Displaced Stay At Home Californian in rural N. Carolina

The Many Faces of Joy

The Many Faces of Joy

Friday, July 22, 2011

To Pee or Not to Pee

Today we spent some time at a big mall doing some back to school shopping. The back to school shopping turned into a contest to see who could drive me crazier and then lots of whining began and I decided it was time to have lunch. Here is how the conversation went:

"Does anyone have to go to the bathroom before they eat?"
"No Mommy, I just went"
"No Mommy, I am just starving!"

I broke down, headed to the food court and bought the girls their favorite lunch of all lunches, it includes the word Happy in it and to make me feel better about consuming this crap we like to call it "Old Macdonalds" after the song. I got the girls situated, their 2 pounds of ketchup each, their straws in their sippy cups and in front of a huge television playing music videos. I then had to order my food, which happened to be a stir fry dish with rice and kimchi right next to where they were sitting. As soon as I sat down to eat, one of the girls grimaces at me and says, "I have to go pee really bad!"

I did what any hungry and irritated parent does, I asked her to hold it. After one more french fry she told me she couldn't anymore and it was at that moment I asked my big girl to go to the bathroom on her own in a huge mall. We have trained for this moment for months, we have gone over the steps we take and we have talked about what we do when faced with awkward or uncomfortable situations in public bathrooms or anywhere else.

As I sat there with my eyes on the bathroom door (of course we picked seats right in front of the bathroom, what do you think I am, a rookie?) I was reminded of a story my mother tells about my brother. My father had recently passed away and my mother was left with 3 small children one of which was a very stubborn 5 year old boy who until this day, was not demanding emancipation from bathroom accompaniment. So my mother decided to let her 5 year old man have his moment of privacy and sent him into the men's room alone. In my mind, we are in an airport but lets face it, the setting doesn't matter, sending a 5 year old child into the bathroom alone in any public place can be terrifying. Then she stood there by the door, balloons in hand, with her 2 daughters, waiting for her son to come out.

Within about 3 minutes the sound of a child wailing, "maaaaaaaaammmy, maaaaaaammmmy, wipe my bottom" comes floating around the corner of the public men's room. My mothers version includes the entrance of a well dressed kindly looking man heading into the bathroom who noticed the concern and frustration on my mother's face and offered assistance. He walked out of the bathroom a minute later with my brother, apparently he helped wipe him, get his pants up and wash his hands. As a child this story was hysterically funny but as a parent it is more concerning and panic causing. If you don't believe me, read it to a single person with no children and then read it again to someone with little ones.

I was so proud of my girl when 3 or 4 very long minutes later she came out of the bathroom all smiles, mission accomplished. She retold how she focused on the task at hand, flushed the toilet with her foot like I'd taught her, and then washed her hands with soap and did it as quickly and as efficiently as she could. She put a french fry in her mouth and said, "Now I can eat my fries, they aren't too hot anymore".

I was going to breathe a sigh of relief but her little sister cut me off with "Mommy, I have to go poo-poo bad!"

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Passing Judgment

Someone recently called me judgmental. I have to say that it smarted and I haven't been able to get it out of my mind. This same person also called me conservative but I've run that idea past about 12 friends so far and it was met with peals of laughter so I have disregarded that comment as just plain silly. But the judgmental comment rankled me and I haven't been able to shake the feeling that the person who made it is judging me unfairly.

Does it bother me because I am judgmental? Does it bother me because I don't want to be seen this way? Lets face it, in our own way we are all judgmental. We bring our upbringing and our bias and our education and experience to every situation and we judge all situations based on our biases and where we come from. I once saw a picture of 3 little kids in the backseat of a car somewhere in South Dakota on a reservation. All 3 of the children were under the age of five and there was not a single car seat or harness or booster in the backseat of the car, so I asked "where are the car seats?" I can say without a question of a doubt that I immediately judged the parents of those 3 children for not buying the adequate safely equipment and installing it in their car. There are charities out there that will give you a car seat or car seats if you don't have the money to buy one so your children can travel safe, so saying that they cost too much money was not going to be an acceptable option. I was told that "in South Dakota on the reservation they don't follow those rules". Since I didn't know those people or those children, I had to let it go. Judge and release.

This morning I took the girls to Target and in the parking lot of Target there was a domestic dispute between a woman and a man. The woman was sobbing and the man had taken her car keys and walked into the store leaving her alone and with no way of driving away. She was screaming at the man as he walked away and it was unclear if she was drunk, angry, or just plain crazy. Either way, my heart went out to the woman and I immediately judged her and wished she would get out of that relationship. No man should walk away to the sounds of his woman sobbing in pain, anger, frustration or craziness. And no woman should stay in a bad relationship, no matter how great that guy is in bed.

