Monday, September 1, 2014

Dear College Freshman Child

Yaaaaaasssss... perfect!

Dear Son:

You've been away at college for five nights now. We miss you but are thrilled for this new chapter in your life. I mean, we all knew you were ready for this step, busting at the seams of this parent/child role was something we all felt. We miss you 'round the clock and your siblings left back home really feel the loss of your presence, especially on family outings. They asked me to write you a letter so that you would know just how much life sucking fun you've been missing.

No need for us to go into the Costco trip you missed Friday morning when your dad came home with gas can sized containers of corn oil that we have piled up against the sink, I mean -- those are just incidental happenings.

No, your brothers want you to know about the #deeplife that is going on this Labor Day weekend. Like today.

Today was the day your dad decided to relive moments of his boyhood. Your brothers explained it to me this way, "You have your writing, mom, dad has his days of what once was." And so this is how it came to be that your dad piled us into the family van this morning and set up the GPS, whose directions he ignored most of the drive up (Ms. GPS no longer even pretends to be patient) and we drove the two hours your dad needed to, to get what was once for him the childhood marking of a summer's end.

We went to small town Wisconsin where today was "Cornival Day," so named because three! free ears of corn are promised to everyone in attendance at the Cornival. You know what's weird, Alec? Your dad never mentioned Cornival Day to me. Ev-er. Anyhow, in theory, since there were four of us in attendance (again, we miss you sorely) we could have brought our Trader Joe's canvas bags and had them filled with 12 ears of grilled corn, but since only your dad was interested in end-of-summer symbolic feeding, we just waited in line (like some kind of outer space aliens were feeding us from a truck, but that's just my opinion) for the three ears of the free corn, for him.

Your brother, Xavier, wants you to know that he volleyed back and forth about whether or not to purchase "chips" at a food stand because "chips" for sale on a sign with "chips" written in black marker "quotes" makes for an unsettling description, add to the fact that they came in "all kinds." He paid the 50 cents for the "chips" but ate them "tentatively."

We missed you today. Your father had a grand time reliving Cornival Days gone by, but the rest of us, the three of us, felt out of our realm. I say out of our realm, Auggie describes it as "unbearable air smelling of Spam." 

I was okay with your dad searching out his corn roast memories. Even the full lines at the drive-through liquor stores that we passed on the way into town didn't worry me. Today was an important family excursion for your dad and I think he needed to do this as a way of working through his feelings on you being up and flown. As your brothers said, I have my writing to work through life transitions. I can talk to you like an adult now, Alec, so I'm going to tell you, your dad was working through some shit.

Your brothers were rough on your dad, I'll admit. I knew he was going through some intense thoughtful moments, and maybe your brothers went too far in calling today a "crushed memories and broken corn cob dreams" family outing.

It wasn't that bad. I mean, yes... unfamiliar and something we're not used to. For example, the turkey  sandwiches we purchased were turkey porridge (Auggie called it brain soup for zombies) on store brand hamburger buns BUT all that can be tolerated by simply tossing the wet sandwich away and considering the $3.00 purchase price a donation toward the free cornfestivus corn. 

And there were some unexpected moments of delight -- like Magic Mark who performed magic tricks, silently -- though he wasn't in a mime outfit, while following along and interactively learning with the audience to the DVD Magic For You! that he had playing on a two foot thick TV on a TV tray to his right.

It's all perspective, I explained to your brothers.

Where else could we see Cornival clientele arguing with game booth workers over the number of balloons they popped with a dart, three chances for a dollar, and the size prize they felt they should have received rather than the one they did receive. Life can be a book, or a Twilight Zone episode, that you step into.

You would have enjoyed today's outing, Dear Son. If you talk to your brothers, it was close to but not as awful as they describe it. The "chips" were tolerable. With your dad paying no mind to the chattering of the GPS, we found our way home. Your family survived this Labor Day without you. More than anything, we missed you.

We made your dad happy today, though there was a moment that we caught him wistful -- almost as if he expected someone to recognize him from 40 years ago. But we returned home, no worse for wear.

