Thursday, December 31, 2015
I thought a great deal about what it all means for me and came to the conclusion that what these really crappy things did was give me gifts. I know it might sound crazy but I love when things "Suddenly dawn on me." So here are the gifts I have been given this year.
1. Forgiveness. I never quite understood this one. I learned to forgive people that never asked for it but really hurt me. I know I will never hear an apology and they might not even feel sorry, so for me this is huge. I never knew how to move on from this but I saw how much anger I was harboring. It wasn't keeping them up at night but it was doing that for me. I obsessed and fixated on it. I even thought about how their lives where a mess and it was because of their choices. So instead of carrying this I literally put my hand to my heart and tried to feel sympathy for them. As I touched my heart I imagined that if I were them and needed the help they needed what would I want someone to do for me? The answer was clear it was time to help and although I do not forget the hurt I can know in my heart that I have done a loving thing for myself.
2. Patience. This year I saw people at their worst. Confused, making poor choices, and behaving in a manner that made no sense to me. I learned that sometimes people need time to figure things out. They need to go through making bad choices to come to the good ones. I even learned they may never make good ones. I needed to learn to let them make their choices. It was a very hard to stand by as people I loved struggle, but I learned that for them change was extremely difficult. It also put me back in touch with how difficult change is for me. I'm still working on this patience thing but have definitely gotten better.
3. In sickness and in health. No one wants to feel crappy everyday. For me this started in late August and continues today. I am married 11 years and am only 50. I never thought that at this age there would be days my husband would have to dress me, walk me to the bathroom, and drive me places. Luckily I can do those things for myself now but I still need his help and patience with me. I think back on how time consuming I was after surgery and how limited our lives had become. It showed me the gift I have in him. That silly sentence that is part of most peoples vows is often not something you seriously think about. He certainly lived that vow for me this year and that is a true gift.
4. Putting my air mask on first. Of course this is not a literal thing but for me I would normally stay in situations that made me sick, stressed me, and caused me not to be my best self. I learned to just leave even if it doesn't look good to others around me. I have had to go home in the middle of chaos because I knew I could no longer be patient and kind and needed to get a breath for myself. Sometimes you have to be a priority.
5. The Rosary. I went to Catholic school my whole life and yet I had not said the rosary in years. At the urging of a former high school friend I picked up the rosary and had to reteach myself the prayers. So beads in one hand and kindle fire in the other I muddled through my first rosary. I wept tears of peace the first two times I said it. I still need the internet to remind me how to say it but it has given me a welcome break and a peaceful retreat from the day.
I hope as you reflect back on your year you will find that it was a good one. I pray that if it was not, you will have come through it stronger and with better insight to handle the year ahead. So for me I say bring on 2016. To you all I say be gentle with yourself and others and have a very Happy and Healthy New Year.
Tuesday, May 12, 2015
In the month of May we celebrate mothers. Moms are fabulous and worthy of receiving this recognition but I think our recognition falls short in including the mothers that I think about. We think about the dirty diapers and car pools and that certainly is a challenging part of motherhood. The following are the mothers or mother figures that might not come to mind for others but I think about.
1. The moms of the sullen beasts called teens. Oh boy if this is not a stage of motherhood that a glass of wine should be on hand at all times. We had three teens in our house at once. Luckily only one was the sullen one. A mom is always left to wonder what the hell is going on? Are they mad at me or just angry at the world? Moms of these teens take heart, you may be the target but they are mad at the world. You get lots of advice on how to handle these years and many moms fall into the trap of trying to be friends with these aliens. Do not! This is when you are really needed to be a mom. Yes be the square peg that wants to ruin their lives because try as you might they will never really consider you a friend. They will keep secrets so don't be fooled, and they will make mistakes so expect it and keep wine on hand.
2. Moms that never got to be moms. Some woman through medical issues or just relationship circumstances never got to be the mothers they wanted to be. Mother's Day can be so painful for these would be moms. No one recognizes them because in the true sense they are not technically mothers but this doesn't mean that it wasn't their greatest wish unfulfilled.
