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Eighth list of ten: High and low points hit in one day (Adoption Day)

one hundred stones
Original photo credit: The Windgrove Center, Tasmania, AU.

In celebration of the 100th post, part eight in a ten-part series.

[Key: lil' monkey/ kid #1 = 2.3 yr old daughter; lil' peanut/ kid #2 = 3 week old son]

As proof that a static state of happiness is a mirage, but then again so is a static state of misery, we oftentimes experience peaks of both in the same day. Sometimes in the same moment. As illustration of the relentless coexistence of misery and joy, behold

Ten high and low points conspiring to fill one day — yesterday — to the brim:

1. Low point: Slept fewer hours the night before than we had in the lil’ peanut’s young life, it seemed. Many of the hours I was awake I spent hacking and coughing up half a lung from the never-ending bronchial scourge that took hold before kid #2′s birth sent us into the Year of Sleep Deprivation. I am resigned to the possibility now that the hack may not leave me ’til the little guy takes his first steps. I wouldn’t be complaining about the sleep deprivation except for it was going to be a big day, as noted in Item #5.

2. Low point: Stepped, half asleep and barefoot, into dog pee in the kiddle’s room. The poor geriatric is on diuretic medication for a heart condition, bless her loyal canine soul. She managed to sneak in and relieve herself on the rug sometime between when I last took her outside, at 3:30am (it’s only fair, what with the diuretics), and when I got my arse out of bed at 7:00am.

3. Low point: The dog managed to foil us yet again when we tried to smuggle one of her twice-daily pills into yet another Trojan Horse delivery mechanism. We have tried: cheese (hard, soft, cream, Camembert, etc.), salami, even potato salad. She is a frickin’ Borg. She figures us out faster than we can come up with alternatives. A given med-smuggling food works for one, maybe two repetitions, after which point she gingerly takes it in her mouth, walks out of the kitchen, and patooi’s it out somewhere in the house, usually on a rug. We are now rotating randomly through leftovers and hope the variety there will work as a suitable cover.

4. High point: Sleep deprivation (see Item #1) had pumped such a fog around the beloved that she managed to think, for a moment, that a squeaking sound she heard (it was from a game the lil’ monkey was playing), coupled with the fluttering of something in her peripheral vision (it was a dried eucalyptus sprig, falling from a nearby shelf), was actually a bat. A BAT, people! Okay, so they are common in the Midwest, whence she came. But never once in her decade of living in these parts has she clapped her eyes on one indoors, hell, even outdoors. It was nothing but a sleep deprivation-induced hallucination, and the shriek she let out, coupled with her swatting away at nothing in particular, provided first me, then a moment later her, a great deal of relief from Items 1 through 3 above.

5. Low point: Late in the morning the lil’ peanut projectile-vomited most of the high-quality mama milk he’d just ingested. All over the beloved’s sweater. Which wouldn’t have been such a problem, except that it was the third time he’d done it that morning (previous targets: first the couch, then the cat, who’ll likely never lounge so close again). Why cry over hurled milk? Because we were all stressed out trying to leave the house TO GO TO COURT FOR MY OFFICIAL ADOPTION HEARING FOR HIS OLDER SISTER.

6. A high and a low and a high point again: At the courthouse, we packed the lobby with a dozen loving family members, blood and chosen and extended, plus a handful of friends (that would be a high point). My dear old friend, who launched the final chapter of our baby journey by suggesting we borrow a cup of her husband’s sperm, held the lil’ quilt-bundled peanut and was getting a contact baby high from sniffing his scalp (another high point).

Then the clerk comes out and asks whether we have forms number 215, 225, and 230. All we knew about was form number 200 (which we’d already sent in, along with several pints of blood and pounds of flesh). We had asked two or three learned sources just what we needed to bring to the court (the person on the phone from the court, plus an attorney friend, plus the person at the adoption agency whom we contracted for the social worker home visit). Not a one mentioned forms number 215, 225, and 230. Where was our lawyer, you might ask? That is another story entirely, but suffice to say the lawyer was more helpful absent than present. For illustration, see visual aid below:


[A nod to K. Vonnegut and his depiction of a certain bodily orifice in Breakfast of Champions. Get yours direct from the artist here (scroll just a bit for the famous *)!]

We finally got the court date on our own, after giving the lawyer the heave-ho. But there, finally in the hallway outside the courtroom, utterly bamboozled by the sudden need for forms 215, 225, and 230, we felt like the whole adoption was going to be sucked down the drain. Until the clerk procured copies of the three forms we could fill out on the spot (which we promptly did, snivelling and whimpering with gratitude).

It boggles my mind how anyone can keep their sanity and patience through an adoption of a kid not already cheering them up by being in their custody, much less in their country. I am certain that the rigamarole we did for a “second parent adoption” was a tenth, at most, of what folks do for regular in-country ones. And a hundredth that for international ones. (Not sure? Check out the To Do list of Adoption Steps in Artificially Sweetened’s right-hand link column.) I bow down to you all, sisters and brothers, and wish you godspeed.

