (of course!)

We can't imagine our Wedding Celebration without some of our own homemade pies and so, tucked onto the dessert table with those luscious cakes and colorful cupcakes will be some of our favorite recipes--served up with dollops of freshly whipped cream dotted with speckles of vanilla bean (we have these incredible copper bowls that my former mother-in-law gave us last Thanksgiving; they are used and worn perfectly and fabulous for beating up fresh whipped cream.)  While the wedding cakes may seem traditionally symbolic to most people, the pie is symbolic to Teri and me--it is something we both do well and we do it well together. 

As another nod to the story of us, the "signature drink" at the reception will be both a red and a white sangria...

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Cake Toppers

Now that we have settled on some flavors and recipes for cakes and cupcakes, and experimented with various frostings and icings--our thoughts have turned to cake toppers. So many styles!  So many options! Choices, choices choices!

Those who know Teri and I can attest that we are not really traditionalists and yet, we aren't really into sleek and modern either.  We tend to go for a style that is comfortable, simple, a little cluttered in a clean and cozy way, and we are both drawn to whimsical and fun.  So the toppers for our cakes have just GOT to reflect all that!  The fact that we have decided to do several cakes, pies and a passel of cupcakes gives us the opportunity to have several cake toppers--but we are determined there will be some connection and cohesiveness.

We found a very fun photo of a bunch of cupcakes frosted and tinted various colors of orange and yellow and arranged like a giant sunflower.  Since we are using sunflowers and daisies as accent flowers (along with various summer garden flowers and plants), we both thought this would be absolutely perfect for our cupcake display.  This means that we aren't really going to have toppers on the cupcakes--but rely on the colors and display to make them stand out on the dessert table.

Since we are going to have several cakes, however, all arranged on stands and tinted with various compatible frosting colors, we decided that they could each be decorated a little differently, but in keeping with our summer-vintage-garden theme.  We thought about flowers, no toppers, vintage toppers and looked over all sorts of other possibilities before stumbling on combining original toppers in a fun way with fondant flowers and simple garden-y accents like butterflies.  And for toppers, we settled

We were inspired by our mermaids--one Teri scored from an Easter egg last Easter during the annual celebration at my mom's house and the other, our daughter Lucy found for us so that we would have two--a redhead and a blonde for our mermaid couple collection.  We thought they would look grand on the top of a cake.  This stimulated my creative scouring juices and I started thinking about what else might make fun lesbian toy wedding cake toppers.  I perused the samplings at Etsy and was tempted by some almost disturbingingly awkward vintage cake toppers of gals in dresses with gold hair (and wondered aloud why all the vintage plastic grooms look curiously like gay men) until I went back to a more modern toy theme.  Without spoiling the surprise for everyone, just know that we have found some other delightful toy combinations and I am convinced our cakes are going to be fantastic!  Most importantly, they are going to be a snazzy representation of us.

And, of course, they won't taste too badly either!

Friday, March 18, 2011

Patriarchal Flare-ups

Most days, I don't think about the fact that I was once married to a male--a "decision" I made when I was 18 years old.  It took a few years of recovery and while I try to keep things in perspective and think of it as a part of my personal evolution, I DO have some bitterness and baggage left over from years of patriarchy (heck, try a lifetime!) and then the struggles of a single parent.  Teri was married to a male as well in her barely-adulthood, but she and I had some very different experiences so she doesn't wrestle with some of the same PTSD flare-ups that I do.

Money, power, control, yelling, threats, and inequality. For much of my twenties, there was really no place for me to go with the resistance that was welling up within me. After all, it was the 80's and 90's and weren't we evolved into a world of equality? Weren't we all civilized and couldn't women do whatever they wanted? Well, no, and without paying mindful attention to gender issues, privilege and the realities of living in a patriarchal society, patterns went unchecked. Plus, who could I go to in a heterosexual, male-dominated world?  When I graduated from high school, I honestly thought that it was just a matter of standing up and taking my equal place in the world--but that STILL isn't how it works.

In truth, I felt bullied both in my years of the first marriage and as a single parent trying to do what was "least worst" for my kids. There was never any child support or alimony or even an equitable distribution (except on paper) of responsibility or authority. I did my best with the situation and felt totally trapped about what I could say and do for the sake of my kids. I tried to find moments of peace and create some fairness or acceptance of the way things were.

My being a lesbian is NOT in response to patriarchy or those experiences--at least I don't think so. I know that there is the idea that males turn women into lesbians and I don't think that is true (and if it WERE true, why not examine the why-ness of THAT?) My previous experiences have contributed to my being very selective about the male energy I allow into my life, however. And, I don't know if I will ever fully recover or shake off the edgy bitterness that developed during that struggle. There are occasional reminders and while I have tried to create a world where I can deal with some of that on my terms--that means diligence, resistance and awareness and that can get pretty darn exhausting!

