Monday, November 28, 2011

You're only dancing on this earth for a short while

I got my senior yearbook out this morning to try and remember what I was like, what life was like to be a 17 year old pom pon girl, back in the seventies.

This is what I remember about that time in my life. My friends, my many friends. I remember dances and driving. I remember bonfires and bands. I remember singing John Denver at the top of my lungs with my friend Retta. I remember working in Walgreens making a few bucks. I remember hip hugger jeans and tube tops. Summer nights at the quarry and drive in movies with John Golabek. I remember I didn't get the date I wanted for prom and it didn't matter, because my mom made me a gorgeous dress. All these little snippets. I remember so much.

I remember my parents were proud of me. I was going to college, having a chance to do something they never got to do. I remember saying goodbye to Dawn, to Kathy, to Anita, to Diane to many years together and now our lives were going to change.

But nowhere in my mind do I remember being stressed. I don't remember caring that much. I was more concerned with having the right bathing suit than being in the National Honor Society. My grades, what were they? I think OK. I really don't remember. How many colleges did I apply to? One. Eastern Illinois University and it was good for me, it was very good.

The reason I am writing this, is what are we doing to our children? Lord, what are we doing? The right ACT score, the right leadership opportunities, the right passion, oh yes, passion on that college essay. All carefully planned with promises for the right school and surely that means success, that means you will have the right life. So study, study. AP classes till you are bleary eyed studying late at night. You need at least a couple and then as many honor classes as you can stomach. In your spare time, that is when you need to demonstrate PASSION. Yes! Passion for something, not necessarily what you are interested in, but passion for something that someone else in an admissions office will deem worthy. Start a charity, build a library, collect 1000 winter coats. Whatever it is, make sure it counts. Make sure it is impressive.

What was my passion? My passion was having fun spending time with friends that I had grown up with and would soon not be walking down the hall with me. My passion was doing a good job at Walgreens and saving my paycheck for spending money in college.

By today's standards, I was a mediocre student. But, I will tell you this. I would not trade the social skills I gained by all those hours of fun for anything. Because it taught me about people and about life. Job interviews were easy. I was used to talking to strangers at Walgreens. I didn't do anything really notable, but what I did do was build a reservoir of memories that are with me today. Interesting, mediocre grade, state school and yet, I had a good career that kind of unfolded as I lived my life. It had nothing to do with my grades, my school.

My little girl was beating herself up because she wanted to take Photography instead of another AP class. So, I made the decision. You will take the photography class and so what. You see, we are on that final lap before college application letters get written. She works so hard and she is so much better at grades, accomplishments. But, I need to teach her more about these precious memories of high school, the friends that will soon not be in your life. I want her to look back and say, "it was good".

In my senior yearbook there are many smiling faces and the captions read from the Cat Stevens song, "Oh very young, what will you leave us this time? You're only dancing on this earth for a short while and though your dreams may toss and turn you now...

Oh very young, there'll never be a better chance.

Gracie has one and half years of high school left. This crazy path to nowhere they talk about, well they are right. Work hard, yes, but play hard, too. Treasure these years, they are the entry way to adulthood. Parents...we will never have a better chance to teach them right.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

100 Sounds To See: The only dog for our only child

100 Sounds To See: The only dog for our only child: "My daughter Gracie is an only child, so getting a dog when she was seven years old, it just made sense. The sign on the window of The B..."

The only dog for our only child

My daughter Gracie is an only child, so getting a dog when she was seven years old, it just made sense. The sign on the window of The Barking Lot, a local pet groomer, announced GOLDEN RETRIEVER PUPPIES FOR SALE”. Just so happened, we were ready for a puppy, a companion for Gracie.

The puppies were at a home in Brookfield and I went there by myself to check them out. It was mayhem, little golden streaking fur balls, chasing each other and having true canine fun. Except one pup, he calmly walked over to me and dropped a little ball at my feet. I picked him up and he instantly snuggled against my neck. Oh God, I was hooked, this little guy, in all this craziness, wanted me…he picked me that morning so many years ago. And by the way, he was the runt of the litter and so I even got a discount!

