Thursday, June 30, 2011
I am envious of those people who go through life acting on gut, instinct and emotion--mostly I am envious. I tend to filter everything cerebrally and I joke that my brain is the most-used organ in my body. It took me decades to realize and embrace the fact that I am not a free-flowing, emotionally-driven artist and what creativity I do have is entirely mental.
When I first met Teri, a bunch of women were chatting about what attracted them to someone else and she unabashedly said that while she may notice a person who was physically attractive momentarily, the real attraction came through conversation and mental connection. Hmmmm, I thought, a tribe mate!
So, as our Wedding day approaches, our brains are working overtime and we are finding ways to settle, cope and connect amidst the stress and anxiety. It isn't about doubt or worry over whether or not we are doing the right thing, it is more performance anxiety: will we be able to get everything done? Can we figure out the best seating chart? And what about standing up in front of everyone and saying those vows? Will we be able to tend to the visiting friends, family and loved ones? What about the people we haven't heard from--are they more offended by the Gayness than we realized? We are thinking, fussing, and it is all from the neck up!
It has gotten a bit quiet around here as both Teri and I have retreated into our worry-heads and we both find ways to cope and process and manage. We think we've talked it through and reassured each other but this is a big deal and it doesn't take long before our brains are in charge again. Our dreams are intense. We are both trying to do as much walking, biking and yoga as we can fit in and are keeping an ever-replenishing collection of dark chocolate at the ready. There is some reassurance in that we are not alone and that while others may cope and deal differently, this is completely appropriate behavior for two women who are about to produce the biggest doins, on top of the biggest commitment of the second-half of their lives! No pressure, of course...
Wednesday, June 29, 2011
All that said, I wouldn't have been the mother I am and was if I hadn't have done other things too. I worked, I got educated, I involved myself with causes and community, and while I was not waiting at home every day with a plate of hot cookies when my kids came home from school, I was always as available as possible and as authentic as I could muster. I made mistakes, sometimes I was self-absorbed, other times I was smotheringly over-protective--I learned as I went along and my strongest motivators were to stay involved; stay engaged; and support their evolution as individuals and citizens.
I am still the Mother. Teri and I have a shared belief system in that we have never wanted to be our kids' friend--we were parents, mothers and grown-ups and while our job now is to stay out of the way more times than not, I still don't consider myself my kids' friend. I am champion, coach, therapist, ask-a-nurse, fan club president, Butterball Turkey hotline (my term for the cooking calls and questions), occasional donor and, always, the mother. I continue to try to be an example even though they will all go their own ways in life. What continues to delight and amaze me is that they all very much want me to be a part of their lives--the connection has changed but it continues.
Yesterday, I had impromptu, in-person visits from two of the kids at work. On the way home last night, I thought about how things have been over time--as a solo, working mom of three young kids, I remember pushing two soft chairs together in my office to make a bed for a sick 5-year-old who couldn't go to school; I also remember taking Lucy with me to a college class because she had a day off and she sat there with a six-year-old's pad and pencil scanning poetry along with the rest of the class in what seemed like a huge stadium seat. There were times when I shined and times when I stumbled--late pick-ups from soccer practice, band performances I had to miss, times I said the wrong things. Over dinner last night with my 19-year-old son, we talked about the money realities of the single mom--with no child support or alimony for my household, I was it and while it was never famine, it wasn't always feast either. With planning, determination and frugal creativity, we managed, and while I wish I could have done better, I'm pretty content that I was able to find a way to keep things as solid as we did. My kids also have a dad who is a part of their lives and they have strong relationships with grandparents, so they have been fortunate on different levels--but it hasn't always been a breeze.
So, as I listened yesterday and had the chats over my desk in time we carved out for connection, I couldn't help but be overwhelmed with love and appreciation for these amazing young adults. We still want to know each other even though we are all changing. They struggle with growing up and grown-up challenges and I am getting to a place where I am okay being a confidant and supporter without needing to jump in and save the day. I still couldn't imagine my life without them. While I try to treat them like the adults they are striving so diligently to become, in the back of my mind, they are still my kids and I will always feel a responsibility for them. Unlike some parents of adult kids, I don't see them as little or imagine them as the babies they once were--when I look across the table or desk or room, I see them as the young adults they are (it is as if those babies were completely different people) and I have absolute confidence in their abilities to navigate life--I'm just grateful they continue to let me be a part of it on whatever levels!
Tuesday, June 28, 2011
It isn't just around the Wedding gift stuff that I am kooky--it is receiving gifts in general. Christmas is awkward--I can never think of anything I need and my tastes are rather practical and frugal. I don't have a lot of confidence in my own ability to gift well for others either. I am, however, working on this--one well-wrapped gift at a time.
Fortunately, Teri loves gifts and is quite good at choosing great gifts and receiving with graciousness. She inspires me actually. She has good taste and none of the awkward baggage that I carry around with me. But it was some of the kids who prepared us for the inevitable Wedding gift reality--encouraging us to register and making sure that I was at least prepared in some fashion.
So, with just over a month to go, we have started to receive some gifts and while I tried to seize up and say silly things like you shouldn't have and No! Please! No! (Okay, I don't actually say the latter, but I sure do think it!), I have been encouraged to be a grown-up and cope. Like a good English major, I buried my discomfort in doing some research about Wedding gift custom and etiquette--when in doubt and awkward discomfort, read! Here is what I have discovered:
I was not surprised to learn that the first "Bridal Registry" was instituted by a U.S. department store, Marshall Field's in 1924. I guess the custom of giving gifts, however, has been around since the beginning. Even so, customs are always changing. I read one "rule" from mid-twentieth century that stated that gifts should be mailed or sent in advance, NOT brought along to the event. I don't think that's true anymore--although who doesn't love getting packages delivered? I read another "rule" that said one should always purchase from the registry (probably written by the public relations department at a retail store) and another that said that deviating from the registry was just fine. Also, it used to be acceptable to send a Wedding gift within one year of the ceremony but now three months is considered in good taste.
