Sunday, August 5, 2012

Apartment hunting in NYC

If you've ever lived in NY or have tried to find a place to live in NY you will understand how intense and difficult it is. As a newly arrived family we have no records here. No way of proving we can pay rent. I don't understand how people can come over and begin a life. I guess it's all about living with family and friends until you are established but then you need to be making 36 times what the rent is. When rents are at least 2000 and that's for a small place, that's a lot. So for us since we don't have 9-5 jobs with a pay stub and no record of income in the States we need a guarantor. That Guarantor needs to make 80 times what the rent is. Man, Daddy Warbucks where are you?????

We had been in our castle for a week and a half and now it was time to get out there and look. We had 4 1/2 weeks to find somewhere to call home. Somewhere where we could have our baby. The day was overwhelmingly hot and we stood outside the first building with hope. There was throw up outside the building, a firehouse across the way and a bar next door. It wasn't looking good for peace of sound but we were hopeful. The Super, 40 minutes late, showed us the "Large" 3 bedroom. I lived in New York for 17 years and so I know the way NY apartments used to be. They were never big but now they take studio apartments and chop them into 3 bedroom. We walked into the dark and tiny 3 bedroom apartment. As we looked around, I tried to imagine us living there and making it work. It was $4200. This was beyond our budget and yet and I thought, "Do we have other choices?" My heart was sinking and the pressure of finding our place to live was overwhelming. How could I make a place for my kids. There was hardly any room to walk. The Super kept telling us how large and quiet the place was, but on the first floor facing the street, I doubted it. We left and thanked him and I knew my husband was as worried as I was. As we saw the next few 2 or 3 bedroom apartments filled with students and their dirty dishes, laundry, beer bottles, and pin up girls, I began to wonder if there was a place for families in New York that rent. We were hot and tired and so I thought maybe we should go get something to eat. We were not far from Union Square park and a Whole Foods and figured a picnic would be good. As we walked into the whole foods we were taken aback by all the yummy looking bakery items, fruit, sushi and salad bar... "Everything would be OK", I thought. But as my daughters ran towards different items I found myself saying at every turn, that's too expensive. We settled on 4 slices of ham, some sushi rice wrapped in tofu and a smoothie. I longed for Thailand where the rent and food were cheap and I could feed my family without restrictions. But we were no longer there and we had left because we could not make money there and needed a different course for our lives. This was where we were and we needed to find a way to make it work not think about what we didn't have or what we did.

We walked across to the park and sat down where we could watch the men play with the over sized chess set. The girls were fascinated and didn't seem to notice what we had or didn't have to eat. We might not have a lot of money at the moment but our experiences were rich. Watching the chess players I began to remember that it is patience in life that helps you make the right move. We were only new here and we would need some time to find out place and make our move. I needed to think of this as a game and start to enjoy it rather then dread it. Each move would help us to the next step we just needed time and patience. For the moment we did have food and we did have a beautiful place to stay and I needed to remember that.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Hello Manhattan

I feel as if it has only been moments since I have allowed myself to rest when I can hear little feet walking. I arise to find my youngest daughter looking for me. "Where were you mommy? Is it morning time?" It is only 4am and so I try to convince her to go back to sleep. I  bring her back to the bed where the rest of the family have been sleeping but as we arrive my other daughter also awakes. They are hungry and ready to go. It would take more energy to try to get them back to sleep, so I give in and as I do my husband awakes as well. Our bodies are telling us it is 9am, so why fight it. We all head down and begin our day. I am still nervous and ready to begin our lives in New York City. My husband has only found his feet and I begin having him move around suitcases up and down the stairs to the basement. I want to get on with it and try to make things happen. There is not much for children to play with in this house and the kids are getting curious as to what they can do. I am tense and wanting them to just sit and eat so I can quickly pack up and get out but they are kids and need to explore. So in between my frantic re-packing and moving, I run around trying to stop them from breaking anything. I am trying to be calm but it's no use. I need to get out. We decide to get out of Brooklyn immediately. We figure we'll take the subway and save money but when we look at what we need to take for the next 6 weeks, we let down our guard and allow ourselves to be treated to a taxi.

