Disappointments are to the soul what a thunder-storm is to the air. --
Tuesday, April 26, 2011
Teri's oldest bio baby head (as I have taken to calling them) or her daughter, Ashley, turned 25 on Sunday. A week ago, my oldest bio baby head, Lucy, turned 21. Both Teri and I have felt some pretty intense pangs of nostalgia and bitter-sweetness over this wonderful and inevitable maturing. It only seems a few years ago that they were bubbly little girls. We don't really feel any older and where has the time gone?
In the days preceding Easter, as I was preparing things to take and we were figuring out what we'd bring to the big brunch feast, I had momentary reality lapses. Wandering through the grocery store on Friday, I originally thought I'd make a couple big pans of cinnamon rolls (but when I did that last year, the early-attenders ate them all before everyone else arrived) but then decided that we'd make pies instead. For an instant I thought, oh, Gramps will be happy we've brought a pie. A second later I reminded myself that Gramps has been dead for three years and while he would be quite impressed with Teri's pie baking talents, he hasn't ever eaten a piece.
Memories overlap like shadows with the moment that is. Sitting next to Lucy at my Mom's on Sunday, I asked her if it seemed strange that her younger cousin, Emily, now had a baby? She answered with an unequivocal YES. After all, it seems only a few years ago that my kids and my brother's were also having big battles over who had control of the goat shed. Now they are adults, building lives, and there is a whole new generation of little people I don't even really know wandering around eating candy and stealing black olives from my mother's brown relish dish.
There were times when I thought I heard my dad's voice or expected to see him standing in front of the fireplace when I walked into the living room (he, also, has been dead a couple years) and yet I was totally grounded in the now of the family incarnation. Teri was there with me and that feels right. The kids are the age they are and that feels right as well. My sister is 40, my brother is a grandfather, I am a lesbian, my ever-perky grandmother is 84 and doesn't really look a day over 70. There are new partners and spouses and kids and recipes. I've watched as the food has gone from the jello salads and coffee cakes of my youth, to healthier fare in the 80s & 90s and now to delicious and amazing (and made with butter and chocolate and gravy and glaze) as we've all become wonderful cooks and bakers.
Nostalgia is an interesting gift, but I also think that getting to watch a family grow and expand is an amazing gift as well. There are stories of where the family came from and how things "used to be" but they hold a limited place. I do believe that my memories of those people who are now gone were a way of honoring their ever-present place in the family tapestry while making room for all the new and change and evolution. Thank goodness, in my family, there is always more room and when my 82-year-old great-aunt comes in the house and asks me "where's your girl?" (meaning Teri), I feel so grateful that this is the moment of time I get to inhabit.
Tuesday, April 19, 2011
I really don't like to think of myself as a control freak. I would much rather think of myself as an easy-going, whatever-floats-your-boat sort of person. In fact, it is one of my determined goals to get to that boat floating place before my time on this earth ends...if it kills me.
Alas, as Big Edie says in the 1970's documentary of Grey Gardens, I "have to live in this world" and that means that I have to accept that as organized and forward-thinking as I might try to be, I can't possibly have as much control as I'd like. There are other people doing their thing as well.
Between Wedding Planning Land and work transition, that feeling of being out of control has been exacerbated. I don't know how it is for other NOT control freaks (NCFs), but for me there is this nagging feeling that while I'd truly like to let go, I just know that it is going to come back to haunt me in a pile of doo doo that needs my attention to clean up. (Picking up others' dog poo has actually been my ongoing metaphor for the past few months) Teri says this is a combination of being a control freak and a martyr and it is decidedly NOT attractive as far as she is concerned.
So, when the neighbor's dog tears down and eats our wooden initials off a tree, or an outgoing employee accidentally deletes our donor database, my tendency is to ask myself what I could and should have done to keep such things from happening. After all, isn't it ultimately my responsibility to replace, fix or find a solution? Maybe not (okay, yes it actually IS my responsibility but I guess I don't have to go to the martyr place). Maybe it's just a thing that happens. Life goes on. As Teri points out, we Americans are very possessive and territorial about whatever little bits of stuff and space we think we have. Other cultures are much better at sharing, collaborating and existing in communal space. I also tend to cling to the birth order explanation--after all, I am an eldest and it comes naturally for me to feel a bit bossy and responsible. Teri is the barely-youngest of five (as an identical twin, she and her sister were the last family additions, but Teri is technically the last born) so she got used to not being in control or feeling responsible for others' actions and behaviors from an early age.
