Wednesday, November 19, 2014

Share for a Share? WTF?

Warning:  I am stepping on my soap box.  Rant ahead...

Someone, please tell me, for the love of all that is Holy, WTF is wrong with people?  I know, that's a pretty all-encompassing question.  Let me narrow it down for you.  Today's rant brought to you by "Share for a share?"

I'm all for sharing, but when did a "share for a share" become a thing?  Especially when it has to do with awareness campaigns or helping others?

Over the years, I've had a few messages on the Meghan's Hope Facebook page asking if I'd be willing to do a "share for a share" with a link to their Facebook page of choice.  I've had quite a few recently, and it's been eating at me.  Most are messages asking if I'll share their story or a link to a Facebook page in exchange for them sharing Meghan's Hope.  Most of these stories or links involve children who are critically ill and have prayer pages, children who are acutely or chronically ill and perhaps trying to raise awareness about their illness, or, perhaps, fundraising to pay medical bills. Many are heart-wrenching stories of beautiful children struggling with illnesses no one, especially a child, should ever have to endure. More than one has brought tears to my eyes.

The sharing part is not what I take issue with.  I am all for sharing and raising awareness. Obviously.

I take issue with the fact that now, for some people, sharing information that could save a life or help a family in need is somehow conditional.  That some people would actually only consider sharing my story if I share theirs.

Really?  Is it me, or is that just... wrong?

Don't get me wrong.  My heart aches for these children and their families.  I often do share their stories... on my personal page.  I always send a message back that is full of support and thanks for sharing the story with me.  I will even sometimes send along additional information or resources that might help them that I am aware of, without being asked for such information.  I tell them if I will share it on my personal page or in another way.

What I don't usually do is share it on the Meghan's Hope Facebook page (and explain why to them). Not because I'm mean, callous, or selfish.  Not because I don't care about that child or their family.  I choose not to share it unless the story has to do with an issue of child safety. Why?  Because Meghan's Hope is about child safety.  I have an obligation to remain true to the mission of Meghan's Hope and that is to raise awareness about dangers to children and teach others about keeping kids safe.

Some people don't understand my reasoning.  I don't understand theirs.

It saddens me to think that someone would consider NOT sharing Meghan's Hope, information that could save a child's life, unless I agreed to share their story on the Meghan's Hope page.  WTF? Bribery? An eye for an eye?  Emotional blackmail? Ego?  What drives that? Who taught them that? What makes them think that is reasonable?

What is it that makes people think helping children and families for ANY reason has to be conditional?  Shouldn't we share something because we feel it's appropriate and because we want to? Since when do we need to broker a deal to save a life or help a family in need?  If I see a story I feel is worth sharing on my personal page, I share it.  If I have information that may help someone, I share it. I don't ask for anything in return, nor do I expect it.  I consider that common human decency. I consider it compassion.  I consider it the right thing to do.

**Stepping off soap box**

I wish I could say I feel better.  Really, I just feel kind of sad.

Sad that we might be raising kids who among other things, won't have the common sense and decency to do the right thing and instead, will expect something in return for every good or appropriate thing they do.  That, scares the hell out of me.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Trick, Treat, Trigger

Halloween.  A high holiday for the children who celebrate.  Dressing up.  Parties and costume parades.  The trick or treating.  The treats!  How often do you get to eat so many sweet treats in one day?!

I remember how much I looked forward to it when I was a kid and how much fun I had.  Heck, even as an adult, my husband and I are going to two costume parties this weekend! It's fun to get to dress up and "be" someone different!

When I first had kids, I couldn't wait to dress them up!  How I looked forward to finding just the right costume and re-discovering the joy through their eyes.  When I had the twins I was beyond excited!  From their little pumpkin hats the year they were born just 9 days before Halloween, to the Mickey and Minnie costumes the next year, and the Tinker Bell and Peter Pan costumes the year after that...It was so much fun to have Halloween costume themed birthday parties and coordinate their costumes!

Then, Halloween 2004.  A "butterfly princess" and "Larry Boy" from Veggie Tales.  They didn't match!  They were 3.  They wanted to be something different.  And so it was.  Their birthday party was Finding Nemo themed.  It was an eclectic year.  Little did I know it would be the last Halloween all my children would be on this earth.  The last Halloween my little princess would get to be the princess of her choosing.  The year so many of my parenting dreams died...

Now, I decorate her grave with pumpkins and a new Tinker Bell wand.  I hang a pink glowstick on Halloween.  My Halloween is nothing like I imagined it would be.

Halloween now is one of those trigger days. A  day when I know I could be blindsided at any moment by a memory, a little girl, twins... Even though I logically know it can and probably will happen, and anticipate it, it somehow always surprises me when it happens.

This morning, it was courtesy of Facebook.  Meg's twin brother has another set of twins in his class.  They are also boy-girl twins.  Their mom posted a picture of their costumes this morning.  They dressed up as each other!  It was awesome and brilliant and absolutely adorable.  I felt like I'd been punched in the gut.  I was momentarily angry.  That should have been ME!  I should be posting pictures of my twins being clever like that!

Then, the other pictures of twins in their Halloween outfits began to pop up in my feed.  Of course the boy-girl ones hit me the hardest, but I find myself a wee bit resentful.  Why are they so lucky?  Why am I the "one"?  I click "like" and move on.

My boys no longer dress up.  It's just not cool.  I admit, I'm anti-trick or treat now.  I'm a curmudgeon who turns off the lights and goes out for dinner instead.  I just can't deal.  I feel badly.  And I don't.

But tomorrow is my day.  Her day.  Our day?  Tomorrow is All Souls Day.  The Day of the Dead. We celebrate Meggie tomorrow.  Not the way I would like to, but suddenly, November 1st holds much more meaning than October 31st.

