Here, There and Everywhere

Posts tagged ‘kids’

Help Wanted: Mom

51h-QG6AotLLife Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies by Barb Taub. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Okay, this is a seriously funny collection of essays and columns about mothering, children, and relationships. Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies presents insights and experiences, with which the author decided were better to laugh about than to cry over. All to the readers’ benefit. Not only is she able to have a laugh at the families past expense (and present), but she does so with insight and knowledge that only a super-mom would understand. If you are ready to cut loose for a big dose of parenting reality, check out this gem.

The chapter titles alone give a hint of what’s in store for those lucky enough to get there own copy. “Serial Kid-Producer Reveals Top 10 Reasons Not To Have Kinds”, “Penis Envy Or The Revenge Of Your Sixth-Grade Science Teacher”, “How To Embarrass Your Child”, “Free Parenting Advice: Worth What You Pay For”, “Etiquette Lessons For Attilla The Hun”, “How To Raise A Son. Or Not”, and one of my favorites, “To My Mother & Daughters. ‘Sorry About… You Know… The World'”. Here’s a hilarious example from “How To Terrorize Small Children”.

“I committed an Easter crime once. I was persuaded to dress up in a bunny costume for my daughter’s preschool class. The teacher opened the door and I teetered, six-plus feet (counting the ears) into Easter excitement. For about a nanosecond, there was complete silence while I held up the basket of plastic eggs. Then eighteen mouths were screaming for eighteen mothers, thirty-six eyes were filling with tears, and seventy-two tiny arms and legs were churning toward the door. We’re not even going to discuss what happened in eighteen little pairs of undies as I single-handedly drove the roomful of preschoolers ballistic with terror.”

Life Begins When The Kids Leave Home And The Dog Dies is not for any perspective, or present, mothers (and fathers) who wish to live in a fantasy land of what it “should” be like. Than again, maybe it’s just what the doctor ordered. Barb Taub’s writing is the best review you’ll ever need. “Help Wanted: Mom. Expanding organization seeks Director. Qualifications: must know how to put toilet paper on spindle, prepare creative and interesting dishes for staff to refuse if they don’t involve the words ‘peanut butter’ and serve as walking Kleenex to small staff members. On-call 24/7, no pay, no sick leave, no chance of promotion. Job security, annual recognition breakfast, company care.”

Enough Already

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You’re Perfect the Way You Are.
Written by Richard Nelson
Illustrated by Evgenia Dolotovskaia.
Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

Here is a good book with a vital message. Not only are the words used for this age group (4 and up) perfectly maintained throughout the story, but the illustrations also match on every page. Some kids books are either too wordy, and complicated, or so simple, as to be insulting. You’re Perfect the Way You Are found the perfect balance.

The young girl of the story asks her mother, father, brother, grandpa, grandma, and uncle, if various parts of her body are alright (hair, hands, nose, etc.). Unlike real life, they are all in unison and give her the same positive message. “Are my hands too small?” I asked my Grandma while she helped wash them for dinner. She just smiled and replied, “No honey. You’re perfect the way you are.”

Children hear what we say about ourselves (and others). They can also sense, even more deeply, what we are feeling when we say something. A mother worried about “looking good enough”, or a father wondering if he’s “gained too much weight”, can have a a big, and often long-lasting, effect on their children’s sense of themselves as well.

Young children, adolescents (and adults), often believe they “aren’t good enough”, and spend lots of money, time, and energy to try to be different. This is usually unconscious and habitual. It is frequently ingrained in our conditioning, and thoughts. You’re Perfect the Way You Are is a good reminder, and important story, to remind us all that we ARE ENOUGH just as we are.

Be A Brave Girl

downloadBrave Sophia: A Children’s Book sbout Bravery and Courage by Tamala Johnson, J.D. Reviewed by Gabriel Constans.

This story reminded me of the tale about a man who fell asleep under a tree and dreamed that he was a butterfly. When he awoke, he didn’t know if he was now a butterfly dreaming he was a man, or a man who had dreamed of being a butterfly.