Although Auggie says that today made him hate corn forever.
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Friday, August 29, 2014

More News from The Nervous Parents Gazette

My firstborn started college this week and I am cycling through these phases of him being away like a pro.

After sending my son a text as soon as I woke up this morning, I haven't heard back. Rather than busying myself with daily life until he responds, I'm going to do what I do best. What I gold star in. 

I'm assuming he's in danger. 

I don't play around with this Nervous Parent stuff. It's my style. As a little girl, I would wring my hands over my baby Chihuahua, Pepe, whenever he'd shove the food around in his dish with his  nose. I knew just what his actions meant -- that this was the beginning of the end and that he was never going to eat again. 

Being on the homefront while the first of your baby birds has left the nest is no simple task for the nervous parent. We're not like the rest of you, and either you'll pick up when I'm puttin' down here, or you'll just send me links to articles from Psychology Today with titles like 50 Ways That Nervous Parents Destroy Their Children. And then you'll sign your email, "I say this because I love you, have you sought professional help?"

I've heard it all. I'm no stranger to the nonsense that worry is. And yet, I've made it into a hobby, a past time, and a mental game of ping pong that bruises my brain into the size of The Great Gazoo.

This is how a day in the life of a nervous parent goes when their son's first day away from home, is today: 

6:30 a.m. My eyes popped open. Had to text my son or I couldn't sleep. He needed to save the receipts from the books he was going to buy today. Sent him text.

6:32 a.m. Lie back down. Await quick response back.

7:00 a.m. Unable to fall back asleep. Decide instead to imagine son slipped on water that roommate spilled on floor night before and now son has been lying unconscious since 3 a.m. with roommate snoring and unaware only two feet away. 

7:39 a.m. Cursing myself for not telling son he needs to respond to texts with "Yes I'm alive." It's all I need, just a confirmation of being alive.

8:19 a.m. Try to eat a yogurt. Can't. Yogurt triggers panic that son didn't check expiration date on his yogurt so grabbed dairy botulised yogurt while sleep walking and now lying unconscious from food poisoning, only two feet away from roommate. 

8:42 a.m. Visualize son walking to breakfast this morning when man in white windowless van pulled up and asked him for directions. When polite son leaned in to answer, man grabbed son's head by the neck and pulled him into said van and sped away. Enhance scene with details of van without license plates, making said perp unable to be identified. Like ever.

9:23 a.m. Sit on hands, thereby disenabling myself from calling campus police to check on son.

10:09 a.m. Thinking perhaps son played early morning game of basketball. When basket made, he disturbed a hornet's nest with over 200 wasps inside. While running away to escape hornets, son tripped on untied shoe lace and is now in student health center, unable to give nurse in attendance my phone number so I can be alerted to son's status. 

10:56 a.m. Thinking how it's almost 11 a.m. There is no text back. Reason must be that phone charger burst into flames like that story on FB this morning from China about the smoking phone charger.

11:16 a.m. Thinking son went to find a church, as I had suggested. Church was charming, but a charismatic cult. Now my son is being held until he speaks in tongues. Hoping son speaks in language that says "Call my mother!"

12:04 p.m. Thinking son was followed by a disoriented older woman who mistakenly believes my son is her son. He's my son. I need to drive there and tell woman this important bit of information but first I need to find birth certificate for proof.

12:47 p.m. Thinking son accepted a FB friend request from someone's hijacked account and now he's on his way to meet who he thinks is someone from grade school but is actually this crazed woman who still believes my son is her son. 

1:17 p.m. Thinking someone on son's dorm floor brought in left over fireworks from the fourth of July. And they set them off in my son's dorm room.

2:10 p.m. Positive son's phone exploded in his pocket like that post about that kid in California that someone posted on FB this morning.

3:12 p.m. Son must be sleeping. He's been sleeping all day because he has sleeping sickness from a tsetse fly. No matter that this hasn't happened in America since 1966.

