Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Saturday, October 17, 2009

Kid Gloves

There is a family that lives in our neighborhood, they have 3 children and these children are always playing in the street and appear to be unsupervised. The approximate ages of these 3 children is a 9 (boy) 6 (girl) and 4 (girl). The other day I saw the kids and their Mom out for a bike ride and the boy was flipping the Mom off as he rode in front of her and the Mom was laughing and chasing him as the 4 year old clung to the back of the bike and the 6 year old rode along side her. I had to look twice to make sure he was indeed flipping her off and I have to say I judged that woman.

I was out walking Sally last week when I saw the boy and his friend racing scooters and the 4 year old girl chasing them on foot. As I got closer the 9 year old got off his scooter, waited for his sister to catch up to him and then reached across and slapped her, open handed across the face as hard as he could. She grabbed her face with her hands and looked up at her brother. The friend looked at the boy and said in a startled voice, "What did you do THAT for?" And the boy looked at his sister with an expression of hatred and said, "because she's an ASSHOLE!".

In that instant I realized that the little girl had not even flinched when her brother had raised his hand. I also realized that at the age of 9, there is a boy who has learned to raise his fist in anger against his sister. I realized that in my neighborhood there is a boy who is being hit, a girl who is being hit and that is a way of life for them. As I walked by the three kids, they all looked at me and I said as softly as I could, "don't hit your sister, please don't hit your sister". He got on his scooter and rode away quickly and the little girl just stood there holding her face and stared at me, her eyes dry.

I had to walk away as fast as I could because mine were not.

Monday, April 20, 2009

Snowballs vs Hell

There is a female journalist that has been imprisoned in Iran and sentenced to 8 years for alleged espionage. Roxana Saberi had her press card revoked by the Iranian Government in 2006 and continued to report from Iran and was arrested in January of 2009.

Her story is all over NPR which I listen to religiously. Roxana’s father was interviewed by Neal Conan last night and he said that his daughter had been told if she said certain things, admitted to certain things, she would be released and she was not. He also said that she had been “pressured” into admitting things that had not happened. He said she did not look good, had lost weight and might have also been put under undue “stress” during her incarceration. She had mentioned a hunger strike which her parents have tried to talk her out of.

There has been so much media attention with regard to this story. There has been collective American outrage at a government so corrupt that an Iranian/American woman can be sentenced to 8 years for a crime that she is not guilty of with no chance or defending herself on American soil or in an American court system. There has been outrage that she was targeted for nothing else than being an Iranian/American and the charges have been fabricated to teach Americans a lesson. There is talk that she is not guilty of what she has been charged with, she is only guilty of having been an American woman traveling in Iran and expecting the liberties American women are given in this country.

I feel for her parents and the cost this must be to them, traveling to the Middle East and having to find lodging and shelter and food while this goes on. Her parents have to somehow balance their jobs, homes, careers, lifestyles between two countries while this situation escalates. The hope they must be given by the Iranian defenders and Iranian diplomats who side with them and the despair they feel each time they visit their daughter must be draining. They must be exhausted emotionally and physically since this all began in January.

My sister is in prison. She was sentenced to 18 years for a crime that while she concealed from the authorities for 7 or 8 years, she did not mastermind or commit. She is an accessory. She was charged with aggravated murder. I know my sister, she is guilty of having married a stupid, careless and sloppy man, a sociopath if you will, but she is not a murderer. The way my mother knows she will be in heaven someday is the way I know my sister is not a murderer. I feel it in my gut and in my heart. Nonetheless, she rots in prison for 18 years for a crime she concealed.

We cry “outrage” and “corruption” when something happens like what has happened to Roxana Saberi but when my sister was arrested, she was “pressured” into signing a full confession before talking to an attorney. She was told repeatedly by her attorneys during the first 6 months she was incarcerated that she would get out of jail. She was asked to say things about her husband that wasn’t true in order to get a better “deal”. She did everything she was asked only to have her lawyers bail on her at the last minute for fear of being found out and disbarred. She did everything she was asked to and more. In exchange for doing everything she was told to do and asked to do, she was sentenced to 18 years in prison with no chance of parole. I must not forget to mention that being in jail and prison is “stressful” in many different ways.