I promise you  I'm not the only one who feels this way. So be sensitive to those you know who share my shoes.  Tell them you understand how hard this must be for them.  Maybe offer a hug.  It's the best treat out there.

Monday, September 22, 2014

September 22. A birth. A death. A wedding. An equinox.

September 22nd.  Just like any other day, right?  Not really.  It’s a day that heralds transition.  It is the day of the Autumnal Equinox.  A day of balance. Equal light and dark. A time when nature begins to show it’s true and beautiful warm colors.  When we reap the harvest of all we have sewn.  A time to prepare for the challenges of winter as we work our way back to spring and rebirth.  We are moving from light to darkness and the harsh cold reality of winter.  It is also a day when some say the veil is lifted between our world and that beyond life on earth.  A time when we might be able to more easily communicate with our departed loved ones more easily.  A time of introspection and reflection on the summer of our life.

The symbolism of the day goes so much further than the transition from summer to autumn for me. September 22nd is the anniversary of the death of my beloved grandmother Agnes, for whom Meggie’s middle name was in honor of.   I miss her and remember her fondly, especially on this day.

It is also the birthday of my other grandmother Virginia, whom we celebrated her 86th birthday with the day we married in 2012.  We did not know it at the time, but it would be her last birthday she would celebrate with us as she passed away 8 months after we married.  She was so tickled we chose to get married on ‘her’ day!  I’m so glad she was so much a part of our day.  We miss her and her sass!

September 22nd will forever be a special day for me for all those reasons plus one very important one.  It is the day I married my soul mate.  The day my children welcomed a step-father whom they adore into our family.  The day he made everyone laugh and then cry in a matter of a few minutes during our wedding ceremony.  Then, there was his dancing...

Our wedding day was as unique as we are.  Carefully designed to be about US and what is important to us and our relationship.  It held history.  It held memories.  It was entertaining.  It was unconventional with a dose of the traditional.  It was emotionally heart wrenching at times. It was filled with overflowing love like you might never have seen.  We DID have some visitors from Heaven!  It was FUN!  There was cake and it was chocolate!  

We wrote our own vows and I think they clearly speak to who we are and why we chose to battle our demons to be together.   They are as true today as they were 2 years ago and will be 200 years and lifetimes from now.  Here, I share them with you.

Joe’s Vows to Kim
Kimberly, here we are.  Not a beginning and certainly not an ending.  We both went through much to get to this point.  We have loved, learned, suffered, rejoiced, laughed and cried.  We have discovered what brings us joy and grappled with our inner demons.  We have found more about our greater sense of ‘self’, so much so that we would not have been ready for each other if things hadn’t gone the way they did.  We are the sum of our core plus all we have experienced.

I do realize it took a great tragedy as part of those experiences for us to finally find each other.  And never doubt, despite how much being ‘us’ means to me, that if I had the power to reach into the sky and peel back the veil of time to save Meghan, I would do it in an instant, even though it might mean we wouldn't be standing here today.

Many speak of ‘knowing’ when they've found their partner.  I had fear for years.  Fear that I would never have that ‘knowing’.  Fear of being oblivious and not acting on it even if it did happen.  Fear of not even knowing what I was seeking in a partner.  After I met you, I learned to act on love and not fear.  It was then it became so clear.  I listened to my heart, and it told me everything I needed to know.  I now know, with all the certainty I can muster, that you are my partner.  

I admire your compassion, your great strength, and your capacity for love.  I love your understanding, your comforting touch and your knowing gaze.  I am humbled that you see the real me and help me bring that out into the world.  You are the other piece of my puzzle.  My companion, my confidant, my best friend, my love, the one I would give anything for and for whom I would work tirelessly to bring happiness.

As you already know, two cannot truly become one.  Instead, on this day, I will promise you that we will walk this path of life together hand in hand, bonded by love, trust, and respect.  We will walk stronger and prouder than we once were but not as strong as we both can and will be.  As we walk, when you stumble, I will catch you, just as I know with all my heart you’ll do so for me.  I promise I will comfort you during rough times, celebrate with you during good times, and bridge our differences with love, patience, and understanding.  Whatever the path of our future holds, I promise that we will face it together.  I promise I will always keep myself open and share myself with you.  In sharing, we will draw strength, for pain shared is pain halved, just as joy shared is joy doubled.

I am touched and honored that you have invited me into your family, as I know how significant a decision that is.  I promise I will do my best to raise your children as if they were my own.  I will never forget they are a part of you and I will love, guide, and nurture them to the best of my ability, even the step daughter I will never get to tuck in at night.  I look forward to watching your boys become the fine young men they are meant to be and I will swell with pride for all they accomplish.

Know that, above all, I love you.  When I ponder the many futures my life could take, none of them are without you.  Our connection, our ‘fit’, is what completes me.  As I mentioned before, this is neither a beginning or ending.  These are the next steps on our shared path forward.  We’re not ‘done’.  There will always be work to do and struggles to overcome, both individually and as a couple.  Nothing is perfect.  Times will be hard.  Always remember that I will never stop trying to make our journey better with each step as we continue on our path, hand in hand.  This, I promise.

Kim’s Vows to Joe

Six years ago, the Universe presented to us an opportunity. We almost missed it yet again, except that day, it was finally the right time.  There was this bottomless glass of wine, some bet about a kiss and a strong energetic connection to this guy on the dance floor whose first words to me were, “Do you swing?”

I couldn't figure out why I was so instantly and energetically drawn to you, until I looked into your eyes and recognized your soul.

Over the next several months we cultivated a relationship built on open and honest conversation.  It was as if we’d known each other forever.  It was so familiar and so right.  I could feel it with every ounce of my being.  We were meant to be together.

