Saturday, November 29, 2008

Twisted Tangled Thanksgiving Holiday

Whew! It is over! I am dancing on the inside as a result of that. In some respects, actually a number of respects, this was a good holiday. The best part was that my wife was calm and happy, and if not happy, at least calm! (grin) Our respective families bring out the worst in us. Her sis arrived on Wednesday with her overnight bag in hand and her emotional baggage packed as well. She is not a happy person and strives for happiness by being sarcastic and unkind to others. How many other people are sarcastic when their 4 y/o nephew asks to play Candyland. It amazes me that she has no idea what a gift the love and adoration of a child is. That she doesn't get that there will be times when he could care less that Auntie has arrived. I know she has no children of her own, but still is seems so obvious to me.

Thanksgiving day was punctuated with the excitement of a power failure right as the turkey was going into the oven. Now most of us (me and the 4 kiddos) are vegetarian so the plight of tom turkey was not too big a deal to us. But I knew it would be huge to the rest of the family. We called the electric company and the power could be off they said till after 11 a.m. This would not give a reasonable time to cook the bird so Kirsty and i began making alternative plans. We could still use the gas burners on the top of the stove, so we planned out a nice though unusual Thanksgiving menu. However the goddess was smiling upon us. We got power back in less than 45 minutes though the store 3 houses up from us didn't get it back till 11. So the turkey and all the sides cooked without a hitch and dinner was only about 30 minutes late.

Our gathering on the day was really nice, though it was exhausting. Not just from hosting, cooking and cleaning, but emotionally. Why do families have to bite at one another? It mystifies me and left me in the position of feeling the need to turn conversations to other avenues several times.

The next day my mother was arriving for a visit. My sister called me and asked if she could stop by too so that she could see Mum. OK I should be bigger than this but I was hurt. I was hurt because I invited her to a long planned summer party this summer and she said she would come and then blew us off to go and visit her father. I invited her twice to come to our house on Thanksgiving. She declined and chose to spend the day with her ex. OK fine. Or I try to say fine. But it bothers me that she can't come visit us and really was only there because she wanted to see my mother. So I am left with feeling petty and smallminded and trying to rise above that.

We prepared the house as best we could for Mum's visit. There is stress to her visits. I love her and i love to have her be with the kids here because it is their home and they are able to play and interact in a much more easy going environment than when we travel to her home. Which we do monthly, and the kids are really really good about trying contain their natural exuberance while at Nana's tiny little apartment. But back to the stress. Being as I am the fourth generation to live her, Mum can't visit without finding something wrong with the way we keep the house. Once it was the pellets we store on the front porch. Another the number of strollers we keep in our front hall. I was told our house was so cold she would freeze. (uh huh Mum, may I refer you back to the pellets on the front porch???) My children are critiqued; thankfully not to their faces but to me. My kids are really by and large good kids. But they are kids. They are not good kids all the time. And our house is far from quiet. I try as i know my wife does, to make sure things are welcoming for her. Food is abundent and home made, tea waits for her when she arrives--I know in Maine she hasn't any one to "do" for her and to be pampered a bit must feel good. Her bedroom is fixed and pretty, her grandkids can't wait to share themselves with her. So I visit and smile and wait for the shoe to drop. Because I know it will. It always does. And sure enough true to form, it did. Last night while I cleaned the kitchen after supper and she sat sipping tea and dessert she asked me why the siding hadn't held up better on the house and why there was such unsightly black streaks on the front of the house. I wanted to flatten her. Really, I did. I told her it was from the traffic and that we wash the house and it comes back. You would have thought that would end it. But no, this is my mother. She asks my wife the same damn question this morning. Now I really wanted to flatten her. I feel like she never sees the beauty of our family, the love that we share and have for her and instead is so busy looking to see the family homestead is kept the way she feels it should be. Appearances and all that. It is so shallow and so sad.

Then last evening rather late at night Mum's cell phone rang. Her husband had fallen at the long term care facility and been taken to the hospital for a CAT scan. He was now back at the care facility and his granddaughter was settling him in. He was okay but I know Mum felt guilty being here with something happening there. And I felt so badly for her. We have planned this time together for months and now it was going to be shortened.

And yet a small and guilty feeling part of me is quietly relieved. I don't have to listen to any more veiled comments for a while. I don't have to worry when my kids race through the house playing knights. I can just be. They can just be. And it is good.

