Life On The B Side

Taking all that life throws at us one moment at a time

On Cuba – Mostly August 6, 2018

Today I started seeing “first day of school” posts online.

WHAT???  Already?

 

I do NOT want the summer to come to an end.  There are still so many things I want to do.  I haven’t even spent that much fun time with my boys.  Between them being in New Jersey for 2 weeks and me working and then them being in Florida for 2 weeks, our quality time has been limited.

The kids aren’t the only ones who’ve been traveling though.  We just came back from a fabulous trip.  One day in the Bahamas, two days in Cuba and then five days in the Dominican Republic.

 

Let’s see ……

The Bahamas – It was OK.  Nothing special.

 

Cuba – left me conflicted.  As a tourist, I could appreciate the fact that the architecture on many of the buildings is stunning.  Havana is alarmingly charming and whimsical.  It feels more like a movie set than the actual real world.  Very “old world”.  There is just something untainted and innocent about the city.  The streets are super clean and there is very little crime and the people are friendly and the coffee is magnificent.  The little yellow *taxi’s are so cute  and the plethora of 1950’s cars are super cool.  There is live music on many street corners and numerous places to unwind and just chill; whether that means sipping a mojito or just people watching.  It’s very laid back.  And of course, if smoking cigars is your thing, there’s no better place to be.  There is a vibrant art scene and artisan chocolates.  The narrow cobblestone streets lined with balcony’s full of flowers make for great photos.  Even the perfume shop is worth experiencing even if you don’t actually buy anything.

BUT – and this is a big but – All that goodness comes at a very steep price.  A price that most Cubans (and I) don’t think is worth paying.  That of their freedom.

Food is rationed.  Most modern technology is lacking.  There’s no access to TV stations or shows from other countries, there’s virtually no internet and they cannot make simple decisions about their day to day lives – To travel for vacation, to speak to friends and family in other countries, even something as small as to grow fruits or vegetables in their own back yards.  EVERYTHING IS REGULATED/CONTROLLED/OWNED by the government.

 

I know that no country is perfect.  In the USA, hundreds of families literally go bankrupt every year due to medical bills and there are levels of stress surrounding college debt or affording child care that Cubans cannot fathom.  We worry about our kids being shot in school and the traffic is enough to drive anyone insane.  People are expected to work way too hard and take way too little time off.

Knowing all that though, I still choose freedom.

 

For me, it was worth going and I would have liked to have about 2 more days there to explore/learn.  Ultimately, I will say that I loved it there.  But I do say that with a very guilty pit in my stomach.  Much of what I loved about it, is only possible because the people are so oppressed and I feel sad about that.

*p.s.  Shaunie had a slightly different take.  She’s glad we went and is happy for the experience since it was so different from anywhere either of us had ever been before, BUT she had a harder time putting the obvious poverty/struggles of the locals aside to fully enjoy the good parts of what Cuba had to offer and has no interest in going back.*  I totally understand that.

 

Now that I’ve spent all that time talking about Cuba, I’ll only give a quick couple of lines about the Dominican Republic.  We were there for 2 of our best friends wedding and the wedding was wonderful.  So beautiful and fun.  As for the rest of the country, it was fine.  We had a good time.  However, since I am Jamaican I wasn’t overwhelmed by anything that the DR had to offer.  I don’t mean that as an insult.  I just mean to say there is nothing there that Jamaica doesn’t also have (besides all the Spanish speakers 🙂 ).  All-inclusive hotels, pretty beaches, locals asking you to buy their souvenirs or to braid your hair, excursions that take you out on boats or to ride dune buggies.

I’ll say this though – It’s better than being at work that’s for sure.

 

I hope all of you have been having a good summer.  I’ll be back to write more another time.  Xoxo always.

 

 

Cuban taxi – Yeah – For real.

taxi

 

#tbt Jamaica Post July 19, 2018

On June 20th, I landed in Kingston Jamaica.  I meant to write about it a long time ago but never did.  Think of this as a #tbt post.  🙂

Of course, when I got back everyone asked how the trip was.  That’s tough to answer because I was there to support Shaunie at her Grandfathers funeral and to see my ailing Aunt.

I love going there though – No matter the reason.  At this point, I have lived in the US longer than I lived there but it will never not be home.

It’s the place where my Aunts car got brazenly stolen out of her driveway and it ended up taking about two months just for her to get the police report – so I had to ask a friend to come pick me up from the airport.

It’s the place where the friend was late to pick me up.  Even though I had told him an earlier time than I really needed because I knew he’d be late.  I say that with so much love.

 

But it’s also the place where the fruit is the juiciest and you can always find someone willing to help you if you just ask.

My pictures show me posed up at the brand new (and the only) Starbucks on the island; yummy frappuccino in hand.  They show me grinning next to long-time friends while the sun shines down on us, sipping on blended drinks beside a pool and leaned up against a coconut tree surrounded by gorgeous flowers.  There is even video of us enjoying a ride on a floaty device being pulled by a speed boat.

 

In the beautiful hills of St Ann, as a family, we went for walks and ate fish and cleaned ackee and argued over who ate the last of the mangoes – and worked hard getting the hall ready for the hundreds of people who would show up for the memorial service.

It was a long, but lovely service and it was abundantly clear just how loved Mr N was and how much he’d be missed.  In the front section that was marked off just for family, there were about 80 of us, representing 5 generations, from all over the world, and all wearing royal blue.

The following day we all went to the beach – to exhale.

