Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Karma: Cookies & Parking

I baked and decorated Halloween cookies for Lorelei's first grade class a few weeks ago.  They were cookie pops with spooky skeleton faces on them; their cute factor was pretty high.  Her teacher commented on how neat they were, so I offered to make cookies for her son's birthday, whenever that was.  I added to this offer the fact that I sure wish everyone would help each other out a little more, and, as a stay at home mom, I would be happy to help out a working mom any way I could.

She took me up on the offer.  In addition to asking me to make cookies for her son's morning preschool class and his afternoon daycare class, she asked if I'd bake cookies for a baby shower for the first grade math teacher.  Both her son's birthday and this baby shower were the same day.  Hmm.  Motivated by the same idea that we should all help each other out a little more, I said yes.

As I sat, late after bedtime, decorating cookies that I had baked the day before--after I had gotten her son's cookies to her--I wondered if I was being used.  Had she asked too much?  I was providing cookies for a baby shower for 30 people.  Typical me had made more than she expected, and they were  much cuter than the skeleton cookies she'd seen.  Those cookies were bursting with pink sprinkles and pink icing and pink cuteness in a very fun way!

No, I assured myself.  I'm showing my kids that sometimes, you do nice things without any direct benefit to you.  Right, that's it.  And I'm following out my idea that we should do nice things for each other, for no other reason but...it's nice.  I'm putting kindness and goodness out there in this universe of ours, and having the faith that it'll come back to me, somehow and someway.

I dropped off the cookies, got lots of oohs and aahs, then set out on my way for the second part of my Friday morning: a meeting downtown in Washington, DC.

I drove to where I usually park and looked for a spot to park my ridiculously large Suburban.  I finally spotted one: a parallel park job was required.  I sighed, but felt up to the challenge, wondering if my tire would end up on the curb like it did last time.  I lined up next to the car in front of the open spot and turned around, ready to turn the wheel to guide my beast of a car in.

Suddenly, I saw a guy jump from his construction site job and dash across the street to the car behind the open spot. He got in, and backed his truck way back.  Lucky me!  My parallel park job got a whole lot easier!  Whew.  I made a few adjustments and got into the space without any trouble.  As I was putting my Suburban in park, I saw the guy guide his truck right in behind me.  Hmm.  I thought he was leaving.  What was he doing?

We both got out of our vehicles at the same time.

I called out to him, "Did you just move your car so I could park more easily?"

Him: "Yes, ma'am."

Me, smiling, tears in my eyes, "That was so kind!  Thank you.  Your mama did well."

Karma.  Put some good out there in the universe and somehow, someway it'll come back to you.  Maybe even on the same day.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013


Meet my new neighbor, Sandra.  She walked out of her house to meet me, walking fairly scarecrow-like with a big smile on her small frame when I went over to meet when she and her family moved in two months ago.  I was chatting with her husband when she came out.  I think she could tell that I was surprised with how she was walking, so she asked me, in her open style: Did he tell you what happened to me?

He had not.

This past May, Sandra was driving her four kids, all under 10 years old, somewhere completely--who knows where, who cares where now.  She stopped at a stop sign.  After stopping, she stepped on the gas pedal of her minivan to move through the four-way stop.  She glanced in the rear view mirror at her kids, sang along to the kid music, and probably said something to one of her kids.

Then WHAM a large vehicle going almost 40 miles per hour hit her car.  With her four young kids inside.  Right into Sandra's door.

Sandra doesn't recall a whole lot from the accident.  She does know that her youngest, a girl almost 2 years old, remained strapped into her carseat snugly, even though the car ended up on its roof.  Her little girl was now suspended in air--oddly quiet, untouched, completely fine.  Her three boys' injuries varied in their degree of hurt.  Two had just scratches, one had minor injuries.

Sandra was not so lucky.  She was rushed to the hospital by ambulance and stayed there for three weeks.  Neighbors and friends immediately set up a network to take care of her kids--this one took that one for the night and to school the next day, this other neighbor picked up these two for a few days, another friend brought Sandra's husband meals in the hospital...  This net was elaborate, it was loving, it was strong.

While this happened outside her room, Sandra started recovering from, most seriously, a broken back and a punctured lung.  She needed several surgeries and several metal pins in the base of her spine in order to walk, and those steps were possible with only the strongest pain medication.  

Everything hurt.

And everything still hurts.  She is still relearning to breathe deeply, control her body, and simply live with constant, significant pain.  Yet she's bright and cheerful and strong.  Clearly, she's chosen to move the heck on and deal with it.

There's more to the story, of course, as there always is.  But this tiny slice of Sandra's life--the millisecond when that minivan hit her car--leaves me so very grateful. I am reminded of how precious life is.  How healthy I am.  How capable my body is.  How resilient kids are.  How we choose to be happy.  And a whole lot more.

Thank you, Sandra.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

The Fog of Parenting

I'm an Army brat, so I grew up with a lot of military metaphors.  One of those such metaphors is by Carl von Clausewitz, a Prussian military genius.  It's called the fog of war.

The fog of war, he wrote, is the uncertainty a soldier feels while in the middle of a battle.  The soldier's knowledge is limited; he does not know the number of many enemy soldiers, the morale of his own troops, the exact location of back-up battalions.  Still, that soldier must make decisions.  And those decisions can have ghastly consequences. But he does not have the luxury of hemming and hawing for hours.  Action must be taken quickly.

So it is with parenting, I think.

The fog of parenting is that thick cloud of uncertainty we feel during most phases of our child's life.  Especially those early clueless moments when our child is upset and we have only a few shreds of a few lame ideas about what to do!  Those moments did require immediate action, and while the consequences were not war-like bad, if we chose poorly we were back where we started with the same problem. Some of us have the luxury of calling up friends or our moms or accessing the best and worst parenting tool ever, Google.

But, as parents--as the ones holding the child who needs SOMETHING--we're still there: at a point where we've got to make a decision without knowing everything.  It's real and scary.

So recognize and remember that you're doing the best you can with the information you've acquired and the experience you've earned. And this parenting thing is an imperfect art that simultaneously uses skills you pick up along the way AND requires you to constantly try doing things a new way.