Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘children’

The Truth of Fiction

If you read the story, Loving Annalise, without any knowledge of where the characters or events came from, it would appear to be an intriguing and loving romance that was complete fiction. In fact, it is taken from real life experiences of a friend from Austria, who married two brothers (not at the same time).

The old adage that truth is stranger than fiction, is so often true, that it is no longer a cliche. Anything one can think of happening in someone’s life, probably has, is, or will take place. When they all come together, with some perspective and distance, these experiences can also make a great story.

When I first heard a few of the details from my friend’s life, about growing up on a farm in Austria, going to nursing school in Vienna, falling for an abusive man, then later realizing she was in love with his brother, it sounded like a movie. When I asked if she would sit with me for a few afternoons and tell me the entire story, and she said yes, I was surprised and delighted.

The result of her sharing her life resulted in Loving Annalise. It is more than a simple, or even complicated romance, and includes childhood mishaps, coming-of-age, family drama, first loves, big city expectations, erotic encounters, suspense, blackmail, and redemption. The majority of the story takes place in Austria, and Western Europe, with the climax coming home to The States.

If there was ever an example of a life that reads as fiction, Loving Annalise fits the bill, and goes straight to the heart.

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What A Year Its Been

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Last year we faced our program’s greatest challenge and you, Rwandan Orphans Project and Imizi Children’s Center supporters, came to the rescue and helped us secure our future for years to come. That achievement made 2015 ROP’s best year yet, but I’m very happy to tell you 2016 was an equally great year for us and those we support.

Why is that? Well, from the moment we settled into our new home we began making renovations and improvements around our property that have made our Imizi Children’s Center a better place for our children. But while those changes are important, what Imizi is really all about is helping vulnerable people, and this year we have been able to serve more than ever before.

And we’re not only helping kids anymore. Recognizing that adults can also benefit from our presence in our rural community we began hosting meetings and workshops for local people and the family members of children who stay with us, where they could learn about family planning, sexual health, positive parenting, gender equality and other topics. Our goal is to help solve domestic issues before they lead to a breakdown of the family. To us preventing a child from leaving home to live on the street is just as important as helping those who are already out there.

We’ve had many achievements this year, and we hope you are as proud of them as we are. In 2016:

We increased the total number of vulnerable children attending our school from 140 to 200. These are children from our community’s poorest families who cannot afford to pay for public school, so they attend Imizi’s school completely free of charge.

We completely renovated one of the boys’ dormitories, making it more comfortable and safe for them. We also constructed new toilets and an eco-friendly outdoor kitchen that is great for the environment and saves us money.

We began constructing a massive underground water storage tank with a rainwater collection system that should ensure our children and animals have access to water even during the long dry seasons.

We successfully reintegrated 11 children back into their families. Each of them will continue going to school with the support of ROP.

 We rescued 19 children from homelessness. Three of them were only five years old, while the others were all under 10 years old.

We have five boys who have completed secondary school, two who have finished vocational school and one who has graduated university with a bachelor’s degree. In 2017 we will be supporting 21 in secondary school and 8 in vocational training.

Eight – that’s right EIGHT – of our graduates have performed well enough to earn government scholarships to university starting next year. That is a record for ROP and a huge achievement for these amazing young men.

To all of those who have donated to us this year and supported us in other ways – thank you for your continued support. We are so grateful to have your support as we do our work. 

For those who wish to make a donation as we approach 2017, you can visit our website for details of how to do this.

Bhakti-fest of Love

A wonderful quote about The Last Conception from the extraordinary Bliss Mistress and author, Edie Weinstein.

“The Last Conception” is a bhakti-fest of love and loss, hope and courage that comes in unexpected packages. Take a peek into the lives of an Indian-American family faced with an unusual demand of their medical professional unmarried daughter whose job and personal life intersect in unanticipated ways. Although happy endings are never guaranteed, it seems that one is in the offing for this savory literary masala.
Edie Weinstein, author of The Bliss Mistress Guide To Transforming the Ordinary Into the Extraordinary.

If you are unfamiliar with the story, here’s a brief description.

LastConception-CoverA successful embryologist (Savarna Sikand) must make difficult and life-changing choices. Should she continue devoting her soul to work and party with her girlfriend Magdalena or settle down with Charlemagne (Charley) and have children? If she decides to have children, how and when will they start the process and what will it take to convince her conservative East Indian mother to stop trying to marry her off to a “good man”? If that isn’t enough pressure, throw in the bomb her parents plant when they tell her she MUST have a baby because she is the last in line of a great spiritual teacher who reportedly never had children!

Available at: Melange Books and Amazon.

