Thursday, June 30, 2011

It's Been a Long Time Coming

It's been a long time coming, this simple thing I did this evening.  And I'm not really sure why I haven't done it.  I've always loved it and spent major chunks of my time as a child, teen and young mother doing it.  But somehow over the years, and the boys doing other things and being embarrassed to do it because I wasn't the young, semi-svelte thing I once was ... I just didn't do it anymore. 

I have plenty of opportunity and certainly no one stopping me.  But I realize now that what I did this evening, that I've never done while living at this apartment complex (2 years), that I haven't done in at least 6-7 years, and then only one time that I can remember.  Perhaps it was because I'd really never it done it all alone, just me, myself and I before.  And I'm over that now that the boys are on their own.  I go to movies by myself, I've always preferred to shop by myself, I've even gone to a few festivals and freebie concerts by myself.  But never this ... until tonight.

Why tonight?  I dunno - I'd been thinking about it and kind of vowed to myself that I wouldn't let another 4th of July holiday pass without doing it - because I'd ALWAYS done it growing up.  It was maybe my most beloved summer pasttime - especially growing up in Michigan and Minnesota and their abundance of lakes.  Real lakes.  Made by God - fed by underground springs or creeks.  Not the dammed up rivers made by the Army Corps that pass as lakes in this water-challenged land desert called the Heartland.

Maybe that's part of it.  My kids grew up with swimming pools.  When I took them to the few "lakes" in these parts - they, macho boys they are - ewww'd and squealed in disgust when I suggested actually placing their entire bodies in a lake with murky, muddy water.  So they watched from the beach as I paddled happily along on an air mattress, soaking and luxuriating in that dirty water.  Even during trips to Minnesota and Iowa to God's lakes, they really weren't keen on the idea of getting INTO the water itself - so they swam in the pool at the family reunion and watched cousins board sailing and swimming.

Well, whatever has perpetuated this "dry" spell in my life is officially ended.  Part reminiscing about my childhood, part pondering why I haven't done it in so long and part - it was just freakin', blistering, stupid, uncomfortable hot even at 8:30 p.m. when I took the girls out for their walk.  I'd come in and laid down on my bed and slept for two hours because I was just that tired ... and hot.  As I was sweatin' with the weenies, I decided.

It wasn't a monumental decision, it was just a quietly resolved choice to do this thing, without the company of anyone else, and to enjoy it.  Which I did ... thoroughly.  I realized I wasn't alone - all the young and pre-teen girls who are weenie fans and who've made friends with the puppy lady squealed with delight when they saw me.  And when I confessed it was my maiden voyage in the two years I've lived here ... they looked at me, rightfully so, like I was insane!  I'd have done the same thing?  Two years, two long, hot summers and this is the first time you've gone SWIMMING?  Lady, you must be nutso!

Well, yeah.  But I'm still not sure why I haven't gone swimming in so very long.  It was wonderful, soothing, cooling, calming and ... I wasn't alone and I didn't care if my swimsuit is probably older than most of my weenie fan club members.  And even though most of the families that were at the pool speak Spanish - a smile, help building a pyramid of kids on their dads' shoulders in the deep end and holding a cute toddler for just a minute convinced me swimming after 8 p.m. is delightful - no blistering sun.

So ... yeah, the curse (or whatever the dry spell has been) has been lifted.  I plan to swim and do some water aerobics every evening I can.  The water baby is back!!!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bigot, Patriot or Just Fed Up

Well, long time no post.  That story is another five posts in and of themselves. 

My topic of (a)musement today is whether I'm harboring feelings of patriotism, bigotry, or whether, like a lot of other U.S. citizens, I'm just fed up?!  I'm fed up U.S. businesses for selling out citizens.  I'm tired of U.S. politicians trying to curry favor and votes among a population that cannot vote and selling U.S. citizens out by taking obscene amounts of graft for political votes favorable only to greedy corporate entities and leadership and themselves.  And, yes, I'm sick to freakin' death of having to listen to the Spanish instructions first (or at all) when I have to call a company I do business with on a regular basis.  Or my 19-year-old son, Taylor whose automatically-generated, wireless-company voicemail message is Spanish.  I have no stinkin' clue whether his phone is off or cut off.  (That, too, is another story.)

So here's my rant and a few not-too politically-correct caveats.  First - anyone who knows me, especially in my adult years, knows I have a more diverse group of friends than probably anyone else they know.  I've cultivated it that way.  Different people from diverse backgrounds make my life so much richer and I think makes me a better person.  I've been witness to some pretty amazing people and situations that I'd surely have missed had a limited my friends to white Presbyterians who eat chicken every Sunday.  (Yack - that's the sound of my hurling.)

