Sunday, March 7, 2010

Little Blessings.

Last month was my youngest daughter's 5th birthday. I truly enjoy this child of mine. I have two other children, a son, almost 13, and an 11 year old daughter. They really force me to concede that my life would be truly empty without them.

I grew up as the fourth child with four brothers- five children within seven years. There were many times I wished for a sister, or wished to be an only child, but my brothers taught me many things. I learned how to handle the teasing - alot of teasing. I learned how to play practical jokes. I learned how to throw a punch properly. I learned how to play street hockey. I learned to abhor sports on tv after watching it non-stop as a child. I learned that putting your name on an item to insure it's there later rarely works. I learned to love The Who (after being locked in a bedroom with non-stop record playing for 8 hours). I knew all the words to Pink Floyd's The Wall (I was 11) when all my friends were singing Village People songs. I learned that my brothers were each completely different from the other. I learned how to squeeze myself into a car and expect no leg room. I learned that all my favorite foods would always be the first ones eaten by my brothers. I learned that if anyone picked on me, I would always have back-up. I learned that someone was willing to drive cross country with me. I learned that being the only girl did not save you from a father's punishment. I learned to only let guys come to the house that were worthy. I learned that my brother's friends always treated me with respect. I learned that Barbie could only be a nurse to GI Joe, and GI Joe was NEVER to be confused with Ken.

I learned that my brothers were willing to share with me - Major Matt Mason toys; a catcher's mitt with which I used to play outfield, as it was the only way I could hope to catch a ball; Romeo & Juliet school book I took from my ninth grade brother when I was in 6th grade, so I could read it first; time to teach me how to drive a car; homemade storybooks created to make me feel better when I was sick; donning pirate gear so I didn't feel bad when I wore a patch after eye surgery; tutoring in trigonometry when I was in 10th grade; cool music, not top 40 stuff; Edgar Allen Poe and Sherlock Holmes books.

I always knew I wanted children. Before I even met Rico Suavé, I had a collection of children's picture books, and Winnie-the-Pooh and Disney Princess movies.

When I met my dear husband we had many similar goals. We both wanted a couple children and for me to stay home with them. The hours I worked as a retail manager before children were varied and long- sometimes 6am-6pm, sometimes 11am-10pm. We both knew that we didn't want the children raised at a daycare center. We also knew after out second child, that we were done. I had had two c-sections. The doctor advised against further pregnancy as I had split my pubic bone. And we were content with one son and one daughter. I had always wanted the son to be oldest, in hopes that he would guide and teach and protect any younger sisters, just as my brothers had done for me.

When we moved from California to Virginia, my oldest was 3 and my daughter was 1 1/2 years old. We gave away all the extra baby stuff to help keep costs down for moving cross-country. We kept only a crib, changing table and a stroller.

Two months after I moved to Virginia I found out I was pregnant. I was shocked. I sank to my knees next to the wall in the dining room and cried for hours. We had no extra money, my husband had taken a pay cut with the move. We were still paying mortgage on a house in Cali that wasn't selling, while simultaneously paying rent in Virginia. I was afraid to tell my husband. When I did tell him that night he couldn't speak.

It took a few days for us to face reality, and we just decided it was something we had to deal with. We sold the house in Cali, bought one in Virginia, and settled in as best we could with what life gave us. At this time a best friend had suffered a miscarriage only months before, a sister-in-law had been trying for years to get pregnant, and I knew they would never understand my feelings.

At 9 weeks I started spotting and went to see my OB-GYN. I found that the fetus had stopped growing even though my body thought it was still pregnant, and she prescribed medicine to force the miscarriage to completion. The whole thing took a week, painful and messy, but done.

Everyone felt so bad for me. And I felt so guilty that I was elated and relieved. All I can remember really thinking was that now I didn't have to buy a mini-van to fit three car seats!

So life was relatively smooth and fun until the migraines hit. Several a week, these were punishing. I went off birth control and it took approximately 1-2 years to find all the triggers that caused them.

When I turned 34, I asked my husband if he wanted another child, because if so, I wanted it before I was 35. We both decided, no, 2 children were enough. Well life is never so easy as a simple decision. When I was 36 I got pregnant. As with the other two, I somehow knew immediately. Let me just say with conviction for anyone reading this-pulling out is not effective birth control!

Though there was shock with this discovery, there was also excitement and happiness and acceptance.

After the delivery of my second healthy little girl, following another separation of the pubic bone, and another c-section, I decided to have a tubal ligation. My doctor had recommended it after my second child, but I wasn't ready to do that. However, after the last baby, I knew my body could not handle another baby. Apparently those child bearing hips I had been cursed with really didn't really help me much.

So now we have the youngest who just turned 5. She is my special surprise gift. She makes me laugh everyday with her funny way of looking at life. I love how her older brother teases her mercilessly (even though I tell him to stop), and it warms my heart how her older sister nurtures her and plays with her.

I feel like I have come round full circle. My brother, three years older than me, says he sees our past childhood relationship when he watches my children interacting with each other. I am so glad I have been blessed with my children.

But how do I tell my husband that I really wish I could have had atleast one more?

Monday, January 25, 2010

Top 10 Things

Today's Top 10 list (in no particular order) is the things that create a moment of Happy, Happy, Joy, Joy.

