Wednesday, July 1, 2015

578,424 lives to change.

Throughout our visit to The Big Easy Cheetah noticed the people on the streets who were sleeping, crying, or asking for help (food, money, jobs, or shelter).  He asked, “Why does it seem that so many of these people live on the street?”  Thoughtfully, I answered, “Because many of them do live on the streets.”  I let that sentence sink in as we walked in silence, for a few blocks. 
“How does that happen?  How do you not have a place to live?” he asked.

I began, “There are a lot of situations that can lead to homelessness, son; it is something that effects all races, genders, and economic statuses.  That means it is something that can happen to anyone.”  I am no expert on the topic but I tried my best to cover all the situations I could imagine. I tried to cover financial loss & unemployment, drug & alcohol addiction, and mental & physical disabilities. 

I reminded him of our conversations on debt and how easy it can be for a person to get behind financially, I also explained how unemployment and lack of skills can leave a person without a way to make a living.  Then I tried to describe addiction and disabilities and how alienating they can be, how they build up walls in your life that make it difficult for you to continue fruitful relationships with the ones you love.  I attempted to clarify why some drugs are illegal, what they can do to you, why people take them and how deadly and addicting they can be.  We googled pictures of some of the drugs he had heard of and I took the opportunity to educate him on some of the synthetics that are sweeping the nation and ways to say “no” to people.  He seemed to grasp how feelings of despair and depression can lead people to a life of solitude; how inviting being on your own can be when you feel unworthy or if you're frightened you may be hurt or hurt someone else.  Then I covered medical care and how the inability to afford proper medical care can leave people in mental and physical states where they cannot be taken care of properly or cannot afford to take care of themselves, properly. 
By this time I was zapped, but I could see our hotel and knew we would be in a dark cool hotel room in under five minutes.  That's when I was thrown a curve-ball.  We crossed the last street there sat a disabled man wearing a hat similar to my father’s, it read “Vietnam Veteran.”  I could barely breathe.  The Boy squeezed my hand so tight.  He reached into his pocket and gave the man his dollar.  He then said, “Thank you for your service.”  Silently we walked through the hotel and boarded the elevator, still holding hands.  Once we reached our room he asked me how I thought that man ended up on the streets.  I then tried to explain war and how it can leave a solider broken, to a nine year old.

Thankfully Tarzan called and asked if we would be willing to pick him up.  Cheetah and I jumped in the car and headed out of the city.  As I piloted the car through the rain his eyes fell upon the underpass where a large number of (what he/we assumed to be) homeless people; his voice shook as he uttered, "Mom there are just too many of them.  We have to help."  He was right.  (Please check out The National Alliance to End Homelessness in America, they have viable solutions for all areas.)

We picked up Tarzan and he rounded up the final questions Cheetah had for the day and filled in anygaps in the explanations we had discussed earlier in the day.  Our tired minds and heavy hearts needed some lifting, so we headed out for frozen yogurt before bed.  I was so glad he opted to take a shower and call it a night, after binging on frozen goodies.  I turned off all the lights and sat on the floor by the bathroom listening as my sweet son drifted off to dreamland swimming in the sounds of my Bread station on Pandora.  He might not have been aware of it but I saw pieces of his innocence dying that day and it was so unsettling to see the harshness of the world through his eyes.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

Everybody loves Muhammad Ali.

This past weekend Tarzan, Cheetah, and I headed to The Big Easy, or Our City - per Cheetah.  Tarzan had a competition to attend and we decided to make the most of his built up Hilton points and get out of Cajun Country for a couple of days.  After spending Friday as a family and doing the zoo, Cheetah and I spent Saturday hitting the high notes.  We walked nearly 17 miles in those 2 days, exploring Our City and getting to know each other.  We asked each other hard questions and talked about subjects that make parents uneasy.  We talked about drugs, homelessness, love, statues, and violence.  It seemed that around every corner was another verbal mile marker:  a moment to teach him how the world works; a moment to stop and hug; a moment to reflect in a parent's loss for words.

After lunch and a power nap we rode the riverside trolley to the end of the line with the intention of walking back to the hotel, after grabbing a bite to eat.  We were discussing all the statues we had seen that day and what made each person worthy of becoming a permanent part of the New Orleans scenery.  We discussed Andrew Jackson, Henry Clay, and Joan of Arc.  At this point in the conversation I noticed that a large rambunctious group of young men, that were celebrating, had been walking ahead of us for more than 5 blocks.  I discerned that though they were partying and their conversation was being carried well beyond our ears, their language was noticeably censored.  I was impressed that such spirited men could be aware of young, impressionable ears.

As we got closer to CafĂ© Du Monde, Cheetah began discussing the statues of Louis Armstrong and Antione “Fats” Domino, "Mom I have a question that is hard and I don't think you will have an answer.  Why are there not more statues of black people, why are there only statues of musicians?  Lots of black people have done great things."  A bit leery of how to answer his inquiry I carefully began constructing my answer.  "Dude that is a really good question and you're right, I don't really have an answer.  It doesn't make sense."  I realized that while I was answering Cheetah, the young men had grown silent and were mouthing things to each other and began glancing back towards us.  “I mean what about Martin Luther King, Jr or Muhammad Ali?”  He added, “Everyone loves Muhammad Ali.”

Before I knew it, we had physically collided with the group of young men.  They had all turned around to face us and were smiling.  One guy grabbed The Boy's arm and asked if he could shake his hand, confused he obliged and took his hand.  Another young man then hugged me and said he was really touched by my honest answers and frank conversation that I was having with my son.  With watery eyes he turned to his friends and said, "I am speechless."  They all nodded and added their pieces of praise to my loving son, gave him high fives, and we all voiced our good wishes.  They headed towards Bourbon Street while we kept moving towards our hotel.

Cheetah smiled and said, “See Mom, everyone loves Muhammad Ali.”

Laughing, I hugged him tightly.  “I believe you’re right,” I said.


Tuesday, May 19, 2015

A journey interrupted.

I have been on a journey.  Like every other journey it proved to be enlightening, painful, and a bit disappointing.  In just over 2 years I have lost 60lbs, learned how to defend myself, and reclaimed my estranged self confidence.  Sadly my body couldn't keep up with my spirit.  So with a trick knee and a few bulging discs, I have had to hang up my gi and resign my goals of wearing a black belt.

For several months I have been mourning the loss of my four year plan.  It was so exciting to have a goal again, a reason to work hard and strive for more.  I have been lost and depressed.  However, I am determined that this will be a mere hurdle and not a set back.  With some lifestyle changes, I have been able to keep the weight off but I am still in search for the next step.

Tarzan and I have a goal for 2025, but what will 2015-2025 have in store?  For now I will work on living life and possibly cultivating my writing.  It is possible that dust and cat hair aren't the only things residing in my laptop, may be inspiration lives there too.  Checking Google will be the obvious next step, there is bound to be an app for that...