While I'm probably not going to ever be cured of my tendency to try to get on top of life's natural chaos, I tend to keep more and more of it to myself--which I think is relative progress. My over-developed sense of fairness and responsibility seems to go hand in hand with my judgment of those who don't seem to be doing their part (but so much of that is made up in my head anyway) and that feeds into that martyr syndrome: Oh, if I don't do it, who will???? I do have some awareness and I can have a sense of humor about it, but so far it hasn't stopped me from wanting to bring order to the world.
So, on I go. If truth be told, if it wasn't the Wedding or Work bringing out the urge to bring function to dysfunction and create smooth flow and checklists, it would likely be something else. While I do know that I can't control other people, I can't control the weather and I definitely can't be held accountable for everything, that doesn't seem to stop me from feeling the responsibility. If only...
Monday, April 18, 2011
I am a bit stubborn. I don't know how many people have had to hear me complain that my folks still have the same actual plug-into-the-wall phones that I grew up with and now I've had almost as many phones as I've had pairs of shoes in my adulthood! Teri and I don't even have a land line at our house--we pay for two cell phones. Good grief! So, I have been reluctant, old-fashioned and stubborn. Not to mention, I have some nostalgic attachment to my phone. It has been on several trips with me (including a couple international ones) and kept me connected to the folks back home. It has also been the comfortable cache for photos of Teri and I since BEFORE we were officially dating. I have a little history in pictures of my phone from the very beginning and I feel quite possessive of that little bit of digital sentimentality.
Regardless, Teri helped me choose and order a new phone on Friday. I've attempted it a few times in the past couple months on my own but I get overwhelmed by all the choices and crabby at all the things I don't want. The new phone is arriving today. I am feeling heavy and nostalgic as I back up my contacts and sort through photos and choose ones to keep. I found a couple photos of my dad who has been dead now for almost two years, there were photos of the kids when they were a. still in public school and b. still lived at home, and there are photos of Teri and I--saucy ones that she sent me when we were "courting" and early, gooey couple ones that we obnoxiously took of ourselves. My battered and scratched little Samsung is a time capsule of attachments.
I will adjust of course. It is the nature of living in the time we do. We are forced to change, upgrade and move on. I am really not a naturally sentimental person and tend to be one of the first people to embrace change and progress--perhaps that is why I cling so tightly to a few things that have some historical context--photos, a sturdy coat, Mother's Day cards the kids made for me. I might not feel so nostalgic if I was actually afforded the opportunity to get tired or sick of something before being nudged and pushed to upgrade and change.
I'm sure I will like my new cell phone and I will get over the awkwardness of a new key board and new features in a few days. AND, I have managed to back-up all my cherished history photos, but wouldn't it be nice if everything in this modern world wasn't all about the "new every two" (or three or four or even five?)
Sunday, April 17, 2011
Yes, indeed, exciting news. We now have two ivory dresses hanging in the closet! Yesterday, Teri went back for a dress she found a couple weeks ago, tried it on and handed it over to me to make the purchase. Well, if truth be told, I offered to carry it so that if she should start to change her mind or have thoughts of putting it back and purchasing a couple pair of cargo shorts instead--I could rush to the register and make a quick getaway.
Now her cocktail-length, lined linen dress can nestle up to my tea-length cotton one and wait for the big day. Whew...
When I try on my dress, I feel like a bride. When Teri called me back into the dressing room from my backpack-watching post, I couldn't quite find the words to describe how I felt seeing her standing there in what is to be her dress. As I told her later, when I try on my dress, I feel like a bride (albeit an older, somewhat lumpy one)--seeing her in the dress she will wear made me feel like a broom. I feel lucky to get to explore all the different sides of this love, devotion, commitment package--both the gendered stuff and the doesn't-really-fit-the-gendered stuff. She was beautiful, it is a perfect dress for her and it is completely different from mine. For those who wonder about these things, we are not mirror images of each other and while we might both be wearing dresses come August 13th, there will not be anywhere near identical.
