USA: Season of Letting Go

USA: Season of Letting Go

Early on a Sunday morning, I was driving my twelve-year-old to his karate class. Along the way, we chatted while both struggling to wake up. We have done this drive together many times, and I was mentally on auto-pilot.

As I pulled into the parking lot, my son turned to me and asked, “Mom, can you not come in with me?”

In about a second’s time, his life flashed before my eyes. I felt a flood of emotions that could evoke tears if focused on, but instead, I asked in a nonchalant manner, “Why are you asking?”

He explained how none of the other students have parents in there, and he was right. My son recently graduated to an adult class. The vast majority of students he now trains with are either teenagers who drive or adults. There are rarely parents sitting on the sidelines. After six years of walking into the dojo at his side, I admit that it was a blow to have my motherly wings clipped. On the other hand, I was proud of him for feeling a level of confidence and ownership to go the distance on his own.

So I simply said, “Sure. I can read my book in the car.” and watched him grab his bag and head in.

This is one of many stories that I could tell about living in a season of letting go. I am forty-two years old, solidly positioned in midlife.  I am past the everybody getting careers/getting married/having babies phase and into the everyone is getting divorced/heaving health issues/dealing with ailing parents phase. I, myself, had a hysterectomy this past winter. Talk about letting go! I wasn’t going to have more children anyway, but it definitely put a fine point on the midlife timeline. And the truth is that procedure was the easiest problem I have encountered this year. Each month has brought more challenges with greater stakes.

There is a point in midlife where you come to realize that while there will be an ebb and flow to things, there is no ‘off’ switch to the deep and complex situations you will find yourself navigating from here on out.

You are the fulcrum between multiple generations, trying to support all sides while simultaneously processing your own stuff.

But the world is not a perpetually sad and gloomy place at midlife. Quite the opposite is true. Because through this somewhat stormy transition phase of life, you can see the lights that do shine that much more clearly. This will make me sound ancient, but I understand why grandparents go bananas over birth or get overly excited about a wedding. I can see how sitting at a graduation or following someone’s career can bring such joy. It’s intentional celebration of all that is still bright and brilliant in the world to balance out the darker clouds.

It’s being able to make room for new moments while having to let go of old ones.

It’s being able to remember while continuing to look forward.

Every birthday, every anniversary, and every new milestone is meaningful. I take the time to relish them more fully now. While this season has brought some of the hardest moments, it has also brought some of the absolute best moments of my life.

As my son and I drove home from karate, I let him pick the music, which right now is always jazz. After a year in the middle school jazz band with a favorite teacher, my son can’t get enough of it. As someone who has spent years listening to Disney soundtracks and Raffi in the car, I don’t have enough words to express my euphoria of hearing “The Atomic Mr. Basie” on repeat. We talked about the songs, and he shared his thoughts on the solos. He has developed such a good ear for music and fills our house with his own playing.

The more he grows, the more I am grateful for the contributions he makes in our family.

I love who he is becoming, just as much as I love who he once was. It was a perfect drive home.

Tell me, what has this season brought newly into your life? 

Tara B. (USA)

Tara is a native Pennsylvanian who moved to the Seattle area in 1998 (sight unseen) with her husband to start their grand life adventure together. Despite the difficult fact that their family is a plane ride away, the couple fell in love with the Pacific Northwest and have put down roots. They have 2 super charged little boys and recently moved out of the Seattle suburbs further east into the country, trading in a Starbucks on every corner for coyotes in the backyard. Tara loves the outdoors (hiking, biking, camping). And, when her family isn't out in nature, they are hunkered down at home with friends, sharing a meal, playing games, and generally having fun. She loves being a stay-at-home mom and sharing her experiences on World Moms Blog!

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Sharing Tres Leches Cake in America #familiesbelongtogether

Sharing Tres Leches Cake in America #familiesbelongtogether

 “Who wants some cake?”  My friend, Adelyn Ruiz-Lopez, asked.

“I am so full,” I said with a laugh.

“But it’s Tres Leches cake!” she quipped with a smile.

“Tres Leches cake!”  Our heads turned and gazed longingly at the delicious light and fluffy cake.

“Well, maybe one slice,” I replied.

Now in our thirties, my college friends and I gathered together for a brunch reunion at my friend Adelyn’s house in the east coast of the USA. My three-year-old daughter Lily was laughing and playing with Adelyn’s one-year-old daughter Evie. The two youths were covered in bubbles, laughing and sprawled out on the floor playing with Elmo toys. It gave me a momentary reprise to enjoy a mimosa and reminisce and chat with my friends. Despite the darkness happening in our country, this brunch was a unique perspective, about love, friendship and family.

