Happy Father’s Day

To my dearest love,

It’s not easy to write blog posts one-handed, on the phone, in the dark while our hellion has a death grip on my arm but… This is my last chance to write this message in secret.

One unexpected thing about parenthood is how much more sensitive it has made me to the plight of suffering children. The news, always a source of horror and disappointment in humanity, now has an even deeper layer of poignancy for me when I read about the cruelties visited upon children and sometimes their parents. My mind involuntarily places me in their shoes and I’m frightened, but I take comfort in knowing you’ll always be here for me and Vale.

 

I wish I had another surprise for you to open since you already know about the botanical gardens, but I’m excited to stop and she’ll the roses together many times in the coming year.

I love you so much!

“Jen N”

April 6, 2018

The scariest thing about having a child is that I love her more as time passes. Some women are struck dumb and overwhelmed immediately by a newfound love for their child as soon as they lay eyes on their newborn, but I was not that way. I marveled at our tiny new human and felt an overpowering sense of responsibility, but love came gradually and incrementally; she grew and continues to grow on me like an incipient, spreading fungus, which is a foul trick I played on her father some 13 years ago. I didn’t cry when maternity leave ended and I had to be apart for her for full work days, but 5 months later, I miss her in an unexpectedly sentimental manner in the middle of the work day, from time to time.

And she is like me in this regard. She takes her time to make up her mind. She is amenable and flexible at first, until 3 weeks or 2 months later, she isn’t – whether it’s the bottle, solid foods, or sleeping through the night, and it’s frustrating to others who thought they understood, and indeed, relied upon her fleeting agreeableness. I don’t know how many times I thought I was not mad at my husband, only to decide, after some contemplation, several days or even a week later, that in fact I was very, very angry, just when he had settled back into a comfortable complacency.

Her father thinks she smells weird, but I love the way she smells, milky and soft. Her chubby hands smell like buttery buns from a Taiwanese bakery, and her scalp smells funny yet familiar.

A friend of mine once told me having a child is to experience your own obsolescence with each milestone. I understand this now, and also frequently consider that in almost no time, she may despise me, find me annoying, feel bitter about my failings as a mother, and become frustrated at how out of touch or technologically inept I am. I get lost in these thoughts and sometimes wonder what the point of this all was, but then another part of me doesn’t care.

Strange Feelings While Checking Out At Wal-Mart

I went to Wal-Mart the other day to buy Valentine’s Day cards for Vale to take to daycare, even though she has no idea what’s going on and no teeth with which to eat candy (haha! all for me, then!) I was standing at the self check-out kiosk, scanning items, and debating between the hologram dinosaur Valentine cards versus Peppa the Pig (I have no idea who the hell Peppa is). As I scanned body wash and York Peppermint Patties I also wondered whether these days it is considered negligent to give candy to classmates on Valentine’s Day, as opposed to organic, non-GMO fruit or some shit. I pushed these concerns aside with some thoughts of back in my day! and Fuck it! Candy is awesome. Be a little festive for Christ’s sake! But my fears would later be confirmed when I saw a friend’s Instagram of the tangerines she had wrapped in cellophane and tied with a bow a-la-Pinterest, for her son’s classmates.

As I internally railed against non-GMO, grass-fed, gluten-free, vegan fruits, I was only vaguely aware of an infant crying in a carrier a few kiosks away. The crying baby briefly triggered my recall of a time I was excited to make it all the way through a shopping trip with a happy Vale when she started fussing right as I pulled up to the check-out line; I sympathized with the poor mother.

Right when I decided on Peppa Pig, the woman in the kiosk next to me angrily muttered, “You know, that baby has been crying for two hours.” My first thought was, as to both the mother with the crying baby and the woman currently addressing me, who spends two hours at Wal-Mart? I responded generically, “Oh, that sucks,” assuming she was complaining about the noise, and also internally questioned, Wal-Mart is pretty damn spacious. Couldn’t you have like, moved three aisles away? Who stalks someone in Wal-Mart for two hours? But then she added, “Seriously, two hours. Screaming. Don’t you think the baby might be hungry or something? Ugh!”

