Friday, May 30, 2008

Confessions of an Unempathetic Wife

This last weekend, Husband's back spasmed and tightened so badly he could hardly move. Saturday morning he should've known it was coming. He awoke stiff and slightly spasmed already, but he went to his usual rough and tumble tennis clinic anyway. These people, ex-pros and college stars, do not mess around, and he came home early, the bottom of his back petrified into stone. He grimaced and limped and moaned. My first reaction was not to rush to his ailing aid, but to internally roll my eyes. Terrible, I know. I just have not learned how to sensitively deal with injury or sickness. It's like I'm unable. My instinctual reaction has always been the internal head swivel with this echo'ing through my head: "If I gotta be an ox and stay up for everything, so does everybody else goddamn it."

That's not loving, is it? That's not right. I'm not right. But I can't help it! I suck.

Husband and I had plans to go out to dinner with friends on Saturday night -- which we hardly ever do -- and he made a gallant effort to keep the date. One of his best friends was on this side of town with his new girlfriend, and pain be damned, Husband would not miss that scene for nothing if only for the slightest hope of some drama and good laughs. He was in pain, I'm sure of it, but if he wasn't showing it, I wasn't acknowledging it. Not because I was thinking that we never go out, really, so let me ignore his pain so I can have a date -- no, that wasn't it. It's just that I have deprogrammed myself from absorbing an another adult's pain or taking on a grown up's stuff or sympathizing much at all. For Maya and Mina, I would have swapped out my own back for their hurting one in a heartbeat, but since Husband is a grown adult I automatically feel any adult should be able to handle their own shit the same way I do, which is a lot.

I suck hard. Because I don't know back pain. I KNOW, I KNOW it's debilitating and terrible and blah blah blah. I've heard. I know. I just suck. Very hard.

So, we're at the restaurant laughing and having a good time with two other couples. Both of the men, Husband's good friends, are former top athletes and when they heard that Husband's back was jacked, these two huge guys became the sweetest nursemaids on Planet Earth. They know back pain. They understood what he was feeling. We had to wait thirty minutes for our table and these guys scrambled around an extremely crowded bar to get him a chair so he could rest his weary back. I was thinking, You guys keep at it. Barkeep, another drink! Because I'm mean. The chair, positioned directly in the traffic of the packed restaurant/bar, helped Husband. He was propped up on his haunches a bit, trying not to grimace and when I saw him like that I felt badly. I came over and rubbed the top of his back. "You ok?" I said, sincerely. "Yea," he said, which relieved me. Maybe he just knows I'm an asshole. During dinner, it got worse with each passing minute and by the end, the guys had to help him up out of the booth and help him into the car. They gave me instructions: "When you get home, you have to stand on his back, ok? You have to dig your elbows into him to help release this. You have to." I said, "Ok, ok, I will." Maybe they all know I'm a big jerk off.

Getting him up the stairs to our apartment was hairy. I had heels on -- which I practically never wear -- and there was one real moment where we both weren't sure if he was going to make it. At one point it looked like he might fall. Interestingly, in that split second, I felt no bitterness or anything other than I would catch him if he fell. I would have, I know it. Or maybe I would have provided a soft landing for him, but I either way I would've not let him go down. I sincerely felt that because I'm not entirely an evil wife. He made it up into the house, and I got his shoes and clothes off and I walked on his back and dug my elbows into the stone muscles and got him advil and a pack of frozen peas and tucked him in and felt his forehead and wished away all his pain.

For the remainder of the three-day weekend, he stayed in bed with a heating pad and ice packs and his TV and his Grand Theft Auto IV. And I went about my regular ox-like business.