I am a second-generation immigrant who grew up with the brave and courageous stories of my grandparents who immigrated to this country from Europe to start a better life for themselves and their families. I am the lucky one, being born, here, in the USA in Long Island, NY I didn’t have to go through the hardships my ancestors faced getting here.  However, I have been horrified and heartbroken about the new Trump administration policy that has been separating children from their parents at the Texas border in order to curb the influx of immigrants migrating to this country illegally.

Many families being detained are seeking asylum due to gang related violence and political unrest in their home countries in Central America.  After having gone through hell of escaping persecution in their home countries, they encountered a new and never imagined hell –  the fear and utter despair of being separated from their children with little or no hope of being reunited.

As a mother, I am appalled that these young children, including babies, are being detained in cages and tent cities.  Even with a Federal Judge ruling against the Trump administration’s separation policy at the border and 17 states suing the Federal Government, the Trump administration continues to fight to continue with these inhumane practices, with approximately 2,300 children still separated from their families since May.

Despite the happy reunion at our college brunch, there was also that sad reality of what was happening in our country.   I was fortunate enough to have amazing friends to help open my eyes about what it’s like to immigrate to this country at a young age. My friend Adelyn emigrated from the Dominican Republic with her family when she was 10 years old.   In 1991, her dad lost his job as a production manager at one of the biggest oil refineries in the country.

They took their life savings and decided to come to America. Adelyn’s parents, along with their four daughters, came to NY on a Visitor Visa. Adelyn said that her family was one of the fortunate ones to be in a position where they could obtain a visa which is often hard to obtain and often unavailable to poorer families in many third world countries. Fortunately, Adelyn and her family had a path to citizenship through her grandfather who became a US citizen and petitioned for the family to get permanent residency once they were here.

Adelyn’s father, who had been an executive in the Dominican Republic, now worked at a factory and sometimes held three jobs at one time to make ends meet. One of the things he is most proud of is that despite all the hardships that he had to endure, he never asked for help from the US government to support his family. That is a big source of pride for him. He, along with his wife, worked hard, paid their taxes and saved enough money from their jobs to send all their children to Catholic School and their hard work helped create a better life for their children.

In this current political climate, it is easy to misunderstand the plight of the majority of immigrant families trying to come to the United States. Adelyn’s mother-in-law, Mrs. Lopez, came to this country for very different reasons than Adelyn and her family. Mrs. Lopez fled from a country, Nicaragua, where people were being persecuted, starved and killed due to the change in regimes at the time. The majority of immigrants being held at the US border right now are primarily families escaping situations as hostile as those that Mrs. Lopez described. Families seeking asylum need help!

Adelyn took a deep breath and said, “America was a beacon of hope for all people looking to create a better tomorrow for their families. We once were a country that gave asylum to people who were oppressed and in need of protection.  Now we are a country that would rather turn a blind eye to the plight of the suffering.”

As I sat and listened to these stories, I realized that it is through listening to these stories that these mothers and children and families are not just another statistic, another “Immigrant” or attempt by this administration to de-humanize the term. It is through these stories that we realize these people are human and not so different than you and me. They are our friends. They are our family. They are women and mothers I share a Tres Leches cake with during brunch in Corona Queens. They are people I share my American dream with.

I looked down to see my daughter Lily crying and holding out her arms to me. I picked her up and, after a hug and a kiss, she continued playing with Evie.  For that moment, she just needed her mother. I looked down at the two beautiful, innocent children- two innocent children that could now be in a cage in Texas waiting for judgement, waiting for their mother to hold them. Waiting for their mother to hold them and tell them everything was going to be alright.

I realize that it is not through hate, but through LOVE that we will persevere as a country. Together we can work with this administration to help find a more humane and just immigration policy. May we hold out our hands and our hearts to these mothers, fathers and children and help fight to stop this inhumane separation of families at our borders. I think about these mothers and realize in another life, I could be the mother praying for someone to fight for me when all hope is lost. I could be the one on the other side, my child ripped from my arms, praying for a new and better life.

I put myself in their shoes, and they are the reason why my daughter and I marched this weekend.

On Saturday, June 30th, people joined to march throughout the United States and around the world to demand an end to the separation of families at the U.S. border. For more information on the march and what can be done next, go to the Families Belong Together website

Melissa Kuch is a World Mom from New York, USA and author of the young adult fantasy and adventure series, The Hypothesis of Giants.

Photo credit of “Keep Families Together Sign” to Jill Ion. This post has a creative commons attribution license.