As I have always told my kids, we have to live in the real world but that doesn't have to mean we have to accept everything as it is. I feel blessed as hell to have made it to where I am and to have stumbled upon the partner I have. Alas, there are still some patriarchal flare-ups to contend with and this wedding and marriage planning process have stirred some up.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Who Has the Conch?

Teri and I have an “internal joke” that we are a reverse power couple.  Meaning, that we really have no power, money or influence, but we are both active, involved and dedicated to community activism for various progressive causes.  We have shared passions and individual ones and we both work for local nonprofit organizations with different missions.  With two of us in the house, one of our challenges is making sure that we both get to share, express ourselves and feel supported.  Sometimes, we don’t do such a great job of making sure that each person gets equal time.

There are some built-in tensions to our work and activism--I have worked in nonprofit management for eons and am now an administrator.  While I continue to promote, supervise and be involved with programs wherever I can, my job is clearly NOT direct services. Teri, on the other hand, is relatively new to nonprofit work and she IS line staff--providing direct services as a youth counselor to an incredibly difficult youth population.  We have very different work challenges but we both have the sort of jobs that are tough to leave on the doorstep--so much stress and responsibility and it requires opportunities to debrief and problem-solve on the home front.

Additionally, figuring out whose causes make it on the calendar and how to balance our work, volunteering, personal, family and even when and who we donate to is an ongoing collaboration.  We have yet to figure out an exact formula and we may never accomplish that--meanwhile, we are trying to pay attention to the fact that sometimes I don't listen and sometimes she doesn't listen.  Sometimes I assume that she will be available for something but she has made other plans with another activity that matters more to her.

As my grown children can testify, it isn't always easy living in a household with me and not for many of the typical reasons.  Having passionately worked for human rights, as well as nurturing a growing awareness of racial, social and economic justice issues, I can be hyper-sensitive.  My determined awareness of white privilege and post-colonial sensibilities, as well as socio-economics, makes me a pain in the butt at casual conversation!  For her part, Teri is not only aware of class and gender issues, but also actively volunteers to counter oppression and other things she cares about such as sexual assault, homelessness, services for vets and anti-war and militarism.  She is new to some of these causes and the challenges and politics that are alive and well in community activism and sometimes, I forget that.  She also tends to be a bit gentler and less of a bulldozer than I have learned to be!

We are learning. Sometimes we rock at sharing and collaboration or even just allowing the other person to have the floor; other times we can each be a bit self-focused and while it might be totally justified, it can create some bumps and tugs on the home front.  I absolutely LOVE that I get to be myself and share a passion for change and activism with someone who is like-minded also involved, but finding time and energy for everyone's "stuff" to get equal airing is an ongoing challenge.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Not-so-Secret Crushes

I am not saying that Teri and I have given each other "free passes" when it comes to our not-so-secret crushes, but I have told the love of my life that if Paula Deen ever left Savannah, Georgia for the West Coast and considered switching teams, I would be the first woman on her doorstep with a pound of organic butter and a copper bowl full of freshly whipped cream.  As for the love of my life?  I know that I would be tossed over in a heartbeat for Tilde Swinton if she were to come sauntering down the street.

In reality, Teri and I are neither fickle, nor, speaking for myself here, tempted by anyone else.  For me, one of the marvelous joys of having met Teri after turning 40 is that I feel confident in my choice and decision that she's the one and I don't feel like I'm missing out on anything by "settling down."  If Paula Deen were standing in the kitchen frying up chicken and making poundcake, however, I could forget how happily committed I actually am.  Our crushes give us a way to playfully acknowledge the things and "celebrity" types we like and admire, but in no way serve as threat to the real love of everyday.

By now, I know Teri's "type" when it comes to instantaneous crushes.  I know when someone walks by or flashes across the movie screen whether or not she will think them appealing or attractive (I think she knows the same of me, although my crush-for-fun tastes tend to be a bit eclectic.)  Part of the fun is that they all tend to be completely different-looking than either she or I and both of us can appreciate an attractive woman or a lovely man.  I am not the slightest bit confused about the difference between real life and true love and the fantasy of a momentary crush.

Although, I have told Teri that if I were to come home and find her in the kitchen frosting a chocolate cake and serving up a platter of ham and mashed potatoes, there is no telling what I might be capable of...

