Monday, June 17, 2019

Happy Father's Day!

I'm feeling like I am the richest woman in the world. I don't have a fat bank account but we have paid our bills. I feel like I go above and beyond for the people I love, I do work that exceeds expectations, and I finally have all of my immediate family in my life. My marriage is beyond my wildest dreams and I have amazing friends. 

Yesterday was Father’s Day and it was like no other I have ever known. The first thing that was different with it is that Dave was home! I don’t recall when the last Father’s Day that he wasn’t away with work. The next thing is that Mason planned ahead and on his own and got Dave two gifts…gifts that suited Dave and not Mason. My Father’s Days as a daughter, especially as a young girl were always a challenge because though my dad was in my life, he wasn’t all that much of a dad in terms of the warm-fuzzies parenting that I think other people grew up with. When it came time to buy a card it was hard! I didn’t want to lie so I wanted a card that said, “Happy Father’s Day.” Not, “You were the best dad…” or “You made me feel like I could do anything…” Do you know how hard it is to find a card that simply says, “Happy Father’s Day?” Well, I do. I love that Dave is a plugged in dad for Mason. They do not have a television sitcom father-son relationship, but they have a good relationship. On Saturday, Dave got a card in the mail from Michael J and Sari, Michael was thanking him for reaching out all those years ago and Sari wrote a beautiful note about wanting to get to know us better. Talk about all the feels!! Finally, the cherry on the cake of a day was that Michael J chose Father’s Day to reach out to his bio-dad Mike. Mike texted me to tell me he was freaking out, LOL! I called him and he was smiling so much I could hear it in his every word. Way to go Michael J, way to go!! He hit this one out of the park! I’m so proud of him.

I will continue to be me and recognize how much I have learned and grown in the last 28 years. It's interesting, 28 years is such a long time, but in reality, there are huge changes in me stemming from the last 6 weeks. I look back and I see that I have had two great loves in my life, and a child with each of them. I’m even luckier that I am married to Dave and we have been able to raise Mason. 
Life is funny, it's sometimes hard, it's absolutely not fair, but it is what we make of it and if I do not wake up tomorrow, I will still be smiling and feel like it was all worth it. 

Monday, June 10, 2019

My Visit With Michael J and My Girl Sari

I went to Southern California with the sole purpose of spending time with Michael and Sari. I had called to let them know that I want to know them, I want to know where they live, where they like to grocery shop, and what they like to eat, all in all, I want to really know them. I asked when would be a good time to come for a day or two. I assured them that I did not want them to feel pressure, that their house needs to be clean or that they need to do anything special because I’m coming. We worked out some dates, I booked my hotel and off I went. I wasn’t nervous but I was curious what I may be walking into. Let me clarify, I was trying not to create narratives before I got there, but I was sort of preparing myself for the possibility that we may have some less-than-pleasant conversations. I had resolved to go, to be present and to talk openly about whatever they wanted to talk about. I arrived Thursday evening and we met at their house for dinner. Michael had prepped for us to make and eat sushi, It was so much fun! I brought a bottle of my favorite wine and we spent the evening eating and talking non-stop. 

On Friday, Michael picked me up and we went on a food-crawl! LOL! Michael and Sari eat a plant based diet and he works at a vegan restaurant, we started there, at Real Food Daily. We started with jack fruit nachos, then we shared a real food salad with a almond and shallot dressing, and Michael wanted to share a lasagne, but I had to say no! I pointed out that I would not be able to match him dish for dish if lunch was any indication of what we were going to be continuing the day eating. We did get the lasagne to go and they shared it the next day for dinner. He is so easy to talk with, he is smart, funny, curious, and he is a great listener. We talked about how awesome it is to be getting to know each other, how easy it’s been. We talked about religion, some politics, brain function & development, the social climate we are living in with regard to race-relations, injustices, and what kinds of things we can do to improve the world we live in. I wanted to know more about his childhood, his siblings, and his world travels. 