7. High point: The judge, while shuffling through all the papers on his desk, asked (rhetorically) whether the “putative father” has signed away his rights and so forth, to which I was to answer “Yes.” Which I did. But it also happens that said putative personage, whom we lovingly refer to as our Donor Chum, was among the retinue, and seconded my response by dropping his camera from his face for a moment, smiling and waving to the judge and going, “Yep.” Then back he went to the work of documenting the happy event.

8. High point: Being declared by the judge to be my daughter’s lawful parent, which relationship no one can tear asunder. The assembled broke out into applause, and I stifled a tear and hugged the bejezus out of the lil’ monkey, who’d been on my lap the whole time. I referred to her as “Legal Daughter” the whole rest of the day, much like Bette Davis refers to her man as “Groom,” following their marriage, in the last scenes of All About Eve.

9. High point: After we all left the courtroom, most of us who could stay on adjourned to a nearby coffee shop, which was deserted before we came in and had just enough tables to enable us all to encamp there. Not long into the festivities, we broke out into song (to the tune of “For S/he’s a jolly good fellow.” Only the words went, “For she’s now your legal daughter/ for she’s now your legal daughter/ for she’s your now legal daughter…” — and at this point, we all revv up the volume — “which nobody can deny!”

10. High point: Though he slept through the entirety of the day’s proceedings, the lil’ peanut was not going to let the day pass without comment. After we’d gotten home, his big sister “kissey-kissey-kissed” him for the umpteen-gazillionth time. But yesterday evening, for the first time in his life (moved by a person, and not his bowels), after she kissed him, he smiled. A huge, toothless, There may be bad times, but lordy are the good times good kinda smile.

Comments { 19 }

Seventh list of ten: Things to do whilst waiting for the birth

one hundred stones
Original photo credit: The Windgrove Center, Tasmania, AU.

In celebration of the 100th post, part seven in a ten-part series.

Around here, we answer the phone with the preface “Baby on the inside.” Thus, in a sing-song: “Baby on the inside; hello.” Not that friends and family wouldn’t expect to have been informed somehow or another that the baby got himself on the outside. But for some reason, since he dropped into ready position several weeks ago, and he’s already way bigger than the biggest bowling ball any amateur would want to bowl with, it is a matter of widespread bamboozlement that he’s still snacking on the inside. But I’d be doing that if I were him. It’s a Caddy in there.

Meanwhile we try hard not to devolve into staring alternately at the clock and the belly, lunging for the hospital bag every time another “Braxton Hicks” passive labor contraction comes along. Instead, I try to keep focussed on these

Ten things to do whilst waiting the sweet eternity for baby #2 to emerge:

1. Anything the obscenely pregnant mum wants; anything at all. Repeat when necessary. Mutter passive-aggressively under your breath if the request seems unreasonable, but do it anyway. Because being this pregnant is unreasonable. She is within a stone’s throw of a nine month-long ascent of Everest, and you can’t blame her if the thin air is making her brain do funny things. You may find yourself hallucinating, too. Be kind to yourself, and then SNAP OUT OF IT! Look at her! She hasn’t been capable of seeing anything south of her belly button for months!

2. Arrange care for kid #1 for the duration of your time away at the birth and afterward. But work to make peace with the inevitability that no matter how seamlessly you try to ensure that her routine will be undisturbed, bringing home a whole new person – who, much to her dismay, will not be returned after a trial period – is going to be anything but routine. Adjust your seatbelt and enjoy the ride.

3. Attempt to do absolutely every backed up repair job (a.k.a. “honey do” jobs) around the house. Call in every favor you can with every handy friend you have, if you got ‘em (both favors and handy friends, that is). Then give up on fixing everything and settle for the three things your sweetie is most likely to notice over the next few months.

4. Arrange for food delivery from friends and family for at least a week, maybe two following the birth. The upside of this is, you have the opportunity to introduce your fresh baby to friends and family, but not all of them on the same day. We had “latching issues” with kid #1, and were so stressed out about it that we really could only handle an hour at a time of anyone’s company after we left the safe haven of the hospital.

The idea of a self-imposed house arrest was an idea we got from the childbirth education class we took in anticipation of our first little monkey; we did it then and were massively grateful for every hour of peace we had as a new trio. For a body recovering from the major event of childbirth, it’s a medical necessity. For anyone properly in awe of the arrival of a new life, however it finds its way into your home, it’s an emotional necessity.

5. Rummage around and find all the little bitty fresh newborn paraphernalia that you packed away when kid #1 outgrew it, get all teary and nostalgic and hum “Sunrise, Sunset” from Fiddler on the Roof as you slowly unpack it. [Thanks to The Heavenly Harpist for her rendition of this classic.]

