A Glimpse

It’s been recommended to me that I reveal more of myself.  Here is something from this past December that has been hidden from public view.

12 December, 2015

I just met my daughter for the first time this past weekend.

Let me start that again, actually.

I’m about to be married.  My husband elect is the long-distance father of an incredible thirteen year old human.  Circumstance separated them for about a decade, and we recently arranged for her to come stay with us for a weekend.  While she and I are close online, we had never met until this past week.  

Things are complicated.  It has recently been suggested by my doctors that I am hitting menopause early, and that I likely won’t be able to produce and gestate a fetus in my own womb or with my own ova in a timeframe that would work for our family.  I have feelings about that, but mostly accept it with as much grace and aplomb as I can muster in the face of likely infertility. I am aided by the fact that I hit the step-daughter lottery, and allow my love for her to fill my heart to bursting.  Things about my body are changing slowly, but not so slow that I don’t notice.  I feel like a weird mirror image of daughter’s struggle with puberty.  I remember this feeling.  Just as people tell my kid, hollowly, that puberty’s discomfort and awkwardness and volatility do not last forever, people begin to tell me that miracles happen all the time; not to worry or heaven-forbid, mourn because surely this thing that is actually happening to my body will relent for their comfort and my convenience, somehow.  

Meanwhile, as I wash potatoes in the sink, she reaches out silently and touches the scars on my wrist. They are long-healed, but stand as a reminder that I was once her age, and felt just as helpless.  She embraces me wordlessly, this treasure of a human being.  

It’s become hard for me to navigate other people’s motherhood.  I didn’t expect it.  I thought I’d be fine.  I recognize that no matter how real my feelings are for this brilliant gem feel for me, I did not give birth to her, nor did I raise her.  No matter how close, intimate, or important we feel to each other, there is not a name for me that other people understand.  She sometimes calls me “Star-Mum,” and I pretend that doesn’t make me weep with a bittersweet joy I can’t fully explain or articulate.  Because it feels like that.  Like from outer space, a blue-haired, fair-faced and blue-eyed genius landed, fully formed, tall as me and arms outstretched, offering me something most people simply assume is one milestone in a life among many but that, more than likely, I won’t ever have in the ways they take for granted.  In addition, all other children pale in comparison to this one.  Sorry ‘bout it.  Your child is gorgeous, talented, bright, and shining, rest assured.  But this one?  This one is sublime.

So last weekend, I met my daughter for the first time.  I’m thirty-three.  She’s thirteen.  She’s also got the appetite of an inquisitive and discerning locust, which pleases me.  I want her to swallow the whole world in one delicious complicated bite, and chew for the rest of her life.

We picked her up from the airport at 7 PM, and were back at the house by 8.  Friends were joining us in celebration from out of town, and I had about an hour and a half to get some sort of stick-to-your-ribs, warm comfort food together to feed my people and my kid.  While the childling and her father caught up at the dining room table and steeped tea for me, I took stock of what we had.  We had a ton of fresh herbs in the freezer left from Thanksgiving, and had recently received a potato ricer as a wedding present. A further survey of the fridge and freezer spoke to me.  Here’s what happened next:


Ingredients:

2 to 2.5 pounds of yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cubed by your loving housemate
¼ C Heavy Cream
4 T unsalted butter
¾ t to 1 t truffle salt leftover from the holiday (regular salt will do, but I’m not fooling that truffle salt is the best savory addition to your pantry you can make)
1 large or jumbo egg yolk

2 pounds ground lamb (you can also use ground beef or bison or venison or just about any other red meat)
2 T olive oil or fat of your preference, high smoke point is ideal.

1 chopped or sliced onion (my partner likes to pick onions out of things, so I usually do half moons)
2-3 carrots, sliced thin
4-5 cloves of garlic, minced
Some collection of pepper, salt of your choice, rosemary, sage, and thyme (whole leaf or chopped is up to you, though I do recommend using fresh herbs if you have them)
1 C broth or stock of choice (I had bone broth on hand from the holidays, though I bet mushroom would also be a treat!)

2 t  tomato paste
2 t all-purpose flour (we’re gluten free in our home, so I used stone ground rice flour)

½ C to 1 C+ frozen peas (or fresh if you can find them!)
Optional: a few dashes of really good fish sauce (I use Red Boat) as an umami booster.
Equipment:
Potato Ricer
A Large Cast Iron Skillet (at least 2 inches deep) or a Dutch Oven.

A Large Bowl
A Good Chef’s Knife

A Cutting Board
A M-L Saucepan


Yield: a generous serving for 6 adults and 1 ravenous teenager.

I start the mashed potatoes first.  People will tell you to heat the water with the potatoes already in the pot.  These people are firstly wrong, and secondly have no sense of adventure.  Ignore them entirely.  Bring your enough water to cover your potatoes with an inch to spare to a rolling actual boil.  This takes longer than you think, so slice your carrots and onion while it does its thing.