1. When the baby wakes up first thing in the morning and yells out "mama" from the crib.

2. When I loan a book to a friend and my friend loves it just as much as I do.

3. Driving on a sunny day, realizing the beauty of it and give thanks that God had such a good imagination.

4. When my husband does the dishes or folds laundry without me having to ask for help.

5. Seeing a great musician play live, especially after waiting over 15 years to see him.

6. Watching Lost uninterrupted.

7. When my husband calls me from work each day just to say "hi".

8. When someone trusts me enough to come to me for advice or a shoulder to cry on.

9. Seeing a famous painting up close.

10. Daisies as a gift of flowers, instead of roses.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Melting pot: a concept not yet accepted.

I grew up in the 70's in a smaller central NY city of about 35,000 people. Our claim to fame was a maximum security prison in the middle of the city surrounded by concrete walls and armed guard towers. Near the prison was an industrial manufacturing area and about a 1.5 square mile area of people predominately of polish, ukrainian and russian descent. Three churches and several ethnic clubs for these eastern european immigrants and descendants were also within walking distance. The whole city is primarily blue collar, middle class with the normal smattering of lawyers, doctors and other professional types mixed in the the masses; the professionals lived on the other side of the railroad tracks.

What was interesting about our city was that it seemed to be divided by ethnicity rather than race. Back in the 70's the city was approximately 90% white, and 8% black. Most of the blacks lived within a specific area of the city, but there were really very few blacks in comparison to overall demographics. I never identified myself as white because my entire neighborhood was white when I was a child. Instead, we knew the ethnic background of every neighbor- polish, irish, ukrainian, german, italian, etc...

We didn't live in the "polish" section, however some of my extended family did. My Catholic school and Church and the heritage club we belonged to were in the "polish" end. I have very vivid memories of walking to my Babci's house after school and waiting for a ride home. My Babci spoke no english, but always had alot to say. As I could speak no polish outside of basic polite words and some prayers, I would just nod my head and laugh when she laughed. Most of my childhood friends belonged to the Polish Home or the Polish Falcons or the Sicz Club or the Ukrainian National Club, just as our parents did.

We always had plain food at home, polish or meat & potatoes with no special seasoning. We never had mexican, chinese, indian food, and in fact I can't even remember if there were any ethnic restaurants or deli's or bakeries that weren't eastern european or italian or german.

So our melting pot of a city didn't account for much variety. The most diverse population was most likely located within the prison walls. Despite this seemingly assimilated city, I certainly heard my fair share of degrading "polock" jokes from many people, some of whom even claimed to be friends. And though I cannot remember the specific jokes, I do remember being 10 years old and knowing that being a dumb polock was not a good thing.

But I never faced the cold derision of racism that is presented by ignorant fools with attitudes learned by ill-informed sources.

All through school, the small percentage of blacks or asians or even hispanics in our city faced some racism, as would seem typical of a small city America. Right or wrong, it existed. I grew up hearing things, seeing things, but I could never identify with the hatred. The differences between us had no value to me as a means of ridicule, but I know other people placed emphasis on the differences.

My move to Phoenix allowed me to meet my Rico Suavé, and with him a whole new world. Yet I found that bigotry extended far and wide, and the supposed maturation of times did not lessen it. My subsequent moves to Cali and finally back to the East Coast have matured me, but I am no less shocked at the closed minds of seemingly normal people.

I actually have a (former) friend that sent me an email a few years ago denouncing illegal immigrants and those of the hispanic descent. Yet she knew my Rico was a mix of mexican, native american, black, spanish and probably a couple other things. His family is not nor has ever been illegal. His great grandfather was in the Spanish Army. One branch of his family tree has been here for many more generations than mine has. My family wasn't here until the late 1880's and early 1900's, or there about. But some of Rico's friends were from families that were illegal. In fact, Rico worked on a farm picking grapes as a teenager, he said it was the most back-breaking job he ever had.

Rico grew up in a predominately latino neighborhood and remembers having to take the bus to the high school that was in the classier part of his city so the diversity mix met standards. And as a married couple, when we moved from Cali, we specifically looked for a metro market area that would be more open to seeing a latino in a professional position.

Now I live in a city of 434,000 people with a demographic of 70.8% white, 20.1% Black, 5.5% Asian, and 5.9% Hispanic. In fact, approximately 11,720 people report to the census to be of mixed race. I think I knew maybe 5 people when I was growing up that were considered Mulatto.

Our house is surrounded by blacks, brazilian, filipino, puerto rican, russian, asian and random european-descent white neighbors. I love living here. When we first moved here, Rico and I were excited that our children would have the opportunity to grow up in neighborhoods completely dissimilar to ours. We felt our children would have the chance to be friends with everyone without regard to color or ethnic background, or even class. Our children have made some great and diverse friends.

But the thing that shocks me is that in today's supposed enlightened age, I have met some people here, that are genuinely nice, and yet deep down bigots. Oh, they will tell you they are not bigots or that they are just joking, but I don't buy it. Some of the comments I hear are along the lines of "Jewing down" a price at the store, or that someone won't go to the oceanfront because it's "too dark" there, implying there are alot of black people.

I am sure this is indicative of alot of areas in the US, but I find it inexplicable and inexcusable that someone in 2010 can make statements such as these and others, and not have realized two things: they seriously hurt a segment of the population by reinforcing stereotypes, and their children hear and infer these comments to be valid.

While growing up, one of my favorite movies was The Point. A little boy named Oblio was born with a round head. Everything and everyone else in the world had points or pointed heads. At first, the parents tried to cover the round head with a pointed hat. Eventually, Oblio and his dog Arrow were banished to the Pointless Forest. Along his travels, he meets a rock man that tells him, "you don't always have to have a point, to have a point". Of course at the end, Oblio is welcomed back and is much loved.

Wouldn't it be nice if everyone could be loved not inspite of one's differences, but because each person's difference is just what makes one special?