Other things I've learned?
- the experts are divided on whether or not to send a gift if you can't attend, Teri and I decided (and we're experts now) that a card or note is perfectly adequate!
- Group gifts are okay too--although there was some hub bub about five people going in on a $10 garlic press--but I couldn't help thinking that a good garlic press is worth its weight in gold (we already have a groovy one from Pampered Chef that never lets us down.)
- In all the articles I read, the recommended amounts to spend seemed ridiculously high so I hope everyone else is ignoring them too. Seriously--$150 can buy a lot of groceries or pay the utility bill so, (and I know my practical frugality is showing here) why wrap it up in silver paper and give it away? And if you do have that much to spare, I know plenty of charities and nonprofits who can make excellent use of it!
- What is missing from all these articles are the creative and personal gifts that I think rock: an offer of help or a bottle of wine, a gift of services (pedicure, hair styling, etc.), an invitation to dinner, or original work by artisans--a painting, piece of pottery, or sculpture. I know, practical, but awesome.
- There is some onus on the couple too: updating the registry or at least keeping an eye on it in case things get "taken" and there isn't anything reasonable/affordable on it toward the actual day and
- Thank you notes are a must. I confess that I am still a little irked about not receiving a "thank you" note for a wedding we attended last year. Bad cheese.
Monday, June 27, 2011
I've mentioned before that Summer is my favorite season and 2009 was easily the most playful season I had experienced since my kids were little. The Universe seemed to conspire to give Teri and I plenty of time to figure out what and how to be together--there were camping trips, drives to the coast, kickball games and barbecues and house parties. It was a brief window of relative leisure in what has been for me, a rather responsible and productive grown-up life. By Autumn of that year, of course, it was back to work and some of the hard trials of life as my Dad died, the last of the kids moved out and Time marched on.
Last night, as we finished up watching season 4 of Mad Men, a television series we have been addicted to for the past few weeks, one of the characters said something like "Grow up, there is no fresh starts, life just keeps moving on." Teri and I nodded in agreement--even in the midst of beginnings, life just keeps moving and marching without so much as a missed step. We do our best to keep up, adjust and hang on.
I would find life very unsatisfying if all I did was play and date and strive to stay forever young. That just isn't me--for me, a satisfying life has purpose and connection and responsibility. Perhaps it is the working class believe system, but play feels better when one has worked her butt off to earn it!
So now it is Summer again and this one is just as full as one could imagine. There is plenty of work for me to do in my job; Teri has not only work, but several volunteer obligations lined up for the next few weeks; we have family and friends coming for visits both before and for the Wedding; we are hosting a few gatherings; and are still trying to squeeze in some camping, ball games, and other Summer outings. AND, we are starting to plan for a move.
Time will only tell how we will remember the Summer of 2011. I know it will be our Wedding Summer, but I imagine it will be remembered for other adventures as well. Life is short and it doesn't stop until it is over. The luckiest of us get to live it consciously and with engagement--and for that, I feel incredibly grateful.
Sunday, June 26, 2011
I read an article yesterday where the journalist predicted full nation-wide marriage equality within ten years. For someone as seasoned as I, that seems both a long time and not very long at all. As Teri and I watched the videos and read the blogs and articles yesterday, we couldn't help commenting that this is our lifetime and we are a part of it. The tide is turning.
In my mind, marriage equality and Don't Ask, Don't Tell are not really gay issues anyway, but Civil Rights issues and it is so past the time when we should have taken care of making this fair and just. There is still so much work to do and it is taking the engagement of all of us--gays, straight people, government entities and every-day folks to keep pushing forward on Civil Rights. It is happening in big ways like the vote in New York, but also in little ways--after all, it came down to the deciding votes of just a couple Republicans--people who could have gone either way, but by choosing fairness and justice, they made an incredibly huge difference in the lives of millions. It is that easy.
I hate to lecture and I realize it sounds as if I am. Instead, I prefer to just live and act and do the right thing. Why debate really? I feel blessed to take up a small place on the historical trajectory of this journey for not just gays and lesbians, but all those who know and love us as the ordinary people we are. Little steps, big leaps, and steady progress--it can be heartbreaking and inspiring all at once. In the past week, we heard our neighbor over the back fence disparage his son and tell him to "stop running around the yard like a gay-wad" and I had to unfriend someone on Facebook because of constantly painful homophobic remarks--meanwhile thousands of couples in New York state will now be able to get married. We're still in the midst of it and the battle for what is right is by no means over or won, but as the eternal optimist, I do believe that love will triumph.
Friday, June 24, 2011
The older I get, not only does it seem like the months and years are shorter, but the world seems smaller and smaller. Connections seem to happen on hyper-speed and I meet people who know people I already know or find that there are only minimal degrees of separation between more and more folks. Amazing.
As part of our Open House, we have invited in local musicians and an artist. I wasn't involved in the selection of the artists, all I had to do was give my rubber stamp of agreement. How tickled I was to find that the artist-in-residence tonight was to be a woman from whom I've purchased three paintings through a local gallery. When I introduced myself to her this afternoon as both the executive director and a patron, I found out from her that I was also the first person to purchase her work through a gallery. It was pretty fun and exciting to find ourselves connected in a new layer! She is still painting and I am still a fan. It will be a miracle if I get through the night without our making another acquisition!
