Friday, September 25, 2009

Diary of a Mad Housewife: "Ketchup"

When I saw Julie and Julia this summer (which I LOVED), I felt vindicated that Julia Child had a dear friend with whom she corresponded for years before they ever met in person. My Julie has always been a little bit dubious of on-line friendships, especially mine, but I say whatEVer, because I don’t know what I would do without them. When Trixie was a baby, and I was miserable in the judge’s chambers and then the big law firm in the sky (literally in the sky; I was on the 50th floor – I may have been miserable, but I had a great view!), I was part of two on-line communities that felt like lifelines to me. One was the Gay and Lesbian Parenting Board at Parents’ Place, one of the predecessors of iVillage; this summer 12 year old Trixie went to sleep-away camp with Hannah, the daughter of Sara, one of the moms I know from that board. I’ve met Sara in person just a handful of times, but she’s been my friend for over a decade, and now our friendship has become second generation: onlinefriends 2.0?! It’s very sweet.

The other on-line community I became a part of at the same time was the Attachment Parenting Board at Parent Soup, the other predecessor of iVillage. I was such a misfit on that Board, but thank goodness I didn’t get shouted out of the community (as I might have in many on-line AP communities at that time, being the non-birth, non-breastfeeding, non-co-sleeping, fully-vaccinating, no-sling-in-sight, full-time working mother with a baby in day care as I was!) Those moms meant the whole world to me, and when twenty or so of them went off to form a Yahoo Groups to talk about “voluntary simplicity,” I was thrilled that I got an invitation to join them. We called ourselves the “volsimmers” though in truth, we emailed, furiously, about everything and anything: pregnancy, birth, adoption, diapers, breastfeeding, school, home school, unschool, sex, marriage, divorce, politics, race, religion, you name it. Tempers flared, there was drama and there were tears, but there was also such incredible support, such caring through so much … welcoming new children, mourning miscarriages, divorces and remarriages and so much more. For many years, we shared multiple emails a day, and almost everyone checked in more than once a week, but as our children grew, the volume of our correspondence dwindled until a quick check-in once or twice a year was pretty much the extent of it.

Recently, though, many of us have found each other on Facebook, and the renewal of our friendships, now over a decade old, has been such a blessing. Now we’re all well-seasoned moms of tweens and teens, a little wiser for the wear, a little less doctrinaire – but the Yahoo Groups volume has ticked up a bit, as we still seem to find plenty of not-fit-for-Facebook topics to share about these days!

Back in the day, when my in-box was crammed-full every day of [Volsim] emails, it was sometimes hard to keep track of all the threads, and when we were trying to “catch up” on all the various conversations, we would post “ketchup” in the subject line.

Which is all to say, it’s been a busy summer and early fall, and my brain is so full of things I want to write, but I’m out of practice…. so this is going to be a “ketchup” sort of blog post … mostly in an effort to get writing again. Bear with me; it’s possible that some day I may write something thoughtful and well-developed again, but this isn’t going to be it!


So, church …. have I mentioned that we have a new pastor at Old First? We do, and he is just as cute as a bug, which totally makes you want to pinch his cheeks. (He’s gay too, which I offer as an aside; I’m feeling a little giddy about that fact, but also pretty darn proud that in my mostly-hetero congregation, it really is an aside; more on the giddiness later.)

Okay, so I’m thinking that if I were a man, and we had a new female pastor, and I said she was so cute I just wanted to pinch her cheeks, that would be pretty damn condescending and just out-right offensive, wouldn’t it? So I offer this as well: Michael is not only cute as a bug, but also wicked smart, super thoughtful, energetic, a gifted homilist … and, well, cute as a bug. (Sorry, but I just don’t think it’s nearly as offensive when the tables are turned … think of it as affirmative action offensiveness ;-)

There’s a new wind blowing at Old First these days, and it feels so cool and refreshing. I have taken on the role of Director of Christian Education, a role I had (basically) for five years until I had to quit a year ago to stave off a nervous breakdown (really, that’s not hyperbole). Apparently just to test my resolve (I’m choosing not to read it as any other sign), upon taking my new post last spring, every church school teacher but one promptly quit. Also apparently, bribery will get you everywhere, and folks at Old First are easier than most, because I was able fairly quickly to auction off lunch with Michael in his newly-decorated-by-me (and-quite-lovely-if-I-do-say-so-myself) parsonage apartment in return for a commitment to teach Sunday School, and we’re off to the races with every class fully staffed. Not bad, huh? (Did I mention how cute he is? Charming too.)


My other somewhat neglected part-time job these days continues to be trying to whip the Wissahickon Charter School Board into some semblance of self-discipline when it comes to record-keeping. I say this with all humility, given that I am now entering my sixth year on that board, and I chaired it for two years, so the entirely abysmal state of our documentation of every policy we have ever passed, not to mention our outlandish failure to be in anything resembling compliance with our by-laws, is probably entirely my fault (so sue me; we were doing some pretty important stuff). My mother-in-law has a hand-written note on an index card on her fridge that says, “It’s better to keep up than to catch up,” and I’m sure she’s right about that (and most things, as it turns out), but it’s easier said than done. Especially for a volunteer board with no dedicated paid staff. So there you have it: we’re getting there.

