A playlist as we “look for the helpers”

I haven’t known what to say about Boston. I have a very difficult time thinking about it or looking at images of it or reading the news about it. I keep thinking about September 11th and what we went through then. I keep thinking about my kids and my husband and how I would feel if it were them. I keep feeling my stomach falling. It seems that anything I would say would be too trivial, and I find myself distancing my thoughts and emotions from it so that I can keep going through my day. And I don’t want to appropriate this tragedy – as though it’s really truly mine the way it is for the Richard family or for the other families directly affected. I don’t want to insert myself that way. But it’s still overwhelming. I think Fred Rogers’ mom’s admonishment to “look for the helpers” is wonderful. I’m looking forward to checking out TED’s playlist of helpers. I hope this helps you, too.

TED Blog

In the day since the Boston Marathon was interrupted by two bomb blasts – which killed three and injured more than 170 – a meme has emerged online: “Look for the helpers.” The quote comes from Fred Rogers, who shared in his tome The Mister Rogers Parenting Book, “When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘Look for the helpers.’ You will always find people who are helping.”

In the images of the terrible scene in Boston yesterday, the helpers are obvious – bystanders attending to the injured, paramedics rushing to the scene, police and marathon volunteers helping the crowd. Even Google swung into action, creating a person finder app for those with loved ones at the marathon finish line.

We love the idea of looking for the helpers. To keep you inspired on a hard day…

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More from my Baby – So Proud

These were all reported to me by RHR. We were at the playground together, but I was on baby duty at the swings with Big E’s best friend’s baby brother and their mom while the big kids and dads ran around.

Proud Moment #1:

A kid (around 4 years old or so) got into it with Big E’s playmate. Apparently, this boy was very much in the wrong. As no other adult was near, Big E’s friend’s dad stepped in, broke it up, and reprimanded the child. The boy was crushed. Big E saw him sitting alone, looking forlorn.  He walked up to him, put his hand on his shoulder and said, “You look sad.” The boy didn’t look up but nodded. Big E said, “That’s ok. Sometimes grown-ups get angry, but everything will be alright.” The little boy looked up mutely at my son and took in the comfort offered.

Proud Moment #2:

Big E faced a huge playground apparatus that was scaring kids his age and younger. Undaunted, he stared at it for a moment, and then climbed it.  Up and over. Big and scary and difficult to negotiate, it was conquered by my courageous boy.

Proud Moment #3: 

The little boy Big E had comforted earlier found him and said, “Hey, can we play together?” Even though Big E was already playing with his best friend, he said, “Ok. We can play together for a little while.”

Empathetic, brave, and inclusive.  So proud to be his Mommy.

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Joy or “Just Wait”?

Yes, yes, yes.  More of this in our world, please.

Joy or “Just Wait”? | Advice for Moms – Power of Moms.

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Gems from the Weekend

When You are Lazy, Someone Else Will Take Your Job

Big E (while looking at video from Easter): Mommy, I want some more of those eggs with the chocolates in them.

Me: Ok, honey. I’ll let the Easter Bunny know you liked them, and maybe he’ll bring more next Easter.

Big E: Or maybe he can bring them tomorrow.

Me: Well, no… We get Easter eggs on Easter.

Big E: Why?

Me: Because that’s when the Easter Bunny brings them. He only brings Easter eggs on Easter.

Big E: [long, thoughtful pause] I’m going to talk to the Easter Dragon. He can go to the store for me and get Easter eggs with chocolates until the Easter Bunny feels like going back to work.

We Take Turns in this House

Big E: I have an Idea! How about we all four go sleep in the big bed in your room?

RHR: That’s nice. So after dinner, we can all go lie down in Mommy’s and Daddy’s bed and go to sleep?

Big E: Welllll, not you, Daddy. You have to do the dishes first.

RHR: Ah. I see. So after I get the dishes done, I can go lay down with you all?

Big E: Welllll, Mommy can. And you can sleep in my bed.

RHR: I can’t sleep in my own bed?

Big E: No. We take turns. It’s my turn. Your turn is over.

RHR: So, basically you are saying that you want to go night-night with Mommy and you don’t care where I end up sleeping?

Big E: Yes, Daddy. That’s right.

