Archive for May, 2013

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Glimpses of the Weekend

May 28, 2013

Normally long weekends do me in and I’m ready to return to work by noon on a Sunday, but this past Memorial Day weekend, for reasons I can’t quite put into words, was lovely. I didn’t want it to end.

On Saturday, we went to the local farmer’s market and then wandered around downtown. After much consultation with the bike shop staff, we got Dot her first bike, which was very exciting even though she only agreed that we could take it home with us when I promised to put streamers and a bell on it for her. Saturday afternoon is now my allotted span of time just for me, and I went to the Rec Center and spent a lovely, long, and sweaty time on an elliptical machine. Then I came home, did a few leisurely dishes, and read until N and Dot returned from their outing to the park and coffee shop. We all watched a movie together and then headed to bed. It was lovely.

On Sunday we hung out in pajamas for a long time and then I ran to the grocery store to get food for the week and picnic supplies. Then I made turkey sandwiches while Dot packed and unpacked some bags and we headed to N’s office for an office picnic. After that, N stayed behind to do some work while Dot and I headed home. Dot refused to nap but had a lovely time riding her new bike inside the house and playing “Cinderella,” after which we headed outside. I pulled many, many weeds and cut back browning tulip leaves while Dot played and ran around and had a really wonderful time just being outdoors. This concept, that we can be outside together without all of my attention being focused on her, is new and a bit of a revelation. And to see how excited and interested she was when she spotted an earthworm made my entire day.

Monday we had brunch at the local pancake house and then Dot and I took N to the office. On our way home we stopped at the hardware store to pick up some blueberry bushes and then we headed home. I planted, she played, and then I baked a chocolate cake while she played with her toys and bicycle. Then we played together and had a nice discussion about her big girl bed, which I don’t expect she’ll be sleeping in until next year, but it’s nice to get her thinking about it in positive ways. When N came home we feasted on pizza and watched another movie, after which Dot fell asleep pretty much five minutes after lying down on the bed.

Every day was lovely. We had family time and private time and indoor time and lots of outdoor play time. I still had several moments where I wished Dot had a sibling to play with, that Teddy was here adding to the mix and the chaos and the fun, but those were bittersweet moments instead of plain old bitter ones. I wasn’t ready for the weekend to end.

But today is having it’s moments, too – I just found out I have a phone interview with a place I might really like to work. A phone interview doesn’t mean any kind of certainty, but it’s an opening, and I’m looking forward to it.

 

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Somewhere, a fat lady is singing

May 21, 2013

The appeal process is almost over – report has gone to the president and while I won’t know for certain for some days, I fully expect to receive a form letter soon that affirms the provost’s decision to deny my tenure here. N will want us to visit an attorney, but I think – I feel – that the time has come to let this thing go. I have done good work here, but I can do good work other places. We like this funny little rural university town, but we could be happy so many other places, and I’m not going to hang my happiness on staying here.

One of my favorite colleagues stopped by my office today and noted that she was amazed by how much I am still just myself at work – that I still seem cheerful and friendly and kind. And we talked about it a bit – I do have my moments but I usually take myself home for them, and for the most part I just want to move forward. There are a couple of people I’d like to shake, but they are all having health problems of one kind or another and seem off and on miserable, and while I’m not above some small rejoicings when certain people have lingering colds followed by major dental work, I’m just not into vengeance.

I also have a life. It’s a good life, filled with love. I have a three-year-old who makes up adventure stories and who likes to play Cinderella but always fixes her own dress when the step sisters (I play the step sisters) rip it up. And she takes herself to the ball and then comes home and makes friends with the step sisters and takes them on a picnic. I have a husband who loves me so much I can feel it even when we’re not in the same room, who has been through a lot this past year but is every day a better daddy and partner. I have a creative mind and a healthy (if well-padded) body. Dot is learning to spot the letters in her name. N and I joined the campus rec center and I’m pretty excited about the elliptical machines and my new gym shoes.

And while there’s a very substantial hole where Teddy should be, that hole doesn’t make my life less good – maybe more painful, more raw, and more complicated, but not less good. It’s hard to explain and I wouldn’t have thought about it this way a couple of years ago. I miss him. I want him back. But that’s become part of who I am and something I can carry, most of the time, without stumbling and falling.

I love my good life, and it makes the work drama much easier to bear. But even so, so many of the people I work with are supportive and honest and really appreciative of what I do. I’m just going to soak that up while I’m here and be open to opportunities. We’ve seen some good people go in the past years, as the university struggles to gain funding and grants and to promote faculty research. While all of those things are important, it’s not lost on me that the people who get left behind are sometimes the ones who really care about teaching and supporting undergraduates. I love my office, I enjoy almost all of my colleagues, and my work is rewarding, but my self-worth isn’t tied to this place. It’s freeing, that thought.

