Monday, 28 April 2014

My Carlen

My Carlen turned Seven yesterday. When we first "met", he was Four years old. I saw his little self looking up at me - so to speak - on that November afternoon after church. The head of Compassion Canada had visited Harvest Oakville, and our pastor had made the call for us to consider sponsoring a child through that organization. I think the focus was initially on children in Ecuador. But, closer to the end of the service, we were told that by the end of the other two services that weekend, all the children from Ecuador had got sponsors! But there were many more from other parts of the world.

As I perused the pictures and profiles on the table in the lobby that Sunday, I was not even sure what I was looking for. Each child was in need. The younger the child, the longer the $41/month commitment. A sponsor is in it until the child turns 18. Still, when I saw Carlen, from Kijiwetanga, Kenya, I kinda knew. I'd finally decided to come up with a few criteria, or I'd have spent the entire afternoon deciding. So, I wanted someone born in April - we could kinda celebrate birthdays together. And, I wanted a little boy. Carlen actually reminded me of another little boy I used to babysit years ago in Jamaica. There he was, standing with his hands by his side, decked out in a school uniform and looking up at me. His card said he was born April 27, 2007. Nice. :-)

Even though it's not an adoption, I still think of him as my Carlen. I must've mentioned in a post several months ago how touched I am by the endearment, "My Claudia". Once upon a time, someone called me that. "How is my Claudia?" He'd said. I liked it. A lot. And it still makes me smile when I remember it. I don't even think he'd ever watched the movie, "Water for Elephants". I dunno. It was from that that I'd heard the term, "My Marlena," and it had kinda given me goosebumps. So, when I'd heard, "My Claudia," you can imagine my warm delight.

Anyway, he's my Carlen. After all, his letters (via translator) sometimes say, "Your son says hi." Isn't that beautiful? The first time I read that in one of his letters, tears came. I had had a very bad day. I dragged myself to the mailbox and found the letter waiting. When I read that line, I just melted. Remember the movie, About Schmidt? He writes that last letter to his sponsored child, Ndugu. Then there's that scene - the one where he reads the letter from Ndugu. Yeah. It was kinda like that. Except that I don't write spilling my guts to Carlen about life's moments of disappointments. Too funny. It's always good to hear from him - what he's been up to at school; at home; at church, and with his friends and family. Lots about his favourite this and that. How he'd like to be a pilot when he grows up...

On one occasion when I'd sent extra funds for his birthday, he sent back saying he was thankful for the money. He had used it to buy a school uniform and a few school supplies. I found myself talking to him out loud asking why he hadn't bought himself a nice present. But, I guess, those were "nice presents".

You know what is a nice present? Realizing you make a real and positive difference in someone's life. That was my birthday present from him.

Happy Birthday, my Carlen!


Friday, 18 April 2014

Of Birthday, Change and Human Kindness

For a few moments I toyed with the idea of not writing a post today. I usually write in the evenings, unless it's one of those that take several days to write. Those have been few. Related to that, and, as I must've mentioned before, I don't write and schedule publications. About 95% of what gets here is fresh off the mind and heart. But, the mind is tired tonight. The heart is fine. Heh heh. Thanks for wondering.

Being on vacation does that to one, I guess. Being on vacation and celebrating a birthday is something else. And, being on vacation, celebrating a birthday and observing Easter, is an even more potent mix for successfully dividing one's attention. Plus, I'm hot. I mean, it's tropical here so the temps... You know what I mean.

My birthday was a couple of days ago. I had a truly delightful day. As I told an acquaintance, I love having birthdays. Consider the alternative, eh? :-) I'm thankful my life was spared to see another one. And, it's always nice to spend time with family and friends in celebration.

I was reviewing something earlier today and came across a gem I'd transcribed. It was a quote by a Grade 6 student in the USA, and it went stteo: As you get older, everything will seem different. But nothing will change, except you. I promise. I really like that quote. It's true, isn't it? The world was here before you got here. It presents its usual offerings. We use - or misuse - its resources. And we perceive what it becomes, and how, as our needs and desires change over time. The principle of existence (love), and the issues related to the human condition, make us see things in different ways as we grow.

That's one of the perks of being a writer. It is always nice to look back at previous writings and see how your views or passions have changed. Fun project in compare/contrast.

