About Me

I have something to say... But a blog let's me spew until I figure out what it is.

Saturday, February 8, 2014

No Man is a Failure Who Has Friends

When I was 14, I auditioned for my first production.  Our middle school selected "A Christmas Carol" as its winter theatre program and I hand landed the very prestigious female lead of "The Undertaker".

Oh... I'm sorry.  Did I say "prestigious female lead"? I meant "bit part, dressed as a man".  You could see how the distinction might be blurred.  This entry, however, is not about the start of my seemingly-endless career of bit roles and cross-dressing.  Trust me, there are plenty of stories to share - hell, I even hit a point where I flat-out refused a part in Peter Pan because I realized playing men was depleting my self esteem.  But I digress...

If I had met her earlier, I don't remember it.  I was 14 - she, a year younger than I.  Never having been involved in theatre, I did not know who the "players" were and, I suppose because of my knack for the dramatic and ability to carry a tune, those around me seemed surprised that I didn't know who "she" was.

To compound things, she scored a larger role than I had, so our rehearsal schedules were not in synch.  

Somewhere toward the end of the rehearsal schedule, "she" and I finally crossed paths.  

"There she is", I remember the girls saying to me, "That's her".  She strode into the room with a confidence like I had never experienced.   She knew where she was.  She knew what to do.  She was not going to put up with bullshit.  Of course, I was 14... and a big goodie-goodie... I didn't say "bullshit".  I never introduced myself but, rather, lingered where I could overhear her.  She had some sort of song or solo - or some occasion to sing - and I remember being awe-struck by the maturity in her voice.  Powerful.  Belted - a skill I could not learn.

It wasn't until Tech week that I can really recall speaking to her.  My heart raced and pounded in fear that she would reject me (hey - don't judge! I didn't make friends easily!) and on the last night, after the last curtain, we stood in the long corridor beside the auditorium exchanging our pleasantries - ready to part ways.

With a panic like I had never felt, I asked her for her number and, with no paper to write on, feverishly attempted to memorize it.

As I recall it, we were instant friends.  She was opinionated, straight-forward and experienced.  She lived in a house filled with music; with supportive parents who were passionate about their children, loved each other fiercely, worked hard and let their kids pursue anything their hearts desired.  Loud singing was encouraged.  I was in heaven.  

We fought.  And when we fought, we fought fiercely as theatrical people often do.  She got roles when she wasn't even eligible to be in the show.  She got lead after lead while I was consistently cast in the chorus.  And to add insult to injury, we were the same height and wore the same shoe size but she was substantially thinner and prettier than me.  There were times I wondered whether I remained friends with her to beat myself up - whether I was doing it, in some way, to be unkind to myself.  

Still, our friendship was inexplicably valuable to me.  There was a sincere kinship and a depth in our friendship - so easily - that I couldn't walk away from no matter how jealous I was.

And we laughed.  Oh did we laugh.  We laughed when we sang and danced when no one else sang or danced.  We laughed because we were unbelievably loud just because we thought we could get away with it.  We laughed because we developed and partook in elaborate scenes made-up on the fly for absolutely no reason to amuse others around us.  We laughed because we pushed the envelope in every situation for our own amusement.  We laughed because our parents were ridiculous.  We laughed because we were ridiculous.  We laughed at boys and ex-boyfriends, at friends at enemies and frien-emies, at strangers and mid-night car rides, at sour high notes and missed harmonies.  We laughed at Pennsylvania living, at our obscure futures and our total lack of certainty.  We laughed at Opera, our bodies, our brothers, at Marching Band, at detentions and teachers and Ambercrombie and Fitch.  We laughed at her complete lack of shame and my prudence, at promiscuity and abstinence.  We laughed at our own expense and at the expense of others never to be hurtful, but to be momentarily joyful.

When I graduated and left for college, I did so without a second thought and without saying goodbye.  Our college years did not bode well for the progression of our friendship and I thought for sure that the season had passed and we would forever look back with fond memories of our 5 years together in High School, but with very little in our future.  She moved on to a prominent Musical Theatre program in Connecticut, I (not surprisingly) pursued a very safe degree in New Jersey.  

Through 4 years of college, I visited her only once.

But during one of her breaks she returned home and we met for coffee at a local chain-style-dive.  We spent 2-hours catching up on the last few years and reminisced to our high school shenanigans. 

I shared with her, as I always had, a very personal experience I was facing during that particular week which was culminating the next morning.  