It is 8am and we head over the Brooklyn Bridge. Morning time in New York is always so serene for me. I love when the city is only just waking up and you feel like you have it all too yourself. It is a sunny Saturday in July and the water bellow the bridge is glistening and I can see the Statue of Liberty out to my left. I can feel her strength and the millions upon millions that have gone before me and my family, that have had the same journey and become better because of it. I can feel their strength and ask for guidance. When we touch down on the Manhattan side, I feel a sense of relief. I love all the boroughs of NYC but for me Manhattan means I've made it. I feel like I have been in a game of tag and now I've gotten to "Home Base".

We arrive at my clients apartment. She and her husband and kids have graciously lent us their beautiful penthouse apartment on Madison Ave, as they are away for the summer. I feel like Cinderella as we arrive. September 1st, I hear my fairy god mother say and the spell will be broken. So I must remember to enjoy the ball there's not much time. The doorman greats us and helps us with our bags. He does not seem to think it strange we are staying there. He does not know what we have or don't have in the bank. He is not judging us, only I am. So I let go of how and just enjoy. We get into the elevator and push PH. I have never been in a penthouse before I had met this client and I am excited to see Manhattan from the top. We open the door to our beautiful apartment and we are all bowled over at our lives. As I show the family around the girls immediately start unfolding every toy and game they see. It's like Christmas. and Santa has brought us a miracle. The apartment is warm and inviting and we immediately feel like home. I feel like I am floating and watching from above. I still can not believe this fairy tale but I delighted to watch my children and know that for the moment we are safe. We play all day in the apartment until the afternoon when we go to Central park to take in the beauty and fun of the playgrounds. "I live here", I keep saying to myself. "I live here." That night we celebrate with a delicious chocolate cake. It is our birthday, the birth of a new beginning.

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

An immigrant sort of

It's a funny thing when you leave your country for 8 years and then come back afain. It's almost as if you are coming back as a foreigner. My husband is Irish and so are my children and traveling around the world I have learned to meld into others cultures rather then bring America to them. So now here I was with my family in Dublin airport and 8 large suitcases and 5 carry ons. Our lives packed in these 8 bags, filled with clothes, toys, pots and pans. It could have been 100 years before. Ireland in an economic crisis, and with what we could carry moving on to America.

We took up so much space at the counter and blocked all the other customers coming through with their one bag. I could feel that shame again coming over me and the voice, "Who do you think you are getting out of here and where are you going? And how will you take care of your family." I'm glad the woman at the counter was polish and not Irish, maybe she had a bit more compassion for us moving and allowed the 8 bags even though she said the policy was one bag each. Now that the bags were gone I felt a kind of freedom, Yes we had 5 heavy carry ons but we could hide them better. Now I could pretend we were like the other families going away on holiday and off for a great adventure. Not our reality that we were off into the unknown and so much to tackle in such a short time.

We boarded the plane to London and I was reminded that 10 years almost to the date I had come through London to reach Ireland and now I would leave the same way. The flight was luxurious. We were given a drink and a snack of crackers on our 45minute flight. In Thailand we would have been given a whole meal, but I knew the farther west we went the less we begin to get and so I was grateful for what we did get. We arrived to the hustle and bustle of Heathrow. I was excited and nervous and I think my husband just nervous and sad. The girls still had very little idea of what was to become of them. Sami who is just 4 still thinks we are on holiday and will be going back to Thailand. Aiko who is 6 doesn't know what to expect and longs to stay in Ireland, the only place that she calls home. We were a family who had been on the road for a while and hoping this next port would be the place.

