Posts Tagged ‘Mother’

Silence

October 12, 2011

This morning I’m practicing silence. No talking, no singing, no radio or television. No social media or text (except to let my unanswered callers and “tweeps” know that I am practicing silence and will contact them this afternoon).

I didn’t plan this. I simply didn’t feel like talking or hearing any noise. I hesitate before waking my younger son for school. Will I be able to avoid speaking to the inquisitive young scientist? As I tap him awake and beckon for him to get up and go in the bathroom, he looks at me questioningly.

“Mom, why aren’t you talking?”

I just shrug and leave the room. He doesn’t ask me any more questions and continues getting ready without my usual prodding and reminders to “wash your hands”, “brush your teeth”, “wash your face”, “lotion your body”, “hurry up and stop playing.” You know, the usual comments I’ve been repeating to him every school day for the last four years.

I go into the study and write a note. I’m not talking today. I’m practicing silence. I take the note back to my son’s bedroom and show it to him as he dresses.

“Why?” he asks.

I shrug again, and he shrugs too. Discussion over.

I go downstairs and pack his lunch, clean the kitchen and glance at the clock. He only has 20 more minutes before the bus is due to pick him up and I still haven’t seen him in the kitchen for breakfast. What should I do? Break my silence and shout up from the bottom of the stairs, “Malikkkkkk! Where are you?! Come on Man!”

Hm, nope. Not today. Instead I clap my hands loudly three times from the base of the stairs.

“Coming Mom,” my younger son responds immediately, and comes jogging down the stairs completely dressed and ready for school.

Normally, I have to shout up the stairs at least two or three times before getting a response, but I clap my hands three times and he comes running? Hm… I may actually be on to something here.

But there’s still one more hurdle to overcome. The teenager. The 6’0” athlete sprawled out on his bed that usually cannot be awakened by the annoying alarm on his cell phone, the force of his younger brother jumping on his back and bed, or me prodding him and yelling his name repeatedly for five minutes.

Let the challenge begin.

After kissing my younger son goodbye, I make my way upstairs with determination. I will not speak, I promise myself.

As I walk into his room, I can see his body twisted in the sheets and comforter. His legs are hanging off the bed on one side and his arm is hanging off the bed on the other. His mouth hangs ajar the way it does when he’s in a deep, deep sleep. I stop to mentally prepare myself. I will not speak.

I forcefully shake his arm and back for a few seconds, and miraculously, he moves, stretches… and turns over on the other side and goes back to sleep. I don’t give up, or shrink away from the challenge. Instead, I slap his bare leg, hard, and he mumbles something, but keeps his eyes closed. I walk out of the room to gather my thoughts, then turn back and bang as hard as I can on the bedroom door. He jumps up, startled, and looks at me like I’ve lost my mind. Satisfied, I smile and wave him toward the bathroom.

“What’s wrong with you? Why aren’t you saying anything?” he asks me with the slurred speech of someone waking from a deep sleep.

I shrug and point to my mouth. I mouth… Not Talking.

“Why not?”

I shrug again and leave the room.

Long story short, he actually makes it to the bus stop on time (a rarity, but that’s another story for another time). He doesn’t go without trying to get me to talk to him, though. I refuse with a smile, some gestures and a hug and kiss before he leaves.

As he walks to the front door, he tells me in his new, deep, authoritative, young man voice, “I don’t like this not-talking thing, Mom. You need to talk.” Then he leaves.

What a peaceful morning. No struggles, no fighting, no yelling upstairs, no threats, no last-minute scrambles and sprints across the yard to catch the moving bus as it drives away from the stop. Peace, calm and order.

I might be pushing my luck to try it tomorrow, but I’m okay with feeling satisfied with what I got today.

Advertisements

Watch What You Wish For

December 2, 2010

It’s my birthday week. I’ve been anticipating and planning it for more than six months. My 40th. A true landmark year in terms of birthdays.

For my Sweet Sixteen, my parents planned a beautiful formal affair at a local civic center. My father, a professional photographer, took the pictures of the guys in their 1980s suits and matching Jerricurls. My boyfriend at the time, Jamal, had on a tuxedo with tails. I wore a fuchsia satin floor-length gown made just for me by a family friend – the same seamstress who made my debutante gown and wedding dress years later. I love to celebrate birthdays.

