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Archive for November, 2011

Is This Wrong?

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

So there is this photography book by David LaChapelle that’s been sitting on one of our side tables for a few years. I can’t remember how exactly my husband and I acquired the book. Maybe it was a Christmas gift, maybe we picked it up at some yard sale, I am not sure, but we have had the book longer than we have had Andrei. Both Michael and I open the book occasionally, rather rarely, leaf through a few pages when we happen to sit in the purple chair next to that specific side table that houses the book (some old army munitions box from my husband’s family).

David LaChapelle may not be my or my husband’s favorite photographer, but we like his work. With my underdeveloped facial recognition abilities, I don’t even recognize half of the stars, nor do I care who the subjects are. But, I am definitely attracted to certain qualities in his photographs. The surreal, slightly bizarre world he creates  in his photographs definitely attracts me the way the fiction of Aimee Bender attracts me. I don’t mind the nudity, I don’t mind the “strong sexual content,” Read more…

Presence in the Moment

November 30, 2011 Leave a comment

Here are two scenarios from the past month:

Andrei on Meditation Pillow#1: We go to  our urban farm, Greensgrow, to buy a pumpkin (several days before Halloween, which is late for most people, but admirably early for us). Pumpkins are sold out (at least the kind we can carve), so we are ready to leave the farm, when our son notices a wagon. Pumpkins are at this point a distant past for him and all he wants RIGHT NOW is to get into that beat-up wagon that is parked right in front of one of the greenhouses. My husband tries to distract Andrei by pointing to the plants in the greenhouse, but that doesn’t work. Michael puts Andrei into the wagon and pushes him around for a few minutes. But then we start to think about our next errand to run, dinner to cook, the meat I forgot to take out of the freezer, about … who knows what else. When we take Andrei out of the wagon, he immediately throws himself on the ground, because all he wants RIGHT NOW is to be in that wagon.

#2: We order a pizza over the phone and take a walk to pick it up (we all love to walk). We know Andrei should be getting hungry (although we don’t think he should be fully hungry yet), and we plan to give him a piece of pizza to nibble on on the way back. However, Andrei wants a piece of the pizza the second the box is handed to us. He wants a piece RIGHT NOW. He is ready to rip that box open just to get to the pizza inside. Michael and I take a minute to reorganize the water bottles we are carrying, the stroller, etc., and then offer Andrei a piece of the pizza. I don’t want it, he says. What he seem to want RIGHT NOW is the water from some water bottle someone left behind. From that very bottle. Read more…

It’s a Boy, It’s a Girl, It’s a Person

November 29, 2011 Leave a comment

From the moment he was born my son has always been such a boy. He was 9 pounds 4 ounces at birth (the poor always-pretty-small-framed me actually tried to give birth to this big baby ). A few hours after he was born, while I was lying in the hospital bed in my overly drugged state waiting for my baby to be brought to me, my husband walked over to the nursery and found our son doing leg lifts. Andrei’s baby neck was so strong that lying on his belly he was able to lift his head off the bed on the day he was born. And he even cried in a boy’s voice. Such a boy, Such a boy, one of our friends used to say often.

He was an early crawler, an early walker, an early runner. He’s been in love with bulldozers, cranes, backhoes, steamrollers (you see, I learned to differentiate between these different machines solely to be able to aid his understanding and developing vocabulary). Wow! See! You see! He screams every single time we walk by any kind of machine-looking thing. Of course, he loves trucks and airplanes too. Motorcycles delight him (we can’t pass by one without stopping to touch it and simply admire it – See, Mama, see? – while I can’t even believe I actually stopped to admire a Harley Davidson). He loves my husband’s tools, particularly the drill and the hammer.

But he has a different side. For example, he loves shoes. He loves wearing my shoes. And he loves getting new shoes. Whenever we present him with a new pair of shoes, he asks us, in delight, to help him put them on, and then he parades through the house for a while, with the attitude of a peacock, Look at me! Please look at me! Andrei is also very particular about the shoes he wears on a particular day. He tends to be in love with one pair of shoes for a while, then he suddenly switches to a different pair. What doesn’t change is his particularity about the shoes he is wearing. Read more…

My Language and My Personality

November 23, 2011 3 comments

I have been thinking about this for a long time: Am I different when I am speaking English from when I am speaking Serbian? Does my personality change along with the language I use? Is it maybe that I switch to a different cultural identity? Or maybe both change, my personality and my cultural identity (or the mixture of the two).

A few days ago I read this article on the Psychology Today website: Life as a Bilingual by François Grosjean, Ph.D. In the article the author references his book Life with Two Languages, where he says “that what is seen as a change in personality is most probably simply a shift in attitudes and behaviors that correspond to a shift in situation or context, independent of language. Basically, the bicultural bilinguals … were behaving biculturally, that is, adapting to the context they were in.”  This might be a good scientific answer to my question based on specific studies. I can see how the type of situation we are in affects who we are, or rather who we decide to be in a particular situation in order to better match the current environment linguistically, intellectually, and culturally. This answer provides the bone and muscle of the answer to my dilemma.