Monday, November 24, 2008

More on Thanksgiving

I have been thinking a lot of how being in relationships means blending family traditions and how this happens sometimes seamlessly and sometimes hesitantly and sometimes awkwardly. I think in our family we have had all three "phases" of blending so to speak but have come to a place where things feel pretty good to us all. At least I hope so.

I also realized that I have been rather elitist about Thanksgiving. In my family, this was a big feast day. Big in every sense of the word. LOTS of food. And the focus was on fresh food. Big waxy turnips that would be chopped up that morning. Onions that made your eyes weep while they were chopped to add to stuffing. Bright orange carrots in big bunches and acorn squash. Preparations began the week before. Family china was carefully and lovingly washed. The silver polished. Pies made and stored for the big day. Centerpieces were made and the furniture in the dining room gleamed with freshly applied lemon oil. As a child, I didn't love the wholeThanksgiving experience. The food wasn't really all that appealing to me; at least till you got to dessert. And though there were lots of people around, we children were expected to watch the Thanksgiving parades on television which I personally found excruciatingly dull. But there was still something sort of magical about the day. I did love how pretty everything looked. I loved the fact that people came to visit. I just wished there was more kid friendly food and that there was something I could do.

When Kirsty and I became a couple we began having Thanksgiving at her family's home. And Thanksgiving was very different there. The food was still ample but their taste was different. Not many fresh veggies. They came from cans or frozen bags. We squeezed around a dining room table that just barely had room for us all but there was a feeling of warmth and camaraderie while her mother was alive. There was lovely china that was their family heirlom but there were always such dire threats for the person who broke or chipped a piece that I was petrified to help set or clear the table. After Kirsty's mom died, her sister continued to host the Thanksgiving meal but the joy was not there. I thought at first it was just the normal working through of grief. A chair once filled by a beloved person was empty. But it was more than that. Her sister didn't love preparing for the holiday. The meal felt diminished. Where before I didn't care that the veggies were canned or frozen instead of fresh, I found myself feeling that I hadn't had Thanksgiving despite being there most of the day. I tried helping. I brought a centerpiece. We helped prepare the meal as much as we were allowed. But it all felt remarkably second rate. Kirsty and I grew our family again and yet again and by child number 3 the little table could have no more people squeezed around it. We were told the children would have to sit in the living room on TV trays.

In reality they probably wouldn't have minded. But I minded. Deeply. Profoundly. I minded because I felt that they were being told through actions that they were second class citizens, not good enough to sit with the rest of us at table. If there had been other young cousins for them to sit with that would have been different. But on her side of the family, Kirsty is the only one to have children.

So I put my foot down. I could ignore canned veggies, but I couldn't do my kids in the living room another year. And we were adopting again, bringing a family of six to a house that didn't have young children. I felt this was a burden to Kirsty's sister and dad. We should offer to host the day. We did and after much wrangling it became a new tradition. And it is good. The table is big enough for 12 people and there are all ready 10 of us occupying the chairs now. The dining room is decorated up for the day. The kids make place cards for everyone. This year my KC grew the pumpkin that will be our pumpkin pie. He is so proud of this achievement. Fresh vegetables mingle with the canned varieties on the table. There is laughter, Thanksgiving parade watching by those who enjoy it (personally I still hate it but inexplicably, my children love it!), football watching by others, and did I say laughter?

I love Thanksgiving. I love the fact that I look at our dining room and it shines with welcoming beauty. I am grateful, truly grateful for the fact that we have food aplenty, especially this year when so many people are struggling. I am grateful for family, for the faces that are gathered around that table. I am grateful for my wife and my children. They remain always my greatest gifts.

And I am grateful for canned yams and mayo for the broccoli because these will always remind me of people I love (not that I will ever personally eat them!). Somehow their presence is a blending that seasons the day in a special and wonderful way.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Thinking of Thanksgiving

The economy is so bad this year. It is impacting our household in a myriad of ways. Yule will definately be smaller and this bothers me. For 2 yrs now KC has asked for a "rose petal cottage." I am not sure it is the best gift for him and last year didn't get it because it seemed flimsy. However this year he asked again and this year flimsy or no, there is no way I could afford it. Sigh. That rots. The rational part of me knows that we can and will give him a wonderful Christmas experience. I do get that. But the fact that he asked for the same thing for 2 years is what bugs me. Sigh again. A big part of me thinks that the magic of childhood is the dreams that become realities for you as a child. On the other hand, the rational part of me knows I personally asked for my own horse every year from ages 5 to 11 and I didn't get it!

