Thursday, January 6, 2011

Friend #70

Oh boy. It's going to be difficult to get through this post without crying. Remember Friend #14? Ashka? Well, her daughter, the student of mine, graduated on October. I was so proud because she was turning 22, married, and pregnant with her second child. I wanted so badly for her (now that she's not my student, I can tell you her name is Iqra) to accomplish something academic in her life before she becomes a mother of ten children - her dream. Actually, that was her dream before she had Baby #2 - a boy.

We had to do a bit of juggling during that quarter in October when Iqra was to graduate. She gave birth during Finals Week. In addition to this, her baby boy was born with heart problems and needed many surgeries. High School graduation became the last thing on Iqra's mind. She now had a toddler and a sick baby. And to add to the strife, Iqra's language barriers made it a challenge to fully understand the doctor's explanations of the baby's issues.

Iqra came in to visit me yesterday. The baby has finally come home after living at the Children's Hospital for three months. He has a tracheotomy tube and a feeding tube. His 18-month-old sister loves these tubes, unfortunately. One shining moment came when the hospital informed Iqra and her husband that their insurance would cover a nurse in their home for eight hours every day in their home.

I listened as Iqra matter-of-factly told me about her new daily schedule. I was impressed. Here I am feeling sorry for myself juggling a job and two healthy children and Iqra is amazingly breezing through being a Somalian refugee with a busy toddler and very sick newborn. I had some "blessing inventory" to do.

And then the other shoe fell.

Iqra's baby will not likely live past the age of five. There is no more hope. The doctors informed her that each day is a new day that he might die.

Of course, the absence of tact and sensitivity in the doctors irked me. But not Iqra.

"If he dies, he'll be my angel. If he lives, he'll have a good life too. Whatever God decides to do, is his choice, not mine," Iqra stated with a strong, honest face. I was dumbfounded. I wanted to shake some cries out of her, but there were none. She went on to assure me that she will not give up on her baby's life and she will fight for him, but not fight against God.

Iqra demonstrated the incredible faith in God. The ultimate Faith. The faith that says, "God, do whatever you want. It's your world, not mine. These are your children, not mine and I will trust you completely." I don't think I have that kind of faith in me. I really don't. I'd be kicking and screaming every second of the day.

At the young age of 22, Iqra is so much stronger than I ever will be.

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Friend #69

I know, I know. Although I've met many awesome new people in the past two months, I had taken on so many extra projects at work (where I met these new people!) which forced me to take a break from writing. And then there was Nanowrimo. Oh, Nano. In my world, it's called "pain" but I do it to myself.

Each year, there's a writing event called National Novel Writing Month. I've participated in previous years but didn't get far. The premise is this: Writers are challenged to write a novel in the month of November. 50,000 words, to be exact. That equals out to 1,666 words per night or to put it in high schoolers' terms "a two-page essay per night." Easy, right? It would be a piece of cake if that were true. But writing a two-page essay per night and making all of those two-page essays connect in a logical and entertaining manner is hard. HARD. I began writing an autobiography written in the third person. I found out on Day Two that my brother was doing the same. Interesting. But I kept truckin along. They say you just have to keep writing. Don't edit. Don't go back. You can edit later. That was my safety net. I wasn't going to turn in this "essay" every morning. It didn't have to be perfect.

I kept telling myself that I can go back in a month and make a second draft. Yeah, that'll happen.

As I was on this adventure (there are still a few days left, but I'm pretty much done with 43,000 words), I met Kim. Kim is another writer and happens to be my school's rep for a book company called BookJams. Kim came in trying to sell me her wares like many salespeople do each week. I actually liked her product though. BookJams are this: Each BookJam set has a theme like "Teen Angst" or "Mythical Creatures" (read: vampires and warewolves.) Each set includes a class set of three or four novels, one novel which was written by the founder of the company and the others being popular novels for teens. With each novel comes teaching lessons, workbooks, quizzes, etc. What stood out about this company versus others is that the novels are current and engaging for today's teens.