The flight was packed with foreigners coming for holiday and fun for the summer. There wasn't a seat empty. Squashed and tired we began the 7 hour flight. The girls watched as many movies as possible, Feargal checked out and slept, and me, well, I tried hard to get my mind off things with a movie but each one seemed to be worse then the rest. The only one I found was Julie and Julia, which was great because it inspired me to write my blog again. The hours seemed to tick slowly by and finally outside the window was New York. "look Aiko, New York." Aiko turned and looked out the window and said "oh Mommy, your home." Yes she was right, I was but again that word if so funny for me. It's not something warm and fuzzy but a bit scary.

Immigration for most Americans is pretty routine. They ask you why you went and what you do and then stamp your book and let you go. But this time we had a package. Although, the girls and I all have American passports Feargal now had a big envelope that was sealed and waiting for the officer to look at and pass us on to the resident section. We were all put into the non-American section and waited for about 45 minutes before we got through. We sat down and played cards as we waited for our life to begin in NY and watched as the Americans quickly passed through immigration. I too felt like an immigrant waiting the long line as we tried to enter. My children were amazing, never a complaint even though they had been up since 8 in the morning Dublin time and it was now 10 at night their time. When we were finally called it was exciting to get Feargal's residency card and start a new chapter of our lives. It was not me coming home but rather us coming to find a home.

We got through with no problem and entered another room where Feargal answered some questions and then was told they would send his green card. Now on with it. We pulled the 8 suitcases off the belt and threw them on one of the large porter carts. I don't know if I was really allowed to take it but with 13 bags, 2 kids and a baby in my belly, I took no prisoners and carried on. We got through customs without a hitch and still no one stopped us. Maybe they thought we were a massive group of tourists coming through and the porter had given the cart to us. Regardless we were free and out in the sweltering heat. After almost 4 weeks of rain and cold in Ireland it was good to be back in heat. It was like being back in Thailand, except that the people weren't as friendly. The taxi man looked at us sideways and tried to persuade us to take 2 taxis but I pushed ahead and Feargal started loading in the bags and without a inch left got them all in.

The plan was to go to Brooklyn, store our bags and get into Manhattan, where we would be saying for the next 6 weeks. But the girls passed out in the taxi and we decided to stay the night in Brooklyn and re-group for the morning. The girls were out and soon after Feargal followed. As for me, well I was too nervous. I packed and re-packed the bags, did laundry and finally forced myself to bed at 10pm. It had been a long journey of almost a year to get there and I knew this was only the beginning. I went to sleep on the couch hoping I had done the right thing moving my family here and hoping I wasn't messing up their world.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Leaving Thailand