We bring out the best in each other.  We challenge each other.  We nurture each other.  Our connection, our love, it transcends the physical, the emotional and the spiritual.  It is pure, honest, and true.  It is built upon mutual respect and trust.  It is surrounded by light and peppered with laughter.  Lots of laughter.

Joe, you have been the greatest gift to me.   At a time when my world was nothing but gray, you were like a ray of light.  You accepted me as I was.  You held me, you laughed with me, you cried with me.  You reminded me how important it is to play.  You showed me unconditional love and respect. You brought the color back to my life.

I promise you, I will always be there for you.  In joy and in sorrow, in sunshine and in rain, but in the cold I’ll need a blankie...  I’ll be your partner for life, both on and off the dance floor.  I promise to keep your food from touching, to protect you from vegetables and to do my best not to confuse Star Wars and Star Trek.

I will honor and cherish you and be grateful for every day we share.  I will love you joyfully, with laughter and playfulness.   I will strive to inspire you, grow with you, encourage you, empower you and support you in all that you desire.  I will love you wholly, truthfully and honestly.  I will nurture you, our relationship and our family with tenderness and care. I will love you passionately with all that I am and all that I have.  I will love you always.   With my heart, my mind, my body and my soul.

I know you will be a wonderful husband and a fantastic step-father.  You will always be my super-hero, even when you are not wearing your superhero jammies and cape.  I am forever grateful for all that you are and all that you've given me.  

I told you very early on in our relationship, I’d walk this path with you. I know not where it will take us or what terrain lies ahead, but I know it was meant to be with you and we shall always walk it together.  Heart in heart and hand in hand.  

I promise to you a lifetime of love, light, laughter and friendship.  It is an honor to take your hand in marriage and to be your wife.  I love you.

For those who shared our day, we are so grateful you were able to be there with us.  So many more were with us in spirit.  For those who wish they could have seen the uniqueness of the day, I give you these snippets of our unique day.  

Our wedding ‘trailer’ as created by our videographer

Joe’s Lightsaber Battle/Processional (or what happens when you marry a geek who has a love of performance art)

Our First Dance.  A Viennese Waltz to David Cook’s “Time of My Life”
The lyrics spoke to us, thus, we learned to Viennese Waltz.  It took us 9 months to learn the choreography!

Most of all on this day, I am reminded of the fragility of life.  How short it can be.  How important it is to live each day to the fullest because we do not know what tomorrow will bring.  How out of crisis can come something wonderful.  And just how good it can get.

Happy Anniversary my love!  Happy Birthday Gram!  Always thinking of you and Aggie watching over my Meggie in the next place.  So grateful to all of you who read this.

May this day of equal light and dark bring balance to your life and joy to your heart.


Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Sixteen candles

Sixteen years.

Sixteen years ago right now, I was wide awake.  Lying on the couch on my side watching the early morning news.  A cat on my big pregnant belly, looking strangely at it every 15 minutes or so when it got hard and disturbed her comfort.  She responded of course, by kneading it with her paws.  I know distraction is good in labor, but seriously!

At that time, I wasn't convinced I was in labor.  I was 40 weeks and 5 days pregnant.  I'd been tossing and turning for hours.  I had to pee every 20 minutes.  At some point it occurred to me it might be early labor.  Thus, I got up and headed for the couch.

I watched the sun rise.  It was a lovely day.  When my husband got up, I told him I might be in labor. He had an important meeting.  He went to work with stern instructions to keep his phone nearby.

I sat at my desk in my white nightgown.  I rubbed my belly.  I sat quietly in awe of it's roundness.  Of the sensations I was experiencing.  I was excited that today might just be the day I'd finally meet this baby.  My first child.  Would it be a boy or a girl?  What would this baby look like?  How long would it be before I got to meet this little person I'd grown to love over the past 9 months?

I remember getting restless.  My contractions were a bit closer together.  Now every 15 or so.  I ate graham crackers and applesauce because that's what I wanted.  I took a shower and packed my bag.   I turned on Chicago Hope.  It was 11 am.  About halfway through the show, I realized I couldn't get comfortable.  I was sitting.  On my hands and knees.  Rocking.  Hmmmm.  Oh, 10 minutes apart. Getting stronger.

By the time Chicago Hope was over, they were close to 5 minutes apart.  I had a momentary panic. My husband was an hour away. My husband!  I should call him and tell him to get his ass home.  I did.  He took his time...

By the time he got home I was pacing around the kitchen, hanging off the island every 5 minutes. Yep.  I was in labor.  No doubt in my mind now.  This was getting less fun.  Let's go meet this kid.

He was on the phone with work most of the drive.  I got so annoyed I took the phone out of his hand and told his then boss he had to go.  I was in labor and today, I was the priority.  Then I hung up on his boss!  I should mention, I was kneeling on the floor of the front seat of the car because I was not comfortable sitting at all.  We arrived at the hospital around 3 pm and I was solidly in labor with contractions about every 3 minutes. It took forever to walk from the car to labor and delivery!

Fast forward to 7pm.  I was 6 cm.  I asked for the epidural after nearly passing out and vomiting when I arrived at the hospital.  I felt so alone.  So unsupported.  My nurse had an attitude and I hardly saw her.  I didn't know enough to ask to get out of bed, into the shower or change position.  Just like they tell you, you forget what you learned.  I think I decided right then and there I was going to become a doula.  I desperately wanted and needed one.

They sent my husband to get dinner.  The anesthesiologist walked in a short time later.  He was cute! I looked at him and then at the nurse and realized I had to push.  No epidural for me. Turned out to be the best thing ever!  How empowering!  My husband returned about 7:20 to a room full of people, just in time to realize this kid was coming fast.

7:42 pm, he made his appearance.  With a giant knot in his umbilical cord.  It was a boy!  We had a son.  No drugs.  Natural childbirth.  I was higher than a kite.  Laborland is such a lovely endorphin rush!  I am woman!  I just birthed a miracle!

