A lovely day

Yesterday was a trying day–the leasing manager at the new place has been requesting seemingly myriad documents prior to move in. This was after having met every requirement on the new application check list (in my opinion,) including possession of a good credit score, and last year’s W2 demonstrating proof of income.

Her most recent request (sent to my company email address) was for a letter from my manager verifying my place of work and income, or four recent pay stubs. This was after she’d declined, to use my company’s employment and income verification process. It was the last straw, and I found myself mighty tiffed off, with steam coming out of my ears. Somehow my sunny day turned blue, and my first, (second, and third) inclination was to shoot back a sarcastic email in response to her request. But this was one of only two flats in the area feeding into a good elementary school system–something very important to me.

I decided to uncover the real reason why I was upset. I decided it’s because for fifteen years, I’d been a responsible home owner until, the recent recession, when I was laid off, while expecting my second child in the middle of an ugly divorce. Unable to sell my house in a poor housing market, my house went into foreclosure three years ago.

Then I thought about how far I’ve come in the past three years–new job, healthy, happy, perfect children, and a simpler, adventure filled life full of possibilities. Finally, I thought about the outcome I’m seeking to achieve–putting my children in a good school so that they have a good educational foundation.

The clouds broke and a ray of sunlight shone through. I took a deep breath, and sent the leasing manager an email devoid of commentary, with four recent paystubs attached.

I received a single response in return: Thanks.

Small cravings

I was in the throes of not so genteel thoughts about the celebrant’s dad at my daughter’s classmate’s birthday party, when I was I was roused from my reverie by  a turn in the discussion at hand. I’d previously lost interest after the debate on the merits of Greek yogurt versus plain, morphed into various dietary meal plans whose primary objective appeared to be the avoidance of mastication. As a person of African ancestors, who’d subsisted voraciously on meat on bone, the use of my teeth, although not usually for that purpose, ranks highly.

But I digress…these thinnish mothers were in hot discourse about key issues; one son’s weak pencil grip, another’s intermittent mumblings, and a daughter’s inverted letters. As their worrying reached fever pitch my eyebrows resided in my hairline. I had no clue, that I should be worrying about these things, as each of my perfect children display a mix of these deviations, though not all at once.  All of our children, themselves unaware of the criticisms being visited on their small heads, played innocently nearby.   

I attributed my lack of awareness on cultural relevance and recalled how MY so called deficiencies were approached while living in Africa. My mother no longer able to afford the exorbitant school fees at the Lebanese Community School where I’d spent a year, transferred me to a local Catholic elementary school. The administration at the new school, decided I’d merited a double promotion from 4th to 6th grade, of which I was extremely proud. When I arrived at the 6th grade I immediately began experiencing problems with math (never a strong subject for me,) compound interest calculations, in particular. 

One Friday, the teacher in deep frustration, marched me to the principal’s office to lodge a formal complaint. The principal, a woman, looked me up and down and thundered; By next Monday, if she continues to REFUSE to learn compound interest, bring her back to my office and I will cane her!

I exited the office, head reeling.

That weekend, despite my mother and father’s separation, and him not being allowed into the house, due to a stalking habit, I learned compound interest with gusto. My father, stood outside the house and tutored me through the window, in full view of the next door neighbors.

My grandfather’s clock

My daughter is 5 years old and already she understands ebb and flow is a natural part of life–Grandma won’t be here forever, neither will Mommy, nor will she. Despite her tender age, I encourage her to make the best use of what she has right now, especially relationships! This is not complicated, it’s very much like chatting about how a plant comes into the world as a seed, blooms, and eventually withers.

I don’t want her to fear situations beyond her control, especially since we are all destined to accept the inevitable. Recently, I watched the 2006 PBS documentary “A Lion in the House” about children living with cancer and the impact heroic measures taken by their parents had on the short lives of these children. I can’t say what I’d do in that situation but the visuals remain. 

Do you discuss impermanence or even the D word (dying, death) with your children, if so how, and why?

My secret shame

Most of the time I feel like “the not good enough mother.” 

I feel I should be spending more time with my children, speaking in dulcet tones, possessing much more useful hands, and a more accomodating brain.  Always, I want to ask them albeit apologetically, would you prefer another (better) mother? But I don’t.  My children on the other hand, both 3 and 5 years of age, perceptive as they are, may sense my insecurities. Daily, they tell me they love me, I’m the best mom ever, and when they grow up, they will take care of me. I try to do better, but how can I match up to these children who are so perfect and endlessly forgiving? They deserve the best of the best of the best…

On the road again

I enjoy taking the open road. Here, in America, I take off, driving to an unknown town 2 or 3 hours away, stopping by anywhere tickling my fancy; farmer’s market;  wayside icecream shop; mid-afternoon Mardi Gras party in a bar that I stopped by simply to get a smoked hotdog and a glass of wine; an antique shop; a deserted beach.

Growing up in Africa, trips were more of a production. A trip that would take 3 hours on unfettered roads, would take an entire day due to myriad potholes, the lack of roads signs and traffic lights. These road trips felt very much like navigating a boat on choppy waters, and due to the daylong stint in the merciless hot sun, you’d arrive at your final destination with a deep tan–but only on one side of your upper body and face.

My children have caught the travelling bug too, weekends especially, they are eager for us to grab the adventure bag, get in the car and go! And isn’t that what life is…a series of adventures?

For want of a house, learning was lost

After 18 months of residing in Delaware I’ll be moving, due to work. While touring the local elementary school in a proposed neighborhood in the new state, I engaged in lively discussion with the administrator. I mentioned that during my housing search, I observed most apartments feed into schools with low test scores–even when the lower performing school was geographically further than the higher performing one. And that I’m making my decision on a specific rental because it’s the only one in the area assigned to a top performing school.

“Well” she said meeting my gaze unwaveringly, “most people in apartments are transients.”

Now, I fully understand the dictionary meaning for transient “is to pass through” or some such variation, but I also understand the word transient is often used as a disparaging innuendo, ususally referring to people who don’t live in homes, like the homeless, or in this case apartment dwellers. No matter. What struck me was her inference that children living in apartments somehow deserve substandard education. I wondered what else apartment dwellers deserved…lower paying  jobs, disorganized stores, uninspiring places of worship, ill fitting suits, and bad haircuts?

With the recent housing collapse, many families lost their homes, and have no other choice than to live in an apartment. Others cannot afford a down payment on a home, while a few see apartment living as a prudent financial decision relative to the overhead costs associated with a single family home. Whatever their reasons, people have the right to choose where and how they live.

A sign of wisdom

Growing up in another culture, I learned growing older earned you respect, and you learned this really early.

In secondary school, senior girls had privileges over the junior ones despite an age difference of a scant few years–they’d punish you for the slightest trangression or send you on errands, mercilessly. And the most senior girls in the school–those in the Upper and Lower 6 classes were goddesses, with whom only the foolish or truly brave junior girls would make eye contact.In university, despite the men’s attempts to sexualize and convince us younger girls that we were better because we were “fresh meat” versus the older girls who they referred to as “old cargo” (but never to their faces and also, who unknown to us were their girlfriends), respect for maturity was accorded, still. Beyond the schools, in the city and village streets it was common to witness young adults making elaborate prostrations before elders, in greeting,  or to apologize for unintentional rudeness such as bumping into them. Elders, themselves when sharing advice,  began by first pointing upwards to their heads–their grey hair, that is.

These days, when I catch sight of my reflection in a mirror or shop window, I smile a little, thinking…thinking.