"What time?" she asked.
"11am," I replied.
"I'm there."

And despite the fact that she was only in town for (like) 4 days, she spent one of them with me.  One very important day - on the fly, without warning and without being asked.  

And we laughed.

In the years since that August day, life has given us both some shit sandwiches - some of which directly impacted our relationship.  Neither of us has had a particularly easy go of it.  We have joked that we would begin our own commune - living in a duplex, watching each other's kids to help support one another while we ride out the shit-storms, meeting each morning on our porches for coffee and watching our girls grow together.  Each time I think about it, I find it hard not to begin to analyze the viability of the prospect because it sounds like "awesome" to me.

To date, our friendship has survived the test of nearly 20 years. 20 years... and counting.  

Over that time, I have had the blessed privilege of calling one of the strongest women I know, my best friend.   She is smart, witty, compassionate, charismatic, charming, empathetic, and a dedicated mother. She is insightful and generous with information, without soapboxing or finger-wagging if you don't choose to heed her advice.  She is upbeat when most would find no silver lining.

To her I would like to say: It is my greatest wish in this lifetime that I can be 1/10th the friend to you that you have been for me.  I respect you. I admire you.  I count myself incredibly and categorically lucky that God put you in my life and that we have continued our friendship.

.... here's to another 40, girl.

Saturday, February 1, 2014

My "Stuff" Was No Good

As I toyed with the prospect of re-re-resurecting my blog, I found myself looking back at previous entries and laughing at myself; recognizing not only my growth from late-20-something to early 30-something or married mother to single parent but the secure and concurrently erratic mentality I held was in from 2011 to 2013.

Frankly, my "stuff" was no good.

While 2012 was an absolutely horrible year (divorce, foreclosure, job loss, failed relationship...), my ultimate decision to leave the grind of administrative work earlier this year and pursue Event Design was a good one.  I have enjoyed the benefit of the decision tenfold - both spiritually and financially even despite the fact that I have worked harder this year than I have in all my previous year's work experience.

Though, admittedly, the prospect of flexibility and additional time with my kiddo seems further away than it ever has in some respects.  Hey, it can't all be perfect, right?

Still, I look back on the ramblings of the un-gelled me with some pride.  While vacillating between complete confidence and unabashed self-criticism, self improvement has never been a strong suite of mine and the flailing about at least served to show that I was trying.  Trying to be a better mother, trying to be kinder to myself, trying to be a better daughter, trying to be a truer friend and learning compassion and empathy while not becoming an co-dependant doormat.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Departure...

"One does not discover new lands without consenting to lose sight of the shore for a very very long time..."

Biologist.  Jewelry Maker. Graphic Designer. Sports Blogger.  Medical Researcher.  Engineer.  Photographer.  Physical Therapist.  Dog Trainer.  Teacher.  Stage Manager.

These are a few of the professions occupied by the people I am lucky enough to call friends.  Some professions, of course, are more lucrative than others but the undercurrent among them is that these friends love (and I do mean love) what they do.  I Facebook stalk them in a jealous, albeit quiet, rage.  You know who you are.

Nearly a year ago, I found myself fidgeting. The new lifestyle I was settling into of single parenthood was a big adjustment.  My divorce had just been finalized but child support hadn't started yet.  I was worried about money and, more than that, I was having a hard time knowing "what to do with myself" when it came to creative outlets for myself.  I had gotten so involved in being a couple that I couldn't remember what it was like to do things I enjoyed.

Stressed about money and wanting to participate in something constructive and creative, I reached out to a local Event Designer in Tampa to find out if she needed any weekend help.  I was only looking for a few hours a week to help augment my time and support my family.  Unbeknownst to me, the designer I contacted just happened to be looking for a part time Event Designer to work from home.  With my new independent parental responsibilities, this was rather ideal for me and so she and I entered into a professional relationship which let me utilize a series of skills I have accumulated through a rather obscure work and hobby history: Project Management, Stage Management, Program Development, Drafting and Scale (thank you Mrs. Cortese), and crafting.  Things were looking up, I had a good full-time job and supplemented my income with my design clients.

It was never my dream to be a Executive Assistant.  In fact, it wasn't until college was on the horizon that I started making my career plans based on stability rather than on what I liked to do.  While I was always ambitious, I found myself in college pursuing a degree in English with very little idea of what I was going to do when I exited but assumed that I would pursue work in some administrative capacity.  I quickly secured positions which allowed me to take on more responsibility with very little acknowledgement or financial compensation to back the task.  Still, I was fortunate to accumulate the skills and to have bosses who let me act with relative independence.