I knew becoming a mother would change me.  I had no idea how this child.  My first born.  Would change me and change my life.  How he would challenge me.  How much we would learn from each other.  Where our path as mother and son would lead us.  He has taught me so much.  He changed my perspective, my career path, my life...

He is not a baby anymore.  He is a sixteen year old 6 foot 1 inch 150 lb young man.  A handsome kid. A brilliant kid.  A headstrong yet sensitive kid with a wonderful sense of humor and a gentle soul underneath his stubborn demeanor.  I guess he is a lot like his mum...

Don't get me wrong.  He's also loud, temperamental, and messy as all hell!  Some things never change I guess.
I am proud of the young man he's become.  Sure, he makes me crazy sometimes.  That's what parenting is about.  He brings me great joy at time and great frustration at others.  He makes me laugh and he makes me cry.  We've had a rough ride at times.  Challenging barely touches the reality of what the past 16 years have been like for he and I.  He's been through far more than any child should ever have to endure.  He has emerged compassionate and caring and I pray, with solid values and a good head on his shoulders.  I want nothing more than for him to be happy, healthy, and successful in all he does.

On this day, a milestone for both of us, I decorated his bedroom door with streamers like I always have.  I woke him up singing 'Happy Bird Day".  I made him breakfast which he did not eat since he was late for the bus and I refused to drive him to school.  His cards and gift sit unopened on the table.  I will arrange my day so I can be here for him.  Birthdays are sacred in our family.  Favorite dinners, favorite cake, truly celebrating the joy of having each other in our lives.  It's your special holiday in our family.  Your Bird Day!  (Meggie got us going on that one!)

I sit here in awe.  So proud of him.  So astounded at me.  I'm not old enough to have a 16 year old child!  OK I am, but that's my issue about where the hell did the past 16 years go and how did they pass so quickly?!

I am also kind of sad.  He's growing up.  My baby has a girlfriend.  Another woman in his life! I was supposed to be the only one!  (Ok, I know that's not true, but you other mommas of sons know what I mean).  He's old enough to drive (OMG, that scares the hell out of me!)  He'll be off to college in 2 more years.  *sob*

I can only hope and pray I'm doing right by him so that when he is ready to leave the nest, he will soar.  Confident and proud.  He just thinks I'm a pain in the ass that doesn't understand.  Ah, teen angst and egocentricity...

I, on the other hand, will be over here.  Filled with pride and sadness.  My baby is growing up.

Happy Birthday my first born son.  I hope someday you truly understand how much I love you.  How amazing you are and what a difference you've made in my life.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

The secret to successful aging

It's a milestone day.  In my world, milestone days tend to inspire introspection.  Given this day is the 45th anniversary of my arrival to this earthy journey, it's a particularly introspective one.  

It's also my cake day!!!! If you have followed this blog for a while, you know of my love of cake and particularly chocolate cake!  I'm far more excited that my birthday means I get my favorite cake than any other traditional birthday things!

As I celebrate my 45th birthday I realize I am now solidly middle aged.  It's quite possible my life is half over.  Perhaps more than half over.  I know all to well how short life can be.  None of us know when our time to transition will be.

That said, it's all about how you look at it.  Is my life half over? Half full?  Or simply in it's 45th year and in the grand scheme of things, the only thing that really matters is the gift of today?  I sure as hell don't feel 'old'. Well, most days, anyway.  I'm pretty sure I'm *really* in my early 30's at best.  Hell, I still don't know what I want to be when I grow up!

I chose to celebrate the day with a run this morning.  I ran 4.5 miles.  One for every decade I've been blessed to be on this journey.  As I ran, I thought about how fortunate I am.  How absolutely blessed I am.  In so many ways.  On so many levels.

Five years ago, I ran my first 5K.  This girl who always hated to run decided I needed to get my ass into shape and running was the best way to do it given my crazy schedule.  I hated most every minute of the 3 months it took me to be able to run 3 miles without feeling like I was going to die.  As I ran 4.5 miles this morning, a short run for me now, I gave thanks.  So grateful for the gorgeous day today is.  Thankful that I have the physical ability to run.  I work with so many people who are not as fortunate.  Some because of bad luck, some because of their own self-neglect and self-abuse by not taking care of themselves.  When my legs want to stop and my brain echoes the legs, it's the fact I can run when others can't that spurs me to finish.  Oh, and much to my surprise, I now enjoy running!  I enjoy the solitude.  The chance to be out in nature.  The fact it helps me clear my head, manage my emotions, and provides a healthy outlet to process and decompress.  I enjoy being part of the runner community and the wonderful opportunities, friendships, and joy it has brought me. Oh, and the endorphins are a lovely bonus!   I actually look forward to training and will be running my 3rd half marathon in October.  Who the hell am I?

That's not to say I don't 'feel' the effects of physical aging.  Peri-menopause interesting experience.  I do not have the energy I did in my 20's.  My joints let me know I am no longer as spry as I once was. My brain... well, let's just say according to an in-service I attended, I clearly have signs of early dementia!  But let's just say I'm forgetful and have increasing word finding problems when I speak.  ;-)

There is gratitude for the emotional maturity my life has led me to.  My life has not been all roses and butterflies.  I've had some pretty significant and devastating losses and challenges.  Burying a child and a contentious divorce were two no one should ever have to experience.  They have taught me so much about myself, what's important in life, the power of choice, the importance of healthy relationships, and love.  They have made me who I am today.

I have also had some amazingly positive and fun experiences with family, friends and my soul mate.  I have many families.  My running family, my dance family, my biological family and of course my friends.

My children amaze me and continue to teach ME so much about life. Right now, it's about self-sacrifice and letting go as I strive to support them in their educational goals and in their elite soccer playing and foster their independence.  And dear God help me, my eldest is about to turn 16!

