Thursday, April 22, 2010

What can I get for you?

As I was driving home from work just before 7pm tonight after a long day in the office of dealing with frustrating developers, fighting for prioritization of projects, and throwing together a presentation for the CEO . . . I started thinking about how much fun life was when my job was waiting tables. Beyond the obvious things - I wasn't married, I didn't have kids - the job itself was so much simpler. Whether it was waiting tables at a college hang-out in Virginia, a four-star restaurant and bar in Charlotte or a brewery in Colorado . . . I loved it (and, yes, that's why I am also a notoriously good tipper to this day).

I was a good waitress. A great waitress actually. My tips proved it. I miss it.

For those who have never been servers - or experienced an amazing waiter/waitress on the receiving end . . . waiting tables is much more than bringing food to a table and filling glasses.

To do it well is an art. You are master of your own fate. You can be anyone you want to be when you approach a table. You are, in effect, an actor. No one wants a grumpy server. No one cares that the kitchen is short-staffed or your car had a flight tire. People come for the food and the experience. And, you can create that special event for them when you are a server.

You anticipate their needs. You offer them things before they even know that's what they might want. You become an avid reader of people and interactions. Who is in charge, who should you address at the table, how long do you chit-chat, do they have a sense of humor, will they want suggestions, do they want to be left alone . . .

In college, my friend Beth, and I devised a list of things by which you could instantly judge the character of any man. And, those core traits have withstood the test of time. How does he talk about his mom? How does he feel about animals (this one is quite complex with multiple sub-bullets)? How patient is he with children that aren't his? Does he instantly give up his seat for someone who needs it more? And, how does he treat servers? That last one is pivotal.

I try to claim that I am not overly judgmental. But, eating out with people has sometimes changed my opinion and perception of them. Irreversibly.

I split from a boyfriend in North Carolina because he was so condescending to waitresses. Seriously. It repulsed me.

Long before I even left home or even had a job, on the few occasions where we would eat out as a family, I realized my dad was an excellent tipper. Not just your 20% kind of tipper when 10-15% was considered acceptable . . . the kind of tipper where servers would often approach us on the way out of the restaurant because they assumed we had accidentally left too much. My mom would sometimes shake her head. And, my sister and I suggested once or twice that perhaps he would like to give us some of that extra cash. But, we were all impressed by him.

I quickly developed a deep respect for my dad and his habit of over-tipping. I gained an awareness of how kind and considerate he is. I have always been so proud of him for the way he treats people. He is a great man.

Serving is much more than the basic task at hand - on both the giving and receiving side. I truly believe it.

How a person treats someone serving them is a true window into their soul.

Maybe I'm stretching this too much beyond a restaurant atmosphere. But, reminding yourself to treat people well is still a good tip (pun intended).

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Just Breathe . . .

First, let me just get this out of the way . . . I'm not going to say anymore what this blog is going to be about. I'm not going to apologize for sad or angry posts - or messages about my job or disabilities or anything else. I'm not even sure why I felt the need to say that . . . but, I'm going to start there. This is my life - my journal. There are ups and downs and phases and good times and bad. It doesn't mean I always cry or am always sad or frustrated. It is what it is.

I was browsing through some other sites again today by other families that I don't personally know - but, I feel so close to - because they have children with Spina Bifida. A drippy, delicious wrap in my left hand, I was prepared to soak in some updates over lunch . . . hopefully the kind that leave me feeling uplifted and renewed.

And, I read these two stories . . .

Over the past weekend, a young mom was at a small play area in a mall with her three-year-old son and his walker. She sat nearby as he began crawling and exploring. Suddenly, another father walks over, picks up the walker, and deposits it outside of the play area and says nothing. The mother - avoiding confrontation - go gets the walker and brings it back. And, then a few minutes later she's confronted with two security guards who insist the walker must be removed . . . thereby making it impossible for her son to do anything but crawl. Despite being frustrated to tears and defending her son's case to the guards, she ultimately remained (without the walker) to allow her son to continue playing . . . because she wanted to spare his feelings as he was blissfully unaware.

Another mom wrote back to this woman and explained that her family had been waiting in line at an amusement park and finally was nearing the front. A ride operator came over and denied her son access to the ride because he couldn't walk. It was a normal roller coaster - where you sit the entire time. There were no reasons or even explanations that he could provide, no warning signage. And, no feelings spared there.

A few weeks ago, Jeff was at Costco during the day with the kids. Gavin has been so proud to take his walker and move around the store all by himself. He moves deliberately and with much effort. And, luckily, he is - as of yet - unaware of the stares and background glances that he receives. As they were on their way out of the store, a woman literally barrelled over Gavin and his walker with her shopping cart. Yes, accidents happen. The problem was - she barely stopped. She muttered barely an apology. And, somehow, Jeff restrained himself enough that he didn't punch her. And, I give him a lot of credit - because I might have.