Yet, here I am - 13 years into my career as an Administrative Assistant with little challenge, little change in compensation and something dying inside me just a little bit every day.

There must be something more to life than this.

Growing up, my dad worked on the floor of the NYSE as a stock broker.  He started as a runner (aka gopher) in the mid/late 70s, moved up over time to phone clerk and eventually earned a seat as a stock broker.  He worked on the floor for 30+ years until everything went the way of electronic trading and brokers were rendered relatively obsolete.

"When you love what you do, you don't work a day in your life", he would say.  While, yes, there were plenty of days that he encountered frustration and stupidity, I could tell that the Brooklyn boy got a charge out of waking up every morning, putting on his suit, reading his newspaper on the bus or ferry, and setting foot into a building that represented the crux of our economy.  He felt like he was a part of something, I think, that was special; something elite and unique and resembled a brotherhood more than an profession.

This is all a very very VERY long-winded introduction to the point of this blog entry - and hardly the reason why you are here so let me get to the point as concisely as possible.

It is a rare gift when the thing you love to do, the thing that doesn't feel like work, aligns with your ability to make a living.  To this point in my life, I have done what I thought was the responsible thing to do and have done exactly and precisely nothing to pursue any kind of passion I have other than the occasional knit scarf.

I have been offered the opportunity to work, full time, as an Event Designer - leveraging my skills, talents and abilities in a way that truly challenges me personally and professionally.  Once already I turned down the offer and, in a rare event, opportunity knocked again - harder and louder.

And so, despite the fact that I am working for a p-h-e-n-o-m-e-n-a-l corporate organization with great stability (at long last), I am quitting my "day job" and giving myself, for the first time - ever - the opportunity to do what I love to do - despite its unorthodoxy, despite my fears, and despite all the voices in my neurotic, perfectionistic brain that tell me that I am taking an outstanding risk, I realize that "playing it safe" to this point has actually proved to be far more risky.  After all, getting married, buying a house and having a little one is "normal" rather than risky - but in fact, my marriage has ended, the house is in foreclosure, and I am raising a child alone.  So much for "safe".

Yet here I am: Single, financially stabilized and successfully raising a child alone so, in the end, I guess "risk" is a term that really bears no power unless I choose to give it power.

Effective January 3rd, 2013, I shed the days of trying to wake up at 5:30am but rather waking at 6:10am and rushing around like a maniac to get out the door, driving over an hour to work at a job that challenges me very little, punching in/punching out, alerting someone when I am leaving for lunch, driving over an hour home, and praying I manage my PTO enough over the course of a year that I will manage to see my friends and family back north - and that the PTO will ALSO align with my financial ability to travel.

Effective January 3rd, 2013, I start living with the intent that my daughter will learn the value of balance between passion and responsibility and that our relationship will benefit from my newfound flexibility and self-management.

Bring it.

Monday, September 17, 2012

The Guilt of a Single Mother

Going into motherhood, I knew that "guilt" would be a part of my daughter's getting older.  I knew that there would be times that I would disappoint her in the interest of her safety or that I would make her furious for not allowing her to do the things she wanted to when they weren't appropriate.

At three, we had a challenge with bed time - Olivia "can't sleep" (she tells me), so she wanted to get up and play around a dark room.  No child - you're going to bed for a list of reasons too long to even begin itemizing.  

So, every night, I would dutifully (and usually with frustration and attitude) go back upstairs to correct he behavior and put her back in bed. 

But the thing "they" don't tell you is that there will be times, when disciplining your child, that you will literally not be able to make eye contact with them because the sheer heartbreak they feel is written all over their faces - and it's contagious.  Looking them in their tiny little heartbroken eyes (and remember, we are talking about telling my kid that she cannot PLAY at TEN o'clock at night in a DARK room with NO supervision) will compel you to change your mind, let them stay up, or read them more stories until they pass out... which, as you know, I do not advocate.

Le Sigh - the manipulation!

So word of advice to those who haven't gotten there yet - DON'T MAKE EYE CONTACT - they can sense your weakness!