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Play

At the playground: brothers, best friends. So nice!

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The Ask

RHR and I have been fundraising for our upcoming trip to Germany for a year and let me tell you, I hate it and it is terrifying. Way, way more scary to me than getting up in front of a NY audience of 2000 people in a Broadway house without a rehearsal opposite a Tony winner to sing my first public high F. Way, way, way scarier than that.

We did well in our Kickstarter campaign last June. We have very generous friends and family, and we successfully raised $8,000 in a 30-day campaign. I’m incredibly grateful and very humbled. Let me tell you: every single day, every single terrifying day, I thought I would throw up. I would get shaky hands and prickly heat on my neck when I would look at the campaign page to see how we were doing. Every time I posted an update on the campaign or linked it to Facebook or Twitter, I wanted to crawl under my covers and not come out.

Why on earth??!! Am I embarrassed by my singing or my husband’s? Not in the slightest. Do I think that our project is worthless? Of course not! Do I think that my friends and family are selfish or don’t care about us or what we are doing? No!

Then why?

Because admitting that we can’t get there by ourselves is… drum roll… shameful. It’s embarrassing. Good, responsible people give; they don’t ask. (Do you guys run to the kitchen to whip up a casserole when you hear someone just suffered a loss or a health problem or had a baby, but when it’s you and someone says, “Oh, let me know if I can do anything at all!” you smile and sweetly say, “Oh, thank you!” with no intention of letting your real needs be known?)  To be on the receiving end of generosity feels… weak, powerless. And is what we want to do worthy of donations? I mean, we are asking for help in making art, for heaven’s sake! We aren’t saving the starving children of the world or vaccinating Africa or building cottage industries in Nepalese villages!

And then I start to think about what that all really means. By clinging to these views of mine, am I saying that people who ask for help are weak?  Do I secretly scorn them when I offer a helping hand? Do I sit in secret judgment of them while I go it on my own? So why do I think they are doing that to me?

We are still $16,000 away from our fundraising goal. We are approaching corporations now to ask for support. You’d think that this would be easier than going to family and friends, but nope! It’s not! We got one very nice turn-down, and it wouldn’t be that big of a deal, but it took me 3 weeks to get up the courage to even ask. And I have procrastinated for 2 weeks on the other asks on my list.

I really like, though, the idea that Amanda Palmer (superstar fundraiser) has put forward: that asking people to join you is not asking for a handout as though you have nothing to offer. Giving and receiving is never one way. It is about inviting them along the journey with you, inviting them to be a part of something bigger than any of us can do alone. It’s about recognizing our interdependence, that we all rely on each other every minute of the day. We are none of us alone. It’s about connection.

It’s scary, no doubt. But I’m going to be brave. I’m going to ask. Hopefully there are people that want to come with us.

Thank God it’s Friday night and I don’t have to be brave until Monday when offices are open!!

And to assuage my fear that singing isn’t really important enough to have major significance for the world, enough to ask for help with, from Dr. Brene Brown:

“Laughter, song, and dance create an emotional and spiritual connection; they remind us of the one thing that truly matters when we are searching for comfort, celebration, inspiration, or healing: We are not alone.”

**For anyone who is curious, the link above details our project, in which we invite American schoolchildren along on our 90 day audition tour of Germany via real-time video chats and blog reporting, as well as in-person visits to our partner school in Harlem. Donations are tax-deductible.

Holy crap, that was scary!

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(Not) Enough!

We spent yesterday in the hospital ER. Little N woke up in the middle of the night unable to breathe.  Allergy-induced asthma. Seasonal allergies this time. We tried to treat him at home, but it just wasn’t working. His breathing was getting worse and worse. At 9 AM, we decided we couldn’t wait anymore. He was getting lethargic. Alarm bells ringing like crazy in my sleep-deprived head. We packed up the kids, grabbed our ER “Go Bag” and headed off to Mt. Sinai.

His blood oxygen level was 92 when we arrived. That’s still normal range, but toward the bottom. Worrisome. The doctor said that they don’t like people at home below 94, so it’s good we brought him in. The first round of medication didn’t help him enough, so we sat and sat and they gave him a second dose, and we waited to see if that was going to work. It did, thank heaven, and we weren’t admitted this time. (Last time, we were, and it was 3 days in the hospital.) We are really getting to know the hospital. This was our fourth trip in six months. My husband was even giving other patients’ families directions to the cafeteria. Sad.

