Monday, April 17, 2017

Lucky Thirteen

     Today we are married thirteen years. As I write these words to you I know that others will see them. I'm doing this so that all can know what wonderful treasures you have given to me throughout our marriage. So here goes my thirteen things:

1.  Trust- A mutual trust that you have cultivated for the both of us. I know that your actions and whereabouts are never cause for concern. The only reason I ever look through your pockets is to save myself from washing lip balm or a pocketknife. My humor does wane a bit at those times. lol.

2.  Faith- As a person that wants to be prepared for everything, you have taught me to have faith that everything will work out. With you by my side I have faith it will. You live your life as a man of God and make me strive to live our faith more fully.

3.  Comfort- You have held me as I wept and hugged me when I was joyous. Your arms provide such comfort to me. Your embrace is strong and holds the power to heal. I bet you never realized that. I love to be hugged by you and love how you embrace others.

4.  Patience- You really excel at this. I can be quite the challenge. You have shown me that sometimes I need to take a breath and listen. You have a special skill with people in our lives who have lost their path. While I can be angry, you allow others the space to grow and are patient that they will find their way.

5.  Humor- We really do laugh a lot. I can't imagine a life without humor. We have so much fun together and I still find you so very funny. It's my great accomplishment the times I can elicit that all out, mouth agape, full on laugh from you. If I ponder our time together it seems much of it is filled with crazy antics and lots of laughter. How lucky am I?

6.   Forgiveness- I learned from you that every hurt is not intentional. You easily say "I didn't mean to hurt you and I'm sorry." I learned that withholding forgiveness hurts everyone and helps no one. Sometimes no big problems are solved only truces are negotiated. That's ok too.

7.  Freedom-  I was so reluctant to marry because I thought about what I would lose. You gave me the freedom to be me. To pick up and travel when I needed to without guilt. The freedom to pursue what makes me happy. You gave me the incredible freedom to not have to always be on guard. I don't have to be in control of everything. That is so fabulously freeing.

8.  Confidence-  You believe I am capable of so much more than I do. Because of this I was able to do things that might seem crazy. I towed our rv on a 2 week journey on my own because you believed in me. I was able to start our business because you gave me the confidence that I was smart enough and could succeed. I doubted myself with both of these endeavors but you never did. I can't understand why you think I can do anything(except keep the carpet vacuumed lol). I'm amazed at how your confidence in me has helped me reach outside of my comfort zone.

9.  Kindness- This is probably your best gift. You are the kindest man I know. The amazing thing is that you don't reserve this quality for only those you know. You behave with kindness in your every day reactions and actions toward people. I strive to be more like you as you often think to do things for others that I would never think of. I still recall a time a friend asked if I was annoyed you did something nice for another woman and my first thought was how I was not annoyed but embarrassed that I didn't think to do it myself.

10.  Hope-  I can often get in the way of myself. You can talk me off a bridge and give me the vision that tomorrow is a day to look forward to. You show me that it's ok to hope that instead of my disastrous visions of what could happen, I could hope and envision a much sweeter scenario. You lead me to be a more hopeful person with gentle persuasion.

11.  Understanding-  You gave me abounding, non judgmental understanding. You met me where I was in my life and guided me to where I am now. Our priest told us it was our job to lead each other to heaven. You took that direction and have always help me with my moral dilemmas. While some people would be heavy handed you never made me feel terrible for my imperfections but always turned to me and gently reasoned with me about mistakes I might be about to make. You are leading me north and helping me with my moral compass. Thank you so much.

12.  Strength-  When life has been tough for me you have given me the strength to get up, move on, or try again. You are my biggest cheerleader. You believe me to be strong therefore I am. You remind me of tough things from my past and say to me "come on you got this, this is nothing." Your strength is what gives me mine.
13.  Love- A word that can be so confusing and hard to quantify. I have learned through you that love is an everyday action not a fluffy feeling. For you it is doing things daily for another with no expectation. You continue to love and act in someones best interest even if their behavior is less than desirable. It is an ebb and flow not an equal exchange. It is giving all of the above things to another. It is powerful, constant, and life changing. Thank you for giving me so much love.

     So thank you so very much for loving me so well, teaching me so much, and helping me to grow. You continue to bring joy into my life. Our home is filled with laughter and is a place I love to be. The walls in our home don't box me in but rather lift me up because that is the life you have given me. I am a better version of me because of you. Happy 13th Anniversary. You are still and will always be my best guy.


Thursday, December 31, 2015

Bring on 2016

      As 2015 draws to a close I reflect on my year. I tend to try to be a positive person but I can honestly say this year was quite challenging. I suffered the illness and subsequent loss of a loved one, struggled with illness myself and a painful surgery, and was forced to be among someone I would rather not see. Starting from January and until this present moment each month had one or more of these challenges.
     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

Mother's Day

  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 Unresolution

     This is the time of year where gym memberships soar, exercise equipment is advertised, and promises are made. In the next few months gyms will experience a decline in use after the initial surge, the treadmill will become a new place to hang clothes, and many of us will begin to feel disheartened.
     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

Facebook Friends I love

     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

The power of play

     When I was a child I remember watching my mom when she was around her friends. They talked, had coffee, and sometimes prepared meals together. I didn't think growing up was something that looked like a lot of fun. I thought about when the day would come when I would no longer think it was fun to play games with my friends. Would I too wear polyester pants with stretch tops and floral shirts? Would I think that it was fun to while away an afternoon sitting around a table talking? These statement are not meant to cause shame to my parent's generation. I'm sure most of you who grew up in that age had parents that were much the same. It is just the way it was.
     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

September again

     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.