Category Archives: family


10-31-09 032, originally uploaded by tim_elhajj.

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Son Selected for African-American Leadership Group in Middle School

8-30-2009 051

My wife called me this evening and told me our son came home from school with a letter saying he had been selected for the African American leadership group. I laughed. My wife laughed. I asked her if she could tell by reading the letter if they understood that he’s white. She said she didn’t think they understood. She wondered if it was because she listed us as a multi-ethnic family, which I am not even sure what that means. My family is Arabic and hunky. Her folks are from Texas. We joke that the kids are Texa-hunkies.

I think it is my name, Elhajj.

I used to have this certain kind of experience in school. I went to the City University of New York in the early 90s. I also worked at the school’s administrative offices. I remember Betty Shabazz taught at Medgar Evers College and was basically treated like royalty. My name tends to stand out, especially in an organization with a huge focus on multiculturalism, which was at its height in the early 90s. Occasionally I would come to a meeting with university people and I would find someone in a big dashiki and would introduce myself and their face would fall with disappointment and they would be like, “YOU. YOU’RE ELHAJJ?!”

So this middle school thing just made me laugh.

This is his first year at the school. I imagine they are not looking too closely at the people they select. But, who knows? Here in the Pacific Northwest every one is very PC and there are just are not that many black people.

I went to a school function a few years back and was looking for one of the fathers, but I didn’t realize he was a black man. I kept asking the other parents (who I didn’t know all that well) if they knew where I could find this man and nobody would tell me he was black, which would have greatly simplified spotting him. Instead people got all nervous and were like, Ohhh, he’s about 6’4″, ah… humm.

Where I grew up people would not think twice about saying, “He’s the tall black man.”
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In Sickness And In Health

8-30-2009 069 

Two weeks ago Holly got sick.

We thought it was the flu, but it was much worse. I won’t go into the details here, except to say she ended up in the hospital on antibiotics for a the better part of a week. She is home now, and mostly recovered. I was freaking out.

There are some things I do pretty good. At my best, I like to think I set the spiritual tone and cadence for the family. If there are schisms, I can usually work my magic to put things back together. I do this by acting goofy–having a seat on my daughter, as she lays in a snit on the couch. Or pratfalls into Aaron’s arms. I have no problem making an ass of myself, if I think it’ll do some good. When it comes to work, I’ve had a pretty good run. In the last ten years, I’ve only been unemployed once, maybe twice, and never longer than 6 months. Every month, I balance our checkbook to the penny.

But there are somethings I do terribly. Getting up early, for example. Or making breakfast. For middle school, the kids have to be out of the house at 7:20 A.M. With Holly gone, we were getting by on toast and Popsicles. Of course, this all happened a few weeks away from a major deadline at my work, which didn’t help. There is nothing more humbling than not being able to provide for your kids.

We got a lot of support. Holly coordinated from her hospital bed, using her cell phone. Our friends–the Francours and the Becks–pitched in to haul the kids around to various after school activities or feed them dinner. My mother-in-law jumped on a plane and came rushing to our aid.

Somehow we survived.

I took Holly to the ER in the middle of the night, when we first realized things were going sour. She was in pain and eventually the nurse offered her a shot of dillaudid. Holly always turns down the pain medication, which I have known about her for a long time, but it always catches me off gaurd when it happens. Who turns down morphine? I always feel like I have to explain to the nurse and doctors.

Holly, take your narcotics.

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Cougar Sighting 300 Yards From Where I Park My Car


Earlier this week, a cougar was sighted near my office.

The news report said there was some confusion over whether the animal sighted was a cougar or a coyote. It seems ridiculous to me that anyone might mistake a cougar for a coyote.

Today there was another cougar sighting. This on the heels of a cougar sighting in Seattle’s discovery park, earlier this year.

I hope I am not eaten in the parking lot!

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Four Browns And a Green

9-7-2009 043, originally uploaded by tim_elhajj.

This afternoon I found our first few eggs.

They were secreted above the nesting box, where no chickens are allowed to go, but where they all seem to go anyhow. I am raising scofflaw, renegade chickens. This is God paying me back for a childhood of rebellion.

We have five eggs, but can’t be sure that all four chickens are laying. The green one is definitely from one of the Americana’s, either Quack or Kathy. We suspect the other four brown ones are all from Shirley. Bob is supposed to lay big white eggs, so we figure she has not yet made her contribution.

Very soon now: four hens a laying.

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Did You Make It?

8-29-2009 031

I got a little reminder about why I write nonfiction today at Aaron’s football jamboree. 

This is his first year out for football, so I was interested in getting to know the rest of the parents. I was standing on the sidelines watching the drills. One of the boys on the team hollered to the man standing next to me about what he had brought for the team’s snack. The man hollered back about having picked up a twelve pack of something from the local warehouse store and his boy beamed. I was so amused by this exchange: the importance of the snack, the boy’s earnest query, Dad’s dutiful reply. I stopped taking photographs and grinned at the man.

I pointed out my son, and we struck up a conversation.

When I asked him what grade and school his son attended, he told me the boy had recently switched to a new school and was doing poorly. I told him I had had the same experience myself, switching to a new school.

The man surprised me by asking, “Did you make it?”

By this I understood him to mean, did you make it to graduation, are you a high school graduate, which I am not. I am embarrassed to say that I came this >< close to lying to the man. I felt a huge wave of shame roll over me–me, Mr. Memoir, a guy who has written about being a divorcee, an absentee father, shooting IV drugs, and even being homeless. There is just something intimidating about being asked something like this point blank in a conversation. I really wasn’t sure what to say. I started to bluster, but then I finally just smiled and said, “Nah–not really.”

This man grinned and said, “Me either.”

We had a good chuckle. I didn’t get his name, but I connected with this man in a way I would not have had I tried to save face by going on about my time in college, the military, or even getting my GED.

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8-16-2009 158, originally uploaded by tim_elhajj.

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My Girls of Summer

6-24-2009 055

Holly, Kennedy, and a big floppy hat.

I think this photo is from the kid’s elementary school graduation celebration, which didn’t happen until late June because of the teacher’s strike.

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Chicken in the Middle

6-24-2009 078

Aaron and Dad playing football in the backyard–the defensive line is a bunch of chickens. (Yuk, yuk!)

Chickens can be amusing, but this positive attribute is largely offset by the fact that they are disgusting, smelly, nasty creatures. Mine haven’t started to lay eggs yet, so my feelings may change, but I doubt it. I’m not that big on eggs.

Our neighbors, who have chickens, too (What is this?), suggested that when we feed the chickens table scraps, we say something like, “Here chick, chick, chick! Here chick, chick, chick!” This trains the birds to respond to your voice. The problem is that now, whenever we say “Here chick, chick, chick!,” our dog comes racing out back for the table scraps. 

Pace is our biggest chicken.

If you don’t give him some of the scraps, he looks at you with the saddest eyes. Nothing for me? Again?

The chickens like to sleep in the alcove over the nesting box, instead of going inside the nesting box (where it is safer) to spend the night. This means I have to pick them up and put them in the nesting box at night.

There is no good way to grab a chicken.

Chickens don’t have a scruff, like cats or dogs. If you grab one of the legs, they squawk and flap their wings. I find it best to just bat them off the top ledge and then scold them.

Soon I am going to do a post on chicken coop construction.

I bought the plans from one Dennis J Harrison-Noonan, who I have yet to pay (sorry Dennis!) and for whom I have promised to do a review of my experience  using the plans. I’ve added a few improvements (hopefully) to the design, and it turned out better than I expected.

Stay tuned.

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