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Queen of Hearts and the Red Queen

"A slow sort of country!" said the Queen. "Now, here, you see, it takes all the running you can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at least twice as fast as that!"

With all the Queens in Alice in Wonderland, it is no wonder that most people assume that The Red Queen and The Queen of Hearts are one and the same. Lately, I think Teri and I have been incorporating elements of both--or, perhaps, doing our best impersonations. She is definitely more the Red Queen and I have been the very reluctant embodiment of The Queen of Hearts in the last couple weeks.  Between us, we have the passion, fury, formality, structure and pedantry of the characters from Lewis Carroll's books.

The Queen had only one way of settling all difficulties, great or small. 'Off with his head!' she said, without even looking round.

Don't I wish?  Yes!  There have been moments lately when I have so wanted to take the easy route to moving things along.  Alas, in a grown-up world of compromise, inclusion and patience, it has been necessary to employ diplomacy and negotiations.  By the end of every day, I have been exhausted from the trials of communication.  By the end of every day, Teri has been exhausted from the trials of work and effort--day in and day out, as if on a treadmill--both of us doing our very best to stay motivated while reminding ourselves that everything in life is only temporary.

It takes all the running we can do, you see, just to keep things moving along...

Monday, March 14, 2011

Weathering Storms

My one-mile walk to the bus stop this morning took me through a gauntlet of branches, debris, and downed and drooping power lines from last night's wind and rain storm. While what we had in no way compares to the earthquakes and tsunamis that Japan and other parts of the world have experienced, it was a storm nonetheless.  Teri and I used the hour and a half that our electricity was off to reconnect and recover from some storms of our own...

Not only have Teri and I both been working a lot, but our jobs have also been stressful and incredibly draining (okay, not Teri's wholesale nursery job--she refers to that as her "Zen Job.") Teri is gone in the mornings before I wake up and I worked late several nights last week.  Meanwhile, there are the compounded peripheral challenges--a misbehaving dog, worries about kids, family and wedding stuff, annoyances, chores, blah, blah, blah.  All the ingredients necessary for some pretty stormy relationship weather.  What it really comes down to is a feeling of disconnect and needing to find a way to get close again amidst chaos and upheaval. When the storm hit last night, we were trying to deal with our own stormy feelings of frustration.

Walking down Park Street this morning, I was struck by the juxtaposition of the storm damage and the warm sun, singing birds and calm morning.  We live in an older neighborhood with huge cedar and pine trees, as well as a great variety of blossoming fruit trees.  At one point, as I walked over a carpet of branches, needles and cones, I breathed in the smell of Christmas from the warming debris.  I realized that the big, old trees probably feel lighter after the storm--the Spring breezes can move through the remaining branches a little easier. In the aftermath of the storm, things seem a bit precarious, tender and intentional. It is the same with couples and people post-storm--there is something beautiful in the rebuilding; a sense of optimism, renewal and deeper breathing. Some of the tension is gone. I notice neighbors waving to each other as they step out into the sunlight to clean up the scattered damage from the storm...

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Lingering Presents (Presence) of Exes

When Teri got home from work yesterday (she is working almost around the clock lately between her two jobs), she shared that she had quite the nasty bruise from the bed.  I  jokingly call our bed frame by her ex's name because a. it is a piece of furniture that Teri brought into the relationship from before and b. it has sharp edges and we have a relatively small bedroom so it pokes and scrapes us if we are clumsily maneuvering in the middle of the night. Just like many areas of our life, our bed is a merging of past and present: her frame, my mattress and box springs, and a combination of hers, mine, old and new bedding.

Two gals do not get to be as seasoned as Teri and I without having made a few attachments in this world.  This is my attempt at pleasantly saying we have been both been married, dated, and partnered before and we have the lingering presents to show for it.  Whether it be in the combination of five adult children who were born biologically to each of us and came to us through some of that partnering, or furniture, art, jewelry, experiences and pets.  One of our three cats, PJ, came to me from an ex who adopted her and then felt the need to re-home her as a kitten.  While it might be ideologically lovely to imagine starting a new relationship with a blank slate both psychologically and possession-wise--that is not the way it works in the real world!

Coming to terms with the past is an absolute prerequisite for being content and committed here in the present.  We knew this prior to getting involved and we understood it to be a major part of the early "work" of our coming together and yet, for women as old us we are, it is an ongoing temporal process.  There are reminders everywhere in the form of things, personal triggers, memories and stories.  Our families of origin seem to be un-ending sources of stories from before, just as our kids constantly re-tell memories of our different incarnations--we are both comfortable (for the most part) and WANT everyone to feel at ease talking about whatever moves them, but it means that we can never completely escape the lingering ghosts of what and who used to be.

