You’re fired (not really)!

I had to be at work today by 7:45 so I had to drop the kids off at 7:30 at my friend’s house so she could take them to school. Maria dutifully woke up at 6:45 am to get dressed and I took Rocco for a quick stroll. I returned at 7 am to Mario still lying in bed. 

“Dude, you gotta wake up and get dressed and eat. I have to be at work at 7:45.”

He laid motionless.

After a couple more tries, I pulled out the big guns.

“Mom is going to lose her job if I’m late. And then there will be no house to live in, no vacations, no possibility of a gecko….”

He started to rise. 

I went downstairs to pack snacks for the kids and Mario came tumbling down to the kitchen. Ri was eating cereal.

“Maria, hurry up!” Mario yelled. “Mom is going to lose her job if we don’t get out of here!”

Maria, my no-nonsense daughter, stood up from the table and grabbed her book bag and Mario’s book bag. “Mom, stop making snacks and put on your coat. We gotta go. You can’t lose your job!”

She watched over my every move and scolded me to hurry up. When we were all in the car, the tale grew more ominous.

“If mom doesn’t get to work and gets fired, we will have to get rid of Rocco because we wouldn’t be able to afford food.”

“Yea, or he’d have to eat scraps off the sidewalk. And we wouldn’t ever go on vacation again. And….” All the way to the friend’s house.

Note to self: maybe don’t go so extreme next time. Nonetheless, I guess it shows they understand the importance of a job and not being able to lay around in your pjs all day!

  

Ri’s first Women’s Fund Keyholder event – 2014:

I first learned of the Women’s Fund when I got an email that Gloria Steinam was a guest speaker at one of their events. I admired Steinam and had read essays and speeches she had given. I knew she was a crucial voice in the women’s’ movement and that my mom had admired her as she grew into her own in the 70’s. My mom had also gifted me an autograph from Gloria Steinam to me after my mom attended an event with her in the early 1990s. I hadn’t given that autograph much thought since I had received it from my mom in my early 20s. It was stored away in a box with other childhood items. But when that email came across, something jolted in me.
I went home that evening and found the framed autograph. I’m sure I played with Ri, who was not even two at the time, and fed her dinner, and rocked her to sleep for hours. And then I made it downstairs to my computer, and typed in my Visa number to make a contribution to the Women’s Fund. They allowed you to write a tribute and so I did: to my mom for introducing me to Steinam and feminism and belief in self and hard work and equality. I thanked her for helping to make me a strong and loving mom to Maria. A few weeks later, I got a call from the Women’s Fund. They asked if I’d make a video of my tribute to play the night of the event. I was flabbergasted and thrilled. And immediately agreed. As I prepared my words to my mom, I brought out my framed autograph and hung it in Ri’s room. I believe there was a surge of power that entered her room when I hung it over her dresser that night. I think she felt it, too, as she squealed (or it could have been gas, but that’s not as riveting).
When I went to shoot the video, I had a plan. I was going to ask if Gloria Steinam would autograph the Women’s Fund invitation for Maria. How awesome would that be? There was no way that Ri could be anything but a strong, powerful, aware woman with two framed autographs from Gloria Steinam! And because Gloria Steinam is the incredible woman she is, she agreed. And Ri now has two autographs hanging on her wall.
Fast forward to a week ago – May 1, 2014. One day before Ri’s 9th birthday. I got to bring her as my guest to the Women’s Fund Keyholder event with Ashley Judd as the speaker. I explained to Ri about the Steinam autographs, about my commitment to helping women in need, about women supporting women, and she soaked it all in. She ran around City Hall’s grounds and posed with statues before we met up with her girlfriend and her mom.

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We sipped on smoothies and talked about Ashley Judd (since the girls had not heard of her (when Ri read about her she was flabbergasted that she made a movie in 1995!)).