But the blood of my answer has to come from my heart. And that answer is different. I think when I switch from one language to the other, the change that comes with it  goes deeper than affecting just my attitudes and my behavior. It feels to me like every time I change the language, I turn into someone else. Fully. Fundamentally. Maybe that’s why switching between the two languages is so hard for me. So disorienting. Every time I make the switch, it takes me a minute to shake off and quickly forget the old self and to quickly adjust to the new self. That’s why for many years I simply discarded Serbian. It was so much easier, but deep in my heart I knew I discarded a part of myself too. Read more…

The Blood Pressure Machine and I

November 20, 2011 Leave a comment

So I’ve been at war with blood pressure machines for some time. I’d say maybe six or seven years. I can’t remember when everything started. And how exactly. Before it started, I had always had a good blood pressure. Slightly low, just the way medical professionals like it. Maybe 110 or 100 over 70 or 75.

Then something happened. Just when they were getting ready to put the blood pressure cuff around my arm, I got all worked-up. The first time it was maybe 128 over 80. And the next time it was higher. And then even higher. Every time I came to see a doctor, I was more worked-up than the last time. On a few occasions I wanted to leave the doctor’s office to avoid feeling tortured. 150/90 became my standard blood pressure.  My doctors shook their heads. I tried to explain what was happening. Like they didn’t notice I was bouncing off the walls and I simply couldn’t shut up.

So that’s how it went until I got pregnant. Blood pressure then got a different meaning. Attached to pre-eclampsia. The practice where my doctor worked had a strange policy: you see a different doctor every time so you get to know all of their twenty doctors or so. I tried to fight them and insist they schedule my appointments always with my doctor, but that turned out to be too complicated. I refused to have to anticipate meeting all these different doctors and explain my problem to each one of them. I switched to a different practice. Read more…

Destiny of My Son’s Serbian

November 17, 2011 2 comments

I am trying to speak Serbian to my son as much as I can. Whenever I can. But because I am not always consistent, I tried to come up with some guidelines. Not rules, because rules do many bad things to me: they turn me off; they make me forget (ignore) them; they make me turn my back (give up) on the whole thing. That’s why I decided to have only guidelines:

* When Andrei and I are alone, at home and in public, we speak Serbian.

* When we are in the company of others, we speak to others in English, but I always speak to Andrei in Serbian. (Now this gets complicated fast: What about the times I need to address both Andrei and another kid who doesn’t speak Serbian? What about the other “triangular” situations where Andrei and I are having a conversation with a non-Serbian-language-speaking person?)

* When my husband, Andrei, and I are spending time together we mostly speak English so we can have conversations about non-language-related things. However, we have a lot of language-related conversations as well infused with quite a bit of Serbian (How do you say “Let’s go downtown” ). And it’s lovely when Andrei or Michael switches to Serbian.

* We try to read as many books in Serbian as we can (at least two at bedtime).

* And we try to listen to a lot of Serbian music.

* And Mama sings mostly in Serbian. Read more…

Symbols, Memory, the Collective Unconscious, and Language

November 7, 2011 2 comments

sad pumpkinWhen I was a kid, on my way back from school I filled the pockets of my uniform with chestnuts. Whenever I was wearing under the uniform a dress or pants with decent-sized pockets, I filled those as well. Every fall. Every day. I took chestnuts home. I unloaded them into some old shoeboxes that I kept under my bed. When I filled a box or two that I usually had there, I asked my mother for another one or two, not specifying the intended purpose for the boxes.

I am not sure at what point in the season I stopped bringing chestnuts home. I assume when it was late in the fall and most of the chestnuts left on the ground were rotting. But usually by that time I already had quite a few chestnuts. I was happy. At times I would take the boxes from under the bed and look at the chestnuts, hold some in my hands, then put them back and push the boxes back under the bed. Nothing much.

Then, one day late in the season, the chestnuts would mysteriously disappear. Usually on that particular weekend when my mother did a big fall cleaning of the house. When I was asked to leave my room to avoid being in the way. I would come back, reach under the bed, and discover the boxes were still there, but the chestnuts were gone.

I can’t even remember if I ever conducted an investigation. If I was really angry, or terribly hurt. In some undefined way I knew I couldn’t keep all those chestnuts I collected over the years anyway. So I never asked my mother what happened to the chestnuts. I preferred not to discuss their disappearance or think about how exactly they were discarded. Maybe I felt it was easier to let my mother get rid of them than to have to do it myself. Read more…

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