Sun and sand and the ocean and boat rides and dolphin shows and drinks and the laughter of children are healing.

 

 

It’s unfortunate that it takes things like funerals to bring people together.  It was wonderful that we could all get together.

I hated to see my Aunty like that.  She looked so delicate.  Every time she got up to walk it gave me anxiety because I was so worried that she’d fall and hurt herself.  Again.

Any time with her is incredibly precious and it brings us both so much joy and comfort.  As hard as it was to leave, I was happier that I had seen her at all and filled her in on all our adventures and gone shopping with her and hugged her and laughed with her and scolded her for trying to do too much and enjoyed world cup matches with her and prayed with her.

 

I don’t know when I’ll go to Jamaica again.  There are no plans in the works.  Both the boys passports have expired though and I know that the next time I go, I’d like them to go also.  The paperwork is all filled out and we’re gonna go renew the passports this weekend – so they’ll be ready.

Plus, the in-laws are moving to the Virgin Islands so I’m sure we’ll want to go there soon.

The very next trip we take will be an actual vacation.  I can’t wait.  The boys are going to spend 2 1/2 weeks in Florida with my Mom and Shaunie and I are going on a cruise and then right to the Dominican Republic for a friends wedding.  So exciting!  It will be a nice respite from all the other craziness happening around us.  Stuff with this damn government and stuff with Jay and stuff with loved ones.  Nope.  Not gonna go there.  Let’s go back to thinking about my upcoming vacay.  Yup.  Much nicer.

Talk to you soon.

 

Have you ever? July 9, 2018

 

Have you ever had your son beg you to take him to iHOP because he loves their pancakes

So you wake up on Saturday morning and tell everyone to get ready because you’re all going to iHop

And then you get there and everyone places their order

But as the conversations flow

You realize you’ve been watching your older son who is sitting across from you

And you are keenly aware of how chiseled his face now is

And you keep thinking about how in no time at all, he’ll be a teenager and then an adult

But you brush those thoughts aside and just enjoy the quality, no electronics, family time

Then your son, who you were just willing to stay young and carefree and happy and innocent

Tells you that he’d like to get his ears pierced

And you are jolted out of your thoughts

So you take a moment before you respond that you are not comfortable with him getting his ears pierced just yet

Then you feel your eyes begin to fill with water

And you know you are being a bit dramatic

But you simply cannot help it

And since you know at this point there’s no stopping the tears

You put it on the table yourself by saying “Look at me, I’m gonna cry

And the other people at the table look at you in bewilderment because they don’t understand why talking about ear piercing is making you cry

But you know

And you decide you are not going to be embarrassed by it

So you grab a napkin and wipe your tears away

All while your wife and son are joking with each other about how weird you are

But your younger son, who is sitting beside you, puts his head in your lap

And you rub his head and revel in the sweetness of his gesture

As you try to finish your eggs, pancakes and toast

Which you eventually do

So then after paying the bill, you all walk out

And the older child puts his arm around you

Causing you to again get choked up as you hug him extra tight and kiss the top of his head

Realizing that soon he’ll be the same height as you

Even though you weren’t aware of any growth spurt that he’d had recently

And then he totally takes your breath away when he says, “It’ll be ok Mom, I will always be your baby

And you want to hold onto that moment forever

But you know you cannot

Because children were not made to be held hostage by their parents

They were made to fly

And as hard as it is

You know you will grease his wings for him when it’s time

And even though you may not know exactly how long it will take

You do know it’s a matter of time before you will either crack and give him permission to pierce his ears

Or he will get to a point where he’s old enough to do it without your permission

So you sit in the car and don your sunglasses

And in that moment it feels like they are the only thing protecting you from everything???

 

 

No?  That’s never happened to you?

Oh.

Well, that’s never happened to me either.

 

Changing Dynamics July 5, 2018

We are fully immersed in the summer now.  The kids go to an all day camp where they do arts and crafts, go on field trips to amusement parks, watch movies, go bowling or to the library, play board games, enjoy sports and all sorts of other fun activities.  Shaunie and I, well, we go to work as usual.  Adulthood.

A couple evenings ago we were at our community pool.  I do love that we have a pool that’s only open and available to residents of our housing development.  We can walk and be there in less than 5 minutes.  As usual, we had brought snacks.  It’s what we do in the evenings.   Go to the pool; snacks in hand.  Some days we are armed with chips and cookies and assorted other goodies.  On this particular day though we had only brought one pack of Shirley biscuits: a Jamaican favourite, and water with ice of course.  The smell of sun block surrounded us as everyone does their best to keep their families protected, while having fun.  There were 3 other families at the pool that day which seems to be pretty standard as it hasn’t ever been crowded when we show up and we are always able to get a table with an umbrella.  We’d rather have a table with an umbrella than lounge chairs with uninhibited sun exposure.

So far, nothing about the scene seemed out of the norm.  Business as usual you might say.

The kids jumped into the water which was surprisingly warm and began their usual antics.  Spraying each other with water blasters, swimming, diving – you know the drill.  After a while, they began playing with the other children who were there.  One such child is new to our neighbourhood – And state.  He is an only child and will begin the 7th grade (the same as Ace) in September at the same school Ace attends.  As kids are wont to do, they hit it off pretty quickly and began some sort of game that I did not care to learn the intricacies of.