On the other hand, despite having to be careful, we are so much better off than so many people. Where I work, there are people from all walks of life, but mostly from much tougher situations than I am in. People who aren't agonizing over the rose petal cottage. People who agonize over buying meds or paying rent. Over how many times a week their kids can eat lunch. The people who have a really low income seem to have a safety net. They qualify for programs that make sure there is food on the table, their energy bills are usually paid etc. Their kids get free lunches or reduced fee lunches. They get holiday baskets to help with Thanksgiving. But there is an increasingly large segment of our population that fall through the cracks. People who are newly out of work don't always qualify for aid. Or don't know where to go if they do. Single people with a low wage job tend not to be a segment of our society who are noticed as needy. The person who is out of work for a month due to illness and who doesn't have young children tends not to qualify. So every year we tell our site that we are holding a lottery for thanksgiving baskets. In reality we pick 5 families that we know won't have a Thanksgiving without some help. Our staff donates veggies, fruit and turkeys and we deliver them the Tuesday of Thanksgiving week. We let the "winners" know ahead of time to alleviate any stress they may be having over their holiday meal. To a person, they have cried with relief and joy. Several have let slip stories of additional hardships that they are facing. Not in a "pity me" way, more in a matter of fact, sharing a facet of their life way which is somehow all the sadder to me. And it isn't hardships like giving up a cable channel. It is hardships like affording medicine for diabetes or even the type of food that a diabetic should eat. It is hardships like not being able to buy meat. I am a vegetarian by choice not because I realized that I couldn't pay the light bill if I bought meat to eat.

So today I am grateful that my biggest worries are keeping magic and good memories a part of my children's childhood. There will be food aplenty on the table next Thursday, much laughter and hubbub and we are very blessed. And I am giving thanks.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Musical Musings

I think if I was told I had to choose between having access to music or having television that there is no doubt that I would choose music. Not that I have a great singing voice--it verges on the edge of just barely adequate. Not that I can play an instrument, years of effort proved that I am totally unable to learn to read music. But I love music. It allows me to process feelings. A particular Bob Marley song always reminds me of KC because I sing it to him each night. It reminds me of events and happenings. A particular Norah Jones cut was very popular during our first trip to Chicago. MeatLoaf's album marked the first year that my wife and I lived together. Music marks my days and thoughts in a way that is deeply important to me.

However until recently I have had to watch or listen to far more television than I would ever choose on my own. Due to our piece work that we do each night, Kirsty would put on the television when she first went in to set up the job. And it stayed on till we tottered off to bed. Enter the wonderful invention! The music genome project has made my evenings so much more beautiful. Kirsty has fun creating new stations (wonder how many families have a Raffi Radio!) True, she and I don't really like the same kind of music, but I would rather listen to any kind of music than a banal TV show. And while I am pathetically inept with the TV remote, I know how to click Pandora over to the station I created! :-)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

More mental health musings

My sister and I have a very weak thread of communication right now. I am concerned for her. I know she has some mental health issues. There is enough distance physically between us that I can not with four children easily schlep up to see her. And frankly I don't know her actual address, only the town she is living in. She is presently living with a friend while she gets herself and her life back together. I email her a couple times a week. And I agonize over what to say. Is it hurtful to talk about our family and what we are doing together? Is it reassuring to have someone write the same way they have always written to her, or does it seem insensitive to whatever it is that she is going through right now? Is it intrusive to keep asking "hey, how are you doing?" "sis, we are thinking about you and want to know how things are with you?" or even "what are the kids up to?" I never hear the latter and I worry for them. I know she has work to do on her own issues; I wonder if there is time and energy for theirs. But I can't ask that; I know that for sure. So I wander through this very blindly with no real idea if I am helping or harming and I hate that.

Monday, November 17, 2008

So Way Short of Where I Want to Be

Yesterday goes down in the annals of my parenting history as a truly horrible day. Most days I figure I score pretty well as a parent. I am not a yeller by nature. I am strict but most times tend to reasoned logical consequences. But yesterday just sucked.