Each step we take on this journey to the marriage ceremony feels increasingly poignant and weighted with purpose. There is intention, consideration, and patience with different processes. I get to know her better and she, likewise, sees more and more of what makes me tick. In the dress-hunting process, I learned all sorts of things about what she likes, what she doesn't and, ultimately, seeing her standing there in her dark socks and asking me to do up the back zipper, how she wants to be attired on our wedding day. So much about this process is both exciting and terrifying and knowing that we both now have our dresses hanging at the ready is one of those multi-status checklist items!
Saturday, April 16, 2011
The kids all call Teri "Tiger" from a nickname I gave her before we were even officially dating. Heck, half the people in Eugene now call her Tiger and it fits her perfectly (I think it might just be one of her favorite nicknames too.) Lately, I've noticed what she hasn't--she has quite the fan club amongst the family and friends I brought to the relationship.
A couple months ago, when I was in Roseburg for a great-uncle's funeral, my grandmother pulled me aside as we were leaving the Mason's hall to say "I am so glad you are happy. Truly, it is good to see you so happy." This is from the same 84-year-old grandmother who let me know from the first time she met Teri that she "really liked my friend!" As for my kids and their friends, they have also claimed Tiger as their own. Often, I am certain they like her better than they like me. My son never fails to ask how she is and both Lucy and her boyfriend Jacob have offered to "switch sides" if Teri needs some extra people to stand up with her during the wedding since representatives from her family may not be able to attend. They have been very bold in letting her know that they've "got her back!"
Ending a phone call with my mother the other night, she told me the usual "Give Teri a big hug from me." She then added, "after all, she's one of my favorite daughter-in-laws." You have to know that my family is as ordinary as they come--working class, West-coast, and not particularly progressive. If they can embrace the normalcy of our relationship and fall in love with Teri as a member of the family--anyone can do it with the gay folks in their world. And just between you and me and the wallpaper, it means the world to both of us.
Thursday, April 14, 2011
Well, I got the emails yesterday reminding me that we only have "four months to go!" before our ceremony and celebration. Without really understanding the why of it, it sent me into an immediate state of panic. Oh no! How are we doing? What are we forgetting? Oh no!!!!
We're fine. It isn't really that different from planning other events and they all tend to follow the same trajectory--this is the stage when some of the things you thought were set set start to dissolve a bit, you re-group and continue on. For example, we've made adjustments to our music plans since we couldn't get adequate response from the people we approached to DJ and the person we thought was going to be helping out with the photos has a conflict. No biggie, plan B. This is why planning starts early so that it doesn't really feel like a crisis when things shift. Even the fact that Teri's chosen Best Gal, her twin sister, has shared that she doesn't think she'll be able to make it after all hasn't thrown us into a tailspin. We have options, we can adjust. It is real life after all and we are seasoned, resilient women!
As I've learned from doing other events and I'm finding it to be especially true with this Wedding Planning Land, it is always amazing who really steps up and where the true allies are. Sometimes, it is who you expected and sometimes, it is a delightful surprise! Our friends, family and coworkers are making us feel like two of the luckiest and most blessed women on the planet.
So, for those of you who are keeping track, we do have some un-done tasks that we need to take care of in the next month or so (and some that we thought we had taken care of that have come back up on the "to do" list): we still need to find our rings, Teri still needs her dress, we haven't finalized the music selections for the ceremony, we haven't booked anything for our honeymoon yet but we do know what we want to do, we haven't even started on the particulars for the ceremony, we need to find another photographer, I don't think all of our attendants have their dresses and clothes yet although they do have plans for such, we haven't settled on the type or style of "guest book alternative" we want, and I'm sure there are a few other little details that should be getting done around this time. We're on it, we haven't fallen behind and if they would stop sending me those marketing, stress-inducing emails, I wouldn't be panicking at all about how well we are doing staying on schedule!
Wednesday, April 13, 2011
When older, single people we know talk about the challenges and realities of dating, one of the things they tend to come back to is "I like my life; I get to do what I want, when I want and I don't have to adjust to anyone else's schedule!"
Well, that is true and it is one of the joys of being unconnected (although as someone who has been either in a relationship or a parent since I was 18, I am not sure I truly understand what they are talking about) but I think that the joys of compromise and collaboration get overlooked. Yes, I said "joys"--not challenges, struggles or horrors. Joys of compromise...
