Dads

A photo of a dad doing his daughter’s hair while carrying his second child in a baby carrier recently went, as they say, VIRAL and has garnered a lot of different responses.  Most are extremely positive and acknowledge the sweetness which obviously exists between this man and his children.  Some sadly are downright dreadful, racist and as far as I’m concerned, unacceptable in that they suggest this man must have hired these children to pose with him – or obviously doesn’t want to work for a living and is content with letting his wife be out of the home so he can be “lazy” with his kids.  I am not a stay-at-home parent.  First because I can’t be and second, I don’t want to be.  I have been working since 16 and can say that I love to work.  I don’t like my job every single day, but I love being in this environment and feel that this is what works best for both me and Sam.  I feel that working actually allows me to be a better mother to him because working offers me personal fulfillment.  In saying that, we are all different people who want different things and the truth is – none of these things are wrong.

But I digress… this is not about me being a working mom.  This is about dads.  This is about a guy who innocently sent his wife a picture while doing his daughter’s hair and saw it explode into a bunch of responses that he probably wasn’t prepared for.  It unleashed an amazing flood of feelings about how the world views fathers.

I love my dad.  He has been my hero for as long as I can remember.  I am always happy when I do something that pleases him and still at 33, cower in a corner if he seems disappointed in me in any way.  I was terrified to tell him more than anyone else that I was pregnant.  I thought he would be ashamed of me, but he was loving and even remarked that he really wasn’t all that surprised… my dad is the guy I call about my car, about sports or about money.  I call and tease him every snow day (he’s the head of a private school) and I like to hear about the next trip he has planned. He is without a doubt an amazing dad.  But there are SO many different definitions of what a good dad is and I’ve learned that more since Sam was born.  To me, this is what makes you a good dad:

  1. Show interest in your child.  Take note dads… this is easier than ever because of texting, email, Facebook, Instagram, FaceTime, Skype, etc. (If you’re not physically with them daily, that is.)
  2. Express love.  With words, with smiles, with hugs, with kisses.  It is not un-sexy to express love for your children.  On the contrary, it’s plenty attractive.
  3. Support your child.  This is not about money.  Support is so much more than a payment that is sent to the mother of your child if you are not with her.  I can’t speak for all mothers in a situation like mine, but the financial support is secondary to being able to call if I have a parenting question or am concerned about something regarding our child.
  4. Respect the mother of your child.  Not “when” she’s being nice to you.  Not “if” she’s doing what you want.  If I’ve learned anything in life, it’s that to GET love (respect), you have to GIVE it.
  5. Be available.  No, I don’t want you to give up on the things that interest you and make you the man you are.  But if your child needs you, try as hard as you can to be there.

Maybe my picture or view will change as Sam grows.  I hope not too much because I like where I am with this right now.  I like that I can take Sam to be with his dad this weekend for his first birthday and know that I’m not only doing this for my son and his sister, but for his dad.  And honestly, for me.  And not because I have to.  Not because the papers told me to.  But because I want to.  I want Sam to look back at pictures one day and be thrilled that this time was shared with his dad.  I know that today, I already am.

The Power Of Unplugging

Unplugging can mean different things to different people.  For some, it means leaving the TV off at night and reading a book or praying instead of getting sucked into Season Four of “Breaking Bad.”  For others, it means actually walking around the house and making sure they unplugged the flatiron, coffee maker or Christmas tree lights.  For me, it was about six days without checking Facebook and limiting the checking of texts to once (okay…sometimes it was twice) a day.  I was inspired after reading a Huffington Post article before the holidays where the author and other staffers were committing themselves to an almost week of no texting, Facebooking, Tweeting, etc., and wondered to myself, “Could I do this?”  I was intrigued when I read “[P]eople have a
pathological relationship with their devices… People feel not just addicted, but trapped.”
  The word “trapped” spoke – no YELLED – to me and said, “THIS IS YOU!”  I get home around 5:00 every day, say hello to Sam and Gannon, say goodbye to Jordyn or Meg, and immediately plug my phone in.  I feed Gannon, I feed Sam… sometimes, there are inevitable “Ping Pings” that occur.  Oooh… who is texting me?  Who needs me right this minute?  Who can’t remember that great restaurant we had dinner at last month?  Who wants to know what size clothes Sam is wearing these days?  Who is asking if I’ve tried that new Christmas Ale that everyone is talking about?