I told Kim that in order to purchase a set for $1,600, I'd have to write a grant or receive funds from donors. In the meantime, she noticed that I was wearing the official "NaNoWriMo" T-shirt and squealed. "Oh my word! Do you do NaNo?!?" she asked exuberantly. I was just as giddy as she, as I hadn't met anyone who knew about NaNo other than my brother and a few high school friends. I met Kim on Day Four of NaNo. It is now Day 27 and we've had a strange but exciting 23-day friendship which has revolved around writing and motivating and impressing each other. I felt like Kim was my marathon buddy. Each day, in addition to asking how many words I wrote the night before, she asked me how I've come with my grant writing (she wants to make a sale, you know!)

One day, around Day 16, Kim decided to completely change what she was writing. She started out writing a sad "Notebook"-style novel. Midway through, she was driving down the street and almost hit a bicyclist who was on HIS cell phone during rush hour traffic. She had a better idea for a novel - write about different ways people die. Interestingly enough, she stopped what she was writing and took one night to figure out how to blend the two stories. I warned her not to turn it into "The Five People You Meet in Heaven - The Sequel" and she assured me it wouldn't be. It's now a rough sketch of what very well may be a hit, from the parts I've read.

I've told Kim that I hope our friendship doesn't end on November 30th, when we no longer HAVE to hold each other's hand.

Kim told me that as long as she has a book to write, and since I haven't purchased her product yet, she will not go away. I love that writing brought the two of us together.

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Friend #68

Last week, Mike and I spent a blissful/hectic five days in NYC. It was my dream to be able to spend a few days just wandering the neighborhoods of my favorite city. I have been to NYC a few times before, but each visit was for a very specific reason and I was led to very specific places and very specific times.
When Mike asked me where I wanted to go for vacation, I hemmed and hawed...nothing sounded good. I don't like lazy, sit-on-the-beach-for-a-week vacations; I like to learn and see things on trips. So after pondering Jamaica, Hawaii, Napa, Austin (yes, Austin TEXAS...hey, they have a good music scene!), Seattle and Florida, New York popped in my head. "You know what would make me really, really happy?" I asked Mike. Strangely, he wasn't opposed to the idea of returning to his home state and visiting chaos for a few days. (Mike looooooves beach vacations.) And so it was.
Our only plans were to see the Museum of Natural History, the Met, and Central Park. I knew that the museums were on each side of the Park, so we hit the Met, walked through the park, and then hit the history museum. After that, the only other thing on our list was to visit Mike's college friend Joelle and her husband. Other than the things on our list, we allowed ourselves the freedom to literally aimlessly wander the streets of Manhattan through Soho, Chinatown, Little Italy, the Financial District, the Village, and everything in between.
On the first night (before the sore feet and blisters), we decided to visit Joelle.
Joelle doesn't know how great she has it. She runs the catering and vegan portions of her long-run family grocery on the Upper East Side. The store is on street level and her apartment is above. I've never seen such a large, character-filled apartment anywhere, but especially in crowded NYC. Each hallway led to a new nook or room or outside patio. The hardwood floors and teeny kitchen screamed "East Coast" charm.
Joelle used to run her business out of her apartment, which justified the size for the time being. Since moving operations elsewhere, her husband and she share this glorious piece of New York City. Joelle, being one of Mike's oldest and dearest friends, voiced the typical shock that comes out of old friends' mouths when they hear that he lives with children. "I can't believe YOU have kids! It'!"
We spent our too-short time together with Joelle forcing Mike to relive his most embarrassing college moments of drunkenness. These were stories I hadn't heard, and I craved more.
As we left, I told Joelle that one day I will live in NYC and we will hang out together.
(She doesn't know it yet, but I plan to move into her massive apartment in a few years...shhh!)

