Thought Exercise: Moving out of Shaw

B/W px of a early 20th century moving vanI had a job interview a few weeks ago, it went well, so well I seriously gave thought to what we would do if I was chosen for the position. You see, it is in the same suburban area of Maryland where my spouse, the Help works, and I said if I were to get a job there, we’d move. So for several days I was looking at moving to Maryland and all that would entail.

We already know what neighborhoods we want to live in on the other side of the border. Yes, this is something we think and talk about on a regular basis. But I hadn’t thought about the consequences of leaving Shaw and the city.

What we’d lose
Walkability
Our part of Shaw is a wonderfully compact. Within a 1/3 mile I can walk to the grocery store, a couple of bakeries, a bunch of restaurants and bars, the metro, and Destructo’s daycare. I haven’t owned a car for over twenty years and it’s been a couple of years since I’ve driven. I like being able to walk with Destructo or plop him in a stroller and walk to a park. When I looked at a few houses on-line that I thought was close enough to a metro station, PG Plaza was over a mile away, and a park well over 1/3 mile. Whereas our block has a WalkScore in the 90s the areas I was looking at had scores in the 30s… and no sidewalks.

Lower Property Taxes
When looking at possible homes in our price range, looking at the property taxes made some places just, unaffordable. A lovely little 3 bedroom in the $300-400K range had taxes above $5,000 a year. Our taxes in DC are somewhere just below $3K a year. A couple hundred dollars of our monthly mortgage goes to taxes and insurance, but I was seeing sizable $400-$700 a month going to taxes for PG Co. properties.

Free Pre-K
Dangit, I been paying into this system, I’m going to get my 2 free years. Destructo won’t enter the school system until 2020-21. If we were to move, we’d be paying for  2 more years of daycare since PG County doesn’t have free Pre-3-4K. That’s when I decided I’d rather have a bad commute (I’d worked at this location before) than pay $30,000+ for 2 years of daycare.

Loss of connections
Living here for nearly 20 years, despite people constantly moving, we’ve got some deep strong connections here. After observing others move to other nearby neighborhoods or over into suburbs, I know after a while you stop seeing those people. I wouldn’t expect us to be any different. We have friends and family in PG County and those connections would get stronger, but I would miss what I have built here in Shaw.

Other things I had to consider
Sell/Rent house?
Then there is the question of selling or renting. I’m emotionally attached to this house I live in. It was my first property. I’m not sure I can just hand it over to some renter to make their mark on. However, renting would allow me to return to the TC if I manage to return to my current duty station if an opportunity arose. Also the rules about renting in this city seem to get more complicated, which would mean hiring a property manager. Some of my former neighbors self manage, other use a property manager. Question would be would I want to self manage my baby?

Then we’d have to make the house suitable for renters. When you own your own home, there are things you let slide. Our AC died 3 years ago. We’ve got portable and window units that work well. The bathrooms aren’t painted that well, because I painted the whole house myself and never ever got back to them. There is a whole long list of little repairs that should be done, but since the health of the house does not depend on those repairs getting done anytime this century, they don’t.

If I were to sell, the property tax issue I have such a problem with would be less of an issue, because the equity we have in our home would make some places mortgage free. I wouldn’t have to think about managing a DC property.

Mari InShaw to Mari N. Peagee?
A lot of my on-line identity is based on being in Shaw/Truxton Circle. Would I change it if I moved? I’m still pondering that one.

Recently, I found out I wasn’t chosen. I called one of the interviewers, who I knew professionally, regarding why I wasn’t and now I know what areas I need to improve. So when the next opportunity pops up I know what I will do, and if chosen, I have a plan.

Momblogging in over at DC Area Mom’s Blog

I’m going to try to limit the posts relating to parenting at InShaw and decided to join a local mom’s blog. So a month or so ago I joined DC Area Mom’s Blog and I am one of 12 new contributors.

I already have a post up, “3 Upsides of Being an Older Mom/Dad“.