Photo credit of the author’s daughter at the Families Belong Together March in Huntington, NY to Melissa Kuch.

 

 

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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VIDEO: Lactation-Themed Mother’s Day 2018! #worldmoms

VIDEO: Lactation-Themed Mother’s Day 2018! #worldmoms

Greetings, World Moms!

At our headquarters in the USA, we’re celebrating Mother’s Day tomorrow, Sunday, May 13th.

We’re featuring contributor, To-wen Tseng on the site today.

She says, “For me, breastfeeding is emotional, challenging, and rewarding. In honor of Mother’s Day, I’ve put together this lactation-themed slideshow for World Moms Network. Enjoy!”

Happy Mother’s Day from all of us at World Moms Network! “It’s always Mother’s Day somewhere on the planet!”

Check in with us! Let us know in the comments what type of posts you miss or would like to see more of!

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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America Marches On

America Marches On

We are compelled to action.  One year after President Donald Trump took office in 2017, the women who protested his inauguration in the United States still hadn’t forgotten a thing. In January of 2018 we took to the streets for a second time to lift our voices together after living through a year of pretty much what we expected when Trump took office. We accurately predicted that protections for most vulnerable Americans (people in poverty, immigrants, disabled persons, and children to name a few) would be under attack. Some foresaw that we might hear hate-filled vulgarities coming from the president, but I think few expected they would be so frequent. I knew that varieties of racist, anti-Semitic, homophobic, Islam-phobic, xenophobic hate crimes would rise, but I naively never thought we’d see white nationalists openly chanting Nazi slogans and marching with flaming torches in the U.S.A.

Yet last year saw a positive change as people banded together to support each other. The “Me, Too” movement showed the world through social media how common it is for women to experience sexual harassment and/or abuse. Danica Roem became the first transgender candidate elected to a U.S. state legislature through a smart, local, issue-based campaign in Virginia. We saw judges push back against attempts to ban Muslims from entering our country.

I believe all of these events – the good and the bad – resulted in the energy of the marchers being both undiminished and better organized as we rallied around the theme of “March, Act, Vote!” While the enthusiasm of the women around me in St. Louis was still strong, I sensed a difference in tone this time around. Last year, everywhere I looked (including in the mirror) there were women attending their first major protests ever. Their giddy energy was palpable and contagious. Just about everyone I knew who stayed at home in St. Louis knew at least one person who was flying out to D.C. to protest the inauguration. A feeling of novelty and joy in the event came with the solidarity of so many women expressing their disappointment, anxiety, and downright fear about what the future would hold with a confessed sexual predator like Donald Trump in the White House. It was a transformation of epic proportions.

This year, the marchers around me were just as enthusiastic, but instead of novelty, I sensed an overall air of resolve. Snippets of conversations around me revealed that many marchers had not been idle in the last year. Those involved in Black Lives Matter (a movement to stand against violence and systemic racism towards black people) carried their signs as seasoned veterans after months of tensions with the St. Louis Police Department. Organized advocacy groups like the League of Women Voters and Moms Demand Action for Gunsense in America were visibly out to harness this precious protest energy and direct it into registering more voters and taking more actions beyond the event. For me, this was incredibly heartening. My two big fears in 2017 were that all of the energy of mass protests would blow away in the wind without organization OR that the constant shenanigans from the White House would eventually wear down everyone to the point that people were simply accepting a new and horrible normal.

Did 2017 wear us down? Somewhat. Over and over, I hear the word “demoralizing” from my friends, colleagues, and group leaders to describe the past year. But an event highlighting positivity, like the Women’s March in January, goes far to beat back the darkness. An environment like that allows a space for us to draw energy from each other. The night before the march, Rabbi Andrea Goldstein of Shaare Emeth Congregation offered these words in her sermon:

“Ever look toward one another. Look for each other and find there – in community – comfort and inspiration in the collective power and strength that we have together to create the world we long to see. The world we know that God is waiting for. The world we owe our children.” The night before the march, she urged us to: “Look, look, look, look…look around. It will be the day we yearn for. Not soon maybe, but it will be.”

I chose to participate in the second Women’s March, but skip the speakers in favor of getting my daughters to their Saturday activities. As I was leaving on the train, I met a woman who was doing exactly the opposite…she skipped the march, but was headed in to hear the speakers. I asked if she wanted to take my sign that said, “Women’s Rights Are Human Rights,” with her. She enthusiastically agreed and as she headed off downtown, I thought about how in that brief interaction with a stranger, two women supported each other to literally carry our message farther. Maybe that’s the way it has to be in real life for moms who are changing the world. We carry the banners for a time and when we need to step back to tend to our kids, we lend our support to those who will carry them for us until we can come back.