3. Moms who lost a child. I cannot imagine the pain. Maybe they still have other children but they will always be mothers to the one they lost. If they lost an only child the world may not see them as mothers any longer. I do. They are mothers with a pain that will never go away.
4. The nuns in my Catholic schools who mothered me and others. I know most people have horror stories but I like to remember the nuns who showed me kindness. I was lucky to have some gentle, loving, and sweet ladies teach me. Not all were, but I can say the same of some of my lay teachers. Nuns showed us a selfless love similar to a traditional mother. I learned compassion, kindness, and humility. One of my best qualities, as pointed out by my husband, was taught to me by a nun. She called it a warm fuzzy and it's just a simple thing that makes a big impression. Simply saying something nice to someone about appearance or a quality they possess. I never forgot that lesson and have used it my whole life.
5. I think about moms who have children in prison or accused of a terrible crime. It seems ironic considering I was a cop but my heart knows that this is a mother few think about. I have met mothers in the station house that of course love their children but are horrified by their actions. Maybe they weren't the best mothers but I know that not one of them gave birth hoping to raise a murderer, pervert, or drug addict. I have no sympathy for their children that made those horrible choices but I do think about the mothers. I am especially humbled by the amazing, godly woman who are the victims' mothers that after a trial can go over and hug the criminals mom. That is the an ultimate level of forgiveness that I am not sure I possess.
6. I think about all the step moms out there. I speak from experience that it is much more difficult than traditional motherhood. I always tell people it is like being put in a boxing ring with both hands tied behind your back. I applaud these moms who try hard to help co parent and often are given very little recognition for their efforts. I congratulate you for working at loving children that may not love you back. Keep trying and if all else fails have that glass of wine with the mother of a teen.
Everyone knows there are no instruction manuals given out when the strange creatures we call our children are born. We do the best we can, we pray, we cross our fingers, and then I personally saved for a good therapist. I give thanks to all mothers and hope you will join me in encouraging other mothers, mother figures, and wonderful dads filling in for moms. Happy Mother's Day to you all.
Wednesday, December 31, 2014
The New Year is a wonderful time to look ahead but may I suggest a different approach that I'll call an unresolution. A few small changes that can make you feel good, but when you slip you will not be disheartened. I encourage you to try the following:
1. Accept a compliment. There are two small words that are mostly unused when one is given a compliment." Thank you." Who taught us that it is polite to tear down a compliment when given? For example when you are told you did a task well like, cooking, painting, or some other sort of labor why do we respond with words like "It's not that good or it was easy anyone could do it." If we are given a kind remark about our appearance we often answer with "Oh no I look a mess." For the New Year practice saying "thank you." You are honoring the giver of the compliment and not tearing yourself down. If you feel yourself starting to answer back negatively say instead "That was so nice of you to say." It feels good to say it and honors the compliment giver.
2. Say what you mean. This is especially priceless in interactions with the opposite sex. I must admit women often have a hard time with this. If you hear yourself saying it's fine when it is not, you are guilty. In conversations with friends talking about their husbands I often tell them that the crystal ball is broken. They will then ask "well why doesn't he know?" To which I respond "because he failed the mind-reading course." How is a person supposed to know what you want if you don't tell them? Sometimes there are things that are hard to say but said with kindness can really strengthen a relationship. I can think of three female friends who all told me things that were tough to say and I know for me it just made me love them more. They cared enough to be honest with me. My husband tells me he loves that when he asks me if I mind if he does something without me and I tell him I don't mind, that he never has to worry if he will live to regret it. There have been a few occasions that I was honest and told him I was looking forward to spending time together or I felt especially needy. This was when we moved away from family and friends and he understood. If I had not said what I meant I would have been left alone feeling resentful. Who wins in that game? Most of us have a lot going on in our own lives so if you feel upset by something someone has said, want more help around the house, or anything else that gets your knickers in a knot, just say so. Most people are not in tuned to your innermost thoughts.