When the water is boiling, gingerly put your potatoes into the water.  This will stop the boil, so keep an eye on it while it comes back up.  Place your butter in a glass or ceramic dish and let it sit on the stove to soften.  Boil your potatoes for 15 minutes, then check them for softness.  When they squish freely, they’re ready.

While you’re waiting, put oil in your cast iron over medium-high heat.  When it’s nice and hot, saute your onions and carrots for about 3-4 minutes, then add garlic.  When the garlic becomes fragrant, add your meat, fish sauce, salt, and pepper.  Brown and cook through thoroughly.  This takes about 3-4 minutes, which is riiiiiiight around when your potatoes should be checked.  

If the potatoes are ready, enlist a helper to drain them, and put them through the ricer into a large bowl.  Add the egg yolk, softened butter and heavy cream with some salt, and stir gently until the ingredients are creamy, soft, and fully incorporated.  Have this same human start to preheat your oven to 400F, and place a baking sheet with a rim on the bottom rack as it comes up to temperature. (This is to catch any bubbling fluid to prevent an oven fire, which has for sure never ruined dinner at our house ever in the history of time.)  

Meanwhile, toss the cooking meat in your flour to thicken for a minute or so.  Add tomato paste, broth, and herbs, reduce to low for a simmer, and allow the mixture to incorporate and thicken for about 12 minutes.  

Add frozen peas to the top of the mixture, then top with a spread layer of mashed potatoes.  A strong seal is nice, but not  100% necessary.  

When the oven is preheated, place the whole shebang in the oven, and let it bake for 25-35 minutes.  The potatoes should be browning at the edges, and the house should smell amazing.  Let it cool on a cooling rack for 15 minutes before serving.

 

A true supper, as my Nana would have called it (suhppah, actually, she was from Plymouth), it is best enjoyed late on a cold night over board games with the lights of your life.  Bonus points if there’s an evergreen tree in your dining room, lit for whatever winter solstice you celebrate.


A Glimpse

Revisiting, a year later

So, I wrote a piece on my personal experiences of #abuseinpoly a year ago.

Oddly enough, that piece still gets between 10 and 50 hits a day from about 10 to 20 unique visitors.  It is also the landing page for my blog for probably a third of my readership, followed closely by my solicited response to Wes’s attempt to hoover me back into a place of exploitation and unpaid emotional labor.  It is the most commonly searched item on my blog, and still gets shared on twitter occasionally.

There was a recent conversation between a friend and I regarding local polyamory groups — I am beginning to become active again, in part because of an exciting side project I’m working on which I will talk about in a moment.  I’m likely to begin attending Polydelphia events from time to time to connect and promote with humans for the app I’m a part of developing.

So that’s some feelings.  Polydelphia approached me quietly around this time last year, among a few other organizations in the area, asking me to talk about my experiences with my former polycule.  At first, I had asked to keep those conversations private, but ended up changing my mind after Wes, Gina, Amber, and Jessie all, in their own ways, publicly solicited myself and other persons of interest to air our grievances in the light of day.  As it turned out, sunshine was in fact the best disinfectant, and it helped clarify the distinction between human beings I could trust and upon whom I could rely, and human beings who had way too much of their own shit in the way to be present or accountable with me.  I stand by my choice to risk public exposure and ridicule (of which honestly, I received very little from anyone except, you know, the people who had been bent on controlling my words, responses, and behaviors for the previous year from the start.

Now, a year later, I’m a member of a development team for an iPhone based dating application that is inclusive, consent-promoting, trauma informed, and revolutionary, and specifically targets LGBTQIA and polyamorous humans as its user-base.  It’s called Dating Sapiens, and I am super thrilled to be their GitHub Seneschal and resident polyamorous team member.  (By the By, if that sounds up your proverbial alley, we are actively seeking Beta Testers — please do sign up!)

That means that I’ve had to examine my own thoughts and feelings on dating and connection, and also my role in the greater polyamorous community — however big or small I want that role to be, and how much or how little I want to have to share space with manipulative and poisonous people.  Dating still feels weird for me.  I don’t feel ready to trust people’s motives for expressing interest in me — a legacy I’m still processing.  For sure, there are humans in whom I am interested and friendships that for sure exist in romantic or pseudo-romantic territory.

It’s been helpful that I’ve been reading The Science of Trust by John Gottman (mandatory reading, especially for dudes, y’all).  It has helped undo damage done not only by the NJ crew of my recent past, but also damaged messaging I got earlier from people like my parents.  Things like, the difference between someone who is emotionally coaching and emotionally dismissive (and how they teach someone a new thing); what data shows about how trust is built and how it is degraded or repaired; these lessons do a lot to form a new understanding of how I want my relationships to function outside of former toxic (not to mention, just plain incorrect) influences.  It’s also taught me that just because Some Dude speaks with authority on the subject of relationships doesn’t mean he knows jack shit.  Now when I have questions, I go to rich data sources, people who have done actual professional research, and thus have no stake in dictating how I relate to others, what I require from them, or how we ought to interact.  Just because a human thinks he knows what’s best or effective doesn’t mean he has soundly grounded those thoughts in a fully informed view of the available data.  There is a lot of available research and data out there, and assertions about how we treat others perhaps ought to at least have some root in what we, as humans, actually know about things like trust, intimacy, consent, and kindness.