4:09 p.m. I call husband at work. Husband doesn't have a chance to talk because I do all the talking. I talk-convince myself that if anything had happened, son's school would have called me. Before hanging up the phone, I thank husband for wise advice.

5:05 p.m. No other explanation other than son must be lost. Due to amnesia from being hysterically blinded from homesickness. Chastise myself for encouraging and enabling strong mother/son bond that he misses me to this degree.

5:48 p.m. Try to eat dinner. Only able to take liquid nourishment. Sigh and accept loss of appetite. Wanted to lose 8-12 lbs anyway.

6:10 p.m. Decide to go for walk to relieve agitation. Halfway into walk, I receive a vision. It is of my son falling out of loft bed due to night time confusion over new surroundings. Race home, heart pounding.

7:15 p.m. Hear husband's phone ding. It's text from son. Son says "busy day. bought books. went for 4 mile run. met with friends and on way to bonfire. having a great time. "

7:17 p.m. I ask husband to text son back, tell him sorry I haven't had a chance to call all day. Glad he's having fun, if I have time, I'll try to squeeze a call in tomorrow.

7:26 p.m. Doing dinner dishes, heart begins to race. Wishing I had discussed importance of bonfire safety before son left for college.
 * * *    

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

How to Be a Plants vs Zombies Champion

~A post from Auggie~

Hi, everybody. I had a good summer. I want to tell you about this one game, Garden Warfare.

I just bought the new Plants vs Zombies video game with my own money. My wallet is empty now but I wanted this game and I counted down the days till it was at the store. I waited days since I found out.

There are different classes of characters in this game. There are 8 main different character classes. 4 for each side of a Plant or a Zombie. In each of the 8 different classes there's 6 other things you can be of those guys, which is cool.

It's good for if you don't want your kids to play bad games, violent games like Modern Warfare because this is like kind of comical and not all about shooting. And it's zombies. And it's goofy.

So then you can buy this for your kids if they want a third person shooter. That means you can shoot and see around your guys. You can see yourself. Instead of your arms being the one to do it someone else does it. My mom calls it quote quote "Detached shooting."

This game builds team work b/c you have to work together to achieve the goal. The team the plants try to stop the zombies. There are different game modes which means ways to play the game, like there's one that works like capture the flag, then there's other ones where you like proceed through checkpoints.
One plus it doesn't say kill or death it says "Vanquish." My mom likes that part too, no one quote quote "Dies" my mom says "I don't want you to do a game where you make people die."

Oh, its' 3:14 3.14 PI!

Okay, back to Plants vs Zombies. Remember I said there's different modes? There's Team Vanquish mode and it has the word team right in it. You try to vanquish 50 of the other team.

And then there's Gardens and Graveyards mode which is kind of hard to explain but basically the plants have like 6 gardens. And then the zombies try to take them over one by one. And then at the end, on the last garden there's a big objective you have to do. Like, plant bombs or destroy the megaflower or get zombies into the mansion. You want zombies in the mansion if you're a zombie.

The main point of the game is there is no one story mode. It's multiplayer the humans get the plants to protect them from the zombies eating their brains.

How do you win? For mode Team Vanquish you have to get 50 vanquishes of the other team.

In Gardens and Graveyards, it's different for who wins depending on the side you're on. Plants or Zombies. There are different ways to win depending on who you are.

For the Zombies: you do this: You try to capture all the plants gardens.
For the plants: you do this: You try to stop the zombies from capturing the gardens. You only win by points.
If you worry about violence, NO ONE eats humans or brains. There are no humans in the game, if the moms want to know that.

I like it because I play the original plants vs zombies game and I was excited when I heard when it was coming as a third person shooter. There's also secret jokes, and funny surprise things like graffiti saying "PLANTZ R STOOPID".

For the plants there is the Chomper, the Sunflower, the Pea shooter, and the Cactus character.
For the Zombies, there is the Engineer, the All-star, the Scientist, and the Foot Soldier.
My favorite for each one: the Chomper is Count Chompula who gets health every time he eats a guy. Health is how much you have before you get dead. And the sunflower is the sun pharaoh. Who shoots like a triple shot.