For my 30th birthday, I planned a grown-and-sexy pajama party. The pictures are under lock and key and what happens at an Althea party stays at the party, but I will tell you that the lingerie and silk pajama coed fashion show was something that will be remembered in many people’s minds for various reasons. Uh… well… those that were sober and can recall the events of that night. I love to celebrate birthdays.

I love birthday celebrations so much, I go as far out as I can with my sons’ birthday parties. I was just reminiscing with a cousin last weekend about Lil Maurice’s 1st birthday. He wasn’t even walking when I scheduled the inflatable bouncing machine, the husband-and-wife clown team, and ordered an elaborate Sesame Street cake that was large enough to feed our entire street of neighbors – many of whom came to celebrate the birth of the wild-child’s baby. I love to celebrate birthdays.

Anyway, I’m three days away from the big 4-0 celebration. Six months ago, I was trying to decide between a huge bacchanal adventure on a Caribbean island I hadn’t visited yet, or a month of partying with my friends in various cities where I’d lived. But in August, my close girlfriend and studio manager became very ill, and my mindset and daily life activities were… what’s a good word?… altered.

After two months of daily and weekly hospital visits, teaching multiple fitness classes, handling studio issues I hope to never see again, and still being an attentive mother, wife, daughter, sister and friend, I didn’t want to party. I didn’t even want to talk about my birthday. I just wanted to sleep. In fact, two months turned into three months and then four months. Hard and difficult decisions about life, and my business, and my family had to be made during those four months. Really hard and difficult decisions.

So, a month ago, my husband asked me – for maybe the 10th time – “Althea…” (when he says my full name, this means he’s really serious) “Althea, what do you want to do for your birthday?”

I sighed, and rubbed my eyes and sat back from whatever task I was engaged in. I blinked a few times, as though that would help me find the answer in my crowded mind. After a minute or two, I replied with a weary voice… “I just want to go to the mountains alone and sleep. I want to meditate and think and read and write and plan. I want to get a couple of spa treatments while I’m there and I want to eat good food that I don’t have to cook.” There, I’d said it. I’d made up my mind. And I meant it. No party, no people, no major celebration. Peace and quiet and me-time. No problem, right?

Big Maurice made all the arrangements. A long weekend at Chateau Elan. It wasn’t the mountains, but it was far enough away to be away and close enough to have dinner with hubby, the kids and my brother on my actual birthday. Chateau Elan – known for fantastic amenities and top-notch spa treatments – was my new focus. I just had to make it to the week after Thanksgiving. No problem, right?

I started with getting substitute teachers for my classes at the studio. Then I started wrapping up open items on the studio to-do list. Then I started planning what I would do with 4 quiet days to myself. I’d start on Wednesday with a late wake-up, breakfast with my twin who is also celebrating his 40th on the same day, an acupuncture session and then an afternoon of shopping at the outlets. Then on Thursday, I’d wake up late again, pack my clothing slowly and take a leisurely drive up 85 to the resort. My list of birthday weekend to-dos included things like planning my 2011 creative calendar, reading about chakras and meditation, soaking in a hot tub of scented water and listening to lounge jazz with a warm eye-pillow resting on my face.

What really happened was Big Maurice had a major meeting at his office on Wednesday, so I woke up early to get the kids off to school. I got stuck in traffic trying to get to my birthday-twin breakfast. My twin was in a bad mood the whole morning, so I spent the morning trying to cheer him up. I raced to the office after my acupuncture appointment to handle payroll and still missed getting my younger son from the bus. I sped through the crowded afternoon streets to meet him and do homework, cook dinner and begin laundry. My husband fell asleep on the couch around 9:30pm while I cleaned up the kitchen and yelled at the boys to “GO TO BED NOW! I MEAN IT!”

Okay, so Wednesday didn’t work out as planned. No biggie. The real birthday activities weren’t supposed to start until Thursday anyway.