Bell Hooks and Love

searchCommunion: The Female Search for Love by Bell Hooks (Harper Collins Publishers, 2002)

Excerpt from Chapter One – Aging to Love, Loving to Age.

Women are often more interested in being loved than in the act of loving. All too often the female search for love is epitomized by this desire, not by a desire to know how to love. Until we are able to acknowledge that women fail at loving because we are no more schooled in the art of loving than are our male counterparts, we will not find love. If the female obsession with love in patriarchal culture were linked from birth on to the practice of love, then women would be experts in the art of loving. And as a consequence, since women do most of the parenting in our nation, children would be more loving. If women excelled in the art of loving, these skills would be imparted to male and female children alike.

As long as our culture devalues love, women will remain no more able to love than our male counterparts are. In patriarchal culture, giving care continues to be seen as primarily a female task. The feminist movement did not change this perception. And while women more than men are often great caregivers, this does not translate into knowing how to be loving. Love is a combination of care, commitment, knowledge, responsibility, respect, and trust. Socialized in the art of caring, it is easier for women who desire to love to learn the necessary skills to practice love. And yet women have not chosen to give themselves whole-heartedly over to the art of loving. As long as being loved is seen as a gesture of weakness, one that dis-empowers, women will remain afraid to love fully, deeply, completely. Women will continue to fail at love, because this failure places females on an equal footing with males who turn away from love. Women who fail at loving need not be disappointed that the men in their lives – fathers, siblings, friends, or lovers – do not give love. Women who learn to love represent the greatest threat to the patriarchal status quo. By failing to love, women make it clear that it is more vital to their existence to have the approval and support of men than it is to love.

There Goes Our Sex Life

imgresWhen your newborn is literally sucking the energy from you twenty-four hours a day, will the energy to make love with your partner ever return? How do you nurture your relationship, and find time for sex, when you have young children wanting and needing your attention 24 hours a day?

You may find yourself replying to these questions by exclaiming, “Never.” “It’s impossible.” “You’re kidding!” or “We’ve given up trying.” The reality is that you DO have to make adjustments, continually negotiate with your partner and practice the patience of saints, but you DON’T have to give up your sex life altogether.

From the moment your baby comes into the world your lives are changed forever. No matter how long you’ve been together before the birth or how much you’ve read about it, there is nothing that prepares you for the overwhelming responsibility, attention and energy that parenting requires. Rarely do couples talk about how having a baby will effect their sexual lives, yet it can be one of the most difficult aspects of becoming a mother or father.

After having time to lavish each other with affection for months or years, before giving birth or adopting a child, you are unceremoniously thrust into EVERYTHING being structured around the baby. In terms of upsetting the apple cart of domestic tranquility, newborns are the most powerful force on the planet. When you sleep, eat, work and make love is predicated and influenced by the newest member of the family. It is utterly amazing how such a little bundle of flesh and bones can have so much control on our full-grown adult lives.

New fathers are particularly vulnerable during this change in life and often come down with the “whoa is me” syndrome. Not only does the baby literally come “between” the mother and father, the baby takes ALL of her attention. The physical bond between mother and child is very powerful. It can be difficult for father’s to accept this reality, even if they thought about it ahead of time. And if, like many men, a father associates sex with love, he may begin to fear that he isn’t loved anymore. This is especially true when the babies mother doesn’t have as much time, energy or desire to make love as often or as long as she used to. In the beginning months she may not want to at all.

Most women do not love their partners any less after the birth of a child; they simply do not have the time, energy and stamina to sexually express their love the same as they did before. Without denying the physical attraction that is part of the relationship dance, most healthy unions consist of more ingredients than just sex. This is where men (and women) can allow patience and understanding to take root, instead of frustration and anger and appreciate the many ways we can communicate our feelings for one another.

Give each other long hugs and kisses. Massage her/his back, neck, hands, arms, legs, feet and/or face. Cook and serve a special meal. Talk to each other and take the time to be present and listen. Don’t assume you each know what the other is thinking or feeling.

If you simply want sex, then find time alone to pleasure yourself. There is nothing wrong with some self-loving and care. Don’t expect your partner to supply all your needs or fulfill all your desires.

Usually, as a child develops, stops nursing and needs less physical attention, a woman’s libido also returns. If you’re the mother’s partner, let her be in the driver’s seat. She’ll let you know when she’s ready. Absence of sex doesn’t mean she loves or desires you any less, it is simply a physical and emotional reality that can arise from having a baby.

