Saturday, November 30, 2013

November 30th

It is the last day of the minimalist challenge.  And yes, I did indeed complete the purge.  Today I am tossing a laundry basket full of orphans socks.   I’ve had these for years thinking the matches would show up. Sometimes they do.  Our cats love to hide socks around the house so occasionally we move furniture and find some matches.  I get inordinately excited when that happens.  But I decided it was time to let them go.  So some for Martha’s rag bin and the rest are out in the garbage.  And I get my laundry basket back.

This month I tossed, donated, or recycled  flower vases, old computer software,  pathetically frayed underwear, owner’s manuals for appliances long since dead, a lot of clothes I can’t wear flat-chested, numerous books to the library book exchange (without taking any new ones home), old flower and vegetable seeds, unused and broken tools, a slew of VHS tapes, a collection of unrecognizable objects in the junk drawer, expired medicines,  eternally dull knives, disgustingly shredded cat and dog toys, dozens of dried up pens and markers, and a host of other strange and no longer needed items.   

I am definitely going to make this an annual event. And Martha never even noticed the difference.

Next . . . my office.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Full of Grace

1.  Being all together to celebrate Martha’s birthday.

2.  Dinner at the French restaurant at the Culinary Institute of America.  The food was embarrassingly fancy and expensive, but Martha enjoyed the spectacle and the girls enjoyed the wine : )    And I am thankful to have the financial means to occasionally celebrate a very special occasion in a very special way.

3.  Sunday morning, waking to the sound of snowplows and being able to just burrow down deeper into the blankies and go back to sleep.

4.  That the world can be so breathtakingly beautiful.

5.  And, of course, during this week of Thanksgiving. my most favorite of all holidays - I am thankful for all of the folks who come and visit with me here; for all who are kind enough to take the time to comment; and especially for those of you (you know who you are) who continue to be such a source of strength and support and inspiration to me.  

Thursday, November 21, 2013


The other night I had dinner with an old lesbian friend.   (She is both an old lesbian, and an old friend : )   And she said to me “did you know that Dr. Peter died last week?”   No, I didn’t know.   I guess this is what happens when you give up your newspaper subscription in favor of on-line news.  I don’t see obituaries anymore.  

So please indulge me as I tell you about Peter, a man who had more impact on my life than any other, with the exception of my father.

Back when Martha and I were first together she told me that she wanted children.    I was still in my totally dazed, black hole mode and I really didn't care one way or the other.  But wanting to please I said “okay”.   As the story unfolded, Martha did not want to have the children herself.  Mostly because, as a cop, she knew she would have to come off the road if she was pregnant and she loved her work.  So I said, “okay I’ll do it.”

That was 24 years ago and options for lesbians wanting children were still very limited - especially if you wanted an unknown donor, which we did.   But we did a lot of asking around and finally found a fertility clinic we were told might consider us.  And that is how we found Peter.

On our very first visit to his hospital clinic the waiting room was filled with heterosexual couples, all looking both sad and hopeful at the same time.    People stared, not sure what to make of us. But Peter greeted us warmly. We explained our situation and Peter said that we would be the first lesbian couple he had as clients, and he was excited about it. But he also explained that:

1.  Because infertility was not the issue, our medical insurance would not pay for the procedures.  Which were expensive.  Very expensive.

2.  Because it was expensive, he recommended a full medical work-up to insure the possibility of pregnancy.  No sense in throwing away thousands of dollars if there were other medical issues.

3.  Because he had never done this with a lesbian couple, he wanted us to go through a psychological evaluation first.  We thought this was a little odd, but our eyes were on the target, and we would have to jump through their hoops.

We went to a psychologist of their choosing and I remember being asked questions like “what will you do when your child is teased about having two mothers”  and “how will you handle child care.” We apparently passed our evaluation with flying colors and were accepted into the program.  Step one - check.

Step two was my medical work-up.  Blood work and a physical were first.  I found out my thyroid levels were very low and went on meds to correct that.  Then I had an internal exam.  I remember that being difficult for me at the time and Martha had come with me to hold my hand. Then I got a call that I needed to come back for some dye test.   And then I got called back one last time. Just Peter and I, a consultation in his office.  He sat next to me and very calmly and compassionately told me that I had a lot of internal damage and that the likelihood of my being able to get pregnant, or to hold onto a pregnancy, would be very unlikely.   He never asked what had happened to me.  I never told him.  My only strong memory is of him, holding my hand, and sharing the silence as my eyes just welled up and the tears rolled.  We sat there like that for a very long time.  “Would you like me to explain this to Martha, or do you want to?”   I don’t even remember my answer.   I only remember not wanting him to let go.  And he didn't.  

