I’ve spent much of the past weekend largely consumed by a sense of overwhelming grief and guilt due to Friday’s tragic shooting in CT. Grief, because as a parent, it’s just about the worst possible outcome you can envision for your child. Guilt, because as a parent of a first grader I still am lucky – lucky to have her, lucky to hold her, lucky to kiss her and tuck her in her bed at night and tell her how much I love her. Friday’s events are a firm reminder at the fragile nature of life in this world. It’s so easy to take it for granted, and yet we can hardly imagine what we would do if any part of it were taken away. We are truly blessed.
This morning there was a good piece on the anguish many parents are experiencing in light of the tragedy (you can find it here: http://www.npr.org/2012/12/17/167427990/why-tragedies-alter-risk-perception). What I found so interesting is how easy it is to go from dealing with the everyday “mundane” risks (car crashes, sporting injuries) to immediately feeling deep anxiety regarding the potential of such a tragic and random event happening to you or your loved ones (which is statistically highly improbable). We know that the odds are we will drop those critters off this morning, they’ll enjoy a productive and engaging day, and we’ll pick them up again this afternoon to repeat the process tomorrow. We know that they’ve been safe every day since we’ve been doing this and they are likely to be safe again today and tomorrow and beyond. And yet, we still feel that dread – that tightness in the heart – afraid that something awful could happen.
So today, as I drove my kiddos to school, avoiding the news reports and trying not to give in to my irrational fears, I found great comfort in this question posed by my 6-y-o: “Mom, did you remember to put our Santa Sale money in our backpacks?” Cue the real anxiety: no, I had not. Potential and unlikely threats were quickly replaced by real ones, the disappointment they would feel if they couldn’t do their annual shopping. Frantic calls were made. Car emergency funds were raided and a solution was found. But still, even now at my desk ready to start the day, I can’t help but smile, and be so incredibly thankful for the gift I received this morning – the gift of the mundane.
I never thought I would want to have a family. I went my whole childhood without experiencing a deep need to play house or with baby dolls. I spent the majority of my teenage and college years trying not to get pregnant, and when I married at twenty-six (considered young these days), my husband and I were very much in agreement that children were not part of the forecast.
Then, on a sunny September morning, two airplanes struck the heart of New York and my world turned upside down. People who worked in office buildings, who had started their day very much in the same way I did plunged from their towers. I was fortunate not to know anyone directly affected by the attack, but it still left me reeling. It made me question just what my purpose should be, and what I had contributed to making the world a better place. I challenged many of my notions of control and destiny, and it opened my eyes to the true importance of family.I suspect I was not alone in these feelings.
Fifteen months later my son was born and I love him more than I could have possibly imagined. It is a bond like no other, beyond description, that only other parents can understand.
Fast forward three and a half more years and my boy got a sister – his true companion and foil – rounding out our small but loving family. She is a power packed dynamo full of passion and fire who is the perfect addition. Our love for her runs so deeply that I doubt she will ever understand its intensity.
Eleven years ago a terrible, horrible tragedy gave me one of the best opportunities of my life. From despair grew an awareness and hopefulness that changed my life drastically for the better.
This is considered the season of hope – where we celebrate change and goodness and most importantly love. It can bring out the best or the worst in us, depending on circumstance. My wish this year is that those who need love, find it. Those who have love, share it. And that we all live in the warmth of the light that goodness and hopefulness bring all year long.
Yeah, I’m checking this inbox way too frequently these days…
The pitch was last Wednesday. A pitch for a significant project for an existing client which would literally change the way we work with them now and into the future. According to their procurement department they were supposed to make a recommendation on Friday and notify us of the decision. And they’re late.
Anyone who has ever worked in an agency can tell you one of the most nerve-wracking parts of the job is the new business presentation. Despite the fact that you do them fairly regularly and they incorporate the same basic information (who the agency is, what you know about the client, and the kind of work you can do for them), new business presentations are one of the ugliest sorts of things you ever have to put together. It usually involves the senior level folks at the agency and requires a ton of time and creative thinking. Your end goal is always to put together an engaging presentation that shows your strategic thinking and creative chops, ultimately entertaining the audience and leaving them wanting more. Generally, you have less than two weeks to put something together, which means it completely engulfs your life until it’s complete. If you’ve done your job well, the pitch will leave you exhilarated, exhausted and anxious to hear if you won the business.
So here I sit, waiting. Checking my email every few minutes and keeping my phone nearby. Do I think we did a good job? I think we did a great job. Do I think we won the business? Maybe.
Tom Petty was right – the waiting IS the hardest part.