Somewhere, a fat lady is singing.

Oh, it’s me. I’m singing.

Letting go tends to be very difficult for me. I wonder what it means that, right now, it is so much less difficult than I’d expected…

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Thanks, Village

May 13, 2013

My Mother’s Day weekend was a good one. Quiet. We went to the nearby farmer’s market on Saturday and I watched Dot plunge into the playground. Not so long ago, it seems, I used to follow her up the climber, hovering and hoping that my impetuous toddler wouldn’t find herself stepped on or squished by the much larger children climbing up the slide instead of following proper procedure and sliding down. And now she’s nimbly climbing up the slide, mostly careful not to step on the other kids.

Sunday we met up with another family for a picnic at the arboretum. We don’t know them especially well, and they don’t know anything about our life before Dot, but we like them. Our daughters love playing together, and we had a really nice time. There were frogs in the stream, large families of goslings, ladybugs, and butterflies. The sun shone down, diffused by clouds and leaf shadows – warm and gentle, like a blessing.

And, not far from me, a dear friend lives alone after years of wanting children, trying for children, helping to raise others’ children. On the other side of the country, my sister-in-law faced another Mother’s Day (and all of the ad campaigns leading up to it) without a baby of her own. In the town where I grew up, my mother misses her own mom, gone three years now. In my own heart, the imprint of an absence and the place where love stretches out in feeble attempts to mother a child I cannot see or hear or touch. This holiday, that I used to associate with planting marigolds in paper cups and putting Mom’s flowers on the table, it’s just so full of different kinds of emotional land mines.

Four years ago I received flowers on Mother’s Day, a gift from three good friends at work. They remembered and acknowledged Teddy at a time when I was just starting to see, with painful and bitter clarity, that his existence and loss weren’t really things I could discuss in public. At a time when Mother’s Day made me feel like an outcast and a secret circus freak, I had friends who told me I was a mother, too. I think of those flowers and what they meant to me every year at this time. I will think of them every Mother’s Day, I am convinced, until the day I die.

I have so many mixed feelings about mother’s day. I love the idea of honoring mothers, but I hate the way doing this shuts so many out in the cold. I’m also not particularly happy about how narrowly we define mothers or about the let’s-use-this-to-sell-stuff aspect of the holiday, or about they way we honor mothers on this one day and then fail on so many fronts to improve life for women (mothers or not) and families. Mother’s do a lot of work, and it’s good to see them valued. There are certainly plenty of days where I head to bed frazzled and unwashed and tired and knowing I have to do it all again tomorrow, and a day when people say “thank you” is kind of encouraging. But so many others do vital and thankless work that is unrecognized by cards and flowers and brunches.

Looking back at the labor-intensive first years of Dot’s life, I see over and over again that “It takes a village to raise a child” is adamantly, unavoidably true. An anthropologist I work with has spent quite a bit of time exploring the way support networks have been invaluable to raising children to adulthood. This is as true now as ever. The very rich may be able to hire their villages (cooks, housekeepers, nannies, psychologists, masseurs), but most of us find ourselves living in hybrid villages made up of some combination of family, friends, neighbors, and co-workers – not necessarily all located in the same geographic location. While I wouldn’t mind having a masseur on staff, I think I prefer the village I’ve found myself belonging to. My paths to motherhood have not been easy, and I wouldn’t have made it without a workplace that includes health care in its benefits, without colleagues and co-workers who are (most of them, anyway) compassionate and sensible and fair, without friends who are encouraging and funny and wise, without my family who support me with time and takeout food and love. Without the community I’ve found online who know what it is to miss a child and who let me howl and wonder and rant and try to write my way into some sort of sanity.

If Dot grows into anything resembling the well-adjusted, smart, caring, take-no-prisoners woman I imagine her becoming, she will owe so much of that to this untraditional village of ours. This year especially I am humbled by how many friends of mine, who are not in the traditional sense mothers, have enriched and enabled and encouraged my growth as a mother. I know not everyone has this kind of support, but many of us do, and at times when the world seems grim and violent this is something that gives me great hope.

On the day after so much of the world has offered floral tributes to the maternal principle, I want to offer my thanks to all of the villages out there, to all of the people who work to enable mothering and to create opportunities for laughter and picnics and the wonder of watching babies grow into amazing human beings. I want to offer thanks to my own village in particular, because it is widespread and deep-rooted and wonderful, and I am grateful for the shoulders to cry on, the strong arms to lean on, the voices cheering us on, and for everyone lighting the way.