Anyway, the story does have a happy ending.  Martha stepped up to the plate and turns out she was extremely fertile.  It took two tries to get pregnant with Beanie, only one try for Peachie. Through the whole process Peter was our biggest cheerleader. But he was also sensitive to my mixed emotions - happy that Martha was pregnant, sad that I never could be, and saddled with all the triggers that went with that.  For every ultrasound, for every office visit, he was always by my side.  Understanding that pain.

He came to the hospital after the birth of both our babies and seemed as proud as any father would be. We stayed friends for a number of years and socialized occasionally but then slowly faded to just exchanging Christmas cards.   A number of years back he started his own private practice and he would see him on TV commercials.  It always brought smiles to our faces.   

Oh, and I should add that after our first daughter was born we went back for a second pregnancy. I told him that I thought it was unfair that we had had to go through psychologist testing, as no straight prospective parents had to.  He apologized and agreed to drop that requirement.   (He also dropped the requirement that a woman had to have a partner)   We became the best advertisement for his clinic and he became to the go-to doctor for lesbians in our area wanting anonymous donor insemination.    

So, having dinner with my old lesbian friend, it came as quite a shock to hear that he had died.  He was only 56 years old.  I would not have my beautiful daughters if not for him.  My friend would not have her amazing son.

Later I looked up his obituary and then read the comments people had left.  Dozens of people thanking him for his dedication,  coming into the office on weekends because “fertile time” was on Sunday.   People thanking him for his compassion when every last bit of hope and science had been tried and there was not going to be a pregnancy.  And then thanking him for staying with them through the adoption process. People thanking him for his humor because, honestly, it is an awkward progress to go through.  He made it magical and delightful and fun. But mostly it was people thanking him because, without him, they would not have their children.  

It must have been an amazing life - to help people achieve their dreams,  to know you were responsible for all these beautiful babies that would not have been otherwise.    As his obituary says “His legacy can be measured by the thousands of babies conceived through his medical practice.”  

So I am feeling a little sad.  The world lost an amazing and compassionate man.  In an odd way we feel he was the father of our children. There is a new hole in my heart but his smile and compassionate touch will always be remembered. And, because of him, the world has received thousands of beautiful babies - one article said over 5,000!  What a legacy indeed. Thank you Peter for making our dreams come true.


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Full of Grace

This week I asked Martha the same questions I answered about her - What do you love best about me?  What drives you nuts?   She immediately thought it was a trap.  But she did humor me and do it anyway.   

She took a long time with 10 things she loved but seemed to want to go on and on about what she didn’t.  Go figure.  

The love list:

1. Loyal

2.  Compassionate

3.  Caring

4. Always calm when things are going to shit

5. Generous to people in need, sometimes too much.

6. Loving, caring, involved mother

7. Gave me family

8. Gave my life stability

9. Handles the family finances

10.  Handy to have around

And the not so much list:

1.  Stubborn

2. Perfectionist

3. Socially awkward/embarrassing/non-social

4. Shitty cook

5.  Picky eater

6. Wacked

7.  Over analyzes everything

8.  Pain in the ass quirks

9.  Always on my heels turning out lights while I’m still in the room, turning down the heat when I’m freezing, taking things for compost when I’m still eating, recycling containers before I finish it, lectures on how many miles I drive my car, etcetera, etcetera, etcetera  

10.  Can spot one single surviving flower in a huge field but doesn’t see the cat puke on the kitchen floor

So for this week’s edition of Full of Grace, I am very thankful that for all my faults (and the list could have been much longer)  she still loves me and hasn't kicked me out of the house.  


Friday, November 15, 2013

24 other things

After posting 24 things I love about Martha, a blogging friend asked if our relationship was really that ideal.  Well no. Of course not.  Every relationship has it's challenges and adjustments.  There are times when she frustrates the hell out me.   So in the interest of balanced reporting, here are 24 things about her that irritate me.

1. She snores.  Loudly.

2. Her idea of date night (which we alternate planning)  is a going out for pizza and then a stroll through Home Depot to plan our next project.  Last week - the grand opening of Tractor Supply!

3. She is constantly cleaning.  She cleans around me, over me, through me.  She vacuums up my laptop cords and shoelaces.    She sprays cleaning stuff when I’m eating which really bothers me. She has been known to spray furniture polish on me.  

