Happy 2013. Yes, I mean 2013.

Ahhhhh.  My poor, neglected, sad little blog.  I did not have as a good a blogging year in 2013 as I did in 2012.  I attribute that mostly to how emotionally and physically hard much of 2013 was.  You’d think that all the experiences – leaving not just a job but a career, fighting for Helene’s therapies and education, battling my own inner demons – would give me great blog fodder.  But, I experienced another change during that time.  For once, writing about my experiences was not helpful.  The hyper focus required for writing only tilted my anxiety higher.  I tried to use my blog as a distraction, but that didn’t go well, because I felt like I’d lost my voice.  Instead, I fed random, witty little snippets to my FB page.  (This is a totally shameless plug for my FB page.)

Nonetheless, I started 2013 by resolving to remember why it was a great year.  You might recall the “Resolve to be Successful” jar?  No?  Well, lucky for you, I remember it.  Throughout the year, I wrote down on sticky notes the wonderful things that happened to me. I folded each note, put it in the jar and took comfort in the tangible reminder that things do not always suck, even when it feels like everything sucks.

Tonight, I open the jar.  To really make this work, I need to share with you what’s in my jar – and my exceptional gratitude for the people who made the moments in the jar possible.

In no particular order:

1.  An email from a former client, in response to mine to him to let him know I was leaving the law firm.  He called my testimony at an arbitration “one of the most impressive performances I have ever had the pleasure to observe” and remarked, “thank goodness you were on our side.”  He didn’t have to write that email, and I was touched that he did.

2.  When I was searching for a job, two wonderful friends – Jennifer Ress-Bush and Michelle Wood – reached out and offered me help with my résumé and put me in touch with their connections.  It was a beautiful gesture during a really difficult time, and I don’t know that either of them really knew then how much it meant.  I hope they do now.

3.  One night, on the way home from a band audition, Nate and I sang American Pie together in the car at the top of our lungs.  I discovered that Nate has an incredible singing voice, I loved with all my heart how vulnerable he was with me (and I with him) in those moments, and I was overjoyed at his excellent taste in music.  😉

4.  I reconnected with a friend I missed more than I even realized over an impromptu dinner and slumber party, which led to some of the best Sunday mornings – hiking, chatting, laughing, swearing, sweating.  I less-than-three you, Cynthia Orluck!

5.  I plowed through the entire Game of Thrones series of books in record time only to learn that I may never know how these fuckers end.  I have yet to find anything to fill the void left behind, so I’m reading them again.  Because, yes, they are that good.  (And, dammit, HBO – quit messing around!)

6.  My sister made it to the jar a ridiculous number of times.  My job, a little help with a PG&E crisis (which is a weird coincidence – right?) and a refrigerator.  But, mostly, hours and hours and hours of just listening to me spew forth whatever madness poured out while filling the silences with coffee, advice and patience.  You have no idea how much you were my life-line this year, dude.  “Thank you” just seems stupid, it’s such a gross understatement.  But, basically, I will play marbles with you no matter what time it is.

7.  My new boss made me a promise before I started my new job and asked me to trust him.  It was the last thing in the world I was capable of doing, but I wanted the job, so I took the gamble.  Before even my 90th day, he made good on the promise – and then some.  It was the sign I needed to confirm I hadn’t jumped from the frying pan to the fire.

8.  I met in person three amazing people whom I had met only virtually.  I met a fourth person whom I didn’t know in real life or in person but who is awesome in equal measure.  I then had one of the most fun nights of my life, eating, drinking, laughing, and playing with these folks.  I laughed so much, my stomach hurt the next day.  And, I loved that night so much that my heart hurt a little the next day, too.  It’s a strange kind of hangover you get when you get drunk on friends who live too far away.  Yet, I’d gladly do it again.

9.  I took a short, last-minute trip to Half Moon Bay with Helene in July.  She loved the beach.  I wrote about it here.  I want to find a way to bottle that experience and drink it through a straw when I need a dose of happy.