Just yesterday when I was chatting with Jeff on the phone, the kids were outside playing in the yard. He repeated a conversation that Gavin and Autumn were having.

Autumn said, "Gavin, Hallie can walk now - all by herself. Isn't
that great?"

Gavin looks slightly confused and says, "How?"

Autumn says with the innocence of a five-year-old, "With a lot of
practice. She can walk now. Don't you wish that you had legs that
didn't have so many surgeries so you could walk, too?"

It breaks my heart.

All I can do is just take a deep breath. Because to teach my son to handle his experiences with wit and charm and to be his own advocate, I'm going to have to learn to do the same thing first.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

A Proud Moment

So, I finally took the time to update my header. I may even be able to do it somewhat regularly.

Yes, it took me 2 1/2 years . . . shhhhhh . . . I'm having a proud moment.

**Update: The secrets are all revealed here
. I found this great little blog (for lots of things really) that provides a quick and easy tutorial. I love the simplicity and the ability to switch things around easily. You will definitely see a not so coincidental likeness . . . Enjoy!

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Go on and Cry

I spent some time over lunch break today researching walkers and rollators (a new term I just learned describing walkers with four wheels) for Gavin. I looked for contact information for a few members of the Utah Spina Bifida group that we were actively involved in for the first year of Gavin's life when we lived in Heber. In my search, I stumbled upon several email updates that I shared right after Gavin's birth and I reread them. In the March 23rd email, I described discovering spinal fluid leaking from his incision just the night before, rushing back to Primary Children's and the shunt they were placing in his head that very day.

I've shared stories and letters I have written before about Gavin. And, I am still always surprised by my reactions. I read this:
I think we all knew of the likelihood that Gavin would require this surgery. . . unfortunately, as a mother of a three week old infant that is having a second major surgery . . . I am clearly devastated and not handling it as well as I had hoped. Nevertheless, we have developed an even stronger love for Gavin than we thought possible and will do anything we can to protect and care for him.
And, that familiar lump formed in my throat and tears welled up in my eyes. Still fresh from three years ago. Still fresh now for new reasons that develop each day.

I continued my search for resources on mobility devices - and within minutes I found this post from a fellow mom of a little boy with Spina Bifida. And, I wanted to share it here. I don't want to be the mom that constantly complains about my job, dwells on the frustrations of life and the despair that often comes from being a mom to a child with a disability. But, I also want to be honest. Writing helps me sort out and deal with my own feelings.

But, today I will share feelings from Toby's mom. Because I couldn't have said it better.

When Toby was in the NICU a lady whose son went to my college came to visit me one afternoon. This was about the third week of our stay and I was just ready for the whole ordeal to be over. Her son had Spina Bifida and she came to just sit and talk and answer any questions that I might have. Well, I am sure I overwhelmed her with my ridiculous amount of questions. and you know I can barely remember some of her answers. But one thing she said to me has stuck out almost 4 years later. You know the kind of thing that sticks so bad that you can even hear the inflection in the person's voice when you think it over in your head.

In a somewhat sad and tired voice. She said, "Kari, You're gonna cry" but with a smile on her face she said, "and it's okay." I thought at the time this was unusual. But she said it quite a few times and therefore it seemed very significant to her. I thought I had cry all my tears out. My son was here and how could I cry anymore. I knew there would be hard times, hard surgeries and things of that nature in which I might cry, but now was not the time.

What I didn't realize was how true those words were. There will be days when there will be no reason, no significant thing that happened, but you will cry. There will be days when a thought will knock the breath right out of you and you will cry. I child will run past you with his little legs and you just might cry. Sometimes I feel guilty for crying. I have my son. There are so many families out there fighting such scary things. Three families I know of that just recently lost their children to cancer. There are families who have multiple miscarriages or children in the NICU fighting for the very next breath. I have my son. But needless to say, You most likely will cry. There will be sadness.

But then comes the next part, "And it's Okay."

I'm so glad she added those three little words on the end. It is okay. And that is why I wanted this post to go under the taking care of you. It's not a makeup tip, or hair tip or diet tip. But how true is it that crying and taking that time to mourn and heal is really taking care of yourself. It's okay to cry. It doesn't mean you love your child any less or that you feel like you have it worse off than another family. It's just crying and it's going to happen and.....It's Okay.

You get up, dry your eyes, pray for strength and you keep going.

And you know the funny part? That day when you felt like your heart was breaking is so easily forgotten with the next smile from your child.