It started reasonably well. Actually very well. I can not allow myself to forget the positives and be overwhelmed by negativity. Took the boys to church and the most positive thing about this was watching KC voluntarily go with a trusted adult to another classroom to pack toiletries for a shelter. So very huge for this little man who was my velcro child for so long. That he would now be comfortable taking steps away from me. I am so proud. I remember how very long he was willing to be in my arms, in my lap, in a rebozo, anywhere but separated. He was interested in the world around him but wanted to observe it from the safety of my arms as opposed to sampling it on his own or with peers. People made subtle comments over the years as he grew older and I was still toting him around. "Was there a problem" was the usual hidden agenda to the probing questions. As though a child wanting and needing the nurturing safety of their parent was a problem. I smiled and sloughed off the comments, listened to the jokes about how he would forget he had legs and just did what felt right. And it paid off. He is so much more confident and day by day is doing more and more new things.

Came home from church and took Chet shopping for Christmas gifts. He stresses if he hasn't got all his things purchased way before a holiday and i figured anything I could do to keep him calm and happy was important. Off we went and the trip went pretty well also. I tried to get across to him that I like spending time with him and I wish he would come out of his room more and spend time with me. I know it won't change anything but I think it is important to keep reminding him that he is loved. He is my first born. I remember the days spent waiting for him to come home like it was yesterday.

And then things just crashed and burned. KC wanted to read upstairs on my bed. This should not have been a big deal. At 4, that feels like so much independence to him and should be a safe place for him. My bed is absurdly low to the ground, even if he falls off he can't hurt himself. I know he was a little tired and was sick of the football big brother Rob was watching and was looking for a place to hang out. So I said yes. Apparently somewhere along the way he decided to go in Chet's room and pester biggest brother. I hear the sounds of fractiousness and investigate. Chet says KC is going in his room. I tell Chet to shut his door because KC can't open it on his own and actually physically shut the door myself. I go downstairs. I think all will be well. Except it wasn't. Because Chet didn't feel he should have to keep his door shut and opened it. KC went back and tried to go into his room and Chet checked him with his body hard enough to hurt his arm. Not seriously thankfully, but it could have been, because Chet has no sense of his own strength and never has. There is KC holding his elbow and crying and Chet complaining as though it was KC's fault. He doesn't get that shutting the door was what he was supposed to do. To him it had been shut for ages--it was literally 10 minutes. And when I go to walk into his room to talk about this with him, that is when he decided to shut the door, by putting his foot against it to try and prevent my entry.

I don't think that is what incensed me. I think what it really was was looking at KC holding his arm. And knowing that in his little 4 year old mind he had just been trying to connect with his big brother. He tries so hard to build a connection with Chet. Chet is as weird and foreign to him as --I don't know, a now extinct dinosaur? KC is all about emotion and Chet hates emotion. It isn't a match made in heaven for sure. Chet would be happy I think if KC left him alone and never acknowledged him beyond a hello. But KC wants to understand Chet. He loves him at some deep level even though he has told me that Chet annoys him, frustrates him and makes him mad. But yesterday he hurt him and that crossed a huge line with me.

Unfortunately my response didn't help anything. I went into Chet's room, pushed the door to, and proceeded to lambast him. I didn't yell, I'm not a yeller, remember? But I was intense, I was in his face. I swore, something I almost never do. His lack of concern over his use of force didn't do anything to dampen my parental fury. In his mind, KC was wrong because he was trying to go into his room and he was just keeping him out. At that point, I pushed him onto his bed and he toppled over onto it like a felled tree. Between the fact that I startled him and my previous martial arts history it wasn't hard, though Chet is much bigger than I and outweighs me. My point to Chet was just that, it was startling. It was could even be considered fear producing and that this was similar to what he did to KC, except that I did it in a way that would make sure he wasn't hurt. He didn't get that. I know he didn't get it. Looking back in the calmer time of 12 hours later, I can't think why I would think it would demonstrate anything positive to him. And then Kirsty came into the room and said that perhaps I should go downstairs now, so i did. That was when she explained that KC had seen me push Chet --the door being ajar and not totally closed--and was visibly alarmed. Great. So I terrify my own child inadvertantly while trying to make sure my eldest doesn't physically harm him. Yup, I am up for a parenting award. Sigh.