Like many areas of life, we choose to process the lingering presents of our exes with humor.   The attacks by the bed are referred to as ex karma and we refer to our "man husbands" or the time when we "used to be straight" as ways of incorporating our histories in a healthy way.  As time passes and we make more purchases, memories and acquisitions jointly, some of those things disappear or fade into the background; others become reincorporated as being ours, and still others remain but lose their power to trigger us in any way. We know that we are in good company--so many other couples must wrestle with what went before--whether because of divorces or break-ups, or because a spouse/partner has died, financial changes, gender transitions, etc.  I prefer to think of it all as gifts of a life well-lived and unfortunately, that means a bump or bruise occasionally as reminder.

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Five Months...and Counting

I was informed by “The Knot” that we have five months to go which means five months left until our ceremony and celebration.  In one moment, that sounds like forever and then in another, I feel a sense of panic that we are running out of Planning Time!  It is funny that it has been over a year since Teri said “yes” and now the days are ticking by with an obvious click as we move through this process. I imagine one of those old movie visuals of the calendar pages tearing off and falling to the floor faster and faster.

The Knot also tells us that while we have 79 tasks left to do, we do not have any overdue tasks on our checklist.  I suppose this means that when it comes to typical Wedding Planning Land, we are on schedule.  Maybe I can check one of those tasks off right now: How are you doing with your dress acquisition attendants?  We are supposed to double-check that you are getting your dresses and accessories…So?

There IS something amiss with this online checklist, however—it is TOTALLY geared toward heterosexual couples, even though The Knot does have same sex weddings and information on their site.  For example, now that I am done with my dress, I can check that off the list, but Teri hasn’t even started her dress quest yet!  While I want the satisfaction of putting a little check in the checkbox and I confess that I am the one who actually enjoys these lists and charts, what about the OTHER BRIDE?

Plus, I do think these “To Do” lists leave out some very important things that need to be tended to along the way to planning a wedding:

  • Second-guess choices and wrestle with self-doubt.
  • Become hyper-sensitive about grey hair, wrinkles and other imperfections—feel horrible for a day or two, vow to go on a shape-up plan, change mind and decide to bake a pie and watch movies full of girls kissing.
  • Change minds about who to include on the guest list due to guilt and obligation.
  • Threaten to include things like “must empty compost” and “fold clean laundry instead of leaving it in the basket” in the wedding vows.
  • Have bi-monthly panic about money and expenses.
  • Grumble about having to re-address invitations because people break-up, separate or re-partner—envelopes and stamps don’t grow on trees you know!  Well…maybe…
  • Wonder aloud if it’s too late to elope?
Just in case you wondered, we are right on schedule with all of those tasks as well!

Life with a Writer

I was nearly thirty before I could think of myself as a writer--by trade and profession. I do other work, yes and I have other skills, but since I was first published in my late twenties, I have embraced the writing work as a definite core part of what I do in this world. It provides a small, but regular part of our income and is my "fall back" trade as well as woven into who I am. There is not a day that goes by that I don't do some sort of writing. BUT, enough about me...

Teri has been often asked how she feels about being "written about" and how it is to live in a house with a writer. I think that people have seen enough tortured writer movies and heard the idealized stories to think it is some romantic ride. Naw, not so much. While I do love the creative expression of putting words on paper (or computer screen), I approach my writing work like work: I do my best, write for an audience and try not to overinflate the importance of any of it. I am not writing out of any sort of angst or as a closeted potential novelist. Sometimes, it is hard to carve out the peace and quiet to concentrate and Teri will tell you that one of her aggravations is that she isn't always clear when I am "working" and when I am doing other things. When am I interruptable and when am I not? Of course, I tell her that I am always interruptable (but we both know that I might be crabby and frustrated if I'm trying to focus.)

As for being written about, we actually discussed and negotiated around this in the beginning of our coming together and again when I have done pieces where she and our life together were interjected.  It was Teri's suggestion that I start this blog and we again chatted about her comfort level with trusting me to write about our scene.  I have heard her tell people when they ask that she feels adequately represented--flaws and all, and if I were just writing about her and not putting myself out there she might feel differently.  One of the realities is that it requires her to feel comfortable with a very public "outing"--as a partnered lesbian woman and she will tell you that has not always been easy for her.  When we started dating, I told her that I was militantly out and wondered if she could move in the world at that level of outness?  We're talking marches, media interviews and the like.  Teri deserves all the credit in the world for being willing to take my hand in hers and walk into the public sphere (even if she had to take a big gulping breath first!)