So maybe I am judgmental. And maybe it is something I need to work on. But in the meantime, here is a list of people who are going to be judged by me:

People who text while driving will still get dirty looks from me. And people who smack their kids in public will still get dirty looks from me. And people who intentionally pick on someone who is smaller or weaker will get a few words from me. And people who answer my questions with a bible verse will get raised eyebrows. And people who cut off cyclists on the road will get honks from my car. And people who cheat good waiters out of a good tip will get a comment from me. And if I see you kicking or hitting your dog, I will steer clear of you. And if I hear of you driving around town with your kids in the backseat and you are under the influence of alcohol or drugs, I will judge you. And if you post pictures of yourself doing stupid stuff like smoking pot with your kids on Facebook, you got it, I'm judging you. (there is more to the list, if you want the whole list, email me and I'll send it to you)

And if you call me judgmental, I'll most likely blog about it so that all 16 of my blog followers can read it and judge the both of us.

Thursday, July 7, 2011


I went to Peru in my 30's on vacation. I went with a friend who left 24 hours after we got there for a job interview in Paraguay or Uruguay or Chile - I can't remember where - and left me alone for about a week. I speak Spanish fluently and had I had done some traveling in my life so I wasn't worried about getting around in a foreign country. I was also staying in Miraflores which is an upscale and touristy area that foreigners pump money into to avoid having to visit Lima. It is like going to Jamaica on your honeymoon and staying at a Sandals resort. I might as well have gone to Atlantic City or Waikiki.

Anyway - when we landed in Peru and walked out of the airport with our bags, we were met by what felt like 3 million taxi drivers or "taxistas" asking us to choose them. I was impressed by a fellow who spoke pretty clear English and who followed us through the parking lot as we pretended we knew where we were going. It was 2 or 3 in the morning so taking a taxi to a hotel instead of a bus was what we were going to be doing. We ended up riding with this fellow who had lived in Dallas and joined the ranks of undocumented illegals who come to the US to make a better life for their families.

We had a long ride - it turns out that to get to Miraflores from Aeropuerto Internacional Jorge Chavez it takes a while, so we chatted in Spanish and he seemed concerned that an single American lady would be puttering around Lima/Miraflores alone. He cautioned me about sightseeing alone because of how dangerous Lima was and warned me to stay to the nicer and ritzier areas of Miraflores. The next morning after my friend left for his job interview, I got a phone call at the hotel. It was that nice taxi driver, calling to ask me if I'd like to come and stay at his house as his guest for the days I would be on my own. I hesitated for only 3 seconds and then I said yes.

I had a wonderful 5 or 6 days staying in a very poor part of Lima, eating local food, visiting local markets, taking local transportation, meeting locals and hanging out with my new friends. This family had 4 children, the older two were 20 and 22, the younger children were 5 and 7. This family was very, very poor. The money the dad made each night driving the taxi, which he rented, first went to pay the $40 dollar nightly rental fee and then the rest was used for buying the daily staples for breakfast , lunch, and dinner. Sometimes there wasn't enough left to pay the bills like the $100 dollars they paid monthly for rent. I heard this story a lot in the 5 or 6 days I was there.

It turned into a continual plea for money. I realized that to these people I was like Donald Trump, I had so much money! I had already told them I would be flying to Cuzco at the end of the week to visit Machu Picchu for a week and then back to Lima and out to Iquitos to visit the jungle. These people had only been to Miraflores (20 minute cab ride away) once or twice in their lives. For me to have come all the way to Peru to visit and to travel around their country made me seem like the richest person they had ever met. It was unheard of.

The money plea started to get really old after the second day. I was tired of hearing how if I didn't help them, they would be evicted and thrown out in the street, how the girls would become prostitutes, and how the husband would have to leave again and brave the dangers of coyotes to get to the US to find work and money. The mother told me that her girls were already considering different kinds of sex work to scrape together money. It was heartbreaking and annoying at the same time. How could I be so callous?

When I left these people's house I gave them the money I would have spent on a hotel during the nights I stayed there. It was more money than they had seen in years. The entire family including the father broke down and cried for a long time and just stared at the money. As soon as their tears dried they began to beseech me to send them money after I got home so that they wouldn't become destitute. It was unending and I just wanted to get away from them. As the Dad gave me the last taxi ride to the airport I thought that was the last of them. Imagine my shock and horror when I returned from Cuzco and the whole family was waiting with big smiles and hugs to greet me at the airport.

The friend I was traveling with had lived in different countries and had seen this a lot. He was familiar with this type of ambush and just walked through the crying family members and went out to hail a taxi. I felt terrible because I felt like I owed it to these people to help them find a way back home. At least I needed to take their father's taxi so that he could have one decent fare that night.

I made promises to keep in touch and to send money. I made promises to not abandon this family and to always keep them in my thoughts and prayers, and my Western Union account. I sent them a package and pictures both of which came back to me unopened. They had moved. I sent them money one time and the money was received but I got at least a hundred emails with requests for money. In the last email I got, the mother told me her daughter had gotten pregnant and they needed money for baby things because she didn't know who the father was and she was raising the baby herself. I wanted to reply that I didn't have money at that time but if I did I would try to send it but to them. I felt like I was holding out, like I wasn't helping or holding up my end of the bargain.

In the end, I never replied. I never sent them anything more. I felt like what I did for them was never going to be enough. I can't help but wonder if they are alright and if they have enough. I can't help but feel sad that all I wanted to do was run away or get them to stop begging me for more and more and more. I hope someday I get to say sorry.