Rarely do we know more about each other than the public faces we present to the world. The private person can be very different. The question I’ve been asking myself, though, is which is the “real” person? It’s a question I’ve been asking about a lot of people during this horrible political season we’re experiencing, in particular myself.
When a warlord continues to kill and torture across a swath of Congo and Central African Republic, that’s not a white man’s burden. It’s a human burden. To me, it feels repugnant to suggest that compassion should stop at a national boundary or color line. A common humanity binds us all, whatever the color of our skin — or passport.
If I can impart any single most important bit of advice to a new mom it would be this: Don’t forget about yourself! Motherhood is all consuming. Every moment of your day, even if you work full-time, is consumed by thoughts of your child. Guilt, unfortunately, is a mom’s best friend. Always has, probably always will be. Guilt over everything. Too much TV. Not enough mom time. Didn’t read them any stories today. Didn’t brush their teeth. Chicken nuggets for dinner three times in a row. Chocolate milk again. Too many cookies. Yelled at your kid for whining. Ignoring your kid for an hour so you can surf the internet – all guilt-inducing! Basically, every move you make in life now causes you guilt, right? And chances are, you were probably screwed up by your parents so you want so badly to do it right and so you slam the gear into overdrive and just keep on truckin’ even when you get a flat tire.
I am deeply grateful to the many doctors, teachers and psychologists who have worked with our family to help us find something that works for James. Without their help, I’d probably still be susceptible to Laurie Couture’s extremist ideology. Worse, if I listened to her, my son would still be languishing academically. I don’t care how peaceful a tribal ideology is, my son’s current report card is the only proof I need. And my son’s blossoming creativity and cheerful mental outlook remind me every day that we made the right decision for our son.
I am a blogger. This is my genre. I like to write using this medium with its capacity to change and edit and revise so simply. I like my blogging space, it’s where I feel at home. Here I’ve created me. This is me. Blogging allows me to have a living organism of words and photographs, hyperlinks and comments. Books, with their classic adventures, smells and something-in-the-hand-ness will always be something to esteem. But these months helped me realize (and I am so grateful) that I am not a book writer, I am a blog writer.
The State of California currently provides Physical Therapy and Occupational Therapy services to children who have an established NEED for it, regardless of financial status. Basically, if your kid needs therapy, you get it…no matter how much money you make. With the current budget crisis of the State, legislators are hoping to change the way the program works to only provide services to those families who have a need…AND qualify financially. This proposed change goes to vote with the state budget in July.
I have fond memories of an evening during which a woman stood up ahead of me and told a story in which the humor depended on the collective assumption that she should be horrified that her internet date turned out to have an adoptive kid with special needs. I followed and took it upon myself to point out that I could see why she was staying single. But micro-aggressions are often more confusing. For some that I face regularly, I have memorized responses (He’s so lucky. No, we’re lucky.). But when I’m caught off guard, I often don’t know what to do.
As a young Christian, I was led to believe that sex held a magical power that would transform me into a man and heal all of my insecurities—even more so if I remained pure before marriage. Imagine my surprise after my wedding night when I realized, “I feel like the same person.”
As our free time shrinks, we turn to Pinterest to fantasize about having the time to grow organic tomatoes and create sparkling castles for our children’s bedrooms. We long to walk away from our office computers and minivan wheels and make things with our hands. So we pin images of women floating through gardens in flowery dresses, and approve of our friends who share in the fantasy, too. We may never make that bucolic scene a reality, but in the meantime, Pinterest is making big money off letting adults play make-believe.
All of it will fade soon enough. But he used the word "happy" to describe us. "Happy" after a long month of stress and inadvertent weight-loss and worry wrinkling in between my eyebrows. "Happy" after being up most of the night and being home most of the week and a virus that germy-ed up our home. "Happy" after things have changed around here in ways I can’t yet fully explain so that we will be living more simply, so that the stress will be swept out slowly and methodically. Happy.
One day my mother came home with a copy of Jonathan Kozol’s Savage Inequalities and that was my introduction into the cruelty of the achievement gap. There were children just 150 miles away who had educations that were a stark contrast to my oh so normal one. Children born into poverty, struggling to get out living in neighborhoods riddled with violence and attempting to attend schools without some of – what I considered to be – the basic necessities. I cannot tell you how shocked I was to learn that not every school in New York State has a thriving arts program. One that I took for granted because who really wants to practice the clarinet, bass clarinet and bassoon seven days a week? Not everyone had access to AP courses. Not everyone who wanted to go to college could afford to do so. How could that be? The following year I made the decision to go into education policy. The rest, as they say, is history.
I sat and enjoyed visiting with 91-year-old Ivy Solomon the other night. She is heading Stateside on her last journey out of Haiti after serving the people of Ranquite for 60 years. She is sharp and polite. We talked Haiti politics and I noticed she is neither naive nor bitter. Tears welled up as I watched her, thinking that she is not the first of our friends to retire and spend their later years Stateside or in Europe after giving most of their adult years to Haiti. I’ve said goodbye to dear Salvation Army ladies who we loved. Women who gave and made Haiti a better place and they made light of it. No chartered flight, no fanfare, simple celebrations and off they went with a suitcase or two heading back to countries they no longer fit perfectly in. Women who have given many years to quietly serving in a country that always needs more. Heroes of the faith who I have been honored to know.