So, life with a writer is not especially different or exciting except that there is potential for a story, an article, a snippet or some other piece of writing around every corner.  I have noticed that Teri is developing a bit of a sensibility around that as she will now suggest ideas for blogs or stories out of our every-day living.  I am finding it especially fun to be able to share the process in this way!  As for her, she might confess (as she has to me) that she is realizing how odd and interesting it is to have people walk up to her and talk about the things they have read and ask her what she thinks.  As for me, I find that I cannot help but consider her voice when writing this blog and try put that into print along with mine.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Cake Revisited

In addition to all the other tasks and details in Wedding Planning Land, we have been experimenting, evaluating, tasting and practicing with cakes (sounds fun doesn't it?)  One of my earliest blog posts was around my fussing and wondering about what we wanted to do about the wedding cake and while I am no longer really fussing about it, we have been on a quest to turn our "ideas" about the cake part of the reception into more tangible reality.

We have finally settled upon two main cake recipes!  Good thing, too, because Teri was getting a little "tired" of our cake and coffee ritual (okay, I don't think she could ever get sick of the coffee part, but we have had to throw in a pie or a tray of cookies here and there to keep us from getting nauseous at the sight of a freshly-decorated cake.)  I finally hit upon a delicious combination of a moist, dense, chocolate cake with mint buttercream after trying multiple chocolate cake recipes AND we have a favorite moist and brilliant vanilla cake recipe that we will likely pair with an orange or lemon buttercream.  Sounds pretty tasty, doesn't it?  Sure, we could keep going with recipe after recipe, but at some point, two gals just have to make a choice and move on!

There will still be pies and cupcakes too and we probably have plenty of cake stands, plates and other sassy display options since that has been part of the overall "cake quest" as well.  I confess that while it feels good to have settled on some choices here at the five-month mark, I might actually miss the exploration and research stage--it's has been a fun little diversionary adventure scouring cookbooks and other resources for the leading contenders and then mixing up new recipes for our own tastings.  Hmmm...what can I fuss about now?

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why is it Called a Wedding Party?

Before we ever got to hashing out the guest list or the location for our pending celebration, Teri and I laid out who we wanted to stand up with us.  It was emotional and felt important and while we realize that others involved may not feel the same way we do about it, it was a very big deal to us!

It was personal, of course, and we actually told all of the people who we wanted to stand up with us before we told anyone else. For Teri, particularly, it meant so much for her to be able to share with her sister, parents and daughters the genuine intention of our pending commitment.  While we are typically tough-skinned, like many LGBTQ folks, when it comes to family relations, it does matter immensely to be able to share the joys of love with those with whom we walk though life. Also typical of many people who have had to "come out" in our adult lives, we have not always felt the unconditional love and support that many heterosexual people can take for granted.

So, we have put together our "team" and like many engaged couples, different members of our wedding party have different levels of involvement and energy.  This may be news to my dear friend Wendy (who is standing up with me as my "Best Gal"), but we've decided she is Best-Gal-In-Practice for the both of us because she has been such an energetic and encouraging boost of gooey positiveness.  Since Teri doesn't know for sure if her identical twin sister will be able to attend or not, I told her we could share Wendy--she has enough best-galness for the both of us!

There is an unfortunate imbalance in that the daughters who are standing up with me as bridesmaids, as well as my son and sister (who will be officiating) all live here in town, and for Teri, only the daughter Leah  lives here.  Teri does not have a whole team of people from her family and old life to wrap around and carry her through the process and I know that is sometimes hard for her.  Fortunately, she has friends and coworkers who are sharing in the Wedding Planning and excitement and we have a shared circle of people who are digging in and sharing in the excitement and details.

I think there are always challenges and some heaviness that goes with asking and building a wedding party.  We feel vulnerable in the asking and vulnerable in wondering if our chosen people will really "be there" for us and we want to include, share and appreciate those who mean so much to us. After all, a wedding ceremony is really about the sharing, the community and the feeling of connection that comes with making a promise to weave lives, family and friends together.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

How did we Know?

Recently, we have been involved in a few different conversations where the topic has been "How do you know...that you've found the right one?" or How did you know when you were first getting together?

To be honest, I didn't and I don't think Teri would confess to that falsehood either.  It was not the mythological love at first sight, nor when we started to get to know each other did we immediately think that we were meant to be together in any sort of romantic destiny sort of way.

The how-I-know part is actually an evolving gift.  It is big things and little things. Mostly, Teri and I describe it as feeling like we "fit" together; it isn't always easy but it definitely is not hard. As time passes and we show more and more of ourselves to each other, there is a genuine level of acceptance, love and humor.  I imagine that different people are looking or hoping to find different things in the people they bring into their lives, since love is not a one-size-fits-all sort of endeavor.  As Teri and I used to joke, it is all about finding someone whose baggage is compatible with your baggage!

