Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Gram's garden

I have tried to find my grandmother's apartment from my early childhood on previous visits, but couldn't quite be sure which building it was, since everything is even more run down now than it was then.  But a couple of months ago I suddenly remembered her address,and after  checking with google maps, I knew it was correct.

So I walked there yesterday.  The area can only be described as a slum, and unfortunately I have to leave my valuables (phone, camera) at my father's house when I go out walking.  But I found Gram's apartment.  It looks like a regular house, but it is and was a four-family.

I was eager to revisit the special garden in back which had been so fascinating so many years ago.  It was a flower garden which had its own little cement sidewalk outlining its perimeter.  Gram and I slowly, respectfully, reverently traveled that path every time I could talk Gram into it.  (She probably felt like a trespasser, when in fact the landlady may have enjoyed seeing others appreciate the fruits of her labor).  

I was so taken by the little tree bearing beautiful berries at the back of the garden that I begged Gram to find out what type of tree it was from Mrs. Thetga, and then I nagged her every day until she finally gave in and bothered Mrs. Thetga with the question.  It was a Mountain Ash.

I was afraid to go behind the building to the stairs to her back second floor apartment, but the allure of the garden summoned my courage.  (I was afraid of being shot.  It's that kind of place.)

I guess it wasn't that big a surprise that the garden was gone, replaced by grass, weeds and rusting metal.  

But the Mountain Ash still stood.  It looks weary and lacks the orange red berries it should have at this time of year.  But it's there, guarding the ghost of a long ago garden.

In my memory, the garden was enormous, and our walks through it were adventures.  But yesterday I saw its actual size.  How can such a small space create such huge memories?


Tuesday, May 14, 2013

The years are short

Please watch this one minute video, especially if you are a parent of a child.

I sort of wish I had seen this when The Child was little, but I sort of knew that the years were short...... sort of.

The best example I have of that is once when The Child was 3 years old I was taking advantage of a program offered by the school district whereby a child development specialist would drop by a few times a year to check on the development of a child.  I wasn't worried about my son's development, but I was a lonely mother who needed people to talk to about child rearing (or about anything).  So I signed up, and generally enjoyed meeting with the two counselors who were assigned to me and The Child.

But one fine spring morning, one of the counselors rang my doorbell.  The Child did what he always did when the doorbell rang - he squealed, "MAMA! MAMA! PICK ME UP! PICK ME UP!"

And I did what I always did - I picked him up.

Well, you'd think I had just committed child abuse, judging from the reaction of the counselor.  She was very, very concerned about the fact that I had heeded my 3-year-old's request.  She told me I needed to meet with a psychologist ASAP.  I was fairly sure that she intended to report me to Child and Family Services.

I went along with her diatribe, nodding my head and promising to shell out the big bucks for the psychologist.  But in my mind I was thinking, "Seriously?  You are deeply concerned that a mother would respond to her toddler's cries?  Really?  Are you afraid that he's never going to stop?  Are you aftaid he's going to be clamoring for me to pick him up when he's 16???? Really?????"

But I complied.  I dragged my butt to the recommended psychologist, a rather stern and harsh woman who would have been perfect as a drill sargent.

As I told her why I was there, her eyes widened with each word I spoke, until finally she couldn't contain herself any longer.  She leaned forward and enunciated the following words with sharp clarity:

"YOU need to get a grip before it's too late.  YOU need to get a room where you can lock that child every time he begs for you to pick him up.  YOU need to lock that child in a room by himself every single time he wants you!!!!"

I listened and nodded my head for the full 50 minutes, paid my $250 and never went back.  Let them call Children's Services on me, I thought - there's not a snowball's chance in hell that I'm going to follow their advice.

And guess what?  Turns out I was right.  The Child did indeed stop clamoring for me to pick him up.  In fact, it only lasted a few more months.  The Child is now a teen, and barely bids me the time of day. 

Yes, the years are short. 


Saturday, May 11, 2013

Mother's Day

This is NOT what really happens on Mother's Day

Notice that the title of this post is not HAPPY Mother's Day.  It's just "Mother's Day". 

Mother's Day is not happy for all mothers.  My own mother died long before I became a mother myself.  And my own experience as a mother has been that of a single mother who lives across the country from my nearest relative.  I have been a true single mother, with no help, financially or otherwise, from my son's father, and no help from any human being other than the ones I have paid to  help me.

Very few people read my blog, but if you are reading this post, I have  a request.  Do you know anyone who is a single mother?  If so, please realize that she most likely is not receiving cards, candy, flowers or Mother's Day brunch in a fancy restaurant.  Ask her if there's anything you can do for her.  I am posting this the day before Mother's Day.  If you read this after Mother's Day, do it anyway~

If I'm the single mother you know, then please apply this request to another single mother.  I am not looking for attention for myself.  I have my own plan for how to get through Mother's Day this year.  I'm going to spend some time imagining what my mother would say to me about how to spend the day, and then I'm going to do it.  (I hope I don't imagine that she tells me to run out and buy a new car........)

And I wish you a happy day tomorrow, but not because it's Mother's Day.