I brought Mickey home a few days later. The picture, it is the first minutes of Gracie and Mickey meeting one another. Those first days, armed with my copy of THE MONKS OF NEW SKEET, THE ART OF RAISING A PUPPY, I was going to train this dog to be the perfect canine family companion. I had many rules, no barking, no chewing and he was in his cage according to the schedule in the book. Mickey was to live only in the family room and he was to relieve himself in the Poo Poo Palace corner of the yard. I was a psycho, dog training Nazi.

Well, he didn’t flunk out of obedience school, but he wasn’t a star pupil. He chewed, barked and pulled his way through puppy hood. He wasn’t very well mannered; his greeting would knock you down. But yet, this dog of ours, has a heart of gold. Our family fell fast in love. Mickey was an ambassador of dogs, if you didn’t like him, he would win you over in time with his charm and sweetness. My mother has never liked a dog in her life, but she coos to Mickey. The neighbor children that were afraid of dogs, Mickey caught their snowballs at the bus stop and soon they were fans, too.

We are crazy in expressing our love for Mickey. He has his own theme song, yes, he does. We all break into the chorus if one of us starts to sing to him. He in turn, lights up and prances to the stanzas. He now owns the couch, sleeps by the foot of our bed and holds court under the dining room table. Table scraps are expected; especially steak and he can make you feel very guilty if you don’t share. He loves toys, rawhide bones and a good brushing.

He keeps a routine like an old lady, a cookie after he goes outside, a nice long morning nap in the sun and a romp around the yard, early afternoon. That routine, that presence is the most comforting part of my day. He follows me around the house like a shadow. I talk to my dog, tell him about good things, troubles and he listens with total attentiveness. I can also speak for him and tell folks what he is thinking. I’m his bidder, his negotiator and his overall spokesperson.

Recently, we were in Pet Smart shopping for dog food. The woman behind me in the line reached down to pet Mick. “Oh my… what is his name she asked?” “Mickey”, I replied. Her eyes filled with tears as she hugged his furry face and said to me, “Our golden was a Mickey, too.”

And in that moment, it hit me. Mickey just turned nine years old this past month and time is marching on. He sleeps quite a bit more and he tires quickly. When did the gold fur on his nose turn so white? You take it for granted they will always be there. The thought that one day, he won’t be, well, it is just devastating to me. I push this out of my mind, just like the thought that Gracie will be leaving home in the near future.

And so is life, what is so precious and important is to be cherished. When the changes come, I’ll count the years, each one a true blessing and be thankful that I shared my home, my family and my heart with Mickey.

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

I witnessed greatness

In my life, I have met stars on Broadway, Pulitzer winning writers, famous TV stars and brilliant academics. They have my respect and admiration for their great accomplishments. But, nothing they have done comes close to the accomplishments of thirty-one young adults I met at a graduation ceremony at Village Glen School in Culver City, California.

My niece, Emma, graduated with her classmates on a recent morning. It was a simple stage adorned with helium balloons. The graduates entered to Pomp and Circumstance wearing red robes and mortar boards with gold tassels. In the audience I sat with all of their parents, friends, and extended family. Like all graduations, there was a thrill of accomplishment in the air.

I can tell you, that nothing comes close; nothing comes close to the respect and awe I felt in the presence of the graduates.

I have thought for several days about how to write about this experience, how to do it justice. Perhaps the young man who stood up to speak can describe it best. “When I was four years old, my parents were told that I was autistic. They were told that I would never read, never speak in full sentences. I’m here today to tell you that I can do those things.”

I have had a front row seat for the past nineteen years watching my sister fight for her daughter. Emma did the work, but Deb paved the way. My sister is my hero and Emma is my beacon in this world that says all things are possible.

You see, I believe that a fine example of true greatness are these kids and their families who have written their own futures in spite of what any diagnosis was given in early childhood. Greatness comes from the teachers that work side by side with the children year after year. Greatness comes from perseverance, set backs and victories.

Until you have watched a child struggle to use scissors in an OT session, you do not know the meaning of hard work, for the child, for the teacher and for those adults that love them. None of it has been easy, in fact, everything is hard, very hard. Yet, the victories and accomplishments are huge.

Through the speeches on that graduation stage there was a recurring theme. “We deserve a chance”, “Even more challenges ahead”. “We believe in us”.

To the graduates and especially to Emma I say this…I am humbled by all of you and I know that you represent all that is good in this world. You are brave, you are capable and you will continue to amaze me.