Teri will tell you that she appreciates the fact that I don't try to control her and my ability to diffuse even the most stressful of situations with calmness and humor; I will tell you that I appreciate the way Teri grounds me with her earthy sensibility and that she trusts me to handle my part of things without micromanaging me. We will both confess that we appreciate shared values--family, community, working class work ethic, human rights, education, and a mutual passion for righting the wrongs and fighting for justice and the underdog.  And while I finally came to realize how much all of that matters in my forties, that still doesn't seem like the genuine morsel of how I know that Teri is the gal for me...

There are differences, boundaries, overlap and mutual respect and appreciation. We both had to let go of habits and triggers and previously-held expectations in order to enter into a relationship at this age (I think we have to do it at any age, but it just becomes incredibly tougher the older one gets!)  We had to want it AND be willing to tend to it.  I don't think it has to be hard work all the time, but it does take some tending (weeding, planting, watering and such.) Mostly, I think we had to get out of our own way--tame our egos in order to be present for a separate, different companion.

While I did NOT know in the beginning, every day it is the little, the ordinary and the extraordinary things that reassure me of the universe's gift...this IS the one for me.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Getting Started in the Garden

It is officially spring here and I know this because last night I heard the frogs! There are some wonderful ponds in our neighborhood and I have come to LOVE the nostalgic sound of the frogs chirping away. That isn't the only reason I know it is spring: little sprouts of kale, spinach, lettuce and radishes are all popping up in the vegetable garden, the plum tree at the back of the yard is in blossom, and there are stoic daffodils blooming sporadically around the lot as well...Spring!

Along with the wonders of Spring, here in the Pacific Northwest, we also get the rains and the mud--not quite so wondrous but it seems to keep the plants happy.  This year, almost every bit of gardening and yard work has the pending Wedding as consideration.  I catch myself tucking nasturtium and calendula seeds into places I didn't think about last year and walking around the backyard with
my imagination running on hyper-speed wondering what to do about the slope, the shade, the muddy patches where the neighbor's dog likes to slide when chasing her ball--just as we noticed the blemishes and realities of our home's inside, the garden is unintentionally showing off her flaws as well!

Of course, our celebration is not going to be in the lush abundance of Spring or early Summer, but in hottest part of an Oregon August.  There will not be any mud and the big, old walnut trees will provide dappled light and adequate shade--or at least, that is the hope!  Our perennial and annual plantings are very much geared toward what will be in full bloom or provide fun foliage in the late summer: sunflowers, daisies, calendula, nasturtium, gladiolas, daylilies, gallardia, herbs and natural wildflowers.  It is a bit of a challenge to try to enjoy the evolving seasons through the garden as I normally do and to keep an eye toward the part of year when I normally become a lazy and haphazard gardener. It is also fun to have such a wonderful canvas to play with in preparation for a Summer of focused celebration!

Monday, March 7, 2011

One Dress Down...and One to Go

I have finished crafting my dress.  Although I may have to do some final fitting closer to that hot day in August, I am actually feeling accomplished and studly.  I fussed, I cut, and I conquered.  Well, there was more than that involved, of course, but let’s just say that 8 yards of ivory-colored organic cotton, some ivory thread, vintage handmade cotton lace and a 14 inch zipper smooshed themselves together and I now have The Dress.  There were no magic mice or birds swooping in to hold up the shoulder seams, but it seems a little magical nonetheless.

It was not a process without blood (from all the times I pricked myself with pins and needles), sweat (as I burst into a hot flash while ironing the hem on all those yards of cotton) and tears (ripping out misplaced pleats and refitting a sleeve), not to mention several curse words and a mantra or two of self encouragement.

Not only do I have the Dress, but I also have a very fun crinoline petticoat and a sturdy strapless bra that would make the late Jane Russell coo with approval.  Armed with my foundation garments AND the summer weight cotton, I am experiencing a great sigh of relief.  Now, the Dress does not make me look like a svelte 23-year-old, but I can almost bet if it did, Teri wouldn’t have anything to do with me.  What it does do is it feels like me; it fits the woman that I am at this point in my life: sturdy calves and flubbery arms, freckled cleavage and a dedicated commitment to marry the woman of my dreams.

As for the woman of my dreams…she is NOT ready to embark on the quest for her dress yet and I confessed to her I’m a little disappointed. There is a part of me who wanted to share in the dress hunt and have dual try-on parties in the multi-mirrored fitting rooms.  Of course, we are back to that different pacing AND the fact that Teri wants me to butt out of her dress process and allow her to seek, find, and conquer on her own terms!