6. Arrange for the first supply of diaper deliveries if you’re doing cloth, or go get a bunch of the disposable kind if you really despise Mother Earth and want her to die a slow, miserable death smothered under tons and tons of non-biodegradable diapers. If you are going the cloth route, try to conceal from your eco-chums that on kid #1 you threw cloth overboard after a year and a half, opting instead for chlorine-free, bio-degradable, free-range paper diapers simply because they’re so gosh darn convenient.

7. Write down the phone numbers of everyone you’re going to call from the hospital with the good news (presuming it’s a hospital birth, and of course presuming it’s good news). Before you put the list in your wallet, laminate it if at all possible, just so’s not to leave any obsessive-compulsive stones unturned. Because what if you forget your cell phone (presuming you have one)? Or what if you remember your cell phone and it forgets all the numbers? Anything can happen, people. You may even forget your fingers so be prepared to dial with your nose or a pencil held in your teeth.

8. Go get a double stroller on Craigslist, or eBay [oops! never mind! check this out], or some place sensible. Whatever you do, don’t go to some bourgeois baby boutique and pay retail, just because it’s more expedient and you and the Big Missus are going stir-crazy waiting for the kid to come out. You’ll totally regret it. That is, unless you get an orange Phil & Ted’s baby buggie that pops into a dozen different two-kid configurations and drives like a Beemer, man. Meep meep!

9. Get a haircut, dude! Because you are soooo not doing anything but wall-to-wall childcare for six weeks after the birth, and by then your hair will be all huge and Shaun Cassidy-like, at which point no matter how adorable your newborn is, you will pray not to be seen by friends out on the street.

10. Appreciate your remaining time together as a trio. This first kid has been gently drawing your parenthood out of you for the past two plus years, and nothing — aside from coming out, or falling in love, or living through the deaths of loved ones — has changed you so profoundly. Look into her eyes, and the eyes of your beloved, and give thanks.

Comments { 8 }

Sixth list of ten: Things I have in common with dads

one hundred stones
Original photo credit: The Windgrove Center, Tasmania, AU.

In celebration of the 100th post, part six in a ten-part series.

I’m a female parent who (a) didn’t give birth, but (b) is partner side-by-side with one who did, and (c) is in some ways nearly as mannish as I am womanish. As a result, more often than not it’s the dads I sidle up to and chat with at the playground, and I’ve made at least as deep a connection with my men friends who are fathers as I have with my women friends who are mothers. (This is apart from the obvious and intense connection I have with women who are, like me, lesbian parents.)

Given all this, I thought it’d be interesting to corral, in one of these lists, a good

Ten things I have in common with dads:

1. (with slacker dads) We both tend to want to avoid doing the dishes and the laundry as frequently as the sweetie would like.

2. (with handy dads) We both prefer to put the “some assembly required” toys together; this impulse also applies to installing child seats, building tree houses, and fabricating excuses to take a “quick trip” to the hardware store.

3. (with dads whose partners have carried and birthed the kids) We have seen our partners through the awe-inspiring Everest climb of pregnancy, witnesed them birth our kids, and therefore tend to see our partners in the kind of shimmering light that shines on them.

4. (with dads whose partners have carried and birthed the kids) Because it’s the other one who gave birth, and nursed, and smells like Home to the kids (rather than home), we’re chopped liver for years, and it hurts, man, it hurts.

5. (with donor-conceived / donor insemination / DI  and adoptive dads) Our parenthood has been made possible by the generosity of another man.

6. (with donor-conceived / donor insemination / DI and adoptive dads) We don’t look like our kids, they don’t look like us, and we are grateful for the powerful impact our nurture will have on them.

7. (with donor-conceived / donor insemination / DI and adoptive dads) We may worry about whether one day our kids will develop some strong desire to look past us, to the donor or biological father, for some biological kinship that we can’t provide. And of course we live with that, due to item #5 above. If we’re fortunate, we may even find ways to regard this in an expansive, positive light.

8. (with feminine dads in same-ish sex marriages) Kids are drawn to us in a distinct way, because while I can’t substantiate it with clinical proof, I know there’s just something wonderful about a person who has a rich mix of both masculine energy and feminine, all in the same body. And in my personal experience, kids pick up on this big time. They know they’ll get both the hoisting high and the soft cuddling, and it makes some visceral core part of them very happy.

9. (with gear fetishist dads) We wish that there were a baby shower for us, so we could receive stuff from this place. Or this place. Not that we’d want to admit that in public.

10. (with every dad with a wide-open heart) We consider this parenthood gig the toughest (most meaningful, rewarding) job we’ll ever love, and can’t imagine how we ever thought we could do without it.

[Seventh list of ten: Things to do whilst waiting for the birth]

Comments { 7 }

Fifth list of ten: How to build a better weblog award competition

one hundred stones
Original photo credit: The Windgrove Center, Tasmania, AU.