When I was eight months pregnant with Mina, we lived on the third floor of a stair-only apartment building. Maya was three, almost four, and I was working my ass off managing an international purchasing team of twelve people for a top ten semiconductor broker. This is about when Husband nicknamed me The Ox. Put anything on my back; I'll be able to handle it. So, when I was eight months pregnant, Husband decided to break his ankle playing basketball at our gym. He called me from his cell phone on the floor of the basketball court and told me that he had really hurt himself. His voice was whispery and strained, and I was all, "Yea, ok," in a flat tone. Then I realized he was being lifted onto a gurney and shuttled to an ambulance. I scolded myself for being such a jerk. He came home after surgery and parked himself on the couch with painkillers and bedding. The very next day, our beloved cat Puffy broke his hip in a mysterious home-alone accident. I carted his ass to the animal emergency center, stayed there until one in the morning for his surgery, then spent practically the rest of my pregnancy growling under my breath caring for two invalids and carting a wild toddler and groceries and all kinds of shit up and down three flights of stairs after nine to ten hours of work. Ooo, I was hot. I mourned pregnant pampering and I still pout about it to this day.

So, Husband's been sleeping on the floor since Tuesday saying that he has finally found some back-pain relief on the hard surface, and he's been cursing our soft bed ever since. This makes me nervous. I can't begin to explain how much I love our bed. It's not all-the-way soft like a marshmallow or anything, but it has that buttery pillow-top layer. That beautiful just-soft-enoughness that gives me joy each night. It's the most comfortable bed I've ever had the pleasure of knowing, and now Husband is making crazy talk about getting rid of it. I said, "Why don't we get one of those old-people beds, where one half goes up and one half goes down, and one half is all hard, and one half has the pillow-top goodness?" He contemplated. "Then we can get you a hospital tray that rolls over your side and you and stay there day and night and play video games." He looked at me. "Or, let's get you a plywood board and just lay it on your half." Hell no, he said. Please god, don't let him chuck my bed. He can keep his broke-back ass on the floor!

As much as I love the bed, I'm a tad bit torn about hogging it all to myself. I do miss him in it. I really do. The radiation of presence. His smell. Midnight handholding. Sunrise spooning. Our dog, Lupe showed concern the first couple days about Husband sleeping on the floor. She would sit on his half of the bed and not lie down and just look at me like, Why'd you kick Papi out of the bed? And I was all, "Lupe, Mami and Papi are fine. Don't worry. He just tweaked his back. We're fine" which did the trick because she hasn't worried since.

I guess I would give up my bed if it would make Husband feel better. I would replace my soft, sweet refuge of a bed with a floor-like piece of hell so I could get him back sleeping close to me. I would. But if he asks me to assemble the new bed by myself because his back hurts, I will kick his living ass to the couch for the summer.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Embarking On Teenhood

My gorgeous girl, Maya, turned thirteen over the weekend. We have officially entered teenhood, everybody, and I ain't scared. No sir!

My girl is a joy, a model kid. She is fun and strong and smart and responsible and compassionate. She's the most social person I know who can genuinely make people feel at ease and accepted. She is a beam of light; nearly all love.

She is growing into a stunning young woman and I largely ignore grown folks that tell me "oooo, you're in trouble" or "better get yourself a shot gun." Maya's looks are the last thing she relies on; they are the smallest of all her amazing attributes. "She'll be just fine," I tell those folks. "Just fine."

On her birthday Maya requested a few things for me to cook, from breakfast to dinner, and then asked if we could go ice skating during the day. We're not the best of skaters, but it was fun to stomp around on the ice, in from the 70 degree Cali weather. Here are some pic's of the day.

We started the day with a tofu scramble made with fakin bacon and tomatoes. I always forget to take photos of the savory stuff, but here's a picture of the easily-made vegan homemade biscuits with homemade blueberry/strawberry jam infused with lavender from our garden. Molly had brought me the blueberries from a local farm she had visited recently. Forget it. If I never make anything else but jams I'd be happy. Here we are ice skating, or giving it a shot anyway.

What? I'm practically Dorothy Hamill here. Jazz hands don't fail me now. Also, keeping your mouth open like that is an ancient secret to balance. Mami never hits the ice, yo!
We spent most of our ice skating time sitting on the wood benches taking photos like these:

Then I spent a good amount of time taking photos like this:

After skating, I made rice and beans because we cannot have any holiday/celebration/every couple weeks without some beans, and because Maya had asked, "You're making beans, right?" I made enough for the neighbors who stopped by with birthday wishes. Here's my girl's cake, She had requested a chocolate/peanut butter flavor combo and left the rest up to me. It's a vegan chocolate cake with vegan peanut butter butter cream. I've baked a lot of stuff, but this might be the most ridiculous. Punch-in-the-gut good. Worth-the-sugar-blues good. Most importantly, Maya loved it.