Saw this guy on the road last Christmas Eve. Clearly he wasn’t bogged down buying last minute “to-do” gifts…
So I got back from my vacation and it was like Christmas had exploded while I was gone. Neighbors have put up their Christmas lights. Stores are full of pre-Black Friday deals. Wreathes and ornaments adorn just about every building in the Loop. It actually makes me feel bad for Thanksgiving – such a hugely important holiday and now completely overlooked in the zeal to get the Christmas season started. Listen, I enjoy holidays and a good economy as much as everyone else, but honestly, I’d like to be able to enjoy on my own timeline (not the retailers).
Which brings me to the point of my post: at what point is it acceptable to opt out of family gift exchanges (not including children, because they are a category of their own kind when it comes to holidays)? My in-laws insist on executing a mandatory adult “name exchange” whereby we all select a name and then spend the next twenty-five days bothering each other for gift lists or ideas. To me, simply purchasing something from a list the recipient has provided feels more like yet one more item on a “to-do” list versus a well-thought and fun demonstration of affection. It may sound ‘bah-humbuggish’ to some people, but at this point in my life, with everything else I have to do, I have to wonder, “why bother?” Shouldn’t gift giving should feel more like an indulgence versus an obligation?
This year I suggested going another route, which was immediately rejected. I also inquired about dropping out of the exchange (my sister-in-law did too), which was an option that fell on deaf ears. Unfortunately, it appears we’ll have another year of “to-do” presents (can you feel the joy?) Given that, I surrender. Well, partially. While it appears I can’t do anything about participation in the name draw, what I can do is exert some control over what is gifted to me. This year I will ask my brother-in-law (who drew my name) to make a donation in my name to a local charity that will help people learn English. It is a gift I will feel wonderful receiving, and I hope he feels equally good giving it.
I’m on vacation this week, so my posting time and creativity is in more of a relax/restoration mode than I would have expected. That combined with the fact that I’m using my iPad versus my laptop, AND I’ve spent the last five days with my children beside me twenty-four hours a day, has lead to a surprisingly small amount of insight that I feel worthy to share with myself, much less the world.
But today, here I sit, alone on my balcony enjoying the temperate ocean breezes while my husband entertains/endures a beach visit with the critters. I had a lovely massage and facial earlier and now am kicking back, enjoying this last day of vacation, and I am loving everything. Well, almost everything. There is this one little thing… it’s my six-year-old. And her continued unwillingness to well, release. The girl, once again, in true anal retentive fashion decided to hold back until we finally got her to go. Which of course led to one of our time-honored vacation traditions – calling maintenance to unclog the toilet. It’s better now, and so is she (for the time being), but it did serve as a good reminder for me: it doesn’t matter if you’re in the middle of an urban McDonald’s trying to make the late train or in the middle of paradise with nothing to do but sit back and relax, if you’re a parent, inevitably there’s going to be some unexpected crap you’re going to have to deal with.
Well worn. Well loved. A symbol of a lifelong commitment.
Friday night the city of Chicago lost one of its firefighters (a Captain, to be exact). I heard about it on Facebook before I watched the news. A few of my grammar school friends are on the department and they usually post updates way before the general media. And while I’m always saddened to hear such news, my reaction to it may surprise you.
I am married to a career firefighter. Despite a family tree devoid of any fire service experience, my husband has known since he was four years old that he wanted to a fireman. He’s got a four-year degree as well as a masters in Public Administration. He’s a captain on one of the seventh largest departments in the state of Illinois and he works his ass off. It’s a job that drives him crazy, keeps him busy, makes him feel alive and like he’s contributing and he wouldn’t trade most minutes of it, for anything.
I think there’s a prevailing thought that women married to public servants, like firefighters and policemen, live in fear of “the call”. Truth is, I don’t much think about it at all ( I suppose I shouldn’t anyway – living in a constant state of dread or fear isn’t much about living at all). I know that my husband is smart, doing something he loves and doing everything he can do to stay safe. He stays up on latest training techniques (and mandates his crew practice them). He does almost anything he can think of to prevent accidents and make sure he and his crew are as prepared as possible for any situation. If he is going to come into harm’s way, he’s going to do whatever he can to have anticipated it, if not have avoided it in the first place. If it comes down to a :30 flashover, I pray that all of that work and attention will pay off, and if it doesn’t, there’s not one damn thing he (or me, or anyone else for that matter) can do about it. I don’t worry, because I have no control and frankly, there’s no upside to it.
Firefighting is a dangerous job. It is one practiced by committed men and women who enjoy the thrill of the call, the hunt of the chase and the sense of accomplishment in triumph over defeat. While the recent death of the CFD Captain makes me desperately sad for those he left behind, I appreciate the fact he died doing something so utterly and completely meaningful to him. If it was truly his time to answer that final call, so be it doing something that he cherished. Godspeed, Captain Johnson.
Jack-o-lantern (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Halloween is one weird holiday. With its pagan origins, it’s become a full-fledged American celebration for everyone: sexy costumes for adults, monster and princess costumes for kids. No matter who you are, no matter what you’re into, the genius of the Halloween is that there is something to be found for you.