The next thing I heard was Ace complaining that Jay was “spying” on them.  Remember, they were in a pool.  There really was nowhere to “hide” but nonetheless, Jay was spying and it was annoying his older brother who was busy having fun with a peer and had no interest in playing silly games with his little brother.

 

It’s something I’ve noticed more and more lately.

 

Jay got invited to a classmates birthday party and when I asked Ace if he’d like to attend as well, because I was sure it would have been fine with the mom, he declined.  Instead he and I watched a movie at home.  Beetlejuice since I know you want to know.  And no, it wasn’t as good as I remember it being when I watched it back in 1988.

When Jay asked me to initiate a play date with a friend and basically told Ace that he would come too, Ace flat out said NO.  He was not interested.  Jay has been steadily trying to convince him to change his mind.  Ace is unwavering.

 

Also, he no longer likes shows such as Teen Titans, and does not care that they have a new movie coming out.  Last year it was his and Jays fave and they were eagerly anticipating the movies release.

 

Yesterday was the 4th of July; Independence day here in the United States and that meant a lot of people had the day off work.  Typically, it’s a day spent with family and friends, having bar-be-cues or going to the beach and when it gets dark the skies are lit up with fireworks.

Together with 4 friends (family really), we went river tubing.  Ultimately it was a fun and mostly relaxing way to spend a day off, knowing we all had work the next day.  All, except my teacher friend that is, who has off all summer, but I’m not jealous at all.  Like, NOT ONE BIT.  (I’m lying 🙂 )

We had done this same activity at the same river last year so we thought we knew what to expect.  This year though, for some unknown reason, everyone in the state decided to go river tubing, at that river, at the time we got there, so from the time we parked, stood in line to pay/get wrist bands, sign waivers, get tubes, get on the bus that takes patrons to the top of the river and actually get in the water, it took about an hour and 45 minutes.  A lot longer than the 20 minutes it took us last year.  Everyone was hot and sweating but doing their best not to let it affect their good mood.  At one point Jay was messing with Ace; As brothers do.  Ace wanted no part of it.  He wanted to stand there quietly like the rest of us, inch up slowly in the line, get a tube and chill.  He just wanted no part of being silly or goofy and I had to intervene and tell Jay to leave Ace alone.

 

I cannot believe I just typed the words “[Ace] wanted no part of being silly or goofy”.

 

That tone continued the entire time we spent on the river.  Ace wasn’t being surly.  He was just being … more mature?  He lounged in his tube.  Hopped out to help bring us back together when someone in our group drifted away, passed drinks from the cooler to whoever asked for one and offered to help anchor us when we wanted to stop going with the tide.

Jay spent the nearly 2 hours we were on the water, jumping in and out of his tube, splashing people as they are chips, dropping his empty chip bag in the water which meant I had to go rescue it and put it back where it belonged with our other trash, being loud, making me belly laugh, climbing onto me and nearly toppling me over, “sneaking” up on Shaunie to splash her and just all round having a great time; the way a little kid would and should.

 

I do believe we are entering a new stage here folks.  They have always been each others play mates and my boys do still enjoy each others company but Ace is becoming more serious; more teenagery; more grown up.  The dynamics are changing in our house.  Change is not bad.  But it does mean that some adjusting needs to happen and I think in this case, instead of my mama heart, it’s Jay who is about to have the hardest time accepting it.

 

The Hole In My Lid June 28, 2018

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Family,Life on the Jay train,Marriage,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 11:56 am
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Soooo, what’s been up?

It’s been a while since I wrote.

Whatever I’ve missed is going to have to remain missed.  Today, I’m diving into our most recent news.

 

My boys have been away for just about 2 weeks and I feel empty.  I miss them something awful.  I always miss them when they go to spend extended time with their father but for some reason this trip has been extra hard.  I can’t get my stomach to settle.  It could be because we’ve been hit with a series of bad news over the past few months so I am feeling more emotional than usual (which is saying a lot).  It could also be that time is inexplicably speeding up and they are growing up faster than they used to and it’s making me a bit panicky.

Ace happily and artfully sailed through his entire 6th grade year like a champ and it only took about 2 weeks.  It was just last month, (wasn’t it?), that we were touring the middle school and everything about it seemed so daunting.  I was so worried about how my baby would navigate that new environment.  He amazed me in all the ways.  Socially and academically.  His final report came in and I am blown away.  It’s the best report he’s EVER gotten and my heart could just burst.

I haven’t gotten Jays final report as yet, but I have every reason to believe he did a great job as well.  He’s going to enter his final year of elementary school in September and then he too will be off to middle school.  I’m really struggling with that.  Let’s not talk about it.  Thanks.

 

In other news

Shaunie and I went to Jamaica to:

  1. Attend her Grandfathers funeral. It was really great and sad, but wonderful.
  2. See my Aunty. It was awesome and heavyhearted.  I was happy there but leaving was hard.  Really hard.
  3. Attend my uncle’s high school graduation. (My Grandad had a son when he was 72).  It was good but weird.

 

I’ll write a post about the trip later.

In the meantime, while we were gone, Grandma in New Jersey underwent surgery.  Some sad medical news hit my family.  Also, there were big shake-ups at work.  How the work shake-ups may or may not affect me is still to be determined.

 

I know this post wasn’t that interesting but I needed to “stick a hole in my lid”.  You get that reference right?  In a coffee cup lid, there’s the one hole that we drink out of and then there’s the (very important but easily dismissed) hole on the other end that lets the steam out.  My internal steam was building and this blog is my tiny hole.