Much to my surprise, the word, “hungry,” evoked in me a sudden, foreign, and involuntary feeling of deep sadness for the baby, and for a few seconds I felt quite horrible. I know of women who can pinpoint the exact moment they truly felt like a mother. I wouldn’t go as far to say this was my moment, because I don’t really ever have defining moments of that sort. Perhaps my emotions are so dulled, or my tendency to ruminate is so acute, that I let such moments pass for months before realizing their significance. In any event, for me, life is a series of small incidents melting together on a spectrum of experience; there are no “aha!” moments I can identify, in which I suddenly realize something profound. But still, I felt unexpectedly unsettled, as if an unfamiliar chamber of my heart had been revealed.

Vietnamese Coffee

Even as the more vivid details of our Vietnam vacation recede into the ever more distant past, something as simple as Vietnamese coffee with condensed milk can bring it all back on occasion. This past weekend, I took just a sip and was reminded of the days at our resort in Phu Quoc, when we developed a brief ritual of taking a seat by the window in the restaurant level of our resort, and starting the day with a small cup and saucer of Vietnamese coffee.

We followed our coffee with a combination of breakfast treats, including a pho bar and bahn mi. Aside from the smorgasboard of Vietnamese delights, there was a large selection of western morning foods as well, though we avoided the boring fare, like cereal. We concluded the daily decadence with an assortment of tropical fruits, my favorite being passion fruit, though the juicy dragon fruit and mango were equally memorable. The juices from these fruits trickled down the back of my hands, dried there, and interacted with the island sun, causing a strange dark patch to appear. I discovered that what I initially thought was a sunspot (expanding at a freakish rate) was actually a temporary tropical fruit scar when I casually consulted with a physician friend via Gmail.

While on the island of Phu Quoc, every morning, we ate and drank slowly in this way, enjoying the contrast between the smoky, dark coffee, and the pellucid, bright island atmosphere, treating ourselves to the ocean view and sea breeze floating in through the gigantic windows like a quiet new dream.

Morning Coffee

They held daffodils between their teeth as they wove flower crowns and years later

Flipping through old books she found four-leaf clovers pressed between pages

Crushed flat and still, preserved for no one

She felt the heat and shine of the rising sun and saw her friend in his car, preparing to leave the summer behind

She called out to him from the patio and said I love you

He turned to her and responded Ugh stop drinking

The child molester sitting a table away asks her about a boy as the morning coffee begins to waft

She says Give me a cigarette and I’ll tell you

She takes a drag and weaves a tale of indifference

As he lectures her about fickleness

Books for Children: Reviewing the Moral Lessons of the Giving Tree

I’m going to a baby shower tomorrow, and I actually remember what I bought off the registry. Typically, when I browse a baby registry to decide what to buy, my head starts swimming at the unfamiliar, and admittedly boring, products: bottle warmers, bottle brushes, diapers, nipple cream, butt cream, baby shampoo, drying racks, other products I could not even begin to explain if I tried, etc. This has not changed since I became pregnant. I can feel my eyes glaze over as I scroll through these items, and I vaguely dread the day I will have to make a list of my own. How do you know what you really need? This shit is hard!

Except, for the baby shower I’m attending tomorrow, there were some items that got me excited: Books. There were many fantastic ones listed, and I ended up getting The Giving Tree, Where the Sidewalk Ends, and Where the Wild Things Are. Aside from these books, I also bought one other thing. A mat or seat or tray or something that might go in a car possibly. I have forgotten already. But that is of less importance.

Seeing children’s books had me contemplating what messages these books actually convey. While I love both The Giving Tree and Where The Sidewalk Ends by Shel Silverstein, the contents of these books differ drastically. Where The Sidewalk Ends is a collection of short, fun poems that serve as a lovely introduction to poetry for children. My own father, who writes poetry, bought me this book when I was 7 years old.