It is easy forget that our lives are entwined with people we don't yet know. It can also be easy to underestimate how influential and inspiring we can be just by going about our ordinary lives. I look at the art that she has created every day in both our kitchen and our sunny yellow living room, and it brings me inspired joy and yet she has had no idea. As I have been sharing our story here on this blog, I am constantly amazed at the connections, feedback and ways that people respond around it. Even when we feel as though we are on the outside looking in, we might be more connected, centered and pivotal than we know.
The windows are clean, the sunlight is shining in, someone else's creations keep an eye on my daily life and this Summer world feels incredibly small and cozy.
Thursday, June 23, 2011
I had a weepy moment after being taken to task by someone who we did not include on our guest list. I don't know why it made me a bit upset--I tried to explain it to Teri by saying that I was feeling vulnerable and prickly at the same time. I know that I need to be thick-skinned about this and if you ask anyone, they will tell you that I can be strong and crusty with the best of them. But, I suppose that as our big day approaches, I feel increasingly anxious, nervous and vulnerable. Even as Teri reminds me that this is about us and we are doing the best we can.
As it is, we have attempted to be sensitive about being inclusive since the beginning. This blog was started as a way to share our journey in a very public and accessible way with those who might not ever see us in person. As I wrote about weeks ago, we wrestle with the public vs. private with varying results and have just resigned ourselves to try to balance the best we are able. It is both a privilege and a responsibility and we are not terribly unique--we are simply letting our story speak for itself.
Meanwhile, we have looked for other ways to share and be inclusive--whether with family, friends or those we barely or hardly know. From the blog, to gatherings and parties, to crafts and projects. What would we do differently if we were to start the process all over again? I imagine that we will have to wait until after the ceremony to gain the perspective of looking back. I don't think I would be coerced into having a bigger event whatever the pressure. As it is, our relatively small guest list seems huge to Teri and might be a little outside her comfort zone. If anything, at this point, we might be tempted to not do a public ceremony at all--but I think that we are in grand company with thousands of other couples who have doubted the choice a few weeks away from their Weddings! Teri keeps reminding me that once we are in the midst of our day and the last guest has left, we will feel that it has all been gloriously worth it.
So, as we get down to the wire, I imagine I am going to be both gooey and vulnerable and push back with resistance against those who want to make this about them. When Teri and I were chatting about it, we shared that we both felt compassion and understanding, but that we couldn't let our over-developed senses of fairness and community responsibility run away with us. I recently read some advice that I wish I would have read months ago--something like if you have to think too hard about it and have long conversations about whether or not to include someone, they are probably better left off the guest list. I imagine it is the same in life, we all have varying capacity at different times in our lives for different sorts of people, activities, jobs, etc. I have to make decisions and choices every day all day and wouldn't it be nice if the consequences were peachy and easy? Alas and unfortunately, we knew that there would be reaction to our commitment journey and we made plans for how to be as open, accessible, and inclusive as possible and still have the ceremony we wanted. Intellectually, I knew this but emotionally the weepiness reminded me that this Wedding and Marriage Ceremony isn't really an intellectual adventure. While zillions have gone before, Teri and I are moving around in unchartered territory...
For both Teri and I, we are still evolving and unpacking all of this family stuff--even at our age. Maybe more so at our age because family is always changing. We have our grown kids and the families we have attempted to build with them (and those are changing too, of course, since they are off on their own adventures.) We also have our maturing relationships with our parents and siblings--some connections are close, some not so much, some are circumstantial and some historical. It is messy and real and well, familial. We knew that family was going to be a big part of our Wedding celebration but it wasn't totally clear to us how much and who. Where do we draw the line? Who and what do we honor and who and what do we let go? Can we get away with just inviting immediate family--even knowing that not all can or will attend--and how do we respect family connections without exacerbating the right-wing, homophobia element?
I feel protective of our day and have since the post-proposal-let's-have-a ceremony discussions. I am feeling even stronger surges of it now as the day rapidly approaches. As the emotions bubble to the surface, finding the strength to keep things in perspective is taking some effort. Who supports us and who doesn't is played out quite obviously in the family realm. We get to control our friends to some extent but family connections are messier. Teri and I feel blessed to feel as connected as we do with our families--especially our kids, parents, sisters--we feel bolstered by the bonds and couldn't imagine our Wedding ceremony without them. But a Wedding definitely brings realities, issues, and relationships to the surface that we may be able to bury or ignore during every day life.
Wednesday, June 22, 2011
Yesterday, I found out that some key items we'd ordered (flatware, plates, serving stuff) had been back-ordered indefinitely. Here I'd thought that ordering them over a month ago would provide plenty of time for arrival but, alas, no such luck. It wasn't a major stressor since I was able to cancel the order, get a refund and then find a more reliable source where the items are promised "in stock", but this was just the sort of "last minute" adjustments we had to be prepared for. Of course, I won't breathe completely easy until they are on the doorstep!
A call to our rental company, Parties to Go, put my mind further at ease as we were able to rent additional china plates for the day of at what might definitely be considered "last minute" in the Summer wedding planning business. I've used them before and if you live in the Eugene, Oregon area, I couldn't recommend this company more highly. They are flexible, friendly and incredibly affordable (considering.) The person who took my call offered to put a dozen or so extra aside for me "just in case"--whether meant or not, it was a reassuring thing to hear.
Early this morning, I succeeded in putting the last of the printed programs together--all that paper, ink and raffia are tucked away in a tidy labeled box now and that is one more big project that we have under our belts. Whew. As the days tick off on the calendar, there is less and less room for error, procrastination and indecision.