I am grateful for my many jobs along the way and all the amazing people I've met as a result.  I am also so thankful for the many that have come my way recently and that I am able to follow my inner compass and calling to teach, mentor, and support those who need it.  I am grateful for the support I've had for my writing and look forward to holding that long awaited completed book in my hands in another month or two.

Of course, I am eternally grateful for the guidance of Universal love and light to follow my path.

I am both astounded and yet deeply grateful that I am so not the person I expected or thought I would be way back when I was a teen or young adult.  I am so much bigger and better than that!  I can't help but wonder if I had not had the life experiences I did, if I would have 'settled' for who I thought I was supposed to be.  If I'd have accepted the challenges life thew my way and continues to throw my way instead of allowing myself to learn, grow, and change as a result of them. Of course, I'll never know. I'm OK with that.  I know I am on the right path.

I often ask my clients who are in their 80's, 90's, and beyond, the 'secret' to living that long.  Most tell me what you'd expect.  Good genes.  Drink whiskey every night.  Never go to bed angry.  Stay active. Some are miserable they are still alive and can't wait to die.  Others fear death and speak of regrets. It's so sad to hear that.

You know what I think the 'secret' is?  I think it's about being authentic.  Simple as that.  Not being afraid to be the real you.  Not pretending to be something or someone you are not.  Not being afraid to speak your mind or stand up for what you feel is right.  I think it's about being respectful and understanding of others and accepting differences of opinion for just that.  No judgment.  Just being who you are and who you were meant to be.  Letting go of what no longer serves you with love and gratitude.  Being able to forgive.  Welcoming new experiences and being willing to learn from every experience life sends your way.  Learning lessons, growing, changing, and all the while, being true to your soul.  True to YOU.  We are supposed to change as we age.  It's why we are here.  To learn, to grow, to serve, to flourish, to love.

We should be able to live our lives without regret.  We are all holding the power to our success or failure.  The choice is ours.  Entirely ours.  We've no one else to blame.  No one.

My glass, my life, is beyond full. It is overflowing.  I am so blessed and so grateful for everyone and everything in it, from my very first breath 45 years ago to my very last, whenever that might be. Thank you for being part of my journey.

My cup truly overfloweth.

Now, if my plate could just overflow with cake...

Sunday, July 27, 2014

A viral epidemic affecting parents everywhere. You might have it and not even know!

There is a rampant viral illness out there and it affects millions of parents every day.  Most of them don't even know they have it!  There is a good chance, if you are a parent, you have it.  The symptoms are few and subtle, but very, very dangerous.  In fact, it can be deadly.

Unlike most viral illnesses and progressive diseases, this one is very unpredictable.  It's a powerful illness that doesn't affect the physical body of the parent, but is a mental illness of sorts.  It rarely has physical effects on the parent.  It instead, directly vectors to their children.  Their children suffer the horrible effects of this disease.  Yes.  Their children.

What is this viral illness infecting the brains of parents everywhere?  It's called 'Perfect Parentitis' known to those who have been successfully treated for it as the 'it can't happen to me (or my child') disease'.

Symptoms include the following:

  1. A misguided belief that bad things only happen to other people or 'bad' parents.  That 'it' can't or won't happen to you or your child.  Otherwise knows as self-proclaimed immunity.
  2. A belief that you are a 'perfect' or 'good' parent, therefore none of those horrific tragedies you hear or read about could ever possibly happen to your child.
  3. An almost uncontrollable desire to preach your perfect parenting to anyone who will listen, usually by judging parents whose children have been injured or killed in horribly tragic but preventable accidents.  Often on social media sites where a news story has been shared in an attempt to educate others so that particular type of tragedy doesn't happen to another child.
  4. Self-righteous judgement of others for their 'bad' parenting, followed by a lengthy explanation of how you are a good parent because that would never happen to you, usually with the words, "I would never ___________."
  5. The repeated use of mantras like these, often proclaimed on social media with sanctimonious conviction (which are also impossibilities in reality):  "I'm always with my child", "I don't need to _____, because I'm always right there", "MY child never does __________ so I don't have to ______",  "My child knows not to do___________", "I don't understand how ___________, could happen.  I'd never __________", "I'm a good driver".  And many, many more like these.

There is only one cure.  Unlike other diseases and illnesses, it's a cure no one actually wants to get. The only known cure is the serious injury or death of your child.

Yes.  You read that right.  The only known cure is that the very thing you pride yourself on, your perfect parenting, your 'I never would do_________' and "That would never happen to me because..." preaching.  Your parenting superiority complex is only cured when YOUR child, the one that you never let out of your sight, the one that you love SO much that you'd never forget them, take your eyes off of them, lose them, or whatever it is that you do so perfectly that other 'bad' parents simply don't do, falls victim to an accident.

If you are lucky, your child won't suffer a serious injury. Some have the most deadly form of the virus, and they pay for it with their child's life.

Luckily, there is treatment.  It's called education.

It's a long term treatment plan that includes ongoing follow up treatment of pro-active accident prevention in and around your home for the safety of your children.  This education is often provided by good parents who have lost their child to a horrible, tragic, preventable accident.  Parents who carry such guilt and pain over the loss of their child that they share their story, they bare their soul, they lay it all out there, so that YOUR CHILD CAN BE SAFE.  So you don't have to bury your child, ever. Parents like me.

If your child is lucky, once you realize you suffer from perfect parentitis, you'll seek immediate treatment.  You will come down off your high horse of parenting superiority and realize it's impossible to be with your child every single second. That parenting is not 'easy'.  You'll realize that ignorance is NOT bliss.  You will realize that while you can't protect your child from everything, there are many, simple, inexpensive things you can do to make your home, car, play spaces and environment safer for your children.  You learn that spending money on things that make your child safer is money much better spent than on that daily specialty coffee drink.  You learn that things that inconvenience you are worth it when the potential consequence is the injury or loss of your child.  You learn to admit you don't know everything and need to seek to learn that which you don't know.

