Thursday, June 13, 2013

Avion de Papel

My view this morning is from my friends' condo on the third floor with a view of the hills northeast of Castro Valley, CA.
We planned our trip around yesterday's comida at Eden UCC. One of my chosen sisters is the pastor at Eden and twice monthly, their congregation distributes food to the neighbors in need. They have things for children to do and the adults have an opportunity to visit with each other. It's a neighborhood event that brings residents together. 
John and Em had fun. They pitched in to help where they could and participated in a music class with the kids from the neighborhood too. Em played ball with the boys who were there with their mothers.
I sat at a table with paper, crayons, markers, and coloring pages. Children came to the table and checked me over. They saw that I was kind of a cool adult because I was coloring, too. It didn't take long for them to warm up and talk with me. The preschoolers wanted to impress me that they knew their colors in English - "yellow", "pink", "purple", their English better than my Spanish.
I'm not sure what made me think of it, but I made a paper airplane for one of the boys. He was so excited. He'd throw it and it would come undone. He'd run back to me and say, "No fly!" I'd fix it and he'd continue. We did this for about a half hour. As the other children saw his paper airplane, they would come to me with the page they had colored, hand it to me and I would make an airplane for them. 
A little girl - close to three years, I would guess, brought me a sheet of paper to have an airplane like the boys did. I made it, she ran to show her mother, and then ran back to me. I knelt down to her and she kissed me on the cheek and whispered, "Gracias." For those of you who know me well, you know the Herculean effort it took for me not to be a blubbering gob of goo at that lovely gesture. 
Seeing 60 families with a group of kids with them collecting food for the week, puts life into perspective. On Monday, our wallets were stolen out of the car where we were parked at a tourist destination. I am temporarily without access to my assets, to my identification, and for me that's just a pain in the behind. I'm not wondering how I am going to feed my family. 
I bonded with a mother who had two little ones. Her older child was simply too cute for words. He was tired and fussy. I came over and brought him paper and two markers and began to draw simple pictures. I drew a house.  "Casa," his mother said. "Gato," his mother said. He giggled and his big black eyes disappeared with his broad smile. He got fussy again and I made him a paper airplane. "Avion," his mother said. "Airplane," I said, and he ran to play with the other boys. 
John said that he was talking to a group of boys. They all saw him as the cool teenager paying attention to them. "I'm from Iowa," he said.
"Can you take the BART there?" asked one of the boys. (Bay Area Rapid Transit)
"Not exactly," John said. "But I did take the BART to come to see you." 
"It is not our differences that divides us. It is our inability to recognize, accept, and celebrate those differences." - Audre Lorde, Poet

Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Scent of Coffee and Coppertone

Today's view of the porch is the San Francisco Bay.

Slathered with Coppertone, I walked up and down the parking lot of the hotel looking out at the water and vacation dug a little deeper into my state of mind.

As a parent, it's an extraordinary thing to experience things through your child's eyes. Yesterday, as my daughter took her first plane ride, that she remembers, it was a real kick to see that exhilaration in her, which in turn, had the same effect on me. Perhaps that's why I seem to be just about the giddiest one of the bunch here. The awe of seeing the clouds from the top down for the first time is pretty amazing.

It didn't surprise me that my 15 year old son would be shepherding his girls, young and old, checking the arrival and departures board and hoisting suitcases off the carousel. My 12 year old girl goes between teenager and a cranky little girl when hungry. Our grandma and I are taking it all in through them and giggling more than anything else. Tea time at the Denver airport was a lovely layover break.

In a few hours, we'll meet up with my first college roommate, Barbara. Fate brought us together in 1214 Quadrangle, University of Iowa, 31 years ago. When we've seen each other, it's been in Iowa City at Homecoming. I know that this is the first time, of more, that I will visit them.

In a couple of days, we'll head to the east bay and join my longtime heart sibs for what is also my first visit to them as well.

It's all good.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Cleansing Waters


A couple of weekends ago, it rained. A lot. Like nearly seven inches of rain in 12 hours a lot. But it was the two inches that fell in one hour that overwhelmed our community's storm sewer and caused water to come up through the floor drain in hundreds of houses in our town. For some of us, the sump pumps could not keep up, the lift station failed, water came in through the basement window.

I woke up thinking that it had rained a horrendous amount and I had not heard my sump pump. It was about 4 a.m. and I headed to the basement to find water coming in. Shortly after, I heard a fire truck coming up and down all the streets in my neighborhood waking people up and warning them that we were flooding.

It was a helpless thing. I plugged in my sump pump and started bringing up items that were at risk of being ruined. I called my neighbor at about 6 because I knew they were up. Slightly panicked, I asked what I could do and he said that there really wasn't much to do until it stopped. The water was coming up the floor drain, through the foundation and through the basement window. Within an hour, I had two inches of water standing throughout the entire basement.

Exhausted and without something constructive to do, I went back to bed and tried to rest while my sump pump did its thing.

By the afternoon, my 15 year old said something hugely important. "We're really lucky, Mom."

"We are?"

"Yes. We have had nearly seven inches of rain and we don't have any more water in our basement than we do. And it's not sewage. We're lucky."

So very lucky. Our water issues were really just a pain in the behind. We didn't lose any of our appliances or anything of significant or sentimental value.

Perspective is a precious thing. If I can get to the end of my child-rearing days, which are fast approaching, and know that I have instilled in my children the ability and the insatiable desire to see the positive, the good in a situation, then I have given them something truly important. Along with that positive outlook is to recognize that each of us have the freedom to choose how we react to something that is outside of us. Whether that is someone important who has disappointed us, a call that didn't go our way, or an event like a basement flood that we had no way of preventing, it's a whole lot easier go of life if we do not give away our own authority to our feelings. Happiness and joy come from within, as does sadness and despair. We all know those who seem to have that raincloud hanging over their heads when life really isn't treating them poorly at all. They just choose to see it that way.

The trick is finding joy and happiness when the outside world really is rough. Unfortunately, for every person who can see the glass half full, there are many more who see it half empty.

People all over town had an unplanned basement purge of items that were hauled to the curb. Soggy and sodden strips of carpet and pad, cardboard boxes, things that had been contaminated by the flooding and often, sewage. Collectively, we had a community clean up day in a way that none of us wanted.

My kids made hauling damaged items out of the basement a "fun" task. When it was time to bring up the old carpet that had been down since before we moved in, my son put on a classic 60's dance party cassette tape and we danced to "Good Golly Miss Molly", "Mustang Sally", and "Devil With the Blue Dress." We "cut the rug" indeed.

Kids and I are heading out on a vacation tomorrow and it couldn't come at a more opportune time. We're ready for a change of scenery and making memories. Life lessons and milestones deserve reflection and celebration. This time, it's about the steps toward becoming an adult and being a part of something bigger than oneself.

Cable cars, artichokes, and breathtaking views from Highway 1. The bigger the life lessons, the better the celebration, right?