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Friend #67

I actually debated for a week about making Friend #67 public. He is so interesting and yet
His name is Parker. He is close friends with my brother and sister-in-law. Parker's reputation precedes him in a way that no other can.
I've been hearing about the Parker-and-Kelly team for a few months because they were expecting a baby during the same months as my brother and sister-in-law, Parris. While in the hospital waiting for my niece to arrive, my brother mentioned that they were going to save the placenta. "Hmmm," I thought to myself. My brother explained, "Our friend Parker made placenta vitamins when his son was born a few weeks ago and he's going to do it for us." Awkward stares filled the delivery room. He explained the theory that essential vitamins are lost when the placenta exits the body, and by turning the placenta into pills, the mother can replace those lost nutrients with her own. Gag. I think I threw up in my mouth a bit.
Fast forward one week. We're sitting on my brother's couch and he shows me the infamous jar of placenta vitamins that Parker has, in fact, created for Parris's enjoyment.
Here's how he did it (Warning: Gag factor in full-force): My brother took the placenta home in a double-baggie and stored it in his refrigerator. He then gave the placenta to Parker, who dried it out and baked it on low heat for eight hours in the oven (think beef jerky.) Parker crushes the remains up and transfers it into empty pill capsules found at the health food store.
I finally met Parker at the baby shower two weeks after my niece was born. With me being a bit inebriated , Parker was christened "Placenta Boy". He was proud of his work, however.
Gift-opening time arrived. The baby received the usual toys and clothes. Then it was time to open Parker and Kelly's gift. The first gift in the bag was an adorable set of tactile burp cloths for the baby to experience touching different textures. Parker and Kelly were up all night making these, of course.
Then Parris pulled out a roll of butcher paper. "Ohhhh, I know what this is!" she screamed. In his defense, Parker warned Parris that the shower attendees may not want to see this. But we did...sort of.
Parris unrolled a set of prints...made from her placenta blood. It looked like a massacre. It looked exactly like what it was: placenta blood dripped on butcher paper. "I'm going to frame these!" Parris exclaimed, excitedly.
And that was the height of the baby shower.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Friend #66

I first met Friend #66 over an email. He was sending his reply to an invitation I'd sent him for my sister-in-law's baby shower. His grammar, eloquence with words, and spirituality reached out of the computer and made me almost stop breathing for a minute. All this in one little email.
His name is John Michael.
After reading the response, which had all the makings of an educated Southern gentleman in the early 1900's, I called my sister-in-law, Parris. "WHO IS this guy? I need to meet him!" Parris just smiled for a minute, "Oh, you're going to love John Michael!" I asked what his story was, and how a man could be so amazing in just one email. "I can't explain it, he's just wonderful." Great. Just wonderful. And although I'm solidly attached to my Michael, I couldn't wait to meet this man. Call it an English teacher's dream. And besides, I was pretty sure someone as fabulous as this man, was gay.
The day of the shower arrived and my hostess aura must have been shining because the first person to arrive shouted, "HI!!!" I spun around and saw this beautiful man who looked like the love child of Eddie Vedder and Robert Plant. Tall, with long, curly, dark hair, wearing a white linen button-down shirt, jeans and flip-flops. Before I could ask his name, this man gave me a huge bear hug and said, "Hi, I'm John Michael!" I was giddy and my Mike got a bit jealous, I could tell. We introduced ourselves for a minute and then he went to fill out a name tag. (I typically don't do name tags, but I found some really cool ones that said "Hi, My name is _____ and my special talent is _______" and "Hi, My name is _______ and I am the guest-of-honor's _______").
John Michael's name tag said "Hi, My name is John Michael and my special talent is Love." So perfect for such a man.
As I learned more about him, he revealed this: John Michael is a gay, republican, psychic/exorcist who actually attended the seminary. Intrigued? So was I! He emitted positivity, acceptance and grace. Everything he talked about was so joyful, it made me want to join whatever cult he was selling. (But he would never have a cult because he's too nice.)
It didn't surprise me that John Michael knew the entire beautiful gay wait staff at the restaurant. It also didn't surprise me that he had to leave early. (People that great always have a full social schedule, don't you know?)
I got another bear hug when he left and my teenage girl's heart sighed and wished I'd see him again.