The day before was stressful, too. We had martial arts class for Big E in the morning and an awards concert we were singing on together in the afternoon. Easy, right? Two things? Simple! Not with two little kids. My general rule is that we schedule only one thing per day because that’s all we can guarantee will happen. However. Martial arts is Big E’s favorite thing of the week (ours, too) and the concert was important to us.

The stress happened before the class. Husband (from now own I will refer to him as RHR – less typing) was in the shower. I was responsible for getting the kids fed. Big E is looking small lately – we are concerned with allergy elimination diet for him. He’s growing and needs his nutrition, so we have cautiously added back Little N’s allergens. But it makes me a nervous wreck. Big E can have milk on his cereal, but only if Little N is asleep in the other room or is strapped into his high chair. Otherwise, Little N will find a way to pour his brother’s deadly milk all over his vulnerable little head.

So – you can see this coming a mile away – we are running late. We need to leave in 15 minutes. I need Big E to eat and Little N to eat and I have to finish getting dressed. I try to oh so tenderly place Little N in his chair, at which point he arches his sweet little back, stiffens his tender little legs, and shrieks like all of the cats in hell. No WAY that child was going in that high chair. I try to press the point with him. Shrieking gets louder, more determined. “Buh buh buh buh BUUUHHHHH!!!!!!!!,” he yells.  Well, SHIT! I just nursed him. Literally minutes ago. This kid is NOT in need of a nursing session. He NEEDS to sit in the high chair and eat some cereal and fruit and let me feed his brother. “RHRRRRRRRRRRRRRR!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” I yell. Nothing. He either can’t hear me or is strategically ignoring me. I sit down with Little N and nurse. But I’m really frustrated and angry. If we are late, Big E can’t participate in the class. Discipline is part of the whole deal – they don’t let lazy parents just waltz in whenever they feel like it to let their undisciplined children disrupt everyone else. No, we have to be there on time. And They. MUST. EAT. But picture it – how am I supposed to pour what is essentially poison to Little N into Big E’s bowl while I’m holding a thrashing screaming Little N? Man, oh MAN I was wishing for telekinesis just then!

But I don’t have it, so my tension level got higher and higher and higher and I started to imagine smashing a baseball bat into a wall, and then I picked up a pillow and screamed sang a high A in alt into a pillow. (RHR heard that one!)

Did I mention yet that I haven’t had any caffeine yet at this point?

The rest of getting to class is somewhat of a blur. RHR got dressed and somehow we got Big E fed and we arrived in class just in the nick of time.

And then we sang the afternoon concert and then we spent Sunday in the hospital, forced to cancel singing on a studio class in the afternoon, and the angst that came with that. (I need to sing this aria in front of people, will people question our commitment if we don’t show up, etc, etc, etc.)  And the whole weekend forced some serious conversations between me and RHR about how we juggle our careers and caring for a special needs kiddo. We have some ground rules now and a master plan, which feels good.

But I was still feeling totally completely overwhelmed. There’s just not enough time, not enough of me. And I feel that way all of the time.  Every moment of every single little day, I feel like I am drowning in responsibility to a million different people. All of them only aware of their little tiny part of my day, all of them teetering on the verge of disappointment, possibly anger, possibly some kind of harm (to their peace, their schedule, their business, their reputation, their physical bodies – like not eating, for instance). All of them underestimating the time it takes for me to do what they want, and by underestimating, devaluing what I do. And I feel like a loser for not being able to meet every expectation effortlessly. I feel like other women can. I mean, honestly – I’m not unique. I know that. I don’t have an unusual amount of responsibility. My sister-in-law has a special needs kid. So do several of my friends. Lots of people deal with far more severe food allergies, or even worse illnesses, altogether. Some people can’t afford food. Some people don’t have access to health care or clean water or live in a war zone or dig ditches in Siberia I get it, I get it! Which makes me feel so much worse because why can’t I get a grip and do this little bit that I have to do well. Why can’t I succeed at, essentially, being a woman? A perfect wife, a perfect mother, a perfect singer, a perfect friend, a perfect daughter, a perfect niece, a perfect sister, a perfect teacher, a perfect employee, a perfect neighbor, a perfect citizen, a perfect boss?