Friday, November 14, 2008

On Gratitude

It has started all ready. The annual Yuletide flood of catalogs, ads, and lists of wants and needs compiled by children who either still believe in Santa or think Mom and Ooma have a bank account roughly the size of Fort Knox. They will all get some of what they want. no one will get all they want. Hopefully they will all be happy. I always worry about this. Particularly this year with finances squeaky tight. My belief is that Yule is about so much more than the gifts. But I am not 4, or 12 or even a disabled 23 year old. We work hard to have other facets of the holiday have great meaning, the lights, the decorations, the baking. The giving of baked and handmade items to friends and neighbors. The music of the season. These all have their place and make the holiday more than a giant gimme party.

But I had somewhat despaired of our kids getting this. Well not all our kids. KC and Lissa are young enough where they get caught up in whatever we are doing. It is all fun and magical and they will buy in. But my Rob is my middle guy. And Rob definately defines his happiness by things. Having things. Buying things. Planning on buying things. And not just any thing. Expensive things. Like a big screen TV. Video games that cost enough to buy our food for nearly a week. And so on. However this morning I have hope. Heifer Project sent me two catalogs this year. I have left them on the island in our kitchen and Rob has been perusing them at breakfast. He was stunned to learn from reviewing the catalog that one of the things one could do was to help buy school supplies for children in the USA. "Here?" he asked in a puzzled voice. "In our country?" Yes, there are hungry people here. Yes there are children who don' t live in areas where the schools provide the tools they need for learning. He shook his head in wonder.

"Look Ooma, a flock of chickens doesn't cost much does it? Do they eat them?" Being vegetarians the thought of them consuming meat doesn't thrill him, but I remind him that they will also use the eggs and be able to sell the eggs to get money for other things they need to buy. He is excited now, looking at the options. Sure there is an ark of animals for $5000 but there are bees and goats and a host of other options that are more affordable.

In our kitchen we have a money jar. One of those gizmos that count your change as you put it in. The deal is that anyone who has spare change or finds change puts it in there. Right now it is virtually empty because we used the money to donate to UNICEF in October. But now Rob has a new plan. We will all save our change during the year and we will decide what to buy from the Heifer catalog next winter with our savings. No matter what is under the tree this year, I just got the biggest gift ever. The gift of a child learning the meaning of generosity.

Wednesday, November 12, 2008

More Musings on Mental Health

I have been reading another blog whose writer is presently writing about healing from emotional traumas and this has been an interesting topic to reflect on. I find myself trying to understand my sister's mental health issues. I am very much the kind of person who wants to know the why, when and how of things. I like to make sense and order out of my world,and for me, this doesn't make sense. Or perhaps I should say, didn't make sense.

After all, she and i were raised in the same family. By and large our parents treated us equally. If there were any differences, they were that she was viewed as the "pretty one" and I was the "smart" one. Accordingly she was often given greater latitude in her behaviors and choices because she was pretty and presumabley didn't know better. I felt the unfairness of this growing up. I struggled with accepting the fact that I was attractive, if not perhaps pretty by the standards of my family. But I was able to grow beyond this. Writing of this now does not evoke painful memories. It is more like looking back through an old scrapbook of family vignettes. I know who I am and I know what I am. I don't look to others to form my opinion of myself. I deeply believe that we choose how we will walk our life's path. We don't always get to choose the path, but we do get to choose how we walk it.

But I think my sister does. And therein may possibly lie the root of her mental illness and why her life has been by and large one dramatically marked by ill advised choices and emotional chaos. She is validated by the opinions others have of her, by what her friends say and thing. By being sexy and desirable and able to ensnare a married man. She has many good qualities too but her life choices seem to create situations where those good qualities become diminished or trampled by the morass of suffering she ultimately burdens herself with.

Do I think it is my parent's fault that she has this illness? No, not really. We are all imperfect and doing the best we can. Is their imperfection perhaps at the root of some of her issues? Maybe. I hope that therapy brings her an ability to walk her path with confidence and with the joy that I believe we are all entitled to find in our lives.

Monday, November 10, 2008

November musings

It amazes me that some seasons blend almost seamlessly into one another, at least at the beginning. I don't for instance, see a big difference between the end of June and the early days of July. Or the end of July and the beginning of August. But some are sharply different here in New England. May is usually a lot different from April. April is usually wet and raw and yucky. May heralds in more sunshine and better days. Likewise the difference between October and November is another sharp demarcation to me. There is a difference in the sky in November, even in the first few days. Suddenly there are less blue skies and lots of clouds, sometimes filled with wind, some with rain. But big billowy clouds none the less.