In celebration of the 100th post, part five in a ten-part series.

[Warning A: Jumbo post alert! Warning B: Of little interest to anyone who didn't ride the Weblog Awards roller coaster last week! If you didn't, please check back in another day or two for actual content! content! content! If you did ride, and have an itch to scratch about it, read on!]

As a way to put the 2006 Weblog Awards rollercoaster ride in some perspective, I thought it might be useful to come up with some steps about how to build a better Weblog Awards system. Not that there aren’t enough bright ideas hopping about in the animated Weblog Awards Forum. But I got five more of these lists to get out, man. And I reckon I’m not the only one that suspects a different story would have unfolded, had this — and all the other finalist blogs in all the categories — had competed under a different set of rules.

Imagine my surprise, as I was rooting around the web for alternative examples, when I discovered rival weblog awards! Blogular rookie that I am, having begun in earnest only this past spring, I was utterly unaware of them. One existing award is international (the BOBs), another is older (the Bloggies). Another (The Webbys), includes a few blog categories in a survey of the web far, far beyond the blogosphere. Two split their awards into juried and “User Prize” winners (the BOBs), or juried and “People’s Voice” awards (The Webbys). The Bloggies employs a jury selection to get blogs to the finalist stage. All are designed to keep the mass voting hysteria in check by attempting, in one way or another, to limit the quantity of popular votes.

If it’s pure quality product you want to suss out, if you want some way to determine excellence in a blog, then a popular vote contest isn’t going to reveal anything more than (relative) popularity. If you’re looking for something else, I offer for your contemplation these

Ten steps to build a better weblog award competition:

1. Strive to reward excellence, while admitting from the outset that “excellence” is a fairly subjective thing and that no two people are going to be completely satisfied with a rubric by which to judge it.

2. Try to determine a rubric anyway, responsive to the features that define or characterize blogs as a distinct medium of communication. These might include such things as: quality and originality of content; value of content to intended community; quality and originality of graphic design; elegance of user interface/ readability; appropriateness of design interface to blog content; presence and liveliness of dialog with intended community.

The Deutsche Welle International Weblog Awards, called the Best of the Blogs (or BOBs), use the following guidelines, published on their Criteria page:

Prose: Linguistic expertise, intelligibility, timeliness, transparency, authenticity.

Creativity: Originality of topic, humor, use of new style elements.

Design: Appropriate design, use of multimedia elements (animations, graphics, audio, video.

User Friendliness: Interactivity, usability, linking, commentary functions, other useful properties.

The aspects listed above are not a comprehensive list and should be used as general guidelines for the jury’s decision.

The Webby Awards reward excellence in content, structure and navigation, visual design, functionality, interactivity, and overall experience. Here are their Criteria.

Most blog designs are turnkey, and most amateur bloggers work fairly modest variations on a standard template. This one is a typical example: I use WordPress’ K2 with almost no fancy customizations, except for the header bar; my contribution to its overall design is to attempt to keep some color consistency, and to break up text in the links column with the occasional image or graphic. (That is, to the extent I can figure out how to pry into the WordPress template without derailing it.)[Ed note: July 2008 I actually did spiff it up, with the help of others. So there.] Design judgment under these circumstances entails the splitting of hairs over how bloggers make use of existing templates. For this reason, original template design should be especially rewarded.

The Bloggies separate off these design templates and actually reward “Best Application for Weblogs” (2006 winner: Blogger; finalists: Flickr, Del.icio.us, Site Meter, and WordPress).

3. Determine the most reliable means by which to measure a blog’s relative success in these various realms. This would be a very hard thing to do, since much of the design and content judgments would be so subjective. Some relatively objective measures of a blog’s impact and worth within its intended community may be measurable via tracking such things as its user comments, its incoming links and traffic. Another measure would be the amount and way in which a blog is referred to on other blogs. And while there’s no accounting for taste, many can agree on essential standards for sound design and usability. Jakob Neilson, usability guru, has provided some usability standards for blogs that could provide a basis. (Even if the aesthetics of his own sites fall far short of the ideal.)

4. Subject that rubric to a wide, democratic, wiki-like review and revision, by those who make up the community to whom this measure of blogular excellence matters.

5. So that step #4 doesn’t devolve into chaos, fix the period of public review to limited time, and delegate the final determinations on the judging rubric to those who would also serve as jury for the blog competition.

6. Recruit a varied, principled jury to judge the nominees. How many people, and how the judging process might be administered, would have a lot to do with the scope of the blogosphere that the award is attempting to represent. The jury ought to comprise a panel of distinguished contributors to and observers of the blogosphere, representing a range of specializations (design, content, community impact, significance of contribution, etc.).

The International BOBs use a jury of “independent journalists, media experts, and blog experts,” and each year’s jury is profiled on their Jury page.

