A Luxury I Can’t Afford

Posted: May 26th, 2006 | Author: | Filed under: Career Confusion, Friends and Strangers, Husbandry, Miss Kate | No Comments »

What do you do when your baby is crying unless you’ll hold her, your stomach is growling for a long-overdue breakfast, and you have to pack for a long weekend–including gathering BBQ food, wine, baby food, and clothes for you and the wee one, and somehow get it all into the car so you can pick up your husband from work in two hours? Write in your blog, that’s what! I don’t have the disposable income I once had, nor do I have the unfettered time to check email or get into more than 3 pages of a book at a time, so writing has become my Calgon-take-me-away bath. Even when I should be doing a million other things. (Mark, assume I’ll be late to pick you up.)

I’ve been thinking a bit about communities lately. For many many years one of the most dominant ones in my life was the office. The people I worked for and with, and who–big-girl as it seemed–worked for me. By virtue of simply spending so much time in that world, and being so tired after departing it each day, it was my default community (family, Mark, and friends aside of course). And sadly those folks often did become parenthetical when work demands occupied my psyche.

Like a dinner party where you invite people who don’t know each other and everyone hits it off, it’s nice when someone from one realm of your life makes the move into another. Work is becoming a distanter and distanter memory (a grammatical joke the likes of which my father and I make), but yesterday I had the pleasure of having lunch with someone from that world.

John can not only order sushi in a really good Japanese accent (though, what do I know), he’s a kick-ass creative director and all-around good guy. We didn’t work together for all that long, but did get thrown into one of those understaffed, impossible-deadline plumbs of an account together. And amidst the mayhem, John was always a joy to work with. This is a guy who has not only redesigned and revitalized websites for dozens of Fortune 500 corporations, he’s also a Buddhist monk who has fasted for weeks at a time, and, more incredibly, not *spoken* for several-month stints while meditating. It’s not often that you’ll find these qualities housed in the same human. So, John is also no longer working at The Former Agency, so we were able to talk about Life After as though we both swam across a river full of leeches and got to the other side without a single one sticking to us. Our lunch was essentially us double high-fiving each other on the banks of the new shore, and thumping each other on the backs. Hooray! I am happy that John is now on this side with me. The Former Agency had a lot of issues, stresses and politics, but it also had some extremely talented, smart and funny folks. I’d hate to lose them just because my new job doesn’t require me to have a building security badge.

In my moving-to-Oakland-after-13-years-in-SF, leaving work, and having a baby time (when I go for change, I go all out), my need for new communities was nothing short of desperate. The one that has saved my emotional hide, welcomed me with bleary eyes, and been a haven of humor (and food) is hands-down my Oakland mother’s group. (Hello mamas! I salute you!) This is one extremely fab group of women who Kate and I have spent at least one afternoon a week with since Kate was 3-weeks old. It’s made up of 11 baby-mama couples, and there’s not one rotten egg in the bunch! And I realized a while back that we’re comprised quite amazingly of all straight women, who are even married to the men we had kids with. Did I mention we are in the SF Bay Area? This is astounding. Not that it’s better or worse for us to be this way, just *weird* in these parts. Hell, we could all pick up and move to San Diego or something and no one would bat an eyelash at us. Well, maybe some Republicans would. At any rate, it’s wonderfully affirming to have a group of people you feel comfortable enough around to talk about cracked bleeding nipples (not mine, thank God), the challenges of career and parenting, and the wonders of so-and-so’s head circumference being in the 95th percentile. Whatever your concern, quandary or need for celebration, these women have your back. THANK GOD I found them.

The other community I’m proud and happy to say I found is at Chaparral House–the nursing home Kate and I hang out in on Wednesday afternoons. It’s home to Kate’s wonderful adoptive Grandma Rose, Gladys, and Dorothy, the other volunteers, like Janet, who have so much respect and interest in the residents there, and a caring nursing staff–especially the Tibetan nurse who whisks Kate out of my hands the second she sees her and says, “Tell Mama bye-bye. You come with me now!” This week as we were walking out, I peered into the activities room to see that Sandi was custom-making sundaes for everyone. “Come on in! What topping would you like?” Why, don’t mind if I do, I thought. The grocery store and Kate’s overdue nap could wait 10 minutes. As I ate my sundae with Kate grabbing for the spoon, I looked around at some women in wheelchairs and a volunteer setting up a large-print Scrabble board (who knew?) and realized how at home Kate and I were there. Four months in, Chaparral House has become a super-cool new place that Kate and I are lucky to be part of. Thank you volunteermatch.com!

So here I stand on the far banks of the river barely able to see The Former Agency any more. And the bonfires on this side are blazing. I’m holding on my hip the most important young member of my new life, sweet Kate. At one fire the super-cool mamas and the babies from my mother’s group are gathered. At another the gang from Chaparral House are hanging out in their wheelchairs, with Rose admonishing them to not give Kate the evil eye. And by my side is the love-of-my-life, the one I’ve been luckiest to manage get on my team, Mark.

I’ve made it to the other side, and it rocks here.

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