Tonight's picture was taken in July of 2007. Mattie was having a swimming lesson at a local recreation center. What reminded me of this picture, was the simple fact that I revisited this recreation center today to attend a garden show. Mattie was very tentative about swimming and he truly disliked how cold the water in this pool was kept. The policy at this particular recreation center was that parents could only watch the lesson from a different floor, through a window. I was very apprehensive about him being by the water without my presence nearby in case he needed help. I tried to plan ahead and be cautious of things, so that Mattie wouldn't get hurt. The ironic part is with all of this planning and protecting, I had no idea that the real threat was growing inside his body. Something that was out of my control.
Quote of the day: Sorrow makes us all children again - destroys all differences of intellect. The wisest know nothing. ~ Ralph Waldo Emerson
Patches, my cat, woke me up at her usual howling time, 4am. She has upset my sleep for two weeks now, and I am not sure who was more excited to see Peter today, her of me?! Since I was up early, I did more Foundation work, and then I went out for the rest of the day. I started my journey today at a garden show. Through Mattie's preschool auction in March, I purchased two specially grown tomato plants. I went to the show today to claim my plants, and also came home with a sweet bell pepper plant. While at the show, I bumped into two other people from Mattie's preschool. Naturally the conversation turned to children. A natural topic of conversation for parents. These moms were talking about how they have no time for themselves, and how their children and their activities consume every waking hour. I remember those days quite well, and I know that venting as a mom is very important. So I did not find their topic of conversation inappropriate. But what I found interesting was they did not realize how their conversation could be perceived by me. I no longer have Mattie in my life, so I know quite well what it feels like to have NO childcare responsibilities, and technically I could do whatever I want, whenever I want now. But here is the thing...... this is definitely an overrated concept, especially once you have been a mom. It is very difficult to go from being loved and responsible for your child, to not having this role anymore. Naturally all moms will find this out once their children grow up and are independent. Even then though, these moms will always be moms, their roles may evolve, but their children will be physically present in their lives. So the comparison to my situation can never be the same. Nonetheless as I was hearing this chatter, I couldn't help but want to say (but didn't)...... careful what you wish for. Sometimes what you wish for, may not be as great as what you think it will be.
After the show, I wanted to stop by and see Mary, Ann's mom, and wish her a Happy Mother's Day. However, on my way there, I received an email from my friend, Tamra. Her daughter was volunteering at a local Alexandria event to raise money for after school tutoring and reading programs for children. So on my way to Mary, I first stopped by to see Meredith, Tamra's daughter. I got out of the car, gave her a hug, had some lemonade, contributed, and then was on my way. As I was leaving, there were two high school students in front of the event, holding and waving signs and encouraging people to stop in and donate. As I was pulling out of the parking lot, they saw me and and threw up their arms and gave me two thumbs up for stopping. It was a very cute gesture and it left a visual impression upon me!
I spent several hours with Mary today. One of her caregivers was with her, and he and I continued to talk for an hour straight while Mary was having her lunch. I could tell Mary was absorbing this conversation, and it kept her engaged and busy. Even Mary's roommate was enjoying the conversation and she stayed close to us for most of the afternoon. While visiting Mary, my friend Christine stopped by to give me a surprise Mother's day present. She told me not to open it until tomorrow, but it was very thoughtful of her to think of me in this way. Because as she knows with Mattie gone, it is a challenging day to say the least.
Later on today, I picked Peter up at the airport. The airport was an absolute zoo. The international travel area was packed with hundreds of people. It took Peter about two hours to process through customs. It is hard to believe he has been in transit for over 24 hours! When he got home, I helped him unpack and basically insisted that every item he travelled with get laundered. We had a nice dinner together outside on the deck. I could tell he enjoyed the fresh air and the freedom to decide when and what he was doing. After being on someone else's schedule for two weeks, that can be very draining. We had a very stimulating dinner conversation where I learned a lot about the culture in Bangladesh, Kenya, and Qatar. As Peter was talking, I could see that he really appreciated aspects of the cultures he visited and therefore returning home is somewhat complicated. As I was hearing him, I told him he was experiencing a concept called reacculturation. A very normal phenomenon that occurs when traveling abroad and then returning home. Clearly, when Peter left the US two weeks ago, he had to acculturate (a process in which members of one cultural group adopt the beliefs and behaviors of another group) quickly to each of his client environments. However, with this adjustment, it naturally exposed him to different ways of thinking and in a way he got to experience business connections on a personal and meaningful level. Mainly because in developing nations, people are VERY grateful and appreciative that you came to visit to share skills, expertise, and knowledge. For example, on the last day Peter was in Kenya, the conference of hundreds of professionals literally gave Peter a standing ovation. But it wasn't a typical clapping as we know it. It was a clapping with rhythm and done in unison with words!
Peter acculturated to his new environments, but upon returning home to his own culture, it can be confusing and challenging to reorient one's self. There are aspects of the foreign cultures that he may miss and perhaps long for. So in essence this is reacculturation, in which he now needs to readjust to living back in his own home and culture. Having studied cross cultural counseling in graduate school and being mentored by the US Father of Cross Cultural Counseling, everything Peter was saying to me made perfect sense. I understood it completely and I think in a way this surprised him, that there was actually a name for what he is feeling. I wish I could share in his insights and observations, but I realize when I don't understand something the best thing to do is listen and to ask more questions. So needless to say, we had a good dinner together, and even Patches was thrilled to be outside and enjoying our garden.