The Pea Shooter, is the law pea. It's like a sheriff wild west guy who shoots like six shots of peas like the vegetable that do a lot of damage. The Cactus is the future cactus who can charge his shots, like charge it up.

My favorite zombies: for the Foot Soldier the tank commander. The scientist Dr. Chester. The Engineer, the Electrician. And for the All-Star, the Hockey Star.

You have to be age 10 and up to play. Girls and boys will both like it.

My favorite thing is how you can customize your guys with mustaches and hats to make them really cool.

The graphics are so good and I like how it's sunny and not dark graphics.
Also, this game is not very hard to learn. It is a great gift for a kid.

Thank you. Bye.
Here is my best tip: Every character has different playing styles, so find the one that is right for you. Try to find the guy that is just for you.
from Auggie
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Saturday, August 23, 2014

Anyone Can Blog: BlogHer14 10x10

If you've been curious, wondering about why I started blogging, and why blogging is one of the most important things I've ever done in my life, then you'll like this. It's the Q & A you never knew you wanted.

Thank you, to the wonderful people that have come into my life because of Good Day Regular People. There is no way that I can give words to how you have helped to make my life happier. All I can say, is I appreciate your words, your time, and your friendship, so much.

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Tuesday, August 19, 2014

What Racism Does to the Young

There are some things that I can't stand to know about myself. Reminders of who I was and of how I once thought that come flashing to my mind, triggered by something I see.

Like the shooting of Michael Brown. Like everyone's reaction to this death of an unarmed black man. Reactions from people that are so vocal in the way that I can't believe I know them. Surprising me so much, with their hate and their disregard for a human being, based on skin color.
Some say that the goal is for a society to be color blind. I'm not going for that. I love the different colors that we are and the beautiful cultural differences we bring into each others' lives. I don't want to not see your brown, yellow, bronze, beige, coffee, and all the tones in between.
But when I read of this hate and anger toward people, purely based on a color difference, it takes me back to when I was a child. And I would let people say things to me that weren't kind, and allow them to ask me questions that were personal and rude, and how I did nothing, but accept that behavior from them. By not saying no, or refusing to be addressed that way, I was letting them do the very thing that we are allowing people to do now. To dismiss those that are not white.

This week, I am left feeling broken, barely able to do much more than to think of when I was seven years old and my school would serve tacos for lunch. The kids would throw them on my tray, saying, “Here, you eat them. It's your kind of food.” I would say nothing, even though my face would burn so red I could feel the sweat prickle on my scalp. But I never stood up for myself, never spoke on my behalf. I was learning that I was different, and somehow, that was deserving of ridicule.

Or when my high school boyfriend's parents told him he couldn't date me anymore, and so he stopped, telling me word for word that the reason his father gave him was “Stick to your own kind, Chris.” I didn't stand up for myself. I was learning that I was something less than what someone wanted for their child.

Reading the news of this week releases a flood of moments. Painful ones, like being in college and shopping for a dress with my then roommate. When I tried on a figure hugging stretch dress for a wedding, she said, "Oh, that's right. You guys wear your clothes tight." Even when everyone was wearing lycra in 1984. I said nothing. I was learning that there were was only one way that the women of my culture were seen.

Driving with my brothers when we were teenagers, we were so used to being pulled over for no reason, that we didn't even feel the surprise when we'd see police lights flash behind us. One day, we had a white friend of mine in the car with us. With my two brothers in the front, it was merely minutes before there were soon red lights in our rear view mirror. My friend panicked and asked what we did wrong. Did we do something wrong? She wanted to know. My brothers and I looked at each other, not believing her confusion. What did we do wrong? We were riding 4-deep. My brother said with acceptance, “This? This happens all the time.” I was learning that we were powerless at the hand of the law.

