Saturday, 24 March 2012

Playing the waiting game

In January I attended our monthly community meeting. There were tenants at the meeting with valid and serious concerns. Several units have set up an escort service with a sideline of drug dealing in one of the mostly senior buildings in our complex. Used condoms are being found around the building and people are getting propositioned in the elevators. Plus people on those floors are trying doorknobs to see if any are unlocked. Seniors are sitting in their apartments listening to their doorknob slowly turning back and forth, not knowing who's outside. They were terrified. Yes, the police are involved (and were at the meeting). Meanwhile the woman representing management scoffed at those tenants and informed them we live in the best buildings in the area. If they didn't like it they could move.

Next came my rent increase. My rent goes up every single year without fail. Last year it went up by $7 and I breathed a sigh of relief. Maybe, I'd lived here long enough that they weren't going to soak me with a maximum increase every single year. February rolled around and nope, this year I got the maximum increase again. The increase was $23, we're not talking 'selling a kidney' huge, but it bumped my rent over the $1,100 mark. I gasped when I saw it.

I remembered management's words then and my mind flashed to a building I wanted to move the kids into a few years ago. It was perfect for us but I couldn't get son into a special ed class there so we never moved. At the time, the rent was almost $100 more than what we were paying. But our rent had increased by about that much too. I looked the building up online and found pictures of the laundry room, gym, and indoor pool. Suddenly moving looked like a viable option. I had a whole list of concerns and, as the days went by, they all got knocked down one after another like dominoes.

My first concern was the price. Sure, I'd found a website with a list of rents for each size unit but that didn't mean they were current. I just looked up our current building on and the rent listed was about 2 years out of date. I called the building and, yes, the rent was accurate and included utilities. One worry down.

Then came calling the school board. No use in getting my hopes up if son couldn't go to school in that area. But I was assured he'd be in a small class placement in the fall. Maybe not the exact setting he was in now, but it would be a small class with plenty of EA support. One more concern gone.

What was the area like? We had looked at townhouses near where I used to work a few years ago. They looked great but, when I talked to a friend, her police officer husband informed her that the complex was in the worst area of town with heavy gang activity just a gunshot away. Obviously we didn't move there. I called and messaged friends for advice and got conflicting stories. However the friends who had lived in the area thought it was great and I got glowing reviews from both a friend who lived there previously and a friend who's friend currently lives there. The final cap came at the March meeting when I talked to a police officer about the building and was assured it was a quiet building with a lot of seniors in the area.

The final domino of concern was viewing the building in real life. It looked great according to the website and other people liked it but I hadn't been in that area in years and had never been inside the apartment. I took my son to look at the building and we were both thrilled. The unit we viewed was a good size with a big balcony and lots of storage. The whole building was well kept and in good repair. Then the lady brought us downstairs. Storage lockers for every unit in the building. A work room for those with tools and hobbies. A room with a pool and ping pong table. Two exercise rooms (one for men and one for women) and, the grand finale, the indoor pool, complete with lifeguard. I took a photo to show my parents...

We walked out of the building and realized there's a huge park right next door, complete with a skateboard park and trails to the nearby library. And there's a shopping mall not even a five minute walk away.

Now comes the final dominoes. We have to give 60 days notice where we live. But we also need to have a unit available where we're going. The staff needs to give 24 hours to the current tenants for a viewing and we have to give them information about myself to check, including references to call. Since the first is on a Sunday, the staff thinks they might not get notice for those apartments until the second. For the life of me I can't fathom how I'd view an apartment (with 24 hours notice), have the staff call my references, and give notice all on the same day. Anyone have a time machine I can borrow? I offered to drop off my information ahead of time so they could call people and check me out in advance but they need to have a unit I'm putting an offer in before they can do that.