We don't yet have a final count, and I am trying not to get impatient about that. Possibly a third of the folks have replied and there is still plenty of time. Our bulletin board seating chart is gradually filling up with colorful little sticky papers (we are using those narrow half-inch by maybe 1 1/2 inch ones that serve as book and paper markers to write the names on and situate around the paper tables.)
Meanwhile, there is no way I am missing out on some of my favorite Summer activities and pleasures--after all, this is my favorite month! Baseball games, camping, visits, wandering the Saturday Market, standing barefoot in the garden harvesting peas, sitting out on the deck in the warm evening sipping wine, concerts and plays in the park, barbecues...this Wedding is definitely a big deal but it is not the only Summer game in town!
Tuesday, June 21, 2011
When I was younger, I used to get caught up in trying to figure out what was right and best--often, it was the qualities or values that society defined as desirable that won out--even if they didn't feel right for the likes of me. Life has taught me that there are myriad ways to go about just about everything and all I have to do is stay true to myself while staying open to alternatives. In other words, people get to do what they want and all I really have to tend to is myself.
That said, neither Teri or I are the sorts of people who carry on about self-actualization or "getting our needs met." Speaking only for myself, I value living my belief system through action and focusing on the health and good of the community above wallowing in personal work. Of course, this comes with its challenges--I prefer to ignore people who are acting out with self-absorbed behaviors even while it is annoying me; I have little tolerance for selfishness or people who don't do their part (and have a hard time not showing it); and I have incredibly high expectations of my own energy level for contributing. Knowing these things, however, is actually a bonus--I can own up to the realities of how what I value and the things I believe in, guide my life. And I can't blame anyone else!
When I was younger, I underestimated how important compatible values and belief systems can be in an intimate relationship. Surely, much of it was that I had no idea who I was or what I stood for on any real level so how could I evaluate how well that matched up with someone else? I also had no idea how strong of a guiding star my values and beliefs would be in my life. We are all different and it wasn't until my thirties that I realized that I had to do work that I believed in, surround myself with close friends with whom I was ethically compatible, and pay attention to what felt in alignment on a community level. When Teri and I chat about our evolution, she too has come into her own in terms of awareness and comfort-level in the past few years. We both finally know enough to be able to articulate what matters most.
As an example, neither Teri or I are big on confrontation and not because we are unable to be direct (because we can both be quite direct if necessary.) Valuing collaboration, manners and consideration more, Teri and I have chatted about how what other people see as being assertive, we view as rude and childish. We would no more impose our requests and demands on someone else as float to the moon with an umbrella. We know this about each other and while there may be some frustrations (at ourselves and each other), I actually appreciate this shared value. I know that she understands if I am crabby in private about someone's behavior but pleasant in public, I am not being "hypocritical" as the self-actualized like to say, but ascribing to simple manners and compassionate behavior. At least, that is what feels right to me.
Of course, we are all still evolving (I hope.) I haven't learned how to completely temper the judgment that comes with embracing my values and beliefs and I still do some soul-searching around how I experience the world. For the first time in my life, however, I have a partner who both understands and loves me because of the values and beliefs I carry around in my tool belt and I feel the same about her!
Monday, June 20, 2011
I confessed to my workmates last week during a staff meeting that I have moved into the perpetual list stage for the time being. I am not traditionally a person who works off regular "to do" lists. I use a calendar but don't ordinarily need a check list. Things feel a bit out-of-control right now so I've started making lists. Actually, WE'VE started keeping lists and checking things off as we move along.
For the past week or so, there has been a list on the kitchen counter that is getting replaced daily as both Teri and I write down tasks and items we think of and then check them off as we move through. In addition to the Wedding (which, I think, is surprising me a little by what a big deal it is), there are typical Summer things like visiting family and friends, parties, events, work activities, etc. There is also the fact that Teri and I are starting to get geared up to move after the Wedding (okay, truth is, we haven't done much on that one except start to talk about it.) Sometimes life comes in big waves and that is when two gals need themselves some lists!
What is nice about the list is that there really isn't any room on there for other people's drama--amazing how being busy and focused can make a person feel like she has permission to ignore the things that just don't warrant attention! Since I've given up getting uptight about those things and people I have no control over, my mantra is "whatever" or "I just don't have the time or energy for this." Sweet. Teri, too, is all about trying to keep things in perspective and having the written lists keeps either one of us from feeling compelled to say: "I told you!" Either we wrote it down or we didn't. Either one of us or the other or both of us does it or finds someone to help. Easy peasy.
I had a brief fantasy about hiring a personal assistant for the last month or so but I think between the two of us, things should be just fine...
Sunday, June 19, 2011
Life insists upon tending in the Summer. Neglected friendships request attention; the garden demands weeding, harvesting and watering; the house seems to cry out for a good cleaning and airing; and family asks for some consideration too. Priorities seem to shift and I love that Summer rewards us for coming out of our cocoons and into the sunshine--there is a payoff for all that tending.
Friday, June 17, 2011
The pressure to be Poster Lesbian Couple (PLC)or keep from hurting anyone's feelings is slipping away (maybe out of self-preservation?) I can't imagine that I would ever be able to totally let go of etiquette, consideration and just the general this-is-how-it's-done-ness that I am susceptible to but I think with big events, it becomes easy for some of us to think of it as a public production instead of a personal celebration. Fortunately, the fact that there are only fifty-some days left and only so much capacity has brought me back to the original intent of a year and a half ago: this is about Teri and me and our intent and attempt at Happily Ever After. This journey started out with my desire to give her the ceremony and celebration she wanted and to commit on the highest possible level.
Reality check. Heart check.