At the end of this summer, after a two-month hiatus (we don’t meet in July and I was on vacation in August), I was pretty sure I was just barely going to make it through this year before I collapsed in a heap and bid my colleagues adieu. Then of course, I went to the September board meeting and remembered: hey, I LOVE these folks! I LOVE this school! So we’ll see. At the very least, if I do leave the board after this year, it will be with every “i” dotted and every “t” crossed.


It’s been a somewhat rough transition back to school with Micah. Unlike a year ago, I feel mostly up to the task of shepherding him through this, but, well, sigh…. It’s never easy, is it? He’s in a tough in-between place where he regrets that he has to grow up (and how sad is that, that our six-year-old first graders are already nostalgic for their halcyon days of youth?) at the same time that he hate (just HATES) being the littlest all the time.

I feel for him, I really do … except when he has to have a fit every damn morning about getting dressed. Micah, like me, is a very sensate boy (well, I’m not a boy, of course, at least not in this life, but I am pretty damn sensate), and seasonal clothing transitions are always hard: in the spring, shorts and sandals feel weird; in the fall, it’s t-shirts and jeans. But this year it’s like he’s three again, and it seems that his clothes are a metaphor for this in-between place in which he finds himself. He’s no longer small enough to fit into the 4 to 7x boys’ jeans (the ones with the snaps that he favors, and the adjustable waist bands that my slender boy needs), but he’s really still too small for the size 8’s that usher in the era of buttons and no adjustable waist bands. Also, all those hand-me-down WCS uniform tees? Arm-pitty! (You know the bunchy, under-arm feeling of too many layers of clothing? Micah feels that way with just one, after a summer of muscle tees). And why, Micah wonders (loudly, with much sturm und drang, every freakin’ morning) do we have to have a stinkin’ uniform anyway? ‘Cause he hates his stinkin’ school and all its stinkin’ rules! Now mind you, the WCS uniform is about the least onerous uniform in all of school-dom: jeans or khakis (shorts are fine), tennis shoes, and a plain t-shirt in navy, maroon or hunter green that may, but does not have to have, the WCS logo.

Tonight, Micah heartbreakingly confessed to me that he does not “look well,” and wishes he had a different face, by which me meant a different color skin. “In our family it’s all White, White, White, and I’m the only one who’s Black!” He also confessed that when he was little, like Josiah (who is the Black adopted younger brother of Micah’s best (White) friend Ada) it didn’t matter, because little kids always get their way.

This is a little boy with some really big stuff going on. Pray for me that I’m up for it. I want to get this right with every fiber of my being … but damn, it’s hard.


Okay, so it’s midnight, and I should get to bed, but there’s still more on my ketchup list. So here’s a short-list, with high hopes that I’ll get to this and more soon:


I’m running again, and practicing yoga. And thinking about incarnation. Also sex, though I probably won’t write much about that on my blog (yeah, I’m a tease, so what?)


A satisfactory prayer life continues to elude me, though I feel like I was at least able to put my finger on my dilemma recently. Incarnation again. [edited to add: resurrection, actually] It’s all about the body.


I haven’t thought as much about being a lesbian in the past ten years as I have in the past ten weeks. Getting married in Iowa and coming home to a (cute-as-a-bug) gay pastor will do that.


Depression sucks; getting better from depression is possibly one of the best things ever.


Food! I’m not going to write much about sex, but I will write about food (and they’re pretty much two sides of the same coin, as far as I’m concerned, so draw your own conclusions).


A baby boy named Levi was born the other day just a few doors down from my house, to a family I adore – while I was on the phone and trying to get dinner ready. Life is awesome like that, huh?

And I’m sure there’s lots more …. but I really need to get to bed!


Sara said...

I totally love "ketchup" (not the heinz kind, too sweet) and what a great way to start the day - with the visual of you on the phone with Levi entering the world! How freaking awesome is that.

And yes, online friendships run as deep as more local ones. I was just thinking about that last night.

Patrick said...

Oh oh oh. Dear DARLING MARTA, what an embarrassment of riches I find waiting for me here (yes, all for me) to read and savor. I'm feeling giddy and overwhelmed from each new essay so the combo of all three has me sputtering. Also inspired to jot down some thoughts I've been grappling with in a most unsatisfactory way. First though, I'm going to reread each of your posts.

Please give squeezes on my behalf to Julie, Trixie (perhaps a bit presumptuous with her, since we spent so little time together, but I'll presume) and Micah, maybe an extra one for Micah, if he'll allow it.

Kate Haas said...

Dang, Marta - I come to here anticipating no new posts - it's been so long! (No pressure or anything, ha ha) and there are THREE long screeds to read. So glad you are back and I love the way you describe your pastor as "cute as a bug."

Marta said...

sara: pretty freaking awesome! you too, and our friendship -- it really does mean the world to me.

oh patrick, it's totally ALL for you. i miss you too much. come visit or at least write me something, okay?

kate: i think i'm back. no promises, but i think i am. (and actually, he's kinda hot, but that's probably REALLY inappropriate, on so many levels, right? so "cute as a bug," yeah!)

Patrick said...

Oh, and I forgot to mention that yes, Michael is totally cute as a bug (and hot) and I seriously doubt he'd have a problem with you taking note of it. Just sayin'.

Marta said...

patrick, not him i'm worried about, just everyone else, lol! he's kinda into being my pet bug.