I hate playing the waiting game. I want to know now thank you very much. I've done everything I can to be ready for a unit. All my information is printed out and ready to go. The staff know me on first name basis after my regular calls just checking about a unit for June 1st. Now I just need to accept that my move is dependant on the promptness of people I don't know, people who have no idea I'm waiting for their notice.

My son commented earlier that this move had been a breeze so far, without a single worry or concern. Meanwhile I've already had nightmares about packing and haven't even given my notice yet! Heck, last night I dreamt I found a Christmas tree behind some stuff in my living room.

Hopefully I'll be writing a new blog within the week, all excited about our new place. Otherwise, next weekend I'll be too busy eating Tums like candy and telephone stalking the rental office to post.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Conversations with my son

Yesterday afternoon, my son poured himself yet another glass of milk. He goes through a 4L bag of milk in about a day so him pouring a glass isn't that odd. He looked at the milk, sighed, then said, "If I could have any superpower in the world, I'd love to be able to make milk. It would come shooting out of my fingers every time I wanted a glass."

My first thought was, of course, mess. I've seen how easily he can trash a room even without milk spurting from his fingertips at a thought. Slopping while pouring a glass is nothing compared to a child who got thirsty in the middle of the night and flooded his whole bed and floor with milk.

Then came my second thought. "I had that superpower," I commented nonchalantly. His eyes widened. "You did?" he asked incredulously.

"Yes hon," I reminded him. "I breastfed you for years and your sister too."

I'm not sure if me having his "superpower" moved me up a notch in his mind, or bumped his superpower down.

Then came our conversation last night. In the past week, son's picked up a weird cough. It doesn't happen often, maybe once or twice a day. But when he coughs it's disconcerting. He asked if he could have asthma and I jump and think he's choking each time. He draws a gasp of breath in then chokes and wheezes for a few seconds... then is fine again. Of course he picked this up the day before going away to visit his grandmother and came home on Friday evening, after the doctor was closed. I'm making him an appointment tomorrow but, as of yet am clueless as to what it could be.

We're chatting on the couch when my son looked at me and asked, "Mom, why do I keep coughing like this?"

I'm known for being just a tad sarcastic and my reply was a deadpan, "It's the bubonic plague. I'd write my will now if I were you."

Son sits upright and eagerly asks, "Really? What's the bulbic playground?"

Sarcasm works so much better when the person you're talking to is listening and knows what the hell you're talking about.

Also, I labelled this post "bubonic plague" just to see how many people find it through that tag.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Glued to the keyboard

It's a beautiful day, a real bonus day. When I looked at the forecast on Wednesday, today called for constant rain. I was relieved because I planned on spending today writing and that's a lot easier when the weather provides ample encouragement to stay indoors. Instead, this afternoon is calling for sunshine and a high of 17C. The only thing keeping my backside planted on a chair is my constant mental reminders that any trail I walk on will be knee deep in mud after last night's thunderstorms. Knee deep in mud and surrounded by bare grey-brown trees.

I can't wait for spring. I want to walk down trails and watch the buds unfurl while listening to birds singing their lungs out in a jubilant hormonal frenzy. Even the air smells new, like the world is taking a fresh start. But, as much as I want to appreciate this, I know today's not the day. Today's that tease of a day that feels so glorious yet looks like the back end of a camel with the runs.

And so I go back to writing again. I'm at just over 120,000 words (give or take a few hundred) and figure I need to edit out about 20,000 before I can start submitting it. I sit here going over each paragraph, line by line, seeing what I can reduce. What would make this line flow easier? Is that line, or even that paragraph, really necessary? Does this really sound like someone talking? What would Jessica be thinking right about now?

Meanwhile, a pack of chores are looming (metaphorically speaking) over my shoulder muttering "You've never been published before, never gotten paid for this. Are you sure this is more important than us? Is this work or are you just hiding from cleaning the bathroom?" It sure feels like work, although I must admit it doesn't take much to convince me to avoid scrubbing the toilet.