4.  She loves disturbing TV shows (Grimm, Sleepy Hollow, Once Upon a Time)  which always chase me out of the  room.

5.  She never puts her clean laundry away.  It just keeps piling higher and higher.

6.  She’s a bed hog.

7.  She’s a spender.  I’m a saver.

8.  She’s a pack rat.  I hate clutter.

9.  She wears socks to bed.

10.  She cannot talk about anything emotional.

11.  She can talk about basketball.  Non-stop

12.  She finishes my sentences.  Almost always wrong.

13. She avoids any discussion to work out problems which is why we have continued to have the same argument.  Over and over. For 24 years.

14.  She is extremely forgetful.  But very selectively forgetful.  Did you return the library books?  Crap, I’ll do it tomorrow.  Did you make the dog’s vet appointment?  No.    Did you pick up that basketball net you needed?  Of course.

15.  She never pushes the seat back after she drives my car.   Then I can't get in it.

16. She is lazy about recycling, something I am very passionate about.

17.  She constantly tells me things about the little kids she works with that upset me. "So and so's mother was the only parent who didn't show up for the reading party. He sat there all alone and cried." That stuff just breaks my heart.

18.  She has a lot of red neck in her.

19.  She owns guns.  Granted, they are her service guns from when she was a cop, but I hate having them in the house.

20.  She always leaves stuff in her pockets and then throws it in the laundry.  I am forever picking tissue shreds out of the washing machine.   Or scraping melted and dried chapstick off of clothes.  I mean, how hard is it to check your pockets first?

21.  She is extremely competitive.  About everything.

22.  She curses.  A lot.

23.  She yells when she is angry.   I cannot be around yelling.  

24.  She is all about speed in getting a project done.  I am all about doing it right.  For example, she doesn't care if she gets paint on the moldings.  I take the time to remove moldings and hardware before painting.   She is happy to cover up flaws (wallpaper will cover that crack)   I want to fix them first.  

Still, when I think about our time together, the good far, far outweighs the bad.  And I’m sure her list about me would go on for pages.  Probably rightfully so.  

Yet even with the weeds that keep popping up, or those that have made a permanent residence,  we have grown a warm and lovely garden together. Not perfect. But very, very beautiful.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Full of Grace

1.  Giving Blood.  It has been a long, long time since I’ve been eligible to donate blood, either because of the cancer and or medication issues.    I am finally eligible again!  (Because, you know, you never really feel particularly healthy when a blood bank won’t take your blood)

2.  All those people who are unaware of the beautiful impact they've made on my life.   

3.  Veterans.  All veterans.  But especially those wounded warriors whose injuries are not visible.

4. Beanie home for a surprise (16 hour) visit.  She basically came home to sleep and clean out the fridge, but I’ll take it.  Also that an event she helped organize at college raised $19,000 for St. Judes.  I am so very proud of her.

5.  A day trip in New England, browsing antiques shops, country stores and enjoying a wonderful comfort food yankee pot roast in an old tavern, with a fire, on a cold blustery day.   This time of year Martha and I are so busy we rarely see each other on weekends.  Getting an extra free day on a three day weekend was delightful.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Things I’ve Done

Emuse challenged us to come up with things we've done in life that very few others have (probably) done.   It took me a while but this is what I came up with:

Sat on Walt Disney's lap
My maternal grandfather was a barber in a ritzy hotel in New York City.  Apparently Mr. Disney came in while I was visiting and I got to sit on his lap while he got his hair cut.  I have no memory of this but my mother always listed it as a highlight of my life.

Chatted with Woody Allen
Whenever I went to a Broadway musical I would wander up to Colony Records (a once famous, but now closed, record store in Times Square)  after the show to buy the soundtrack.   Once as I was picking out my selection Woody Allen asked me how I had enjoyed the show.   We had a brief conversation of which I remember only snippets, but I do remember he made me laugh.

The Brooklyn Bridge
I have used every mode of transportation under, on and over the Brooklyn Bridge - a subway and a boat underneath, I have driven over the lower level, walked and ridden a bicycle across the upper level, and I have flown over it.   This is probably not all that unique for New Yorkers, but I still think it is pretty cool that there are so many ways to cross this, my favorite of all bridges.