The Webbys are overseen by the International Academy of Digital Arts and Sciences, a 500+ member association characterized by excellence in contribution to life online:

Membership in The Academy is currently by invitation only and is limited to those individuals who have catalyzed great achievements on the Internet, demonstrated extraordinary talent in a traditional medium, or who possess in-depth knowledge of new media and comprehensive familiarity with a broad range of sites within a category.

Could be this is why the Webbys have been called “The Oscars of the internet” by The New York Times.

7. Make the judging process as transparent and as rigorous as possible. The Webbys’ “judging process” page provides a great example of this.

8. Acknowledge that a means of communication as wide-open and unregulated as the blogosphere is likely to foster many blogs which straddle multiple subject area categories, complicating the process of parsing them into discrete subject area categories. The Webbys, which aim to reward excellence in web site design including but also far beyond the blogosphere, provide more than 65 categories. Notably, no “generalized” category exists, minimizing the confounding experience of comparing blogs with dramatically different purposes and scope.

9. Find a way to live with the fact that apples will be compared to oranges which will be compared to camshafts. And that no matter how the process is conducted — no matter how transparent, how well-thought out, how wisely substantiated by professional consensus — many folks will feel cheated, rooked, had, screwed, and swindled. Because there are two kinds of people: good sports and poor sports. Both will want to play, and everyone will consider themselves good sports, and their competitors poor sports.

10. If a select panel of distinguished jurors seems inappropriate for a medium as garrulous as the blogosphere, here’s a concession. The Webbys provide a parallel competition, the “People’s Voice.” There, the general online community can vote on the finalists chosen from the nominees. But this stands parallel to the “winners” chosen by the panel of professionals.

It’s not clear to me how the Webbys’ “People’s Voice” vote is conducted. How to narrow things down to the good ole fashioned, one person, one vote? That has got to be the $64K question. No one is likely to provide their Social Security number or their driver’s license number, two of the few data points which could be uniquely verifiable. Yet every other data point even just slightly less private — email address, phone number — isn’t exclusive to just one person. That is, plenty of people use multiple email addresses and phone numbers.

For better and for worse, this is what the Bloggies do:

•  Only one nomination form and one finalist voting form may be submitted per person.
•  E-mail addresses are required to vote. You must use your own address.
•  If you attempt to submit a second ballot, your first one will be erased.

The BOBs do this:

While there’s no way to eliminate fraud from Internet voting, we’re trying to avoid it by making voters — the real human ones — enter text from a randomly generated image to confirm their votes.

So they, as do the Weblog Awards, surely field multiple votes from the hyper-motivated.

Whatever the case, if the “popular” part of the awards were to be determined by a one vote-per-computer, one vote-per-24hrs spree over the course of ten days, you can be guaranteed the following:

  • voters with access to multiple computers (e.g. at work and at home) will be privileged;
  • competitors will be at an advantage when they spread the word far and wide, and therefore active or activatable online networks will be at an advantage;
  • an important or dramatic issue perceived to be at stake can inspire such a network to emerge under pressure; and
  • feverish competitiveness will be built into the process, particularly if an issue is perceived to be at stake in any of the competitions.

If all that sounds like fun, then great! Cause that’s what I think just happened with the 2006 Weblog Awards! But the “winning” blogs are not necessarily standard-bearers for excellence in design, content, or even utility to intended audience. They represent those whose readership and/or community is either the largest, or the most motivated, or both. Maybe they’re motivated by quality product, maybe not. All’s we know is they’re motivated.

And so we roll to a stop back here at this particular assemblage of lesbo bon mots. I gave up trying to solve the abiding mystery surrounding how in the Sam Hill this blog made it as a finalist (I’ve run out of alternative readings on the blog title; perhaps someone read it right, and thought these were the sweet musings of Papa Ethridge, or Papa Lang, or Papa O’Donnell). But there it was, and there it stayed, and it netted a sizable community of voters with a sizable motivation to vote, which has been in turns surprising, humbling, and inspirational. To those of you erstwhile voters who stick around as readers: I’ll try to live up to your expectations, on behalf of my cute kid, and all sorts of other cute kids in LGBT families that I think she’s standing in for. But it’ll have to be back at my pre-Sweeps Week publishing output, though. Every other day, weekends and childbirths off.

[Sixth list of ten: Things I have in common with dads]

Comments { 4 }

Fourth list of ten: Thanks to those who got out the vote

one hundred stones
Original photo credit: The Windgrove Center, Tasmania, AU.

In celebration of the 100th post, part four in a ten-part series.

In what I hope will be one of the last direct references to the virtual roller derby that was the Weblog Awards, below are, near as I can figure,

Ten contingents to whom I owe thanks for helping LesbianDad become the little hairy-legged blog that could.

