Friday, April 28, 2006

"I Had a Bad Day" or Why Lo Wants To Be A Plumber


There is some Big Drama going on at my school about leadership. I really can't post about it right now, though I will when I can (one of the Major Players has requested confidentiality). I am looking forward to blogging about this power struggle, because there have been some hysterically funny moments. Today the Business Manager, a sweet grandfather who is rumored to be a Republican, and who was slightly flustered when he and I had to talk about domestic partnership, made a joke about testicles in front of me. That is not normal in our community.

Suffice to say, this nonsense has kept me busier than any human being should be who is a) not applying for a job and b) not earning a six figure salary. However, I really believe in my school (a small community that is diverse in race, class, ability, you name it...) so I'm fighting 'cause, well, someone has to.

Tonight, while I was lying half-clothed face down on the floor trying to figure out why the dishwasher won't drain, I was making a list in my head of reasons it might be a good idea to try being a plumber. Now, I am not mechanically inclined. I found out through experiential learning tonight that there are sharp things in dishwashers. (Band-Aid now on left index finger.) I have to pause and think "right tighty lefty loosy" every single time I pick up a screwdriver. I would be a really lousy plumber, and your pipes will thank me for staying out of this field. However, I had a pretty long list in my head noting why plumbing (is that a word?) is better than teaching. I almost convinced myself it would be a good idea to look for apprenticeships.

And the truth is, I love teaching, there is really little else I could do well in this world. My mother has pictures of me at four in which she says I am "teaching" someone. (Well, that might say more about my mom than it does about me...)

Another thing I was very aware of, as I was poking around inside the dishwasher with a toothpick (as per the instruction manual): I get tired of being female sometimes. I sometimes feel very helpless as a female (this power thing at school has involved lots and lots and lots of men yelling at and even threatening women, including myself) and I know that the thing between me and the dishwasher was my attempt to dominate something in my life. I teach 7th grade, and when you teach 7th grade, every single day is all about struggling for dominance. (I don't mind that so much with the children, since mostly I watch them struggle for dominance with each other. I may not be taller than all of them, but I do not want to be friends with any of them, and that gives me power.)

I am no shrinking violet, but I am relatively short (about 5' 4") and I have a strong startle reflex. When men shout at me and move towards me physically, well, I don't like it. And to tell the truth I don't really know what to do about it, either (except for getting involved politically and trying to win that way).

N.B.: I do not mean in any way to imply that my lack of mechanical/technical inclination is because I am female. It's really not. My parents tried...my dad gave me his childhood Erector set and they bought me very few dolls. It's just about who I am. I do have some traits people would consider "male."

The end of the dishwasher story is that I figured out the problem, but since I am uncertain of how to fix it, I'd rather call someone who does (a.k.a. our Very Cool Super) than risk screwing it up further with my experiential learning. 'Cause that could get expensive....and we're saving our money for sperm. :-)

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

California Adventure

So here's the details on the trip to California:

I actually have a fair amount of family on the West Coast. My family's roots are all Northeast (via Eastern Europe, they immigrated to Boston and New York) but we've wandered.

The impetus of this trip was my cousin M.'s Bat Mitzvah in Stanford/Palo Alto. These life events (Bar/Bat Mitzvahs, weddings, and even funerals) are also excuses for family reunions, since my dad's side is spread across two coasts and two countries; (there's a few of them in Vancouver, B.C.). P., the youngest of my father's first cousins, is the mother of 13-year-old M. (and 11-year-old N.). M. did a beautiful and very focused job reading from the Torah and chanting blessings, and then reading her own interpretation of the Biblical instructions for Jewish dietary law (a.k.a. "keeping kosher"). Since her Torah portion was about food, her party had a food theme as well....chocolate. Co and I sat at the Ghirardelli table. (Other tables included Toblerone, Lindt, See's...) There was a chocolate fountain and tiramisu for desert, and "M's Bat Mitzvah" Hershey bars. It was really a lovely event, not too much excess (except for the chocolate, but really, one can never have too much chocolate), truly fun for both the kids (no less than 40 12-year-olds running around) and the adults.

