Friday, October 28, 2011

For Those Who Grieve

Last night, a friend of the family died after a battle with cancer. The gentleman left behind a wife and children, and many friends. To those grieving, I send my best wishes.

I was climbing into bed at the end of the day when I learned the news with a mixture of sadness and relief. And as I slipped into the temporary slumber of the living, I mused about the strange sort of miracle, an odd word to use, about the moment life ends and death begins. What an amazing thing that can happen that forces to cease the light and energy that keeps us engaged on this plane. While science can pinpoint a last heartbeat, a last brainwave in the dying, no one can tell exactly the millisecond when one's soul drifts from his body, never to return to it.

Recently, I read a beautiful article about a woman with mental retardation--she lived in a state of innocence, a curious blessing that resulted from her condition. As she lay dying, her father's life having ended before her own would, she opened her eyes in her last moments and asked her mother if she could go now because Daddy was coming to get her. There is sweetness in that, a message of relief to the living-- that souls venture forth even before the last breath, that there is hope and promise.

Friday, October 21, 2011

Mouse Patrol

We still haven't caught the mouse at work. The head of maintenance came to see if he could help. I showed him the empty trap and stated my surprise that the mouse hadn't been lured by the peanut butter cracker I had put inside.

"You need to get him with a picture of a girl mouse," he said. "You know, one like this." He struck a pose and then continued, "All flirty and pink with a skirt and bow." I had a vision of my team getting down on hands and knees to tape cheesecake-style mouse pictures on baseboards with arrows pointing to the mousetrap. Laughingly, I ran his idea by my co-workers and then gave him feedback later.

We couldn't undertake his plan--it was making a lot of suppositions, I explained. "First you are assuming that the mouse is an active heterosexual male. Or you would have to suppose the mouse is a homosexual female. But the mouse could be a juvenile, and not into finding a mate yet, or he could be a senior, and just not give a hoot."

"You're right. You're right," he said. "It would be a total HR violation."

Who knew trapping mice at the office could be so complicated?

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

The Heart of the Team

My Chicken Little is having a hard time of late. In addition to temporary hearing loss, which has made aspects of home and school challenging, she is not enjoying her place on the school basketball team. Monday morning, I took her to work with me for a couple of hours before her doctor appointment for ear issues. Exhausted from days upon days of straining to hear, of not feeling well, and a little school stress, she broke into tears on my office floor. What she said wasn't anything uncommon to the woes and worries of a middle schooler in many places, but my heart broke for her.

"The kids yell at me on the court. And I can tell they talk about me behind my back because I am not like them. And it is hard to be the only White kid on the team. I am just not as good as them at basketball. It isn't my route."

"Baby girl," I said gently. I told her how she has twice the courage of the other kids to get out on the court knowing athletic talent is not her gift, knowing she is different. The fact that she tries is what counts here. "You are the heart of the team," I said, "even though it is hard for other kids to understand." I tapped my chest and continued, "You have it all in here."

Last night, my husband and I lounged over coffee and dessert, and discussed the situation. What kind of decision should a parent make here? Earlier that day, I had called Chicken Little's dad, who discussed the value of learning how to live as the minority in a situation (which, really, is one reason I choose to keep my kids in city schools) and how we tend to learn when put in places of discomfort, which for this little doll of a child, would be a sports setting anywhere. My husband wondered if we were setting our girl up to fail--putting her in a situation where she is this little awkward child among gangly, strong ballplayers. I see each man's point of view. The person I really want to hear from now is my daughter's coach.

This morning, I wrote a note to the coach and reminded my daughter that until she takes her feelings to the coach, we cannot help her. This may be a situation where my daughter works her way off the team on her own accord or it may be a situation where the coach has the magic words to provide reassurance, comfort, and motivation to stay.

This isn't a life or death decision, but it is one that counts down the line as it bonds with critical memories of struggle in middle school. Whatever happens, I am sure our little girl will be fine, but I hope that the present time isn't extraordinarily painful for her.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Parenting Two-Step: Work and Children

Tomorrow, my son will go to the office with me. I hope the good Lord smiles upon us as I bring Tiny into the building and try to pass him off as my newly hired assistant. As a working mom, I do the best I can.

Trying to keep the flow of family while working has been a challenge despite the pleasant benefits of being fully employed. Kids get sick, they have ballgames, they have projects, their schools have meetings, schools close for professional development days. Working those needs around the full-time schedule has been a dance of meeting kids' needs and losing pay for doing so, and making up that lost income with a second job that I can squeeze in during slow shifts at work, before weekday dinners, and on the weekends.

While my initial pattern was to come home after work and walk the dog, chase the kids around the block when they ride their bikes, or throw the ball outside, I haven't quite been able to work that back into the schedule. Instead, that time has become filled with other needs: stops to refuel the tank of my car, errands at FedEx Kinko's, emergency trips to the urgent care clinic, tweaking edits on a paper, meetings with a realtor over the fate of this house we rent, and last minute school supply shopping. It's a little crazy.

This week, when my children's step-mother politely complained about what she perceived as my inadequate packing for recent visitation, I reflected on why the packing had been so haphazardly done. I had worked all day each day and had plans every evening that week. The last evening before we left town, my son had fallen asleep in my lap at a school rezoning meeting (exhausted from his earlier soccer game) and was put to bed early, therefore making it impossible to check the length of the pants I had packed for him (oops--I sent high-waters for him to wear). I was up until midnight cleaning, readying the house for a house sitter, readying the house sitter for the dog. I had sworn off working through that weekend when I got a last minute assignment from my second job, which meant additional preparations to pack my work. My husband, who had been travelling out of state for the second time this month, arrived home shortly after midnight with only a few hours of sleep to grab before he got up to work. I put the bags in the car before I went to sleep that night. After work, I picked up kids, waited briefly for my husband to finish his packing, and hit the road exhausted. Sometimes, we just do the best we can, and this was one of those times. At least, when the kids arrived at their final destination, they were clean (the packed clothes were clean, even if a shirt had stains), fed, entertained with activity bags and movies for the drive, hugged, kissed, and sent off knowing that they were cared for. I could have spent extra time digging for perfect outfits and multiple pairs of coordinating shoes, but instead, I rocked my son in my lap the night before and managed a cup of tea with my daughter before bed.

Those moments are the ones that matter, and make me so eager to come home each day despite the frantic pace we run from dawn till dusk and all over again each night. I think the "best I can" is working for my little family and I, and lucky for me, I work for a company that, so far, has been awfully supportive of this. It's all hard though, and by Friday, we are all exhausted, which makes weekends with the kids even sweeter than ever.