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05/26/2009

Grounded

Recession Right now, I am not allowed to cross Canada's borders.

I may be getting deported in a few weeks and until the decision is made by the Immigratory Powers That Be, I have to stay put within Canada's borders or I will be prohibited from returning.  That means no business trips, no vacations, no Target runs, until they say I can say or they toss me out by the collar in a few weeks.

We go through this every year when we re-apply for our visas, but this year is particularly nerve-wracking because not only are we upping the ante and applying for visa renewals AND permanent residency, we're doing so while we stand thirty minutes from our home country's borders and watch as she crumbles from the wallet out.

For the first time since we've been here, we can say with no hesitation that we want to stay here, that we really don't want to get sent back home.  That we're maybe a little afraid of getting sent back.

I was lucky enough to sit in on a call last week with other Silicon Valley Mom Bloggers and Katie Couric with her team and listen to them hash out ideas for their ongoing series on the recession, and the ways it is affecting our children.  

I listened to them speak about cases of child abuse, and how they are on the rise since Economageddon started, and I ached inside because this would be the time I could swoop in and maybe foster one of those children who just needs some help, but I can't because right now since I don't know what country I live in.  I listened to them talk about programs like Safe Families and the Fresh AIr Fund, which give children shelter from their storms when they need it most, and I wanted so much to dive right into one of them headfirst, but I can't right now because we are also getting hit over the head by this recession.

I listened to them talk about how families are changing the way they eat, making choices that are less healthy because that's what's in their budget.  I heard them throw around percentages and numbers, like the fact that 21% of families currently are changing their menus at home, that 20% of American families are forgoing health care just to make ends meet, and I thought about how freaking lucky I am to live in a country where health care is a right, not an expense, and then I remembered that I don't have health care right now, either, because I technically don't reside here anymore.  And then I thanked my lucky stars that even though I don't have health insurance, I can still go to the doctor if I have to because what they charge for an office visit or a prescription here is what I paid in co-pays in the states for a visit.  And I prayed that someone would make the US understand that universal health care isn't the monster it's portrayed to be, but actually a saving grace.  For everyone.  Especially for my little asthmatic.

I heard the conversation make a natural turn from medical care and dietary concerns to schools.  I heard multiple voices raise in concern over the decline of the school lunch program nation-wide, a program that had pretty much already hit rock bottom.  I thought about the uproar that was heard in my city when the school district rolled out a 'no sugar at all ever' policy, and I wondered if they knew how lucky they were to have that option.  I heard someone on that call quote a teacher as saying that schools have become, "...banks, counseling services, grocery stores, all of those things." and I wondered how these teachers who get paid next to nothing and are valued even less can keep on keeping on.  I thought about my own son, who in the 3rd grade is still lacking some fairly basic comprehension skills, and I was thankful that his teacher has enough time in her day to notice this, to talk to me about it, and to set us on a course to correct it.  And I wished that for every child, but I know it isn't happening.  Because it can't.  Because that safety net for kids is sagging ever-nearer the ground, and that is just not right.

They spoke about teens, the affect all of this is having on them, and that's when I grew very quiet.  They commiserated over the fact that teens right now are without a focal point.  These children, who should be out looking for summer jobs and gearing up for university are unable to find those jobs, and finding that the college funds just aren't there anymore.  They talked about programs like Do Something which help motivate and rally teens into action.  I thought about my nephew, who is 17 and about to end his junior year in high school.  I thought back to the day he threw his first football and we knew he was special.  I thought about the first hurdle he jumped in track and how we all knew he had a gift.  I thought about all the talks we've had about what big-name university he'd like to get into, what team he'd like to play on, what degree he'd like to pursue, and then I thought about the talk he'd had with his counselor at school and his mother, and how they'd had to convince him to do at least one year of junior college, because that's all my sister can afford right now.  Because she's a waitress and out of work and so is everyone else in her city, and right now she's not entirely sure she can buy dinner.

I thought about her more, and I thought about her husband who is mean to her and absent and verbally abusive and is just making her life a living nightmare.  I think about how close she was to getting away from him before she lost her job.  I think about the sacrifice she's making right now to ensure her son, my nephew, has a roof and food and the football equipment he needs in hopes that maybe a scholarship will come his way next year.  I remembered ever recent call we've had where she just cried because she wants so badly to be done with that man, and yet she has to stay or her son won't have a home.

I hung up the phone after that call was over and cried.  I cried for everything that is happening, every person who's life is completely unended right now.  I stopped being angry about why this is happening and started wondering if there was anything I could do to help stop it.  I stopped worrying about tomorrow and started being really, truly grateful for today.  And I know that if I get sent back home, if they decide to not renew our visas and send us back to the states, I know that it would be hard and a whole lot of things in my life would change pretty instantly, but I also know that I will be going back to a country that is rallying itself by its grass-roots, a country that is trying to fix itself from the bottom up, and that I will be a part of that the best way I can.

{This is an original post for Canada Moms Blog by Mr Lady, who may not know where she'll live next month but is pretty sure she'll always be around at her personal blog, Whiskey In My Sippy Cup.}

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