Rose

There are a number of people that I miss back in Madison and every now and again they come to mind. Some have made such a lasting impression that, even if I never see them again, I think I might just be changed forever by knowing them. We lived with some great friends for a season, had our kids all around the same time and even went to South Africa together (for different reasons but that’s not important). Tonight I was looking through some old photos of my baby shower back in Madison when I was pregnant with Sylvie and I came across this shot of my friend Rose.

 

She didn’t know the person was taking it and that’s what I love even more. It really shows her personality, I think. It might not even be a side of her that everyone sees but I’ve always noticed a depth in Rose. She taught me a lot about hospitality and she is one of the few friends I had in Madison that would stop by my house because she was driving by and thought of me. For some reason I really enjoy that. I love it when people just stop by because they were in the area and thought they’d like to hang out at my place, with me, for a little bit. It’s like they are comfortable enough with to come over even though so many people live these lives of solitude and likely don’t want to be bothered by ‘drop ins’. Maybe that’s what everyone assumes and never decide to stop by someone’s house anymore. I don’t know. All I know is I love it when people drop in unexpected. Usually I offer them tea or something to eat if they do come around. Something I learned from my hospitable Asian and African friends. Always offer something and don’t worry about the time.

 

Rose was there when my son was born….I mean she was there! There! I had Matt and Rose with me. Why did I want her there? I don’t know all the reasons. She’s just special to me. She has a calming effect and I wanted that. I trust her with my life. I love Rose dearly and I actually miss her stopping by my house. She always brought chocolate and she knew which type I liked. If she saw it at the store she’d pick it up for me to give later. I’ve also seen her mature over the years. She use to be more shy but over the years I’ve a strong dignity develop in her and I can’t wait to see the lucky bastard who is going to have the blessing of a lifetime with her.

 

When Oliver was only a few months old Matt went out of town on some sort of outreach. The friends we lived with were all gone with him and I got a bit freaked out for some reason being in the house by myself with only my son. I called her up and said, “I’m a bit lonely and this house is empty, Rose.” She didn’t even pause. She just said, “Why don’t you come over and spend the night, OK?” I arrived to find she had given me and Oliver her bed and made up the couch for herself. Classy lady. I think I’ve always had a place in her heart and because of being there when my son was born he’s always been very special to her too. Anyone who thinks Oliver is amazing is amazing to me. She use to call him Little Man.

 

Time seems to make memories more meaningful but you have to fight to remember them. They get a bit foggy and less colourful over the years. If you retell them they sort of live again and the meaning deepens. So tonight I’m just remembering Rose.

 

 

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Poop!

Since having children I have had to literally touch more poop than I would even care to shake a wooden stick at. In fact I’d much rather touch poop with a wooden stick than with my hand. Alas, when you become a parent you find that there are those times when you will change a nappy, get some on your thumb and just have to shrug it off and wipe it on your pant leg. Meh…just poop. Then they get on solids and it tests gag reflexes you didn’t even know you had. Next they start to potty train and once again you’re dealing with poop and a stubborn toddler that likes to drop a deuce in their drawers just to show you who’s really in charge. “He who craps in pants at will gain much power!” I do believe there’s a fortune cookie out there with those truths inscribed.

 

Yesterday was one of those days with the kids where I found myself raising my voice more than usual, something I’m never proud of at the end of the day. I grew up with lots of shouting and emotion in my home and I’ve never wanted to get that frustrated with my kids. But here I am human and annoyed when my kids call my name out 742 times each day or start speaking and asking of me at the exact same moment when only moments previous there was silence. When it rains it pours, goes the old proverb.

 

Both of my kids peed and pooped (just a small amount, but still) in their trousers yesterday because they just couldn’t bear to be pulled away from Incredible Hulk figurines and a set of colourful Stack-a-doos. It happens but it was a waterfall of bodily fluid yesterday. I’m comforted by the fact that they will not be doing this forever. My son will not be crappin’ his pants when he’s on his first date, I’m certain of that. Still, right now I just get so exhausted when this happens to both of them just one right after the other. Ok, but that’s not where the story ends….

 

We were getting in the car to go to the library and as soon as we got out the back door Oliver bolted! He does that a lot, much to my frustration. It really bugs me that he still runs off and thinks it’s funny. I always deal with it when he does but he just never stops thinking it’s enjoyable. Yesterday I was tempted to drive off just a few houses down and when he ran up to the van I would play like I didn’t notice he was in the car. “Oh wow, bud. I guess you shouldn’t do that next time, eh?” I may have done it if he hadn’t turned the corner just as I was getting into the van. He did get an earful but I know he’ll do it again, especially when we have guests around. He’ll do it and I’ll feel like that sheepish parent with a unrulely child.