But the bigger reason for this post is the guilt that I carry with me for meeting, falling for, marrying and choosing to have a child with a person who didn't really want her.  MY choice, MY na├»vety, MY will, MY stubbornness and MY ambitions are what got me pregnant and divorced.  Now, and for what may amount to a substantial part of her life, my daughter (for the most part) is fatherless.

When I was a little girl, I worshiped my father - he was kind, funny... etc etc.  If you have met my dad, he requires no further explanation.  They say that a girl's self esteem is built by the father - so the challenge to me, as her mother, is to learn what components of self esteem are usually part of that equation and determine what I can do to substitute the role.  Is it telling her, genuinely, that she looks beautiful? Aren't we hard-wired that the feedback from the opposite sex is key to our chemistry/makeup?  How do I support her, love her and encourage her in the ways that make her feel as though she has both a mother and a father?  To allow her to feel that her life is just as full as those children who have both parents full-time?  

YES, I know - better ONE loving parent who can expose her to healthy relationships  than TWO distracted parents who barely liked one another.  If things hadn't changed, she would have wound up "instinctually" attracted to a man who felt nothing for her, didn't keep her a priority but rather a responsibility and something to be answered to... 

But the guilt that I feel for bringing her into this world and subsequently losing a "headcount" in her life which is known to be a rather important piece to the puzzle... what do I do about that?  What I know is this - my kid is very bright.  She has a rapidly expanding vocabulary and she has a strong grasp of concepts.  For now, she is happy, healthy, inquisitive and sometimes stubborn.  For now, I don't need a game plan... but I am evaluating my options.  

While it is my hope that I will meet someone awesome - someone independent, loving, affectionate, involved and whole - I simply can't and will not hold my breath.  The answer is not in finding her another father... that would be short-sighted and simple-minded.

The answer, for the time being, is figuring out who *I* am... and then using my independence and rationality to develop a life and a lifestyle in which she doesn't feel as though there is some huge void.

...What matters not is the event, but one's perception of the event...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Chapter 4: Aftermath

Sometime in mid-October, 2010, (one month after my brother took his life) my brother's wife de-friended me on Facebook.  Her decision came on the heels, I can only imagine, of my decision to support my mother by attending the memorial that my mother was organizing for George in Pennsylvania.  I had told Kristen that I wouldn't be attending because, in my heart, I wasn't going to.  Mom and I were having a very touch-and-go relationship at the time and I was in no position to afford a somewhat-last-minute trip to the Garden State where my mother was living at the time.  

To make matters worse, my mom very specifically told Kristen that she didn't want her to show up at the event.  I can understand where my mother was coming from AND I can understand how it must have made Kristen feel but at the end of everything, my mother's son had just committed suicide and she was within her rights invite or ban whomever she wanted.

Kristen was really hurt and offended and she called me to talk about it - and I advised her that to let it go.  I told her that I understood where she coming from; I told her that my mom felt the way she felt and she wasn't going to change; I tried to convince her not to "crash" the event and asked her why she would want to be someplace that she wasn't welcome; I asked her if she thought George would want her to crash the event and, lastly, I told her I wasn't going.

I meant every word.

But when my mother called in tears about a week later and implored me to come to New Jersey and make the trip to PA with her - when I told her I couldn't afford it and that I didn't think I was coming - she immediately paid for it.  

It's my mother.  What am I supposed to say? "No?" 

So I said "yes".

About a week later, word managed to circulate back to Kristen that I was going and suddenly she disappeared from my Facebook list.  So - I did the difficult thing and confronted her.

She told me (via text message), that she needed to take a step back from me and my family.  I pointed out the immaturity of defriending me on Facebook rather than having a conversation with me to let me know that she was going to be pulling back.  I told her that I hoped it would be for a few weeks and not a few months - she responded with "me too".

I never heard from her again.

Today marks the 2 year anniversary of George's death.  In the two years since he left us, we have been told by Kristen and her family that "it's all too overwhelming to deal with - we will get to it when we get to it"... George's stuff was put in storage in North Carolina - but at this point.... well... I somehow doubt that it's still being paid for - so, it was either moved out and dispensed of or the entire locker went to some storage wars auction and is lost forever.

Kristen's parents sent us some of George's "things" - but what arrived in the mail were three shirts - 2 of which were literally 6 sizes too big and another that didn't fit my brother's style in the slightest.  I am not accusing them of anything.... either they went to the storage locker and grabbed some items that just happened not be George's but had their hearts in the right place OR they were tired of my dad's anger and tried to do something to put him at ease/bay by sending some clothes to us OR they felt it had "gone on too long" and took pity on our family that it had been over a year and we still hadn't seen a single item of George's and sent something - anything - to help ease our hurt.