However there are parent related issues that will remain here. Such as my support for the concept of charter schools in DC. I’ve seen too many neighbors vote with their feet soon after the postive pregnancy test. DCPS should not take the children (and their parents/guardians) for granted. And I remember the bad old days. Also there are things that are just too hyperlocal like the Florida Avenue park, the Kennedy Playground and the like that wouldn’t be a good fit. Which reminds me, there is a certain style that I’m learning for the other blog, so thing with a harsher tone would probably stay here.

I Suck as a Hausfrau

View down Florida Avenue
Random picture of Florida Avenue NW

Well. If this furlough as proven anything, I suck as a housewife. I do not have what it takes to be a stay at home mom. I need to get back to work. This shutdown has lasted way too long.

The house is not cleaner than normal. I’ve scrubbed the kitchen floor several times, but somebody who will go unnamed, keeps throwing banana slices on the floor. Then somebody else who isn’t paying attention, steps on the slice or the sticky left over from the banana and tracks it all over the 1st floor.

The handywoman list of things to do, still undone. I haven’t fixed the sink. I have an excuse, I’m sick, with a cold. And I don’t wanna. The light needs me to have the ladder brought up and someone to spot me. That’s the negative to high ceilings, looks great but a pain to replace the lights.

The SAHM thing is not a thing for me, right now. When he’s not sick or school isn’t closed, Destruct-o-Baby still goes to daycare. He’s not waiting till 2 yo to be terrible. The holidays and other days when he’s stayed home with me, have not made me yearn to be with him all day. The laid back chill baby we brought home is gone, replaced by a loud, moody, whirlwind of energy (thus the name Desctruct-o-Baby) who throws food. Maybe if this had happened when he was still immobile, I might have fallen in love with the idea of hanging out with him all day, everyday. So yeah, he’s still going to daycare. I’m afraid if I pull him out we will lose our spot. We lucked out and weren’t on a waiting list to begin with, so not gonna screw with a good thing. If this lasts longer than 2 months, we might see if he can go part-time. Please Lord, don’t let this thing go longer than 2 months.

I am cooking more. I guess this is where I shine in one of the housewifery skills. Normally, one of us does 3 nights, and the other 3 nights and Wednesday is for sandwiches. Sandwiches are perfectly fine for dinner in this house. I’m doing all nights. Nothing fancy, but I did make some paneer cheese for palak paneer. No sandwiches, unless I plan for some fancy schmancy sandwiches like monte cristos or BLTs.

Thankfully, the Help has not complained about my hausfrau skills. Destruct-o has been complaining non-stop, but he started that before the shutdown.

 

Glass half full Shaw Story

shawbordersLooking at the title of Living in Shaw- As a Senior Citizen, which I discovered via DCist’s more click-baity title of What’s it like to live in Shaw as a senior citizen on a fixed income? I geared up for another paint by the numbers article on gentrification in Shaw. But as I read the piece by Susannah Herrada, I was most pleasantly surprised. The gentleman at the focus of it, Hodge resident, Bernard Johnson, reminded me of my late Uncle Jimmy.

My Uncle Jimmy was a retiree who lived in Queens. He had a saying, “If you don’t use it, you lose it.” He said it like a motivational speaker, and talked about how he would try to get other retirees to make use of all the great senior citizen and NYC city programs available to them.  Men like Mr. Johnson and my late Uncle Jimmy have a certain love of life that we should only be so lucky to have a smidge of.

Mr. Johnson is going to the free wine tastings and is knowledgeable of the happy hours around the neighborhood. Sounds a heck of a lot better than my parent’s regular treks to the Golden Corral. And he’s aware of the free activities available to him in walking distance. He makes use of the wonderful Shaw Library and I suspect he’s going to openings at the Longview Gallery.