Even when there is still foliage on the trees the colors are different. October is full of bright color. November is those somber hues that I associate with the garments worn by maiden aunts 30 or 40 years ago. Colors like "ashes of roses" and deep russets. Rich browns and oranges that have been browned down. Nothing showy but yet pretty in an understated sort of way. But not an October look--no , that is strictly November.

I don't really love late fall and I have a hard time embracing winter as well. I hate the physical feeling of being cold, something that I am most of the time from now till mid April or so. I wear layers and layers of clothing but the reality is, I am usually still cold. I have Reynauds syndrome and it is to be expected. Especially as i live in a drafty old victorian house in New England.

I have learned to mask my deep dislike for the colder months and find moments of joy to share in the winter with the kids. I don't want my feelings to color their perceptions, so we play in the snow, we hike, we build snowmen. We laugh. . . and i dream about crocus and snow drops lying in wait for the first warmth of spring.

Friday, November 7, 2008

On thinking about mental illness

OK here is a situation where I am waaaaaay out of my comfort zone. My sister has been diagnosed with a mental health issue and is in treatment. I love her. I want her to be well. I want her to be happy. I want to be able to have a relationship with her. And I am not sure if any of that is really possible in the sense that I know and interpret those things. Mental illness isn't like other illness. I can't put a Diego band-aid on her and have her owie get healed. Healing her owies is going to involve her confronting her own demons. It is going to involve really plumbing her depths. Sadly in the past she has a history of doing this just enough to become functional again but with no real change in her behavior patterns long term or in her ability to have healthy relationships.

I have always figured that the best thing to do was to become educated about situations. So when sis revealed her dx to me I went on the internet, did some reading there and then found a book at the local library which was written for the families of people who suffer from this particular illness. Naively I thought I would get answers. In many senses I did. However in almost all cases, they just made the situation more depressing to me. It would appear that the grim reality is that I need to be able to give up my dream of just having a sisterly relationship. She is truly not capable of that. What she hears from what I or anyone else say is so distorted by her illness and emotional needs that ultimately the relationship becomes threatened by her dysfunction.

Yes, I can train myself to try and speak differently. And I will, because I love her. But this feels to me that I will be reduced to speaking as a therapist almost. It is clear that there can't really be a level of reciprocity in our relationship. She is not capable of hearing my worries or challenges, they will be too much for her. They will cause her to feel that the world she so desparately wishes to order is even more out of control than she had thought.

I feel a great sense of loss surrounding this. I only have one biological sister and I expect that this is a great part of it. I don't have a large network of cousins either, having come from a very small family. However I do have a great network of friends and I also have the family that I married into and I am very very blessed to have a sister through marriage. I have a wife who I love beyond words to describe it and four beautiful children who brighten every day. So I have much, very very much to be grateful for. And I am. My needs can and are being met through the other good people in my life.

I am also though worried for my nieces. All of my reading leads me to seriously worry about the amount of loving care that she is capable of consistantly providing to them. A conversation with her adult daughter raised additional concerns for them in this regard. I worry that my sister's involvement with her own disease is leaving my niece's without loving consistant guidance. Without the parental touch stone that children need to feel safe, loved and brave enough to make the right choices in a challenging world. And I am hampered by distance as to what I can do (if anything) to help in this regard. It is a situation with no easy answers and for now, all I can do is watch, be open and ready and loving and hope for the best.

Thursday, November 6, 2008

Of Politics and Voting

I have struggled to order my feelings around the election and I find myself repeatedly babbling, even inside my own head! :-) It was historic. It was mind blowing. It was for the first time in more years than I care to count, the candidate I believed in, who won. And won decisively. Won in a way that there can be no talk of recounts and faulty machinery, etc. A candidate who won on a mandate from America. And that candidate is a black man.

One of my ministers growing up marched in Selma. The civil rights demonstrations, the changes in our laws, really it was not so long ago. Martin Luther King Jr. had a dream. But I wonder if he ever dreamed that a black man would become president of this country. Would he, could he, have dreamed that large in those years?