Papi and Mina enjoy cake.

Mina enjoying more cake wearing brilliant paper-cup cuffs. Her shirt has Wonder Woman on it, and by the afternoon she had fashioned these cuffs for herself.

Maya dreaming big, I imagine.

Happy birthday, Maya baby, and thank you for being such a great person. I love you so much.

Friday, May 23, 2008

More Adventures in Parenting

Last week I got an email from Mr. R, Mina's third grade teacher. Gone is the era of teacher's notes and phone calls because in our time we all figured out how to intercept these didn't we? How many of us had our mother's signature down? I had fooled the nuns of St. Timothy's more than once. And until our grade schoolers learn how to hack into our email accounts, email it will be.

The email read that Mina had not been going to her after-school reading program. For the entire month of May. Twice a week she is supposed to go straight from the finishing bell to the library to work on a language-reading program to strengthen her skills. "She just hasn't gone?" I asked, surprised. Nope, he said, basically. I envisioned her jetting to the monkey bars or the handball court instead where she reigns supreme. Why not go for a little self affirmation instead of that tricky time-suck of a reading program? I immediately thought of ways to whoop that ass, but on the heels of this pending molestation case at Maya's school, my mind waffled between Whoop Little Ass and What If There's Another Reason? My stomach roiled in worry and waffling for hours until she got home.

She had indeed fucked off the reading program. But it was half justified in her mind. She believed that we had an unspoken agreement that she could stop going to the program once she got to a certain level. But for the most part she knew she was sneaking off. I had to ask: "Do any of the teachers in the program make you uncomfortable." "No!" She said and then went on and on about Phil, the aide, who is awesome. I didn't whoop that ass. I calmly gave an award-winning, heart-felt speech power-pointing illustrious themes such as Make Better Decisions for Yo'self, Damit. I even pulled the Trust theme off the shelf. I only use this theme sparringly, without any flippancy or irony. It has to be used poignantly borderlining theatrical. "And you have extra chores and you're grounded this week from Top Chef and So You Think You Can Dance --- Wha? I KNOW I didn't hear you just whine . . ." She got the point and I patted myself on the back. I looked out the window and sipped my coffee. Parenting: I Got This.

Yesterday I got another email from Mr. R. It read, simply: "At recess Mina called another student a bitch." WHAT IN THE FUCK was my first thought, which I realize is not the most appropriate of reactions when your child is being called out as the class potty mouth. I wrote back, "Lord have mercy . . ."

Here's what happened:

Pete, another third grader and who is, in general, a thorn in Mina's side on the playground because he is a cheater of games and annoying, cut in line in front of Mina as they filed up to go back to class after recess. After being cut in front of, Mina mumbled, "Bitch." She didn't speak directly to him really, she wasn't all, "Hey, bitch, I was fucking here" or "Get to the back, bitch." She didn't even bastardize the word into "biach", but she did say to herself, loud enough for three of her classmates to hear, "Bii-ch."

Between me, Husband and my adult friends, this is very funny, and yet still a blow to my parenting skills. That my sweet 55lb girl mutters Bitch in context and like she's grown is both hilarious and nerve wracking. But the fact that she didn't have sense enough to keep that shit to herself bothers me. Not that Mina's a pure angel. In fact, Husband thought he heard her mumble this once before when she almost dropped the Wii controller during a fierce bout of tennis. Husband said when he heard it, he cocked his head and hesitated and then said to himself, "Naaaa." Since hearing of the Bitch Incident, Husband and I will mumble to each other at random times, "bitch," or we'll IM each other during the day, "Pete's a lil bitch" though we do commend Pete for not actually being the one to have tattled on Mina. Her three classmates ratted her out. Husband and I say to each other, "Pete may be a bitch, but he knows the code of the street."

