Tuesday, October 12, 2010

lessons learned

I believe that there are a lot of lessons to be learned in life.


And so it is, whenever I'm faced with a particularly difficult situation, I try to adjust my perspective and ask the question, "What am I supposed to be learning, here?"

Recently, it seems, I've been bombarded with learning opportunities.

Mostly, I've learned that my habit, obsession, desire to take on too much, will eventually overwhelm me to the point that I fall in to a stupor of not knowing where to even begin. I've also come to realize that I've developed a propensity for "tunnel vision" which is the inability to focus on more than one or two projects at a time.


Eating and sleeping?

It turns out those aren't really "optional" activities.

If you're anything like me, eventually, you'll fall asleep at your desk while wondering if the paper comprising the report that you've been reviewing for the past two days is edible. And while you are asleep, you will dream about painting with two hands - at the same time - while scraping wallpaper with your feet.


Although I had been gone for much of last week on a business trip, I had made a mental list of all the things I needed to bring on my 3-Day walk. So by Thursday night, I was packed and ready for the taxi that would pick me at 5:30 AM and drive me Nationals Stadium.

At midnight, Elizabeth woke up crying. When I brought her out to the kitchen for a drink of water, she spotted my bags by the front door and she started to cry even harder.

"Please Mommy," she pleaded. "Please don't leave us again!"

Sometimes, we have moments of pristine clarity. And that moment, standing in the kitchen with my little girl perched on the counter, was a moment of pristine clarity for me. Because it struck me in that moment, that my family needed me more than the 3-Day walk did. Especially since next week, I'm flying to California for another business trip and will be gone yet again.


Making the decision to not do the walk, caused me a lot of anguish. I said I'd do it. I was ready to do it. But even though I had bought new shoes and packed and taken the time off of work, and at least mentally prepared myself for walking 60 miles in three days, I realized, an hour past the 11th hour, that I couldn't - or rather, shouldn't - do the walk this year.

So instead of walking, I solicited the help of my children to make signs and pick out pink gear. We rummaged through boxes and found 200 pink "Be Amazing!" bracelets. We then loaded up the car and drove in to Washington, D.C. where we set up on a nice shady corner along the edge of Dupont Circle. For the next several hours, we cheered on walkers. And I concluded that cheering is just as gratifying as being out there, marching for such an important cause.

Aside from encouraging hundreds, if not thousands of walkers, a highlight of my day was meeting a woman named Jennifer and her beautiful family. Jennifer, as it turns out, reads this blog and it totally floored me when she came up to introduce herself. It really flatters me beyond comprehension that people, especially those whom I've never met, actually read this gibberish.


Jennifer, as it also turns out, is a superstar mother and wife raising her four small children while her husband, who is serving in the Army, is deployed. I'm fairly certain I've written it before, but if not, for the record, the admiration and respect that I have for people who are keeping the home fires burning, while their spouses serve abroad, can not be overstated.

Lesson learned: Whenever I find myself feeling overwhelmed, I will reflect on those people who are maintaining a home and raising their families - without any spousal support - and while also carrying around a variable degree of fear regarding their spouse's safety.

(Imagine me doing a standing ovation, on your behalf.)


Moments after Jennifer left, I heard walkers that had just gone past us, burst in to howling laughter. William, Carolyn and Elizabeth were standing in front of me, so I whipped around looking for Henry. He was standing on a rock, about 20 feet behind me, facing the long line of cars that were preparing to go around the rotary at Dupont Circle. His pants were around his ankles, his hands were planted firmly on his hips, and his little pelvis was jutted out as he was "watering" the ivy.

Ever since we've moved to a more rural area, Henry has come to believe that the world is his toilet. And while I've tried to work with him on going potty inside, my efforts have been futile. In my quest to teach my son the important life lesson of going in an appropriate receptacle, I've discovered that it is absolutely impossible to stop a three-year-old once they start.


I ran to Henry and picking him up, pointed him in the opposite direction, so he at least wasn't facing the scores of people. A few seconds later, once I deemed that he was sufficiently drained and it was safe to do so, I pulled up his little pants and scooped him in to my arms. Just then, a large SUV pulled up immediately curbside. When I looked over I saw two police officers, smirking. One of the officers said to me, "I'm very sorry, Ma'am, but we're going to need to take him with us."

I wasn't fully confident that they were joking, but I decided to take my chances and with arms outstretched, held Henry and said, "HERE! Take him!" That's when both officers erupted in to laughter as one said, "When you've got to go, you've got to go!" There is no truer statement. Although, as I learned this weekend, sometimes the converse is equally true.

When you've got to stay, you've got to stay.


  1. That's awesome! Good for you for knowing when to say when. And thanks for the shout out for sometimes single parenting - I get to play single, working mom of 3 until DECEMBER. I don't think the women in this area get enough support as it is - it's hard to be thrown in and out of single parenting.

  2. I was just cycling through my nightly "blog" reading and thinking...I hope Jen has posted an update. I am one of those people you don't know, who really enjoys your updates, the serious,the crazy, the heartfelt...

  3. Great post, excellent participation in the 3-Day, love the world is my potty attitude-my daughter had much the same insouciance when she was Henry's age. Keeping you in my thoughts as you adapt to the new locale.

  4. Sound like you had a fun time with the family this weekend supporting the walkers. Hope you were able to catch up on a little sleep too.

  5. Miss you!!! If you are going to be in SoCal, let me know!!

  6. Good for you Jenna!!!

    California??! Where and how long? Can we get an ED in?

  7. And no blisters. Best of all worlds.

  8. Good on you for knowing your limits!

  9. I can find nothing in the least wrong with making your kids your priority. Just think, had you run, you would have missed the watering moment!

    On a side note, thanks for the nod. Lucas is of to Afghanistan next month.

  10. of, off, whatever. Spelling, pfft.

  11. Good for you Jen on making the right decision for you and your family!

  12. Oh you are amazing at wrapping these posts all together :) My three year old Sam LOVES to pee whenever- wherever.

  13. Oh you are amazing at wrapping these posts all together :) My three year old Sam LOVES to pee whenever- wherever.

  14. Meeting you guys was definitely the highlight of our day-- the kids are still talking about it! If you're ever driving down to SC and want a break or the kids need to burn up some energy, let me know. We're not too far out of your way!

    Thank you so much for mentioning me in your blog. If you want to link back to mine, feel free. Maybe someone will be interested in my gibberish as well (LOL). I love reading your blog-- it makes me feel better knowing that other people go through the drama and chaos of four little kids. :)

  15. Love reading your post...kuddos to you...family first :)

  16. I know you were dissappointed to not walk, but as a fellow 3dayer, it's the cheering squads that make it so much more fun and push you on! Great for you and great way for your kids to be involved!

  17. OH Henry, there is just no one like him!

    As I sit here (note spelling very well) and living through the painful aftermath of reconstruction surgery - it only took 4 1/2 years, I cannot thank you enough, walking or cheering you were all there to cheer us on mentally, physcially and emotionally.

    And a trick for the next time you return from a business trip, Make sure it's during business hours so you and arrange to stand in your bosses doorway and chat a bit. Have Charlie line the gang up and let them walk one by one up to you saying "OH Mommy, I MISSED you so much" Henry of course should play the '' lead" as the final performer. Perhaps you boss might get the hint that the company employees you, but it does not own you. : )