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While waiting on my girlfriend outside of the Ohio Theatre, Maria spotted a local news anchor from NBC 4 (her favorite weekday morning show). She pulled at my sleeve in awe.
“It’s Mikaela Hunt, mom!”
We walked over and Ri said hi to her. Ms. Hunt asked her some questions and Ri answered shyly. As we walked away, she stopped. She wanted her picture with her. We walked back and asked and this picture was taken:
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She was charged up. And she stayed that way throughout the night. They had videos in the beginning of the evening of women and girls talking about themselves and at the end of the clip, the women and girls would fill in a word on a blackboard that read “I am ______.” One wrote “brave”, another wrote “kind.” It was powerful, and I whispered to Ri that she was all those things.
Ashley Judd surprised me with her humor and grace and humility. I thoroughly enjoyed the discussion. She spoke of her humanitarian work and how overwhelming it can be to feel like you can’t do enough. She’d go back to her hotel room and sob in despair. And then she met a guide who clarified for her that she can only do what she is able and what she’s doing is powerful and effective. And she reminded her that she needs to make room for those closest to her because it’s only when we nourish those relationships with partners and kids and friends that we can truly give and feel satisfied giving to a range of others. That hit home for me. She was genuine and funny and inspiring.
At the end of the event, they asked for donations. Ri and I took the envelopes out of our bags. I explained to her what you could do with a donation, i.e., make it in honor of, or in memory of, someone. She brushed me away and said “I got it mom.” She then asked me for a sheet of paper. I looked over in the corner of my eye and saw her writing blank lines. Because she’s Ri, and so thoughtful, I had an inkling she was doing something for me. She bundled up the paper and put it in the envelope and gave it to me (she didn’t quite understand that she was supposed to add a Visa number and give it to the folks at the doors as we left). She told me to wait until we left the Theatre to open it. As we walked down High Street towards the car, I opened it.
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She had written all the adjectives that she believed described me. I was taken aback by her gesture and did the only thing I knew to do: capture her in a huge hug as tears formed in my eyes.
“No crying is allowed tonight, mama! Wipe those eyes and put on a smile!” (She’s got a lot of her dad in her). I listened to her and put on a smile as we posed by the statutes and giggled at each other on our way to the car. I am blessed with a strong community of women by my side between my moms and aunts and cousins and grandmothers and friends and colleagues. I am grateful for the women power at the event that night and for being able to allow my daughter to absorb it all. She clearly fit in perfectly.
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Mr. Mom

A few days ago, Jon took Mario to his eye doctor appointment at 8:30 am and then took Maria to her dentist appointment at 3:20 in the afternoon because I got caught up in work. When we both had a chance to sit on the bed and talk for two minutes (while the kids showered), he chuckled “I was Mr. Mom today.” I immediately hurled that comment back at him. “Really? Mr. Mom? I do this all the time when you are gone!”

It was a knee-jerk reaction. Something I’m used to laughing/lamenting about with my girlfriends (“he does the dishes and its a big deal”; “he gives the kids a bath and he’s a savior”). After all, who hasn’t read studies in ten different articles on how much more housework and kid-work women typically do over men?

And Jon would completely agree that our situation confirms those studies.
But we make it work. I love running around outdoors with the kids, and would much prefer that over taking the cars in for oil changes, which Jon gladly does. I love mowing the grass and washing the floors over paying the bills on-line and heading to the bank, which Jon would much prefer. Are there times I am annoyed at him for not folding laundry? Yep. But are there times he has no desire to drive to the library to return the videos? Yep. We know each others’ strengths and preferred activities and have an unwritten rule as to who typically does what.

Jon’s reaction that night was not so much one of anger and defensiveness as it was hurt. He simply wanted me to acknowledge what he had done – moved meetings all around in order to take Mario to the doctor for an hour and a half, drive him to school for an always less-than-pleasant drop off, drive to work, drive to Ri’s school and take her to the dentist, and head back to work. Not so much to ask. I’d be looking for the same acknowledgment if I was him.

And, he would have given it to me. He’s the first one to tell me and anyone else in the room that I’m a rock star and that I’m the best mom and wife ever. He tells it to me all the time. So put away the studies and the stereotypes for a minute and stick with the basic human need to feel appreciated. That goes a long way in a marriage… and friendship.