Brave Sophia is about a little girl who is scared to talk in front of her class. Her mother tells her she must be brave and do it anyway. Sophia goes into the backyard, dozes off, and dreams that she is a butterfly. In the dream she discovers that she must be brave in order to survive. She awakes with newfound strength and insight.

Be a brave girl,” Sophia’s mother said. “You have to go to school and give your best speech even if you are afraid.”

Sophia spread her arms wide and flapped them like they were butterfly wings. “Mom, don’t worry. I have decided to be brave. I know how to fly now. I am brave Sophia!”

This children’s story is simple, enjoyable, and shares one of life’s truths in a way that young and old can understand and put into practice. The illustrations match the words perfectly. It is a picture book that can be read to a child, or read by a child, the older they become. Let yourself fly and pick up a copy of Brave Sophia.

One by One They Died

Life of Nane Alejandrez. Excerpt from Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call.

In photo: Nane holding photos of brother Tavo and Leo’s headstones.

naneOne by one they died . . . from drugs . . . from violence . . . from pain, hate and revenge. Nane’s oldest brother got wiped out when he was intentionally hit from behind on his motorcycle; his younger brother died from a heroin overdose; his uncle Pancheo was stabbed to death; numerous cousins succumbed to drugs or were murdered; and his father died from an accumulation of life-long exposure to pesticides, alcoholism and a blow to the head with a baseball bat during a gang fight. That Nane survived to tell his story is a miracle in and of it’s self. 

Mr. Alejandrez is now director of Barrios Unidos (Communities United), was instrumental in convening a national gang summit for peace and has received countless awards and recognition for his work in teaching and living non-violence. Barrios Unidos is a multi-cultural program whose mission is to prevent and curtail violence among youth, by providing alternatives such as the Cesar E. Chavez School For Social Change; outreach to youth clubs, parent groups, juvenile hall and kids on the street; and community economic development by operating a full service, custom silk screening business called BU Productions, where youth learn production, sales, marketing, design and administration skills.

NANE:

I’ve seen so many families get torn apart and so many men, especially men, go into hate and revenge and take somebody else’s life. Not thinking about what it’s going to do to the rest of the family. All the violence and anger . . . and a lot of us being brought up to not show any pain . . . to not let people know . . . so we act out, even at times when we don’t want to.

When I acted out I didn’t really want to, but I did it to show that I was looking out for the neighborhood; for the honor of my family. It felt like I wasn’t punking out. If you didn’t do nothing then someone else would think, “Oh well, kill one of those family members and nobody will do anything about it.” So the family would look at each other and say, “Who’s going to do something about it?” – That whole system of payback; trying to keep an image that causes a lot of pain. It’s easier to do that then to deal with your pain.

One thing I’ve learned throughout the years, is I wish somebody would have talked to me about pain and how to deal with it; how to not inflict pain. I learned how to numb it by using drugs and violence, which removed me from feeling it and kept my feelings busy on something else. That worked for a while, but what began to happen was the addiction started taking over. No longer was it about feelings; it was just being well. Surviving and the excitement of breaking the law and running with the home boys . . . you know . . . rebelling, not conforming. I didn’t know anybody that was dealing with it.

People would say, “It’s OK, everything’s going to be all right.” I’d say, “How do you know everything’s going to be all right, when I’m feeling like shit?! You tell me everything’s going to be all right, but that guy over there’s laughing at what he did to my family. Why shouldn’t I go do it to his family?” And then other people would just say, “Go out and take care of it.” They think, “Why isn’t he doing anything? Why doesn’t he take one of their people out?”

There’s that whole thing of not believing in a higher power. I said, “How can this God take my loved ones away? How can He allow it to happen . . . to take my heroes?” The heroes in my life were taken away in a short period of time. The heroes to me were my father, my Uncle Frank and my oldest brother.

