Cup and Saucer

Many, many, did I say many? moons ago I remember hearing people talk about standardized testing and how they are biased. The specific example I remember hearing was regrding a question along the lines of, what do you place a cup on? The correct answer was a saucer. 

A couple of months ago during a volunteer opportunity/work event I was talking to a teacher who works with students of financially challenged parents. She was teaching her class to set a table for a meal. As she provided instruction for sitting down at the table, she said, “like you do at home” to which a student replied, we don’t have a table at home. That was a reality check for the teacher. Never assume the students have tables, chairs, or anything else. 

When I was growing up, my brothers and I ate in our individual rooms and usually in front of the television. I remember a table at some point but I also remember them having a fight, breaking the table then using the top to break dance on. They were resourceful fellows and the first in the neighborhood to repurpose furniture for entertainment. The guys in the neighborhood learned how to break dance on that table, I became their agent and manager by finding places for them to dance for money.  

But anyway…

I don’t remember sitting at the table as a family. I don’t recall ever using a cup and saucer. I would sometimes make my mom a cup of instant coffee but I didn’t give it to her with a saucer. I didn’t drink hot tea back then. I would not have been able to pick out a proper tea cup in a line up. 

I honestly didn’t learn how to set a table until I was in my early 20’s. I learned after a very embarrassing incident during a visit at the home of the parents of my boyfriend at the time. It was Christmas. His mother asked me to set the table. Uh, what? At the time I swear she was trying to expose my ignorance in many areas in order to discourage him from dating me. I pulled him aside and confided in him my delimna. I had never set a table in my life. After telling me lay down, he told his mother I had a headache and needed to rest. He set the table for me. 

Cup and saucer… we make a lot of assumptions about the lives people live and the experiences they have. The affects of those assumptions are evident when only a certain group of people are invited to the table to make decisions about an entire population of people. The decision makers pull from their limited experience without regard for others. I will not say it’s intentional, although I’m not ruling that out. I will attribute some of lack to ignorance, being out of touch with various people groups and perhaps not caring to understand. 

Some might think or even say a person who grew up in a household without a table is doomed or will not have the ability to over come. These are the people who are easy to disguard and write off. I say to you, you are wrong. I believe if given opportunity, education and wisdom most of us will thrive. 

Are the tests bias? Of course they are. The question I have is, how do we bridge the gap between the decision makers and the experiences of the test takers?

Walk with Me

There are a lot of duties and responsibilities that go along with raising children. As parents or guardians we try to impart our wisdom, morals, values, knowledge, culture, beliefs, political views, financial knowledge etc. It is an extensive list. 

One of the things I’m imparting to my kids is to walk with me. That sounds strange but let me tell you why.

I walk a lot. I walk for exercise. I walk to get vitamin D. I walk to relieve stress. I walk to commune with nature. I walk to get out of the office or house. I walk to contemplate. I walk to pray. Some walks are long. Others are intense. Then there are the times I walk with my children. 

We walk as a group to enjoy family time. Sometimes I walk with them individually. It’s during the solo times that I’m able to connect with them on a personal more intimate level as well as discuss my future expectations for them in regards to me. 

I’m not old but I’m not young. I’m at a good point in my life but the truth is I’m getting older. I’d rather face the facts rather than hide from them or deny them. I like having a plan or two in place. I don’t have anything written down but I do verbally share my expectations of how I want to be cared for, when I’m struggling to care for myself, with my children. 

The walks are a key component of that plan. Let me say this, they are typical kids and don’t always want to go on a walk with their mom. They moan and groan and ask, “why me?!” (Because you are the chosen one, now let’s go.) I have pre-walking negotiation meetings with them to determine which route? How far? How fast? Can I listen to music, ride my scooter run, bring some water? After we settle on the terms we head out. 