After lunch we went to pick Sari up from work and we went back to their house for a couple of hours and talked some more. Yes, we talked A LOT!  We then headed back out to their favorite neighborhood where on Tuesday and Friday nights, they have vegan food trucks, local music, and just a fun time out. We stopped at a market/deli and had a vegan chicken sandwich, we split one 3 ways, then headed to the food truck festival (it wasn’t really a festival, but it had that kind of cool vibe) and one of their favorite bars. We ordered jack fruit tacos and a vegan mac & cheese. Let me just say, all the food was off the hook good! The jack fruit nachos were my favorite with the whole food salad running a close second. I can’t wait to go back again and again so I can try everything on the Real Food Daily menu. We landed at the bar and had some drinks and ate the food we carried in. 

These two humans are so easy to be with, they are open, articulate, and fun. After we ate dinner, they took me to the back of the bar to play a game called “ting.” It’s a simple concept, a large washer on the end of a string that one holds, lets go, and swings toward a 4x4 post with a hook on it. When played for points, you get a point if your washer hits the hook, making the “ting” sound and more points if you actually hook the washer. This is actually a skill based game and I’m proud to say, their instructions were good enough that I hooked my washer twice! We made our way back to the table and talked until I swear, we couldn’t talk anymore! Not really, but we covered all the important life topics; politics, life, family, sex, marriage, relationships, health, nutrition, religion, education, immigration issues, how they met, where they’ve traveled, money, child rearing, budgeting, cooking, you name it, I believe we touched on it. It was an epic day and as tired as I was at the end of the day, I didn’t want to leave. I wanted another day with these amazing people. 

As the time we spent together plays again and again in my mind, my favorite part of the visit were the hugs and the sincere eye contact. Physically being with Michael and holding him close to me just feels so good. I am feeling more and more confident that I will have the rest of our lives to continue to connect. I don’t mean that to sound like I have had doubts, but one can’t all the way know what is the right things to do or say. I’ve done what I know to do, I’ve called or texted when I’ve felt like calling or texting, I’ve asked questions, I’ve answered questions, and I’ve just been me, all the way. I can’t wait until we can see each other again, my heart is bursting with love.

Monday, June 3, 2019

School's Out For Summer!

Mason’s Freshman year of high school is over. While he is growing up so fast, too fast, I am learning things about myself. It’s always seemed to me that those who have financial resources tend to have an easier time in life. From security to meet monthly expenses, to family vacations, lovely things, and opportunities that those of us who have just enough to make ends meet typically can’t afford. As I’ve grown up I’ve been able to recognize that middle class families like the one I grew up in and currently share with Dave and Mason, are not any less a “happy family” than those who live with more money. In fact, I would say that my ideas about more money being better were completely off base. As a single woman I heard the adage on more than one occasion, it’s as easy to fall in love with a rich man as it is to fall in love with a poor man, but is it? And is how much money someone has or makes really a factor at all? For many people the answer is absolutely! I believed this all my life up until I met the men who showed me otherwise, yes, men. Dave Partak and Michael J, my husband and my first born son. Dave showed me first when we married with each of us having virtually nothing, no money in the bank, no assets, no investments, no money. We married with me having a pile of credit card debt and Dave having a few unpaid debts. We married financially in-the-hole as some would say and worked our way out of it - together. We still have debt, so what? We'll continue to pay it off. The other man is my son, the man who lived with and was raised by the people I chose for him, the people with money. Yeah, he had a life with no worry in terms of a roof over his head and food on the table, but he didn't have the safe environment to talk about how he felt, what he wanted, his thoughts, his fears... he didn't feel like he could speak up. When one doesn't feel safe to speak their piece, they don't feel like they are important, they don't feel like their voice matters, they don't feel like they are loved. This may be a simplification of a bigger picture, but it is the situation in a nutshell. It is how he felt. My belief that money was the answer to an easier and better life was simply not true. It's clear to me today that the idea that those with money provide a better life is simply not true.