The strain this has put on our family is untold. The stress and strain and cost that it places on the persons responsible for transporting her children to and from the prison is extensive. The emotional roller coaster that everyone goes through each time there is a visit scheduled, trip made, and visits attended and then having to part is excruciating. The loss of parents and grandparents and the loss of a collective family support I once had is real. Then there is the cost of maintaining a family member while incarcerated which can be exorbitant. Families must pay for phone calls, spending money of the person in prison, the books sent, the food items purchased through the canteen, the flights and hotels and gas money to visit the family member, the list goes on. This of course does not even begin to address the emotional and mental stress and strain a family must endure within itself during this journey.

Today, Secretary of State Hilary Clinton called for a reexamination of the case against Roxana which would lead to her speedy release. She is calling for an Iranian fair review of the case in which justice would prevail and Roxana would be able to come home. As I listened to Mrs. Clinton stridently calling for justice, I had to turn off the radio before I threw it on the floor and kicked it into thousands of tiny pieces.

Where my sister’s Hilary Clinton? Where are her reexamination, justice and speedy release? Why has there been no outcry of public outrage for her?

I pray for Roxana Saberi and I pray for my sister. I wish them both the best of luck but if the Iranian judicial system is anything like the American one, she doesn’t stand a snowball’s chance in hell.

Friday, February 13, 2009


It is a well known fact that most parents feel that their job is to improve upon the job their parents did with them and be the best parents out there. This involves a lot of work and includes doing all the things their parents didn't do or the things they swore against. Some rules our parents lived by include but are not limited to:

Do NOT sleep with your babies - this will most likely ruin them
Do NOT breast feed in public - it will only frighten people and force men to ogle your breasts
Do NOT let your kids become brats by punishing them either publicly or in secret, but don't forget to punish them
Do NOT let your kids eat between meals
Do NOT tell them they are pretty or beautiful or cute - remember, "pretty is as pretty does" or "beauty is only skin deep"
Do NOT let them stay up late at night or skip naptime
Do NOT let them interrupt, talk with their mouths full or eat with their hands

The list is endless. I am sure that everyone has a great story (or fifty great stories) that includes being dropped off on the interstate when they had been fighting in the backseat and had pushed that last button while their parent drove down the road and parked and waited for them to catch up, exhausted and docile. Or how about the one where they were sent outside to pick their own switch with which they knew their Mom or Dad was going to beat them. Or my personal favorite when we'd go shopping and get dropped off at the TV department in Sears to watch whatever show was on at the time while my Mom shopped. Better yet, in my house the wooden spoon was never used for cooking but we sure went through a lot of them.

Here's what I did:

I slept with both my kids - until they got tired of me and begged to have their own beds.
I breastfed whenever and wherever my kids got hungry regardless of the restaurant, mall or strip club I was in.
I have never given my kids a timeout in a public place - just never had to (yet)
My kids eat all the time
My kids think they are more beautiful than all the Disney Princesses rolled into one
My kids have a bedtime and only one of them currently naps (ooops).
My kids only have to scream "EXCUSE ME" and I stop whatever I'm doing to listen to them talk about their culo liking cheerios or their boogies taste good with milk. I'm not sure if they really are wanting to say something important or they just like to hear their voices in action.

Parenting is admittedly a tough job. It comes with no paycheck, no paid vacation, no 401k and no assurance that your kid will someday find a cure for cancer or win a pulitzer. Quite the contrary. You can send your kids to church, make them attend church school, socialize them with other "good" kids and watch them graduate from college, only to have them one day end up in prison (true story). Or you can foster their artistic side, send them to camps that you've had to finance because they are so damned expensive, find them the best child psychologist to help them through the tough times, only to have them end up homeless and addicted to meth (another true story).

I'd like to say that I'm doing it all right. The playdates, the gymnastics, the ballet, the museum trips, the workbooks, the Baby Einstein and the educational toys are all going to pay off someday. While I currently have no plans on leaving them in the car with the keys in the ignition while I grocery shop so they can listen to the music, I guess I didn't turn out too badly, but I do keep an extra wooden spoon in the upper right hand drawer... for cooking, of course.

Monday, January 19, 2009


It started with Friendster a few years ago . . . an old student of mine sent me a request to be his friend on Friendster. Remember Friendster? I joined, it didn't do much for me, I had no idea what I was doing except I had this one friend and then after about a year I had 2 or 3 friends. Non many of my friends belonged to Friendster so it was not a big deal. It died out.