Many folks above the age of twenty lament the fact that Halloween isn’t as good as it was when they were young. Remembering the freedom of their youth, they bemoan the loss of “real” trick-or-treating, where they were left, without parental supervision, to roam the streets of their neighborhoods from dusk to dawn. “These parents these days,” the critiques usually begin, “don’t let their children do anything.” While I agree with their general complaint (as a parent these days I do worry that we’re not doing enough to build our children’s independence and decision-making skills), I have to disagree that the original spirit of Halloween has been lost between generations. This year alone, my 9-year-old attended three Halloween parties PLUS a Halloween “walk” at school and went trick or treating (albeit with his dad). All of these scheduled activities promoted socialization, acceptance and general fun. Compared with my childhood trick-or-treating experiences, involving shaving cream fights, toilet papering and grocery bags of candy all on a single night, I have to say I don’t see any negligible decline in celebrating.
Do I think Halloween has become more commercial? Yes. Do I think that parents today are more nervous and cautious, perhaps to the detriment of their children’s development? Maybe. But do I think October 31st is any worse or better than it used to be? No. It’s just different. And maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.
On a related note: October 31st is a significant date in our family – not just because of its significance as All Hallow’s Eve. My grandfather, aunt, uncle and now a nephew also celebrate(d) it as a birthday. Now that’s what I call spooky!
Stoppuhr (Chronometer) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
There are sixty seconds in one minute and sixty minutes in an hour. These are facts that I, like most working parents, are remarkably aware of. Have to get the kids to school? You better be out the door by 7:04. Need to fold those clothes in the dryer before you go? Should take you seven minutes. Have a meeting a three o’clock? You’ll find me at my desk until 2:59 responding to emails, proofing a proposal or double checking what’s left on the to-do list. My life, and corresponding activities are managed within a series of razor-thin time margins.
That’s why a day like today, where we literally gain an extra hour, is one of the greatest gifts a working parent can receive.
Do what you want with those extra seconds – sleep, take down Halloween decorations, enjoy a leisurely breakfast, snuggle with your critters, whatever – it’s amazing what a little found time can do.
Young, beautiful and awaiting adventure. My Mom brought out the best in everyone she knew.
I posted this on my facebook profile today:
I am who I am today because it’s who my mother believed I could be.
I’ve been mulling this posting over the past weekend – in anticipation of what I consider one of the worst days of my life: the date of my mother’s death. Death. Not a “passing” (although I do strongly believe in an afterlife), but death. Final. End.
My Mom played such a strong part in my life for my entire life. She was fun, outgoing, energetic, strong, caring, beautiful and wonderful. She was the perennial champion of the underdog. She believed in the goodness of people, the strength of family and that doing was much more important than just thinking. She was brave, she was independent and she was loyal. My mother was strongly committed to the betterment of her family and her community. She was an excellent role model for a more skeptical cynic like me.
It’s funny – my mother has been gone for three years now. I miss her every day. But I still hear her voice in my ear – maybe louder now than when she was here. When I am being harsh in my criticism, she tells me to soften. When I am being impatient with my children, she urges calm and a change in perspective. When I am acting selfishly, she guides me to have more empathy and compassion. Every day she helps me.
Despite the fact that yes, my mother is dead, I continue to love her (maybe even more now than before) and more importantly learn. I hope one day to be not only what she believed I could be, but even better.
No doubt, she loves her Razor scooter with light-up wheels. Almost as much as she loves her Momma.
“Now that girl has an edge to her.” That’s one of my favorite quotes about my daughter, from one of my dearest friends. He’s completely right, of course. My girl does have an edge to her. From her first few days out of the womb, she has always been one to let you know exactly what she wants and thinks and takes no prisoners. My husband says this is a good thing for a girl – it makes him worry less about her falling prey to unwanted advances. For me, I think it means learning how to better control my emotions and any preconceived notions of what having a daughter entails. You will find no fuzzy pink dresses, no princess crowns or ballerinas floating around our house. What you will find are tons of different costumes (knights, police officers, Harry Potter and Power Rangers to name a few), enough Legos to build a miniature Gotham, pens, Play-doh and markers and a stuffed animal population with more constituents than Brookfield Zoo. No, my girl is not a girly girl and she is tough.
I guess it’s a good thing then, that despite her hard candy coating shell, inside that baby girl is a heart as rich as any piece of fine chocolate. It’s a sweetness she reserves only for those closest to her – those whom she trusts and loves dearly. Once you’ve broken through that outer exterior, she takes great care to hint at how much she loves you and how much she thinks about you all day long. Ask her about directly and she’ll deny it (she’s the strongest contrarian I know), but when you find drawings of hearts, flowers, rainbows and expressions of her love tucked into her school folder almost every day, it’s pretty hard to draw any other conclusion.
I don’t know about you, but I’ll take a note like that over a pink tutu or tiara any day.