It’s a shame. It’s shame. It’s – what’s the German word? – unmöglich.  And here’s the thing – I know that no woman out there is doing it all perfectly. We’re just not talking about it.

When I told RHR that I feel exhausted and overwhelmed and nobody gets it, he challenged me to write a list of everything I have to do and post it somewhere public, so that the next time someone says, “I just need you to…” or “It’s just a little thing, it won’t take you more than…” I can point to the list and essentially say, take a number. But the more I thought of it, the more I thought, we need to know each other’s lists. We need to see in black and white, holy hell that is too much work for one person. We can’t possibly do it all. It’s unmöglich. And that’s ok. We are still enough. We are still worthy of being loved. We are still enough. Enough!

Feel free to post your own list in the comments below.

To Do List

Here’s my list. I’m going to add to it as things come up. Yeah – I’m looking at this and already thinking it’s ludicrous!

  1. Give babysitter lowdown on asthma weekend, along with medication instructions
  2. Put bottles together for pumping session
  3. Sterilize pump parts
  4. Meet with boss #1
  5. Meet with boss #2
  6. File extension for taxes
  7. Hang up new HR signs
  8. Set up coffee with K
  9. Go to chiropractor appointment
  10. Put in research request for 3 companies
  11. Reschedule 5 separate reference calls
  12. Reschedule Friday meeting
  13. Schedule 2 new reference calls
  14. Return damaged handbag to Zappo
  15. Get flight itinerary for Thursday
  16. Send a travel link to colleague’s wife
  17. Check in with friend about weekend drama
  18. Schedule 3 coffee dates for client
  19. Go through bills
  20. Get resume & comp for candidate
  21. Instruct babysitter in way to force-feed medication to unwilling toddler
  22. Pump for Little N’s bottles for tomorrow – three times
  23. Nurse – 5-8 times while awake, 1-2 times in the middle of the night
  24. Make dinner
  25. Clean up apartment
  26. Write two lesson plans
  27. Go to voice lesson – sing the crap out of two of the hardest arias written for soprano
  28. Schedule conference call
  29. Prepare origination form
  30. Review and correct invoices
  31. Fix broken login
  32. Enter search information into database
  33. File expenses
  34. Request reimbursement for lost metrocard
  35. File boss’s expenses
  36. File boss’s personal travel with reimbursement company
  37. Give instruction on setting up a conference with a new vendor
  38. Pour caffeine down throat
  39. Respond to a call from Citizens’ Complaint Review Board about police violence
  40. Update two tracking sheets
  41. Type up a handwritten document
  42. Make two folders with labels
  43. Track two engagements (not own but for someone else)
  44. Schedule 4 Skype interviews
  45. Schedule 2 phone screens
  46. Contact Company A regarding questions from Fiscal Sponsor
  47. Thank Company B for nice note about declining to offer an in-kind donation and ask for other suggestions
  48. Make 5 initial fundraising inquiries
  49. Make marinade for ribs
  50. Play with kids
  51. Find a pianist for recording
  52. Schedule lessons
  53. Send fundraising file to husband
  54. Eat
  55. Sleep
  56. Shower & Dress
  57. Pray
  58. Schedule play date for Big E
  59. Confirm lesson with student
  60. Teach kids optimism and gratitude
  61. Book studio
  62. Get applications for CBO preschools
  63. Buy diapers and wipes
  64. Get kids ready for bed
  65. Schedule kids’ dentist appointments
  66. Make sure Little N is covered on our dental insurance
  67. Get laundry together to be done tomorrow
  68. Turn on out of office message
  69. Edit spec
  70. Second meeting with boss #2

NOTE: I know that not all of this will get done. That’s the point of putting the list here. I know your list is this long, and we all know it won’t all get done. So we can say enough is (quite literally) enough. And be compassionate with ourselves and with each other. And if someone isn’t compassionate with you – well, that’s their anxiety/insecurity/disconnect/shame and maybe they deserve an extra helping of compassion from you.

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