It's not like Maya didn't go through her period of saying inappropriate shit in her grade school days either. She never got busted for cursing, but her coup de grĂ¢ce was when, in second grade, she walked up to her teacher who was speaking to the principal (the principal!), held out a bag of Fritos and said, "Anybody want some freshly farted chips?" I'm still baffled by that one. Her teacher called me immediately after school, and I tried not to laugh, but when she said, "This is very inappropriate for a young lady," I said, "Listen, she's in second grade and boogers and farting are funny. You wouldn't be calling me had a boy said this to you, right?" Silence. I didn't think so now go eat your fart chips.

The day of the Bitch Incident, I was waiting for Mina at her class door as the bell rang. When she spilled out of class with the others, she was elated to see me -- for a second -- until she realized I was probably there to whoop that ass. During the walk home she gave me a brief explanation and then I gave a fifteen minute heated speech entitled, Oh, You Think You're Grown? "You can say grown words and skip out on your reading program like you're grown, right? Not only say grown words but RUDE grown words, right? When do you even hear that word. We don't say that word." Which is true. If she had said, Hell No or Holy Shit or Fuck That, then I would shoulder much of the responsibility. She said, "I dunno." "You don't know? Maya doesn't say that (I hope), where do you hear that?" And she said in the meekest of voices, "From the streets." I nearly rolled in the grass. I some how stayed in character: "Since you're grown, I think we should take you out of school and get you a job." "No, mami," "Yup, you need a job since you're making grown decisions, no matter how bad. Mmmhmm, make your own food, buy your own clothes." "No, mami!" "Where can we get you a job?" And on. By the time we got home it seemed she did not, in fact, want to be grown, that the word bitch had just slipped out of her mouth but yes! She could control herself. Then we went upstairs and I washed her mouth out with soap. Yes, I did. Old school!

My next door neighbor Molly asked, "You didn't use that good, organic soap did you?" I said, "The one that smells like cinnamon and tastes like oatmeal? No, that would've been a treat." I used a bar of Ivory that we had lying around for an art project. I didn't acutally get it in her mouth, really, but she had a nice slathering of Ivory lip balm. The point was made. She got more chores and extra reading -- and I think she's straight now, but still I await, anxiously, for more emails from Mr. R.

Parenting: It's a day-to-day, roll-with-the-punches experiment. Bitch!

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Trains, Buses and Ear Drums

On the way to the station yesterday. Downtown on the horizon.
Historical Post Office across the street from Union Station.
Track 12; early mist, through a scratched train window.
Then my camera battery died so no good pic's of the river yet. I did manage to revive the camera long enough to get a (bad) photo of an Amish family who debarked at Fullerton during my ride home. Amish in Fullerton? Unheard of! I've never seen one in person. Their outfits were so new and pressed and perfect. And bonnets! I wanted to run out and touch their faces and smell their clothes. Then I thought, Where are they gonna catch a horse-drawn cab at this hour?

The girls and I rode the bus to Mina's doctor appointment Monday after school. We walked directly outside the school's front door to catch the #3 and 30 minutes later we were catty-corner from the medical building, without fighting for parking spots, without paying an outrageous $8 parking fee. We were going to a follow-up appointment because there had been some resurrected concerns about Mina's lymph nodes which swell more than a normal person's, apparently. We went to an ENT doctor last week. Nodes are fine, thank god, but her ears and hearing remains a persistent issue. Retractions are left on her ear drums caused by so much fluid that was collected in her ears as a baby. This is a sore, sore subject with me. It still feels fresh especially at times like these. On Monday, we went to the doctor's to have a comprehensive hearing test. In the waiting room, we sat next to little kids wearing large hearing aids that looked like beige gum stuck behind their ears, and I looked at an article printed on a folded newspaper, not reading the words. My teeth were clenched and my heart beat fast. I rubbed Mina's back, "You ready to knock this out?" "Oh yea," she said. We followed a young and stylish doctor who wore no lab coat but grey slacks, a black blouse and a red belt into a sound proof room. A deep silence closed in around us as the door shut. It was startling at first, the dense quiet, and then if felt comforting, like a blanket for the mind. Mina sat at a small table, her back faced where Maya and I sat in chairs. As the doctor inserted specialized ear pieces, my mind raced and I tried to deflect blame. No matter how far I've come as a person, it is still instinctual -- like uncontrollable mind-flashes -- to believe that I have brought this on her. This bears no logic, but tucked away still lies tiny pools of undeserving. Surely my life is too good, my luck too wide; I receive too much love and my child is paying the price. I bargained with god. Can't I lose my hearing instead? Mina sat in front of me and all I saw were tight, tiny back muscles from above her sun dress. The tip of her pony tail swung, and a white wire cascaded from each ear. Please, god, I thought.