We also paid a visit to my one first cousin (on my mom's side), who lives near Santa Cruz. Cousin C. (not to be confused with my wife Co) has two small children, 3 1/2 year old S. and 5-month-old E. It was great fun to hang out with C. and her family. Her husband R. is very sweet. They have a house up in the mountains surrounded by huge, huge trees. You have to drive up roads windier than Highway 17 to get to their house (but it's worth it). We hung out at the beach in Santa Cruz and saw sea lions in their natural habitat!

Our third planned destination was The Sperm Bank of California in Berkeley. Though TSBC is happy to do phone consultations, I felt strongly that it must be "bashert (Yiddish for "fated" or "meant to be") that we would be so near the actual office right at this time in our lives, so I arranged an appointment. We headed off from Santa Cruz with our printed-out profiles in hand....only to end up with a flat tire on our rental car. On Highway 280. We pulled over to the shoulder by an exit ramp, called the rental company's Roadside Assistance, and waited, both of us churning in our typical ways (I tend to think that all signs must mean something deep and intense that I must read like an oracle; Co tends to believe in crappy luck).

There was some confusion with the Roadside Assistance phone staff; the woman in Utah, who answered my call, couldn't get anyone to believe her that I was at Exit 37 on the freeway. The tow companies kept insisting that California does not number its exits. Well, I don't want to get too involved in California freeway politics (more on that in a moment) but we were sitting by an exit ramp literally staring at a sign that read "Exit 37." Hmmm. Eventually I was able to name some landmarks and our location was decoded. So when 20 minutes later a white truck pulled up behind us and a man began to jack up the car to change the tire, I wasn't surprised.

I was, however, surprised when my cell phone immediately rang and a disgruntled voice told me that he was from the rental car's garage and that I should tell the man to stop what he was doing. I really had no desire to stop this very, very positive turn of events, but being the Good Girl that I am, I walked over to the man (who was now almost done putting the donut on the car) and said, "Uh, you can stop." He glanced at me and said, "That's okay." Then another truck pulled up and the disgruntled voice came over in person. He was a short scowly guy with a blond crew cut. Scowly Crew Cut said, "He didn't tell you who he was, did he?" Co and I stared at each other. Nice Tire Changer seemed pretty good to us. He had handed Co a pamphlet but we had not read it. Scowly Crew Cut told Nice Tire Changer that he would finish the job (really at this point there was no job to finish). Nice Tire Changer replied, "You know we don't work like that." Scowly Crew Cut insisted on double-checking Nice Tire Changer's impeccable work.

By this time I had figured out something was going on, though darned if I knew what. Scowly Crew Cut hung around a bit, complained that Nice Tire Changer hadn't "introduced himself," had Co sign a piece of paper, and finally left. And it was thus, from the lips of Nice Tire Changer, that Co and I learned about the Freeway Safety Patrol. In California, if you have car trouble on a major freeway, there are people who will come help you FOR FREE. Insurance (especially crappy rental care roadside assistance in Utah, no offense Chicory) be damned...if they see you in distress, they will help. And the garages who profit from the insurance companies don't like it one bit.

Wow. That is some cool socialist hippie California stuff!! I wish we had that program in the Northeast. Nice Tire Changer even stayed behind us and helped us merge back into traffic.

The next step of the adventure was to trade in the wounded Chevy Malibu for another car (since we still had to get to Palo Alto). I called the closest location of the rental company and they assured me they had plenty of "midsize" cars. When we arrived, however, the agent said they could only give us a Nissan Murano, which in case you don't know (I sure didn't) is an "SUV crossover vehicle." Neither Co nor I had ever before driven such a vehicle (we own a Saturn sedan) so that made us a bit nervous. I think that the rental agent expected us to be excited about receiving the big silver Murano for the same price as the Chevy Malibu. However, not only were we mildly anxious about driving the enormous beast, I personally have a previous association with the word Marrano(which of course is what I heard when he said "Murano"). So, I am hoping that spending the weekend with me and Co, at a Bat Mitzvah, helped the big silver beastie get in touch with its Judaism. In return, the Marrano has given us the opportunity to say we have driven an SUV.

Finally, the Marrano assisted us with one more visit: we met Charlotte, S., and LM in the flesh. It was fun!