At the end of the ceremony, Charlie, one of the graduates, sang a song and played his guitar. Perhaps you know the song from Wicked...

I've heard it said

That people come into our lives for a reason

Bringing something we must learn
And we are led
To those who help us most to grow
If we let them
And we help them in return
Well, I don't know if I believe that's true
But I know I'm who I am today
Because I knew you...

Congratulations Class of 2011….Village Glen West School...

I wish you a world and a future that is worthy of you.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

100 Sounds To See: 16 years ago today...I heard the first cry

100 Sounds To See: 16 years ago today...I heard the first cry: "Gracie made me promise that I wouldn't post anything on Facebook about 16 years ago. Mothers love to announce to the world the 'event' when..."

16 years ago today...I heard the first cry

Gracie made me promise that I wouldn't post anything on Facebook about 16 years ago. Mothers love to announce to the world the "event" when their little boy or girl came into the world. Sometimes there are even a few comments about labor. She made me promise. Well, this is not being posted on Facebook, but it is going into my blog. Too bad Gracie! Moms have rights on this special day.

We had a rough road getting to this day 16 years ago. Multiple hospitalizations, unknowns that sent my anxiety through the roof. Never have I fought so hard or wanted something so much. My prayer was a simple one. "Please God, bring her to me. Let her come into my world." It became my mantra.

At 31 weeks, I went into early labor. My friend Beth stopped by the hospital to give me the heads up on a c-section. I remember seeing the fear in her eyes. It wasn't about the c-section procedure, it was the words that no one wanted to say out loud. Thirty-one weeks is early and Gracie was going to be a little over 3 pounds. As I write this, I can feel the fear creeping back. All I know is that something inside of me was stronger than that fear. It was simply faith, that I was going to have this baby and she would be ok.

Mark saw her first. He tells of how she looked right at him. There were more doctors than one could count. This was no ordinary delivery. It was chaos as the doctors and nurses rushed about and loud rock music was playing in the surgical unit. Suddenly the room erupted into cheers. I knew this was good news. She must have cried? Dr. Streicher ordered silence. The music turned off, everyone was quiet. Then I heard daughter cry. "I can hear it!" I shouted to everyone.

And that my friends, is the most beautiful sound I will ever hear.

Happy Birthday Gracie...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

What are you afraid of?

Recently Father Mark in our church service asked the question, "what are you afraid of?"

First thought of long term fear icon? I hate those monkeys. When they take off out that window with orders to get Dorothy, my skin crawls. The music, geez, creepy, creepy. They terrified me as a child.

But, I know they aren't real. There are many real fears today, for many of us. Financial fears, relationship fears, health fears and even aging fears. I don't know about you, but every so often, I get a look in the mirror and I see a few more miles on the face.

I am outing myself in my blog this morning. I have something that scares me bad. Real bad. It is something that doesn't scare you, it is my own fear. My own personal creepy fear and I haven't told anyone.

You see, it is time for me to step out of my quiet incubator and get back to the hearing world. And there is only one way to do it. I have to get a cochlear implant. Now, we are talking raw, skin tingling fear. Slam the door shut fear. Cover my eyes and burrow under the blanket fear.

So, what is there to be afraid of? To be blunt, I'm not keen on drilling into my head, implanting this device and then attaching a giant thingamajig to my head with wires leading down to a box. It just has a major ick factor to me. Major creepo factor and fear...what if it doesn't work? What if the world sounds like Mickey Mouse? It really is my last hope to hold on to the hearing world. So, the fear.

The reality of it is this, I'm tired. And my tiredness for the first time outweighs my fear. I am tired of apologizing to people for not hearing them. I'm tired of missing the punch lines, the important news and even the little idle conversation that makes weaves the fabric of my day. I'm tired of accepting less when I want more. I miss my work, I miss the connection and above all, I miss you.

So, if you would, I could use your prayers. I have some investigating to do, right doctor, finances and at the same time, I'll be building my confidence.

From the time Gracie was little, we always talked about facing your fears. Eleanor Roosevelt said "do the one thing you fear the most." Well, it is time to kick the monkeys out of my head and move forward with the plan. I'll keep you posted and I hope you will pray that I find the courage. Thank you for this.