The Giving Tree is where things get a bit more complicated. It’s wonderful in terms of illustration and story telling, but I do have reservations about the message it imparts at times. I remember being 15 years old and loitering at a bookstore with my best friend (one of our favorite pastimes), when I came across this book after not having thought about it in years. She told me she loved it and that it always made her sob. “Really?” I asked incredulously, because I literally had never cried from reading a book, much less a children’s story. She must have thought me equally strange, because she looked at me like I was the weird one for being skeptical of anyone crying at this book.

“I don’t believe you,” I insisted, and I opened the book and started reading aloud to her in the middle of the bookstore. Sure enough, to my genuine surprise, by the end, she was in tears and her face was red and puffy.

“Dude, fuuuuuck you,” she said. I looked around the bookstore awkwardly and felt pretty bad.

The Giving Tree is compelling because it is a tale of unconditional love and giving on the part of a tree, over the lifetime of a boy who eventually becomes a man. The boy/man takes everything the tree has to offer, until the tree has been stripped of her fruit, her branches, and her trunk, and she has nothing else left to give. Her love is apparently unrequited, because he never gives her anything in return. Seriously, he is sort of an asshole. I don’t think the book so much as depicts him watering her or providing fertilizer or anything.

When he is old and decrepit, she is nevertheless happy to see him, but laments she no longer has anything left to give. He states he does not need much at this point, and simply wants a place to sit and rest, to which she cheerily offers the only part of her left – the stump of her trunk that remains.

The ostensible moral of this tale is one of giving love without keeping tabs, which no one can deny is a positive way to go about life. Yet, something about the story never sits quite right with me, perhaps because the cynical part of me thinks this story glorifies suffering, martyrdom, and maybe even victimhood.

We are moved to tears until our hearts ache when we read stories or watch movies about unrequited, unconditional love, whether on the part of a lover or a parent, but the way it plays out in the real world is sometimes painful and ugly. Healthy relationships cannot endure an insistence on rigidly or constantly keeping score, but I would never want my child to be on the giving end of such a one-sided relationship. It’s not a recipe for a happy or healthy relationship of any sort. Letting someone constantly take without reciprocation at some point becomes a form of emotional abuse, doesn’t it?

Of course, this does not remotely mean I won’t buy this book for my child. In fact, I probably will, because it is stories like this that make life a bit more colorful. But as far as moral lessons go, it does leave one something to think about…

 

Refugee Family Reunites With Lost Cat After Epic Journey

I consider myself emotionally balanced most of the time, though I am prone to sentimentality over cats and rage over matters involving violations of human and civil rights. I think pregnancy has slightly magnified these tendencies of mine and today, I came across a moving story that encompassed both of these issues. Cats, human rights violations, and pregnancy were a trifecta that really pushed me over the edge in this case.

The Guardian shared a story of an unfortunate refugee family who had to flee Iraq due to circumstances of violence. They could not imagine parting with their family pet, a beautiful white cat (though I am partial to black ones), so a mother, five children, and their beautiful white cat named Kunkush left Iraq and headed to Greece together in November of 2015.

100,000 refugees arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos that month, and according to The Guardian video (below), “Kunkush was scared and got separated from his family.” This statement is written in big, unmistakable letters in this compelling video of human and animal resilience. The family had to move on, since Greece was merely a brief stopover point, and they did not yet know where there final destination would be, as is often the case with victims who are displaced by war.

Kunkush was located in a village nearby several days later, and was picked up by a veterinarian. After two months, a volunteer traveled with Kunkush to Berlin, and a search for his family began.

