Sunday, June 9, 2013

The Little Things in Life

An afternoon spent amongst rows of strawberries nestled against hay, ripe and red and ready for picking. The Oldest worked on filling her own quart box, which was later added to the large tray - while The Munchkin supervised me and made sure that I picked only the best ones (and then proceeded to eat them just as fast as I could pick them). A couple of times they managed to work together, both kneeling - The Oldest telling The Munchkin what to look for and how to pick - and it was in those moments I stopped, watched, and tried to remember how they were on a beautiful, early summer afternoon when for an hour all was right in my world.

Friday, June 7, 2013

Sticks & Stones

My Note: I wrote this in 2009 to process through the first time The Oldest was teased because of the way she looks. This was before I became aware of what blogging is and as a result I posted it on Facebook. I've recently been reminded of some of the notes that I've written - many of them focused on my girls - and I'll likely start transferring them over here to keep them more permanently but to also make sure that whenever I decide to pull the entries and compile them, they're where I can find them.


I'm writing this more for my benefit - as a way of remembering the conversation, but also to help me process through the conversation I had with Rebecca when we were on our way home from the gym this evening.

A few months into my pregnancy my mom asked me what it felt like for me to know that I'd finally have a biological connection, but more importantly - a little person that would look something like me. Despite my always saying, "I hope she has my eyes," for the longest time I thought it was strange my mom would bring up that kind of question and even more strange that she continued to ask it as Rebecca's due date drew closer. And then she was born and when I was finally able to hold her for the first time, I understood exactly why I kept praying that Rebecca would inherit the shape of my eyes. But in that moment when I was overwhelmed with happiness that she had small, almond shaped eyes and a non-existent bridge to her nose -- I also began hoping she'd never know what it felt like to question what she looked like.

My eyes are the one physical feature that I have that growing up in a "white" suburban area outside of Massachusetts or later in more rural New Hampshire (even in Indiana when I first moved here -- though that is changing rapidly) set me apart from everyone else. While I've come to love the shape of my eyes and the dark brown, almost black color they hold - there were a number of years when to me they were more of a liability than an asset. The times when kids would pull their eyes taut and then run away from me on the playground or call me "chin eyes" were hurtful beyond belief. Sticks and stones may break our bones and despite what anyone might try and tell me to the contrary - words and actions sure as hell do hurt. They hurt when you're older and able to reason that someone should have known better not to call you a "gook" - and they really hurt when you're little and have no idea why someone tells you you're "different" or "strange" or a "freak".

When I glanced in the rear-view mirror this evening I was not prepared to see Rebecca, fingers by her eyes, pulling them to the side and closed. She said, "Mommy, I'm making a funny face. Sierra says I have a funny face like this." I took a deep breath and tried to catch just one of the thoughts that began to flood my head.

My first approach didn't work. Rebecca clammed up in a nano-second and wouldn't say another word. I silently got angry with myself first, calmed down second and then regrouped. I managed to convince her she wasn't in trouble nor was she going to get in trouble - which was most important because it allowed me to try again.

I asked Rebecca how it feels when Sierra makes faces at her - to which Rebecca responded quietly she didn't know. It was when I told Rebecca that kids used to make fun of my eyes that she finally opened up -- and began to cry. THAT was something that you could have told me was going to happen - could have provided me with the date and the time and the place that it was going to happen and no amount of preparation would have ever made me ready for.

You want to know how a 3, almost 4 year old breaks your heart? By saying that someone making faces at her makes her sad and hurts her feelings. By asking why someone would think she looks funny or why someone would call her "diamond eyes" or laugh and point and tell her her eyes are too small. Or by telling you that someone ran away from her because they were told that she's different.

As with most things in her 3 year old world - she experiences it, sometimes she retains it, she asks questions, she gets answers or - if needed - asks more questions to get more answers, she might cry or laugh and then she moves on. So I move on as well. Our car ride was short, but it was long enough for us to "talk", for her to be certain with the knowledge that I love her and at least for the next 12 hours that she's not funny or strange or different. She's just Rebecca. I know this is just the first of I'm sure many conversations - not only about her eyes, but about being a child of mixed race (I have to laugh when people ask me "What is she?" -- I want to answer, "She's really just a mutt. We think one half Golden Retriever, part Basset Hound and maybe a little Chocolate Lab") and hopefully someday about my ethnic heritage. And I know I can't protect her from all the sticks and stones and words -- all I can do is provide her with love and hopefully nurture her into being a strong, self-confident young woman.

Oh, and Rebecca's eyes... They've got the beautiful almond shape - but the coloring? A grayish color around the outside that blends in with a medium brown with flecks of gold and green. They're stunning... but I'm not biased either. ;)

Thursday, June 6, 2013

Grieving & Gratitude

Early last week my boss stopped by my desk and asked me if I had a minute and then said we should talk back in our department's area (neither here nor there, my desk is set apart from the rest of the department for reasons that aren't relevant to what I'm about to write - but I will say that I'm better off because I have a window and more workspace). I didn't think much of it because I'm at a point of transition professionally and the details about my new position are evolving so I quickly followed. When he stopped by the office of one of my coworkers, asked if she had a minute and then - when we were inside the walls of our department space - closed the door. I knew something was wrong. 