As your child grows physically and cognitively, steps into the toddler stage and enters their first years in school, an array of options for intimacy with your sweetheart will be presented. If your child is sleeping in your bed, once they have fallen asleep you can take a mat and go to another room for some mutual pleasure. Make sure to be aware of and adjust the sounds you allow yourselves to make, depending on how deeply your child sleeps.

Another wonderful opportunity is to develop a community of other parents with similar aged children and exchange childcare two to three mornings or afternoons a week. This is not only emotionally beneficial in sharing the experience of parenting, but also allows you to arrange your time, whenever possible, for you and your mate to get together and have a romantic morning or afternoon. If you have other family and/or friends who offer to provide childcare, don’t pass it up, always say, “Thank you. Yes. When and where?”

You can also carry on your romance without having to physically touch each other. Write a love letter, send a card, a gift or some flowers with a note. Stop by your partner’s place of work. If you’re son or daughter is with you, bring them along. You don’t have to stay long. Just stop by, let them know you were thinking about them and can’t wait to see them when they get home. If you’re the person working, take a break on your lunch hour, go home and give everyone hugs and kisses. If you work to far away to drive by give them a call. Let them know that even in the midst of your busy day, you are thinking of them.

As your child or children, move on into their adolescence, teens and early twenties, they become more aware of themselves and of their parent’s sexuality. It isn’t as easy to sneak off into the bedroom or bath while the kids are watching their favorite show or playing a video game. Nor can you linger in bed on a weekend morning, without them figuring out what’s going on. Make sure to have sound proof doors to your bedroom and teach your kids about privacy and knocking before entering a room with the door closed. They will want to have the same respect for their privacy as they age.

Once your child begins attending school there are more chances to rendezvous in a variety of locations. If you can’t make it home, call and talk sex on the phone.

At this age it is much easier to have them stay overnight at a friend or relatives, thus giving you the entire night to indulge in your fantasies or just go out to dinner, dance, a play, movie, etc. You may be able to swing a night at a bed and breakfast or go for a long ride in the country and make love outdoors. The possibilities are almost endless.

One’s relationship will change with or without children. Don’t let being a parent put a total stop to your sex life. You can experience the ecstasy and the agony of having children and the joy and pleasure of a satisfying love life. One does not preclude the other. It depends on your expectations, your ability to adapt and change and to love one another exactly where you are. Learn to love without trying to manipulate, control or coerce the other into some memory you have of how you think things were “before children” or having them match an imaginary image of “perfect sex”.

If you look, listen, feel and pause long enough to see what you have in your relationship and not what is temporarily missing, you may come to appreciate and value your partner in an entirely new light. Yes, having a child will change your relationship and your lives forever, but it doesn’t have to stop you from growing, sharing and loving one another in the most intimate and loving ways.

Meeting Her Parents

After going out for a year and a half and living together for four months, it was time to meet my wife’s parents. Her parents lived in Chicago and we lived in California. The day of reckoning had arrived.

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One day, as Audrey was talking on the phone with her mother (which she does every week for hours on end), her Mom told her that they were coming out to a convention in San Francisco and wondered if they could meet us for dinner. Audrey had replied, “Yes, we would love to.” and then informed me of it afterwords. I was reasonably shocked, but as ready as I’d ever be. She had told me a little about her parents and I’d talked to them on the phone, but had never met them in person.

I was nine years older than their daughter and already had three children from a previous marriage! Audrey had never been married, was only twenty-four and had grown up as an only child. And even though I had a Masters degree, at the time of our meeting I was working as a nursing assistant, which was as far away from their daughter’s previous boyfriend, who was going to medical school, as possible.

The meeting took place at what is now the Sheraton Hotel in downtown San Francisco. We met them in the lobby. I had on the one good suit I owned, that looked like something from the seventies and just as tacky. Audrey looked beautiful, as always. Her parents looked just like I had imagined, though her father wasn’t as tall as I’d expected. We exchanged formalities and went outside to get on the cable car and go down to Ghirardelli Square, where we went to a fancy Hungarian restaurant.

After being seated and making sure to follow everything they did, such as eating with the proper utensil and delicately sipping the wine, her father asked about the work I did and what I had done in the past. I tried to make health care, counseling and massage sound important and exciting, but I could tell it wasn’t going over real well. Then her mother asked about my kids. I gave her a glowing report and tried to convey how different that relationship had been, from the one her daughter and I had now embarked upon. Her anxiety and fears seemed to increase, despite my good intentions.

I must admit, if my only daughter was involved, at age twenty-four, with a man in his thirties who already had three children and worked as a nursing assistant, I would have had my doubts, concerns and clanging sirens of apprehension!