For those that know me - for those that read my "stuff" regularly - you know that I am pretty even keeled and that I give people the benefit of the doubt to a fault.  The same is true of the situation with Kristen.  I loved her like a sister.  I knew her from the age of 10.  I encouraged George to follow his heart to North Carolina and to pursue a relationship with her because he loved her fiercely.  I supported her when her relationship with her parents ended in 1998 and aggressively encouraged her when George died to reach out to her parents and connect with them so that she would have support.  

But as I sit here, 2 years later, I can tell you that my sympathy, empathy and patience with her has ended.  I pity her and I pity those that care about her.  Should our paths ever cross, it will likely be my first violent encounter.

I wanted his pound puppy - the item he treasured most as a child, dad wanted a ring that he had given George a few years earlier - a family heirloom, and my mother wanted a few pieces of dirty laundry.  The three of us were hoping to provide her with a passport drive so that we could copy the contents of his computer or, if not, a few of the art pieces he had printed.  

Instead, we got nothing.

I carry the term "widow"in high regard.  To me, the word conveys a level of respect - that a series of unfortunate events left a wife without a husband prematurely.  It communicates tragedy, it communicates sympathy, it communicates regrets and sadness.  It is not, and will never be, the word I will use to describe my brother's wife and my former best friend.  While I can understand that she was in pain, battling her own demons and coping with her own change, I can simply not forgive her lack of maturity or the actions she took (or didn't take) in the name of grief.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

A Place to Call Home

I have been extremely fortunate in my life in a many areas - no matter how down in the dumps that I may get about some things, I am able to keep things in perspective and realize that I have some great fortune in other areas.

One such area for me is employment.

My professional background is storied, eclectic and unusual.  I have accumulated 2 years experience in Salon Management (I landed a job at 23 years old), 2.5 years experience in Program Development for a Labor Management Cooperative, 3 years experience in Policy and Procedure Development for a non-profit guide dog school, and a collective 6 years experience in Executive Support (Administrative Assistant/EA) at the Director and C-Level in a variety of industries.

I am 31 years old. I never completed college (though it's back on my radar).  I was an english major.

More than the ego hit I took when I lost my job last month, the biggest insight gained from the event of my job loss was that I was lacking something: A Career.  Many many friends of mine from High School and College were wise enough to identify and pursue an industry and build their resume based on the knowledge that comes attached to specific industry experience.

My professional growth has been the result of luck, really.  I have always been the type of person who offered help where help was needed.  I have a talent for identifying inefficiency, easily articulating the processes shortfall causing the inefficiency, and conceptualizing and implementing adjustments which will improve business process.  Overall, most positions I have held began as an Executive Assistant position and then morphed into a position which leveraged this bazaar talent of mine.  And so, over my 12-year working life, I have amassed about 6 years experience in Project Management and Process Improvement.

I told you it was a eclectic.

More than eclectic, however, it's a hard sell when you are trying to market yourself.  YES, things are great when you are working for one company - you are well-utilized and usually happy for the most part.  BUT, when you are in year three of working for a mid-sized guide dog non-profit developing policies and procedures or managing cross-departmental projects, no matter how much you love it, you one day realize that you are collecting experience that is so niche it will likely be difficult to make yourself attractive to other, larger, for-profit organizations if/when you decide that's what you want to do so.

So, here I was.  Living in a state I still can't find much love for, having taken a beating over the last two years in every aspect of my life, trying to figure out what my next move was.

While living up north, I often utilized staffing and temporary agencies to secure employment.  If you have never done or considered working with a staffing agency before - I highly recommend them.  For those of you whose price-point is a little higher than average, it may be difficult to use a staffing agency as the majority (though certainly not all) of the positions may be on the lower-paying side.

