Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Sick baby

Bailey came down with the flu recently. Not one to cry, she just sat still in her most pitiful pout that she could muster. She missed her entire first week at her new school as her temperature reached as high as 103.7 at one point.

Poor baby!

Changing Times

We recently made a decision to change schools with the girls. We've loved where they have been but we haven't loved the hefty monthly bill and the long commute. So the girls have started at a new school that is just minutes from the house. So far, they are quite happy and that makes us happy.

Reagan's favorite part about her new school? She doesn't have to wear uniforms anymore. She's been picking out her clothes every morning and loves the opportunity to do so.

Here are the girls in their last day of uniforms. Here's to new schools, new friends, and new memories.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

It All Started With Two Pink Lines and a Computer

Four years ago, I found out I was pregnant with Reagan. Daunted at the news and some ensuing complications, I did what many modern women do-- I took to the internet. I thought I was just looking for the answers to "morning sickness cures." While I never did find the answers to curing morning sickness, I found something much greater--friends.

It started when I stumbled across a "mommy board" where all of the women were expecting babies at the same time as me. Many were experiencing the same problems as me. Many had the same questions as me. I can't pinpoint the moment where this mommy board turned. Turned from being a resource of anonymous women providing answers, to being a conglomeration of wonderful friends providing support and comfort. But it did happen. And over the course of four years the desire to go from being friends through a network of fibre cables to being friends in the flesh became quite great. So much so, that some of us finally decided to meet.

Over the weekend, six of us from across the country converged in New York City to meet in person for the first time. I wasn't the least bit nervous. Through the boards and then through blogs, I felt as though I had gotten to know these women quite well. They were at a distinct disadvantage with me, however. I hadn't blogged all year so they didn't really know what had been going on with me and over time I'm sure the memory of me had faded a bit. After all, I was still only pixels and memories to them at this point. Nonetheless, they still wanted to meet me and I them.

In short, it was a fabulous weekend. The trip was everything I had hoped it would be and more. The women were everything I had come to know them to be and more.

I don't want to take away from the great posts that my new "real life" friends have already written, so let me point you their way so you can check out their take on the trips in first person view. It's interesting to me that all of them wrote very different posts about the same weekend. They all wrote their posts with focuses from their own strengths and their personality. Had I not have met them in person and been part of the weekend, why they each wrote with a different slant would have been totally lost on me. I love that I've now been able to delve into that aspect of them and see even more into their posts.
  • Joanna wrote a fabulous post about the trip and the good, human side of the internet and summed it up beautifully as "Jelly Bellies for the soul." It was a fitting post coming from a woman who is even smarter and wittier than her posts allow her to be, and that is saying much.
  • Lindsay wrote a great post about where we went, what we did, and how we ate, shopped, and twittered ourselves across the city. Lindsay is a planner and an organizer. She sent out spreadsheets and Word documents about our trip plans and emergency contacts. Can I just say just how much I love that?
  • Laura is the photographer I hope to be one day. She took some great pictures and applied some skillful editing to make us all look good. Her post is loaded with some of those great photos.
  • London wrote of our "shenanigans" and conversations. London has a flair for writing and words and it was only fitting that she would focus on that aspect.
  • Rita wrote--well I'm sure Rita has written her post in her head a dozen times (As she says she often does, and I admit to doing too. I intend to rectify this I swear!). Since Rita hasn't published her post, I'll speculate on what Rita has swimming in her head. I'm guessing Rita would write a post focusing more on people's character and personality. Rita herself is a person booming with character and personality, as are the other women. But in Rita's case, it seems to come easiest for her to know exactly who she is and to be precisely that.
I think the descriptions of each person in the above posts were quite accurate so I won't repeat those. Allow me to sum up how I feel about all of these women by saying that although we have different political, ideological, and whatever views, we still have much in common. They are all women I greatly respect and admire. They are all smart, friendly, compassionate, funny women. I laughed this weekend and let go like I hadn't in ages. It was like meeting old friends from school and just picking up where we left off years ago. They are all women I would choose to have in my circle of friends if they lived close to me. But since they don't, I'll have to continue to know them through Facebook, Twitter, and their blogs. Then, when we meet again next year, we'll just once again pick up where we left off.