 

Off to the library we went. After we got into the car I opened the trunk and he said, “Look mama, I stepped in dog poop”. He showed me the back of the seat where he had put his little Star Wars shoe upon and kindly rubbed said shoe into the seat smearing light brown dog pooh into the gray upholstery. I gasped with my mouth open. Who wouldn’t? I could tell Oliver felt like he was going to get into trouble. I’m sure he told me thinking it was this interesting discovery that he wanted to let me in on. I didn’t not however think it was in the slightest way interesting or delightful. After dealing with two kids who both had accidents of both kinds in their shorts I was not prepared to deal with animal dung. The car began to fill up with the smell and it was an absolute fecal fest in the van. Did I mention it was also our first sunny day in a long time and the heat of the sun warmed up our van adding insult to injury? The worst part is that I just couldn’t bring myself to clean it up (yes, I know. Now YOU’RE gagging) but funnily enough it doesn’t smell in there anymore. Now I’m not saying I’m going to leave that mess in the car. I’m borrowing a friend’s mini wet-vac to deal with the poop properly. I just can’t believe how much a mom has to deal with poop on any given day.

 

That was yesterday. No accidents today….yet.

Things are coming together at the house. My carpal tunnel is kicking into high gear these days since I’ve been painting like a trooper. “Show me paint-a-fence”. I often feel the need to throw in 80’s movie quotes when my sanity is hitting a low. Our friend Gabe helped us move and then Josh came over to look at our plumbing. We have a few places where the hot water comes out in a trickle and that was concerning. I was picturing us running a hose from the basement, where the hot water flows like milk and honey, up the upstairs and sitting under a flow of piping hot water coming out of a green garden hose. True ghetto fashion.  We found out the water is not really an issue so my ulcer is settling once again. Yet one more small issue has popped up in regards to our floors….

I’ve always wanted a painted floor, I’ll start with that, and when we pulled up the nasty, rental looking carpet after we had the keys in hand we noticed the floor has already been painted a dashing brown with speckles of white where they used a spray gun on the walls but failed to drop a throw down on the floor. We decided to paint the floors a fetching stone gray and the finished result was indeed fetching. I LOVE IT!

I’m always waiting for affirmation when people see our floors. I’m funny that way. I want them to drop to their knees into a state of shock and breathlessness when they see the beauty of a painted floor that usually only resides in sites like Dwell or Martha Stewart magazine, so I always ask, “What do you think of the floors?” So far most of the people who have come to see the house aren’t really in line with our specific taste of decor so I get that they wouldn’t be super into how they look. I just don’t want them to think we did this because we had no choice and then feel sorry for us. Again, I’m funny that way. Why care? I know, right? I can just see a couple coming over and saying, “Yeah, looks….nice” then getting in the car after they leave and shooting the pity look at one another, mumbling something about, “Remember the days when we were poor too, honey?” So far no one has lost their breath when beholding our stone, gray wood floors. Gabe came over and I asked what he thought and his reply was, “Um…is that…common?” Ok, fine. You don’t like it either.

The issue with the floors, unfortunately is that the paint is coming up if we scrape something across the floor, like say a bed frame. I was gutted when I saw that dark brown paint underneath a scuff mark. I felt the stomach acid churning inside as our lovely floors started to look ugly again. My first thought was, “What are we going to do? This is just going to get worse after one scrape! It’s going to keep coming up. All of this hard work…” The woman at the store, which woman and store I will refrain from naming, told us what we needed to do to paint a floor and which paint we were to use. No poly necessary. Well, after the floor incident I got online and found out that you indeed need to throw down at least three coats of poly to keep it finished and strong. Curses!

We’re moving our family in tomorrow and the thought of my kids growing a third arm or six nipples due to toxic chemical exposure is frightening indeed so we’re trying to work out how we can finish our floors without causing serious harm to our kids. If it were just myself and Matt I’d say, “Heck, load us up with tumor growing chemicals….it’s just like a night out at Denny’s!” But it’s not just us and I want to be careful of our cherubs and what they inhale. I’m actually getting on Matt’s nerves by how often I toss the comment, “We just need to let the place air out”, into conversation. Dads just don’t get it.

I’m sure it will work out fine with the floors and we’ll be onto our next adventure as we settle into the Hilltop. Tomorrow night is our first night sleeping in our new home. There’s so much more room than we’re use to and it’s fun to let the kids scream indoors again without fear of disturbing the neighbors in our apartment living situation. Hurray for Hilltop, yo!