Instead of pointing the finger at others and choosing to believe their child was injured or killed as a result of their ignorance or 'bad' parenting (and berating them for it), you will realize you are just like them.  That 'it' could happen to your child, too.  You will realize that the very thing which you are criticizing them for, *could* happen to you or your child, too.

Because you love your children as much as the next parent, and yes, as much as the parent who didn't know about the danger or made a horrible, tragic, mistake that led to the injury or death of their child, you will take action to prevent these type of accidents to your child.  You will learn from the horrible mistakes and tragedies of others.  You will take their advice and change the way you do things.  You will seek further education.  You will desire to make your child's environment as safe as you can because actions speak louder than words.  They also work a hell of a lot better at keeping kids safe.

So where can you find this treatment?

  1. Take a parenting or child safety class
  2. Hire a professional childproofer.  Child proofing is WAY more than outlet plugs and cabinet latches.  They will point out dangers you didn't even know existed and provide solutions.  Check out the International Association for Child Safety
  3. Learn CPR and First Aid.  Make sure everyone who cares for your child knows how to do CPR and basic first aid.  Have a first aid kit in your home and car. 
  4. Take time to explore Web sites like Safe Kids, the CPSC, and Meghan's Hope and the Meghan's Hope Facebook Page.  Educate yourself and everyone who cares for your child.
Remember, treatment is not curative.  It's lifelong.  As you learn of new dangers and new safety recommendations and options, you must apply them.  Reading about childproofing is not the same as actually taking the time to fully child proof.  Thinking you *know* to check the back seat of the car before you get out every time does not mean you won't forget one day.

For example, securing only the dresser in your child's bedroom does not protect them from the danger of falling furniture.  You must secure ALL furniture and ALL TV's.  Or moving a child to a belt positioning or regular booster seat before they are tall enough and cognitively mature enough to sit upright, with the shoulder belt in the appropriate place, ALL the time, either because they want to get out of the car seat with a 5 point harness or because you *think* they will be 'fine', is dancing with danger.  It's all fine.  Until you get hit by another car and your child is ejected because they were in a seat that did not fulfill it's purpose, all because it was 'easier' for you and your child.  Do you want to live with that?  

A word on 'bad' parents

Are there 'bad' parents?  Yes.  Absolutely.  But they are few and far between.  Bad parents intentionally and willfully neglect or abuse their children.  

The vast majority of parents whose children die in tragic accidents are not bad parents.  They are good parents who are uneducated about certain dangers or dangerously disbelieving about the severity of the risk of the danger to their child.  They may have had perfect parentitis. They didn't believe 'it' could happen to them.  They might have been overprotective and vigilant and not even have known about 'it' until it happened to them.  They did not willfully or intentionally try to hurt their child. In fact, they often *thought* they had done everything right.  They are probably just like you.  Go look in the mirror. YOU are that parent. 

It is my greatest hope that parents everywhere learn about perfect parentitis and seek immediate treatment.  It is my hope that you share the news about this epidemic viral illness with parents you know, so we can together, educate and safe lives.  Perhaps we will turn the treatment into a new cure. A cure where no child ever has to suffer injury or death because of their parent's inability or unwillingness to change for their greater good.  

The change begins with you. 

Monday, July 7, 2014

Adventure on the high seas: Cruise in Review on The Allure of the Seas

I have just returned from a wonderfully relaxing family cruise vacation.   As I sit on the floor at the airport (so annoyed Ft. Lauderdale airport is under construction with no where to sit outside of security), I am jolted back to reality.  But before I go there...

We left Friday, June 29th for Fort Lauderdale, Florida for a mini pre-cruise vacation.  This was in part to take advantage of lower airfare (which is also why we are at the airport all day today) as our cruise was 4th of July week and airfare was higher.  

This meant that Thursday was a living hell. Why is it that the day before and the day after one takes a vacation are the most stressful?  I worked a full day, had scheduled a mani-pedi to force me to have pretty toes and nails (it would never have happened otherwise), and even pre-packed the kids the night before. Still, there was so much to do to prepare beyond packing my bags.  I didn't get to bed until 1:45 am and my alarm went off at 5:30.  

We were blessed with summer traffic on the way to the airport which was delightful, especially considering it was Friday morning commute time!  We had a leisurely but reasonable wait before our flight.  We were traveling with another family and we met at the airport.  

When we arrived in Florida, we took a cab to our hotel and were able to check right in.  First order of business?  Lunch and then the beach! 

We stayed at the Ft. Lauderdale Hilton Beach. I highly recommend it.  The beach was such a treat!  The water warm and the sand blissfully warm and soft on my feet.  We also had some leisure time at the pool on the 6th floor.  There was plenty to do in the area and a good number of eating establishments within walking distance.  We found a lovely open air pub style eatery and to our delight, no bugs!  Eating outside at home is no fun due to mosquitoes and other pesky flying creatures. 

The next day we had a lovely tour of the inter-coastal waterway by water taxi. We saw some crazy fancy houses and yachts, found a delicious Italian eatery and a Coldstone Creamery for dessert!  We also found the cruise port and got a glimpse at the sister of our cruise ship, the Oasis of the Seas in port!  Later that evening, we saw her sailing away from our hotel balcony!  Stunning!  