Last year the Help and I got a crash course in eldercare with moving his mom to the DC area. I had looked into the Hodge. My pot-headed Korean sister-in-law had a better chance of getting into Harvard than my mother in law into the Hodge. The Hodge is one of several senior citizen residences around. Not as modern is Asbury Dwellings in the old Shaw Junior High School. They never got back to me when I asked about a unit for her. I did not consider House of Lebanon in Truxton Circle because there are ‘issues’ (*cough *S.O.M.E.* cough) in that area. Maybe Chapman Stables might help. Have a senior special at Republic Cantina?

In writing this I was looking for a picture of my Uncle Jimmy and well I don’t have one. But I did manage to find on-line pix of his son, my 2nd cousin Jarvis. Cousin Jarvis is a working actor in New York. If you are looking for a 40-ish bald brown man of medium build with a beautiful smile, hire him. He’s a member of whatever stage and screen guild-union-whatever in NYC, Jarvis Smith (IMDb) (Stage32). Speaking roles, non-speaking roles in the the New York area.

When your own ethnic group can be oppressive

On this miserable morning I found myself on an unfamiliar bus, standing near the front overhearing a conversation between another rider and the metrobus driver. At first I couldn’t figure out what they were talking about when they were talking about seeing “them” out in this weather with the cold wet slushy snow. The first snow of the season.

When they mentioned running I figured out the ‘them’ were joggers, white joggers. If people like the driver and rider did such a thing, they agreed, they’d catch pneumonia. Supposedly, we, African-Americans don’t jog, which is a lie. I don’t jog but I have witnessed black men and women jogging around Shaw and Bloomingdale.

This reminded me of the negative talk that floats around in my ethnic group that, I believe, keeps us down and back. Growing up I heard Black people don’t swim, play tennis, play golf, or any of those things, which is fairly harmless. Unless you’re a Tiger Woods or Williams sister. I also heard that excelling in high school was ‘acting white.’ That phrase. That mindset. How many young Black men and women have been kept back because of the fear of ‘acting white?’ So many minds, gone to waste.

In DC, in the arguments about bike lanes and gentrification, I’ve heard black people don’t ride bikes. This came from a blind fool who apparently ignored all the drug boys rolling around the neighborhood on bikes. I’ve also heard hints that we, as a people, only go to certain types of eateries that serve unhealthy Southern fare. My parents and older relatives like to prove this point often in their love for places like Cracker Barrel.

So I’m happy to be one of 2 or 3 black customers, the only customers sometimes, of the Protein Bar waiting for breakfast. We can eat healthy. We can live healthy. We can have strong minds, and good educations. Provided we push against, or ignore, those negative voices within the community.

Transracial adoption

November is National Adoption Month. So I’m posting about our experience.

So I tend not to think of ourselves as transracial parents, as the term applies to parents whose adopted children are of a different race or ethnic group than they. I’m African American, the Help is white. Destruct-O-baby is half white, half, maybe black. During the time of Meghan Markle’s wedding to Prince Harry, and how she identified herself, made me realize my son and I were different. He’s bi-racial, I am not.

The typical transracial families I’ve seen and know are white parents, with black (domestic), Asian (international), and Hispanic (both) kids. Each comes with its own challenges, but I’m more familiar with the white/black combo as we know a couple of those families. Hair is a problem for white mothers of little black girls. Then there are the identity ‘hey you guys don’t match’ issues. We’re lucky in that when we’re together it looks like Destruct-O-baby is related to us, but sometimes we’re mistaken for grandparents. I have no idea of how things are when the Help and Destructo are out together.

I have found the work of Angela Tucker, a transracial adoptee and filmmaker, informative. She did a couple of videos talking to transracial adoptees. Below is a video of Ms. Tucker chatting with DC area transracial adoptees. I found her videos and her film Closure, because I was looking for perspectives of adult adoptees. That was before we adopted Destructo. Post-adoption, people we know have let us know they too were adopted, so the adult adoptee narrative is diverse. That may be another post for another time.