The other day, when Lucy was over here for visit, pea-harvesting, and tissue crafts, we got to talking about how a person gets to do what he or she wants at his or her wedding. Needless to say, she seems to have a better grasp on that than her mother. She said that she'd decided if she ever gets married and we're all still alive, she would like to have both her father and me walk her down the aisle. I must have made some sort of a crinkle-face because she quipped: "If you can't do it gleefully, I'll have Teri stand in for you!" After all, she added, "It will be my wedding." Yes, of course, she's right (and Teri would do it proudly and happily and probably without making a crinkle-face.) And so too have all the others who have looked at me encouragingly or sternly and said, this is really your wedding--it's all about you been right. Now granted, I have also heard those who say that the wedding is for the family, the parents, and whoever else, but I'm starting to think that sort of thinking can be strangling.
So, onward! It is what it is and while there will be plenty to do in the next few weeks, I also plan to keep reconnecting with Teri and reminding myself of all the gooey reasons we are taking this path. At the core of the whole thing will be her and I and the strength and fit of our commitment. Whew! Just in time too because all that guilt and obligation was getting exhaustingly heavy!
Thursday, June 16, 2011
Yesterday afternoon, Lucy came over and we tackled what were supposed to be "paper lanterns." Well, they really aren't lanterns and despite having only a few ingredients, they were not as simple as I'd expected either. The silliest and most ominous thing I said was "All we have to do is read the directions. How hard can that be?" Ten minutes later, we were Googling the name of the product to figure out how to REALLY put them together because the directions were dumb.
As many of you may have noticed, Teri and I are lucky--with five grown kids, we have access to various experts and helpers. We have tried to involve them as much as they want to be with the wedding planning process--crafts are not everyone's thing (my son Stuart was at a grave disadvantage in kindergarten when he expected to learn how to read and instead had to sit with scissors and glue and finger paints--all activities he hated, but I mustn't get started on historical horrors of inadequacies and limitations of the public school system) so we have had to piece things together where we can.
Teri and I are not really crafters either--and for various reasons--Teri tends to be a careful perfectionist who spends so much time on the details of the first piece/element/item that after accomplishing one, she's done. I am NOT really a perfectionist when it comes to crafts, preferring quantity and completion or as much as possible in as little time as possible--I am not one to linger over details but more a "that's good enough!" sort of person. The more steps, pieces, and tools and the more likely I am to seize up with annoyance and frustration. I am no Martha Stewart Wannabe!
That said, where did we finally find decent directions for how to put together our tissue-paper-not-lanterns? Martha herself. Although they were called tissue paper pon poms on her site and well, that is really more like what they are. In the process of discovering, Lucy also taught me the importance of reading the reviews before making purchases (So, I'm a dedicated Consumer Reports reader when it comes to automobiles and washing machines, but who knew cheap paper products had reviewers too?) I think her exact words were something like: "Two stars mother? You still bought it when it only had two stars?"
I honestly thought those stars were for how easy it was to assemble.
After reading the scathing reviews from the other consumers who had either wadded all the tissue paper up and threw it in the garbage or wadded all the tissue paper up and threw it in the recycling bin, we searched for better directions because I am so working-class-frugal I couldn't stand to throw away $7 worth of tissue paper (although Lucy did point out that I could use it for gift wrapping if we abandoned the project.) In the end, we each made three big floofy tissue balls for a total of six crinkly rounds. They will join the much easier to assemble colored "lanterns" on the big day but for now, (and I didn't really think this through when we started putting them together) they are a big jumble hanging on a hook in our spare bedroom--looking a bit like a giant paper tutu. I told Lucy that after all the hassle, they are now family heirlooms and will be used at every wedding from here on out. Lucy's response?
Wednesday, June 15, 2011
Guilt is the price we pay willingly for doing what we were going to do anyway --Isabelle Holland
I may remember this stage of Wedding Planning Land as the Guilt Stage. Actually, I think it is a magnification of overall repetitive guilt I am dealing with on multiple levels in life. I have never been a guilt-free-do-what-I-want-recklessly sort of person which, of course, means I am envious as hell of those who are able to do that (and I get pretty crabby because it generally means that someone else is picking up the slack.) I do try for balance at this stage in the game, but with the Wedding stuff, guilt abounds.
Teri and I registered at Target a few months ago because supposedly Target liked the Gays. Well, Target doesn't like the Gays anymore, nor unions, nor supposedly anything else good and holy in the world of progressives. So, now I feel pangs of guilt: should we go Gaga and pull out of our relationship with Target? Will people assume that we are either politically ignorant or subversively supporting the store with our participation? I'm too darn tired to re-do all that and dammit, we thought Target liked the Gays!
Meanwhile, if we use anything paper and plastic, will we invite the wrath of our recycling fanatical friends? How much paper, plastic, wood, food, etc. can we get away with using? How much work and effort must we put into keeping the Wedding Carbon Footprint low to alleviate the guilt I feel? Re-usable, re-cyclable, re-claimable, re-gurgitated--we are not without sensitivity to this and I'm feeling guilty every time I consider the extra printing, paper and shrink wrap we have encouraged.
I've already spent far too much blogging air time on the guest list dilemma but needless to say, the realities of that are hovering over like a great, soppy guilt cloud. I am sure there are people who we've invited who don't want to come or care a hoot and meanwhile there are others who are already letting us know that feelings are hurt and expectations are dashed. Crap. On a Cracker. This do-no-harm and travel lightly (with no carbon) attempt at life is exhausting!
My guilt dance card is full: Privilege guilt? Check! Excluding guilt? Check! Obligation guilt? Check! Distraction guilt? Check! Annoyance, Judgment and Desire to Make it All About Us guilt? Check! Check! Check!