3. Let it go. We all have some crazy area in our life that we want to be perfect. Each of us has our own sense of perfection. We tend to collide with others when they do not share the same view point. I will share one of my crazies that I had to let go. I had what I considered to be the perfect linen closet. It made sense, was in order, and brought me comfort. When I had guests over I would tell them where everything was if they needed extra and was quite proud that it was easy to find what you needed. I had live in nannies for my daughter and explained the whole process to them. If anyone put anything away (husband, nanny) and it was folded differently I would redo it and get annoyed. Fast forward to second husband and giving kids responsibilities for their laundry. What was I saying by going behind everyone and refolding their towels and sheets? I was undoing all that they were doing. What did that perfect linen closet say about me? Not much except that I was nuts. It didn't make my marriage better or my kids better behaved. It did, however, stress me out and show my family that yes indeed I was a lunatic. This is a silly example but we all have things that we want to be just so. Life is not perfect so it is my suggestion that if it's not something that can really change the quality of your life. Let it go. I now look at the tuck and roll method that my husband favors for the fitted sheets and laugh. I have no real "system" any longer for the linen closet but allow myself a crazy indulgence when I open the door to it. I look at the mess, close my eyes and breath in the wonderful scent of those fresh linens. I really do this and I know they are clean and that's all that matters.
I hope this New Year brings you much happiness and that you will try one or all of these things. Be gentle with yourself and others. Happy New Year friends!
Wednesday, November 26, 2014
This is the time of year when we all count our blessings. I can honestly say that I am thankful for this list of friends all year long. I absolutely love my facebook friends that:
1. Post pictures of themselves with their eyes closed tightly but their mouths wide open in a huge smile/laugh. You are in that moment experiencing such joy and are sharing that with me. I smile for you when I see this. I will usually comment because to me this is a perfect picture.
2. Tell a story about something their kid says or does that is not flattering. The stories are usually funny and they are so real. It's so refreshing to know that other people have kids that do things that you wouldn't write about in your holiday newsletter. I too experienced many candid moments and never did write a holiday newsletter.
3. Are cop friends. Some of you I may only know through a mutual group we are a part of . I love WSW. Sometimes I know who you are talking about and other times I know the type of guy you are talking about since I knew someone like that too. Sometimes it's a crazy patrol stories and I love the jargon that we use when these types of stories are told. The stories are funny, sad, heroic, and heartwarming. I am so proud to have worked in the same profession as you all. I'm humbled by your experiences.
4. Have a passion. It could be cooking, fishing, bee keeping, dogs, woodworking, the Jets, crocheting, bowling, or reading. You post endlessly about what you're passionate about and take oodles of pictures. Sometimes I laugh and sometimes I learn from you. It brings me joy to see what you are passionate about.
5. Tolerate my lengthy posts or endless dog pictures. I am extremely grateful to the ones who still take the time out to write a kind comment. I guess I might have a passion or two also.
6. Take me on their vacations through their pictures. I love to see you getting out and exploring the world. Through you I can taste the food, feel the sunshine, and be in awe of some historic sight or beautiful sunset.
7. Put embarrassing photos of yourself from when you were younger. I may have had the same bad outfit and can laugh about it. Perhaps my hair was bigger than yours. Maybe you even had hair then and not now. If we knew each other when we were younger please know that is how I will always remember you. Not the funny outfit but forever young.
If you see yourself in any of these categories, then by now you must realize, you are a facebook friend I love. We might know each other very well or maybe haven't seen each other in years. It could also be that we are acquainted only through our mutual groups. Whatever the circumstance I am so grateful for you. Thank you for being the one who makes me laugh, cry, and often learn. I hope for all of you that you have these kinds of people in your life also. Happy Thanksgiving!
Saturday, October 4, 2014
I guess I always saw myself as a person with a highly evolved sense of play. That's probably a nice way of saying that I'm a child. I believe it is something within me but I will also say that a conversation that I had with another woman had a profound effect on how I chose to parent, as well as, how I chose to be viewed by others. I was talking with this woman and I'm sure her statement meant nothing to her but it rocked my world. She said "I never remember my mother ever playing a game with us." I asked "Well what do you remember her doing?" She said that her mom was always cleaning and was very particular about her floor. She mopped it all the time. I then asked if she remembered having very clean floors in her house and she couldn't remember. She laughed but to me it stung me. I thought about all the energy put into her house and that in the end it meant nothing to her kids. I knew that I wanted to do everything possible to not leave the same legacy. I wanted to be remembered for being fun. I wanted the kids to view me as a person with interests and when they looked back they might remember the time I took to just play. I wanted them to know me. I had no children at this time.