Then one day my husband said, "Hey you should check out this MySpace thing" so I set up an account and labored over customizing my page. I had to have the most relaxing color and the most groovy font. I wanted the Dixie Chicks to sing that song that pissed everyone off in the country music world when my page loaded. I wanted my political views to slap everyone in the face when they browsed my page. I only wanted cool friends and sent Spam reports every time someone I didn't know, oh and porn stars tried to add me as their friend. It was very high school.

It was during my MySpace era that I set up a Facebook account. It was soooooo Dull, with a capital D. I quickly returned to MySpace. Much like the attention span of a high schooler, I lost interest in MySpace as it got "seedy" and "lame" and turned to Facebook. It was exciting!

It was so adult. It was so grown up. It was so hassle-free and vast. I found people I went to school with when I was 12 years old. I found people from around the world that I never thought I would meet again. I found boys I had dumped in college. I found girls whose clothes I had borrowed and never returned. I found people I hadn't seen in 20 years who now lived down the street. I found people who snubbed me and never accepted my friendship requests. I found people who collected friends but never actually emailed or chatted with me. I found people who remembered me, but for the life of me, I could not remember them. It was exhilarating!

It was addicting. All of a sudden I was checking Facebook before I checked my email. I was sneaking off to play Scrabulous (until they took it down) while the girls ate lunch. I was wishing I had a blackberry so I could check it at play dates and playgrounds. I was asking my husband if he could play Scrabulous with me from work. I was accepting and sending plans to help stop global warning. I was finding more and more friends I had lost contact with over the years. I was giving gifts of Indian food. I was buying Hermes scarves and handbags. I was having to pick a new pair of shoes everyday to avoid being barefoot. I was taking quizzes and tests and given compatibility scores. And then there was the chat! I could see who was online and decide if I wanted to chat with someone in the Canary Islands. I was It was like having a new full time friend and to tell you the truth, it was exhausting.

I wonder sometimes what we will do when we outgrow Facebook as we are bound to do. Will there be something bigger and better? Something even more exciting, exhilaration and exhausting? Will it include planting trees? Will there be Indian food? Will I be cool and have hundreds of friends? Will it be called Call Sheet? Binder Book? Roster List? Roll Call? Whatever they call it I'm sure that it will be a wild success and that it will lure people from everywhere much like Friendster, MySpace and Facebook.

Here's a wild idea, how about finding the time and space to sit down with your closest friends, have a coffee and chat and catch up and enjoy each other's company and call it "Face Time"?

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


There is a homeless camp near my house. You can barely see it because it is hidden behind lots of shrubs and trees that sprout up quickly and that make the space between the freeway and the turn off to my home a small forest.

Today on my way to take the kiddos to the park I noticed a bunch of orange Caltrans trucks and equipment parked by the side of the encampment and saw they had cut down all the foliage and had thrown several tents, tarps and what looked like belongings into the trucks to haul off to the dump. I only hope the people who lived there knew they were coming and had a chance to take their belongings before the cleanup crew arrived.

I felt sad as I sat there and watched the Caltrans people weilding electric tree cutting and shrub cutting equipment until the car behind me honked and I had to start driving again. Now the people who made that camp their home are homeless. They were homeless to begin with.

I'm smart enough to know that homeless people are not all mentally ill, avoiding child support payments or people who don't want to pay taxes. They are also people who lost their homes and families through tragedies, people with substance abuse issues and people who have no support systems. We have so few shelters and the shelters we do have fill up so quickly that there are always people forced to make homes for themselves on the streets.

I have been homeless before, not the kind of homeless where I've had to live on the streets but homeless where I've slept on people's spare beds, lounged on their couches and shared their dormroom beds. I have always had a support system however and that has kept me from sleeping on benches outside, from camping off freeway exits or having to walk all night to keep warm. Once I had to sit in a train station in the bathroom from 2am to 6am but even then I was relatively warm and had shelter.

When my eldest asked me what was going on, I told her that they had torn down the homeless camp and that they had thrown away their tents and tarps and things. She said, "Oh NO! Now we don't have anyone to give our crackers and snacks to anymore"! And she was right.