10.  After I shared on FB the “Awesomely Big List of Ways to Help Parents of Autistic Kids” post from Bec Oakley at snagglebox, my friend Juliet reached out to me and offered to help me in any way she could.  It was an unbelievably sweet, thoughtful and perfect gesture, and it led to a fun play date for the kids!

11.  When I was in the throes of IEP-meltdown, my wonderful friend Beth Glidden Anderson offered to provide feedback on Helene’s IEP goals.  She sent me back a spreadsheet of pure awesomesauce, which was clearly the product of a lot of her time.  It was also the most amazing, helpful gift, especially coming from a lady who has her hands full to say the least.  I think the expression should be changed to, “The fuller the hands, the bigger the heart,” in honor of Beth.

12.  Hot on Beth’s heels was my friend, Robin Gredinger.  Once upon a time, Robin was 16 years old and crashing my car into a mailbox.  Today, she is a marvelous woman who gives her heart to middle schoolers and gave her time and thoughts to me to help me through Helene’s IEP process.  I love who you grew into, Rob.  You are a special lady, as I always knew you would be.  😉

13.  The day before I started my new job, the Hubs brought me home a new necklace to wear.  The necklace is beautiful, and I love it.  What I really loved, though, was what it said:  “I support you.  I want you to succeed.”  Every marriage is tested, but I dare say ours was tested more than many last year.  Yet, here we are.  I love you.  Still and always.

14.  My blog – despite my neglect and apathy – still grew, and I appreciate every single reader and comment.  (Even the spammers; you guys really provide me some great material.)  Also, there are 368 people in the world who think that what I have to say is worth reading.  That’s, like, 368 more than I thought!

15.  I had a therapist who wanted so much to see me succeed at getting emotionally healthy, she worked for free about half the time I spent with her.  I hope she reads my blog so that she’s reminded that I did not forget my promise to pay it forward: I donated my time to a few parents in need of IEP help this year, and I hope I’ve made up for your generosity and kindness – and then some.  Just in case, I fed at least a dozen expired parking meters.  😉

16.  My friend, Elizabeth Francois, agreed to do this project with me!  I really hope she stuck it out and that she shares her list.  If she didn’t, I am grateful nonetheless, because her participation gave me a sense of purpose I needed to get going on this.

So, 2013 wasn’t all horrible.  Was it my favorite year?  No.  But, I don’t know that I’ve reflected on any year and though, Wow! That year was really fabulous. I’d bet that 80%-ish of Twitter comments and FB posts/shares at the end of every year (at least since 2004) snark about how the old year can’t end or the new year start soon enough.  If I learned anything this year, though, I learned that time is an invaluable commodity.  You have no idea how much of it you have, you cannot save it, you cannot get it back, and you cannot borrow it, so you cannot possibly place a price on it.  I don’t want to wish any of it away, and I don’t want to waste it.  Instead, I want to take these last hours of 2013 to reflect on what went right and what I learned from what went wrong.  I might spend tomorrow getting organized.  I might throw on some yoga pants for the purpose of actual yoga.  I might transfer a few bucks into my savings account.  (For now.)  I might think about healthier eating, but – let’s be real – it will be while I eat ALL the gingerbread cake I’m about to make.  The only thing I am resolved to do is to remember the moments from 2014 worth remembering, forget the moments not worth remembering, and enjoy the time I’m given every.  single.  day.

Happy New Year.

Women: Will Someone PLEASE Start Asking the RIGHT Questions? (HINT: “Are You Mom Enough?” Isn’t One of Them.)

It was not my intention, when I started this blog, to get into political issues. I mean for this blog to be something of a place of respite – to maybe even provide some comedic relief. (Yes, I know that requires being funny, Snarky, I mean for ME, and I think I’m funny, dammit.)

But, sometimes stuff happens about which I just cannot stay quiet. (This probably explains why I have a blog.)