Yesterday morning, I had to be at a 7:30 am meeting so Jon had to take the kids to school. He did not complain about it even though I know he was stressed with work and other issues.

So tonight, when we finally get a chance to sit down together and talk about our day, I will definitely make sure to address him as “Mr. Mom.”

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Living it up

I have been blasted at work over the past few weeks. Mario and Ri have been killing me with their pleas to stay home with them one day (which tears me up on one level but on another I know they get over it minutes after I’m gone and they have their friends over). I noticed on Tuesday that I only had one meeting on Thursday afternoon so I canceled it and decided to take the afternoon off with the kids. It looked like possible thunderstorms so I found a discount coupon for Fort Rapids, called Patrick to make sure Alana and Gio could go, packed up swimsuits, told David to feed them and keep it a surprise, and cranked out some serious work Thursday morning.

I stepped in the door to the house at 12:30 and received a star’s welcome.

“Mom!”

I hugged them both and told them the plans. Maria was ecstatic and kept saying “you are the best mom ever!” Mario retreated and said he didn’t want to go. He has been wanting alone time with me lately. But Maria quickly pepped him up talking about the slides and fountains at Fort Rapids.
We gathered our stuff and took off for Patrick’s house. I traded cars with Carrie and we were off down I-70. We walked into the hotel and the kids were in awe of the antlers on the walls and the high-heeled leopard shoe seats.

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While I got tickets, Mario and Gio filled up on Jelly Bellies from the dispenser not understanding that they had to actually pay for them. Luckily, the cashier was a young high schooler who could care less. We got our passes and headed to the locker rooms to change. Mario hated the swim trunks I brought him so luckily I had a second pair. He adjusted those for five minutes but finally felt comfortable enough to head to the slides.

And the fun began! Mario and Gio played in the main area and Ri and Alana went to the lazy river and the big slides.

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Mario is anti-picture taking lately so I couldn’t get a good one of him until he went on the big yellow slide. I raced him; he won.

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Gio joined us after a while but he found a friend in the main area that he ran around with for a majority of the time. Mario became addicted to the yellow slide and then witnessed the long line for the black slide and became intrigued. The black slide is the favorite slide among most Fort Rapids’ guests. It takes you into a black bowl where you go around and around until you shoot down a hole into a pool of water. Ri went down with me last year when we went to Fort Rapids for Zach’s party and she loved it. We were worried Alana wouldn’t be tall enough but she barely made it. Those two rode down at least twenty times.

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Mario was not nearly tall enough for it but we were able to sneak him on with me a few times and he loved it! We both laughed so hard when we shot out into the pool. Then a young, militant girl put the smack down on him and refused, even after the most pitiful of pleas, to allow him to go down. He pouted and called her a jerk to me (which I promptly scolded him about but did express my appreciation that he didn’t call her that name in front of her- baby steps). But he soon found good times in the main area with me and Gio.

I got called by folks at work a few times and spent 45 minutes working out an “emergency.” I wavered on the edge of frustration and anger but did not tip over into the black hole. I kept my thinking positive – happy to be able to take the day away from the office and give my kids this treat. I knew I may be called away and I knew the kids would be just fine playing with their cousins amongst the slides and fountains. I find that so many of my days turn on that shift in thinking. I could easily have gotten angry and walked back in the park in a foul mood. Sulked at the table and not played with the kids. Thought about another job where they wouldn’t have bothered me. But what would have been the result? A day lost laughing with my kids. The experience of riding 15 miles an hour through a tube with my giggling son. The expression on Ri’s face when I told her I’d ride down the black slide with her?

Granted, there were times while we were there when I thought “I should just grab a coke and read something on the Internet.” But I kept running up and down those steps and sliding down those slides. First, to be in the moment with the kids. Second, to experience the joy and carefreeness they were experiencing. Third, to get some killer exercise (my calves are still killing me today!). I always have this unrealistic mindset that I will arrive at the water park or Kings Island or zoo, and I will spend the entire day enmeshed with the kids and the fun of the place. But the reality is that I do think about reading a book or checking my email when I’ve gone down a slide eight times in a row. And that’s ok. I am 41 years old. Even though I think “when can I do something else” sporadically during our adventures, I keep hanging on and sliding and splashing and in the end when the kids have finally tired out, I have the awesome recognition, if only self-recognition, that I participated fully in the day. I experienced the thrill of the slides, the exhilaration of the bucket of water on our heads; the nonsense of standing on a fountain spout and spraying the kids.