Cars

I was speaking with a friend today about our move to Hilltop and all the emotinos it’s bringing up in me. She mentioned that she drove by the house, thought it was cute but worried for us in the neighborhood. Funny that this was her first set of thoughts about the house. I keep driving around the area,  just checking out the houses and getting my bearings for the neighborhood. I find myself looking at the cars, the types of cars seem to signify the quality of the street (so goes my rationale). In the past I’ve looked at cars as well as upkeep on the houses when we’ve been searching for a new home. This is our third house and while we look around, scouting out an unfamiliar area, I rationalize that the cars parked in front of the homes say a lot about the type of area we are in. Most of my reason has been because, in the past, we’ve bought a home in order to sell it soon after so I was always trying to look for curb appeal and resell-ability; would someone else want to buy in this area?

If I was unfamiliar with an area I had to do my best to take it all in and decide if this was going to be a place that other people wanted to live. I’m not an expert on why people buy the homes that they do but I do know when buying a home the three main things you look for are 1. Location 2. Location 3. Location. So in my detective way I have found myself sniffing out an area and looking for visual cues on what will sell again. It’s sort of trained my eye and now I can’t seem to stop noticing cars when I drive around Hilltop. There’s the 77 Nova with a brown door and yellow body (I actually had one of those as my first car- haha). There’s the Jeep Cherokee that was uqibitous in the 90’s. There’s a lime green beetle with a vase for flowers in their car. Who needs to put fresh cut flowers in their car? There’s a shopping cart! And another one!

I often find myself judging the area based on the quality of the vehicles parked on the street. If it’s got some up to date transport it must be up and coming. Right? If all the cars look unkept then the neighborhood but be unkept. Right? Well there is some truth to that way of thinking but it’s all a personal judgement that I do inside my head to scope out whether or not I feel clean, secure and and justified where I live with my little kids. I’m sure it’s something we all do without thinking about it but I’m very aware how much I’m doing it as I drive around my new house. There’s a 2008 minivan. Must be a stable family with wee little white kids. Ahhhh….my people. I guess it’s just little pockets of fear that wants to stick with people I’m familiar with that still reside in my core. I’m sure more will come up as I live in one of the most diverse areas in all of Tacoma but I am committed to engaging with the unfamiliar emotions, fears and cultural stereotypes that come into my mind by habit.

The irony is that I actually like the diversity. I’m comforted by the colour and the culture of Hilltop. I find communities that aren’t strictly caucasian to be very welcoming and hospitable rather than standoffish the way a lot of suburban areas can be  can be. Yet I still find places in myself where I don’t feel like I relate or understand ethnicity. I try to but there’s a lot of areas where I feel lost and incredibly white around people of color, sort of like the white girl trying to find her groove at a good dance party, but failing miserably.  I was raised poor but I wasn’t raise a poor, black child (I just had to throw in a bit of Steve Martin there) so I am trying to relate but still feel I have a lot to learn. I do know that, regardless of our racial or cultural differences, we all want the same things in life. If we have kids we all want the same things for them, even the roughest of parents really want their kids to succeed and want the highest for them. Don’t believe me? Try messin’ with Shaquita’s kids and see how fast she lays into you!

It’ll be interesting when the weather warms up and I start to bring my kids to the parks and out to community events. That’s one thing I’m  looking forward to. I’m looking forward to meeting people in my community and making friends as we push our kids on the swings.  Out in the suburbs people just sort of keep to themselves but in the city there’s usually so many community events that bring everyone out pot-lucking. Sometimes these hard areas bring people together in ways that are unique to any other setting I’ve ever lived in and I think our little world is going to become very large in just a short span of time.

We’ve moved….to the hood!

When I lived in Tacoma, back in the day, Hilltop was one of those areas that us white folks didn’t venture into for leisure and if we did have to drive through, we always rolled up the windows and locked the doors. Seriously, your car might get jacked if you didn’t. It was notorious for gang violence and it was hit hard by the crack epidemic. It was a shame because there was/is so much diversity in this historic area. The houses are lovely, classic craftsman homes, and it was prime location sitting at the top of the hill before you ebbed into downtown.

Tacoma has seen a huge transformation in the past 15 or so years. People have begun to invest in real estate, jobs and giving the city a bit of an aesthetic facelift. Even Hilltop has had a renissance lately and a lot of working class families have rushed into to scoop up cheaper real estate in order to drive some of the crime out. The locals have also had enough! They have formed watch committies and chased a lot of the crime away. Yet….here’s where the Bonjours enter the picture… there seems to be a lot of work to be done.

 

We were searching for a house before Christmas and found this lovely craftsman in the Hilltop area. I am aware of the area’s reputation but I have heard and seen for myself the changes. Still, we moved into our new home, the one we tend to grow old in, and already we’ve been hit by the reality of where we live. We didn’t really anticipate urban ministy as we moved here. In fact we’ve been in full time ministry for about 15 years only to take a break from it around two years ago. Now we’re finding ourselves thrust right back in and without warning. We didn’t really have time to prep emotionally for what we are getting into so some of these adjustments feel a bit like whip lash.