Back to the purpose and plan of the walk. When I’m older I want them to visit me and walk with me. “Walk with me when I’m old” is my request. Spend some time with me. Bring music I like to listen to now. I want to recreate fond memories of one of the things I love to do with the people I love being with. As we walk today I’m storing away memories that I hope to unlock in the future with something as simple as a walk. 

Bob

I didn’t realize the strangeness of Bob until I was talking about him to my cousin. The thing that’s strange is not that he exists as much as my daughter named him Bob. He is a presence that lives in our house. 

He makes himself known by closing the cabinets in the upstairs bathroom or walking around. I hear him when the kids are gone. I use to think somebody lived in our attic and would come out when the they were visiting their dad but then I realized it wasn’t just me who heard him. We have all experienced him and my daughter named him Bob. 

Last week I heard an audible knock on my door. My alarm had gone off moments before. As I lay in the bed contemplating what I was wearing to work and whether or not I was going to the gym, I heard it. I thought maybe it was one of the younger two so I waited for the “mom?” but it never came. I waited to hear footsteps walking up the stairs but that didn’t happen either. 

A day or two later I mentioned the knock to the kiddos. My daughter said, “I guess Bob is back from vacation. He’s been gone for a while.” One of the younger two said he heard footsteps the other night. 

Welcome back Bob. 

Spring Break 2017

A couple of months ago I decided to take a road trip with my crew. As I contemplated where we would go and how long we would stay I looked up at a picture of the kiddos with the ocean behind them and I smiled. That was our first road trip alone. We drove nine hours to North Padre in Texas and spent a few days there then we journeyed on to Alexandria, LA for a retirement party. 

My youngest was two and a half then and we had to stop often for bathroom and hug it out breaks. Sitting in a car seat for hours upon hours just wasn’t fun for him no matter how many rounds of Do Your Ears Hang Low we sung. Our radio went out on the second leg of our journey so we sang a lot to pass the time. I remember being nervous but I was determined not to allow my emotions to take over my desire for the Fantastik4 to see the ocean and for the five of us to have the first vacation without their dad. 

Quick back story, we were not divorced but I had already begun mentally preparing. 

The five of us have flown to the Virginia, Maryland, DC area on multiple occasions to visit my friend Yvonne and her family. From there we have journeyed to Pennsylvania and saw a civil war reenactment. We have gone to New York and experienced all of its glory. 

This year I decided to take a road trip over spring break and drive to San Diego, Creston, San Francisco, Las Vegas and see the Hoover Dam as well Grand Canyon while we were on the road. After a brief conversation with my manager I removed two stops and decided to stay longer in San Diego and Vegas. That was the best decision ever. 

When my oldest is not being a typical 17 year old guy he is quite wise. Years ago during dinner discussion he said to the other three, mom does things for us to make up for things she didn’t have in her childhood. He’s right. I never went on vacations as a child. I never left the state of Texas until I was in college and I only left the Dallas area a few times for day trips. I have been to California and I’ve been to Vegas but I’ve never seen the Grand Canyon or driven through the mountains. 

I’m a certified procrastinator. I just am. We left at 5am on a Saturday morning and I made the hotel reservations the evening before. Shrug. I like living on the edge sometimes. I did not have an agenda. I wanted to determine what we would do when we arrived at each destination. It worked out well for us. The beach in Encinitas, CA was cold but they jumped waves anyway. 

The trip, the journey was also about reconnecting with my babies. Jordan aka the teenager is in the 11th grade this year and like most teens his age he has an active social life. He’s not always home for dinner and when he is home he spends more time in his room than talking to us. 

What surprised me the most was other people’s fear. I was nervous about potentially getting stuck on the side of the road because I don’t know how to change a flat but other than that I wasn’t afraid. We met a woman in San Diego who was visiting her son. I was standing in the lobby as she checked out. She looked at me and told me she was proud of me as a woman and as a mother. She was impressed that I drove from Texas with four children. She said she would not have made the trip with her one. 