The Original, The Essential...The Guide

When Teri said "yes" and we decided to try to have "some sort of ceremony," this was the book we bought first: The New Essential Guide to Gay and Lesbian Weddings.  The other night, we loaned this book to friends of ours, the Boys (yes, they refer to us as "the Girls"), who, while they have been engaged for four years, have become inspired by our wedding to move forward with planning on their own.  That's what I'm talking about!

I read this book and it got me started on the planning process; Teri read this book and she felt validated and ready to embrace the adventure and it gave her the courage to feel like she had every right to step into Wedding Land.  You see, the straight world has done a pretty darn good job of scaring off Gays and Lesbians with their customs, strict gender divisions, made-up rules and etiquette.  Well, and then there's the hate and homophobia but let's not go down that road at seven o'clock in the morning, shall we?

So, having bolstered ourselves with the fabulous information in this book (Why bother having a wedding, especially where it's not legal? and What to do with that silly piece of tissue paper in an invitation?), we were able to let it go and share with others who want to walk this path too! Everybody needs a good book or two and it sure helps to have some examples and models to pave the way for those who follow.  Teri has never really thought of herself as a trailblazer before and while there are those who have gone before US, we don't actually personally know them!

In addition to the book, we recommended the online web magazine Equally Wed to the Boys.  This isn't a print magazine (that is something I would love to see personally) but it is useful.  The site is only about a year old and it is still evolving but Teri appreciates it for the photos of "Real Weddings"--there is nothing like a deluge of constant images of young, white straight couples to make two 40+ lesbians feel invisible, so it is nice to see what real people have done with their real ceremonies.

There are not a plethora of resources out there yet for same sex couples who want to tie the knot.  There are more than there were 20 years ago, but while politicians and conservative church funders battle it out on the legal front, more and more couples like Teri and I are just deciding to move ahead with the fun and meaningful part.  I have written before about how it is still not easy or common, but each time two of us walk down the aisle, it makes it a little more normal.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Late Grandfather's Tub

This is NOT my late grandfather, but the also-deceased Robert Rauschenberg--a prominent and influential 20th century American artist.  Same generation, same first name, same age, different tubs...

Last night, Teri and I went with my mom and my sister to the University Theatre (at the University of Oregon) to see a production of bobrauschenbergamerica, a play written by Charles L. Mee and first produced in 2001.  My younger sister has just gone back to school as a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Theatre Arts department--an accomplished actor in the "real world" she is working toward a PhD in Theatre and plans to morph into a professor for the second half of her life.  While she didn't help with this production, the fact that she is in the department contributed to the fact that the integral claw foot tub in this production, came from Tuff's (my grandfather) cabin.
For a play that well-represents an artist who well-represented the speeding up of the 20th century, I came away feeling as though I had just experienced a coked-up Norman Rockwell vision. Watching young student actors climb in and out of my grandfather's tub added a layer to the play unique to me but so perfectly fitting with the themes and textures of the work of both the playwright and the artist who inspired the play.

Things.  Items.  Objects. Images. History. Memories. My grandfather died in 2008--moments after my daughter Lilly and I left him in a hospital room.  I think about him almost every day and miss him almost as often.  Teri has only heard stories, seen photos and video instead of actually meeting him, since she sauntered into my life about five months after Tuff's death.  This IS my grandfather and it seemed absolutely fitting to me that a play about the intangible creation of the myth and idea of "American" would have a historical piece of him rolling through it.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

What IS in a Name?

Identity is a big deal. Our names represent us to the rest of the world and I have known people who have wrestled with getting a first name that felt like a fit, and wrestled with what to do with last names that did or didn't feel like accurate representations of themselves as well.  Our names are history, language, connection and baggage!

For Teri and I, we have had the "name discussion" a few times and, for me, getting comfortable with my name has been an evolving process.  I was born with the surname Nickson, but that was replaced by Rodley when I was three and my mother remarried the man who became my Dad and he legally adopted my brother and I. For much of my childhood, Rodley felt like a functional, but borrowed name.  When I married the man-husband at the age of 19 (yeah...that is a whole bookshelf of conversation), I legally added Irons to my name and pretty much used both Rodley and Irons since then.  Not hyphenated, although it often is, just two last names.

When I divorced years ago, the legal decree stated that I got my "maiden" name back.  At the time, however, my much younger children had strong feelings about our having the "matching" names so I just kept using the two.  Now, of course, I have had the name Irons longer than I have had any other surname but it really doesn't belong to me.  My kids are grown and they no longer care, but I have used Irons professionally for so long that it will take time to really let that go completely--even though I am quite ready!