But the little-utlized secret of a staffing agency are the following:

  1. You are performing a working interview.  If they like you, they WILL keep you.  If you are doing a temporary fill-in for a position while someone is on maternity leave or out sick, you may think that if/when that person comes back you are most definitely out of work - not true.  You have no idea as to what other positions a company may be working on at the exact moment you walk in the door.  By exposing yourself to the players within the organization, making a good impression and networking your tail off in a way that is respectful and motivated by hard, clean work, you may secure a perm opportunity for yourself you didn't even know about.
  2. You have the chance to interview the company and, in some cases, your boss to be sure that you WANT to work there.  I cannot tell you how many times I have been the victim of "bad fit" since I moved to Florida.  By working a temp or temp-to-hire position, you have the chance to work, full-time in a position that may be a good fit for you - but if you ultimately decide it's not the right place for you, you simply wait for the position to term and move on.  No harm. No foul.
  3. You never know who other people know.  There are plenty of articles that support the theory and argument that networking is a super-vital element to the current job market.  The people at your new place of temporary employment may have associates and be so impressed with you work that they are willing to recommend you to other people. 

Any which-way you slice it - the whole premise lies in: Take the job.  Dress to impress.  Work your tail off.

One of my local staffing agencies approached me with an opportunity to temp as an administrative assistant assigned to a Senior Vice President at a nationally-recognized company local to my market.  The temp pay was stronger than most, but substantially below my previous salary.  Eager to keep income flowing into my household (because something, even $5.00 a hour, is better than unemployed), I took the position with the three bullet-points I listed above etched into my mind.  The company had hired someone in the role I was filling, but the person backed-out of the opportunity at the very last minute.  So, I received the call on Wednesday, was phone screened by the company on Thursday and offered the temp assignment on Friday morning for a Monday-Morning start.

I went, I sunk my teeth in to the position immediately, and I impressed as much as I could.

By the beginning of the second week, I was hearing murmuring that people were liking what I was bringing to the party.  By the end of the second week, I was offered the job - evidently "the fastest conversion" the staffing agency had ever experienced with the company to which I had been assigned.

So now - the moment of truth - do I take the position?

Suddenly I felt confused, scared, and unsure of myself.  As I reflected back on my roles, I realized I had never worked for a corporation; that the support roles I had been hired for were for the heads of rather small companies; the positions I had generated for myself as an extension of my admin support roles were developed because of the "all hands on deck" feel of working for a smaller organization.  In reality, I have never worked for a company with more than 70 people.

Yet here I stood - offered a position with an organization with more than 30,000 employees with global recognition supporting a Senior Vice President.

The bad fit I experienced for a year with my most recent employer (and did nothing to change) had so impacted my confidence, that I actually hesitated at the opportunity.  But, at the end of it all, it has been this type of opportunity I have not been given and it is this type of opportunity that could define, at last, the career I never managed to define.

And so, I accepted the position.  I took a huge pay cut, but I have absolutely no doubt in my mind that the adjustment will pay-off in spades for me long-term.

I mentioned that I have been extremely fortunate when it comes to work - well, in the 13 years I have been working, I have never gone more than 3 weeks unemployed.  The most unemployment I have EVER collected has been 4 weeks (back in 2003).  This year's unemployment length? 2 weeks.

I am SO lucky.

So now, it's time to get my sea-legs back, get my forward momentum going again, and evaluate my next steps.  More to come, friends.  With a little luck and careful planning, I may just salvage my 31st year after all...

Sunday, August 12, 2012

"How many? Yes, of course. Booth or floor?"

Well, for those of you who are fans of my parental ramblings, here is my latest tirade... and be prepared for my judgemental-ness.  It's happening, people.

This past weekend, I attended a kid's birthday party.  To be perfectly upfront, I have a tendency not to overload my daughter with stimulation.  She is just barely three years old, somewhat reserved, and generally doesn't do well in large groups but thrives very well in situations where there are 2 or 3 other kids.

This was a zoo.

I don't know if the parents thought that three years old was an appropriate time to start playing the "Joneses" card, or what, but they literally invited every kid in this little girl's class.  Fine. Terrific. I'll let that go.

I will even find a way NOT to get aggrivated that these extremely rude, ill-behaved children were hitting my daughter or pushing her over or taking toys right out of her hands.  It took every ounce of control I had not to flick a kid square in the nose.  Yes, I am the kind of parent that believes that Olivia needs to learn a lot of lessons the hard way - that I am there to guide her, but not do it for her.  I think that it's important that she learn that not everyone will act like she does - and that it's not healthy to expect that everyone will behave in the same way... but rather that she will learn to accept sometimes poor behavior as a fact of life and learn not to let it bother her - so far, we are doing very well.  So far... she is three. We will see.

It's harder on ME right now than on her - watching kids do what kids do and Olivia's little brow furrow as she tries to process why kids are taking things without asking nicely without going momma cub.