So we’ve got the phone open… why stop there?  Let’s check Facebook!  I can’t believe she would actually post that about her neighbor… Goodness, if you hate your job THAT much, why don’t you quit?  Awww… what a cute baby!  So I scroll and I scroll and as I’m scrolling, MY cute baby is happily sitting in his high chair trying some pasta and chicken.  But who has time to pay attention to that when you may have gotten an email in the hour and a half since you left the office??  Yes, don’t worry… I’ll make sure that contract is reviewed before the end of the day tomorrow.  Absolutely… I’ll meet with you to make sure you understand HIPAA.  Now, about 15 minutes has gone by and Sam is slamming his sippy cup on the tray and Gannon is drooling over the thought of what may be left over under Sam’s little butt in the high chair.  And I’ve missed every single minute of it.  And I tell myself over and over that I’ll get better about this.  In a text conversation with Sam’s dad about taking pictures, he said something to the effect that this generation’s kids are going to have these vivid memories of their parents constantly looking down at devices.  He’s right… and what scares me most is not how this may impact Sam down the road, but WHAT I MAY BE MISSING.  I may miss a hysterical fit of his laughter, his first step, him throwing a ball to me.  Worse, I may miss a slip or fall, a tumble in the bathtub, a misstep on the stairs.  Regardless, will any of these outcomes lead me to believe that looking at my iPhone in its cute, new Neapolitan case is more important than these moments I can’t get back? The texts will be there.  So will the Facebook posts, the Instagram photos and the work emails.  They aren’t going anywhere.  Sam at 11 months and 354 days will be gone tomorrow.

After the last day of my self-imposed exile from the phone, I turned it back on and I looked at it again.  I’m not going to tell you I didn’t.  I’m also not going to tell you that I haven’t already in some ways fallen back into some of those patterns.  But I’m not giving up on this just yet… after all, tomorrow is another chance and another opportunity to start over, make new and revise an approach, a way of thinking and doing, and determining and owning up to what really matters.  And I have a feeling it’s nowhere to be found in something you plug into a wall…

Your Search Produced Zero Results

It’s a no-shower Sunday and I’m sitting in bed listening to Sam’s congested little chest, watching both Rocky IV and Gannon looking out the window at the still snowy ground and realized the last time I put my words to paper (electronic paper) was on my 32nd birthday.  A birthday where I marveled at the beauty of my life and felt thankful that while things hadn’t fully turned out as I expected them to, I was still a very happy person who knew life was full of beautiful things.  Unbeknownst to me, the girl who wrote that blog about her “missing” children was just about 10 days pregnant.  I wrote about accepting that I may have to wait a little longer for the things I desired, but I knew that in due time, God would bring them to me.  In my faith, I’ve always believed that God hears and acknowledges the desires of your heart.  Since I was younger, specifically since my youngest sister was born, I’ve always known I wanted to be a mother.  Perhaps God heard that prayer louder and with more urgency than the one where I state I want to be a wife.  I acknowledge all too often that I’m just not good at relationships – in them, for reasons I’ve never been truly able to understand or explain, I feel threatened and lost.  I want so badly to care for another person that I don’t let them care for me and in turn, I have a way of shutting out whoever I’m with.  I panic at the idea that someone really could love and accept me for who I am.  I’ve said out loud in my adult years that maybe it would just be easier to be on my own and have a child by myself than find the right man to raise a family with.  Like I said, maybe God heard these prayers louder than he heard others.

Each day with Sam is a discovery of new things.  I’ve never been so afraid as when I saw the numbers on the digital thermometer rise above 100 when he was just four (4) weeks old.  Not ever do I feel as much joy as I do when he smiles at me.  When I hold him and he falls asleep, I wonder if we would all sleep better in someone’s arms than we would curled up in a ball on our sides.  When I feed him, I’m amazed that this little person is growing and has doubled his size based solely on what comes from my body.  When I go to bed at 8:00 on a Friday night, there’s not an inch of my being that is sad I’m not outside the walls of our condo.  Yes, I still crave and appreciate adult contact – girls dinners, book club, conversations with my friends, each day at work.  But truthfully, I feel a sense of peace in being home with him and living life as Sam’s mom that escaped me before.

While life with Sam is fulfilling and happy, I’m far from figuring it all out.  As I’m getting to know Sam, I’m also getting to know his dad.  It’s not easy.  He doesn’t live close and I’m trying so hard to learn how to co-parent with someone I really don’t know all that well while just trying to learn how to parent in general.  He loves Sam and as much as he can be, is there and will be there for him.  I know his intentions are good, but how do you trust someone you really don’t know much about?  How do you just believe that things are going to work out and that he also trusts that I am doing the best I can raising his child from hundreds of miles away?  How well do you need to know each other while maintaining some boundaries knowing you’re not a couple?  When I try in my cloudy mind to navigate how to do this, I’m so clueless.  It’s one thing to marry, have a child and divorce.  It’s another to say hello knowing you’ll say goodbye and then end up in a relationship for at least 18 years with someone you planned on never seeing again.  There are no books on this one… it goes back to the Golden Rule – “Treat Others The Way You Wish To Be Treated.”  I can admit it’s difficult in sometimes testy conversations to not let pride get in the way and to remember there’s a 10-week old who will benefit from whatever positive relationship we as his parents create. I question myself constantly – do I text too much or not enough?  If his dad stays with us, will it give Sam some kind of false hope of a normal family life that lasts longer than 2-3 days every month or so?  Or if it’s all he ever knows, will that not matter?  Who takes him to Disney?  Will Sam feel sad that he may not have a dad around like his friends or cousins do?  Did I do Sam any disservice by choosing to raise him this way?  Can I on a day-to-day basis provide this little guy with enough to suffice until I inevitably meet the right person to share my life with, who with respect for Sam’s dad can step into the role of day-to-day father?  I don’t know.  I know God is helping me figure it out and I know that as long as I have to, I’ll do the best I can to give him everything he needs – I can teach him how to throw a baseball.  I’ll take him to football games.  Family is not always clear-cut or easily defined.  But for us, the only word that does seem to fit is the only one that matters – love.