The doctor told Mina to look at a monitor. She was going to first test the reverberation off her ear drums. We were looking for a mountain on the screen -- a spike in the line -- indicating that sound bounced off the ear drum. There might be a road, however, a flat line that meant the ear drum doesn't vibrate; that a lot of fluid lingers still. We stared at the small black monitor and out inched an illuminated green road. First for the right ear then for the left. "I wanted a mountain," Mina told the doctor. A series of hearing tests came next during which I could only look at a detailed drawing of an ear that hung next to me. I didn't look at Mina. I would only torture myself with speculation, wondering if she was pushing the button at the right times. So I looked at the chart and tried to memorize some of the ear bits. Would it be important to remember that the top part of the ear is called a helix? Does anyone give a shit? Do you sound impressive if you tell the piercing guy that you want a hoop through the scapha?

Fluid does impair Mina's hearing. Without the fluid she would hear well in the left ear. The doctor did a special test where sound goes directly to the inner ear bypassing the ear drum. The right ear is borderline normal even without the fluid, more impaired with. The doctor suggested maybe another round of antibiotics, which is only delaying the inevitable: Getting tubes placed in her ears again. Mina doesn't want that, but we gotta drain her head some how once and for all. I felt better. I don't know why. This seemed manageable now. The mystery had evaporated, as did the blame and the ludicrous notions of undeserving. And I had memorized nine parts of the ear. Though now I only remember two.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Good Morning, Thursday

This morning, I left the house at 5:24 to catch the 6:05 train. I have to drive downtown to the station – there is no westside train service -- which is about 20 minutes from my house in early hours. I spend a lot of time trying to figure out how I can get downtown without driving. If I ride my bike the six blocks to the express bus, I can catch the 6:15 #10 line and make the 7:20 train. Then another hour by train, or I could walk the six blocks, but the problem is that the 6:15 is the earliest bus downtown – and on. It goes on and on. Welcome to my mind. All aboard!

So, I drive to the station at 5:24. The sky looks like a quilt of peach fabric; a quilt not stitched in squares, but in long creviced columns that billow from north to south. They are nearly touchable. When I make the wide loop onto the onramp and when I see the church spire affixed with a Mormon trumpeter facing southeast against the dawn quilt, I say what I always say – it bursts out of my mouth – “Good Morning Thursday!” Or Tuesday. Those are the only days I brave the 120 mile round-trip commute. I spy into other peoples’ cars. I feel affection and camaraderie for them because they’ve gotten themselves up at this hour too to toll away at jobs. I’ve decided that everyone on the road at this hour works hard and I love them all because of it. I peep out the guy with a pressed white shirt in the black Mercedes. His hair is clean and pressed too and his tie hangs near his collar, untied. His elbow rests against the window. The wedding ring catches the overpass light. Three day laborers cram on a pick-up truck’s front bench. I can’t see the driver’s face, but they all wear baseball caps softened by perspiration; the white salt line looks like an outlined mountain ridge above the brim. The guy in the middle eats a donut and drinks coffee from styrofoam; a plastic tab brushes his nose. The guy sitting nearest to the passenger door leans his head against the window and sleeps. His mouth is open. I see a young woman in a beat up Corolla. She’s smoking and roughly wiping her cheeks with a brush in the visor mirror. Back and forth with the brush. It’s going to be too much, I think. It’s too dark too see how much. She’s really laying it on. But I love her because she’s up and out, going to her job, doing the best she can. I give them all that at dawn.