We spent the evening at a local dueling piano bar that had an early child friendly show. They enjoyed the sing along antics but were somewhat embarrassed by their parents' enthusiastic singing at times.  :-)

Sunday dawned gorgeous.  Our cruise vacation was beginning today!  We had breakfast, packed our things, and caught a taxi to the cruise port.  Royal Caribbean has the cruise check in and embarkation process down to an amazingly exact science.  We dropped our bags with a porter and they magically appeared in our room before dinner.  Check in was smooth and we didn't have to wait very long in line at all.  We were issued our sea pass cards, had our embarkation photo taken and we boarded the biggest cruise ship in the world about 4.5 hours before she sailed.  To say my boys were excited would be an understatement. After they picked their jaws up off the floor, they noticed the soccer game was playing in the Champagne bar and that's where they went.  We did a quick exploration of the Royal Promenade which was the floor we entered on.  We also visited guest services to take care of a few things and then collected the boys and explored the ship. 

About an hour after we boarded we were allowed to our staterooms.  We had a deluxe ocean view balcony room and the kids had an interior cabin across from us.  We dropped our backpacks and got some lunch at the Park Cafe in the Central Park area of the ship. It was one of my favorite areas. Quiet and serene, open to the sky above and with real plants and trees, it is where many of the specialty restaurants and a few of the stores on board are located.  There is comfy seating, benches, and of course, a bar.  No shortage of bars on this ship!  One even 'floats' between decks!  In fact there are many events that you can get a free drink or two at if you partake of such things.  The captain's welcome party, the Crown and Anchor club party, art shows/auctions, and more.  The drink of the day is also less expensive than other mixed drinks.  

The ship itself is divided into 'neighborhoods'.  She is 17 stories high and holds 6200+ passengers plus over 2000 crew.  The ship was at capacity for our sailing.  She is alluring indeed.  

The front of the ship holds the 2 deck Amber Theater which is where most of the major shows were held like "Chicago", which was fantastic, "Blue Planet" which was good but nothing spectacular, and also served as the venue for some meet and greets and a departure lounge. Also at the front of the ship is the bridge of course, and the Solarium - an over 16 only serene spot with plenty of seating, stunning views, 2 hot tubs and a pool.  It is also the location of a restaurant during the day that has the best selection for vegetarians on the ship and is converted to the Samba Grill at night.  Also at night, the Solarium becomes a dance club or a lovely place to sit under the stars while protected from the wind on the upper decks by the glass. 

The rear of the ship holds the 3 deck dining room where breakfast is served daily and lunch on sea days as well as the 2 formal dinner seatings.  At the very rear of the ship on deck 6 is the Aqua Theater where there are high diving shows, dance lessons, Dreamworks productions and other events throughout the week.  The rock climbing walls are also located here.  

The Aqua Theater and Dazzles dance lounge overlook the Boardwalk area from opposite ends. This is an area reminiscent of a beach-side boardwalk with a lighthouse bar, cotton candy, a carousel (!), ice cream and candy shops, a play space for toddlers, child oriented stores and activities like Pets at Sea (like Build a Bear), and Johnny Rockets.  There is also a hot dog stand and a doughnut shoppe!  There are Boardwalk view balcony rooms as well.

The solarium hot tub

a cantilevered hot tub.  Awesome! 

One of the pools with a hot tub in the background

24 hour pizza on the Promenade

There is a CAROUSEL on the ship!

Central Park
a rehearsal at the Aqua Theater
Our balcony
The rear of the Boardwalk/Aqua Theater at sunrise
The Bow and Stern English Pub
Boleros Latin Dance Lounge
On Air - Karaoke and game show mecca
Ice skating rink!  Also, site for Quest and some other larger events
Comedy Club
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Royal Promenade

Main dining room from our table on the 2nd of 3 le

mini golf!
In the middle of the ship on deck 5 is the Promenade. Here is where the 'street parties' happen, some dance classes, and is the main street of the ship. There are promenade view staterooms if you wish to always keep an eye on the action.  Many bars, shops, and smaller eateries like Sorrentos Pizza, a cafe, Starbucks, and the Cupcake Shop are here.  

Some of our favorites here were the Schooner Bar where an outstanding pianist/singer was every night and was also a great site for daily trivia contests.  The Bow and Stern English pub was a favorite of our friends with a guitarist who was fantastic.  On Air was the karaoke and game show hot spot and was also a popular soccer viewing venue.  Outside of On Air was a NYC style ticker displaying soccer scores, cruise info and an occasional happy birthday or anniversary message.   One of our favorite dance venues, Boleros, was also here.  We gave that dance floor a work out with some fellow dance friends we met along the way.

Also on deck 5 was a running track.  As a runner, I loved the fact the track was not on an upper deck where it tends to be very windy and very crowded.  The track had motivational messages and it was only 2.25 laps to run a mile!  There was also an on board spa and fitness center but I did not partake of the services so I cannot comment other than to say spa services are crazy expensive compared to the equivalent on land and probably not nearly as 'good'. 

Professional photographers are all over the ship but set up on and around the Promenade most nights for formal portraits.They do a great job but the photos are outrageously priced!  They print most of the photos to entice you to buy and then throw them all away if you don't. You can view the photos digitally and order digital images to print yourself (what we do) so there is no need to be so wasteful!  They put together a cruise in review DVD that you can purchase for $30. This is unique to your sail dates and is much improved over the one we received  our last cruise.  It starts with a documentary about the ship and how she was built, gives a tour of the different neighborhoods and lounges with snippets of current cruisers enjoying themselves. Brief glimpses of the actual shows and performances held on board your specific cruise as well.  If you happened to be captured on video, you'll definitely want a copy!  We were 'caught' learning the flash mob dance!  The photo shop/studio is on the 6th deck, above the Promenade. 

The ship has many entertainment options.  From the Broadway show "Chicago", to ice skating, boogie boarding and surfing on the flow rider, rock climbing, mini golf, a zip line, several pools and hot tubs, comedy shows, a high diving show, and "Blue Planet" a contemporary singing and dancing show with aerial acrobatics.  There is also a 24 hour casino, 24 hour dining options, and games and classes for everyone.  