At the beginning of the campaign, although I was a pro-Obama person, I had a hard time dreaming that large. Truth to tell, I would not have been surprised if Hillary Clinton had won the democratic nomination. I watched in awe as the Obama campaign kept rolling on, gathering momentum. I listened to him speak and I felt hope. OK I know that being a stirring orator does not make one a great president. It doesn't mean you will make the right decisions day to day. that comes from surrounding yourself with intelligent people and I hope that this happens. But there is nothing wrong in my mind with feeling hope either. With feeling that the person speaking, is carrying me along in their dream, that their vision will help our troubled, hurting country. If we don't hope, if we don't dare to dream, elections such as Tuesdays can not come to be.

And as I fed my children breakfast the day after the election, I was able to smile (OK grin foolishly) and remind them that really, truly if you work hard, and dream large, that anything is possible. It felt good to be able to say that to my children. As black children I have the unpleasant duty of explaining things that are not right and fair. That they have to achieve more than a white counterpart to be viewed as just as qualified. That though all pre-teens are prone to mumbling, that young black men who mumble get looked at differently. They are sometimes viewed as uneducated, as thugs, etc. I have had to explain to my asian indian eldest son that he looks like he could have Iraqi heritage and that after 9/11 there was a real need for him to try and control some of his eccentricities while in public in order to remain safe. I have had to explain the realities of DWB, of gangs.

But on Wednesday morning, I could put those harsher issues aside for a time. We could bask in possibilities and opportunities, and talk about dreams fulfilled and promises kept.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Is it a New Day?

I remember as a teen all the discussion among adults about the glorious years of Camelot. The short time in our country's history when a handsome youthful president and his attractive family occupied the White House. It was historic in so many ways. He was young. He was Catholic. He was from Massachusetts. I remember my mother crying the day that JFK died. But I couldn't grasp much of what was going on. I was truly a wee, wee child. All I knew was that the whole house seemed gloomy and none of the regular things that happened in our home and even on television seemed to be taking place.

I understand now more of the hope that my parents must have felt back then. I feel that hope today with an election taking place which could put the first black man in the White House. Is Obama the best candidate? I don't know. For me, he is a better candidate than John McCain. I admire McCain. He is a POW. He is a blunt and plain spoken person. He is in every sense a true patriot. There was a time when I would have voted for McCain. Unfortunately for him, that is not this year. I hope that by voting for Obama that a number of things happen.

* I hope that his presence as a leader in our country's highest office will allow other children of color to dream, to strive and to achieve this and other great goals. Our future can not and should not be predicated on having anglo european ancestry. Great minds, great visionaries are not bound by gender or color.

* I hope that his presidency will lead to a higher approval rating for our country in the world at large. I am upset by the fact that our country presently seems to feel it has the right to tell other countries what to do and how to do it. We are not one, though we all inhabit the same planet. Our needs and our solutions for those needs are often fundamentally different. Though I am grateful to live in a democratic society I honestly don't believe democracy is the answer for everyone. Democracy is hard. It requires a level of participation and of education that isn't possible in every situation. There are situations where other forms of government provide well for their constituants.

* I hope that President Obama will work more actively than I think a President McCain would, to end our military involvement in Iraq. I see no way for us to win this in the long term sense. I feel that we entered the situation under false pretenses (those infamous WMDs) and without fully understanding a culture so different from our own. As a mom of 3 boys, I don't want to see a draft where my babies are required to serve in a war I don't believe in. McCain has indicated a tentative openness to restoring the draft if needed. I know recruitment levels are down. It was enough to make me refuse to vote for him even if I wasn't supporting Obama.

Two weeks ago when I was at our local library an older African American gentleman saw me there with 3 of our 4 kids. I noticed him eyeing us in the library but was a bit too busy with the children to do more than smile at him. Part of me wondered what he was thinking. Black children raised by white people are a hot button topic for some people of color. The majority of people I meet respond positively but there are always a few who don't. Anyway, at the end of our library visit I was pushing our double stroller out to the car while attempting to carry one of the two bags filled with books which are a standard for our library visits. We are a family of active readers. Rob was with me, carrying the other equally heavy bag. As we approached the car the same gentleman was there, and it turned out that he was parked next to us. I smiled and said good morning as I loaded books and children into the van. He smiled back and said "are these future Obamas?" I smiled more widely and said I certainly hoped so. He said something about how good that was and how beautiful the children were and drove away.

I want that for my children. I want them to know they can reach high, dream big, and live largely and well.