Friday, January 31, 2014

New Year's Tribute: The Robin's Nest and My Village

For the past few years, I've written a New Year's Tribute to someone who helps make my work possible.  It's fitting that I'm barely getting this post in before February, given our current state of muddling through, and the fact that I have the time to write it at all is owed to the objects of my tribute:  you guys.

I've sent thank-you notes in the past few months, but not enough, and I bet some of you got two (and while I probably owe you five for the many blessings you've sent our way, the duplicate is likely representative of my inability to keep track anymore).  In other words, we are indebted; we are blessed; we are so overwhelmed by love and generosity we can't keep up with the gratitude you so deserve.

Which is no excuse.

During the past six months, friends and family have traveled far to help us.  You have picked up our kids and dropped them off.  You have kept them for an overnight, a week, or more.  You have showered us with gifts.  You have cleaned our house.  You have cooked and delivered dozens of meals.   You have given us time off with no questions asked. You have shared NICU stories, postpartum stories, parenting stories, tough-time stories.  You have offered walks, beers, time, babysitting, and kindnesses we haven't even been able to take you up on, but not for lack of want or need.  I've been able to return to work with some semblance of success this time due to your willingness to bake, hug, deliver, reassure, encourage, understand, reach out, believe, love, and support us.  And I've learned to accept my own vulnerability and the help you've offered.

My colleagues worked overtime in my absence and have been patient, generous, and understanding as I continue to get the lay of the land and fumble here and there.

Meanwhile, I tell myself, we don't have hardship; we have a third baby.  The circumstances of 2013, nevertheless, circumstances intertwined and layering, meant blessings brought unforeseen challenges. I grapple with the guilt that what brought so many struggles amounts to so much wonderfulness.

Last spring, as graduation loomed for the Class of 2013, the mother of a graduate, her third and last from our high school, anticipated her empty nest. She offered me and another colleague who was expecting a baby childcare in her home.  I knew she was an amazing mother, having watched her three children pass through our high school.  She taught me one of the most important lessons I learned while I was an assistant principal.  What I didn't know was how special and she would become to our entire family and how much of a Mother Mentor she would be to me.  "The Robin's Nest" is not only a home away from home for Tootsie, but a daily source of comfort for me.  I am grateful for her calm demeanor, her confident care of our daughter, her loving understanding of our two elder sisters, and her words of reassurance just when I need them.  I include an excerpt from a message she sent me in the fall: 

I just read your latest blog and I can so relate to how you feel. I have felt that... How could I be all things to all people?...What worked for me was simply saying upon waking in the morning... "Can I get through just this day with grace and love for all?"    I would always answer, "Yes."   I did this so I wouldn't think about tomorrow or Friday or the carpool on Saturday's game or the guilt I felt dragging my newborn around to all the outings and spending little to no quiet time with her... It's that old saying, 'one day at a time'.. otherwise the mind won't quiet down.

She gets it, which makes it all so much easier, and Tootsie lights up each time I hand her over to her much-more-than-a-babysitter. 

Our Village, complete with nests and meals and so much love, is amazing and so very, very appreciated. 

Thank you.

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