Slugg: Fathers are important

So a little bit more from Slugg: A Boy’s Life in the Age of Mass Incarceration

The single most impactful issue plaguing black communities across the country was, relatively speaking, hushed.
Families aren’t supposed to function with one parent. Children need a pair of loving parents…. Given prison, death, and abandonment, in my neighborhood the number of homes without a father was extremely close to a hundred percent.

My parents were in a high conflict marriage. My father was an angry alcoholic, my mom struggled with mental health challenges, and the marriage suffered infidelity from both parties. Taking a selfish look back, my parents staying together while we were minors was the best thing they did for my sister and myself. After becoming a parent, I see what a luxury item my father was, despite himself.

@MrTonyLewisJr tells of what his life was life before with his father and after when his father was shipped off to prison. Before, he lived in a nice house in the suburbs with his mother. His father would drive him to private school. He had new clothes on his back. Hanover Street was a place to visit family. There was stability. Then his father’s life and the Feds caught up with him. They lost the house and his mother slowly lost her mind. Hanover St NW became home. He also lost his 2nd parent to mass incarceration and the safety net his father provided. Thankfully due to kin and family friends he remained in Catholic school, but they could not make up for the fact that he was like so many of his neighborhood friends, fatherless.

In our effort to be merciful towards and supportive of single parents, we dismiss the importance and of the 2nd parent. Since Destruct-O-Baby I’m freaking tired and considering my own and my mother’s mental health history* I NEED the Help, and there is no way in Hell I could do this alone and stay sane. The other parent, the father, can bring a lot of valuable things to the table. Unfortunately too many AfAm children are lacking fathers in their lives, and are poorer for it.

A neighborhood with a high number of female headed households are poorer. The matriarchy has failed to control her sons. Her sons sling dope and shoot at everything with bad aim. Young men surrounded by struggling women become predators as the potential to become hard working respectable men is squandered on the corners. Little boys yearn so much for male attention, any male attention, even from drug dealers, it is so heart breaking. There are hardly any men who look like them in the schools and in their lives that they absorb whatever masculinity they can like a bone dry sponge does any liquid, be it life giving water or deadly antifreeze.

For girls it’s different. Not to dig up more family dirt, I am very thankful that my sister in law’s ex has custody of their beautiful daughter considering my SIL’s poor romantic choices (who she decided to bring into the home), the fact that both her sons are away at college, and her mental health (and housing) challenges. The ex has provided a better safety net than nothing.

*My mom suffered from post-postpartum depression, had several ‘nervous breakdowns’ and was at a low point suicidal. I don’t think I want to detail or summarize my own challenges here.

Gentrification and Schools

I’ve been in the DC area since the mid 1990s. I remember when a friend described sending your child to DC Public Schools (DCPS) as a form of child abuse. So I really don’t think current residents have an appreciation of DCPS improvements and the options that DC Public Charter Schools (DCPCS) provide.

210 P St NW Open House
View of a charter school and a public school from a new development.

So I found an announcement for a talk about “building healthy, respectful, and equitable communities in gentrifying schools” interesting. Interesting as in curious, not interesting as in actually showing up. The event has a Facebook page if the topic is of interest to you.

Despite DC’s demographic change in the last few decades where the African American population is no longer above 50%, Blacks remain a huge majority in DCPS schools. The percent of AfAm students dropped only from 71% in the 2011-2012 year to 62% in 2016-2017. Still a majority. The Latino and white student population rose from 15% & 10% in 2011-12 to 20% and 14% in 2016-17.  And considering 75% of students participate in the DC school lottery, and that has many students commuting across the city (and some from Maryland… bastards) to goal of “building healthy, respectful, and equitable communities in gentrifying schools” curious.

Now I’m not saying anything against integrating schools. Integration is good. I’ve known some adult white DC natives whose parents sent them, purposefully to their neighborhood DC school at some point in their childhood, and they turned into amazing adults with professional jobs. And I’ve heard from DC Charter school parents about trying to make school events more inclusive, a good thing. I can’t say how those efforts worked out because I didn’t have kids nor married at the time, and thus didn’t really care.