As we all stood on the trolley car, on the way back to the hotel, her father unexpectedly asked me where I lived. The one thing we hadn’t told them yet was that we were living together. Not sure what to say, I finally said, “I live real close.” Luckily, he didn’t ask where or how close. I’m not sure I could have pulled off another stretch of the truth.

As we were driving home that night Audrey said, “It will take time, but I think they like you. They’re just scared about my future, that’s all.”

“That’s all!” I exclaimed. “That’s quite a bit, your future.”

I admitted that in spite of all my preconceptions and notions about her parents, that I liked them as well.

Audrey and I have been married twenty-six years now and her mother and father (who has since passed away) are both close to our hearts and lives. They have loved all their grandchildren and great-grandchildren, including the ones that didn’t come through their daughter and even accepted their American son-in-law, who never became a lawyer or physician and still only has one good suit.

Is it the scent?

images-1Some folks search for love all their lives and never find it. Some run into it in their teens and others when they’re seventy. Some strike it rich with their first love and others on their second marriage expedition. For me, it was the third time around that was the lucky charm.

The younger my age, the more certain I had been about the mystery of relationships. I thought I was wise to love’s ways. I believed, “when we fell in love we just knew it. If it didn’t work out, then it wasn’t meant to be.” Such was the awe-inspiring depths of my young perceptions about relationships.

As I’ve aged and traveled the many roads of partnership with the opposite sex, my previous certainties and simplifications have been blown away by the winds of experience. When I was a teenager, I used to think I knew everything about love and what love means. Now I know that I know very little, if anything, at all.

Why do some relationships and people, work together like two good actors on a stage, while others forget their lines, make the wrong entrance or are overwhelmed by the other actor or actresses personality or performance? Why do some folks stay together a lifetime and others less than a year, a month or a week?

There are some obvious considerations. If people are attracted to each other physically, able to communicate clearly and respect one another as complete, changing human beings, I would bet their relationship has a lot better chance of succeeding than those who lack these mutual attributes. But then again, I’ve met people who never listened to one another and have little understanding of their partner, yet continue to live together for many years with genuine contentment and joy. There are some human needs and agreements, spoken or unspoken, that the other person must fulfill in these arrangements. On the other ring finger, I’ve met people who had all the qualities I’d expect in a good marriage yet called it quits after a couple of years.

When I was eighteen years from birth I met Cindy, who was sixteen. I thought I had found true love and gone to heaven. The day we met we decided to move in together and two weeks later, with the permission of her mother, we did. Our love, lust and attention were all consuming. I would do anything to “make her happy”, thus denying my own desires and dreams and leaving her with all the decisions about how we would live and what we would do. Our plans for the future were very different, but I was blind to such realities and let my body rule my heart.

When Cindy turned eighteen and I was twenty, we married. Neither of us took it seriously (well maybe I did at the time) and thought it was a great excuse for a big party! A year after our marriage we divorced. She had done everything possible to get me angry, to make me stand up for myself, but I was lost in the poppy field of love and couldn’t get back home to my true self.

After a number of years and a couple of other interesting relationships, I met Pat. This time the roles were reversed and I found she would do everything I wanted to do, at least in the beginning. We were both involved in similar volunteer work, wanted children (and always had) and seemed to have similar goals and aspirations. Once again I thought our agreements and her acquiescence were love.

Pat and I were married and had two beautiful children. Then the truths and realities I had ignored and given lip service too, began to reveal themselves. We started arguing about everything and anything. A lot of what she had said or done in the past hadn’t been out of her desire, but because she knew it was what I had wanted to hear. Food, work, adoption, school; everything was in conflict. After eight years I came to my senses and we divorced. It was painful and difficult, but necessary. In addition to learning a lot about living with someone or how not to live with someone, our relationship had blessed us with the children we had both longed for.

Not long after our divorce I met Audrey. We’ve now been together twenty-three years and married for twenty. We were pulled together like magnets and could not deny the attraction and love that existed between us. We seem to have all the ingredients for a magical partnership – love, respect, honesty, communication, desire, admiration and support, but all the right ingredients don’t always make a good dish. We’ve been through some painful, difficult times and moments, but haven’t flinched or had doubts about our marriage. And, to tell you the truth, I don’t know why. Why are we going to happily live together until one of us dies? Why do we feel the way we do about one another? Why do we feel so comfortable and at ease with the others presence? Why am I still so in love with her after all these years?

Maybe it’s all about pheromones, the unique scents and smells we excrete to attract mates (like most animals). Yeah, that’s the ticket! That explains everything, pheromones and circumstance. The next time someone asks me how we know when we are definitely in love, I’ll tell them it all comes down to the nose: the nose, the stars, the planets, knowing your self and a truck load of luck.

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