Riding in police car
When Martha was still a cop, she drove an unmarked police car.  When I rode with her, if I saw a driver do something irritating (speeding, cutting someone off, etc)  she would let me pull the flashing red light out from under the dash and she would pull them over.  I can’t tell you how satisfying that was. When she retired I begged her for that red light.  But apparently . . . no.

Didn’t let them win
It took me years and years of therapy and hard work to get a grip on trauma and to begin to process the violence and cruelty and humiliation of rape.  I know that there are lots of people who have conquered their traumas a lot faster and dealt with their PTSD a lot better than I.    And I know that it will be a lifetime of work to stay on top of it.  Still, to have reached this place of confidence and acceptance and strength - it is probably the thing I am most proud of.  

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Full of Grace

1. Election day!  No matter the results, my daily dose of crazed politicians at work is now ending.

2.  Living in a place where the seasons change, and the food and clothing and even bedding that change with them.  I do love my mashed potatoes, corduroys, and super cozy flannel sheets.

3.  Getting back to the weight, on all machines at the gym, that I could lift prior to cancer and surgeries.   It has taken me a while but it feels so good to finally regain my strength.

4.  An email from an old time blogging friend.  A much enjoyed blast from the past.

5.  Mastering the perfect squish for my grilled cheese sandwiches.

Please remember to go vote today.  

Monday, November 4, 2013

The Minimalists Game

Many of my blogging friends are participating in NaNoWriMo this month.

I am not a writer.  So in order not to feel left out, I decided to play the minimalists game

Find a friend or family member. Someone who’s willing to get rid of some of their excess stuff. This month, each of you must get rid of one thing on the first day of the month. On the second, two things. Three items on the third. So forth, and so on. Anything can go! Clothes, furniture, electronics, tools, decorations, etc. Donate, sell, or trash. Whatever you do, each material possession must be out of your house—and out of your life—by midnight each day.

I did try to convince Martha to play but its hard to convince a hoarder to be a minimalist.  *sigh*

For every day in November I will be weeding out that number of items.  So far:

Day 1 - 1 broken post hole digger (I thought it was repairable, but no)
Day 2-  2 pairs of jeans donated (apparently shrank in summer storage)
Day 3 - 3 broken clay pots trashed
Day 4 - 4 sweatshirts (daughter’s high school team apparel) donated

It’s only day 4 but I can see this is going to get challenging real fast.

Friday, November 1, 2013


Starting today, the 2009 Recovery Act’s temporary benefit boost to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits end.   This program, formerly known as food stamps, serves about 23 million households, or nearly 48 million people.    48 million!

The average monthly benefit for an individual was about $200 a month and will drop to $189.  A family of four, received  about $668 a month which will drop to $632.    This is a reduction from approximately $1.50 per meal to $1.40 per meal.  

Although the decrease may sound minor, for individuals and families already living on tight budgets, the reduction could mean a couple bags of groceries per month, which can be significant.  And the cut comes right before the holiday season which is even more devastating.

Yesterday I spoke with the director of our local food pantry.   She said that more and more people are already turning to food banks and this will further increase the need.  Further she said that basic nutrition will also suffer with SNAP decreases as people buy cheaper, less nutritious food to make ends meet.

I used to live in public housing and I know what it is like to have to choose between buying food, paying rent, and getting medical care.  My office is next to the Senior Services office and I can tell you, many of our seniors are already struggling to heat their homes and buy medicine.   

There is currently a debate in Congress over whether, and how much, the SNAP program could be cut in years to come. The House of Representatives passed a bill in mid-September that would eliminate about $39 billion from the SNAP budget over 10 years, while the Senate has approved a bill that makes much smaller cuts to the program.

Two things you can do:

1. If you are so inclined, please contact your Congressional representatives and let them know that Congress should not allow further cuts to the  SNAP program, particularly at this time of extreme need.  Also that the program should have incentives for healthy foods, something that some states have tried for, but the major food industries have lobbied against, and won.  Incredible, but true.

2. As much as you are able, contribute to your local food banks.  Food banks estimate that a typical SNAP benefit is enough for a family to buy food for two and a half to three weeks. With the reduction, this will be reduced to two or two and a half weeks.  The need for food assistance is going to be great.

I always find it difficult to reconcile that so many members of Congress tout their so-called “Christian values”  on one hand, while literally taking food out of baby's mouths with the other.   But there again, I also have trouble reconciling how much abundance I have, while others struggle so much.   I often think of that line “Half the world is starving and the other half feels too fat.”

In this month of giving thanks for all we have, please share, if you are able.