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32

I didn’t really anticipate writing beyond Lent, but sometimes the thoughts and words are just bursting out of you and you want to speak… you want to say the words out loud, or at least put them on paper.  Not just because you want someone else to hear them or read them, but because you don’t want to forget what you’re feeling.

I turn 32 today.  Never in a million years did I think 32 would look like this… I thought 32 meant marriage and kids and sharing responsibilities of a family with another person.  I thought 32 for me would mean carpools, clothes from the “Ladies” department and bedtime at 10:00 regardless of the day of the week.  Boy, was I wrong… While 30 was my favorite birthday to date, thanks mostly to the amazing family and friends I shared it with and the two AMAZING people who threw me the best party a girl could ever ask for, I feel such a sense of internal happiness and security as I turn 32 today.  I genuinely love my life.  I don’t look at the things that haven’t happened (husband, kids) as things that are missing but as things that are yet to come.  I’m comfortable and okay with the notion that I might be a mom before I’m a wife.  I see my siblings and their beautiful creations (Joshua, Olivia, Jack, Roman, Noah and Gianna), as well as my friends’ children, and know without hesitation that I’m meant to be someone’s mother. 

I’m comfortable ending a relationship because the chemistry is lacking and while he might be a great guy, he’s not the right guy.  In a life filled with common sense, I’ll take passion over what’s rational any day.

I’m proud that I have enough money to live on my own in a fabulous apartment, enjoy delicious meals, dress like I want, take vacations whenever and wherever I want, and spoil my family and friends when I want. 

I am in awe of the circles of friends I have created and that I have the ability to get all of them together once a year for a pretty rocking Christmas party, if I say so myself.

I say it often and I mean it – my life is not hard.  I have absolutely no real concept of what it’s like to struggle to get through a day.  My bouts with depression, self-loathing and a general sense of “Why me, God?” feel ages away.  I don’t expect life to always be perfect or beautiful.  But when I talk to God at night, I am thankful.  When things feel difficult, I try to remember the things that come so easy. 

This is 32 to Jenny Roman.  And it’s lovely.Image 

God Only Knows

Holy week is considered to be one of the most, if not THE most, reverent week of the Catholic calendar.  This is a blog about my faith and about God and about religion, so excuse my swearing when I say that I usually feel like shit for the span of Holy Week.  Not physically ill, but spiritually ill.  You go to church and each and every homily is about abstaining from worldly things that bring you satisfaction, but don’t really bring you true joy.  One priest tells you to see if you can spend the week not gossiping… another challenges you to a week of staying off of Social Media… and yet another asks if you can set aside the money you would have spent on alcohol or chocolate and give it to the less fortunate.  The readings and gospels are about the end of Jesus’ life on Earth – how he was betrayed by his friends, but loved them regardless.  How He, even as the son of God and the believer of all things sacred, asked his father why he was being abandoned in his final, heart-wrenching moments.  But above the pain and the suffering, he asked his father to forgive us because, “They know not what they do.”

We do the best we can do at the time we’re presented with a decision to make.  I believe that with every bone in my body.  When Judas decided to turn Jesus over to Barabas, he believed he was doing the right thing.  When Peter denied knowing Jesus three times, as Jesus predicted he would, he was trying to protect himself even though he loved Jesus.  Both of these men felt instant regret and detriment over their decisions.  Judas chose to end his life… Peter was devastated and wept bitterly because Jesus’ prediction had been accurate, even after Peter told Jesus his accusations were impossible.

As Lent draws to a close and Easter Sunday approaches, I cannot tell you that these last 40 days have made me into a better person.  I am likely a more aware person – a more awake person.  I know that I am just one person in this great big world and my needs are few.  As I like to say, “My life is not hard.”  I know I have a lot to offer those around me who aren’t as fortunate.  I know I want to build a life that makes God happy.  And I know that God knows that.  There is nothing in the bible that tells you God wants you to suffer.  To quote my favorite biblical passage:

Jeremiah 29:11 New International Version (NIV)11 For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.