On March 24th protesters will once again be out in force in Washington, DC as they participate in the March For Our Lives. Spearheaded by our country’s youth, the march on Washington DC demands that the lives of our children take priority over guns and that legislators ensure that the epidemic of mass shootings in our country be put to an end.

This is an original post written for World Moms Network by Cindy Levin

 

Cindy Levin

Cynthia Changyit Levin took her first advocacy action in 2001 with a hunger event at her church. Years later, after resigning from her position as an automotive engineer to raise her newborn daughter, she searched for a way she could better the world from home while caring for infants. She returned to advocacy and is now a dedicated volunteer activist with RESULTS, Shot@Life, ONE, and Bread for the World. Levin involves her young children in her advocacy activities, including face-to-face lobby meetings with members of Congress, letter-writing, and classroom advocacy projects. She shares what she has learned about advocacy through her Anti-Poverty Mom blog and training other activists with RESULTS. Her op-eds and letters-to-the-editor have appeared in Chicago area newspapers as well as the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, Washington Post, the New York Times and the international Financial Times. Levin has served on the Board of Directors for RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund and on staff with RESULTS Educational Fund as a fundraising coach for grassroots volunteers.

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USA: Scissors, Gun Control, and My Suicidal Daughter

My teenager has had a rough few months. She came to me with the information that she felt suicidal and had a plan to end her own life.

I brought her to our local emergency room, where my baby girl had her clothes taken away, an alarm strapped to her wrist, and a room right across from the nurses’ station where she could be constantly monitored. After a long day of evaluations, testing, and phone calls, my child was transferred to another hospital that had a juvenile psychiatric ward.

After her stay in the psychiatric ward, my daughter enrolled in a partial hospitalization program.

Her clinician there told me I needed to lock up all of our household medication and anything sharp. Knives in the kitchen, razors in the bathroom, and even child safety scissors that couldn’t cut hair all had to be locked up in a metal container, not plastic, as plastic could be broken fairly quickly. I asked the woman telling me all of this whether this level of action was necessary for a teenager who had only had thoughts of hurting herself without acting on any of those ideas.

My daughter’s clinician told me that nothing would really, truly keep my child safe if she was determined to hurt herself. The goal in locking up those medications and sharp objects was to make it more difficult for her to act impulsively if she felt the urge to self-harm. I have thought about those words frequently these past few days. We live in a society where weapons are easily obtainable. Somehow, our society has not yet realized that legally allowing such free access to semi-automatic weapons is allowing people like my daughter, whose mental states are not where they should be, to be able to make spontaneous decisions to harm themselves or others.

Let me be clear: I am not talking about criminals here. People who want to break the law will find ways to do so, and I will not waste my words bickering over why changing the laws won’t do anything to stop lawbreakers. I am talking about people who are mostly law-abiding but are struggling with serious mental health issues or going through extremely emotionally charged situations, such as a horrific divorce. I am also not talking about infringing on anyone’s Second Amendment rights. I’m not arguing that US citizens shouldn’t be allowed to own guns.

I am, however, stating that any random U.S. citizen should not be able to obtain whatever kind of weapon they desire whenever they want it. No one told me I couldn’t keep scissors in my house while my daughter struggles with depression and anxiety. Her doctors and therapists realized that scissors would be present, much like guns will always be present in our country. Instead, her doctors told me how to prevent my child from using those scissors to hurt herself on an impulse while she battles depression. When my daughter needs to use scissors for a project, I’m going to give her the child safety scissors instead of something sharp enough to cut or stab herself. Our country should likewise exercise caution.

The Second Amendment was written long before the invention of today’s weaponry. We should update our gun laws. Horrible impulses to hurt other people with semi-automatic weapons should not be able to be planned and performed as easily as they are today.

Knowing my daughter’s current battles with anxiety and depression, I am concerned about the day she is old enough to legally obtain a gun. She is medicated and receiving treatment at the moment, but I will not always be around to watch out for her mental state. God willing, my child will fully recover and live a long and healthy, happy life. Regardless, I want our country to come together and make it more difficult for my child to obtain a gun, so if she does ever again have that impulsive thought to end her own life, it will be harder for her to do so.

This is an original post submitted to World Moms Network. The author has been verified by our editing team, but has requested to remain anonymous. 

For more on gun control in the USA and how you can help, see “World Voice: Parkland Students Leading the Way for Gun Reform.” 

Photo credit to Kevin Doncaster. This photo has a Creative Commons Attribution 2.0 Generic License. 