For every story I remember, there are fifty more that have gone to the wind. It's been like this since I was a little girl. A lifetime of being treated as lesser. As well as my remaining silent. I was too quiet, and I learned to blame myself for anything that was said or done to me. I mean, that's what I had been told since I could remember, I had internalized it -- it was something about me.
I didn't say anything when these things were said to me. And by not saying anything, I was saying it was fine. That their behavior was acceptable to me. There are a thousand reasons that I was quiet for too long, but most of all, because it happened so much, over and over, that it felt like nothing would change, and especially, that my voice didn't matter.

Racism over a lifetime will do that to the young.

It makes you question, are you too sensitive? Did you imagine that? Maybe it's not as bad as it feels, I'd explain to myself. I had been taught to not even trust my own feelings. More than anything, it made me sad, angry, frustrated, and filled me with low expectations for how this country saw me.

But with Michael Brown and the ensuing dialogue along with stories from others that are coming out, I'm seeing the truth. Truths like when people in my town ridicule my children's names, it's racism. When the clerk at the store asks me for an I.D. card when I use a credit card after I've just seen the three white women in line in front of me use theirs without being asked for the same thing, it's racism. When I take my children in to our area hospital, and the receptionist hands me a card for a Spanish interpreter by  assuming I don't speak English, and the intake resident asks me if I need financial assistance for food since my children are thin, it's racism.

This is 2014, and we still have racism. We've had the same racism that I have known since grade school and the teacher asked me why I spoke English so well since wasn't my name Hispanic? Racism exists. You can be delusional about it, but that doesn't change the reality of the segregation and treatment of others as objects rather than people. Racism exists. Racism hurts. Racism kills.

Talking about race is the most highly charged I've seen this nation in years. People are still saying there is no discrimination. They are so brutally unaware, they feel they have a right to say what they do, and that their actions are founded and their reasons, sound. You'll often hear, "I'm not racist, but..." The "but" is what tells you, without examination of what you believe as truth, how can someone look to themselves to see that they are part of the problem.

BUT others are beginning to understand. Some are finding courage and validation in the collective sharing of our stories. Some may finally draw the line for what they will and won't take, in what they see as treatment of others.

It is ugly, and it is beautiful.

We're discovering a lot about people we think we knew. And some are showing us that we truly never did know them. Every grand action of ours begins with a decision. I see people making their decisions, allowing no room for anything else, this entire week since Michael Brown's death.

For too many  years, I have let people make me feel ashamed that I wasn't like them. I wanted to fit in so much in what was obviously their world, their rules, their control, that I let them get away with too much. It's not happening anymore. I am hyper sensitive but not in the way that people told me that I was. I am aware of  stereotypes and assumptions and the hate that goes with them. I no longer second guess myself about whether things happen or not. I'm hyper vigilant in my reporting of it and I share my stories. I bring to people's attention how I'm treated differently than someone else. Now when questions are posed to me, I turn back to them, Why do you ask? I'm not seven years old anymore, and when I speak now, it's for that little girl that I once was.

If this makes some squirm and decide they don't want to know me, that's okay. Because I am going to be saying something. Every damn time from now on. Because playing the game of pretending that they're not basing their questions and treatment of me on what I am, a person of color, never did work for me. It only made me feel even more of what I've felt my whole life, that I'm not to be a part of the world we live in. Do you know what it feels like to have people exclude you, because you're not like them? When you've had this happen to you too many times to count, you'd think it wouldn't bother you anymore. But it does, and I swear, every time it happens to me I am that rejected child again, who had learned shame to be who she was. 

The times we are in right now are loaded, and they've been building up to the powder keg that 1965 was. Michael Brown isn't going to go away because the color of skin isn't going to go away. Nor the way some people react to it.

All of us on this planet want the same thing: to belong, to have a home, to be kept warm and dry, to have food, to find friends and community, and opportunity for education, health care, employment. We're born looking for love and acceptance. And we want the same fair chance at feeling safe and protected as anyone else.
And we want to be treated, and talked to, as a human.

One of the worst things about racism is what it does to young people.

~Alvin Ailey

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