Friends #64 and #65

I had to lump these two characters into one blog for the simple fact that for the entire hour I spent with them, they never left each other's side. And not in a good way.
Rachel and Chris are the parents of a little girl in Jack's class. We met at the Bouncy place where I brought the boys to play for an hour. Rachel introduced herself and immediately started talking about the kids' teacher Mrs. G. She asked me what I thought of Mrs. G and I told her that Mrs. G is one of my closest friends, so close, in fact, that she threw my baby shower when I was pregnant with Jack. I sensed that she wanted to gossip about my friend Mrs. G but she was cut off when her husband Chris introduced his self.
So there we stood, watching our kids bounce with Rachel on one side of me, and Chris on the other. This was a couple who didn't seem to be "in tune" with what each other was doing. Chris was talking in my right ear about his favorite band, Kiss (strange first conversation, right?) and Rachel was yapping in my ear about having Taco Bell on her shirt. Nodding in a forward direction seemed to be the way to go for me. When the kids moved to a new bouncy area, we did the three-person shuffle as we retained our positions. I tried to get away to check on Isaiah but these people just kept talking!
"...and then I told my daughter that she could not wear her jellys to school! Can you believe jellys are in style again..."
"...I just heard that Megadeth is coming to the Arizona State Fair! How rad is that? I'm gonna ask my neighbor if he wants to go..."
"...Hannah Montana...birthday party at 6pm tonight...teach Sunday school...Do you go to a gym?...Weight parents live off the 202 and Gilbert..."
"...when Metallica came to town I was in the 8th other son broke his collar bone..."
How much can a person talk before realizing that the listener isn't listening? I remember learning the etiquette rules of conversation in 6th grade. Apparently these people didn't.
So for the rest of the year now, I will be avoiding this family at every social school event.
But before I left, they invited Jackson to their other child's birthday party next month. I'll just pretend I didn't hear them.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Friend #63

Indulgence will ruin a child. In my almost 13 years of parenting I have learned (and am still learning) to control what my children receive during non-gifting events. When we go to Chuck E Cheese, they get a set number of tokens and when they're gone, they're gone. I do not say "yes" to every play date or fun event that appears to us. My kids need to learn the idea of moderation in order to control their spending and impulses when they're adults.
This weekend I met Kim, who is the mother of Jeremy, one of Isaiah's friends. Jeremy rallied his junior high friends together for a fun get-together at the local trampoline and bounce center. I taught Isaiah that when he's invited to an event, he needs to approach me with his request to attend with the full story: who will be there, what time, where is it, how much will it cost, and how will you get to and from the event. He finally got all the information together on the first try when he asked if he could go with his friends. A dozen 7th graders would meet at 11am on Monday at the bounce center, pay $10/hr to play, and transportation would be provided by each kid's parent. Simple enough.
We arrived at the bounce center 15 minutes early (I am the sole early bird in Arizona and I thank my MN roots for that...Minnesotans like to arrive early to help the hostess set up, typically, and being late is looked at as rude and inconsiderate.) At 11:05, Jeremy and his mom Kim showed up. She and I chatted about the normal "mother of a preteen" issues as we waited for the other kids to show up. In the meantime, we discussed how long the kids would be allowed to play.
"I'm going to let Isaiah play for an hour and I think I'll stay and let Jackson play too." Although pleasant, Kim said, "Oh...well...I'm going to let Jeremy stay for the maximum - three hours. Isaiah's going to miss out on all the fun if he leaves early!" I kindly explained that I am all for letting my kids have fun, but I'm not going to cater my day off to my kids' play needs at a screaming $10 per hour play center.
Then two more moms arrived with their boys. "How long are you going to let your boys stay?" I asked one mom. "As long as this lasts!" she laughed as she held up a $20 bill. The other mom consulted with all of us before deciding how long her son would be allowed to stay. So it looked like everyone would stay 2-3 hours except for Isaiah, who was just excited to be hanging out with friends at all. Then Isaiah's buddy Tommy showed up with his dad, Joe. Joe is like me...practical. He and I decided that after an hour of playing, I would bring the kids home and Tommy and Isaiah would have a united front when they needed to leave "early."
While bouncing Jackson ran into his classmate, Emerson (whose parents will be friends 64 and 65.) At the one-hour mark, I went to gather the three boys and found the sweatiest, wettest kids in the world. I knew they had a blast and I knew they were ready to leave. They thanked me for bringing them and as we walked out, Jeremy ran up to us and asked me if I could bring him home. "But you still have two hours left!" I explained. "I'm bored and my mom's not coming for a while." I let him call Kim and she convinced him to stay, reminding him that she had paid $30 for him to play.
I laughed a little inside and walked out the door.