Many in these contingents are already among the herds upon herds of old, established readers who comb the site daily for life-sustaining content! content! content! But a good smattering looked in for the first time this past week. Howdy!

1. Personal family and friendship networks; also their friends, and their friends, and their friends. Some are Very Important People &/or veteran organizers, with bodacious email lists and much enthusiasm for supporting a friend and a worthy cause.

2. The very large, very active community of online lesbian family bloggers & readers thereof, primarily connected to one another via Mombian and LesbianFamily.org. Also their friends, and their friends, and their friends. This bunch of folks has a very powerful motivation to increase awareness and understanding about lesbian families, believe strongly in the benefits of some of that work happening online, and therefore would have been immensely motivated to vote daily and to continue to tell their friends to do so.

3. Hundreds of Northern California LGBT families, via the Our Family Coalition email list. Also their friends, and their friends, and their friends. For motivation see rationale #2 above.

3a. [Later note!] The six-hundred-plus subscribers to the Yahoo! group of which I’m a member, made up of “professional women writers from around the world” who “discuss the vocation and the craft.”

4. Untold quantities of San Francisco Bay Area lesbians on a legendary regional email list serve. For motivation see rationale #2 above.

5. Sundry Democratic Underground readers, via a note there by an Our Family Coalition member. For motivation see some of rationale #2 above; add to this also general-purpose hetero ally ire at homophobic hate speech from some quarters of the competition.

6. The mighty Unitarian Universalists and their vast national email network. Or at least the mighty emailing fingers of the Northern California and Michigan people. I spoke at a service at the Oakland UU once in June, and have friends who are very active in the congregation. Many (a) read this blog religiously (pun intended, I suppose), happily supportive of its essential message, and some also (b) got hecka steamed over the homophobic hate speech.

7. One or two actual random people who might have simply run across the blog for the first time when seeing it listed as a finalist, and who voted for it for any number of reasons. (e.g., Thought it was actually about Russian trends after misreading the title as “Caspian Fad.”)

8. One little dickens who figured out some way to scam the Diebolds at Weblog Awards Central, evidently to the tune of about a hundred votes, the sneak*. Except they got sucked back up into the ether where they came from by the Weblog Awards Quality Assurance vacuum. Which is exactly where they belong. *[Later note, after netting some insider info from Weblog Awards central: There were three sneaks! From three different parts of the country (none local)! To the tune of hundreds of votes! Yow! Fortunately the WAQA vacuum is powerful!]

9. My doctor and the intern who was with him when I got a check up last week. Well, I don’t really know for sure whether my doc voted. I just asked him and he said he would, and he’s such a nice, friendly man. Don’t know about the intern, though. I kinda think he was just kissing up to me to look good in front of the doctor.

10. A handful of other bloggers who recommended folks vote for LD, like The Other Mother, Mombian, Looky, Daddy, politickybitch, TiFaux, the buddha is my dj, A Life Less Convenient and even (what a prince), on the last day, thinking it was a squeaker between this and another blog, fellow “Best New Blog” category finalist Konagod. The Five-Forty ought to snag some kind of commendation for “Best Sense of Humor” or “Best Sport.” Plus while we’re at it there was this nice gal on MySpace. Oh! And (as I later discover), folks at Daily Kos.

Thank you all. Except you, #8, you naughty cheaters.

By the way, not a factor: The Lesbian Mafia. There is none; never has been. A vicious rumor. If there were a Lesbian Mafia you know they’d be the first I’d have called, and the one guy that seems to be running this whole operation at Weblog Awards Central would still be struggling right now, wrists tied behind his back in a broom closet somewhere, duck tape over his mouth, an iPod plugged into his ears with Indigo Girls on an endless loop.

Also not a factor: My dad. Not that he didn’t try. But he’s 85 years old for cryin’ out loud. He is still upset by the fact that you can’t get a phone to work by simply picking it up when it rings and setting it down on the receiver when you’re done. (So am I.) But it took me over 20 minutes to talk him through voting just once in the computer room at his retirement home. (“Okay, now it says Google again in big letters” etc.).

Another night he tried again on his own, and left a phone message: “Um…. honey… Trying to vote here…. “ His voice trails off. Then he’s back on again. “Oh! There’s the baby!”, referring to the image at the top o’ the blog header. That came out in the delivery style of the old Tonight Show sidekick Ed McMahon (“Heeeere’s Johnny!”) Then he fell quiet again, there was some rustling, a voice in the distance. “Um… okay. Ooops. I’ll call you back.”

Thanks for everything, though, Pops. It’s not the quantity of votes that count; it’s the quality.

[Fifth list of ten: How to build a better weblog award competition]

Comments { 9 }

Third list of ten: Crisis/grief support

one hundred stones
Original photo credit: The Windgrove Center, Tasmania, AU.

In celebration of the 100th post, part three in a ten-part series.