*We did not make it to the sperm bank, of course, which disappointed me mightily, but of course we can and will arrange a phone consultation. Our primary relationship with that bank would be a postal one anyway. So I do not, personally, take this as a sign that we will not be using their goods....although some other possibilities have suddenly and unexpectedly reared their heads. I'll be blogging about that soon...

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Blogging Away From Home

I am in California, with Co, for a family event (a Bat Mitzvah).

(We do not live in California. This is kind of a Big Trip.)

I cried at the Bat Mitzvah, which shocked me, because I have never cried at one before. A Bat Mitzvah involves lots of 12 & 13 year old girls running around and giggling and hiding in the bathroom and, in 2006, doing cell-phone related stuff...making calls and taking pictures and sending email and making Belgian waffles (okay, perhaps that last was a slight exaggeration. but only slight). However, as a person who is thinking as mindfully (not to say obsessively) about having children as I am, seeing the ritual of passing a tradition down through the generations actually brought up something in me that made tears run down my cheeks.

I am here with Co, as I said, and also with my father, and his wife, who is not my mother. I lost count (I was counting at first) of the number of times people assumed she was my mother. I've been letting it go because they're not people that I'm going to see again, so that's okay, and I don't want to create ugliness. (There's a Jewish Thing about Not Getting Divorced.) But She. Is. Not. My. Mom. We get along now, okay, but I repeat: Not. My. Mom.

But my father's first cousin and her husband (the parents of the Bat Mitzvah Lady) are wonderful people and I would actually choose to be related to them, if I had a choice, which is amazing. How many of those people do we get in this life? And I have another set of cousins on my mom's side, that I would choose. So that's Good.

I'm going to go now and soak up more California calm.

Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Lo's Shrink Explains It All & Digital Camera Advice

Some people have told me that my "wail" post was not very lucid.

A clearer point: I have become the metaphorical "black sheep" of my family. I think this is funny and weird, because I'm really not a very radical person...I am a teacher who owns property (well, it's a co-op, so I own a photocopy of a stock certificate). I am a lesbian, but in a liberal family that espouses, well, liberalism.

Nonetheless, I have become invisible to them; I hear a lot of comments about how my wedding is "just like a real wedding" and it is going to be "easy" for me to have a baby.

Um, no. On both counts. I won't go into it, because this is the place where you all Get It.

And the more I challenge them, the more they resent me.

You can imagine a cycle starts here....

Anyway, back to food blogging and how cute our dachshund is. Did I mention she's cute?

And in the interests of showing you pictures of both (food & dachshunds) we are teetering on the edge of the digital camera divide. Please recommend brands and models here. (My only requirements: on the cheap side [but not crappy] and I really, really, really need a viewfinder instead of just an LCD screen.)

Monday, April 17, 2006

A Wail

I tried to think of a better or more creative title for this post but opted for the simple truth.

We (me, Co, and the dachsie) went to my mother's house to celebrate Passover. She lives in a house I never lived in with her husband (she hasn't lived in my childhood home for years now and there have been a number of places, and partners, since....my dad's the one who left her, though).

The truth is I had three childhood homes that I remember (the fourth is the apartment I was born in, but I don't remember it, we only lived there until I was two) in three different states (and not all of them were in the Northeast!). My mother and sister now live in the last state where the family landed, but not in the same city where I lived for 8 years. My father lives in that same state as well, though not in the city where they raised us, and not near my mother and sister. I can actually feel my breath get shorter when we cross the border into that state. It is not a place I ever really liked, though I cannot deny its effect on my personality and growth and selfhood.

The details are long and complex and perhaps not even worth relating....the simple truth of the situation (from my perspective) is that she (and to some degree my younger sister, you know, the one who is pregnant) have an image of me that does not match my own image of myself. Their image of me is of someone with serious emotional problems, someone needy and angry and manipulative who must be "managed" at all times and who has a habit of "ruining" events with my unpredictability.

