Sunset Season

There’s a certain time of year when the sun stops staging its setting and instead slips away between the flatness of late afternoon light and evening commute darkness. Those summer and fall evenings, when lovers and families and friends drink wine out of plastic cups while sitting on porches or park benches, have slipped away as well. Coats, scarves, hats and gloves diminish the intimacy of strappy dresses, t-shirts or cotton pajamas. Sunset watching falls into the past season’s memory book and onto the a distant season’s to-do list.

Timers bring holiday lights to life, a small gift to ease the lost hours of sun. Walking home from the bus stop or a friend’s house, we step in and out of the circles of sparkling white or bright color bulbs.  Dark and light, dark and light. The city people walk in the perpetual comfort of the street lights as long as they stay on public walkways and out of the darkness of undefined areas. Lights from stores, cars, homes suggest places where the people share time. At the right slice between dusk and dark, the interiors of houses and offices are as clearly lit as big screen televisions. In suburbs and small towns walkers might depend on those window views or harsh garage lights before the moon and stars accept responsibility to illuminate a path.

So we hurry from the dark, almost as much as from the cold, to the places of light where we belong, have control, feel safe. Another winter begins. Wishing you a season of good holiday experiences and memories.

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Be the Good You Want to See In The World

14570430_10154728863962384_4945550604691041982_n1I’ve been afraid of blogging ever since the election. There has been such hate between Hillary and Trump supporters. There is fear.

I had a blog ready to go about wearing a safety pin to signal that I would stand up for the vulnerable.

The essence of the piece was that others would see me as an ally regardless of who they were. I also emphasized that I had friends, high school classmates, and neighbors who voted for President-elect Trump. The election hadn’t changed my feelings for them. More than anything, I was thankful we lived in a country where we could vote.

My WordSister, Ellen, read the blog (we edit each other’s work prior to posting) and she said that it didn’t speak of the fear that people had. I reread my blog and it was true. My children who are Latinos hadn’t spoken of any fear. Yet, others around me have told me of instances where their children, both young and adult, have.

The proportion of Richfield residents who speak a language other than English at home (26.1%) is higher than the overall percentage for Minnesota (10.9%). 34.7% of students in the Richfield schools speak Spanish at home. 3.5% speak Somali. I decided to enrich my piece by asking a Latino friend to tell me how the Richfield community was feeling.

Instead of editing the blog, life happened. Both of us, especially my friend, was caught up in the planning of a funeral for the two Richfield students who were murdered by their dad. Being present and available to our children and others was paramount to the election results.

14440642_10210326956788272_3891113084642446291_n1Juan Jose, Crystel, and two of their classmates helped carry the white caskets into the church. They huddled with their friends and watched Luis and his sister, Nahily’s life roll on the wide screen, which of course included all of them from preschool to eighth grade. My Latino friend worked hours on this video and cried for many more hours for the loss of these two children who she knew so well. During the service, Crystel and other RDLS and RMS students sang the Prayer of St. Francis that they had practiced all week. At the cemetery, Juan and some of his friends shoveled dirt onto the caskets. Other friends were too distraught and couldn’t bear to do it. After we returned to the church Jody and I helped serve the food that was donated. Not once during this day did I think or worry about President-elect Trump.

The following week at work, I planned a coworker’s funeral. He died alone. He had been estranged from his two children for over 20 years. His work was his family. Even so, he kept the people he had worked with for over 30 years at arm’s length. He was proud. He was private. I called the police to do a welfare check when I didn’t receive an expected call from him. They broke into his house. He had succumbed to illness. The biggest fear of his coworkers was that his body would go unclaimed. I told them that wouldn’t happen. We would claim him. We would give him a funeral. We would bury him. I contacted the medical claims examiner and asked if his children who were 24 and 26 were notified. They were. I told the claims examiner to tell the children that his work family were here for them and would do whatever was needed.

A supervisor and I met his children at his house. We led the way in, pointed to the framed photos on the wall that were them as toddlers. Talked about how his dad never forgot his children. We gave his children a tour of the plant. Showed them his office, and his tool box. Opening the box would reveal, again, their pictures as toddlers.

Together, we held a funeral and reception for their dad.

Not once during this time did I wonder or question who voted for President-elect Trump or Hillary Clinton.

Instead of a safety pin, my smile, my hello, and my service to others will let people know that I’m an ally.

I’ll be the good I want to see in the world–you can count on me to keep showing up for the hard stuff.

Regardless of who you voted for.

“Is there anything about me in here?”

Crystel

Crystel

“Is there anything about me in here?” Crystel said with a hint of despair in her voice.