It had been almost 2 years since since we landed in Thailand and as wonderful as it was, the time had come to make some decisions whether or not to continue in Thailand or move on. Thailand offered us space and a life style where we didn't have to worry about where our next meal would come from and time with our children, but at the same time we were getting stuck. Europe and America were slowly getting out of our reach. As long as we had no desire to go home we could afford to stay but beyond that we were getting farther and father away. We now only had enough in the bank for the flight out of there. Beyond that we were also pregnant and wondering where and how to have this baby. I had been blessed to have my babies in Ireland with midwives but Thailand was as medicalized as America. So many decisions to make and what would be the right one for our family? Where would we go, Ireland, America? We had no home anywhere. No place to rest our head. We had to be clear and move quickly. So in April, we decided I would buy a one way ticket to America and check out the lay of the land. I had left the States 8 years before,single and now I was a mother of 2 with one on the way. The stakes were different. The pressure more intense. Plus I would have to leave my family for an unknown time. I packed up and in the only way I could go through it went into denial about leaving. By the time I got to the airport I didn't even cry when saying goodbye to my children. I was numb and terrified. So much pressure on me and not a clue as to what was waiting on the other side. I kissed my crying children good-bye trying to sooth them with a lie that I would only be gone a short time, but they knew I was lying but I didn't know what else to say. I felt horrible and yet it felt like the only way we could move on. We couldn't afford to all go and we had really no where to stay. Single I had more of a chance to stay on a couch but as a family of four, I don't know who would have put us up. So I went alone. When I reached Japan I called home desperately wanting to go back to my family but knowing it was too late. My children begged me to come home but how could I explain this was he only way? How could I explain we didn't have enough money and no where to go? They would be safer in Chiang Mai with their father. I would not be able to provide for them. I felt like a failure as a mother and a person. I now thought of all the women I had met over the years who had to leave their families in a other countries to make money. I could not understand how they could leave. I thought they must be so cold and not caring about their little children. But now I began to understand their pain and their shame. I too felt that way, the pain, the shame.but I had no choice, or did I? I arrived in Los angles with 2 large bags and a mission. I had to make this happen. I handed my custom forms to the officer as I was heading out of baggage claim and as he looked at the paper he saw I was a an American citizen and said " welcome home." In a flash I had tears in my eyes. What did that mean welcome home? Where was my home? And if I was home would I be safe. For a moment my childhood welled up inside me and wanted to cry for days, but there was no time. My childhood was over I needed to focus on my children and making them safe. I spent 3 weeks in Los angles and at the end I realized as sunny and mild as it was. This was not our place. I was blessed with friends and family there that welcomed me with open arms but the clock was ticking and my children were father away each minute and I still had no idea how to take care of them. I was lost and worried. My husband suggested I go to NYC. It was the city I had left behind when I got married and now I hoped it would welcome me back. New York had always been my home, the place in my heart but I also knew how expensive it was and although I had lived their for 17 years on and off, I had always just scraped by. Now with a family, no money or health insurance, a baby on the way and an unconventional job the odds were against me, but I had to go. It was the only way.

Friday, February 24, 2012

What is Love

I am amazed by life and humbled by it sometimes. Tonight was such a night. I was honored to witnessing love. When we are touched by the pureness of what love really is, it is something then will bring you to your knees and remind you that this life is truly beautiful rather then the punishment we believe it to be. I have a talent or maybe just an opening that makes be able to speak to those that have passed on. I used to think it was quite strange or rather, it made me uncomfortable since I really didn't understand it and in a way I was ashamed because I allowed people who don't believe to make me feel I was wrong. I have now come to understand the beauty and the healing that comes from being able to communicate with people who are no longer in this physical body. The work that I do is healing. I help people to see what is hard for them to see and help them shift that energy and so heal from whatever physical or emotional dis-ease. I use to feel weird about this as well, since it is not the conventional route but I have since remembered that life is not about taking the conventional route and that life only changes when we begin to look outside the box.

Tonight, while working with a client with cancer, I had one of those truly beautiful moments that really reminds me of the beauty that is life. As I went into the cause of the lump on his neck, I could hear his anger at his mother and I heard the words "I'll show you" and then as I looked a bit deeper I could see him lay flowers on his mothers grave. Now what I thought and in that instant it came to me to just allow her to speak to him. So I began to tell him what she was saying. She spoke about her love for him and that she was just doing what she thought, at the time, was the right thing to do when you loved your children. "She didn't know there was another way." She said. She spoke about how her son always wanted to go with her and during her life she couldn't understand why he did. Her unhappiness in this life made her unable to understand that she was so loved by her son. She said "I know you want to come with me now. But you can't follow me." Tears filled my eyes as she said this. I could feel my own sense of wanting to go everywhere with mother and how she always pushed me away. She said she got such pleasure from watching him as a kid making sand castles in the sand and that she wanted to have more pleasure watching him have fun in this life. It was not his time, she said. She said a few more things and then suddenly I heard no more. What more really could she have said. My client was silent and so was I. She had also helped me to truly understand that my mother did truly love me and was only doing what she thought she was supposed to. For years I had asked the question, but why? And tonight I felt I understood that there was no why, but rather it was just what she understood to be true at that moment. In that moment I felt I had been freed of the pain. I could now love my mother and move beyond what had happened, and I now knew that my own children do truly love me no matter what. It is in those moments that we understand unconditional love. We let go of the conditions and remember that this life is love. In these we understand what it means to let go and heal.