Today – Thursday morning – I woke early again to get the kids ready for school because Big Maurice had to race to the office. My older son walks downstairs and calmly informs me that he forgot to tell us, but the band concert schedule was printed wrong at the beginning of the year and he actually has a band concert tonight at 7:00pm. As I look up from the computer screen of emails waiting to be answered, I gaze around the room at all the stacks of mail, unfolded laundry, shoes and bags everywhere and I remember…

Four months ago, I started asking – repeatedly – for a day with no appointments, classes or meetings. A day to be in my house to clean and declutter. In fact, I wrote two blogs about the clutter in my home and how my life was not allowing me to tackle it. It all came back to me. And I realized, at that very moment, that I’d gotten exactly what I’d wished, prayed and asked for. For my birthday, no less. A full day with no appointments, meetings or classes.

I now have a full day to clean and declutter my house until my younger son comes home from school and needs a snack before homework. I now have a full day to clean and declutter my house until my older son needs to find his band shirt and a clean pair of black pants and needs to be taxied to the school early to prepare for the concert. I now have a full day to clean and declutter before running to Walmart to restock the pantry and cabinets with food and toiletries before I leave for the weekend. And I will do all of this with joy so I can truly relax and enjoy my leisurely drive up 85 with my meditation books and scented eye-pillow.

I love to celebrate birthdays. Especially when I get exactly what I wish for…

Unprepared

July 5, 2010

I’ve blogged quite a bit about my family’s trip to South Africa – what we’ve seen, done, and experienced. But I skipped a very important piece – how personally unprepared for this trip I was.

I think it’s a mistake most wives and mothers make… we take care of everyone else before ourselves. In case of emergency, we hear the attendant on the plane instruct us to cover our face with oxygen first, then attend to our children. But in real life, we would instinctually do whatever it takes to save our babies’ life, even to the loss of our own.

All of this explains how I’m in South Africa in the middle of the winter completely unprepared.

The Background Story

I love to watch sports. More than my husband. He’ll try to watch an NFL or NBA game on television, but inevitably, he falls asleep – every time. I on the other hand, sit in rapt attention to my favorite team’s match against an arch rival. I’m not a big fan of NBA play, but I love NFL football and I am newly addicted to soccer.

I had my son record the world cup matches I was most interested in seeing. And at the end of the day, after everyone was fed, the house cleaned, and all of my responsibilities as a wife, mother and business owner were complete… I’d get comfortable on the sofa with my pillows just so and watch all 95 minutes of whatever match I’d missed during the day.

I would yell and shout at the screen – at missed passes, poor ref calls, and inept blocking by the goalies. The goal scored against USA by England in the first 7 minutes of play at the beginning of the World Cup almost sent me to the hospital.

But what does any of this have to do with the weather, you ask. Everything. When I watched all 95 minutes of those matches, I noticed that all of the spectators were wearing scarves, earmuffs and wool hats. I remember seeing Desmond Tutu in a triple fat goose 3/4 coat with scarf, hat and muffs and thinking, I’ve got to rethink my wardrobe for this trip. So I did. I mentally began preparing my clothing choices. The main problem was that all of my winter clothes were packed into storage bins in the basement. It’s the middle of summer in Atlanta, GA. The weather has been a sunny 85-90*F every day. So I waited to pack.

I tried to discuss our travel itinerary with my husband. “Where exactly are we going? How long will we be there?” Stuff like that. Because in my mind, South Africa is a big country and we were going to be traveling to the far north, east, west and south. The weather could be different in every city. I needed to be prepared – especially for my children.

“It’s winter in Africa, not Chicago,” my husband responded. “It’s going to get to 70* every day. Don’t worry about it.”

And I partially believed him. I packed my children’s suitcases with care. Some short-sleeved shirts and a couple pairs of shorts each. But I filled their suitcases with light-weight long-sleeved shirts, jeans, and thick sweatshirts (just in case what I was seeing on television was more accurate than what my husband was telling me). I also pulled out their fleece jackets that could easily be rolled up and stuffed in a backpack. They were good no matter what the outcome.

I, on the other hand, had a bigger issue. How would I put together winter ensembles without the matching boots? Most of my winter-wear including a matching pair of boots and purse. But I knew we’d be walking a lot and I couldn’t wear my favorite Franco Sarto heeled boots on a safari in South Africa, so I opted for fitness clothing. Stretch pants with light sweaters, and jeans with turtlenecks. All things I could wear with my sneakers.