The third day after we had keys in hand we noticed someone had tried to kick our back door in. Thankfully the latch caught it. Two days later I was calling the cops on our next door neighbors who were shouting, physically fighting and throwing furniture out the back door. I normally won’t call the poe-poe just because it doesn’t really build community in the same way that face to face confrontation does, but I don’t know these crazies yet and I was NOT going to go over and ask if they wouldn’t mind keeping the noise to a light hush. Cops came and hauled off two people out of the six that are all crammed into that tiny house. Then today someone came to take photos of our house for our homeowners insurance (nice lady) and she informed us that they are keeping a dog (pit bull puppy) locked in a windowless shed. She called animal control to have them come and haul the dog away. I told her to let them know it wasn’t us just in case they feel the need to get even with the person who snitched on them. Another day in the hood.

Matt and I have always wanted to do urban ministry, for whatever reason. He’s had an interest in urban planning and I’ve wanted to do more to empower low income families (start a community garden, for example). When we bought our house we weren’t searching for it with that in mind. We sort of wanted a place of rest and beauty. It’s becoming a place of beauty with every new coat of paint but having all of these troubles with our neighborhood has brought up a lot of my classic inner struggle, fear! It’s brought a lot of fears to the surface about raising a family in a rough area, about being home with kids and without Matt while he’s at work, getting our car jacked in the middle of the night, getting our home broken into (that’s the biggest one for me- this area has a high theft rate). It’s a work that we weren’t anticipating when we moved but it’s one that we are thrust into. There’s no turning back. We have the home, we love the home. We want to be committed to the area and seeing it change. That’s the only way anything changes, when people love and invest into their own community.

We left full time ministry two years ago. We stopped traveling around the world with our kids and working with the poor and the marginalized. I haven’t taught college age kids or high school students on the validity of the gospel in over two years. My time working with short terms missions ended in 2009. We moved to Hilltop one week ago where we have been placed into the most striking and raw mission field where we get to raise a family and see a neighborhood changed. So begins our life building a community. I’m sure more colourful stories will follow so stay tuned.

The tension

A friend of mine, whose blog and family I adore, recently posted my exact sentiments about wanting to write as a place to process, reflect, and update on my life with children yet feeling the time is so limited to do so. This has been my tension since Sylvie was born. We moved to the West coast eight months ago while I was in my last month of pregnancy and since then we’ve had our third child, I’ve taken a break from homeschooling my son to put him in part time Kindergarten, we recently bought a house and we still have yet to move all of our stuff into it. Don’t forget the holidays and three birthdays plus an anniversary. It’s been a full eight months. It’s been so busy that I’ve even been too busy to cook and I’ve opted for pre-made foods from Trader Joe’s. What is my life coming too?!!!

Still these transitions aren’t the largest zap of my time which is keeping me away from blogging. God knows I have a ton to say right now. There have been major life changes for me, some too personal to share in an online journal form, so I would love to write out what is going through my head these days but the biggest form of time-zap is my family. I’ve reached a place in my life (maybe “reaching a place” is a bit more accurate-I’m still in the process) where my family is the MOST important thing in my life and spending time with my kids is the way I want to invest my time. This is the main reason I’m not writing, I want to invest deeper into my kids because they need this with all of the transition in our lives. This is not to say that women who blog aren’t spending enough time with their kids. For some moms their children are older or they have kids with different needs than mine, allowing them a bit more free time to write.

Here lies my tension! I want to write because I feel I’ve learned more in the last few months than in the past few years but there just isn’t enough time in the day right now. Maybe when we move and get a bit sorted I’ll feel that I can give more time to my ruminations. I also started to invest more time into jewelry making in the evenings as a creative outlet and that has taken away  from writing, but if there is one thing I could communicate about these past few months it would be this: Family is the most important gift there is. Time is very fleeting. We get one go around so don’t waste time with mindless tasks that keep you busy but never accomplishing anything. Love! Yes, indeed….LOVE!

Oliver just turned 6 and I can’t believe his feet are so big and his body so grown up. He’s not a baby anymore, never again. Someday he will marry (I hope) and want a family of his own. Someday I’ll be a grandmother and that day will likely come closer than I would even realize. Someday my teeth will stop working as will my eyes and the changes will come to my body like a hurricane. Someday Matt and I will be no more and these days I’m not so concerned with the ‘legacy’ we leave behind as I am about the time we were given to love and create. So here we are in a very normal life with very normal activities but I’m very aware how extrordarinary our lives are while we are here.

Perhaps I’ll write more on this tomorrow….