Their reactions to the mountains, ocean, Hoover Dam and Grand Canyon made the  journey of 3000 miles was worth every minute in the van and dollar spent. Hearing Josiah say, look at those mountains! It’s beautiful mom. Just beautiful. Over hearing Melody say to herself, “I never knew I needed this in my life”, as she looked at the Grand Canyon made the trip invaluable. 

Watching them skip rocks in the sand dunnes of Southern California, hearing them yell and cheer during the Tournament of Kings in Vegas and most of all watching them reconnect with each other by talking, laughing and loving on each other was my dream come true. 

Random thoughts

I haven’t written anything on here in a while. I’ve been struggling with pulling my thoughts together and staying focused on one topic. But my mind is cluttered with a variety of things and happenings so I decided to just share some thoughts that will actually make sense or not by the end. 

The year was 2006, I was newly pregnant with my fourth baby and had not made the announcement to friends and family. I had a nursing infant and as the office staff of my OBGYN had indicated on my folder,  I was “advanced maternal age.” My then dear husband, the three kids and I were visiting with a pastor, his wife and they’re gaggle of kids. I realized during the visit this was an interview or recruiting session for me. My dear ex husband wanted to join this church (read cultlike body of believers) and this dinner with them was his way of convincing me this was the way to go. 

One of the rules of their church was the children were watched or monitored at all times. This was done to keep them from sinning. Because we all know that you can’t sin with your parents or church elders watching. (Have you ever had an inappropriate thought?) 

Some time during this visit the mother came to us to apologize for her young daughter’s actions. The little girl had given my 6 year old son a note stating she wanted French kiss him. The parents were extremely embarrassed. The kicker to me was the apology offered by the mother. She said if she had been in the room with the kids this would have never happened. She blamed herself because it was her duty to watch her children and keep them from sinning or behaving inappropriately. 

I knew right then that I was not joining this church and as far as I was concerned these people were nuts. I grew up with a single mom with zero adult supervision. It’s a wonder I survived. I hoping to achieved a happy medium with my kids. 

Have you heard of, glanced at or dared to read on of the many articles about millennials leaving the church? Every single article I’ve ever read places the blame on the church. Have you ever heard the phrase, employees leave managers not companies? Okay… stay with me. What if they aren’t leaving the church but leaving their hypocritical parents? Hang on… The children are the witnesses to what their parents are living and doing when they aren’t at church. They hear the conversations and see the truth day in and out. They hear the arguing, gossiping, racist comments and other words that don’t align with the pretense shown on Sundays and in life groups or Bible study.   They know the truth. Perhaps they are choosing to live an authentic or at least alternate life that is not encouraged at church. 

When I was upset with the ex, I still sat next to him at church. Eventually, I sat on the other side of the room. I stopped pretending for the sake of others. It felt good to me but I’m sure it was awkward for people who asked me where he was and me telling the truth. I didn’t want to sit next to him. 

I don’t know where that couple or their children are today. But I’ve spoken with other children who lived under similar conditions or saw through the religious sham and not only walked away from the beliefs of their childhood, they walked away from relationships and some from their parents as well. Marriage? No thank you. They saw the lie their parents lived. Pray. No. They didn’t see any positive results as children. Read, worship, attend church? No, no and no. 

 What do you think? Are children leaving the church or are they leaving their parents?

The 38th Floor

She liked getting to work early. There was something about the peaceful elevator ride to the 38th floor that she loved. Maybe it was the view of the city. It could have been the multitude of sunrises she experienced. Perhaps it was the quiet before the storm. She knew by the time she stepped off the elevator, triggered the light sensors and brewed her first cup of coffee it was only a matter of minutes before the chaos of her busy work life would begin. 