In your times of trouble, please do what you can to believe this is true.  You are likely to receive more by giving than by asking.  Life is easier if you let go and believe God is with you to guide you, help you and love you.  The next time you’re stressed, stop – breathe – and pray.  Stand with your hands behind your back so you can open your heart to the world and the blessings that surround you.  Wake up and enjoy this beautiful world.

May God bless and be with all of you.

Funeral Blues

At the beginning of Lent, I don’t exactly plan when I’m going to attend daily mass… there are some days that are more obvious than others.  I’m a Eucharistic Minister at the Cathedral each Wednesday at noon – I lector at the Cathedral every other Friday at 5:10.  And on Sundays, you can usually find me in the 5th or 6th pew (it depends on how fast the fan is running) at the 10:00 mass at St. Bede in Mentor.  But the other days, it just depends.

I never go into Lent thinking I’m going to fulfill my obligation at a funeral.  But when I think about it, I have attended more funerals in the last year than ever before, so the rate of its unlikeliness has decreased.  I guess that’s an inevitable part of life – you age and people around you die more regularly with each passing year.  Today, I attended the funeral of a mother of a co-worker.  She was elderly and had battled Alzheimer’s for many years.  My co-worker is now the last surviving member of her immediate family with both her father and sister passing before her mother.  I think if I were in her shoes, that might impact me more than anything else.  I think of my family – 2 parents and 3 siblings and can’t imagine a life without any of them, let alone all of them.  My co-worker is in no way what I would consider “old.”  She is a very enthusiastic, youthful 56.  She travels the world with her husband, meets me for happy hour on occasion and takes great pride in her appearance.  I see a lot of people in that age range who share these qualities and I find it inspiring and comforting.  I want to be energetic, fun and still going on girls’ trips and planning St. Patty’s Day weekends away with Renee and Doug.  I want to care what I look like and I want to have joints that don’t hurt and not be bound to a certain lifestyle because I’m not in the best of health due to anything I have done or haven’t done.  And I want as many of my family members and friends to enjoy this same fate.

When someone you love dies, do you feel that they’re really gone?  Is physical presence important to you?  Does something happen and you feel like the person you loved who passed is sending you a signal?  The priest who said the funeral mass this morning remarked that we should pray to those we’ve lost.  We should keep talking to them because they’re never really gone.

After, I feel like I always do after a funeral – peaceful.  If there is any moment where I sense God is in attendance, it is at a funeral.  He is there to help us through the difficulty that goes along with losing someone we love.  He is there to help us after the fact.  And He is there to remind us that while we are mourning here, the one we’ve lost is happy, safe and listening for our prayers.  Rest in peace, Jean.

The first time is always the hardest

I’m sure I got a chuckle or two with that opening line… or maybe I’m the only one with a mind that operates that way.  Regardless, I think the statement “The first time is always the hardest” is true in so many ways – both good and bad.  Last week I missed mass not once, not twice, not even three times… but four times.  It started Monday – and as I write this nine days later, I’m having difficulty recalling just why I missed mass.  Work has been more than hectic lately, for sure…  Project after project, obligation after obligation.  I know I’m not unique or special in saying that I’m busy at work.  Tuesday of last week took the cake – I had a meeting here at the office until about 7:00PM and then stayed here working on a project until almost 11:30 before heading home, only to stay up until 2:30 in the morning.  Wednesday was more of the same.  I finally got myself back to mass on Thursday of last week, only to miss again on Friday because I was traveling to Savannah.

Does missing mass make me a bad person?  No – I know that it doesn’t.  But I question more what it says about the promises I make to myself and others and how it speaks to other behaviors.  Most people feel bad when they don’t do something they say they’re going to do.  It’s human nature – or at least human nature for those with a conscience.  But have you ever noticed how after the first time you either do something “bad” or don’t do something you said you were going to do, the second, third, etc. time gets a little easier?  Is that why people make New Year’s Resolutions to get healthier and the gym is empty again by February?

I was at a meeting on Monday and one of the presenters said something that has stuck with me – he said, “There’s no such thing as trying.  Either you do or you don’t.”  I could easily say I tried to get mass those four days, but at the end of the day, I didn’t make it a priority and I didn’t find the time to go.  It made me look at other areas of my life where I either do or I don’t.  “I will try to get in touch with that friend,” or, “I will try to spend less money on dresses and shoes and save more or donate more.”

The last couple weeks of Lent are undoubtedly the hardest.  We lose steam and focus.  We wonder if the things we gave up or the things we’re doing extra are making a difference.  I’m not going to just try to make it to mass each day for the rest of Lent.  I’m going to make sure that I do.