It was such a wonderful experience that I hope to meet more of my online friends in the future. It's truly amazing to me that this whole weekend started its making four years ago as nothing more than a search for answers after seeing two little pink lines on a pregnancy test. And know I have the pleasure of calling five amazing women...friends.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

My 9/11 Story

I appreciate the many emails, comments, and concerns I've received over the last several months regarding my absence here. Please know that I appreciated every one of them. You all made me feel loved. I will be back to posting VERY, VERY soon, I promise. But first, let me retell my story I published last year of my 9/11 experience.

May we always remember.

It was September 10, 2001. As the plane made its approach into the Newark airport, I did my usual routine. Looking out the window, I looked for the Twin towers of the World Trade Center. They were always so easy to spot on the edge of the skyline. From there, it was a straight shot down to find the little green spot that was the Statue of Liberty. I never got used to how tiny Lady Liberty was against the massive skyscrapers. The pictures and stories of her always seemed to make her seem much bigger in proportion than she really is.

I found my Twin Towers, found the Statue of Liberty. Check, and check, my ritual was done and I could go back to my latest James Patterson book. It was never really worth the time, but it was the only thing left in the newsstand selection of 20 books I hadn't read.

I picked up my rental car, drove to my hotel and checked in. I considered going into the city for dinner. I was just across the river from Manhattan and had nothing to do until I started teaching my class the following morning. But I decided I was tired of the city and same old same old and ordered room service and worked on reading my book.

Morning came and my day started just like the other 600 classes I had started before. I greeted students, made sure the computers were setup properly, familiarized myself with the facility, and made sure I knew who my contact was if an issue arose. At 8:30 the class promptly began and I started my introduction that at this point was a memorized speech.

Around 8:45, a student's phone rang. I made a mental note to make sure I moved up my "please silence your phones, put pagers on stun, etc." speech and glared at the student as she took the call in the middle of the class. I was hoping she saw my evil eye. Only as I was giving her the evil eye, I was noticing something in her eye--tears and panic. I was caught off guard and paused to look at this student and tried to imagine what sort of family emergency has just happened. She put down her phone and with a trembling voice and trying to hold back her tears said, "Something has happened. There was an explosion or something at the World Trade Center."

With the vast numbers of people that work at the WTC and being just across the river, I don't believe there was a single student that didn't also panic. No one in that classroom was without a loved one, a neighbor, or a friend that didn't work there and was immediately concerned for their safety. We stopped class while everyone started making phone calls, getting on the internet, going outside to see if we could see anything. Details were sketchy but it was clear that something big had happened. Then we find out it was a plane that crashed through. What a terrible accident, how could that have happened? Wait! There's a second plane! It just crashed into the other tower! This wasn't an accident! Our nation is being attacked and I'm sitting 10 miles from the epicenter.

We dismiss class and tell people to go home and try to find out what has happened to all of their loved ones. The phones were completely overloaded and everyone was having trouble getting through. My sister, Tara, was the first to get a message to me. Her message was, "Hey! I was just checking to make sure you are ok. I don't know where in the world your are today, but given your history of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, I'm guessing you are in NY. Call us and let us know." I was finally able to get through to her and to Mom to say yes, I was in NY, but I was fine. That didn't stop my Mom from being near hysterical but I assured her I was ok and not in danger. Was I in danger? I didn't really know. I still didn't know entirely what was going on. My statement meant I was alive and ok at the moment but I wasn't going to tell her that distinction.

In my stupor I go back to my hotel to watch the news and surf the net to figure out what is going on. On the way I could see the smoke pouring from the towers. I wasn't close enough to see the towers. I couldn't handle looking at them yet anyway. I learn the Pentagon was also attacked and there's word of potentially some heroes that ensured a fourth plane wouldn't take another target. Then, right there on my TV, it happened. I watched the first building buckle like a house of cards. I began sobbing thinking of all of my students and their loved ones. There were husbands, wives, sisters, even children in the daycare. How many were lost? Shortly after I see the second building collapse and I can no longer sit in my room.