Before she left for work in the mornings she made sure to double check herself in the full length mirror. She had nightmares of panty lines, stray lint and well hidden stains or tears in her impeccable clothes. She never wore a shoe that had even a slight flaw. Her hair was the perfect shade of brown. She paid a lot of money for her stylist to create this shade just for her. Her face was perfectly powdered, lips lined filled with the perfect shade of red plum and her shadow evenly applied on each lid. Her eye lashes were lengthened and water proofed, not that she ever cried but she had gotten something in her eye once causing agitation which led to her rubbing it and triggered a watery reaction in her eye. Needless to say she began purchasing waterproof mascara. She also has two sets of identical makeup for home and office. 

She intentionally selected the 38th floor of this building for her office. It held a special meaning to her. Thirty-eight was the number of times she remembered being called trash by Roberta when they were eleven. Before she could call her that a thirty ninth time, she moved to a different neighborhood. Her dad lost his job and her mother was diagnosed with cancer. They moved in with an elderly aunt in a rough neighborhood. Her mother told her all of this much later. At the time she only told her that a bitch named Karma had gotten Roberta’s family. For years after that she thought Karma was the girlfriend of they guy who sold handmade cigarettes on the corner. 

The Nights (part 3)

“Stephanie, where have you been? Momma has been looking for you. If you have been in the quarters again momma is going to be upset. You know she has been feeling faint, tires easily and according to the doctor should not put a strain on her heart. Why can’t you be a lady and stop running around Divine Mercy like a savage? Look at your clothes. You’ve surely ruined your dress.” 

Even though her name means crown, I say crown of thorns. She often says, “I just want to be free!” Free? Being a lady is freedom. Being the middle daughter is freedom. Being the child of a wealthy businessman is freedom. Momma doesn’t require her to do the same things as I. That’s freedom. I would love to ride my horse or hangout in the quarters or sit in the barn loft thinking of our recent trip to Paris. As the oldest child the expectation is for me to keep an eye on Stephanie. 

Momma wanted her to be a boy so much that she named her Stephen. Poppa said no girl of his would have a boy name. Who would marry a woman named Stephen? She says she plans to runaway one day and explore the world. I have no time for such foolishness. 

I do as momma says and I try to watch her and Sally. Sally is a sweet quiet girl. She is always reading a book or sewing something for her hope chest. She filled mine with the most delicate doilies with beautiful details. I like to open the chest and look at them and run my fingers over the edges. They are a thing of beauty. I pretend I’m the mistress of the house and lay these out for our guests. One day, after I’m married, Divine Mercy will belong to my husband. I look forward to those days. Running a home will be easier than keeping up with Stephanie. 

“Poppa”, Stephanie yelled. Mattie, one of the house slaves, told her to hush because it’s not proper to yell in the house. Stephanie kept walking and yelling. When he rounded the corner he looked at her with amusement at first then quickly changed his expression to one of concern mixed with slight disapproval. “What is it daughter?” Poppa asked. “Will you please come down to the slave quarter and tell Moses to jump a broom with me?” Poppa’s expression changed to irritation with a bit of anger. Jumping a broom was what the slaves did to signify a marriage union. Our slaves were not allowed to marry. When they married they had children and the males became protective and therefore a nuisance. We kept our males and females separated. No need in creating a problem unnecessarily. 

Moses was one of the slaves that had grown up here on the plantation. He was learning to play the fiddle and was a natural. Due to his caramel skin color and slight build he would be easy to hire out for parties and other occasions. 

Stephanie said, “I love him and want to marry him.” To which father replied, “I will sell him if you go near him again.” Stephanie’s hands clenched together by her side. Poppa’s jawline was tense as he squinted his eyes. They both stood their  ground staring at each other until momma, who had been listening and watching, walked up and shook Stephanie. Momma promised to lock her in the cellar if she said another word. Stephanie never challenged momma. She knew momma would keep her word and lock her up in the root cellar. Stephanie let out a stiffled scream of frustration and stomped off. 

This scene had become a regular occurrence since Stephanie turned thirteen. She was becoming more belligerent by the day. She seemed to pick fights and willfully disobey.