I only gave birth to one child but was lucky enough to be blessed with two bonus children when I remarried. Pictured above are The Boy (now 20), Bird (21), and MG (24). MG and I met them when she was 12. As an aside I must say that we hardly ever called the kids by their names. We love nicknames and they all had several that they liked and even referred to themselves and each other that way. They still do. By the time we met my husband and bonus kids my play policy was in full effect.
Having children made my playful personality appropriate. It didn't look weird when I went roller skating or went on the swing at the park. I did have a home that didn't harbor diseases but I never had a museum type home. I didn't cook elaborate meals and yes I did sometimes put off dinner an extra half hour because we were engaged in an intense game of backgammon. I thought it was important when the kids asked to play something I drop the non essential stuff and play.
Playing provided an invaluable tool during the sometimes stoic teenage years. I can also say that all through the years some of the funniest conversations we had were when we were playing something. It provided a non judgmental time to talk about anything. All the kids were able to open up and talk about both important and sometimes silly things. I loved as the kids grew that they would have friends over and they always included their siblings since communal play was so natural in our house. The most telling was when boyfriends became a part of this mix. The younger two got to know who MG was dating while playing a rousing game of spoons.
I believe play also showcased each child's strengths and weaknesses'. I don't believe letting a child win is a way to build character. So with that in mind I would teach a new game, play it with them pointing out moves and strategy, and when they grasped it I would play to win. No I was not slaying them in a game of chutes and ladders at 3 years old but by 8 they knew how best to protect their pieces in Parcheesi. We did have a sore loser in the bunch so we employed a policy that win or lose you shook the opponents hand and said "good game." I learned from the games of strategy which kid had a grasp on delayed gratification and who was going to be the impulsive one. This might sound crazy but when college rolled around the impulsive one really lacked direction and took a longer time to focus. Say what you will but I learned a lot about the kids and their personalities. I challenge other parents to consider how you spend your time with your kids and what will be your legacy.
The kids don't live home any longer and so now I'm thrust into a world with no excuse for play. I choose to do it anyway. Just recently I joined an adult kickball league. It's very big here in Baton Rouge but when they say adult they mean 20-30 years old. I looked at photos of the teams and realized that I would be the oldest player by 20 years on my team. Oh well. Is it embarrassing? Yes, especially when the first night one of the guys cursed and the other said "watch your mouth in front of Miss Dawn." I chuckled thinking they have no idea I was a cop for 20 years and heard much worse. We went out for drinks after the first game and had to laughed as my husband and I were not proofed but our teammates were. Am I good at it? No. Is it fun? Yes. I know some my teammates might think it's lame that I play but maybe some are thinking good for her. Maybe they won't define fun as a thing that goes away with age.
In closing I can say that some of what I set out to be has been shown to be effective. I have heard the kids each at different times describe me. "She's crazy she loves any roller coaster. She's not afraid of anything." Her favorite band is AC/DC, she loves dogs, we watch the same shows, we are Siamese twins. These are some of the things I have over heard the kids say about me. It makes me smile. They never confuse me as their friend but they know I'm a person not just their mother. I also hope I've shown them not to be defined by what others think you should be or do. Make a mission statement for yourself and see it through. What will yours be?