Almost 29 years ago when I gave Michael up for adoption, first and foremost I wanted to chose a loving family, but I also wanted a family who was financially secure. It seemed to me that any couple who was going to the lengths that are needed to adopt a child, the love would be there, how could it not be? But I also wanted them to be financially set. Life is complicated and humans are complex so there is no simple answer to how this kind of story plays out. As I navigate life, I’ve learned that we all have a journey to travel and there are lessons we need to learn. For what, I don’t know. Do we have another life to live and these are the things we need to learn so going into the next one, we’ve advanced somehow? Could it be that we need them to find our highest purpose and the real reason we are here so we can take action and make a difference somehow? I don’t have these answers, but Michael did not have the upbringing that I had hoped for him, that I believed I set him up to have. That disappoints me to my very core. I want to tell him I am sorry I gave him up for adoption, but I can’t, I’m not sorry. Ultimately, I am who I am today because I made that decision. There were a number of times I found myself wanting to backslide and go back to my party life and the friends who supported me in many poor decisions. Each time I thought about it, I looked at myself in a mirror and said out loud, “No! I am not going back. I will not have given my baby up for nothing.” The bottom line is that I am the person I am today because I gave him up, had I kept him, who knows who I would be and what kind of life we would have had. The proverbial what if?  

I can’t tell him I am sorry but I can be my best self, today and every day from this day forward for him. Here is a beautiful irony, as challenging as I’m learning his childhood and upbringing may have been, he has not let that consume him and fill him with resentment and negativity. He is much like me in that he recognizes what it was but has made the choice to live a better life, and be a better human. Who does that sound like? Our reunion has been weird and wonderful. It’s odd to feel so connected and love toward a stranger, but it’s wonderful that he feels the same way. I’m going to spend a few days with him this week and I’m so excited. I’ll share more in my next post. I am going with an open heart and mind, I will be present and available for whatever he wants to know or talk about. If it gets hard, it’s okay, I will stay the course and be there for him…I will be there for him from this day forward. I can’t wait to embrace him and welcome him into our middle class family, the place where we do not always have enough money, but we always have more than enough love, hugs, kisses, and laughter, and space to say whatever we feel, good or bad. It's my goal now to show this amazing man what a life filled with, "I'm proud of you's," "You are amazing!" "What do you think of this?" feels like. Yes, we have the rest of my life to share amazing things.

Monday, May 27, 2019

Rain, Learning to Adult, and Family

We have had a crazy springtime, in that it's been so wet and cold. I know that April showers bring May flowers, but we are having all kinds of May showers that will bring June flowers. In addition to the cold wet weather it seems that we are also suffering from a prolonged cold & flu season. Mason started us off with a cold that had him in bed for two full days. Even though we weren't smooching, I managed to contract the same cold. Here's to keeping our fingers crossed that Dave doesn't contract it, but I am hearing the tell-tale signs of his sniffles and dry coughs. I made sure to pick up more nighttime cold medicine and cough drops.

Earlier this week, Placer High School hosted an Adulting Day for their graduating seniors. They asked for volunteers to teach the classes and though I signed up to teach more of a "Winning at Life" class, I was asked to teach a Basic Cooking Skills class. I taught five sessions to 25 awesome kids in each class. I was able to incorporate my "Winning in Life" when I explained that I was asked to teach cooking skills without actually cooking. The kids were bummed but I adapted and created a class that was interesting and fun. The feedback was all good, so I'll call it a success. I hope the school does this every year, it was really well received.

I'm super excited that I have a few days in Southern California planned the first week in June to spend with Michael and Sari. I can't wait to just hang out with them, to be able to talk, laugh, and just share some space. I feel so blessed to have this opportunity to get to know him and possibly be a real family for the second half of our lives. More on that later.

Monday, May 20, 2019

Mason at BerryFest 3029

This was Mason's 7th year cooking at BerryFest. This is one of our favorite events each year, not only because it's always on Mother's Day weekend, but also because we love strawberries!

Mason did a demo of strawberry banana bread cupcakes with bourbon chocolate ganache each day. At the age of 15, he doesn't even need to practice anymore. He has enough practice and polish, he just knows how to entertain people while cooking food.

I don't know how many more cooking demos there are with Mason in our future, but I hope however many we have left, they are the best, most fun ever.