After losing all these relatives I was still using drugs a lot of the time. When my father had his operation I was strung out and unemployed. Here I was having graduated from the university with honors and I was really down. When I went to see him in the hospital I was loaded. I went into intensive care. My aunt was there and we went into see him. There were five individuals in intensive care and you know a lot of people that go in there don’t come out. They told me he was all bandaged up and swollen and it would be hard to recognize him. I go in there and start to talk to my father and tell him how much I love him, how much I care about him, my aunts at the end of the bed rubbing his feet. I’m saying, “You’re going to be OK. I love you Dad.” Then my other aunt comes in and says, “Alejandrez is over here.” I look and say, “Wow man!” I was talking to the wrong man. (laughs) I was talking to another man two beds down from my father. My aunt let go of his feet and yelled! I could hear the rest of my family laughing, even in a situation like that, they were laughing. They were going, “Nane’s over there talking to another man.” I swear to God I felt like disappearing. If my father could talk he would have said, “I’m over here stupid!” or “Pendejo en estoy!” So I had to move from that bed to my Dad’s bed and repeat everything. That’s how fucked up I was. That’s an example of the madness. It took me about a year after my father died to really let go of that.

After all these deaths, when I really wanted to clean myself up, I was able to see a friend of mine who was clean. He’s now one of my best friends. We had used together in the past, so when I saw him clean I saw the possibility. He was looking good. I’d gotten busted and was going to court and he would show up in the courts. Every time I had a court date he’d be there supporting me.

Finally I just couldn’t do it no more. My family . . . my children . . . I wasn’t doing anymore talks. I couldn’t hide it anymore. I’d gotten so deep I couldn’t maintain. And I didn’t want to be doing stuff when I was loaded. I hid my addiction a lot. When it got to the point were I couldn’t do that anymore I asked for help. When I asked him for support he was there. Once I got clean and got the drugs out of my system I started to feel a lot of the pain.

I think I was always a spiritual person but I got side tracked. I got more involved in my traditional ways . . . my indigenous background . . . knowing that it was OK to pray. I’d go around with a lot of Native American teachers and prayer was always there. So I started to pray and go to NA (narcotics anonymous) and they always ended the meeting with a prayer. I began to feel different. My work started coming out again and I was really happy. I was seeing the faces of children and I told myself, “If I’m going to do this I need to do it right.” I need to be clean and I can’t be backsliding. I got more involved in my work and my self. It took a long time to do that again.

I’ve been gifted, you know, in certain situations where things were going to happen . . . by me being there . . . and the respect they have for me. Because I have been through a lot and they could sense it, it stopped it from happening again. People know that this is what I’ve been talking about for the last twenty years. “Stop the violence! Stop the violence!” Even through my madness I’ve stuck with it. People my age always tell me that that’s what they admire about me . . . that I’ve always stuck with it. It’s been hard. There’s been a lot of pain. People ask, “Why would you want to stay in a situation where you’re dealing with so much pain?” But at the same time there’s so much hope . . . the smiles on the kids. They’ve got this place, they’ve got a job, people that look like themselves running it. They got inspiration that maybe someday they’ll be doing it.

More of Nane’s story, and others, at: Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

From Under Her Feet

An excerpt from the book Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call. An interview with Sybil Anderson-Adams.

Adams-AndersonHer life was the picture of success. Her husband was an attorney, they were drawing up plans for their dream home, and she recently quit her teaching job, to spend more time with their three children. Suddenly, the rug was pulled out from under her feet. What started out as a headache in court, turned out to be a leaking aneurysm. In spite of the doctors’ assurances to the contrary, within three weeks Sybil Anderson-Adams husband was dead. Without comprehension or time to have said good-bye, she struggled to survive and make sense of the incomprehensible.

As a result of her desperation and need to find answers, Sybil reached out to her friends, neighbors, doctor and church, and formed a support group for young adults who’s partners had died. The first meeting brought together twenty-five people who’d previously thought they were alone. With her need, and ability to communicate her process and grief to others, she continues to open the door of life for those who thought it had been slammed in their face and locked shut forever.