As regular readers of this assemblage of lesbo bon mots will recall, my parenthood is markedly influenced by loss. My inaugural post introduced this theme; I named one of my exceedingly obscure tags “Seraphim/dakini” to note the recurring presence of these spirits in my life and the life of my emerging parenthood; and my gratitude for pretty much everything (yes, everything!) stems directly from knowing too well what I have to lose.

Since a friend just recently found herself in the position of wanting to support someone close to her who’d lost her spouse, and another is currently a pillar to a friend in the latter stages of a terminal illness, I am freshly reminded of the relevance. So I take a deep breath and offer up

Ten helpful things that people can do or say in times of extreme crisis or grief

1. Bring food, without asking. Leave it at the door with a note, if you don’t want to disturb. And bring food that can keep (frozen stuff that can be re-heated can be as good as a warm dish, since they’re not obligated to have an appetite right then and there).

2. Bring food in containers that DON’T NEED TO BE RETURNED. Can’t stress that enough. Otherwise the house will become a veritable Amway Depot of tupperware, pots, etc., each of which represents enormous generosity (which is good) but each of which needs to be returned. Or even stored somewhere. (Which is yet one more stressor or problem to solve.)

3. Step up, or if you can’t, find someone who can step up and organize other people’s generosity on behalf of those you’re supporting. Oddly, as everyone who’s lived through (or, bless you, are currently living through) a huge family crisis will know, a landslide of generosity, while an enormous boon, still needs to be fielded. And if you’re working on trying to save someone’s life, or trying to make out the smokey remains of a world that they just left, figuring out whether or not you need another plate of lasagne can often put you over the edge. Someone else who loves and knows you and your home can and should field the calls on the lasagne for you.

4. Employ the internet to aid in the support. You can find pre-fab sites that enable families to have an online “guestbook” of words of support; more and more, simply starting a family blog can do the trick, especially if its design enables a user’s including additional pages, such as privacy-protected phone lists, calendars to organize who’s bringing what food when, etc.

5. Support the supporters. In other words, look carefully at the sphere of people who are affected by the crisis or loss, identify those who are doing the most work in supporting the key folks, and then support them. If you don’t feel close enough to the affected people, but want to help, rest assured that the helpers are spreading themselves as thin as they can and could use someone to buy them groceries, walk their dog, etc.

6. Unless they’ve asked for no phone calls, call. Leave sweet, short messages; just say you’re thinking of them. You could certainly ask whether they need anything, but that’s almost a formality. It’s the work of loved ones around those in crisis or grief to work really hard to try to figure out those needs. Unless they have superhuman powers, folks in crisis or extreme grief are unlikely to (a) be able to articulate just exactly what they need, and/or (b) be able to return your call for hours, days, weeks, months, maybe years. Take no offense, of course, but also by all means DO THE WORK OF GETTING BACK IN TOUCH WITH THEM, consistently. Even if they don’t have the energy to call back, they still benefit from the reminders of your concern. And when they are up to answering the phone, they will need your love.

7. Attend to the little creatures who may be forgotten or under-tended in the wake of the crisis or grief. Meaning kids, pets, even plants. Anyone who has lived through (or, bless you, is living through) crisis or extreme grief will know that kids show signs of stress and grief differently — differently than adults, and also differently than one another (see some of the links at the bottom of this post for more on this). But don’t think that because they aren’t crying, or talking about their feelings, they don’t feel the distress around them, and/or aren’t in distress themselves. So volunteer to be with them, restore their daily routine, etc.

8. Pay extremely close attention, however, to the changing emotional needs of the folks you are trying to help. These needs can be logical or illogical; predictable or unpredictable. It matters not. Until their world begins to rotate on its axis in the proper direction (and during crisis and in extreme grief it most certainy does not), it is not anyone else’s place to quibble over how to help them. So for example, if taking one of their kids out of the house for an afternoon at Chuck E Cheese’s seems like a good idea to you, and even to the kid, but it destabilizes the parents who need to have all their chicks counted and in the nest, try to think of some way to help divert the kids at the house.

9. When you’re far away and can only send your goodwill in a note or a gift, don’t worry about what to say. Really. Telling them the simplest truth is good enough: You are so sorry. You want to help in any way you can. You will be in touch. Many people may become quite upset if you say “I know just what you’re feeling” unless it’s really, truly, the case. Grief over loss is so, so idiosyncratic. Siblings, probably even identical twins feel differently over the same loss. No loss is the same. Your efforts to try to understand how they feel, and provide love, are good enough.

10. Be patient; indicate that patience to them. Help them to know that months and years from now, you will still be there. The worst thing in the world for a person to hear, when they’re struggling in the wake of a crisis and paddling across an ocean of grief, is “You should be feeling better by now!” As utterly obvious as that might seem to be, bizarrely, too many people hear that message. Either directly or by implication. They’ll be done grieving when they’re done. Meanwhile, help them find ways to live with their phantom limbs; sit with them; listen to their stories; help them feel fine about crying all they need to — if they’re the crying type (and help them feel fine about not crying, if they’re not). Hand them a hanky. Bring them water so they don’t dehydrate. Take a deep breath.