World Moms Network

World Moms Network is an award winning website whose mission statement is "Connecting mothers; empowering women around the globe." With over 70 contributors who write from over 30 countries, the site covered the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Most recently, our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan was awarded "Best Reporting on the UN" form the UNCA. The site has also been named a "Top Website for Women" by FORBES Woman and recommended by the NY Times Motherlode and the Times of India. Follow our hashtags: #worldmom and #worldmoms Formerly, our site was known as World Moms Blog.

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Baby Doe: Why Can’t We Stop Child Homelessness?

Baby Doe: Why Can’t We Stop Child Homelessness?

Last October, I attended an Interfaith Memorial Service for the homeless at Sacred Heart Catholic Church in East Los Angeles. The service remembered the 472 homeless people who died on the streets in Los Angeles County in 2016. Seven of the deceased were under three years old.

At the service I thought of a girl who called herself Latoya, who I met eight years ago while covering an adolescent drug dealing story. She moved into a teenage drug dealer’s tent under an overpass in downtown San Diego after running away from her foster family. One year later she gave birth to a baby girl. She was fifteen; her boyfriend was eighteen. Social workers took away their baby because apparently, the parents were too young, on drugs, and homeless.

When I met Latoya, I was fresh out of journalism school and she was long out of school. She was seeking help from a volunteer attorney with a non-profit organization helping homeless children.

“She wanted to go back to school, get a real job,” the lawyer told me. “And eventually get her daughter back.”

That surprised me. I had assumed that drug-using, homeless, teen parents were irresponsible and careless people. The reality is that they love and care their children just like any other parent.

When the adolescent drug dealing story was done, I wanted to follow up with Latoya’s story, but my assignment editor decided to cut it because “following a homeless teen mom is way too resource consuming, we cannot afford it.”

In the end I wrote a short article about Latoya and her efforts. The piece was included in my first book “Wēi Zúyǐ Dào”, published in 2011. The book sold 80,000 copies in five years, but Latoya’s story remains incomplete. I lost contact with her, but in eight years I have never forgotten her. In fact, over the years I have met many Latoyas and their children.

One of the Latoyas was 25-year-old Venessa Ibarra, who last June set her SUV on fire, threw in her three-year-old daughter Natalie, and then got in herself. They both died.

The death of a homeless child gets very little attention, and the authorities have many difficulties determining their identities. These children are called “baby doe” and their stories are rarely told.

In the cases where these stories do get attention, the media tends to sensationalize them, playing up the deaths of the poor children, especially babies. A negative connotation that has arisen from these over-sensationalized stories is that less advantaged women are not to be trusted with babies. This has a backlash for homeless mothers who also need help.

I tried to follow up with Ibarra’s story, but it was difficult. The authorities said that she had experienced “issues and a little bit of a drug problem.” But many questions remained unanswered. There weren’t even records to show whether she had received medical attention, or whether any efforts had been made to prevent the tragedy.

I can’t stop thinking about Latoya, Ibarra, and other mothers who live out of cars, in tents, under bridges and on the streets with their babies. How well could they be coping while living on the streets? Homelessness affects every facet of a child’s life, inhibiting his or her physical, emotional, cognitive, social, and behavioral development. And without proper maternal care, the pregnancies of homeless women can be at risk from many preventable obstacles. As a journalist, I don’t just want to present the statistics stacked up against homeless mothers and their children, I want to listen to them. Yet they are so hard to reach, with most of them fleeing from the media and social workers. That is one of the reasons why this country’s child welfare program is unable to help homeless children. In addition, most programs serving the poor are underfunded.

Los Angeles has seen another sharp rise in homelessness and outdoor tents over the last year, as local officials struggle to identify funding for billion-dollar plans they approved last year to combat homelessness.

Last November, Los Angeles County voters approved Measure HHH, a proposal to create 10,000 units of permanent supportive housing and affordable housing for the city’s homeless population. The measure has not yet translated into visible effects, and homelessness remains an ongoing public health issue.

Two days after the Interfaith Memorial Service, the remains of the 472 deceased, including the children, were cremated and interred in a common grave with only one plaque marking the year of interment. Baby does didn’t get a name. Their story remains untold. It is Autumn again and the church is preparing for another service. More baby does will soon join those buried.

This is an original post for World Moms Network by To-Wen Tseng. Photo credit: Mu-huan Chiang

To-Wen Tseng

Former TV reporter turned freelance journalist, children's book writer in wee hours, nursing mom by passion. To-wen blogs at I'd rather be breastfeeding. She can also be found on Twitter and Facebook.

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