SYBIL ANDERSON-ADAMS: “When I arrived at the hospital the doctor said, ‘I have some bad news. Your husband stopped breathing.’ I’ll never forget those words. ‘He stopped breathing.’ He finally said, ‘I’m sorry . . . he’s passed away.’ It was then that it hit me . . . like a wosh.  I doubled over . . . just like you see in the movies.

After the shock had subsided, I realized I didn’t know who I was anymore. It was the loss of identity. I was the type of person who always had my entire life planned out. Before Neal died, I’d never really had a traumatic event. I had things all figured and scheduled . . . which, as you know, gives you a sense of control. But I had no control over this one and that was my undoing. I had to decide where I was going; who I was. There was an urgency. I remember going to a counselor and saying, ‘When will I not feel this way? When, when, when?!’ The reality was so strong that I wanted it to be over. I didn’t want to cry anymore.

Then one day, I remember making a decision. it was something one of my kids said. You know, ‘Out of the mouths of babes!’ One of my sons says, ‘If you hadn’t stopped and talked to Dad that one day long ago, you might never had known him or gotten married.’ I said, ‘You know, you’re right.’ And I had this vision where I decided that whatever came up I’d say, ‘Yes!’ That I would do things no matter how hard it was. When my kids had stuff they needed to do . . . cub scouts, swimming . . . I made a decision that no matter what, I wasn’t going to hide at home anymore, I was going to go. And what I found was that doing that made me stronger, even though a lot of the events I attended were absolute disasters! Taking some kind of action made me feel brave. it gave me confidence.

I remember sitting with another friend who was at that same juncture. She said, ‘I hate this. I want to be out of here.’ I felt the same at the time and replied, ‘Yeah, just get me out.’ And that’s one of the reasons I started a support group, and keep it going to this day. I needed those people so bad. They were my reality. If somebody else could make it, so could I.

For awhile I could only live for the day. The future was nonexistent. I’ve met many people throughout the years that say the same thing. They said, ‘Good-bye” in the morning and their spouse was dead by the afternoon. It changed my whole concept of how I look at things. I laugh more often now. We’ve got three teenagers and one in early adolescence. They can make you laugh or cry. If I wasn’t able to laugh once in a while our life would be one miserable hell.

I think all survivors make that decision at some point. You have to decide to live. My kids forced me into it. I’d be in bed with the covers pulled over my head, not wanting to get out, and one of them would come in and say, ‘What’s for breakfast?’ What are you going to do; I couldn’t stay in bed? I had to get up. I was the only one they had left.

We had a saying in our house, ‘Life sucks.’ It was kind of our motto for awhile. The kids would say, ‘Life sucks!’ and I’d look at them and say, ‘Yeah, then what?’ They’d answer, ‘Then you die.’ I’d continue, ‘So, then what are you going to do about it?’ They’d look at me, roll their eyes and say, ‘Come on Mom.’ It’s made them real. They see a different reality then most kids.

Life has become a really interesting place. Neal’s death and where my life has gone since, has added another dimension. God knows I wish it hadn’t happened, but without it I could have lived until I was eighty-five and never discovered this! Life is such a gift, though I’m not thrilled with the way I had to really find this out. I love being in this state of mind. I’m doing things that I never knew I could or would do. There was a point two years after he died when I realized, ‘My God, I can do anything!’ I survived something that at first glance seemed like an endless hole of despair. I didn’t think I’d ever climb out . . . but I did.

More inspiring stories at Don’t Just Sit There, Do Something! Grief’s Wake Up Call

Papa Times Five

Papa Times Five

I’m 59 years old and for 37 of those years I’ve been caring for children.

That is the realization that struck me like a high school football team a few months ago when our youngest son left home and transferred to a four year college in Southern California. “How can this be?” if anyone is reading this or should ask. None of the children stayed beyond the age of 20 (though a few returned every now and then for short or prolonged stays). I didn’t have my first child as a teenager, and I didn’t marry into a family that already had children. Everyone came by choice, when and how we wanted.