“Yes,” I answered. “There’s a sentence. Keep reading.”

She was skimming my recent blog about our 3-legged cat.

“This story is mostly about Antonio,” I added.

“Grrrrrr,” she responded.

I laughed. “Do you want the next blog to be all about you?”

“Yes,” she said emphatically.

Writers often worry about writing about their kids online. Using them for fodder when crafting a story. Much is written about the ethical implications of mothers writing about their kids and the online privacy of children. Mothers don’t want to betray their children.

I’ve had a different experience with Antonio and Crystel, both now thirteen years old. My children want to be seen, noticed, and heard. They want to be important enough to be blog material. They would feel betrayed if I didn’t include them in my writing life.

Crystel helping me with squad maintenance checks.

Crystel helping me with squad maintenance checks.

From time to time, I get squeamish blogging about my children. Not because of what my kids might think but what other writers might. Mothers should protect their children, not exploit them for media attention. Sometimes, I feel tempted to add an aside to blogs and tell the reader that my children have read and approved of the story and photos. I don’t do that. Another voice emerges in my head, a much louder voice. That it’s my business what I write and readers have a choice whether or not to read my material. I won’t be silenced as I was when I was a child.

If the blog is about them, Antonio and Crystel know the contents before I even start drafting the blog.  Before it’s published they’ve read the article and seen the photos. They might ask me to change a line or to take a sentence out or to use a different photo. Most often the blog is published as is with their approval.

There are benefits to having a mother who will blog about you. Last week, Crystel was finishing a class project for her Language Arts class – a 3 panel brochure – that needed to include pictures of herself when she asked, “Do you have any photos of me?”

In the trunk of squad cars there are stuffed animals for children. Crystel is picking one of her monster dolls to add for a give-away.

In the trunk of squad cars there are stuffed animals for children. Crystel is picking one of her monster dolls to add for a give-away.

Antonio answered her, “Just Google yourself. I put a picture of me and my birth mom Rosa on mine.” He looked at me and explained. “That was the most recent picture I could find online.”

Crystel was positively gleeful. “You’re right.”

Crystel’s desire to be a part of my writing life isn’t limited to the WordSisters blog.

She visualizes herself sitting next to me signing copies of House of Fire, my yet to be published manuscript.

House of Fire shows that thirty years of breaking free from a cycle of silence and betrayal was not enough to prepare me for the trials of starting my own healthy family.

Jody and I have worked hard to create a home of love, safety, and joy where no one gets silenced.

Crystel’s been practicing her autograph. I’ll be so proud to have her next to me. Both of us will be seen, noticed, and heard.

Her only complaint about this blog – “It doesn’t have enough pizaaz.”

Well, next time kid.

I Never Wanted Anything Bad Enough to Camp Overnight for It, But . . .

Antonio had me at, “You can blog about it.”

I studied him, then upped the ante, “With photos … of you?”

To convince a twelve-year-old boy to pose for photos at any time is challenging.

Antonio pointing to an empty display of Amiibos

Antonio pointing to an empty display of Amiibos during our ‘dry’ run.

He nodded.

That is how I came to be standing in a line at Target on a Friday morning before the store opened.

Amiibos would be released at 8 am. It was Antonio’s goal to get three of them before they were sold out. But, he had school. Since I had the day off from work, I would be a perfect stand-in.

The night before the big release, Antonio insisted that we take a practice run. I needed to know the most direct route to the sales counter.

He would have preferred that I camp overnight outside the store doors. He even offered that he and Crystel would join me. He surmised that the both of them could bring their bikes and leave me first in line when it came time for them to bike to school.

I actually thought about it. It would be a new and shared experience. But, then again, I thought I should save that opportunity for something other than a fairy-type Pokemon. Concert tickets or ….. I don’t know …. I’ve never wanted anything bad enough to camp overnight for it.

What we would do for our kids. Antonio certainly wanted these Amiibos. His goal was to collect every one. He has 17.

I’m not a collector. I’m a purger. It took me awhile to understand that my children were different from me. There were times that I cringed realizing — a little too late — that they were collecting the very items I was purging. The items were already down the road at ARC or the school store or the garbage can.

IMG_6301That Friday, after dropping Antonio and Crystel off at school I headed over to Target. I was number 8 in line. I looked down the line at my 7 peeps.

A text message interrupted my thoughts.

Antonio wanted to know if I was in line, how many were in front of me, and if they were kids.

All men in their twenties except a young lady sitting next to me, I text back.

I set down my phone and asked her why she was there. “My brother,” she said. Adding, “He owes me.”