Here are some further resources I’ve found helpful:

The Dougy Center for Grieving Children and Families
Compassionate Friends
Growth House
Kidsaid

[Fourth list of ten: Thanks to those who got out the vote]

Comments { 10 }

Second List of Ten: First words

one hundred stones
Original photo credit: The Windgrove Center, Tasmania, AU.

In celebration of the 100th post, part two in a ten-part series.

You didn’t think that a doting parent could actually resist the magnetic pull of her child’s first words, did you? Which were uttered over the course of the first hundred posts of this digital paean to parenthood? Yup. So (omitting the obvious Mama and Baba, which did come first), here’s a breezy romp through

My child’s first ten words

1. “eyeball,” Feb 3 (not shitting you. eyeball. she was coached by her cousin.)

2. “Buddha” (pronounced bu-bu, but she was pointing to a statue of the big B), Feb 10

3. “light,” Feb 11

4. “Nonnie” (her across the street chum, technically “Norrie” but why split hairs over a few consonants), Feb 16

5. “yogurt” (pronounced yo-yo), Feb 16

6. “knock knock” (while knocking, mind you. though a joke did not follow, I’m very sorry to report), Feb 17

7. “open it” (pronounced op-it, but I swear it was in reference to opening something), Feb 18

8. “goat” (yahoo! I can’t explain why but I love goats!), Feb 19

9. “cookie,” Feb 20

10. “chimes,” Feb 21

There are oh, so many more. Now she’s wandering around the house critiquing disestablishmentarianism. As apple sauce dribbles down her chin. But this was way back then, in the heady days of her SEVENTEENTH MONTH ON EARTH, people. That would be less than one and a half years (I am so glad she is out of the “months” age range and into the “year + months” age range; I never could keep track). Proud? Yeah, youbetcha. Now I understand why that word is so often coupled with “parent.”

[Third list of ten: Crisis/grief support]

Comments { 3 }

In celebration of the 100th post


A hundred stones on a beach in Tasmania, placed and photographed by a blogger (far more imaginative and intrepid than me) to symbolize and celebrate a hundred blog entries (click the photo to link to them).

Warning! Warning! It’s a blog meme. Or at least I think it is. I’m still enough of a blogospheric rookie that I had to Google it to be sure what it was.

Herewith, on the occasion of my hundredth post, Ten Lists of Ten, which I’ll be rolling out throughout the week in fits and starts. And by rolling, I mean the kind of rolling effect you’d see if someone balled up a mastadon and then pushed and pushed. Not the baseball going down a steep paved street, and it’s your turn to get it kind of rolling. I refer us all to my earlier reference to the fact that I am the very opposite of prolific, and am engaging in a high-spirited daily expunging of text &/or image, just to make all this wild wacky Weblog Awards voting seem worth the effort to both of you — you, Dad, and whoever you buttonholed to keep finding fresh wired computers in this and neighboring zip codes, over and over again. Not that I’m paying ANY attention to any of that.

Now back to the matter at hand. With this Ten Lists of Ten thing, I will try to get each list of ten to be reasonably reflective of the kind of patter I usually issue forth with here. And since I am infinitely fascinated by the universal attraction to diametric oppositions, the first List of Ten will be:

Ten pairs of “two kinds of people”

1. People who would dive head first after a ball on the field and people who would never begin to consider such a thing unless a bomb or their child or a latté were glued to it.

2. People who pause, read, and memorize descriptions on the “lost pet” flyers, and people who don’t.

3. People who knew my mom, and people who didn’t.

4. People who are confronted with a choice like this:

and take the left-hand route up to the street, and people who are confronted with said choice and take the right-hand route. Like me.

5. People who actually wait to hear your answer when they ask “How are you?” and people who, if they happen to listen following the question, are totally surprised if/when you answer truthfully.

6. People who snicker when they hear someone call out “Frau Blucher!” and people who say “Gesundheit.”

7. People who “marry” someone just like their mom, and people who “marry” someone just like their dad. Please note that this also goes for people who have to choose from two parents of the same biological sex, or one parent, or what have you. The magnetic pull to replicate the Parental Unit is undeniable.

8. People who find the humor on the other side of this link funny, and people who don’t, aka me. And that’s something, since one of my favorite “lightbulb” jokes is:

    Q: How many feminists does it take to screw in a light bulb?
    A: That’s not funny!

9. People who divide people up into two artificially opposing camps and people who don’t.

10. People who proofread everything they write before hitting “post” and people who

O this is so fun I may just have to add to the list from here to eternity. Stop me if it all starts to make your head hurt.

[Second list of ten: First words]

Comments { 10 }