I exit the highway at Broadway. This is the eastern boarder of downtown LA, and this area has a pulse more so than the cold shadows of the high rises and federal buildings just blocks away. Homeless are rising off the sidewalks out from under planks of cardboard. Cocooned sleeping bags move. A homeless woman is sitting up and she folds and refolds a blanket that is too small to cover her whole body. I love her too. Union Station, an ominous creamy Spanish building with tiled archways, comes up on the right, Olvera Street to the left. I am sandwiched by two of LA’s most grounded icons. They’ve bypassed pretension. They serve the city and they’ve remained fairly unchanged over decades.

I love them.

On the train, just out of the station, I stare at the LA River instead of reading my book even though I swore I’d be more productive during the commute. I try to spot new tags and old tags that have been tagged over. I see a huge new one, a phrase in four foot lettering that reads: PIGS CREW AT LARGE. I speculate its meaning for most of the day. I try to identify what’s floating down the river. There’s a red Target shopping cart today, and a huge pile of tangled clothes clinging to the bank, having not quite tumbled into the water yet. I still never see anyone down there when I’m coming and going on the train. As always, I find the river gorgeous. I think the trashed and over graffiti’ed banks and the murky filthy water are tragically stunning. You can’t convince me that the bursts of frustrated spray painted color and even the protest of shit catapulted into the river aren’t hopeful. You just can’t.

We pass the river and I read my book until we stop at the Fullerton station where I notice an Asian kid standing on the platform in his early 20’s with that white-pressed -shirt-tie look. He's sleeping on his feet. He’s sleeping! He is standing erect and his good shoes are splayed out in a near second position. His hands are deeply buried in his pants’ pockets; his spiked-haired head down like prayer. His eyes are closed. And he sways a little. I watch him the full three minutes that it takes my train to come and leave. The kid’s head bobbed up once, blazey-eyed, to look for his northbound train.

I wait at the doors as my stop approaches. I wait behind another business-type guy, a business-type woman and a woman with a rolley mini suitcase and a short, frosted hair style. Behind me a man stands. I don’t turn to look because I can smell him. He’s dipped himself in some kind of gut rot. He blurts to me, “You’re about the prettiest little thing I ever saw!” He is well over six feet and his wild curls are a tornado of grey and blond. His beard inches past his chin. I smile genuinely and say, “Thank you.” “Yes, you are!” he yells. He strokes his beard and his eyes roll around wide like they’ve lost their traction in the socket. “When you smile, the sun comes out!” I say thank you again and the people in front of me grin tight lipped and shift on their feet, eyes fixed on the closed doors in front of them. “I’ve just been in the mountains gold mining! I haven’t been around a lot of people. Boy, you’re pretty! Is your mama pretty? I bet your mama’s pretty!” “She’s very pretty,” I say. “I’D MARRY YOUR MAMA!” He yells loud enough to make the other people wince. I laugh. “I’m Jerry and you tell your mama I’d marry her!” I laugh, “Ok, Jerry.” He loses his balance a bit as the train slow-lurches towards the platform. “I’ve been goldmining in the mountains! All I’ve been hanging out with is Sasquatch. In a cave! You know Sasquatch? That big hairy guy?” Yes, I say. The doors slide open and the people in front spill out quickly and shuffle to the stairs. I turn, “Bye Jerry.” Jerry looks in my face, mouth open, the tip of his tongue laying on his bottom lip. “Bye Pretty Girl,” he says, softer, “God bless you.”

Of course I love Jerry too.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Santa Monica Freeway Ride

An extreme bike advocacy group in Santa Monica called Crimanimal Mass made a statement in our neighborhood on Friday night by riding on the freeway at rush hour. About 30 cyclists invaded a local onramp and then wove through jammed traffic on the I-10, our main highway that runs from the ocean to downtown. I think this is their third freeway ride in the last few months. There is tons of criticism about the stunts, and an equal amount of support. Personally I don't mind a little radicalness to bang home a point. Here's a cool helmet-cam video from their first ride. Ride On, Cali! Read an article about it here (along with surprising updates about our school's molestation case, ug.)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Hi, Me Again

I'm on a roll.

Check out these reusable produce bags I scored at Reusable Bags.

