Monday, April 29, 2013

When my son says he's starving . . .

I've mentioned a time or two that my boys eat a lot.  This week I ran into a friend who'd made the kind (but unwise) decision to invite N-son and J-son over for lunch earlier this year; once the meal started and she saw how my boys were wolfing everything down, she and her husband skipped their own meals to give the boys ALL the food on the table.  "Your boys eat SO MUCH!!," she told me later.

Teenagers, I thought.  Yes, of course we make 10 potatoes (plus salad, plus hamburgers) for the five people at home.  Of course we cook two pounds of spaghetti at a time. Doesn't every family with growing boys eat this way?

And then I went to a end-of-season squash team celebration.  And the coaches and aides there who work with this gang of two dozen teenagers all came up to me and said, "Your boys eat SO MUCH!!"   They went on, "When we have pizza, we now have a rule that everyone gets two slices.  All the other players get their two slices, and then they're done, and THEN we let your boys go for food, and they finish EVERYTHING on the table!".

So, what do you do when your son tells you he's starving?  You feed him.
How many potatoes have you had today, J-son?  Four!
But there's more to this story.

Friday evening, J-son came to tell me, "I'm starving".  And I corrected him: "no, you're hungry.  There are lots of children around this world who don't have enough to eat; some of them go so long without food that they go to sleep and don't wake up again.  They are starving.  But you are going to get food."
We have so much food, we can play with it.
(Processed cookies courtesy of my non-miser husband).
This rocked J-son back a bit, of course.  But when we were talking about this, neither of us realized how close this conversation was actually touching us -- that, without quite realizing it, we were talking about a member of our own family.

This very same weekend, a friend of mine got back from Haiti where she'd gotten a chance to visit with X-son, the boy we're trying to adopt.  Since we got to see him two Decembers ago, he's been through dangers that are hard for me (here in my warm, cushy, lavish home) to imagine.  A few of these:

  • getting typhoid.  
  • Being tied up and beaten.  
  • Hearing the lie that we had abandoned him.  
  • And going without food, sometimes for days at a time.  
What do you do when your son tells you he's starving, but he's a whole other country and a tangled bureaucracy away from you?

My friend pulled some strings, and she took a few risks herself.  She got X-son into a safer orphanage, one where he'll get food and education and no beatings.  She gave him letters and presents from us, promising that we're still working to bring him safely to the U.S.  We've heard from our lawyers that the Haitian government has just reopened their adoption process:  "IBESR is opening this week and we are working very hard to get your IBESR number!"  I love the exclamation points.

X-son's story came at an important time for me, now that we've finished paying off our mortgage and are facing all sorts of choices about where all our money will go now.  Financial independence beckons from afar, of course.  And it would be all-too-easy to start throwing money at triathalons, or at deferred home maintenance, if I were the kind of person to throw money.  (Which I'm not).  But instead, this news from Haiti reminds me that I'm not making decisions only for myself in this world; I want to have the chance to feed my son.

And not to be all melodramatic or anything (although, really, it's hard not to be melodramatic when I think about what X-son and his friends are going through), it's good to remember that I'm fortunate enough to have something to share; maybe now I can afford to feed just a few other people's sons and daughters, as well.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

Miser Mom's bicycle transition

School's out.  Woo-hoo!  I'll have a bit of time to do some blog updates.

So, I'd planned to do my best to become a bicyclist sometime this year.  I bought a fancy-schmancy bike for way-too-much money last November, and gave it a name (the SPDM).  I promptly stored it in the front room.  And  left it there.

A rainy fall grew into an icy winter. And my bike stayed safely stored away.

And the icy winter turned into a stunningly beautiful spring, but training for the marathon took precedence over everything, including over the shiny, lonely bike.

And the weekend after I finished my marathon, finally, out came the SPDM for my first long-ish ride.  And I was all set to treat this as the first in a long series of attempts to master this bike.  But to my utter surprise, I was instantly hooked.  Instantly.   This was love at first sight (or first ride).  Shazzam!

My first ride with my friend Andy, we did only 16 miles.  It was the perfect distance, because I learned a lot -- not directly about bicycling, but about all the little stuff that goes into bicycling.  For example,
  • now I know how to use my husband's high-tech tire pump.
  • I need a different pair of sunglasses, one that doesn't keep sliding down my nose.
  • Canvas shoes don't cut it; my feet were icicles by the end of the ride.
  • I decided I want a longer handle-bar post.
But as for the riding itself, I had a blast.  At the beginning, we were riding through our bumpy, congested city, and I was tense (but more about the potholes than the about traffic, surprisingly).  After about two miles, we got out into rolling farmland; we sailed by chickens, sheep, rivers, and acres of fallow farms.  And I just had a fantastic time, shifting gears, figuring out how to move my hands from the grips to the top of the handle bars, standing up a few times as we went up hills, and even tearing down a huge hill toward the end.   As we whirred our way homeward, we were making plans for longer, regular rides, even challenging ourselves to do a hundred-mile-ride together before the summer is out.

And isn't that the way things often go?  It's not really doing something that's the hard part; it's transition that's hard.  Preparing to paint a room takes five times as long as painting it.  Moving to a different home is hard partly because of the unfamiliarity of the different home, but largely because packing and moving is overwhelming.  Even something as simple as going out for a run shows how tough the transition can be -- what really kills my own exercise resolution is that quiet time of staring out the window at the weather, wrestling with myself about whether to leave the warm bed.  And the longer it takes me to hunt for each stupid little piece of clothing, the more likely it is that the "bed" side of me will beat out the "run" side.

My second ride was 27 miles, at a faster pace than my first -- long and hard enough that my back hurt by the end.  But it was still a thrill, leaving me jazzed for more.  I've convinced my sons to ride to drum practice, doctors' appointments, and friends' homes.  I've splurged again, and bought proper sunglasses (March) and then bike pants (April).

I'll have a few more bicycle stories to share this summer, of course.  But I thought I'd make it public knowledge that me and the SPDM, we're an item now!