"I have some really bad news..." he started. 

Our organization is going through a period of transition as well. With the various laws and regulations that seem to be changing from week to week that's just the way it is in my world. My mind started racing and in a nanosecond a bazillion possibilities raced though my head: our department was being let go, maybe he was being let go, maybe he was being tapped to move from the entity to the system, was someone from our c-suite leaving or worse yet, fired? How was I going to tell my husband I was out of a job? It wasn't convenient but I just started a part-time position for giggles with my Trusted Running Store so maybe that could help me fill in the gaps?

We all focused our attention on him, holding our collective breaths waiting for his next words and when he spoke it was far more of a shock than anything I could have imagined. A beloved member of our team had suddenly passed away. Details were sketchy and few. His wife and family - twin girls and an older daughter - were okay and had been out of town.  But that's all we knew. 

Someone began to tear up. Most of us just stared blankly off into space. My heart felt heavy. Words escaped me. My boss, recognizing the blow, said if we were free to leave for the remainder of the day if we wanted or head to the main building where we could find other forms of support and be with our other colleagues. We all sat and talked between ourselves behind a closed door and within the safety of our department walls and then slowly began to try and resume what we were doing as best we could. 

For me, it was only a short time before I decided I needed to leave to be with my family. To see The Other Half, to collect The Oldest off the bus and then gather The Munchkin from Kiddo Care. It was one of those afternoons where all I wanted to do was hug and love on my children because I could. It was one of those days that I was reminded how much can change in the blink of an eye.

I could try to describe the person we lost, but there are no words that could fully tell you what kind of remarkable individual he was. He just had a presence about him - he was one of those people that when you were around him you just knew that he was a good person. And he always had a smile. Always. As I walked into our building yesterday for the first time since his passing I meandered down the hallway that I inevitably would pass him by. Usually I'd be a woman on a mission and lost in thought or staring at one of a million work related email messages that had popped through on my phone and suddenly there he'd be. Walking toward me, leaning over with That Smile and a "Hi Joy!".

I could try to describe the organization that I work for but no words could fully tell you what kind of remarkable organization it is. I'm from a generation that is continually seeking the next great thing so when I'm asked how long I've worked for the organization it's still surreal for me to say that I'll have been with them for NINE YEARS this coming August. I love the place I work for. I love the people I work with. I love that so many people met The Oldest when she was just barely 6 months old and now they're remarking at how much she has grown. I love that I hope, when she graduates high school, some of those same people will be there and I can walk in to their offices and hand them a graduation announcement.

So this loss hurts us a great deal. We're family. And like all family does in times of trouble, we've circled our wagons and are taking care of our own in the ways we are able, but it doesn't make the loss any less raw or fill the void that now exists. 

This morning, as I was grumbling and groaning to myself as I was trying to get my legs to cooperate on the treadmill. That's when the universe spoke to me by way of music. There is a beautiful rendition of Over The Rainbow/Simple Gifts that's done by a group called The Piano Guys and it shuffled its way into my playlist. 

'Tis a gift to be simple, 'tis a gift to be fair,
'Tis a gift to wake and breathe the morning air.
And each day we walk on the path that we choose,
'Tis a gift we pray we never shall lose.

I could no longer grumble and only be grateful for the fact that last night I was able to watch the Bruins win in 2OT, get 4.5 hours of sleep and somehow manage to wake up, stumble into the bathroom and go to the gym. I was so thankful for a husband that could meet me after my shift with my Trusted Running Store with a container of gas to fill up my tank so I could make it home on more than fumes. I reflected on the conversation I had with The Oldest as she rode home with me - watching the way the setting sun reflected the red and blonde highlights in her brown hair and being amazed at the girl she's become. And I thought back to the time I had with The Munchkin as we rocked in the glider in her room - her little finger tapping three times on my nose as she said the words, "I. Love. You." before she curled up in her well loved, yellow blanket and closed her eyes. 

And I cried. Right there in the gym. I cried. I hopped off the treadmill and wiped off my face with the towel and hung my head before looking up to the sky.
Tell people how much you care. Tell people how grateful you are for them. Make sure they know what they do well. Say I love you and mean it because you don't know if you'll ever get that change again. Smile. Smile at everyone because you can never know the impact of one, simple smile. Hug your children just because you can and let them eat fruit snacks and drink Sprite for breakfast every once in a while because really, those are the kinds of things that memories are made of and someday they'll look back at and laugh and smile and say, "Remember the time that mom let us have fruit snacks and Sprite for breakfast?"

And when you wake up in the morning feel what's beneath your feet, be amazed at the sunrise and be grateful that you've seen another day. Because it truly is a gift.

I wish for you peace, Jason. I hope somewhere, somehow, you know how very many - how. very. many - lives you have touched and how deeply you are and will be missed.