Teri was born with the name Thompson and when she married the man-husband at the age of 21 (yep, we both got married the first time in 1986), she took his name of Schlesinger.  But just to add another twist, that was not his original birth name either!  Her original man-husband legally changed his name to something that sounded more "American" and less ethnic. When she divorced, her daughter also had a strong reaction to her changing her name and Teri thinks that is still the case, so she gave up any plan to let go of her original married name. 

So when the two of us talked about the whole name dilemma, we decided that she didn't want my man-husband name and I didn't want hers (heck, I don't even want mine anymore).  We didn't really want to make up a new name and go through all that red tape to both change our names--it just seemed too much of a hassle at this point. On the legal domestic partner paperwork, we can only do some limited combinations of each other's existing names.  Does it bother me that she has someone else's name?  Sometimes it does a little, but not because it is someone else's.  It bothers me because it is SO easy for hets to marry and change their names, it was easy for my Dad to adopt me and slap the moniker Rodley onto my identity, but it is quite hard for two middle-aged women to inhabit a family name that truly fits with a simple legal process.  We are both so far into this life and have such connections and attachments wrapped up in a lifetime of naming that there doesn't seem to be room for more shake-up.

So, for now, she remains Schlesinger and I am working to drop the Irons from my name so that I am back to Rodley only.  In reality, I don't feel like I have a surname that truly fits or adequately represents my family connections. Changing our names is not going to be part of our marriage union even though we might both prefer that it was different.

Have I Got a Deal for You!

Is there anyone who loves setting foot on the lot at a car dealership?  I remember as a kid, my dad used to stalk the car lots on Sunday afternoons (when they used to be closed on Sundays!) and with us kids scrunched in the cab of his reliable old Ford truck pinching and poking each other, he would wander the long aisles of shiny new cars scoping them out sans sales people.

Teri and I are embarking on our biggest joint purchase to date.  We thought signing a lease and purchasing plane tickets together was a big deal, but shopping for a new-to-us car takes things to a whole new level!  Plus, we are old, we are seasoned--we've been there and done just about everything in the grown up finance and purchase department and we have a damn good idea what we do and don't want.

We have been chatting and researching for a little while now and the other night at dinner, I pushed the envelope: "Let's schedule a time to actually go to a lot and start looking at real live cars..."  With datebooks in hand, we penned in Friday morning and promised ourselves lunch after as a reward.

One of the things I am most grateful for and that I absolutely LOVE about my relationship with Teri is how we deal with money.  Having experienced this as a tortuous challenge in past relationships, it was actually an area of negotiation for us when we were coming together as a couple.  We have similar spending patterns and we both bring a blue collar/working class sensibility and frugality to our finances.  So you can bet that when we step on to the car lot, we know exactly how much we are willing to spend and have a pretty good idea of what we expect to get for that (of course, we expect far more than is reasonable, but that is because we are Americans!)

Teri and I were both also raised by strong-minded, mechanically-savvy dads--we constantly have various idioms and old-school warnings bouncing around when it comes to approaching the areas of life that used to be considered "manly."  As we were heading out the door yesterday morning, I heard me channeling my dad when I barked, "Well, let's go so we can get back!" 

Having done our research, I felt confident that we could fend off anyone who wanted to shoehorn us into anything.  Teri's approach was to set limits on what she was willing to do to try to maintain a sense of control.  We are not desperate or in a hurry and we can't be rushed and I knew from experience that anyone who tried to do that to her would likely loose the arm they extended to shake ours!  I didn't know until we walked across the lot that she was not going to do any test driving on the first trip out.  Okay, good move, I thought--and I promised her that I would shoo off anyone who came over before we were ready to chat.

After running off one salesperson, we got a chance to wander some more before an older one sauntered over to us.  He had a different approach and we managed to out ourselves with the skill that comes with years of necessary outing and he didn't bat an eye--immediately treating us as co-potentials.  We knew what he was up to and he knew it, and he seemed to assess where we were coming from pretty quickly.  Alas, we actually liked him. He showed us how to peruse pre-owned vehicles online (we flat-out told him that neither of us ever intends to buy a brand new car again having learned the depreciation lesson in our twenties) and extracted more information about us as we extracted more information about the modern car-buying process.  He didn't try to hold us there and when we headed off to lunch, we had to admit that we actually had...cough, dipping our toes in the pond of car shopping!

Stay tuned for the continuing saga of Kori and Teri buy a car...