Wednesday, September 10, 2014
I, like most Americans, can remember exactly where they were when they first found out about the terrorist attacks. I, like most Police Officers and other first responders who worked that day, get a sick feeling when September rolls around again. Though it is now 13 years later we can still remember the awful confusion, fear, and exhaustion of those first hours that turned to months of hazardous and sad work. My coworkers and I also remember with great joy the wonderful unity we felt with the people of our city. The small kindnesses that meant so much to us. A bottle of water on that hot and dirty day or an invite to use the rest room. I remember with a laugh the nasty and hateful comments by motorists when we told them they could not enter into Manhattan because we had to shut it down. None of us in the early moments knew what was happening so we had to laugh as we were told "I hope you burn alive" or "drop dead." How surprised we were by people lacking empathy for something much greater than a simple inconvenience for them. Fortunately most people that day remembered that there were others who needed help and acted bravely and without regard for themselves.
I chose the first picture since it really struck me with such sadness to see the personal effects of a brave human being. A shield she proudly wore and a gun belt that represented her oath to protect and serve. Moira Smith went to work that day like we all did. She made a choice to go back in to help others and paid the ultimate price. I never knew her but can't forget the picture of her leading a man to safety only to go back inside the towers and perish. Moira was cited for her heroism in the 1991 subway crash at Union Square. She was awarded the Distinguished Duty Medal for saving dozens of lives. September 11th was not a one time event for her. She lived to protect and serve.She had a beautiful little girl and a husband. Most cops who worked that day heard her last words on the radio and I, like many, had a hard time processing that. I remember my partner and I turning to each other when we heard her voice and anxiously waiting to hear more. Sadly there was no more.
The second picture is of Tommy Schoales. He was a cop in my precinct before he was called to be a fireman. He was young and kind. I remember speaking with him about the fire dept while he was waiting to be called. My dad was a retired chief in the fire dept and so I told him how happy I was for him and that he would love the job. My dad loved the job as did almost every fireman I met. I thought he would be safer. On one of his last days in the precinct I wished him well and his smile could have lit up Broadway. He was so excited and I was for him too. Tommy didn't get to enjoy years of working as a fireman. He didn't get to marry or have a family.He too was taken that day.
There are countless stories and memories of bravery. I am still struck by thoughts of those ordinary citizens that took action that day. I am overwhelmed when I think of those amazing people that took control and made a decision that they knew would end their lives. The people of that plane that sacrificed themselves for the greater good. We will never know how terrible the outcome would have been if they had not decided to take action. Could I have done that? Could you? I have lots of questions still but no answers.
I remember with great pride how the people of the city lined up holding signs to thank us as we drove by the bus loads into Manhattan. I waved back and mouthed the words "thank you" to let them know how much we appreciated those simple words. I didn't do anything special that day or in the weeks to follow. No heroics or fanfare just every day work. I simply was part of a bigger machine that helped put the city back together. We all were. While I never want to go back to the tragedy of that day, I would love if we still shared the same unity. Maybe it's just part of the human experience. We rise up when the need arises and fall back to the same old when life resumes to normalcy.
I believe I am no different than many people when September rolls around again. I feel sadness, pride, loss, hope, and a deep sense of longing. We can never go backward and change the events. We can only move forward and hope our lives are an example of our best qualities. Love, laugh, and live. It is September again.
Saturday, August 23, 2014
In 1985 there was still a stigma about woman in the police department. I often had cops that didn't want to work with me or bosses that gave me the dirty work (dead bodies etc) because I was a woman. I was always surprised that despite his age Louie went above and beyond to treat all his "kids" (that's what he called the young cops) fairly. He saw no sex or color. He came to work with his trademark gift, a bag of lollipops, and we would get one daily. He would even give them to my 30 year old boss who was still a kid to him. His wonderful wife Veronica was always on the hunt for the good ones. He would ask if she bought good ones. He had so many nicknames back then but the one that described his work as a cop best was Louie"no meal" Miller. If you worked in a car with him you were not going to stop working to have a lunch break. He drank black coffee and we would joke about how many cups he poured out the window. If you were with him and a job came over he would say "drink it fast or dump it." We dumped it.
I took note early on that Louie never used any type of slur or negative reference when referring to anyone. I didn't know it then but he had won several awards for his compassion within the community. I watched him interact and handle jobs and didn't realize it then, but he was making me the cop that I went on to be. I'm positive that most of his "kids" were equally influence by him.