These take getting used to, but quite honestly, not that much. The small bags are fairly small so if you're picking up a few pounds of apples at a clip, I'd get the large. The Romaine above is nestled in the large. Just let the grocery store checker know the code of the produce in the bag, or put the sticker on the outside. Just wash out the bag and air dry after use. And that's really it. If you guys are handy with a sewing machine, unlike me, you could probably whip these up easily yourself. And in prettier colors.

In July my girls will be away. Maya will be in New York and Las Vegas and Mina in New York. I was thinking that this would be a good time to try a car-free challenge. Maybe I could get away with driving the car only once a week. Maybe I won't drive it at all. That's what I'm kicking around in my head anyway. Bus taking, training catching, and of course bike lovin'. You guys up for a challenge? Of your own personal defining? Like commute by bike to work three days a week or whatever you come up? Let me know what you're kicking around. Maybe we could do this together. Look what Hank and Me has come up with. They're working on 365 days car free. Ride On, Super Stars!

Here's what else I've been up to.
Yup. A few more hours put in, and it's almost all done. The bottom needs a bit more work and that's it - for my back anyway. The lighting isn't the greatest for showing details, but you get the idea. My skin is peeling and healing; don't be alarmed. I love doing stuff I've always wanted to do.

Happy Mother's Day, Golden Mamas every where.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

More Talks, More Basics

When I walked Mina home yesterday, when it was just she and I alone holding hands shuffling along the cracked and uneven sidewalks of our neighborhood, I asked her if her school had talked about what had happened over at the middle school. She said no. She said she was glad it didn't happen at her school. She said, "I wish it had happened to another --" she stopped, "I wish it hadn't happened at all." I asked her what she understood had happened. She thought, her head down, the sun reflecting off her hair. She said, "A teacher ran over four students with his car." We stopped, still holding hands and she looked at me when I laughed. It was precious enough to break a heart, but I knew -- dammit -- that I had to explain again the inexplicable evils of the adult psyche. I realized she was only half awake when I had told them that morning; I was mainly telling Maya too. I sighed and told Mina that the teacher had been inappropriate with four students. "Like sexual harassment," she says. I swear she waffles between a five year old and a thirty year old. I said, "Yea. An adult shouldn't ever act like a kid is their girlfriend or boyfriend." Then we, again, had the talk about how our private area is our own private area. Nobody touches yours; you don't touch nobody's. She was quiet and we looked at the trees that lined our block. I felt good to be arming them, proud. She said, "I wish we could've played with Bella this weekend." Ah yes, arming them with the power to tune me out after the hundredth time of the same speech.

Maya has a friend that took classes with the accused teacher. She's an outgoing Italian girl who is fairly new to the country and who hangs with Maya's crew sometimes. Yesterday she didn't come to school because of the hours of questioning at the police station. She had been touched on the arm here and there by the teacher; a tiny bit creepy she told Maya, but nothing noteworthy. The main victim is good friends with the Italian girl. She hadn't understood why the girl wanted to spend so many lunches alone with the teacher in his classroom. It had been going on for months. I asked Maya why she thought the girl hadn't spoke up sooner. This is something her group of friends talked about too. After all the posturing about how they would've said something immediately, they all really thought about the scenario. "She was probably really scared," Maya told me. It was a tender and terrifying conclusion.

The school has handled the situation well. I know parents want to channel their anger towards the school, but unless you can dig into the mind of predator, there's no way the school would've known. The ESL program is a bit segregated and isolated too; this guy took advantage of all of that. Counselors and therapist have been available on campus for students and teachers. An emergency PTA meeting was open to parents Monday. Two letters were sent home, one reported all the details the school knew at the moment, the other letter detailed normal reactions from students even if they weren't victims; some could act out, some could withdraw. Teachers spent entire classes talking about it yesterday. The students' well being has been at the forefront. I find a lot of comfort in that. We wait now for more news.

* * *

I'm finding a lot of comfort too, in general, in the Basics thing. I've revived my spring/summer herb garden. I use a ton of herbs when cooking and making salads. I don't think many things taste better than fresh herbs. At my farmers market we have a genius herb family who sells the best stuff ever. I used to say that I had a brown thumb, but with this family's super plants I've had a lot of luck keeping them, most of them, alive long enough to devour. This, to the left, is called Dingle Fairy Oregano. I wish I was kidding.