I’m a far happier, more fulfilled human than I was a year ago.  I’m also far more confident in the social circle I’ve cultivated.  I’ve moved from a place that felt pressured to assimilate and be subsumed by rhetoric and values that were not my own to a place where the people around me see my own contributions as valuable, worthwhile, and worthy of love and respect.  I’m so happy to be bringing that journey to bear in a way that will impact my community in a positive way.  And if you see me at the next poly meet up, come grab a business card!  I might not feel ready to go on a date, but I’m happy to talk to you about changing the face of dating and connection, building a robust culture of consent and respect, and using technology to fuel diversity in our communities.

Revisiting, a year later

Marriage, Gender, Equality, Labor

Hitched at the Gates of HellSo, we got married, y’all.

I considered writing a wedding redux post for a few weeks; but I’ve decided to wait.  Our kid is coming out this summer, and we’re getting married AGAIN with her present and I think it makes sense to talk more about how getting married felt then.

Meanwhile, that was like, a month and a half ago (weird).

Part of being a stable fusion (go watch Steven Universe, right now) means that equality and distribution of labor is really important to approach mindfully.  My pal Audra recently published a piece on She Does The City that dropped this little bomb:

A 2008 study from the University of Michigan showed that even for women who didn’t have children, getting married resulted in seven more hours a week in housework for them. It’s like, get a husband, lose an hour a day of your life to laundry and cleaning.

Combine that with the fact that I have… ahem… a tendency to take on, absorb, or otherwise swallow large tasks whole while breezily claiming that “I’ve got this,” or “No No, It’s Fine,” when in fact I’m straight up fixing to lose my tiny mind, and like.  We needed to talk about this; probably, regularly.

Since we’ve been married, Thomthulhu has enthusiastically taken on roles as our household project manager, grocery shopper, and meal planner.  I now cook, on average, three meals a week; sometimes four.  I volunteer for all of them.  I am forbidden to cook on nights I have therapy.  Donna, our beloved housemate and family member (see below), is learning to cook and despite a huge amount of personal tragedy in the last six months, makes me tea on hard work days, runs errands, and cleans like a woman possessed.  Thomthulhu also now makes the bed every morning, as a gift to me.  He maintains our Chore Wars account, adds new adventures and quests, and reminds people to claim XP.  Dirae‘s partner, a dear friend on her own account, has stepped forward to help me with our household budget (and act as a primary support in an area of life that, I admit, makes me feel far from my ideal self).  After three weeks of working with her, we had a $2500 surplus in the bank, when normally, we would have been eating rice and juggling overdraft fees.  Temple University is paid in full in the second month of the semester.  She assures me that saving up for Darla (Thom’s daughter and my star-child) to visit for a month this summer (barring Himself getting a scholarship to go to Rome) will not be a problem.

Overall, the amount of labor I do has gone down since our wedding, and I’m happy we’re bucking the trend.

I think some of that has to do with the fact that Thomthulhu and I have had a solid, honest, loving friendship for a decade as of next month (!!!).  Another big part of it is that Sarnath is a non-traditional household with non-traditional humans. Tom and I live with a human we love, but with whom neither of us shares a romantic or sexual connection.  (I suppose there is a case to be made that Donna and I share a Romantic Friendship, but that is not a term most people throw around a lot these days).  Having Donna with us has turned out to be one of the best choices the three of us could have ever made.  Look at this glorious creature, her infectious mischief, and how much I flipping love her.DSC07937  Another big piece of it is that we all three of us have the wisdom to see that Everything Is Labor.  Donna’s self care and healing is labor just as much as Thomthulhu’s school work, my commute, Donna’s job training and project management gigs, cleaning litterboxes, doing dishes, or chatting at dining room table when someone needs to talk.

Chore Wars helps a lot, because unpaid labor is a thing — and sometimes the only payment we can give each other is “I SAW YOU EMPTIED THE DISHWASHER TODAY YOU MUTHAFUCKIN’ BOSS GET DOWN WITH YOUR BAD BAD SELF also thank you I hate emptying the dishwasher.”
It also gives us a chance to check in with each other, express gratitude, or say things like, “hey you did a lot yesterday, why don’t you trade dinner nights with me.  I’ll cook tonight, you can do tomorrow.”

I’ve seen a lot of households that claim that community, equality, and feminism are core values — but I don’t know that many households that actually uhold those values in practice, day to day.  I especially know a LOT of men who talk a lot about partnership but fully expect the women in their lives to be their maids, mothers, counselors, comforters, secretaries, and project managers.  I am deeply grateful and proud that I am surrounded by human beings with lasting, meaningful commitments to equality, gratitude, and the spirit of giving.

So yeah, marriage!  10/10, five stars, pretty big fan.

Marriage, Gender, Equality, Labor