My love of diversity in friends isn't bounded by ethnicity, race, gender or income level.  I've literally counted among my dearest friends an elderly hunchback woman named Angeline Boughner who befriended me when I was a three-year-old found wandering the hallways of the retirement and nursing home my grandfather ran.  I wasn't lost, but I met the most wonderous woman - a retired school teacher, one of the original Girl Scouts, a great storyteller who I could describe in one word ... FUN.  I never noticed she was a hunchback.  She was just Angie.

My sons are mixed race.  I know firsthand of a kind of insidious bigotry and profiling that probably very few college-educated, civilized white folks could even fathom.  Even my own father was flabbergasted at the way I was treated by the board of directors and manager at a former co-op community where I lived.  My sons were accused of every act of childhood mischief and adolescent prankery that existed.  I'm happy to say that one particularly stupid accusation I was able to squelch immediately when I gave them the phone number of Cameron's scoutmaster so he could verify Cameron was at summer camp during the time of this great discretion.  Must have been some other brown-skinned kid climbing the stinkin' tree.  

I could go on and on and completely bore you with tears - but I thought I'd throw in a change-up instead.  LOL

My increasing pet peeve is undocumented aliens in this country - what it's costing us; how we U.S. born citizens and taxpayers are being sold out and how laws on the books are not being enforced.  I'm tired of U.S. businesses and politicians doing whatever serves them, forgetting who "brung 'em to the dance in the first place."  I'm tired of feeling like the foreigner in my own apartment community and feeling uneasy when I walk my dogs in broad daylight having to pass by a dozen or more single, unchaperoned men swilling beer and being spoken about and leered at.

I'm all about the American dream.  My ancestors weren't born here - they immigrated here for a better life.  Some spoke the King's English, some the Celt's gaelic, some German, some French.  Some of my sons' ancestors probably spoke swahili or arabic or the Cree language (but there were here first anyway).  All of them made a choice to become part of the American dream.  They brought their meager belongings, set up homes and set to work in trades they'd already established, or farming, sailing on merchant vessels, or by becoming entrepreneurs.  They LEARNED TO SPEAK AMERICAN ENGLISH and never expected others to cottle them.  They worked hard to raised their families in this new place while celebrating family and their ancestral heritages within the context of a country of immigrants.

I'm proud to be from that legacy.  I'm proud of being a truly American, Heinz 57 WASP and I'm proud that my children get to celebrate all those who've come before them - in all their tradition, legacy and diversity.

I'm ashamed that this country's businesses and politicians have sold out so many and completely ignored laws they themselves made.  Personally, I feel insulted for my many immigrant friends, coworkers and acquaintances who chose to come here legally - because there are SO many stupid, bureaucratic rules and hoops to jump through.  I'm sorry for those stupid bureaucratic rules because it has created a subculture of those who only want a chance at a better life in the U.S., but cannot achieve that goal because of all the B.S. red tape from the U.S. and their native land.

Too many of our illegal immigrants from Mexico, Central and South America aren't necessarily here because they want to live here - they're here because their native countries are so poorly managed they can't scrape out a subsistence living.  So they become slave labor - exploited by American companies because for less than what these asshats would have to pay a single American employee, they can run slave crews from Mexico, pay them cents on the dollar and get away with it.  Meanwhile, as the U.S. economy hasn't really recovered, unemployment continues to rise because some unscrupulous company in Texas knows they can treat illegals like just so much excrement and no one will squawk. 

What ticks me of is the complete unwillingness and lack of incentive for immigrants to learn the language and teach it to the many children they have here.  I often wonder if people know just how much of their tax dollars are going to make accommodations for non-English speakers.  I often wonder if people know the level of fraud going on in property rentals and purchases, bogus social security and green cards.  I often wonder if those extreme bleeding hearts out there realize that *someone* has to pay for all these extra "free" services - and that *someone* is all of us struggling middle-class working types who don't have enough to cover our bills but aren't eligible for the very programs our tax dollars are paying for that benefit non-tax payers, non-citizens and and all of those who don't contribute back but merely feel entitled to receive.

I absolutely believe non of us becomes successful without a leg up - whether it's in the form of education, financial assistance, support and encouragement, etc.  But when my fellow, hard-working, paycheck-to-paycheck earners are struggling to stay one paycheck ahead of  the wolf at the door, and non-citizens reap the benefits we're not eligible for because we WORK and earn an income legally ... I have a problem. 