When we were leaving, a worker said “good-bye ma’am.” Maria looked up at me and laughed.

“You may be 41 mom but you act like a kid.” What a compliment. And with that, I joined them in the video arcade.

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The hilarity of life

I woke up Sunday and went for my run. As I was lifting weights at the gym, I thought about something I had overlooked at work. And I thought about it again. And again. My stomach tightened; I felt sick. I had to head home. I started to cry.

When I walked in the door, Jon walked up to me. I started telling him how stressed I was about work. He touched my shoulder and told me the ten reasons why I shouldn’t be stressed. Why is it that he is always thinking the way I should be thinking when it comes to holding my own at work? I think of something I missed and I automatically start damning myself for not being perfect. How could I miss that? What was I thinking? Jon goes straight to “look at the pressure you had on you; you had a ridiculously short time frame to seal the deal; things will be missed and this thing is nothing compared to the big picture.” He does what I have seen other leaders do – stand up for themselves; diminish the matter; look at the big picture. It is so hard for my perfectionist self to do but it’s absolutely necessary to not go insane in my job. Thank god I have a hubby that grounds me.

Thank god I also have two kids that make me laugh about it all. When they saw me upset, they both reacted. Maria said “Mom, in the big scheme of things, does this really matter?” Yeah, there is my philosopher girl who has picked up my stock response when the kids start crying about trivial things. Mario chimed in making goofy faces and saying “Mom, just do this and you will feel better!” They bring me perspective. As I was walking towards the stairs, I kiddingly told them that I was going to take a shower and cry. Maria’s response “don’t cry in the shower, pee instead!” (An inside joke that made me chuckle during my entire shower). If kids are good for anything, it’s making you see that life can’t be taken seriously; it’s pure chaos and you just got to see the hilarity in it.

Jon left that afternoon for business so I let the kids have a sleepover with Sophie and Quinn. We took a stroller/scooter ride to the Chocolate store which always makes me feel better. I thoroughly enjoyed the conversation between Mario and Quinn in the stroller:
Mario: “Dude, did you see that?”
Quinn:”What?”
Mario:”Ha, nothing. Got ya, dude!”
And so it went over and over. Maria and Sophie were far ahead on their scooters talking about who knows what.

The Chocolatier did not disappoint. Gelato for the kids and dark chocolate nutter butters for moi. Pure heaven. The boys went shirtless into the store and I got a smack down from the owner who told me next time they would not be served. Seriously, at age 5?! I would say its more likely we won’t get served based on these kids being downright nuts!

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When we got home, the kids watched Paranorman while I wrote my sis a letter and they were all fast asleep when I peaked in the room at 10:30. I carried each one to bed upstairs.

The next morning I made pancakes with chocolate chips, eggs, and bacon for the crew. Ri and Sophie helped me make the pancakes. They graciously allowed Mario to help stir after he had a meltdown when they told him he couldn’t assist. Quinn was fine watching tv and being waited on.

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After breakfast, they didn’t want to go outside and I didn’t want them watching another show so we compromised. We got out paper and magazines and they cut out their favorite pictures from the magazines to glue on their paper. Ri and Sophie cut out horses and puppies and kittens; Quinn cut out an expensive watch and dog; Mario cut out a polar bear and half-dressed women. Yea, that is right. He cut out a woman in a bikini from my Self magazine and a woman with long, luxurious hair from a shampoo ad.

“These girls are sexy, Mom!”
“Mario, girls are not objects and you should not call them sexy. That girl works out hard to get strong and she plays sports.”
“Yeah, yeah, mom, they are still sexy.”