One day I got a call for a lost elderly female and responded and found a thin woman not dressed for the cold. I pulled out all my police academy schooling and quizzed and queried this poor woman to no avail. I was doing it all by the book. She had dementia and the more I asked her "Ma'am where do you live?" the more confused she became. I called for The Commander over the radio and he came. He asked "What do you need kid?" I told him. I watched as this huge man walked up to the woman and gave her a big bear hug. He kissed her and said " Hi Momma I was worried about you." He mentioned how cold she must be as he held her closer. He said "let's go home now mom." He gently spoke to her and he was able to find out where she was living. I felt so foolish but to Louie it was just another day. He never took credit for fixing a problem it was always us handling the job together.
He was also famous for knowing exactly where the bad guy was going to be. I don't know how he did it but he was always in the right place. He would sit in the back of the car while he had the two rookies in the front. He would be doing a crossword puzzle but never missed a beat. One day there was a robbery in progress and of course the "kids" wanted to go straight to the address. He never looked up from the crossword but said " make a u boat and go to the corner of such and such(can't remember the block) and wait." That sounded absurd but you gotta listen to the commander. He said "kid you don't chase them you let them come to you." Well who comes running around the corner but the bad guy. Louie opened up the car door at the right moment so the bad guy slams into it and falls to the ground and Louie then says "there you go kid, go pick up your collar." He was the real deal.
I went on to see him handle so many situations that other cops called for his help. I learned from everyone on them. I was always amazed with how he touched everyone. Literally. The filthy homeless man, the bad guy, the bleeding victim. He was so hands on. I watched him touch and talk to the bad guy and suddenly that guy wasn't acting up so much. The power of touch was implanted in me. I will admit I never was as close up as he was. Another thing that I took on my career journey was a bag of goodies. It was definitely a spin off of Louie's lollipops but I took candies and small toys and gave them to children when I went on a job to their house. Not as diligently as Louie did but when I could.
One day I came into the precinct and there were reporters everywhere. Cops were crying and no one would tell me what was up. The boss behind the desk looked ashen and just waved me off to go suit up. In the locker room I finally found out that The Commander had been shot and killed. He was responding to a burglary in progress with his "kids" and he encountered the two perps in the hall and stopped to question them. One shot at Louie and Officer Del Pino emptied his gun and hit the perp. While Del Pino was reloading the other suspect grabbed the gun and started to fire at Del Pino hitting him. Louie, although mortally wounded, return fire killing the perp thus saving Del Pino. The other perp left the building and passed one of Louie's kids. She had no idea of what happened in the building yet but had the presence of mind to sense something wasn't right. She took the plate of the vehicle and transmitted it. Louie had taught her well. The perp was found shortly thereafter. March 11, 1987 was the End of Watch for The Commander. It was the end of my rookie training with Uncle Louie. That night I had to help with the paperwork and his bloody clothes. I was no longer that young fresh faced kid.
When the Dept. Chaplain told Veronica Miller what happened to her husband she answered "That's the way he would have wanted it to be." The chaplain said that statement helped him make a terrible job easier to handle. An incredible saint of a man was obviously married to a saint of a woman. We found out through her that he had swiped some of her fur coats and gave them to the homeless. He told her they were in the back of the closet, they weren't keeping you warm. You had to catch him in these amazing acts since he was so humble. He did many things that only a few saw. When she spoke to us kids she told us the same thing she told the chaplain and also said he was always talking about his kids. She said "he told me about each and every one of you." In a time of tremendous grief for us all she took the time to lift our hearts. I cry as I write this because I still miss him. I hope I made him proud and I'm sure some of his other kids went on to become great cops like Louie.
Lately we have heard so many negative comments about cops that I thought it important to share this story. You see this all took place during times of great racial tensions and cop/community conflicts. There were great cops then. I know the majority were decent people. Everyday they carried on but you didn't ever know what they did because it doesn't make papers. Louie didn't make papers until his final call. No one would have known he existed. I know now the majority of cops are good and some are even great. You probably will never hear about them.
Below is a picture of Louie with his saintly wife Veronica taken in Dec 1985. I have held onto it all these years.