There was an unusual and nice moment on B-day. After a lovely lunch, as we were leaving the restaurant, the doorman, who had learnt a few minutes before that I was celebrating my birthday, offered to sing for me. I graciously accepted his offer. He cleared his throat a few times, then proceeded to charm me with a delightful rendition of the Happy Birthday song, while walking to the car. We topped it off with a hug! Human kindness overflowing...

I'm looking forward to a great year! I can hardly wait to use the "Hummunuh! Hummunuh!" a girlfriend of mine insisted I use when that time comes. Okay. You mightn't get it now. But, if...when the time does come, I'll go into more detail. In the meantime, let's just consider this a placeholder of sorts.

Let the new year begin!


Tuesday, 8 April 2014

Getting it off my chest: The uncovered cough

It is no secret. I have quirks. As do you. No, I’m not seeking company –as one might do in, say, misery. See, misery loves company. I don’t suffer from these quirks. Au contraire! (I’m also learning French.) I’m okay with them; have come to terms with them.  I wouldn’t say I enjoy them, per se. The familiarity of them overcompensates for any measure of discomfort – or misery. I’m good. I’m good.

My quirks (yes, I own them) are not without reason. That is my story. Things have to make sense – except when they don’t. Let that one simmer for a bit.

I’m coming from the “favour ain’t fair” and “God works in mysterious ways” angles. Yes. Two angles – at once.

Now, let’s take a look at a few of these quirks, and see whether you can relate. And, if you simply can’t, whether you can, at the very least, understand.  If you can do neither, I’m happy you dropped by and so on and so forth.

The Uncovered Cough
Everybody coughs. Whether it be because of a cold, or allergies – as one does whatever it takes to scratch one’s throat – or an anti-choking reflex. Everybody coughs. What everybody does not do, apparently, is cover their mouths while coughing. I find it challenging to think of a personal habit that annoys me more. The GO Train is where I encounter most of these transgressions. People sitting next to me; across from me; two seats down the aisle. It doesn’t matter. As soon as this abominable act is carried out, I cringe. I don’t have “a mini heart attack” as someone tweeted after observing a woman’s reaction on the train the other day. And, again, I state for the record, it wasn’t me. That tweet was not about me. Though it kinda, sorta coulda been. Let’s move on. I cringe. And, not only do I cringe, the power strip on my cough-radar subsequently operates at maximum efficiency. I listen out for the next uncovered cough and when – not if – it happens (because, you know, those things come in twos and threes, if not an outright fit) I execute Plan A.

Plan A – The Exit
I leave the area. Whether it be that car of the train or the platform as we wait for the next train, I skidaddle on my saddle. (Reference to the artist formerly known on Snoop Dogg in the role of rap artist Murderous in Mr. Monk and the Rapper.) If it occurs as I walk down (or up) Bay Street, well, one hears a cough behind one, one does not look around to ascertain whether it’s uncovered. One immediately walks a little faster.

Plan B – The Ask
Plan B is put into action if I am in proximity to the offender, and no other seat is available. I turn to the individual or tap the uncouth being  on the shoulder and politely ask, “Could you cover your mouth when you cough, please?” Now, I already know the answer to that. Yes. Yes, they could. On one occasion, the persona non grata who occupied the seat next to me simply stopped coughing. I thought, I should patent this! Beat the profits out of Dayquil. Just. Like. That. Heyyy!  On another occasion, the person was sitting in a row in front of me. I leaned in through the space between the head rests and asked her to cover. She didn’t glance back at me in acknowledgement. Meh. She did, however, cover the next few times. Mission accomplished.

Now, I know I’d mentioned taking a look at a few of my quirks, but, given the extensive treatment of the uncovered cough, I’d rather not get into the others. For example, I’d rather not get into the utterly disgusting habit some folks have of spitting on sidewalks, leaving others to look at that gross mass of phlegm. Ugh! Who are these people? I can’t believe we breathe the same air! (Mr. Monk and the Astronaut)

Neither will I get into the fact that the hangers have to face in.

And the DVDs have to be shelved in alphabetical order.

And the tweets have to be without grammatical or spelling errors. Have you seen the placement of some apostrophes, lately? Oh, the humanity!

And the dishes must be placed in the sink. In the sink. For the love of sanity, not on the counter. In the sink. Just saying. No. As a matter of fact, I’m not #justsaying. They should be placed in the sink.

Of course, there's a reason for all these...preferences. I have to live with myself.