Tuesday, June 14, 2011
When Teri and I filled out our Domestic Partnership paperwork, the form has a space for "Partner A" and "Partner B" (romantic, eh?) and being an eldest, I assumed that she would want to be "Partner A"--mostly to balance out the karma of having been "Twin B" on the day of her birth. In reality, Teri staunchly wanted to be "Partner B" because of the fact that she has always been "Twin B." Okay, I obviously still have a ways to go on understanding this twin thing.
Because Teri and her sister really are quite different, and because they are geographically distant, I sometimes forget about the closeness and the connection. Because I expected identical twins to be sweet and clairvoyant and simpatico, I am only just now beginning to get the dynamic between Teri and her sister, which is sometimes some of those things, but often very not those things. There are other realities to being partnered with an identical twin, however, that I have started to become quite comfortable with...
Having shared her life with someone else since before birth, Teri has a high capacity for intimacy and togetherness. While she enjoys time alone, she has no problem carving out space amidst chaos and just sharing (mostly.) I can be a bit more territorial. Being a twin and being the youngest in a large family, she has developed different social and coping skills than I have being the eldest of three. Teri gets as frustrated at my tendency to dig my heels in and resist forced group participation as I get with her willingness to just go along and get along. Even though we both know it is a little more complicated, sometimes we just chalk it up to an eldest thing or a twin thing since neither one of us will really know what it was/is like for the other.
Because Teri has had her sister for over forty years, she hasn't felt compelled to make lasting, bosom friends. She marvels at the fact that I have some good friends that have been in my life for decades and she doesn't really understand how I can differentiate between various spheres of friends (there are those who are acquaintances, those who are colleagues or circumstantial and those who are more intimate and lasting--for her, there is her sister and then everyone else.) She also doesn't always comprehend how I can want a break from socializing or want more control over who I hang out with. The differences make things interesting!
So, I make no claim to understanding Teri completely after two and a half years and I definitely haven't got the whole twin thing down yet. Fortunately I hopefully have years to explore the fascinating and ever-changing reality of Twin B who is also now Partner B...
Monday, June 13, 2011
This past weekend, Teri and I attended the ceremony and celebration for a couple friends of ours and we were a bit envious of the glorious and gleeful relief on both their faces after the vows had been said and the rings exchanged. Whew! Now they were on to the next life adventure as a committed team. While in many ways, Teri and I already feel completely committed and undeniably a team, the ceremony is the cement that seals the deal.
So, we have two months to go and we actually do have some specific tasks to tackle in this next one: we have to figure out about parking and transportation for our guests, we will be finalizing our vows and the ceremony script and we also need to get our programs made and assembled. Meanwhile, the garden is taking on that blousy, overgrown summer look so there are some daunting tasks in that department to try to get things a little bit back in line (all the while keeping it healthy and somewhat green.)
Eventually we are going to have to start harassing all the people who haven't sent in their reply cards--but we have another month or so on that one. Meanwhile, the little colored sticky tabs with guests' names on them are gradually going up on the seating chart board and we are realizing that there may be some things we had hoped to do that just aren't going to get done (case in point, we decided this weekend that we are going to have to let the special home-brewed wheat beer plan go--if we haven't gotten it brewed by now, there just isn't time.) With only two months to go, reality is setting in and we are in need of an energy boost but it is all still coming together!
Friday, June 10, 2011
Teri will tell people that she is from all over, being from a military family--but she is actually from all over the East Coast. She mostly likes it here (but wishes there was more warm sun) and thinks that compared to the rest of her East Coast family, she is pretty laid back, but she still has East Coast flare-ups on a somewhat regular basis. I actually get a big kick out of the differences.
I don't know what region of the U.S. standard manners and etiquette are created for, but I can tell you that what is expected and okay in the Southern part of the nation and what is expected and okay in the Midwest are not necessarily the same. For example, on the East Coast people stand on line and expect others to do the same: you get into a queue, you have your selection, purchases, money, etc. ready and you do what you need to do quickly and move out of the way. Here on the West Coast, we don't exactly do lines--everyone sort of mills about and moves loosely in the general direction of the counter, gate, etc. and then we casually slide through. Heaven forbid any of us be accused of following the herd! When we are forced to stand IN a line (as opposed to ON one), it better be short and our surrounding compadres are expected to be friendly and casually chatty.
As we've been planning our Wedding, we have been quite aware that some of the etiquette rules are not really tweaked for the West Coast (WC.) First, we know for a fact that RSVPs and assigned seating are not the norm here (but we are attempting both with plenty of wiggle room and WC adjustments.) Likewise, there is absolutely no way we could get away with a reception menu that didn't have plenty of non-carnivorous selections--it isn't about providing a little salad for the vegans and vegetarians here, it is about providing a little meat for those who still expect it.
When it comes to manners and etiquette, there are things that drive me crazy about the West Coast: timeliness is not considered necessary, people assume RSVPs are optional or left over for looks, everyone assumes that hugs are a goddess-given social norm, throwing anything away is subject to peer pressure and scrutiny, and everyone thinks it is perfectly okay to impose their food preferences, addiction issues and political ideology on whomever and whatever.
On the flip side, there are realities that I not only accept, but actually appreciate about WC culture: we genuinely welcome newbies and strangers and will always make room for more, we don't expect things to be gender segregated (no need for that old boy-girl-boy-girl seating rule), we are not daunted by rain, no one gets insulted if you start without them (since being on time is optional), we can talk about politics, religion and current events without personalizing, we'll almost always jump in to help someone move, we pretend we can't be shocked by anything, and meal times are flexible.
The truth is, as we plan our Wedding celebration, we've known that we can try to impose some etiquette onto the event, but since it is a WC affair, we've got to make room for the way things are really done around here and that includes a strong dusting of "Whatever..."