 

If you are the praying type, please keep our family in your prayers.  It can’t hurt.

 

My boys come back this weekend.  I am ready to see them and hug them.  That’s the good news, so I’ll end there.

xoxo

 

 

Roller-Coastery Weekend June 1, 2018

Filed under: ADHD,Autism,Life on the Jay train,Marriage,Special Needs Kids — The B Side @ 11:25 am
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I’m hoping this coming weekend will be less of a roller-coaster than the last one.  Never have I ever had such a roller-coastery 3 days.

Friday started out great.  I got out of work early ahead of the holiday weekend and instead of going straight home, I made the decision to spend some time alone and do girly things.  I visited Sephora and played with Rihanna’s line of make-up.  I ended up buying a cheaper Sephora brand lipstick that supposedly was similar to the Rihanna one.  I’m not sure I made the right choice.  I might still need to go get the real Snake Skin lipgloss.  Next, I went to Charming Charlie and even though I browsed all the displays and saw several cute things, I landed in the sale section where I got the cutest pair of gold flats for $8 and a $5 t-shirt that says “Live Wild & Free” in gold letters.  Guess what I’ll be wearing together?

Later that evening, cousins from New Jersey came for a visit.  We had a good time hanging out with them; drinking wine and chatting.  The next morning we took a quick trip to the river before they moved on to their next stop.

 

Then – We got the news that Shaunies beloved Grandpa in Jamaica had died.  It had been coming for a couple of months so it wasn’t a shock in that sense.  But still, it hurts.  A lot.  He was only 70 years old and the last time we saw him (exactly one year ago) he was as vibrant as ever; with no signs that anything was wrong.

 

On Sunday, we decided to try and keep our spirits up – partly for our sakes and partly for the kids sakes.  We went to the pool and had a nice time.  We all jumped and raced and showed off handstands and splashed and did summersaults.  In between all the water fun we ate snacks and just put our feet up and enjoyed the sun (and shade).  We closed out the afternoon with a trip to a bookstore.  All 4 of us love browsing book stores.

 

Then – We got the news that my Aunt was back in the hospital.  Her hip has been misbehaving lately and she’s about to have her 3rd surgery in as many months.  That’s not good news for anyone.  It’s particularly not good news for someone who is 90 years old and on the fragile side anyway.  It sucks.  Add to that, the medical bills are adding up and some uncomfortable conversations needed to be had.

 

On Monday, there was (as you can imagine) a lot of emotions swirling.  Lots of phone calls being made among Shaunie’s large and tight-knit family and plans being put in place.  Me worrying about my Aunt and trying to be supportive of S.  At one point I decided that spending some time outside would do me good.  I made the kids get their bikes and helmets and we headed out for a little exercise/fun.

Now understand this:  I’ve been trying to teach Jay to master a 2 wheeler bicycle for years.  It has been a struggle.  A STRUGGLE.  Mostly because he’s been scared.  He was certain that he would fall and hurt himself.  As long as I’ve been trying to teach him to learn, he’s been trying to convince me that he doesn’t need to and will get along in life just fine without that skill.

Well, on Monday, HE DID IT!!!!  It was so exciting and I was incredibly proud of him, but even better than that; he was proud of himself.  We rode for a while and when we were all done he asked me if I had caught his ride on video.  I had 🙂 .  Now, he wants to ride his bike every day and I am not mad about it.

 

There are other things too – Good and bad – But I’ll keep those close to my chest for now.  Unnu too faas.  That’s Jamaican for “you’re too nosey”.  Just kidding.  I love you for reading and following along.

Peace and love!

 

4 Square Wars May 24, 2018

The name of the game lately has been conflict resolution – And truth be told, that’s tricky for me.

  1. I’m not great at forgiving people or working through conflicts. I don’t say that to brag.  I recognize it as one of my (many) weaknesses.
  2. I didn’t have these issues when I was in 4th grade so I don’t have any parenting examples to pull from.

 

Jay has been coming home from school complaining about the kids in his before and after care program.  To hear him tell it, they call him names and are mean to him; basically, he’s being bullied.  I know my kid though.  I know sometimes his communication is a little off (due to his autism) and I also know that sometimes he’s the instigator who then only tells one side of a story (due to his winning personality).  I needed more information before I went barreling into the school to demand action.

 

Flash back to a couple evenings ago

Jay hops into the car and immediately complains to me about “the mean kids”.  When we get home, he doesn’t stop.  He sits on my bed and continues.  He no longer wants to attend that program he tells me.  He’s over it – and them.

I ask him a bunch of questions so that I can get a full, and accurate picture.  Is he being singled out?  Is the staff aware and what have they done about it?  Has anyone hit him or otherwise physically assaulted him?  Does he say mean things to them or is he unreasonably difficult/bossy first?  Is the main perpetrator encouraging other students to be mean to him also?  How old are the kids he’s having problems with?  Do they understand what is expected of them?

The answers only leave me more unsure.  He says what he’s supposed to say to make his point and to validate himself as the victim, but …

There are little smiles and smirks (that he tries to hide) when I ask about him being mean or difficult.  He shifts his body and holds his head down, sneaking glances at me when I ask if he’s really being bullied, or if he just doesn’t like not getting his way all the time.  To the question about the age of the “problem kids” he tells me that one of them is in 1st grade; that makes him 5 yrs old compared to Jays 10 years.  (That doesn’t excuse him in Jays mind)

 

We spent most of the time talking about one child in particular.  This is someone who was (is) his friend.  Being my son, Jay is ready to end this friendship due to their misunderstandings at after care.  Apparently this friend, accused Jay of something.  Jay then proved he had not done that thing.  The friend apologized but Jay was having a REALLY HARD TIME forgiving the friend for accusing him in the first place.