The good news is that after months of my page count staying the same or increasing by a page or two, I finally dropped four pages out of my novel yesterday. And now I need to publish this and go back to hacking out a few more.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Childhood innocence and parental fears

I sat in my work's break room a few days ago. Newspapers were spread across both tables, each one had photos of Tori Stafford plastered across the front page. I commented how horrible it was that Tori's mother was being lambasted for allowing her 8 year old daughter to walk alone from school, the response I got was a shrug and "that's what society's like these days, kids don't walk home alone".

That angers me. We live in a society where obesity rates for children rise yearly. Local parks (in some neighbourhoods) are empty while the children play in daycare or sit inside playing video games. I used to go on a Canadian parenting forum and remember this discussion coming up on one of the boards. Many parents expressed fear of letting their children out of eyesight, gingerly allowing them to walk one or two houses down to play with friends. One mother admitted her twelve year old was not allowed to walk across the street to the neighbourhood store alone despite the fact the store was clearly visible from their kitchen window and the street was quiet.

What are we teaching our children? The world is a dangerous and scary place with criminals waiting on every corner to hurt and kill us. They're not capable of making responsible decisions without their parents right there to supervise. I sometimes wonder how that mother of a 12 year old is managing her child's entry into high school and, likely soon, admission to college or university. Will she insist on holding her daughter's hand right through the admission, like so many parents are doing these days?

Stranger abduction and murder is terrifying but we need to remember that out of all the children who are sexually assaulted and/or murdered, the vast majority happened at the hands of people they knew and trusted (usually relatives). The reason stranger abduction is so memorable is because it's rare.

As I'm writing this, my 14 year old son is outside rollerblading on his own. His only rules are to be careful while crossing the road and to be back before dark. I'd be lying if I said I wasn't worried. I worry every time he heads out on his own. But that worry is mine. I need to own it. And I think that's the biggest issue. We, as parents, are not owning our fear. Instead we're passing it on to our children.

Instead of clinging to our children, we need to give them the tools they need to thrive and let them go. There are numerous articles and books out there on teaching kids about strangers and dangerous situations. I freely admit I have not read most of them.

I remember smiling at a child and saying "hi" when I was a teenager, only to have that child look fearful and back away. My Mom commented it was probably because I was a stranger and the child was likely taught to be scared of strangers. At that point I realized how idiotic that idea was. Almost everyone in this world is a stranger to most of us, that doesn't make most of them scary or dangerous.

A friend of mine called me up when our children were young. She'd just watched a video on child abductions and it showed how easy it was to lure a child away. Then she asked her son what he'd do if someone said they had Pokemon cards in their car. He replied he'd go with them to get the cards. That was when I started talking with my kids. No adults ever keep cards in their car to give kids. No adults drive around with puppies or kittens in their back seat. Adults don't ask kids for help, they ask other adults for help. They might ask if you've seen a kitten or puppy but they're not going to ask you to look for one. And the biggest one, you never go anywhere without telling Mommy. It doesn't matter who shows up, you come and tell me first.

We talked and I listened. We covered what happens if someone gets lost in a store or a mall. It took one instance of my son thinking a custodian was a police officer to convince me not to tell them to go to a police officer. Instead I taught what a police officer suggested, to go into a store "glue" their hand to the front desk and tell the staff member they were lost. And not to "un-glue" their hand until I showed up or a police officer arrived. If they got lost away from a store, go to someone with kids. And above all else, to trust their instincts.

My son talks to everyone. We went out shopping yesterday in a neighbouring town and two separate people waved to him out of car windows during our 5 minute wait for the bus. We're constantly running into people who know him by name... people I've never met. If I kept him sitting in front of the Wii all day, he wouldn't have those experiences.

Nothing will ever bring back the lives of the handful of children who have died at the hands of strangers. Nothing will ever ease the pain of their families. But raising a generation of children who have never walked to the corner store on their own or talked to an adult neighbour without supervision is not the answer.