Believe me, I tried. First, the whole Hilary Rosen / Ann Romney thing blew up. As I read or listened to the media coverage, I got more and more angry, because – listen – I’ve been on both sides of that fence. The more it went on, the more I wanted to say something. I was horribly afraid, though, it would come out wrong. Then, the TIME magazine cover happened. (And, I am purposely not linking to it, because I’m mad at TIME, and I feel like being all petty about it. Plus, you know what it is anyway.) But, the icing on the cake was this crap from TODAY about how depressed stay-at-home-moms are compared to other moms.

ENOUGH!

I’ve been a work-out-of-the-home mom, I’ve been a stay-at-home-mom, and I’ve been a work-at-home-mom. What do all these experiences have in common? No matter what, I’m always a mom. Whether I dress up in Armani suits and Manolo Blaniks or yoga pants and a t-shirt decorated with strained peas and ketchup smears, I am a mom. Whether I am in dancing in the kids’ playroom to Laurie Berkner or presenting oral argument to the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit, I am a mom. Whether I carpool to a play date or to the office, I am a mom. Whether I pull an all-nighter nursing a sick child or finishing a client’s project, I am a mom.

Guess what else? Just like I sometimes really do not like my professional gig, sometimes the mom gig is the suck, too. Dropping my kids at daycare was often horribly gut-wrenching but sometimes blissfully freeing. Finger painting, going to the park and whipping up recipes in the kitchen is often maddeningly fun but sometimes … just maddening. Going to the office, pouring a cup of coffee, closing the door and listening to anything not related to Nickelodeon, Disney, Sprout or Cartoon Network was sometimes nothing short of orgasmic. Taking a “mental health” day to drive to the beach with the kids, singing “Found a Peanut” at the top of our lungs is marvelous, but so is sending them to school or day care anyway so that I can read a book, watch an uninterrupted TV show or – Heaven forbid – have marital relations with my husband. (Or, you know, just a hot meal of grown-up food we can eat in relative peace.) Also, can we just be real for minute? Does anyone really like cleaning up poop, cutting gum out of hair, scrubbing crayon off the walls or driving around in a car that smells like a locker room and sour milk?

But, here’s the most important thing I want — no, I NEED — you to know. I absolutely, indisputably, beyond any shadow of doubt and without an iota of reservation LOVE my children. Every second of every minute of every day of every week of every month of every year of every decade of every century and until the end of time. And, you can’t tell me I don’t, whether you are cheering about or horrified by what I just wrote above.

You know what else? I don’t doubt you love your child/ren either. Even if you don’t agree with a word that comes out of my potty mouth.

Because, hell yes I am mom “enough.” And so are YOU. Seriously, what the fuck does “Are you mom enough?” even mean? That’s like asking a woman if she’s a “little bit” pregnant. As a teacher and a parent, I often say there are no stupid questions, but congratulations TIME — you finally found one. Way to dig up that nugget, Woodward and Bernstein. (And, for future reference, NEVER ask a woman if she’s pregnant unless she’s spread eagle on a delivery table screaming for an epidural. You WILL thank me for this someday.)

Listen, this chain of recent “war on women” bullshit events wasn’t an accident. Oh, no. When journalists, politicians, religious leaders and ESPECIALLY other women ask accusatory, I’ll-meet-you-at-the-bike-racks-after-school questions via screaming mass media headline, the asker is purposefully playing on a mother’s most exposed and raw emotion: fear of failure. Every mother is susceptible to this kind of emotional terrorism, because kids don’t come with instructions – no weird IKEA-like drawings, no diagrams, no user’s manuals, no troubleshooting guides. So, we rely on – among other things – advice from people or sources we trust. You know, like political leaders, priests, pastors, rabbis, or – say – reputable (ahem) journalistic publications.

Aaaaaaannnd, there you have it.