We had a lengthy talk, and (fighting my personal inclination) I told him that people deserve 2nd chances and we talked about accepting genuine apologies and about how being a good friend works 2 ways.  Being forgiven and being forgiving.  We talked about how mistakes do happen and there are misunderstandings that happen between people all the time; whether they are friends or brothers or wives or coworkers.  I reminded him of times when he needed to be forgiven by his brother and reinforced that if we never acknowledged our own errors or our role in mix-ups then we would go through life being very lonely because we will push everyone away.  We talked about being understanding but not so much that we are being taken advantage of or opening ourselves up to be abused.  I told him that this is something he will have to deal with many more times in his life so he needed to learn how to handle it in a way that was healthy.

He was resolute.  The friendship was over.  He absolutely could not forgive the offense.  He was too vexed/hurt.

I felt him in that.  I know that stubbornness well.

I suggested that he not make a decision right then but take the rest of the evening/night to think about it and to see if he had it in him to talk to the friend the next day and fix their relationship.

 

I am happy to report that the next day he initiated a conversation and he and the friend “were able to work it out”.  Jay even told the friend that he was sorry for not accepting the initial apology.  I thought that was very big of him.

I also had a talk with the staff at the after-care program.  They gave me some insight.  He’s not being bullied.  Apparently all this fuss is over a game called 4 square.  It has become a real problem.  It’s all the kids favourite game, but it also brings on some intense arguing/shit talking/accusations of cheating etc.  (Jay confirmed this as well).  The staff did agree to facilitate a talk with the kids and act as mediators.  Since it has become such an issue, if this mediation doesn’t fix the problem, they will ban the game from being played altogether.

 

I honestly don’t remember anything like this in my elementary school days.  It’s a little crazy to me but here we are.  Wish us luck going forward.  I don’t want Jay to have such a hard heart when it comes to forgiveness.  I also don’t want him to get bullied for real, so there is a part of me that’s happy about him not taking anyones crap.  I don’t want him crapping on anyone else either though and by all accounts, he’s dishing it as much as he’s taking it.  All the kids are.  Yikes!  What a balancing act this whole raising children gig is.

 

Books Review May 17, 2018

I have always loved to read – And even though there have been pretty big stretches of time when I just couldn’t make the time, this year has not been like that.  I have finished 10 (TEN!) books so far since January and I’m in the middle of 3 others as we speak.  Why 3 at once?  Which one I read all depends on where I am when the desire to read collides with some available time.  1 sits beside my bed.  1 sits on the table next to the couch and 1 lives at work.

 

Anyway, I figured I could do a quick book review post.  Also, if any of you have a recommendation for a book you think I’d love, please do share.  I tend to like realistic fiction; historical, drama, romance, action/adventure and maybe a little suspense.  I don’t do sci-fi, horror or self-help.

 

Anyhoo: My reviews – Not in the order they were read.

 

The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas

*Soooo good. Should be required reading.

This was a hard one to put down.  Every single character was believable and understandable!  Even the ones who you may not want to agree with.  The book showed many different sides to touchy subjects.  Poverty and police and privilege and race and blended-family.  I think many people might be turned off if they read a blurb about it.  They may assume they already know where it’s going and who will be made out to the bad guy; but it wasn’t like that.  It was honest on all sides and did not shy away from the ugliness/undesirables that is in the “hood” as well as the racism that black people often have to deal with and how difficult it can be to stay true to yourself while also trying to better yourself.

 

The Wife Between Us – Greer Hendricks & Sarah Pekkanen

*Overall Very Good.

I really enjoyed this book.  Who is who and what is really happening?  What’s true?  What’s imagined?  Ooh, the suspense!  The details made it easy to really immerse yourself in the story but there were A LOT of details and sometimes it felt like overkill.  The story was solid though and there were a couple of interesting twists which is always good.  I enjoyed the ride the book took me on.

 

Empathy and Eyebrows – Danni Starr

*A Nice, Easy, No Frills, Feel Good, Read.

I finished this in 2 afternoons.  It’s kind of like an autobiography/a collection of stories about the life of radio personality Danni Starr.  She’s had an interesting enough life to make for some good stories.  A blind mom.  An alcoholic dad.  A cheating husband.  A daughter with severe health issues.  Some issues at her job related to her race/gender.  Ultimately, each story makes you feel like she’s a sister you can go to with all your troubles cause she’ll understand and won’t judge.  She is all about women being strong and brave and honest and fierce and owning their inner magic; while being empathetic and maintaining killer eyebrows.

 

Homegoing – Yaa Gyasi

*FIVE stars!  A definite Favourite.  Fist bump to the author.

I loved this book so much.  I told people about it on Facebook and on Twitter.  I felt like I was taken on an amazing journey.  Everything there was to feel, I felt it.  I picked this book up every chance I could to read another chapter.  So eager I was to see who I’d me meeting next and how they would tie into the story.  At times, the character the author chose to focus on was not initially the one I thought I wanted to know more about, but then bam, I’d be sucked in to their story too.  This book could have gone in any of a million different directions.  Even though I assumed there would be a nice little bow tying everything up at the end, I thoroughly enjoyed it.  The last thing I will say though is that if you are a fan of audio books, I don’t think this would be a good one for that AT ALL.  I often referenced the family tree diagram provided in the front cover to keep my bearings.