I stood up. “Hey, I’m writing a blog,” I said, loud enough for everyone to hear. “Do you mind if I take your picture?” A thumbs up, a nod of the head, a grunt. “Anyone mind?” I questioned again. No answer, which was my answer.

At 8 am when the doors opened, I was surprised at the calm.

My peeps walked single file. No cutting in line. The first guy determined the pace. Three clerks were at the counter waiting for us. Amiibos were stacked behind them. By the time it was my turn, two amiibos were already sold out.

IMG_6307I can only tell you that I got a Jigglypuff.

Antonio will learn if I scored any others on his birthday in July.

Not knowing until then will torment him. I love doing that to an almost 13-year old.

 

Boy Scouts did What this Mom Couldn’t

May 18 2014 056A 30 mile bike ride with nary a whine. Just an I Made It! text. And where was I? 10 minutes behind the Scout, my butt and legs hurting.

Our ride started at Mt. Olivet Lutheran Church in South Minneapolis, the meeting place of Boy Scout Troop 110, and ended at Carver Park Reserve.

It didn’t take me long to realize how out of shape I was. Before leaving the parking lot, I tipped over. I couldn’t get my foot out of my clipless foot clamp. Lying on the ground, I looked up at Antonio while other Scout leaders rushed to help me. His face was expressionless, a look that he’s mastering.

“Perhaps, I’d better ride around the parking lot a few times before riding out,” I said.

Antonio’s daily bike riding had him in good shape for this challenge. Still, it was 10 miles before I saw his first smile. Antonio and another Scout had found the electronics table at the Depot Coffee House in Hopkins, our first rest stop. I didn’t chide Antonio to join the other scouts outside. I could see that this was a boy bonding moment and his way into this Boy Scout Troop. Instead, I snapped a picture, left a bottle of Gatorade and chocolate chip cookie on the Playstation.

Before leaving for our next ten miles, he said, “I think I’m going to like this Troop.”

May 18 2014 057At the 20 mile mark, he shocked me with two hugs. This could have been because we were at Adele’s Frozen Custard in Excelsior and in a moment he would ask for gummy worms and sprinkles . . . or maybe he was overwhelmed with love for his mom. Either way, I was shocked when his rock hard arms came around me and squeezed.

I had been giving him space on the ride, staying closer to the back of our herd of 16 bikers. I didn’t want to crowd him as he found his way into the pack.

Sometimes it’s only in a gathering like this that I get a glimpse of Antonio or Crystel as the ‘different’ ones. They are such a part of me that I don’t see any differences between us. In this group, Antonio was the only person of color. Meaning that in this group I was his white mom.

I wanted Antonio to choose how to ‘come out’ in this group that he was adopted. After all, it’s his group.

I’ve watched Antonio step between the world of Hispanics and the world of whites with ease. In this gathering he was the only Hispanic, even though at school his very best friends are Hispanic and white. (Thank you, Richfield Dual Language School!)

Troop 110 found a way around

Troop 110 found a way around

Six years ago, in kindergarten on his way home from school he whined, “Why do I have to learn Spanish?” Perhaps, he saw himself such a part of Jody and me that he didn’t see his difference. I paused thinking ‘Shock alert here’ then answered, “Because you’re Guatemalan, dude.”

At Carver Park Reserve, I texted Jody and told her that I had arrived. Antonio would be camping overnight with the Scouts while I headed for home.

This was another nice surprise: Antonio camping with the Boy Scouts by himself. I had told him in Cub Scouts that if he needed me to I would camp with him until he was 18. Perhaps he is writing his own book, LIFE WITHOUT MOM.

Except his book is LIFE WITHOUT TWO MOMS.

Carver Park Reserve

Carver Park Reserve

I wasn’t sure that Antonio was ‘out’ yet to this Boy Scout Troop that he had two moms. I’m sensitive that he and Crystel are allowed to be visible in their own timing and in their own way. I wrote a blog post about this July 26, 2012 titled Truth Telling.

I had already checked with the Scoutmaster (in private) about how the Troop felt about Antonio having two moms. “Everyone is welcomed.”

Since Jody and I weren’t sure if Antonio had come out to this Boy Scout Troop, we gave him separate quiet goodbyes.

The next morning at 7:40 a.m., I received a text from Antonio: When do you pick me up?

The Boy Scout

The Boy Scout

I couldn’t read between the lines–did he have a good time? Didn’t he have a good time? Would he be adamant about never returning to Scouts?

I texted back the time and then asked, “On a scale of 1 to 10, how did it go?”

He answered, 10!