This past Sunday my issues came to a boil (probably with a little help from the 'roids I'm currently taking).  I had gone to Aldi (the cheap0, stock-up, no-frills grocery store) and got just specific things on a list.  The store was relatively slow and quiet for a weekend.  All that was shattered when a family consisting of dad, mom and three boys under the age of about 7 came in.  They boys were all over the store - running, screaming at the tops of their lungs in ... Spanish and pawing over merchandise with wreckless abandon.  Mama and Papa just strolled leisurely through the store - never checking on the bambinos, muchless reprimanding them.  The looks on the faces of the other customers told me I was not alone in my annoyance and frustration.

So - that's a caveat - I was already disturbed by being subjected to such crap behavior in public - I was ready to snap.  Got home and unloaded two bags (light) of staples and a bag each of 1 gallon of milk and 1 gallon of distilled water.  I double bagged each in a fabric tote and a plastic bag.  So as I picked up the last of my four bags, ready to close the back of the SUV, one of the (12 loitering) gentleman four cars down from me revved his POS, glass mufflered car and startled the living daylights out of me.  Did I mention it was loud, and in that moment I guessed that very vehicle to be the one revved up at midnight the evening prior?

The bag with the gallon of milk went flying and burst open upon impact with the asphalt.  I was so startled and scared and then so angry that my milk was pouring at a furious pace into the plastic bag - I just glared over at all 12 of these guys and screamed, "STOP THAT! What in the name of Christ on a Cracker do you think you're doing?"  I know I startled them right back and I don't believe it was done to intentionally scare me - but it certainly succeeded.  As they all yammered on (probably about me) and laughed, I had to scramble inside to salvage my spilled milk.

I shook for nearly 45 minutes - partially because of being so startled, but also in frustration and disgust - and fear that these douchebags may now retaliate against me.  As I calmed down, I realized was getting even more frustrated and concerned.  Here were 12 Hispanic men between the ages of 20-40 - no women around to cool their jets, loitering in the parking lot drinking beer and throwing the empties wherever they landed.  Revving cars and basically driving up and down the driveway like their tails were on fire (despite the fact there are a LOT of young children in the complex) and yelling at each in that machismo, chest-thumping bravado only men of that age can muster. 

Yesterday I called the assistant property manager to have a chat.  My folks are both afraid the apartment complex might now try to get rid of me, but I don't believe personally it's come to that.  And if it does - then I'll be better to go and be free of the drama and fear.  But I know the assistant manager is having an increasingly difficult time collecting rent and gaining compliance with leases that a year ago.  Her comment was, "trying collecting rent when they look at you stupidly and tell you they don't speak English when you know they know perfectly well what you're saying."

She gave me the non-emergency police number to call anytime I don't feel safe or if I see groups of men loitering, doing midnight car mechanics in the parking lot or drinking in public.  She also told me (with a disgusted tone in her voice), that the management company recently rented about five apartments to a "company" out of Texas that have crews here in Kansas City doing roof repairs and replacements left from recent storms.  Supposedly these companies agreed to special conditions including not allowing them to consume alcohol.  Well guess what?  I asked if one of the apts. on the west end of the first floor was one of the "crew" apartments and she affirmed it.  I told her when I was walking the dogs the other evening the blinds were wide open and inside were at least six men.  There was no furniture - just some pallates on the floor, along with Walmart bags which I assume served as their meager luggage and empty bottles of Corona lining the floor and the window sills.  She was quite interested to hear this and assured me the company they'd leased to would be getting a call from her today.

I dunno - am I way off here being uncomfortable with the fact there are six illegal aliens staying in camping conditions in an apartment in my building who are blatently breaking rules and are obviously NOT being supervised as promised.  I just can't get past feeling betrayed by the property management company for renting to this kind of operation.  I rented here because two years ago it was quiet, safe and I could understand the language. 

I have no problem with the extended families who live here, who watch their children like hawks, who work hard and who are trying to fulfill their version of the American dream.  My dogs are famous among all the young children around here and I love interacting with them and practicing to be a grandmother (another whole story that's still hopefully in the distant future). 

I feel as though I should be able to walk my dogs, and enjoy my home in relative safety.  I shouldn't have to nervously wend my way around a crowd of men doing nothing but getting drunk and BSing one another.  Unattended males of a certain age combined with alcohol is just NOT a good idea.  I don't want to have to call the police and I certainly don't want to invite retaliation or harrassment because I'm expressing a real concern to the property managers.  But I will NOT (much to the chagrin and fear of my parents) allow this kind of bad behavior and mamby-pamby management force me to be a recluse in my own apartment.

So - am I a bigot, a law-abiding (well most) citizen patriot or is there someone else out there who might think I'm even a little coherant and rational?