 

Little Paris Bookshop – Nina George

*Don’t Waste Your Time.

This book was recommended to me by a Barnes & Noble employee.  I should go back there and tell her how awful it was.  She said it was cute and charming.  Boring and pointless is more like it.  I dragged myself across the finish line with this one and in fact, I skipped through large chunks of it only to find that I hadn’t missed anything.  The book is chapter after endless chapter of some guy (who you don’t care about) floating down a river, meeting random people (who you don’t care about) on a quest to find somebody (who you don’t care about).  Next!

 

Behold The Dreamers – Imbolo Mbue

*A++

I didn’t know how to feel about the way this book ended.  It was good, but not what I wanted for them, but only because I cared.  I find myself wanting a follow up book so I can know what happens with the kids.  I felt connected to this family.  My immigrant experience was different from theirs in many ways, but the emotions are universal.  As an immigrant, you struggle.  But there were struggles in your home country too.  You want to be where you are, but you miss so many things about home.  There are amazing opportunities where you are, but nowhere feels/smells/sounds/is as comfortable to your soul like where you grew up.  You want to fit in.  You try to fit in.  You want to hold onto your culture and you want your children to know it too, but how can they?  Is it all worth it?

 

The Orphans Tale – Pam Jenoff

*Awesome Experience.

This book started off a little slowly and I wondered if I’d made a mistake in getting it.  That feeling didn’t last long though and it picked up speed as I went along.  I was caught between wanting to know how it ended and not wanting it to end.  In real life, I don’t know any circus people.  I have never had a conversation with anyone about their or their families experience with Nazi occupied Europe.  Yet, I knew these characters.  I could hear their voices and in my mind I just knew what they looked like.  I cared about every single one of them and what happened to them.  I felt their joy and their pain.  Even though the book is set in WWII Germany/France, I was caught off guard by how dark it got at times, but it made the story more compelling.  It’s one of those books that if they ever made a movie about it, I’d be hesitant to watch it because I feel protective about how the characters should be interpreted.

 

Yellow Crocus – Laila Ibrahim

*4 out of 5 stars.

There weren’t too many surprises in this book, but that didn’t make it any less interesting.  I eagerly followed along with Lisbeth and her enslaved wet nurse, Mattie.  I loved seeing their relationship develop as Lisbeth went from a baby to a teenager to a woman.  Laila (the author) did a great job of putting herself in both womens shoes so we could see things from both their perspectives.  Lisbeth loved Mattie, but she was absolutely a product of her era and upbringing.

 

To Kill A Mockingbird – Harper Lee

*Good. Not Worth The Hype. 

As well known as it is, I had never read this book and then I saw it at the book store on a bargain shelf that was full of “classics”.  I liked it but I don’t really understand why it was SUCH a hit and why people are SO outraged at it.  There are lots of books that are set in “Jim Crow”, USA and none of them would be honest if they didn’t include language that is offensive.  I don’t think the story is better or more offensive than A Time To Kill for example.  Maybe it was a big deal because of when it was written or because it was written by a woman.  I have no idea.  I liked it though and I loved little Scout.  She wasn’t afraid to ask the tough/inappropriate questions.  She was bold and inquisitive and a boundary pusher.  May we all be little Scouts.

 

Living Right – Laila Ibrahim

*Highly Recommend.

This is another book that I think does an excellent job of showing a sensitive topic from both sides.  On one side we have Jenn.  She is 100% committed to her family and her evangelical Church.  On the other hand, we have her teenage son, Josh who swallows a bottle of sleeping pills because he’s attracted to the same sex and knows his families views on homosexuality.  What’s a mom to do?  This book is not political.  It’s not about laws or rights.  It speaks directly to what happens inside someone’s home and heart when their most tightly held values are questioned.  Jenn is not portrayed as a bad person and as a reader, I felt her struggle, even though I disagreed with her beliefs.

 

 

 

And there you have it.  My first ever book review post.  The books I’m reading now are Girl Last Seen, Before We Were Yours and The House Girl.  I also have Lion waiting in the wings.  I can let you know how those are when I’m done if anyone’s interested.

 

 

p.s.  I realized while writing this that all the authors are female.  That was not by design but it’s kinda cool too.

 

MY Saturday Was Good May 15, 2018

It’s Saturday Morning

And I have told Jay that it’s time to get ready for his weekly tennis lesson.  When we step outside, the sun is shining and the birds are chirping.  It’s a beauty of a day.  I don’t know yet what it will be, but I know I will find something to do that will keep me outside for a good part of the day.  Even Jay is picking up on the good energy and arrives at tennis in a good mood.  Usually he’s a bit surly until the class is well underway; sad to be leaving his video games behind.

At 10:30 when his class ended, instead of making the left that would take us down the short winding road that leads home, we made a right and took a long winding road to a town 30 minutes away.  A Naval Museum there was hosting a STEM event for kids.  Both boys tend to enjoy science and we’re always looking for ways to get the boys involved in activities such as those.

At this point though, Jay was no longer a happy camper.  He wants to go back home – to his electronics.  He whines for the entire car ride.  We hear every complaint in the book.  He tries bargaining his way out of going.  When he raises his hand during one of the experiments, the teacher probably was not expecting him to ask: “Is this the last thing?  Can we go home after this?”