Now, in all honesty, I get as tired of communication, collaboration and compromise as the next gal. My work in nonprofit management is very collaborative (one of the reasons I cling to the freelance writing on the side is that it is pretty much a solitary endeavor) and it is all about the team and the communication in social justice work. Having raised three kids as a single parent, I have learned how to pick battles, let go and negotiate and partnering with Teri has given me further opportunities to expand, let go and learn how to communicate and negotiate on an intimate level with a whole new person.
There are things that I do that I wouldn't ordinarily do; I might not choose to do them if I were solely on my own and the same goes for her. There are movies I've seen, places we've gone and activities we've done that I would have never come to by my own volition. Compromise and collaboration has made for an expansion of life--not the inhibiting contraction that people tend to think. Even seemingly simple things like which cereal to buy or what to have for dinner take on some expansive elements when two or more people are negotiating around what they both want.
I don't always get exactly what I want, but sometimes I do. And, because I'm lucky enough to live in community and relation with other people--sometimes I experience things I didn't know I'd like or want...
Tuesday, April 12, 2011
I have learned a new term: "micro-aggression"--it is a dandy way to explain those little bits of oppression and "isms" that people perpetrate whether intended or not. For example, when a stranger notices someone who appears to be a parent with a child who seems to be a person of color and goes out of their way to comment on how beautiful the child is or how well behaved. The underlying assumption is that an ordinary child of color wouldn't behave reasonably and that is racism.
What I have found to be true is that while many of us have been taught that things like hatred and overt bigotry are wrong, we have not learned to be aware of how to counter or work on the privilege and covert isms that we carry around. So, intended or not, without awareness and conscious effort, it is quite easy to walk around perpetuating oppression and bigotry and while you may be forgiven by those you oppress, that doesn't make it okay.
Enough of the lecture--one of the realities of my life--or mine and Teri's--is that we are white, so we have that privilege going on, but we are also out lesbians--so we have some awareness of what it feels like to be outside the presumed norm of society. People automatically assume all sorts of things about us and we have to constantly choose how to respond, react, or maneuver. One of the things that gets said to us more than I appreciate is "Are you two sisters?" I actually, honestly, hate that!
Even if you are a beginner at privilege awareness (maybe I'll teach a class "Privilege Awareness 101"), I'll bet you can unpack this micro-aggression: First, the assumption is that everyone is heterosexual so two women who are close, holding hands or enjoying each other's company in a comfortable way must be related somehow--as opposed to being a couple. Second, since we are both sort-of fair-skinned (although she has red hair and freckles and I'm more of a sandy-and-grey-haired gal) and Caucasian, we must be sisters since we supposedly look so much alike. Never mind that people can be related and NOT look alike or that we don't really look anything alike and are just two pasty white women. Third, that it is ever okay to make out loud assumptions about people's status in relation to each other is a mistake.
Okay, that is my brief rant about that. Teri doesn't mind it as much as I do and she always answers the same way: "No we're not, but I have a sister and she actually looks much more like me since we're identical twins." I don't usually answer but have been known to give a curt "No" with a disapproving look. I have also been known to walk away or, if I'm feeling really "militant" (another micro-aggression word since anyone who is staunchly resistant to the norm is either militant or flamboyant), I will say "No, we are partners." But why should I have to?
I know you mean well and that you are just trying to make conversation. Or you may genuinely be assuming that since we are two fair-skinned white women we must be sisters, but don't. Stop. This is just one of the little ways that heterosexism and racism are perpetuated. Expand your repertoire of how people can be associated with each other and allow people to exist without being categorized, assumed and packaged in a way that 1950's novels tell you they can exist. I'm just sayin'...
Monday, April 11, 2011
If ever two gals needed a little respite, it was Teri and I: long work weeks; transitional stress; wet, rainy bike rides; a needy, whiny dog--all combined to create a world where we were anything but relaxed and feeling a craving need to reconnect with each other without any distractions.
I can't really take credit, it was actually Teri's idea. A couple weeks ago--in the midst of some pretty tough work stuff for both of us, she made me sit down at the computer and we booked a weekend away. We committed and come hell or last minute chaos, we were going! I spent all day Thursday in interviews for a new position at my workplace. I had to live with the ambiguity of our hiring panel NOT making an immediate decision. Sure, I could have plodded back to work on Friday (even though I'd been telling and preparing everyone that I'd be gone) and be the responsible, follow-up person--but I just couldn't. I was committed, I promised Teri this weekend away. So the decision would have to wait--work would have to wait because our spending some time together just couldn't!