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At the age of 23 I married a kind woman who wanted to have children as much as I did. She also worked in the health care field and cared for others. Shortly after we married, our daughter Darcy was born and two years later she birthed our son Brendan. About four years after that we adopted Jason (who was 4 at the time), but it turns out that that is not something she wished to do. We separated and I became a single parent of Jason, with Darcy and Brendon staying with us half of the week.

About a year later, I met Audrey, who tentatively became a step-mother when we married the following year. After getting my vasectomy reversed, we had a child named Shona (who was the last to recently leave home). Shortly after Shona was born, we had our 14-year-old foster daughter Leti move in with us.

If you’ve kept track so far, that makes five children. Darcy and Leti both married and each now have two children, so we don’t have any lack of children around, but it’s quite different. The wonderful grandchildren are Jupiter, Ilee, Lola and Neiva. Audrey and are are respectively known as Oma and Opa.

When I mention that our last adult child has left home, friends say things like, “Oh, you have an empty nest.” Or, “That must be hard.” Or,”It must be nice having the house to yourself.” It’s difficult to give a definitive reply, as it feels like a combination of all the above. At times I miss the kids. At others, it is wonderful to have time alone. And at other moments I’m not sure what I’m feeling. Knowing all the children and grandchildren are fundamentally healthy and happy, alleviates a lot of anxiety and worry. Of course, there are always a mixture of feelings when there are issues of concern or difficult transitions.

So, out of choice (Was it really choice or conditioning or karma?), I’ve been partially creating, raising and nurturing children for well beyond half of my life. I have no regrets.

I wonder if we should perhaps adopt another child who needs a home? Why not 4 or 5 more? Oh yeah, there is the reality that they are with you the rest of your life, whether they leave home or not and unlike radishes or broccoli, you can’t just plant them in the soil and water them once a week for them to grow into adults. It takes a little more attention and love that that, as I’ve discovered five times (so far).

ROP’s First Photo Exhibition

Rwandan Orphan’s Project First Photo Exhibition
Rwanda, October 14, 2013 by Jenny Clover
ROP Stories

As you may have read here our boys have been getting weekly lessons in photography from American teacher Amber for the last few months. We’ve all be pleasantly surprised by the quality of the work the kids have been producing and are often amazed at the shots they take, which show the Rwandan Orphans Project through their eyes. Last week Amber organised an exhibition at a communal office space in Kigali – called The Office – to show off some of the photos the kids have produced.

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We picked 9 names out of a hat, they got dressed up in their best clothes, and we all excitedly set off in a bus from the ROP to town.

The kids’ photos were mounted around the large office space, everything from close-ups of their friends’ faces, to the acrobatics the boys are so good at, to documenting daily life at the ROP. One wall was dedicated to photos the boys had taken of their own bodies, which they’d colored in and written over. Some chose to write about themselves or their bodies, others about their hopes and aspirations. For us to see them writing about their dreams for the future when we’ve seen how hopeless some of them can be at their lowest point was really nice.

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The evening was packed from start to finish. Hundreds of people came to see the boys’ photos and ask them questions about their work and their lives. The kids told us that at first they were nervous and didn’t know what to say to all these adults. But gradually, and probably with the help of the multiple sugar-ey drinks people kept buying them, they opened up and were confident enough to go round pointing out their photos and explaining them.

When not busy playing on the table football and ping-pong table and slurping their drinks, the kids were happy mingling, meeting different people and showing off their photos. They told us afterwards that they held a meeting around the football table where they discussed how nervous they were. One of them pointed out that all these people were here for them, and to see their work, and they agreed that they shouldn’t be nervous and should instead enjoy it. It’s great to see our kids developing into mature, proud, open-minded little people before our eyes and it makes us very proud of them.

Read complete story, with additional photos at ROP Stories.
Donate to the Rwandan Orphan’s Project HERE.

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