He suffers through the first task.  The second one is made only slightly more bearable because it involves starbursts which the kids get to eat when it’s over.  The third and final exercise, requires them to form teams of 2 and then use marshmallows and spaghetti to build towers.  The team with the highest tower would win.  Wouldn’tcha know, after all his protestations, with him as the leader, he and his partner win the challenge.  We leave, he chooses a bag of Doritos as his treat and then we head home.  Not before I also get a treat though.  KFC.

 

It’s Saturday Afternoon

And we have dropped Jay home.  We have also checked in on Ace who is suffering from a severe case of “When will the pollen go the hell away so I can see, breathe and sleep normally again???”  The temps are in the high 90’s which for many people, only means one thing:  staying inside where there is AC.  Our AC has broken so there is no respite for us.  Also.  I have no intention of staying inside all day AC or not.  Between the 2 of us, I am, without question, the more outdoorsy one.  I suggest that we check out a state park not too far from us.  Their website says they have a “beach” and multiple trails.  The park does not disappoint.  I love driving through “farm land” Virginia to get there.  At one point we stop at a red light and 2 guys who are hanging out at a road side shop eating watermelon offer us some.  Once at the lake, I love kicking my shoes off and feeling the sand squish beneath my toes.  I love the coolness of the water lapping my ankles.  I love hearing children laugh as they play in the sand and seeing the canoes and jet skis further out on the lake.  Shaunie … keeps her shoes on, gives the side eye to teenage boys who’re throwing a football too close to her head and asks if I think she should reapply the bug spray.

When we’ve strolled the full length of the beach area and stood around chit chatting and taking in the scene for a while, we trot back to where we have parked.  I am actually willing to go home at that point.  I’m sure Shaunie has had enough.  But, she knows me and she loves me so SHE suggests that we check out one of the trails.  Yay!!!!!!   More bug spray and we are off again to see what the forest has to offer.

 

It’s Saturday Evening

And I have promised Ace that we will have a family movie night.  The problem though, is that I said that earlier in the day when I was feeling energetic  and spunky.  By the time I had finally gotten home, the LAST thing I wanted to do was sit for 2 hours and pretend to be interested in a kid friendly movie.  I wanted to shower, eat dinner and catch up on my own TV watching.  I had made a promise though.

We gathered in the living room and turned on Netflix.  The movie was painful.  And we were only 10 minutes in.  How was I going to make it 2 hours?  Then … Netflix went bonkers.  It just stopped working.  We went back to the home screen and tried again.  Nope.  We tried a different movie.  Still nope.  Before Ace could come up with any suggestions, I told him that our plan wasn’t going to work and we’d have to try again the next day.

He was disappointed but he understood.  After all, he saw what happened and knew it wasn’t anyones fault.  I got off scot-free.

I jumped up from the couch, showered, ate and was comfy in my bed before 9pm.  It was glorious.

 

All in all, I had a great day on Saturday.  How was it for my people?  Debatable.

 

 

*Netflix righted itself so Ace and I watched a movie on Sunday*

 

Oh, Mothers Day. May 10, 2018

It is chilly in here today so I have the oversized scarf that doubles as a blanket draped across my lap.  It is keeping my bare legs warm.  I sit at my desk and look out the window.  It’s not my window though.  I am not a manager, yet, so I don’t get an office.  I sit in a quad of cubicles with the other accountants who are also not managers.  The window I am looking out sits on the other side of the glass wall that separates me from one of our company’s lawyers.  I like that I have visual access to the outside.  I have always been a fan of the outdoors.  I love the way the sun feels on my skin.  The heat never bothering me.  More recently, I have found that I also enjoy the first prickle of a chill that comes in the fall and the way my entire body tenses while I am outside building a snowman with my son.  In my head I know that being tense won’t keep me warm, but it is involuntary.  It feels like if I relax, even more of the coldness will get in.  I like the anticipation of it coming to an end.  I know that after being outside for a while, I will get to open my front door and warmth will envelop me.  Then there will be the tingling sensation as my extremities thaw.   The sweatpants I will inevitably don, following a hot shower will feel extra soft and comforting.  I will feel content.

 

Content.  I can think of few better words in the entire world.  When you are content, it means that – at that moment – you are truly happy.  It means you have a moment of peace.  Of joy.  Of acceptance.  Of calm.  It is freedom from worry or stress.  Even if it is fleeting, it is always welcome.

 

Despite my scarf blanket, a shiver runs down my spine.  Perhaps, it was not a good idea to leave home with wet hair this morning.  It is thick and curly so it takes a long time to air dry.  I can feel the dampness at the nape of my neck where my ponytail is tied.  I pull my bright green cardigan up higher, hoping that will help.  It does.  I am relieved.  I know it is temporary as the sweater will surely slide back to it’s more natural place across my shoulders.

 

I decide to take a break from responding to my work emails and processing the invoices that I know I will never stop coming in.  I check my personal email.  Most days, there are 1 or 2 announcing that new blog posts have been written by someone whose blog I follow.  Today there is only one.  Although I do vaguely remember seeing a notification a few days ago that went unacknowledged by me.  I will have to go look for it and catch up with that blogger.  Today, the one I am treated to was written by a woman who chose to tackle Mothers Day and the complicated feelings that it can stir in some.  Yes, Mothers Day is complicated for some.  For me.  I read her post, inserting myself into far too many of her scenarios.