For those who enjoy music for listening or dancing, there is the Schooner piano bar, Bow and Stern pub with acoustic guitarist/singer, Boleros Latin dance lounge, Blaze - a night club, Dazzles, which is a 2 deck lounge, and Jazz on 4 which is an intimate jazz club and the Viking Crown Lounge which is an upscale lounge on deck 17. All have either live music or a DJ and the opportunity to dance although the dance floors are terrible. They are much too small and for serious dancers, very difficult to dance on.  The advertised ballroom dance events were on small floors made of glass or tile and if more than 3 couples were dancing, it was very crowded!  Royal's smaller ships reportedly have bigger dance floors the smaller the ships get!  This was one of the most disappointing aspects for us since we love to dance.  Fellow ballroom/Latin dancers agreed with us. 

One of the most amazing things about our cruise was the Headliner Show.  We were fortunate to see Mo5aic, a 5 man acapella group who soared to fame on America's Got Talent. They were SOOOOOO amazingly good!  Even our boys enjoyed it.  If you ever have the chance to listen to or see them, you should! We saw some of them enjoying the other shows and ports of call with their families.

There is something for everyone on this ship!  Several pools, tons of eating venues included in your cruise or specialty dining for an additional fee, shops, entertainment, sporting events, dancing, music and game shows, trivia and contests abound.  Favorites like Love and Marriage and Quest (an adult scavenger hunt) are must sees and tons of fun to participate in.  You can be as casual or as fancy as you like. With 2 official formal nights, if you want to get all gussied up, you can (and should!).  If you are a shopper, they have shopping talks with coupons for discounts, 'inside' info on the best places to shop, where to get free things, and prizes as well as a channel on the TV dedicated to shopping in each port of call. 

Our teen (15) really enjoyed the teen only area. They have their own lounge, video games, night club and 'bar'.  Activities are facilitated by the staff. They had teen only events at the pool, hot tub and night clubs as well.  We hardly saw him after the 2nd day!  The kids program Adventure Ocean gets rave reviews.  There is a basketball court, ping pong, and an arcade! 

My soccer fans also enjoyed that RC was celebrating the FIFA World Cup with all the games televised in room, on the huge jumbotrons at the Aqua Theater and at On Air.  Both boys got to play soccer/futsal at sea on the sports court (basketball court).

Three full sea days on this cruise allowed us a decent amount of time to take advantage of all the ship had to offer.  Our first port of call were Labadee, Haiti, the ship's private island where we floated on beach mats, sampled Labadoozies (with ample 'medicine', AKA rum), and the boys zip lined, jet skied, rode the dragon coaster and we all parasailed.  It was a long, fun, day in the sun. 

Next, it was on to Jamaica, where our travel mates did some river white water rafting and we just shopped a bit.  I *might* have some new jewelry now...

Our last port of call was Cozumel, Mexico. Here we did a catamaran snorkel and beach tour. We had about a 45 minute snorkel at a reef that was OK, but not spectacular. Then we sailed to a beach where there was an inflatable ocean park, paddle boards, sea kayaks, floating mats, and lounge chairs for 90 minutes. The kids exhausted themselves in the sun and water. On the sail back to the ship, we partied on the deck with some line dancing, margaritas, and island music. It was a fun way to spend the morning. Then it was a mad dash back to the ship for the soccer games of the day! 

Our ship is on the left.  Her sister (2 classes down in size) the Navigator of the Seas is on the right! 

Snorkeling boys

water rocker?


Yes, you can line dance on a catamaran
We very much enjoyed our excursions.

Despite her enormous size, we never really felt as if the ship was crowded.  With so much to do and thoughtful scheduling of shows, dinner seatings, and activities, you would never know you shared the ship with 6000 other passengers!  Even disembarking was controlled as they assign you numbers for your luggage which is waiting for you in the customs terminal.  Lounges were set up in different venues of the ship where you waited for your number group to be called as everyone had to be out of their rooms by 8:30 am.  If you try to leave before your number is called, your bags will not be there yet.  They get everyone off the ship between 6:30 am and about 10:30 am.  Getting through customs was quick and easy and even though the line was long, it moved surprisingly quickly. 

They turn the ship around remarkably fast as the next cruise passengers begin boarding at 12:30 and she sails at 5 pm.

It was a wonderful week of family fun.  A nice balance of family time and adult relaxation time.  It was not as relaxing as you might think with so much going on but seeing my boys have a wonderful time exploring, trying new things, and really having fun made my heart sing.  Having the week to share with good friends made the adult time more fun, too!  It was a nice chance for my husband and I to reconnect, too.  In fact, we booked our next cruise, this time without the kids.  :-)  Another Caribbean itinerary.  We're planning Alaska for the one after that, but that trip requires at least 2 weeks, so it's going to be a few years before we can do that one.  I think it will be worth the wait!

If you've never cruised, I highly recommend it.  It's a tremendous value when you break it down.  The Allure is significantly more expensive than the smaller (but still huge) ships in Royal Caribbean's fleet, but Royal treats their passengers well.  We are Crown and Anchor members and loyal to the brand.  I just can't believe it took me so long to try cruising!  The kids loved it and want to go again.  The ship is safe for the older kids to roam and for younger kids to be safe in the care of Adventure Ocean staff so parents can have some grown up time day or night!  It's an all inclusive (mostly - specialty restaurants, alcohol, and excursions are extra, as are souvenirs) resort that goes to more than one country/island! How can you beat that?

I am grateful to the lovely Allure of the Seas.  She gave me a gift that will last a lifetime.  Memories of a wonderful vacation and new experiences with my family.

I can't wait to cruise again!
The view from our balcony on sea days