I got into my car. I drove down towards the towers. When they were in clear view of the massive black pouring of smoke, I pulled over. Right there on the interstate I pulled over to the emergency lane and with everyone else and got out of my car and stood along the wall. There were no more towers to see, only smoke. I wish I had paid more attention to them yesterday. I wish I had known that would be the last time I would set site to the grand buildings. I would have looked longer, I would have gone into the city and taken another tour of them, I would have done a lot of things different.

I don't know how long I stood there crying just watching, sobbing, being numb. Emergency vehicles were constantly roaring down the interstate behind me, heading for the scene. Every time I heard their siren it jolted me out of my trance for just a second. Finally I put my thoughts together and decided I would do the only thing I could do, I would go donate blood. Surely there were many injured survivors that would need blood. I could do that. I found out a location of a Red Cross. Apparently half the city had the same idea. I was turned away as they couldn't handle any more donations. Defeated and unable to help in any way I could fathom, I went back to my hotel.

When I got to my hotel, the scene had changed. They were using the lobby as a makeshift treatment facility for emergency workers suffering from smoke inhalation and other minor injuries. Camera crews from neighboring cities had checked in and set up shop. I went to my room and cried again. I had never felt so alone. It was too far to drive home and the airports were shut down tight. I was stuck. I had no one I knew, no one who loved me to hug me and tell me everything would be ok. I cried myself to sleep.

A few hours later I woke with a start. Had I left the iron on this morning? What is that burning smell? I checked the iron. It was unplugged and put away thanks to the housekeeping service. Was it my curling iron? No, it was off too. I stepped out of my room and still smelled that wretched smell that burned my nose. My heart was heavy as I finally processed what that smell was. It wasn't the curling iron, or the iron, or the air system. It was the smell of the burning of two giant skyscrapers, two planes, and all of the people for whom it became a tomb. It was the smell of death. It is a smell that didn't escape me the rest of the time I was there and a smell that still plagues me to this day. This was the most vivid of my memories.

The next morning I showed up for class. I figured it had been canceled but no one was able to get through to tell me otherwise. I had nothing else to do anyway. To my surprise, six others showed up too. I learned that many in that class lost loved ones. It wasn't the news I wanted to hear. But there were six out of 24 that had shown up, that had all friends and family accounted for, and they wanted to learn. So I taught. I finally had a purpose in all this madness. I would teach my class and they would help me get through this.

Normally I teach a class by using humor. I skipped the jokes that week. I wasn't in a funny mood and it seemed inappropriate to laugh anyway. I bought them pizzas during lunch and held to every minute of class as precious time for me to have someone to talk to, people to listen to, people who would keep my mind off of what happened 10 miles away.

When the class ended that Friday, I was fortunate enough to be able to make the very first flight out of Newark when it reopened that day. It was times like these that I was glad I put in over 200,000 miles a year on Delta. They saw to it I was going home as soon as I could. My stepdad had been working in Princeton about 45 minutes away. My Mom begged and pleaded with me to drive home with him instead of getting on the plane. I calculated the amount of time I would have to spend with my stepdad in the car and decided I'd rather take my chances with the terrorists in the sky.

Although the airport was nearly empty, it took me four hours to get to my gate. They rifled through everything I owned while it was open on a table for any passerby to view my panties and my other contents. They took my tweezers, my favorite diamond chiseled tweezers that could search and pluck any stray eyebrow hair. They confiscated my water. They made me turn my computer off and on half a dozen times. But I wasn't complaining. I figured all of these precautions weren't going to stop another terrorist attack, but it still made me somehow feel safer nonetheless.

My plane left that Friday afternoon. Just four days after the world had changed. As the flight took off, it flew in the familiar pattern and over near the Twin Towers and Lady Liberty we go. Only this time there would be no towers to begin my ritual of finding The Statue. Instead, the smoke still billowed as black and strong as ever where the buildings once stood. No one spoke as the flight flew past. Tears glistened in everyone's eyes. I paid my respects, said a prayer, and wondered what life was going to be like after today.