Here's some Spicy Globe Basil in the front, Pineapple Sage in the back -- yes it smells like pineapple -- and Dill to the left there
And the gorgeous mint.
I started using homemade earth-friendly cleaners. They're a snap to mix together and I'm not kidding when I say they work great. There's less of a residue on stuff when cleaning with them. I didn't know it was this easy and uncomplicated. I recommend it highly. Here's what I've been using:

All Purp Cleaner, in a 32oz spray bottle:
1/2 c. white distilled vinegar
2 c. water - EDITED, before I accidentally said 1c. water - DOH.
2 TBSP Borax*
20 drops of pure essential tea tree oil (prevents mildew and the fungus among us)
I also added about 10 drops of a tangerine oil that Maya scored free from our incense guy at the farmers market. That's why my bottle has that orange tint.

Glass Cleaner:
1 part white distilled vinegar
2 parts water
Smells funny, works awesomely

Sink/Tub Scrub:
Plain baking soda, then scrub
For extra oomph, sprinkle baking soda on a used lemon half then scrub the sink. Whoa, super clean.

* Borax was not super easy to find. I looked in 3 stores before I found it. It can be bought on if you can't find anywhere else. It's called 20 Mule Borax. Though earth-friendly, it's not safe to ingest. Careful with the kiddies that like to eat cleaning stuff. I've also been adding Borax to the wash; cutting down on the detergent and adding a 1/2 c. of the stuff. It's been amazing. Apparently it deodorizes garbage cans too. I'm about to deposit some into my checking account; see if it works wonders there.

Talk to you guys later.

Monday, May 05, 2008

Yesterday a teacher from Maya's middle school was arrest for allegedly molesting four girls who are twelve years old, Maya's age. He is a 30 year teaching veteran. He could've possibly been a teacher when I attended the same school 27 years ago. He is an English As a Second Language teacher and this makes me even more mad. This teacher's list of great achievements is a mile-long and this has left teachers and parents confused and angry, obviously. And we all wait to hear if more victims surface.

This morning we had to have The Talk, again, with the girls. The Talk is about awareness, trusting and acting on your gut, being assertive and confident and speaking your mind; looking strangers in the eye, walking down the street with intent, with empowerment. I gave the entire Anti Victim Speech moments after shaking them awake. We have this talk often enough, but the urgency considering the proximity was unsettling. I drove the girls and two of Maya's friends to school for good measure, and we talked about it again with Maya's friends, one of whom hadn't heard the news yet. The girls weren't panicked or scared. They seem well-adjusted about it and confident in their Anti-Victim skills, but still . . . But still I sit here now trying to keep my stomach from churning the nauseousness. I was calm and reassuring during all the talks, but now, hours after dropping them off at school, I'm restless and emotional.

You want to lock them away on days like this. You want to snuggle them in a blanket and never leave the house. You want to kick a guy's head in; stomp him for taking advantage of kids that might feel lost already because of a language barrier. Kids who trusted. Kids who may have a harder time speaking up.

We watched Juno last night, which we loved at the time, and we spent a lot of time talking about the teen-pregnancy thing, but this morning I had to make sure that Maya understood how the Dancing with Jason Bateman Scene was an inappropriate situation for a 16 year old. These are the blurred lines that need defining for kids. It hadn't really dawned on her that anything was wrong with it. After talking about it she asked, "Could he get arrested for dancing with her?" I said, "No, but the dancing wasn't leading in a good direction. Any right-minded adult would have not let her dance with him." Maya could probably give my Anti-Victim speech by memory, but it's these subtleties that need clarification. THIS is when your gut probably says, This is not such a good idea. This is when you listen to your gut, girls.

We'll talk more later tonight I'm sure. We'll have to navigate through the after math of the dust storm created by kids' gossip and the countless callous news vans parked around the perimeter of the school; they're having a field day dramatically reporting the fracture of a well-reputed school. We'll define more lines and try to build more skills and I'll hold back the urge to tuck them in the crook of my arm for the rest of their kidhood.