10 x 10, inch by inch

Voices of the Year/ 10×10 audience at BlogHer ’14, San José, CA. 


Don’t they/ you look fine?

The woman toward the right with the nice DSLR pointed at me is Danielle Tsi, BlogHer’s event photographer (and a brilliant one).  I’d worked with her at about a half a dozen BlogHer events, and she was kind enough to take my new cutie mirrorless camera and take a few pictures with it for me, so’s I’d have a clue what I was looking’ like (et voilá).  What’s not to love about a person whose generosity matches their talent?

On the occasion of its tenth annual conference, folks at BlogHer had asked ten longtime community denizens to take ten minutes to reflect on the past ten years online (and to imagine where we may be going in the next ten). I was honored to be among them.

I thought I might publish here what I read that night, for any of youse who were there and wanted to get a reminder, and for any of you who didn’t go, but might be curious. If I find out I have permission (nettiquette FTW!), I might embed the slides which I produced, but which were polished off by BlogHer’s designer & thus might be theirs.  If I can’t, your imagination will have to fill in the blanks. Which people’s imaginations generally tend to do anyhow, so.

Herewith, my ten minutes’ of reflection, courtesy BlogHer’s YouTube channel. Below the embed is the text, complete with slide cues, because this is cinema verité here, people.



[SLIDE: note of gratitude]

 First, thank you. Thank you Elisa, Lisa, and Jory. Thank you Stacy, and thanks also to the many very hard-working women behind you for this stage and what it has meant to so many of us over the years. I know first-hand what it takes to make this happen, and it is truly a labor of love.

 Thank you also for the opportunity to reflect on the past ten years, from my point of view. I would sit in rapt attention listening to all sorts of people doing the same thing – in fact have, and will. It’s a great privilege to take a stab at it myself.

 [SLIDE: 2008 Community Keynote audience, courtesy Elan]

I can say in all honesty that two of the things most precious to me now, I owe to blogging: the clarity I have as a parent, and the opportunity I have to be doing the work I’m doing now in support of LGBT families in my community and online.

And it’s not an exaggeration to say that it all began on the BlogHer stage, 50 miles to the north of here and six years ago.

Six years ago, I stood backstage waiting to read a post at the first Voices of the Year. The ballroom was packed, but with about a third as many people. Backstage were a bunch of folks, none of whom I knew, even though I knew of them. We didn’t know what was about to happen. All we knew was that whatever it was, it seemed like a damned good idea.

I had spoken in the morning on a panel moderated by the inimitable Lindsay Ferrier.

[SLIDE: Lindsay’s pumps; riff; try really hard to not say anything untoward; resist the urge to speak randomly about muffins, as you are wont do]

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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.

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.

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]