Monday, May 13, 2019

The Honey Festival

Going back to last week in terms of our lives, Mason did two cooking demos at the Honey Festival in Woodland, this is one of our favorites events. My mom has a fondness for bees and I have a fondness for honey. The promotion for the Honey Festival did a phone interview with Mason and I thought it would be fun share.

How do you utilize honey in your dishes?
I love honey! So many people think of it as a dessert ingredient when in fact, it adds so much depth of flavor to savory dishes and is excellent for texture. It thickens sauces, the sweetness can be tempered with bold garlic and onion flavors, it also compliments spicy, and of course, it adds sweetness without adding processed sugar.

Are you particular about the different types of honey when cooking? Do they have noticeably different flavor profiles?
I'm not super particular unless it's an infused honey, then the infused flavor comes into play. If it's infused with lavender and the flowery flavor is not desired in my curry, then I will want to use something purer. Local is always preferred. 

Have you tasted or used local honey in your dishes? If so, what is your favorite and why?
Okay, this is not necessarily the answer with the most technique behind it, but I love Miller's whipped honey. It is like honey butter, but it's just honey and it is AMAZING on a hot bagel. It stays put and doesn't melt and drip as fast as raw honey does.

What’s your favorite thing to taste/see/experience at the Honey Festival? Why?
I think it is completely unfair to ask a chef and foodie to pick a favorite food! It's like asking a parent which child is their favorite and even though they may have one, they would never admit it out loud! I do love Fire Brothers 911 Sauce! For real, Kevin got that stuff right!

Mason Partak, 15
Chopped Junior Champion
Instagram - Mason Partak

On a completely different topic, I got this early in life, and I get it every day. I want to just be with you, I want to know where you like to grocery shop, what you love to eat. I want to watch TV with you all day, or go swing at the park. Let's bake a cake and eat it all! I hope you are so comfortable with me, you snore when you fall asleep on the couch. Let’s sit in silence together, comfortably. I want to laugh with you, laugh at the silliest thing! Want to? I want to have tough talks if it brings you peace. I love you and I love this life WITH YOU. If more people could find the ordinary the actual good stuff, they would realize that it's not about shiny or expensive, it's about who you are with - the people. 

Monday, May 6, 2019

Getting Acquainted

Last week was pretty epic in terms of life events. Meeting Michael was something I had been waiting for for over 28 years and for all I knew, it could have been another five or ten years. I’m so glad it wasn’t one day longer than it was. 

Michael and I have been communicating almost daily and it is simply amazing. When I see his name and our photo pop up on my phone, my heart skips a beat, it’s surreal. What I know for sure is that I am so, so thankful that Michael is excited to get to know me, he is kind, smart, and funny. For something that, for all intents and purposes should be awkward and uncomfortable, it’s been incredibly easy. We talked about it and my take was two fold, first it’s my belief that when it’s right between two people, it’s not hard. What is right? To me, right is open communication, respect, and the sincere desire to be together. I have this with Dave in my marriage and it appears I have this with Michael. The second point is possibly Karma, it’s possible that the good choices, the many times we did the right things instead of the easy things are coming back around. I do believe we get back what we put out and if this is my reward, I’ll take it! I will say, I feel things that seem so odd to me, yet so normal. For example, I find myself thinking about him constantly, I want to know what he’s doing, where he’s going, how he lives, what kind of TV do he and his fiancĂ© Sari like to watch, does he have a favorite candy, does he like games & puzzles? It’s all so random but no matter what I’m thinking, all the while I want to hug and hold him. Then I get a little embarrassed and think, “He doesn’t even know me, why would he want me to hold him?” Could it be that missing piece, the physical touch that creates the deeper connection? I don’t know but I will continue with what I feel. It’s what I know and who I am, it’s all I can authentically offer. I feel so blessed, so lucky, so… I don’t know what other words describe what it means to me to have this opportunity to know this man.

Many people have asked me how Mason is taking all of this and for the most part, he’s been great. He was so excited to have Michael and Sari in our lives but I can also see that he doesn’t necessarily love that my attention is not all his. Mason is an incredible young man, he is confident and smart and he knows how deeply I love him. I am sure we will all be fine, no, better than fine, we are building an amazing family of 5!