So Olivia and I played together, and when she asked me quietly why people were taking things, I quietly explained that some kids do that - other kids don't.  When she started to cry because some kid intentionally knocked over her tower of blocks because they didn't want her playing with blocks, I calmly explained that blocks fall over... but really was at loss when she asked me "Why did she hit my blocks?" I don't KNOW, little girl - I simply don't UNDERSTAND.  What am I supposed to SAY!??

It was shortly after this that I had my "oh yes" moment.  An "oh yes" moment is the moment when you see something and everything clicks - this is DIFFERENT than the "aha" moment Oprah speaks so highly of.  No - this "oh yes" moment is the moment you put pieces of a puzzle together and realize "OHHHH ... Yessssss..." and you say "of course.  If A and B are true, then C is likely true".  "Oh yes" is often followed by "Riiiiiiiiiight" - and if you know me personally at all, I know you can probably hear me in your head right now saying this.

The cake was cut and kids clamored for their slice of gluten-free sugar-free cake.  (and btw, this is not a slant against my gluten-free sugar-free parents out there.  I have decided that rather than silently judge you on bandwagoning the most recent "thing" that I would actually read and understand what some of the food options y'all have chosen to explore - and I can completely see what you are doing in making these choices - honestly).  I got Olivia and I a small piece for her and I to share.  Why: 1) She doesn't really like large amounts of anything 2) She thinks something is extra special when she gets to share it with mommy 3) I like the bond/closeness when we are sharing something.  It brings me closer to her both physically and psychologically - in a little while she will be SO independent that she won't want to share anything with me so I will take it while its there for the taking.

Olivia and I went off to find a chair to sit in while we shared our cake.  She sat on my lap and anticipated the rare opportunity for sugary goodness.

I was so enveloped in my special bonding moment with my daughter that I hadn't realized that we were the only ones in the room.  So... I stopped.  What was going on? Was I missing something?

Oh yes.

I was.

15 children and their 30 adult companions (aka parents) were sitting in another room.
Not just sitting in another room, they were sitting on the laminate/tile floor in another room.

Full grown adults, children on their laps, sitting on the floor to feed their kids cake.


So as not to worry about the cake.  The kids were eating it, dropping it, covered in it - no matter which way you slice it, it wasn't staying on the plate and was rarely making it to their mouth.  It was as though a bunch of three year olds took up Smurf MMA fighting because blue and white were EV-ER-Y-WHERE. 

SO - rather than teach our children to properly use a fork to eat cake; rather than take the time to carefully feed our children if they have not yet developed the fine motor skills required to eat cake safely; to eat over a plate rather than away from it; rather than directing our children to sit at a table; rather than preparing ourselves for accidents that happen with children and teaching our kids that  accidents are a part of life - as are the humble apologies and the grace to clean up any mess you may have made... we, the parents, will sit on the floor and let our kids eat cake where we don't have to worry if they drop it.

Get off the floor.  Have some self-respect.  Yes, its a birthday party - but birthday parties are educational opportunities just as much as everything else is.  YES, our kids are meant to have fun - but does sitting on the floor teach our kids to be respectful of other people's houses?   Or does it teach them to mitigate risk by avoiding it as best they can?  Or does it teach them that they can't be trusted with potentially staining food?  Or does it teach them that they don't have to practice the harder skills because, frankly, they don't have to? (i.e. "don't worry about learning to eat that cake carefully - there is always a tile floor you can eat over")

If we don't parent our children, encourage their independence and draw them close to us through love, respect, patience and one-on-one attention, we are breeding bullies - kids who do not regard the thoughts and feelings of others but rather expect us (their parents) to think of things for them, clean up behind them, rationalize and defend their bad behavior.

At Thanksgiving, a good friend of mine accidentally knocked over a glass votive I had lit to make the house smell nice for our guests.  Hot wax spilled all over my brand new carpet and stained it pretty badly.  Was I mad? Yes. Was I more glad that I had friends in my house to enjoy Thanksgiving with? Absolutely.  We open our houses to each other and take with it the destruction that may come as part of the territory.

So if I host a birthday party for Olivia, you are all invited.  You can even eat cake over my carpet with your kids - and if you drop blue dye #12 on my carpet, I will do my best to get the stain out, but if I can't - your kid will forever be with me and serve to remind me of Olivia's birthday and the fortune we experienced to have you and your clumsy kid join us.