20 August, 2013

A Thank You to the Other Tables

Dear Fellow Patrons of Harry's Hofbrau,

You are awesome, and my son thanks you for greeting his whoops and hollers with smiles instead of glares. I am grateful too, as it made eating lunch a lovely date with my son, instead of feeling like a torturous way to get sustenance.

Thank God for people like you, the people who see difference and go back to your own lunch. Thank you for that, for giving my son an entire experience outside our house where he was included in the fold of society without judgment. 

I hope you get a chance to call the people who raised you and thank them for the good job they did. If I had the chance, I'd thank them myself. 

And you can tell all your friends about  how easy it was for you to do something that mattered so much to my family...maybe those other people will see how little takes to make us feel welcome. 

You made my day. 

The Mom of Another Kind of Kid

15 August, 2013

Clean Up! Aisle Five.

Most writers I know crave a space of their own where they can think, doodle, and hopefully-write. I have an entire Pinterest board devoted to retreat-type spaces that given more time, space and money I would create and use to nurture my soul and encourage my craft. I imagine a life where there are outlets on every wall, and at least four places to sit or lounge, so one could read or rest or write.

It will be a quiet space, except for the sound of rain on the roof, which will never be louder than inspirational patter. It will be cozy, with natural light, and bold colors, or not, and blue walls, or yellow, or white-washed old pine. There will be alfresco dining and writing, and the sounds of birds or perhaps the city. It will be a beautiful space that is just barely big enough to invite someone else in, with room for everyone on the patio. It will be glorious.

Or, what really happened, after years of quaint cafes in Berkeley and surrounding environs, museum spaces in San Francisco, then later, my dining room table... I find myself, in a Starbucks cafe inside of a Target.

I thought it would go the other way, that the more I called myself a writer, the more likely my environment would look like a writer's life was supposed to look. I only started saying I was a writer when my daughter introduced me as one to her kindergarten teacher. It gave me the legitimacy that I had been waiting for, so I am going with it, but what about my retreat?  Where is my awesome chair and the corner couch?
Apparently on aisle 5...just over there, past the underwear and the back-to-school section.

Is it a fall from grace, or me recognizing that I do not need as many props as I used to? The coffee is hot, and the wi-fi is free. I'll take it.

In college I wore the uniform, black, and black. I had journals and fancy pens. I carried a leather mail bag that was so heavy it makes carrying a sleeping child seem like a breeze. I brooded appropriately. I drank black coffee.

I looked over some of my writing just yesterday and was pleased to see that not all of it was drivel, but some of the events that weighed down my being, while not frivolous, were certainly not the forever heartbreak I thought they'd be. I didn't even know what I didn't know.

Some of what I read triggered nostalgia, remembering the carefree time spent out dancing with friends until the bar closed, and smoking on rooftops with no railings, three stories up, in the fog of the Marina. Some of it triggered the feelings of lonely I had, even as I was surrounded by people who cared about me.

I was thrilled to find pieces of my husband, as background, then more, as we went from friends to marriage. I laughed at a crush or two I had forgotten.

I missed my little apartment with the tiny room that was barely attached to the house on Dana Street. I missed my friends who have scattered around the globe, and my little vase I filled with flowers every Friday as a treat to myself.

I missed writing every single night, aware that anything I forgot to put to paper would be lost to time. I wrote with passion, about passion. I wrote about the mundane, and the dramatic, and there was poetry, and lists of character names. I wrote, and wrote and wrote.

The time I am in is always the best one when I look back. Even if it was ugly, it was the best because I survived or endured something and came out the other side. And of course there are all the moments that enlightened and surprised me, those were the best too.

But I just know these are the best of times, with happy, healthy children and husband, and our great friends, and lovely adventures. I need to take care to remember these days.

So this wobbly Big-Box store cafe table will suffice. I don't need a specific space in which to write--I just need to make more space in my head so the words can attach to each other in meaningful ways, and then I need to write them out. I don't want to lose this section of our jumbled, messy, lovely, happy, frantic life over a throw pillow and a tin roof.

08 August, 2013

Pieces of Me at BlogHer13

Many of us have made deep and meaningful relationships that exist only online. I have felt loved, protected, cherished and helped by people who I have never stood next to. And for all of the ways that it has also allowed strangers to call me names, or generalize me into stereotypes that I am thankfully aware, do not apply to me, the Internet has mostly given me a sense of community, a platform to do good works, a way to connect with other people in similar situations, and an ability to carve my life up into little segments where I am able to learn the language of advocacy, friendship, shared interests, or home organization.

And because the Internet doesn't require plane fare, and is rarely guided by a strict sense of time, this community has been available whenever I have needed it, from wherever I am. I'd say, overall, that I am a wholly better person for knowing the people I have met online. Those relationships have depth, and have endured for years, even as some of my neighbors have moved, or families around me have split up.

So then I am walking down the hall of a Sheraton in Chicago and a bright voice calls to me, "Jen! Jen! Hi, it's *so* great to see you!" and I am instantly mortified because I have no idea who this person is...until I read her tag, and wait, Yes! I DO know who she is! And I know about her precious son, and her new baby, and that we have talked about all of these little details of life already, and now she is here in front of me.

I've just met an old friend.

And BlogHer is one of those experiences where you get the feeling that you are always just about to run into a long lost friend, or a new best friend, or a perfect career opportunity, or someone who will make you think differently, or maybe you will just get a chance to hug a person who managed to hold your hand from far away. Or you will be thanked, to your face, for writing something that made a person's life easier, better, more manageable, because something you wrote made their life bearable on a day they didn't think they could get through.

I really enjoyed all the pieces of me being stitched together this year. I got to speak, well, really I was supposed to manage a round table with Ellen Seidman, but of course I spoke a bit, because when, ever am I quiet for that long. And I got to learn, and cry a bit, hearing from Pamela Merrit who is ahead of me in many, many, ways, and helps me see the long road. She's leaving a clear cut behind her, and for that I am grateful.

I got to stay up late and chat, meeting someone wonderful, then spending hours talking about our children before figuring out the degrees of separation between us, (her friend is married to a man who sang at the wedding of the man who was the best man in my wedding....among other connections).

They "liked my schtick" in Chicago. It felt good to be funny, and have people like me being funny, and thanking me for lifting their spirits. I'm sure they would tire of me, but for those short hours I loved making my friends laugh. I love to laugh, and I love it when our table is laughing the most, happy to be stared down by others who are not fortunate enough to guffaw, perhaps inappropriately, especially at themselves.

I walked a million miles, ate a lot of food that made me think I could add a few items to my family's diet, and only had one migraine. While it's true I am an extrovert, I've figured out that expo centers, with their bright white expanses and tall ceilings and two-story escalators, suck at my life force, and I will be happier in the future if more of the functions and sessions are held in the confines of a cavernous hotel, where I have a chance to run back to my room for something, or rest for 20 minutes. (I'll also be happy if, next time, dropped-to-my-room-swag does not include a full-sized Denny's menu with accompanying cupcake cup, and a set of size-your-own-bra cups that we used for many, many other things before leaving them behind.)

I'm glad I went. From the cab ride I shared with a lovely woman who is moving to California in a few months, to the giant pretzel that practically called me names, from meet ups and new friends, from the lunchtime party at a back table, to shutting down the karaoke party (without my needing to get up on that stage and fall over), to the great information, interesting keynotes, and a new friend who made leaving and airport-waiting bearable, BlogHer13 was a great conference.

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