Thursday, June 9, 2011
Teri and I both remember ourselves being much easier going 25 years ago when we each got married for the first time--and she happened to be pregnant at the time (pregnant=hormones). I was just terribly young and it seemed a bit of a lark. Not so much this time around. While I might be a confident grown-up at this stage in my life, I am also one who spends some days teetering on the hot-flash-impatient-night-sweat-annoyed-can't sleep-WTF edge. Oh yes! Fortunately, most days, Teri and I take turns with our perimenopausal ways--otherwise the house could implode.
We have both been known to eat a half-gallon of ice cream while recounting a tale of how we nearly gave a snarky teenage sales clerk the shaken baby syndrome over poor customer service. And there are days when we have each been ready to set fire to everything in our closet (the clothes are all ugly and feel gross), quit our jobs (the morons), discard all our friends (seriously? can't she ever be on time?!) and create an entire seven course meal completely out of chocolate. It happens, we're embracing the rights of passage at middle age because we've earned them, but that doesn't necessarily make for a smooth and uneventful life. Perfect time to plan a wedding don't you think?
Life is irregular, our periods are irregular, our appetites, moods and energy levels are irregular. And yet I find the fact that we get each other is incredibly helpful. Since we are so close in age, we are compadres on this lumpy, bumpy perimenopausal ride. There are differences, of course, since we are each putting our individual spin on it, but it is nice to not have to say anything other than "I can't explain why I am so crabby" or "I'm working on three crappy hours of sleep here" and know that the other one knows exactly where one's coming from!
We are able to joke, tease and appease each other as only the empathetic can. There is compassion with the fact that some nights one of us needs the hint of a sheet for cover while the other wants the full comforter Monty. The next night, it might be totally switched. I remember over ten years ago, I had a boss who also happened to be a lesbian and she and her partner were in their late forties/early fifties and both going through "the change." I asked her what that was like: "What is it like for two women going through all that together?" I guess the universe thought it would be a fun idea to let me experience the answer to that one myself!
Wednesday, June 8, 2011
So, I decided yesterday that I was going to just let go (that was yesterday, this is today)--no more fussing over dog poop or work tasks I cannot possibly accomplish. I decided I wasn't going to beat myself up over prioritizing or staying on top of every tiny detail. What's the worst that could happen?
As I tried to get to sleep last night after bowling terribly as a sub on Teri's team (they ask, I say yes, even though I am not a stellar bowler and I embarrass myself)--all the letting go seemed to come unravelled. What's up with that? I must work harder at relaxing (ha!), make a to-do list for all the ways I'm not going to worry--well, you get the picture, I am not rocking the big Let Go.
The wedding seems monumental on a personal level, but the local racism and homophobia, increased white supremacist activity, poverty, homelessness, human services de-funding, and war in Afghanistan all seem pretty monumental too. By the end of the day I can't imagine attending another meeting OR figuring out what to do about flatware for our celebration. How does one do a decent ranking of what one can and cannot address?
As I laid there fussing last night, perspective was a hard thing to come by--what I need is a break, a vacation, a personal assistant and a little bigger dollup of letting go...
Tuesday, June 7, 2011
When I got divorced many years ago, my divorce papers said that I got my "maiden" name back. My kids were quite young at the time so I didn't really pursue it. They had somewhat strong feelings about us having matching names so I just kept using both names for more and more things. In the last couple years, however, with my kids becoming adults and no longer having those same feelings, I have pondered and fussed about the how, the expense, and the practicality of getting rid of the "Irons" on the end of my name. Finally, it just became important enough to me to go through the trials of making it happen.
Now begins the process of actually getting it changed on all my documents, records, and accounts. It is a bit daunting so I gave myself permission to take it slowly--one step at a time. I know that it won't really be long until my Social Security card, passport, bank account and driver's license reflect the change even if I would love it to be a more streamlined process (wouldn't it be great if I could just send in information to one place and get back a kit of changed documents?) It is not without expense, of course, but I decided I wasn't going to let the expense limit or deter me from doing what felt right.
Teri is keeping her previous married name and she has a different perspective. She doesn't want the expense or the trouble and she feels she's had it longer than she had the name she was given at birth. (I've also had the "Irons" attached to my name longer than any other, but since I have a choice, I'm going to exercise it.) Plus, she feels her eldest daughter does have strong feelings about her keeping it. Since we neither of us feel compelled to have the same last name or to take each other's name, this is an area where we are each just doing what feels right on a personal level.
So, for me, the transition begins and slow and steady will be my mantra.
Monday, June 6, 2011
Everything seemed to be cooperating to make the weekend both easy and memorable. Not to mention, everywhere we looked, there were fat, flying ladybugs. I've considered ladybugs my totem for decades and, legend has it, they symbolize luck and abundance. How fabulous is that?!
So, we took in the views and soaked up some sun. I managed to get my first sunburn of the season. We wandered shops and explored tide pools. All the while trying to let the fact that we were now actually legally partnered settle in. Typically, we reminisced and talked about first dates, early struggles, and older versions of ourselves--at the same time wondering what the next forty years might bring?
Saturday, June 4, 2011
As some of you know, the process for applying for Domestic Partnership in Lane County is not the same as getting a Wedding License. It does happen at the same office, however. We printed the form off from the web site (as directed on legal paper) and filled it out, we then took it to our bank where we signed it and had it notarized. Most banks will do it for free for account holders, but we found out after the fact that our good friend (a marvelously genial gay man is a notary too). Anticipating trouble (and honestly, what person facing government bureaucracy wouldn't?), we had a folder full of our birth certificates, passports, divorce papers and anything else we thought we might need to show in order to appease discerning bureaucrats.