It's not how I see myself. My own memories involve hiding from my mother's inevitable rage (especially at holiday times) because no matter what I did, whether I was hiding in my room or helping by her side or doing cartwheels in the living room (I actually never learned how to do a cartwheel; it's a metaphor, if you know what I mean) she became enraged at me for ruining her holiday. I came to the conclusion early on that my existence has ruined a lot of things for her....but once I learned how babies were made, I knew whose fault that was!

She does not direct this kind of rage at my sister (nor did she until I left the house, but I didn't know that until many years later), probably because my sister was and is passive and small and blond and sweet and feminine and pretty. And now, pregnant. Though I was not fat as a child (despite what I thought at the time) I was always tall. This fact is funny to me now, because I am only about 5' 4" and am constantly asking students to get things off shelves for me, but I grew to my full height quickly. At the age of four people regularly thought I was six; at six, people thought I was eight; etc. etc. By 8th grade I was regularly taken for a college student. I still can't imagine how that worked since in my perception and in pictures I look like such a, well, 8th grader.

Really, this needs to be a photo-essay, so I can show what I mean; one of these days I'll scan the kiddie pix.

The point of this post being, I guess, that family dynamics die hard, and I hope I am the person I think I am, the grown-up who lives in the city I love (childhood home #2, as it happens, though not the actual house of course) and raises a dachshund with love and has a wife I love who loves me....a person with a career that matters, a congregation that matters, a real life where I am not ruined, not a ruiner.

That is all.

Friday, April 07, 2006

Lo's Body Part

If I could take a picture (no digital camera yet), I'd take a picture of my eyes. They're a complicated body part for me because their color is so, well, difficult to ascertain. Depending on lighting and what I wear (which I imagine has to do with reflection of light) they can look blue, green, or grey.

My father says they are his father's eyes. (My father has blue eyes, my mother and sister have green eyes. I never met my grandfather -- I am named for him, actually -- and there are no close-up color photographs of him where I can see his eyes.)

My sister and I also both have the same rather odd feature: there's a thin circle of yellow flecks between the black pupil and the blue/green/grey iris.

All of these quirks could be beautiful, I suppose, in the hands of a writer or an artist. Yet I have always felt uncomfortable that it is so hard for me to answer the question "What color are your eyes?" Because I cannot answer the question without looking in a mirror to see how they appear that day, and that feels strange. I have taken a stab at the question and answered "blue" or "green," only to have the person squint at my face and correct me. "What color are your eyes?" should be an easy question. I did not know what to write for my driver's license (I believe it says "blue.")

I don't particularly care whether my eyes get passed on to the next generation. I'm fascinated by genetics, and I feel strongly that brown eyes are a more desirable trait than blue/green. I am more sensitive to sun than my brown-eyed friends. Also: my vision is nowhere near perfect (I'm nearsighted and have had glasses or contacts since I was nine years old). My eyes do not always do what they need to do, and they are confusing.

But Co once called them sunflowers, and that helped me love my strange eyes.

Someday when we do have a digital camera, I will post a picture.

Thursday, April 06, 2006

Sperm Update

We have an official appointment with our sperm bank of choice, The Sperm Bank of California.

We feel quite solid about that choice, both of us being the research-decisions-to-death-with-multiple-sources sort of personality (is there a quiz for that??).

So now we're playing that waiting game, until our appointment on Friday, April 20. This reminds me of the holding pattern in which I swirled while we waited to meet with our PKD (who is now our FKD, where F means "failed"). At least we know this time that, in our capitalist society, if we can raise the funds, we can have the goods. There is no Wife, just a loving group of lesbian "midwives" at the bank o' sperm.

I am personally looking forward to the large amount of information/advice the sperm bank promises to provide...I'm officially done with my own research and ready to turn to the Experts who have made babies in this wacky way before. (Which is to say I'm starting to go in circles with myself, like Maggie chasing her tail. Which she actually rarely does.)

So. Once again, Now We Wait. (You know that I am not going to be real suave or peaceful about the whole TWW thing. I can already see myself climbing the walls. However, you'll all be pleased to know that that self I can stare at, climbing those warm buttery beige apartment walls, is not actually speaking to me. Because then I would need a paraprofessional like my pre-schizophrenic student.)

And on another note, do other people sometimes feel so biologically driven by this whole process that they reflect, deeply and daily, on the fact that we ARE animals?