Tuesday, May 07, 2013

Best time to book a flight

I have been wondering for a long time how to snag the best deals for airfare.  How many weeks in advance should I book a flight for the best price?  Is there a day of the week which seems to offer the best prices?  What do I need to know before bargain shopping for a flight, or is it just "hit or miss"?

Finally, thanks to twitter, I have an answer.  Here it is:
According to the latest studies, the best time to buy tickets is on Tuesdays at 3:00 pm ET. That’s when airlines tend to release their promotional fares (deals which are sometimes pulled, if not sold out, by the end of the week). How far in advance should you book? Eight weeks in advance of your trip. After that, fares tend to rise steadily as you get closer to your departure date.
 I don't travel often.  But when I do, I like to do it as cheaply as possible.  Hopefully this advice will help.

Sunday, May 05, 2013

Word of the Day: FLANERIE

"A superb alternative to succumbing to the dangers of having time on your hands is the practice of flanerie, the French invention of strolling as an art form. The flaneur is an observer who wanders the streets of a great city on a mission to notice with childlike enjoyment the smallest events and the obscurest sights he encounters. It is the exercise regimen of the artist."
 -Eric Maisel in A Writer's Paris.
Photos of Paris - Featured Images
This photo of Paris is courtesy of TripAdvisor

Simone de Beauvoir and Jean-Paul Sartre engaged in plenty of flanerie on the streets of Paris.  These days, though, with everyone in such a hurry, flanerie is rare in any city, I suspect.  People are too engaged with the almighty cell phone to notice the "obscurest sights".  Surely all of the senses are engaged during flanerie.  Have you ever noticed how many people walk around plugged into headphones?

I'm as guilty as anyone.  On those rare occasions when I take the time to walk, I ruin the experience by hurrying, as though I must turn the walk into an aerobic event.

This reminds me of a long ago conversation with an admired college professors.  I was majoring in a field which is notorious for having few job opportunities, and I was depressed about the slim chance that I'd ever find a job in the field.  The professor told me about a time in his life when he'd been depressed and said that the one thing that helped was to go for a stroll, noticing the each of the flowers he passed by.

Maybe we all need a good dose of flanerie.


Friday, April 26, 2013

Quote of the day

The true secret of happiness lies in the taking a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.”
-William Morris


This is a quote I received via email this morning.  I'm not sure what to make of it, exactly.  I do recognize that apathy is not life-enhancing; nor is numbness.  Is this related to the Buddhist concept of awareness (mindfulness) and staying in the moment?

Focusing on the task at hand would likely result in more peace.  If the mind is not wandering to its points of harmful obsession, then yes, I do see the benefit.  The mind can be incredibly destructive if left unchecked.

Today I will attempt to do this - to take a genuine interest in all the details of daily life.  Since I am accustomed to being on autopilot much of the time, this will be a challenge.

Wednesday, April 03, 2013

April Fool's

This year I truly tricked The Child.  On April 1, which happened to be a spring break day for him, I mentioned to him that the current real estate market in our city happens to heavily favor sellers.  There are lots of people interested in buying, with a shortage of houses on the market.  Thus, the houses which are for sale are selling fast and high.  It's a seller's market.

I went on to say that because of this, I've decided to sell our house and strike while the iron is hot.

Now, anyone who knows me would absolutely not believe that statement.  This past June, The Child and I finally moved into the house of my dreams in the neighborhood of my dreams.

However, The Child was apparently taken in by my prelude about the seller's market.  I even went so far as to ask him where he hoped we'd live next.

He seemed a bit taken aback, but did not question my declaration about selling the house. He said he'd think about where he wanted to live next and took off on his bike to spend time with friends.

About 90 minutes later, I received a text from The Child: "It's April first, mom.  You aren't really selling the house."  And of course, I confirmed that he was right.

shops in our neighborhood

I'm surprised that it took him so long.  I have raved about this neighborhood throughout his life, explaining in great and excessive detail why I wanted to live here.   It's not an exaggeration to say that it's been an obsession of mine.  The Child largely went along with it.  I remember a few years ago when I almost bought a house here.  (It never happened because I was unsuccessful at selling my old house.)  We were both really psyched about it and devastated when it didn't work out.  We had spent a lot of time in this neighborhood so his favorite places to eat and shop were here. 

In fact, on Easter 2012, the buyers of my old house finally showed up.  My realtor had decided on a whim to hold my house open that day even though Easter was not a day most people spent going on house tours.  I had just had my kitchen renovated, which my realtor said was mandatory, and I was hoping that was enough to make the small house appeal to someone.  And it was.

What happened this past Sunday (Easter 2013) demonstrated why I wanted to live here.  That morning I was up early feeding the birds and squirrels when suddenly I realized that I hadn't yet bought an Easter basket for The Child.  I didn't have to fire up the car and drive to some suburban Walmart.  Nope!  I just walked out the back door, through my yard with all of the trees I just planted last summer, through the urban park which is my favorite in the area and onto the street shown in the photo above.  A few blocks away was a small neighborhood shop with plenty of baskets, trinkets and chocolate bunnies.  My decision to move here was validated again that day, as it is so frequently.

And that's no joke, April Fool's or otherwise.

the neighborhood at night