Challenge… the turtlenecks and sweaters I wanted to pack were too thick, and I couldn’t get more than 2 of them in the case along with the rest of my clothing, a pair of shoes and my toiletries. So I trusted my husband and left the bulky sweaters and sweatshirts behind, and opted for thin, long sleeve shirts that I could wear under my fitted vests. Instead of a coat or jacket, I packed 2 wraps – one in beige and one in black. They’d go with everything I’d packed and they kept me warm through most of the Georgia winter, so they’d be perfect for the trip.

First problem: my husband forgot the kids’ jackets on the plane from Atlanta to Johannesburg. So there were no fleece jackets for either of my sons from day one of the trip.

Second problem: it was freezing cold in South Africa – North, South, East and West. It got down to 35-40* every evening around 6:00pm and stayed cold throughout the night until about 11:30am the next morning. So my husband was partially correct – it did get warmer in the middle of the day.

Third problem: we couldn’t get adjusted to the 6 hour time change for about 5 days, so we never woke before 2:00pm.  Most of our awake time and activities were during the cold-weather hours.

Fourth problem: the only game we had tickets for was in the warmer city of Port Elizabeth along the southern coast. Great. But when we found out that Ghana was playing the US just 2 hours north of Johannesburg, we traded in our game tickets and boarded a plane for the northern, mountainous city of Johannesburg. We then rented a car and drove 2.5 hours north to Rustenburg. Finally, we sat in an outdoor stadium at 8:30pm to watch the 2-hour match. We then stood for 45 minutes in a queue (outside in a field) to board a shuttle to our car. By 11:30pm, I was frozen stiff in my thin turtleneck, vest and black pashmina wrap.

Now, outside of the point of my being a cold-natured person who is rarely warm enough for comfort; and despite the fact that it was truly quite cold in every city we visited in South Africa; and regardless of the reality that it was windy in and around the mountains and off the ocean (which pretty much covers everywhere we went)… I was also upset because I didn’t look very nice.

In case you don’t know, I’m a relatively natural girl. I don’t wear makeup very often, and when I do it’s only eyeliner and lip gloss. I have long “dred”locs and I simply pull them back into a ponytail or let them hang loose. I don’t really spend much time on my appearance.

However, I do like for my outfits to be complimentary and complementary. That means, my clothes have to fit me well and match. Sneakers with stretch pants is not the latest fad in America or South Africa. In fact, it was African Fashion Week in Johannesburg while we were there. So all of the ladies were wearing skinny-leg jeans or leggings with knee-high or thigh-high flat boots. They had several layers of light-weight long-sleeved shirts and it was covered by short, puffy jackets, scarves and smart hats. Ooohhh, how I longed for my boots in the bin in the basement. And I have short, puffy jackets – at home in the states!

Sigh. I know it’s all vanity, but who wants to be out during fashion week in another country and look like a bumpkin. Just not my style.

To further my anguish, my mother protectively suggested to me before we left to leave my rings at home. So I did. All of them. Diamond, wedding band, silver funky costume rings. Everything.

So… I’m a makeup-less, no jewelry-wearing, sneaker with jeans woman. I look so young, the people in all of the hotels where we stayed kept asking me if Malik (my younger son) was my younger brother. They thought I was traveling with my parents (my husband and my mother who looks young enough to be my sister) and my siblings. Only one man thought my mother was my daughter. Sigh. I just can’t win on this trip!

Last thing – I have no purse. That’s right. My mother scared me so bad, I left all of my purses (big, medium and small) in Atlanta. I didn’t want some petty thief to snatch my Coach shoulder bag. So all I have is a small wallet with a wrist handle made out of pleather with a cracked mirror embedded in the side. To make matters worse, the wrist handle broke during one of our excursions and I had to tuck the wallet in the waist of my stretch pants (no pockets and no purse).

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am having the time of my life. Literally. The things I’m seeing, experiencing and doing are life-altering. I don’t take it lightly that I’m here with my husband, children, mother and father-in-law. This is an opportunity many dream about and may not ever experience in their entire life. I’m cherishing every sunrise over the mountains and sunset into the ocean. I just wish I looked cuter in the photos.