It turns out, his family had relocated to Norway, and in February, Kunkush was reunited with his family. This video (you have to watch it) is so incredibly touching, as it shows the loving reunion between Kunkush and his family after a long and seemingly impossible journey. The mother can hardly wait to get him out of the carrier, and once he is in her arms she cries, “Kunkush, my life! My darling!” as she kisses him. I almost fucking cried at work watching this damn thing.

There is nothing more beautiful than a happy ending like this; a family forced from their homes under tragic circumstances finds a new home, and their beloved cat makes it home to them under the most improbable of circumstances. You can read more here.

Yet, for every miraculous, beautiful moment, there is some ugly, vile, person with cow shit in the place of where their heart should be to tear it down. The story was posted by And My Cat on Facebook:

While many enjoyed the story and shared positive thoughts, many of the comments were imbecilic, egregiously ignorant, and reprehensible.  For instance, Exhibit A, Rita Maji DeLisi, a royal cunt who enjoys Ohio sports commented, “Sad…pathetic owners leave pets behind. Get yourself a statue next time. You don’t deserve the love pets provide.” Another equally cunty Facebook user apparently agreed with her and liked her garbage post.

 

Not to be outdone, Exhibit B, Corrina Peacock Ashley stated, “They shouldn’t have left him!!!” and Exhibit C, Bettyann Brunette Lilley called the family “pieces of crap” and “fools” for leaving their fur baby. That’s right; in reaching an unprecedented low, Lilley actually called children fleeing from war “pieces of crap” and “fools” because they lost their cat. It is truly un-fucking-believable.

First, maybe if Rita’s military was not bombing the shit out of Iraq and murdering civilians over there, this poor family probably would not have had to fucking flee to begin with. It’s easy for compassionless, disgusting north Americans to judge a family under these circumstances while stuffing themselves full of Doritos and Pizza Hut in the safety of their own homes, which have never been damaged, destroyed, or even threatened with foreign bombs or troops.

Second, it’d be nice if these fucking idiots would do the world a favor and learn to read. The video clearly indicates the cat was scared and ran off. He was not abandoned for fuck’s sake. If they were capable of reading even at a second-grade level, they would have learned from the video that Greece was not this family’s final destination. In all likelihood, they did not have legal status to stay in Greece indefinitely as undocumented aliens and search aimlessly for their runaway cat. Rita is possibly the type of American who supported Trump and his abominable wall and seethes with hatred at illegal immigrants, but she somehow expects this family to overstay their legal welcome in Greece to search for a fucking cat. Does this make any goddamn sense?

Even if the poor cat were in fact abandoned, is it too much to ask to have a bit of sympathy for a family literally fleeing for their lives? Let’s not forget that refugees drowned in Turkey and even Lesbos, where this family landed, and cats are not known to be the best swimmers. Maybe at that point, the family was relieved Kunkush had at least run away on land and not died. It’s easy to judge another human being, but no one really knows what they would do if forced into the same situation of war, violence, and displacement. But I suppose that’s far too beyond the mind of North Americans living their revoltingly militaristic and supercilious lives, marked by extraordinary obesity in both a metaphoric and literal sense – the overindulgent, masturbatory corpulence of the self-righteous American manifests itself both mentally and physically.

In sum, fuck these people.

Cafe Conversation

She invented the cloudy dreaminess in boys eyes and their obvious intentions,

While drinking a golden tea rendered from a sunburst of alien tentacles with a red heart.

He explains he is a budding musician and believes in god so she asks why and says

You can find god in pews, or resounding from the throat of a holy man or

You can find god in the five-lined staff

Where your wings force their way through the skin of your shoulder blades

To glitter or reflect the steely pall of your confessions –

But then sacrilege appears on the patio casting his poison on every frame of her daylight

A blank ghost, with colorless, translucent skin composed of love molecules from her youth.

She suddenly feels she might be compressed to a vanishing dust to be dissipated with the breeze

Becoming only a glint in the saga of conquests

A dead, buried, short story with no premise.

She has forgotten about the young musician and his guitar

And her tea has turned to mud.