Wednesday, October 30, 2013


My son's teacher got sick during school so a sub was brought in.  When I picked him up this afternoon, the substitute asked me, "Oh, he's yours! Could I please take him home with me?"  She said this with a sigh and conspiratorial look that showed that she had not had the easiest of days with this class.  My heart swelled, and I picked him up, holding him close.  I answered, "He is pretty wonderful isn't he?"

Tonight at bedtime after we finished reading aloud the last two chapters of Ramona the Brave, I picked him up again to tell him how happy I felt when the sub said this because it sounded like he had been a help to her.  He nodded and told me how he got more points than anyone, even the kids who normally get more than he does.  He showed a quiet and slightly shy pride at having done the right thing at school and being commended by a teacher. 

I thought back to his rough transition into kindergarten last year and asked him if he remembered an incident on the second day of school with one of his best friends, an incident that got him in a little bit of trouble but that revealed what a tough time he had those first few weeks.  He nodded, but tried to downplay it.  Because he has changed so much since that time last year, I thought it was safe to tease him.  It wasn't.  He angrily dropped out of my arms and started to cry.

I took him into the other room away from his sister where he cried and told me I embarrassed him.  I tried to explain that I thought it was safe to tease him but that I was wrong and could he forgive me?  Seeing him cry in embarrassment was the last thing I'd wanted to do.  I'd hoped to build him up after his very good day with a substitute but instead I'd done the opposite.

This is the worst feeling as a parent, not when others hurt your child but when you yourself do it.  I'm so glad he agreed to forgive me.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Letting the Outsider In

The very dark skinned man from Eritrea with the curving deep scar across his forehead reminds me very much of my own father.  They are almost the same age.  He came to this country as a refugee earlier this year, and his stipend has run out leaving him with no resources for survival.  It was my privilege to connect him with resources over the last month or so.

The story of what it took to keep him from homelessness is a story of red tape, beurocracy, kindness, ignorance, and tenacity.  It is winding and twisting, often frustrating, sometimes boring with minutae and thus not worth detailing here.

The end of the story happens tomorrow when I get to help him move in to his new apartment.  What led to his point was a roller coaster.  He admitted to me today that he never slept at all last night after the stressful meeting we had with a very kind apartment manager who did not understand the intricacies involved in immigration.  It was a heart breaking point in a very long meeting that my client refers to now as "the storm."  All was well until the storm of ignorance and confusion descended.

The storm came at closing time of governmental offices, so we had to wait until this morning to procure the documents being requested.  As I obtained each one, I took jpeg photos and emailed them via my phone "just until I can get to my office fax" to the manager so she could have them before our 2pm deadline.  Turns out that even though I faxed them in time, what appeared in his folder was a printed copy of my smart phone jpeg, my pink fingers in the shot.  Noticing this pleased me immensely.

Also calming the storm was a well-timed phone call by the manager of my nonprofit branch directly to the apartment manager explaining, in the voice and words of an African, what I had been telling her over and over the day before.   She and her boss were convinced, and I got the call several hours later that he could move in.  I ran as quickly as possible to him to tell him the news via thumbs-up, huge smiles, and "it's okay!"  He took his hat off, covered his face, praised God.  What relief.  He is so happy.

In the midst of the storm this morning, I had a conversation with the African manager of the nonprofit where I work about the anger I found overcoming me as I drove home last night from the apartment manager who was denying us (or at least withholding approval).  My anger wasn't directed towards her; it was directed towards the greater society in which we live, the one where the majority of people out enjoying the beautiful weather were oblivious to the suffering and struggle of others right in their midst.  It was a beautiful warm fall day with the changing colors right at their height of beauty.  Nice people were out throwing frisbees, drinking over-priced artisan coffees, raking the leaves in their perfect lawns surrounding their perfect houses.  I had the urge to yell at them to wake up to the struggle of the alien in their midst, to welcome these good people, to help them and have their own lives enriched and made better by their presence because that is exactly what has happened for me.

My manager smiled and nodded as I told him this.  I'm not certain what he was thinking.

Sunday, October 13, 2013

This Moment Now

This very moment right now.  Husband and daughter playing cards at the dining room table as with the cardboard cut out of Michael Jackson looking on.  The sound of Italian-ish accordian movie music coming up from the basement as my 19-year-old niece watches a library-obtained copy of Eat, Pray, Love downstairs.  My son already in bed, upstairs rather than in his own bed due to a moment of weakness promise last night at midnight that he could sleep up there tonight.  He had to go to bed earlier than his sister due to a lie told this afternoon about a broom.

The house is clean...ish.  My husband oversaw this yesterday since the delegating of the chores stresses me out too much.  All the (seven!) loads of laundry are put away.  The lunch of Ethiopian-spiced cabbage with chicken apple sausage has been cleaned up.  So has the dinner of boxed mac-and-cheese (organic!) with a can of tuna and some frozen peas thrown in.  It was the regular summertime lunch my sister and I ate as kids whose parents worked full time.  Tonight was the first night I made it for my own kids.  They gobbled up this low-brow food, and I was reminded that sometimes tasty food does not have to be time-consuming. 

Now I sip this low-brow savignon blanc as Julia Roberts speaks Italian in the Eat portion of that horrible movie.  I shouldn't judge since I haven't seen it.  I'm judging based on the horrible book.  Can't bear to watch it.  I love Italy too much.

I space out for a minute, a street in Prague skeedaddling through my consciousness.  My daughter plays solitaire as my husband walks the dog.  My nightly popcorn sounds nice about now.