If all things remain constant our little man could go to the neighborhood school Seaton (but I’m aiming for Mundo Verde). He can join the 1% multi-racial demographic. Maybe when we get closer to Kindergarten, I’ll find events like this more interesting.

Baby adoption

Spouse and newly adopted son
The Help and Babyman

As some of our friends and neighbors know, my spouse (the Help) we are in the adoption process. Babyman (formerly the Helpless) has been in our home for 6 months and just recently got released from ‘legal risk’. I suspect Mayor Muriel Bowser’s newly adopted child may be under legal risk, so besides her usual privacy, she’s probably not at liberty to say much.

I was pleasantly surprised to read that our mayor has adopted an infant. So congrats to Mayor Bowser on joining the process and good luck. She’ll need it. She’ll also need a strong support network and some live in help. The Help and I act like a tag team in the care of Babyman. In those early days before Babyman was sleeping through the night, even that had me working at half power running on a few hours of sleep. She might be able to deal with a few nights of no sleep but after about a week of almost no sleep because the screaming bottle feeding poop machine, something horrid happens to your brain. When that happens, you really need your support team. For us that was our relatives, neighbors, church members, co-workers, and any person who offered to babysit.

Mayor Bowser get used to being an old mommy. Forgive people who mistake you for your child’s grandma. I do and it’s not worth my time getting upset.  I’m in my late 40s and my spouse will be 50 before Babyman turns 1. I’d like to think patience comes with age and we’re calmer than younger parents. We’ve been told Babyman is a very calm easygoing baby. I’m not sure that is him or us, but for now, I’ll take the credit.

We’re not done with the process. We’ve got to go to court and appear before a judge in some random area of Maryland. I guess Mayor Bowser will have to deal with legal risk, then once both the birthparent’s parental rights are severed, and the adoption agency/lawyer gets the paperwork in order she too will go before a judge who make her a full fledged mommy.

Welcome to the club Mayor Bowser, as a parent you will see the city in a whole new light.

Babies, babies and more babies

Baby in portable bassinet
Baby in portable bassinet

So we found out two more couples in our general area (two block radius) are pregnant. This is in addition to a colleague of the Help who lives nearby, who recently had a boy. So add those pre-people to the little people who currently occupy our street and we’ll have ourselves an awesome Halloween in a year or so. At one point we had a nice number of toddlers and little kids (5) on our street and it made for fun Halloweens, because they would bring some of their pre-K school friends and have a mass of cuteness go from house to house and it is so fun when you know the kids.

Many years ago, the same thing was breaking out in our two block radius where I was hearing so many wives were getting pregnant, I joked that there must have been something in the water. I might (my memory is fuzzy) have told this to a fellow who was living with his girlfriend, and he laughed nervously. They later married and had a couple kids. So once again, there may be something in the water.

That batch of kids, and their parents, eventually moved away. At the time charter schools were not as valued by the city government and citizens as they are today. The voices saying how charters were so bad were the loudest. Now charters are a part of the system and there are more of them. When my neighbors moved, some of them moved because they did not get into the school of their choice, and at the time, there were not a lot of choices. Some of them moved to be in the boundary of the schools of their choice. And some moved because one of the parents got a job that moved them.

But this time, it’s different. There is the BloomingdaleKids Yahoo group(est. 2009), which has been a wonderful resource for free and cheaper than new stuff, and a way to get rid of stuff. There are more daycares. There are now two daycares above the Shaw metro station (one on S the other on 7th& R-ish) and I see newer child care centers popping up in other locations around town. This time the school lottery is for DCPS and DC Charter Schools, all in one and you can put your child’s name in for 12 schools. There are more charters to choose from and the DCPS schools are improved. There are more reasons to stay and not move as kids get closer to kindergarten. Middle school… that’s a different story.

In the meantime, yay, babies.