That said, it only took me about a day to start to feel truly relaxed. No work talk. Minimal kid talk and minimal what-should-we-do-about-the-dog talk. Walks, soaks, naps, shopping, museums (more on that in the next couple days.) It all went by in a slow daze of pleasant mellow. Absolutely perfect and I am forever amazed at how easily compatible Teri and I are. We do darn well in the midst of stressful life but when we get away from all of that, our obvious compatibility and the way we just simply enjoy each other's company seems an incredible gift.
While we weren't eager to get back home, we weren't really avoiding it either. I wasn't sure that I wanted to talk to anyone else again (aside from servers, store clerks and the occasional vacationing stranger) but alas, back to the real world! I do feel refreshed and I am gently reminded how fabulous it is to be marching through this time in my life with such a perfect-for-me partner...
Tuesday, April 5, 2011
It was our daughter, Lucy, who convinced us that it would be fun and make it easier for people. I think we thought that if we didn't say anything or do any of the registry stuff people would not feel obligated or even make the effort to get us gifts. Alas, we were set straight on that one! I guess it is what people do--even queermo people getting hitched these days--so we tried to put our own little spin on it even if it still makes us feel a bit uncomfortable.
We aren't really setting up house and we have both been through so many moves and a few break-ups and we've learned the best way to cope with the inevitable letting go is to just not get attached to stuff and things in the first place. Things come, things go, things break, things end up sitting on a shelf in your ex's house--ask anyone who is divorced or been through a nasty break-up and you'll hear some strong reservations about joint purchases and joint ownership. The first Christmas Teri and I spent together, we bought joint ornaments--a set of six--so that if we should split up, we could each take 3 with us! Now, granted, we have settled down a bit in terms of our fear-based need to NOT get attached to things, but the whole wedding wedding registry philosophy is an ill-fit for us.
Well, we DID go around Target (at that time, we thought they were friendly to the gays, but since then all this stuff has gone down so now we have some Target-guilt) with the zapper gun and figured out what we could actually use and enjoy. And we DID go to a local store and do an old-fashioned written-by-hand-list of stuff we would probably never actually splurge and purchase for ourselves. Then we just let the whole thing go. We don't think about it and we don't actually need anything. When it comes to Wedding Planning Land and all the other busy details of everyday life, we just don't really think about it at all. I imagine there are young couples who get married for the gifts--heck, I suppose there are old couples who get married with an eye on the gift basket too--but for Teri and I, it is all about the commitment and the party for us. We really just want people to show up and have a wonderful time and share in our big day. Besides, we each already have rolling pins we are quite attached to and we've managed to hang on to them through a few life changes.
Monday, April 4, 2011
I am a fairly easy target for critics and criticism. I have a somewhat public job--on a little scale--and as I've moved along in my career, more and more of it is about relationships and dealing with all sorts of people and their psychologies and less is actually about tasks and competency. I vacillate between stepping into messy situations and making decisions, and listening to people tell me how they think things should have really been handled. My intentions may be decent--but that isn't always how things go down. It is new for me to have someone in my life who gets agitated and ticked off when she thinks things are getting out of control or she thinks I am getting unfairly attacked.
As for Teri, she is not always thrilled when I get hot and angry about things going on in her world. My desire to leap in and right the wrongs can come across as a lack of confidence in her ability to handle things on her own. We are both pretty strong-minded women. We tend to jump into causes and challenges and assume that we will have the strength and broadness of shoulders to handle whatever comes our way. Funny, but I don't worry so much about what is coming in my direction but I do get bothered by what is going in hers!
Recently, I have declared that I will never support an organization that I feel didn't treat her well and she has vehemently declared that she will never support someone she thinks criticized me unfairly. We are funny, I suppose, in our protectiveness and willingness to do battle on some level, but maybe that is what is meant by having each other's backs?
Sunday, April 3, 2011
When I was single in my late thirties and early forties, I used to refer to those women whom I never saw out-and-about as "nesters." I would see/meet them at work functions or large community events like Pride, but wouldn't see them at potlucks, dances, coffee groups, etc. Surely I didn't own the term "nesters" but I appropriated and it seemed to fit. It was never meant derogatorily, but more as a way of differentiating between the busy, bouncy singles and those who had homes and partners to tend.