Seriously, at age 5? The only thing that gives me hope is that Ri got all into boys when she was 4 and she totally grew out of it by 7. However, Jon and I thinks Mario may not take that path. It’s like it’s innate in him. Scary.

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He asked if I’d tape his girl pictures above his bed for him so he could see them when he goes to sleep. See why we’re concerned?! Maria schooled him on how “inappropriate” he was being, and she and Sophie cornered him in the living room to tell him that “girls rule and boys drool.”

Needless to say, they kept my mind off work all weekend, and I love ’em for that.

Get Over It

For two days straight, I have been stressing about an email I sent to someone at work; worried that they would think it was unprofessional or that I thought they were making a poor choice. They had made a snappy comment about a situation and I added my own comment to theirs. It was nothing vulgar or demeaning – more like a written sigh of “oh, this is happening again….. If I could do it over, I wouldn’t have included the comment with the email. I try to keep emails completely professional for this reason – I know I will second guess myself over and over.

I am a pleaser.

I like to see people happy.

I remember going to a movie with my dad when I was little and feeling so happy when I heard him laugh at one of the lines. I always look around the room when we have people over to make sure they are smiling and having fun. I love when I say something to Jon and he laughs. So, there are no doubts that I’m a compulsive people pleaser. That trait is not the best to have when you work in a job that requires tough conversations and tough love.

I went to bed last night with that email on my mind. I woke up and thought about it on my jog. I tried to focus on the trees, the blossoming flowers, the squirrels dancing up the poles but that email kept butting in. After the run, Ri and I went to the river to find rocks to paint.  I tried to let go of the email but every time I found myself in a great moment with Ri, it popped up.  This lasted throughout the day

I took Ri over to her friend’s house in the late afternoon for a sleepover.  I had a few hours to myself before the boys got home.  I tried to read a magazine article, then clean, then garden. Nothing worked. That damn email kept jumping in my head.  
 
My bike.  Maybe if I just took off on my bike, I could work it out.  I typically take a walk when I have some free time but I get too tempted to read a book or check out my phone when I walk (I haven’t figured out a way to read while biking at 16 miles an hour).  I didn’t want to do that tonight. I wanted to ride along the trail with no music or distractions and figure out a way to stop the insanity.  
 
I changed up my usual route through downtown and traveled up north. Right choice. I couldn’t stop with each new mile I passed because of all of the beauty surrounding me. A worn, wooden troll bridge; fly fishermen casting their lines; pastures of wildflowers; a playground full of children; the river moving steadily over boulders; women walking with tiny babes slung across their bellies.
 
I got lost in it all while I thought about why I act the way I do, why I chose the profession that I did, where I want to be in five years, why I need to make people happy, if I turned the oven off, whether Ri was doing ok, if Jon shot a turkey….  The mind drifted from philosophical to practical.  I biked eleven miles up the trail and turned around for the ride home. It wasn’t until I hit the second to last mile near the intersection of Olentangy and Goodale Avenues that it hit me. 
 
“Get over it.” 
 
That’s it. 
 
“Get over it.”
 
My new affirmation to myself.  I know I am a caring, thoughtful, smart, empathetic person so if someone gets angry or defensive about something I say or do, I need to get over it.  I cannot worry that people may take something the wrong way or feel that I should have done or said something differently. I need to trust my intuition, trust my actions, take responsibility when I do something I look back on as not the best decision, know I am trying my hardest, and get over it.  
 
My legs may kill from cranking out 20 miles but my mind feels a lot more free and ready to think about anything other than… whatever that thing was.  

 

Meetings

Today is Take Your Daughter or Son to Work Day. Ri begged to get off of school to come with me to my work. I had a day full of meetings, which sounded Ike heaven to her.

During our very first one at 9 am, this is the poem she wrote:

Meetings
boring
we depend
upon
meetings
being
very
very
very
boring

Does that sum it up well folks, or what? My colleagues loved it. My one colleague, Eunice, had to get a picture with the poet wearing her pink headband.

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Ri bolted after the first meeting complaining her eyes hurt. I believe it was really the thought of five more meetings…. and the fact that Grandma Lolo and Lou offered to come spend the day with her.

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