Well, chew on these facts for a minute:

  • As of 2010, 50.8 percent of the United States’ population is female. Yes, you read that right. Better still, the overwhelming majority of that female population is 18 or older (e.g., eligible to vote).
  • The demand for workers with a postsecondary education (and especially high literacy and math proficiency) outpaces the supply of such workers.
  • Between 1998 and 2009, women were awarded more post-secondary degrees of EVERY type – from Associate’s degrees to doctoral degrees. And this is true even when looking at the data for different racial/ethnic groups!

Now, think about what this means:

  • By sheer power of numbers alone, WOMEN can determine the outcome of almost any election.
  • We cannot afford to exclude anyone from the workforce who is educated and willing to work, or the United States will not be a competitive player on the global economic, technological, scientific or medical stage.
  • There will be more women than men qualified to enter this future workforce.
  • Unless men start lining up to swap their penises for uteruses and vaginas, women are also the most qualified for bearing and birthing babies.

What’s my point? We (as in the greater “we” not just the random few lovely people who read my rants) MUST find a way to make motherhood and professional careers co-exist. AND WE CAN! Fathom the power women could harness in the political and economic arenas if we would stop diluting our own strength. Imagine the force for social, economic, structural and pedagogical change we would be if we stopped the myopic focus on changing each other or placing blame at each other’s feet.

Because, guess what ladies. Your government officials have thought about this (see, e.g., current raging debates above). Your religious leaders have thought about this. (Ahem – Gospel of Mary – Ahem.) And the vision of women as a united force was enough of a nightmare that a solution was quickly devised: provoke gender in-fighting!

Has any group been more susceptible to the cannibalism of its political/social/religious/economic clout than women? I took a semester-long class in college about Black-on-Black racism, and the room was tremendously less hostile than the “Survey of Women’s Issues” class I took, where someone had the “audicity” to speak up in favor of staying at home. And I was in San Francisco, one of the more “liberal” cities you might find.

Mothers are the perfect catalysts for division of our gender because of our peculiar vulnerability to the pressures of our peers. Having a baby? You better not make my job more difficult or cost my business any money! Not having a baby? But, that’s what you’re SUPPOSED to do! Having an abortion? You are going to Hell! Having a baby you can’t afford? Leech! Going back to work after having a baby? How heartless of you to leave your children to be raised by someone else! Staying at home to raise your children? How dare you set back the progress of the “women’s” movement! Breast feeding? Not in my store/restaurant/airport/park you don’t! Not breast feeding? Selfish and ignorant! Vaccinating? You are dooming your baby to a life of disease and defect! Not vaccinating? Irresponsible! Cloth diapers? Bottles? Binkies? Blankets? Toilet training? Co-sleeping? Television? Is there anything we women can’t find to disagree upon – especially when it comes to raising children?

Look, I’m not saying that women should just bounce giddily along, singing Kum-Ba-Ya on the way to the ballot box. (But, hey, I’m in if you don’t mind the fact that I couldn’t carry a tune if it had a handle on it.) Beyond our commonality of gender, there is an amazing range of things we don’t have in common, and no one should advocate to change that. Instead, let’s just start talking to one another and supporting one another, or NO ONE is going to advance political, legislative, religious, economic or social change agendas that affect what matters most to us as the MAJORITY of citizens in this country. If we want equal rights, we damn well better start by treating each other as equals.

So, please, no more blowing up Facebook timelines, Twitter feeds, Google circle-thingys, MySpace pages (is that even a thing anymore?), email accounts, newspapers, talk shows, daytime television, political debates, sermons, or What to Expect When You’re Expecting books with stupid questions about whether we’re women enough, professional enough, mom enough, sexual enough, married enough, single enough, liberal enough, conservative enough or any of the other myriad ways we can tear each other down. Instead, let’s just stop taking no for an answer. Let’s stop taking the bait. Let’s find ways to unite around our differences and use them to our advantage instead of letting the minority control what we get paid, whether or when we work, what we do with our bodies, and what we do with our minds. Let’s think about our children — our daughters AND sons — and whether we want to leave them a legacy of anger and “war” or of progress and equality.

Let’s start asking the right questions before someone needs a time out.