Since I am nursing a cold, I stop midway through to blow my nose.  I think about the conversation I had with my 11 year old son the previous evening.

Ah, allergies finally got to you huh?

Nope.  It’s not allergies.  This is a cold.  I can tell the difference, I tell him.

A cold?  He asks incredulously.  Who gets a cold in the summer?  You haven’t even been out in the rain or anything.

I laugh.  Well, all it takes is for me to come in contact with the germs, I say.  Rain or not.

I marvel at this child.  I cannot believe how mature he is now.  How much more growing and maturing he still has left to do.  Mothering both he and his 10 year old brother is the best thing I have ever done.  It has brought me the most joy.  I neither want or need anything for Mothers Day, other than to know that they are happy and safe.

 

I read in the blog post about how we should take a moment to think of the women in our lives for whom mothers day brings sadness and that we should reach out to them with a kind word, or a card or gesture.

The woman who miscarried a few months prior.  I don’t know any, I think to myself.  The woman who has been unable to get pregnant in the first place after years of trying.  I pause for a bit before going on.  Yes, that is a tough one.  That wasn’t my story, but I do know that story well.  It is incredibly difficult.  The woman whose mom has just passed away.   The mother who is struggling to maintain her sanity while dealing with her teenagers.  I mentally add, the single mother who does not know how she will get through one more minute, much less one entire day or the next week, month, year.  I know that woman well.  My chests feels heavy with the memories of the days I was alone raising 2 special needs toddlers and the weight of trying to be all they needed as well as maintain a full time job.  It was the most difficult and exhausting time I’ve ever had in my life and there is no way anyone can understand it unless they have lived it.  At that time, I couldn’t even think of celebrating Mothers Day.  What was there to celebrate?  I push those thoughts away and continue reading.  I cannot get teary while sitting at my desk.

I continue reading.  The woman who gave her baby up for adoption, the one who is in jail, the still single 30 something year old who wants desperately to find her life partner and a chance to even begin the journey …  the list is long.  She is trying to make sure that every reader feels seen.

The woman who hasn’t spoken to her mom in years.  “She wishes things could have been different”, the author writes.  That one hits close to home.  Different.  Yes, there is so much that I wish could have been different in my own life.  I wish my Grandma were still here.  I smile as I think about her.  I wish I had a better, closer relationship with my actual mother.  Weeks, maybe even months will pass without any communication between us, and then we will talk, or text – always keeping things light, superficial.  There are no “I love yous” when we hang up, no inside jokes, we do not lean on each other for support or reach out for advice or to share good news.  On Sunday, she won’t wish me a happy Mothers Day.  Or at least, she never has in the past.  I will send her a message and she’ll respond with a polite thank you.

 

Finally the author gets to her final group.  My phone rings and even though I am eager to keep reading, I answer.  I am at work after all.  A few minutes later, I pull my browser back up and continue.  I realize that even though my body as shifted position and my sweater is back to its rightful spot, leaving my neck exposed and vulnerable to my damp hair, I no longer feel cold.  Then I sneeze into my elbow.  I should try a different cold medicine, I think.  The one I picked up at the drug store yesterday is not doing its job.  I wonder briefly if there is anything else I need to get while I am there.  I could use a box of tissues.  The toilet paper I’ve been using is harsh on my nose.  I toy with the idea of getting a Mothers Day card for my Mother-In-Law or GrandMother-In-Law, but at this point, it wouldn’t get to them on time.  I wish I had thought to get it sooner.  Just the tissues and a new medicine I decide.

 

I read on:

… there’s a stepmom smiling through her disappointment. She knows the marriage is new and everyone is trying to adjust and gracefully work out how to be a blended family. But she had hoped for a card or some acknowledgement this Mother’s Day. She’s loved her stepchildren as her own, but has struggled to gain their trust and love in return. As happy as she is that they are close with their mother, she hopes someday they’ll be close with her, too, and wishes that day were today.

 

I sit with this one for a moment.  The copier next to me is making loud noises.  Step-parenting is fraught with challenges for sure.  However, I bristle at her description.  I imagine that my own step mother might have tried to describe things that way in the early years.  She would have been wrong to do so.  She never loved me.  I won’t even add the part that says “as her own”.  She did not try to gain trust or love.  She was not happy about other close relationships I had and wished only to have me out of her life.  For reasons mostly unrelated to her own behaviour, she eventually got her wish.

Then there is my Shaunie.  She jumped into step-parenting head first.  She does love my children and they her.  In many ways, it is the best anyone could hope for.  That does not mean there are not times when things are not aligned properly.  Understandably there are times she feels unappreciated.  Or overwhelmed.  There are times she does not understand the things I do.  But how can she.  I will always feel differently about the boys than she does and those feelings will shape the course of my actions.

 

I glance at the clock on the lower right side of my laptop screen.  11:03.  It’s nearly time for me to eat lunch.  My stomach reacts to this realization.  A few new emails have come in and I need to address them.  I’ll tackle the easy ones now and save the ones that will require more time or brain energy for after lunch.  The lunch that will include the trip to the drug store where I have decided I will purchase 2 Mothers Day cards.  If I am lucky they will get to NJ on Saturday.  More likely though, they will get there on Monday; one day late.  I reason, that’s better than not at all.  I want the 2 women who have become family to me, to know that I appreciate them.

 

Another sneeze and sniffle.  In my mind, I add orange juice to the growing drug store list and gather up my phone and keys to head out.