The two women sitting at the information desk never moved, but sat stern and plump with arms crossed when we asked where to go for a Domestic Partnership: "Deeds and Records, through those doors" one squawked without so much as a smile or a nod. Fortunately the other one swung her eyes toward the sign so we could at least see which doors to go through and which direction to head. The first sign we saw as we looked down the hall said "Marriage Licenses" under Records and Deeds and I typically started to mumble about unfairness. Teri pointed out that it did say "Domestic Partnership Registration" at the very bottom in an attached, swinging sign (but I still maintain it was a smaller sized font!). We each took a breath and waltzed in.
As I set our fat folder down on the counter, a smiling woman came over to us: "Hi Teri!" she said beaming. While I had an instantaneous wonder that this might be an old flame, turned out that she and Teri used to work out at the same gym. Just for the record, Peggy was great (and straight.) She was warm and friendly and completely efficient. While I don't think she belongs in that low-ceilinged cement room at the Court House, I was grateful to have her guide us through! Amidst catching up and gym culture recollections, she informed us that while we had printed the form off on the right size paper, it was a little off in comparison to the form the state prints and that it might not be acceptable. About a half-inch lower printing the bottom section. Seriously? I asked, braced for a protest, a rally and cries of homophobia. Peggy smiled: "Let me put in a call and see if we can get pre-approval." Lesson to those who come after: while it says on the web site to print off the form and you might think that is the only option--it is not. Go down to the Clerk's office and pick up one of their forms to fill out.
Voodoo Donuts to celebrate after and commemorate National Donut Day so we decided to walk the two blocks and have a donut mid-filing instead. Teri's idea since I was ready to call PFLAG. The mantra: It was going to be just fine.
I normally get a small coconut-covered chocolate cake donut when we make the trek to Voodoo, but I was feeling a bit more, uh, intense--so I ordered up the Voodoo doll. For those who have never been to Portland/Eugene--Voodoo Donuts is a quirky and popular local romp whose slogan is "The Magic is in the Hole." Teri pointed out that at least my donut was smiling, but I felt a strange satisfaction in pulling out the pretzel stick that was impaled on his little
Donuts finished (Teri had a Buttermilk Bear), we walked back through the sunshine, past the fountain with the leaping metal trout and the homeless people chatting on the warm steps. When we waltzed back into the Deeds and Records office--reinforced with sugared determination--Peggy greeted us with "Good News!" I felt a regretful pang at that moment that we hadn't brought Peggy a donut too.
The forms were a go, she entered everything into the computer, we paid our money and we got a certificate to use for the ceremony. Teri did comment that it seemed questionable that we have to pay the same amount for a Domestic Partnership as hets while we only get maybe half the benefits (and none from a legal level) and I asked what was going to happen when Civil Marriage eventually became legal? Would our status transfer or would we need to get married again? Peggy was a trouper and agreed that it seemed a bit unfair to pay the same for less and expressed her optimistic hope that yes, our commitment would transfer. She even offered to take our photo with both our camera and a cell phone and she was the first to wish us a warm congratulations.
In the end, the legal part is done. Teri and I think of it as our pre-Wedding elopement. It was the private, personal part of our process that we wanted to keep to ourselves until AFTER it was done. Now it is on to the ceremony and the celebration!
Teri calling her twin sister, Pixi, to tell her the news...
Wednesday, June 1, 2011
There are lessons in the garden that I seem to need to learn over and over again: lack of control, appreciation for surprises, heartbreak, sharing, impermanence and patience. I have experienced bumper crops and blight, had plants and flowers eaten by hungry creatures, pulled up by human hands, and decimated by Mother Nature. Such is a garden and such is Life.
I have never quite made peace with the tug between private and public in my gardening. The garden is where I go to be alone, to lose myself in the meditation of weeding and digging and yet there is something about a person alone in her garden that invites all manner of interruption: cats rubbing up against one's leg and laying in the seed basket; a neighbor's dog trouncing across fresh transplants and slapping a tail across one's face, people calling out, wandering over, and assuming that conversation is in order. When my kids were little, they used to find me in the garden and proceed to ask me a million questions while crunching on pea pods they'd yanked off a vine or through the green teeth of lemon balm or parsley mouth.
When one gardens, visitors want to see what you've been up to and, to be honest, there are times when I am the one offering a tour: Do you want to see the garden? I don't do that with other solitary activities: Do you want to see my book? Would you like a tour of where I take my naps? The garden is both private haven and some sort of public sphere where conversations happen. It is creative and yet completely scientific. I have read books and quotes where authors mused about the miracle of gardens but it doesn't seem particularly miraculous to me--it is much more a salad of science, creativity, passion and frustration. There are no made-up laws of economy or politics in the garden, nor is there any respect for invented hierarchy or predictable performance. The garden does what the garden does and while I may move things around, the process is far bigger than me!
We are having a cool, wet Spring here in Oregon. Last year was similar and non-gardeners complain and complain about the lack of sun and warmth. Most flowers, vegetables and plants find a way to thrive regardless of whether it is beach weather or not. A cool Spring and early Summer may not be great for tomatoes and melons, but it is ideal for brassicas: cauliflower, broccoli and cabbages. Some years are sunny tomato and pepper years and others are bumper crop pea and cabbage years.
Some years the poppies bloom early or the dahlias bloom late. Every garden is a little world connected to a bigger world. Bees and birds and weather and spiders and worms. As our wedding approaches and my relationship with Teri takes center stage, the garden seems to be the perfect space for me to sort and contemplate and make sense of all the ways relationship building is like creating and tending a garden. While the work is never done, there is something delightfully surprising every day.