The truth is, maybe I was a little bit envious. After all, even when I was married to the man-husband in my early twenties, I didn't really feel compelled to nest with a partner or feel nurtured by couple-hood. I had my kids and was very interested in making sure they had a comfortable and healthy home, but we were on the go quite a bit and staying home or staying in was not necessarily experienced as a good thing. I spent so much time as a single or solo parent and there were always soccer games, sleepovers, and other events to manage and attend.
When Teri and I met, we met out-and-about. In the early weeks and months of our courtship, we did a great deal of dancing, meeting for coffee, movies, house parties and other public wanderings. We were very social and both of us quite busy with our different (and shared) activities, jobs and social circles. I have come to understand that there is a season for everything and we don't feel the slightest bit guilty (despite criticism) for the fact that while we still might go out to the ocassional dance or wander over to lesbian coffee every couple months, our lives are in a different space.
As Teri explained it, we are together and we enjoy each other's company--but we have never moved exclusively in any one "community." She pointed out the nature of our different work worlds makes it so that we interact with a variety of people constantly so often we find balance and solace in each other's companionship. We don't really ever get the chance to get lonely! We actually work to carve out the time to be together when we have some leisure time and an evening at home with just the two of us is such a delightful treat--if that makes us nesters then so be it...
We have watched as some of our friends have matched and mated and also shifted in how and when they socialize. It is always interesting to watch as women meet and begin dating and then, if there is a break-up, usually at least one of them resurfaces and starts bouncing around in the single scene again--grumbling about "nesting." The fact is, relationships need care and attention; they need to exist in both a private and personal realm, and as a unit in a more public/community setting. I genuinely love spending time with Teri as my friend and companion--in addition to being madly in love with her. I have other friends too, and we socialize individually and as a couple, but often if I have my druthers, I'm happiest just being sequestered with my girl.
This is new for me, after five decades of wandering all over this planet and bopping and bouncing in and out of homes, coffee shops, parties, and all sorts of events, it's pretty darn nice to have a comfy nest to settle into with the perfect-for-me companion...
Saturday, April 2, 2011
We watched a video where a group of etiquette-os were debating the drama of Prince William going wedding ring-less. I suppose that is a big deal to some. For Teri and I, we are still in the midst of our quest for the rings we will wear as wedding bands and I can assure you, there has been much chat, debate and searching as we try to find the perfect "symbols" of our commitment.
I have mixed feelings about wedding rings and symbols in general. When I asked Teri to marry me, I also asked her if she wanted an engagement ring. She did and she fell in love with a wonderful silver ring designed and made by a local artisan. It is etched with bark-like lines and has an inset black diamond. As for me, I wanted some sort of engagement ring, but I wanted something simple. Mine is a small silver rope ring designed by the same artist. I plan to wear it along with whatever band(s) we end up settling on for the actual ceremony.
We have investigated traditional bands--leaning toward silver or white gold since those are the metals that we both like to wear at this point in our lives. We even investigated other metals like tungsten carbide--going so far as to try some on in a jewelry store (we decided it was quite heavy and most of the ring designs were far too masculine for our taste.) We have debated whether to go with matching, similar, different--you name it, we have discussed this whole wedding band topic in detail!
I could have easily been talked out of wedding bands--that is how ambivalent I feel about them. I think for me, they are somewhat of a leftover hetero symbol but I have been open to re-inventing the custom to fit who Teri and I are as a couple. For Teri, she doesn't have the same ambivalence and she knows that she wants some sort of a wedding band. I can shift my thinking to imagining the wedding band as a symbol of commitment and unending love (as opposed to possession and status) but like many elements of this journey to the ceremony, it is an expanding process.
Recently, we have been looking at hand-crafted wooden rings--I am especially smitten by those made by recycled wood and taken with the warmth and earthiness of the rings I've seen. I have never had a wooden ring before and that adds to the specialness and the uniqueness of having one for a wedding band for me. AND, since each one is made individually, they might be similar and from the same piece of wood, but they would be different and unique.
No decisions have been made...there will be rings, but the quest for the wedding bands continues...