In the hustle of back to school, soccer practices and work projects, I’ve found myself thinking about two things. Letting go and being in the moment. Two seemingly IMPOSSIBLE tasks! Thought I’d share an earlier blog that shows a rare moment I was able to realize both.
“This BIKE!” my 7-year-old Caroline huffed.
She pushed a mop of red curls from her eyes.
“I’m never going to get it!” she yelled miserably.
Yep, I’ll have to admit it. On this sunny, crisp spring afternoon, I wasn’t too hopeful that she was EVER going to ride a two-wheeler. Caroline has struggled to ride a bike for a few months. We took the training wheels off near the end of last summer, but it never clicked. She can pedal a few feet, and then she swerves and stops.
Ever explain how to ride a bike? Um, not easy. “Just kind of sit down, but pedal and don’t tip over.” That doesn’t quite cut it.
We tried low seats, we tried high seats. We thought about taking the pedals off. My husband, Jamie, nearly took a header on the pavement, running along side of her. I spent one evening running (in my flip flops – which I don’t recommend) and hanging on to the back of the bike. She’d make some progress, but then would get scared and not want to try it for a while.
And I realized we would always try to hang onto the bike, until we sensed that she could go. We weren’t letting go. We were part of the problem. Ugh, a therapist would have a field day with this.
So I looked at Caroline. “What’s the worst that will happen?” I asked her. Then I echoed the question to myself.
She squinted at me, “I’ll fall.”
She’ll fall, I said in my head.
“And then what?” I asked.
“I could get hurt,” she frowned.
Yep, she could get hurt I inwardly cringed.
“But then what?” I asked.
“You’ll take care of me,” she said simply.
Always, I thought. But first I have to let you go.
“Yep, I will. But first, you have to ride.”
She straddled the bike. One foot on the pavement, the other propped on the highest pedal.
“Now pedal!” I yelled.
She wobbled, she weaved, she fought for control. And it took everything in my being to stop myself from grabbing the bike and steadying her. But she started pedaling as fast as she could. And she was gone, down the street. Jamie sprinted along the grass, keeping a look out for cars. Finally she put her brakes on, and flashed us the biggest smile in the world.
She did it! And for the moment, I was right there. Physically and mentally. I wasn’t thinking about getting dinner started, returning emails, plotting potty training strategy or planning my next career move. On that spring afternoon, I will remember her face, how the air smelled and a tremendous sense of accomplishment. For her. For me. My eyes welled up. Must have been those darn allergies.
“Wow!” yelled Josh.
“Caroline rided her bike!” clapped Kitty.
“It’s easy,” Caroline said as she breezed by.
Of all the moments in life – career accolades, a wedding, births, babies sleeping through the night (trust me, biggest milestone ever), first steps, Kindergarten – this, I will never forget.
I let go, watched her take off. And I was right there to see it.
I heard the cry instantly. It wasn’t the I’m-pretending-to-cry-to-get-my-sister-in-trouble. Nor was it the high-pitched cackling that makes you think someone is crying. It was a full on panicky, pained cry – and I knew immediately our evening was going to change.
We raced to the basement to find 5 year old Josh on the ground, cradling his left foot and screaming that a “green boulder” fell on his toes. I looked around for the boulder (imagining some kind of Wile E. Coyote situation gone wrong), and all I could see were 10 pound green hand weights next to the treadmill.
The next color I saw was red. As in, blood seeping through Josh’s white sock. Despite his screams of protest we took the sock off and saw his big toe, smashed, the nail popped up and a sea of blood like his foot was just amputated.
My first thought: What happened?!! Second thought: I’m going to pass out.
Parenting school does not prepare you for this. I’m not good in bloody situations or wounds that may require an ER. You wouldn’t want me as your trauma nurse. I’d probably throw a towel over your gunshot wound and say “Just don’t look at it, it’ll be ok.” Then weep quietly.
I’ve learned to deal with my own pain (child birth) and suffering (did I mention I gave birth 3 times?) But catching your child’s dripping blood in your cupped palms is a helpless feeling. I wanted to panic, yell, blame someone or just quietly step out the back door.
But I looked at Josh who was sobbing “Mooooommmmy” and suddenly it felt like I went on a mental dash to the phone booth for a quick Superman change. There is something in your soul that just breaks when your child is hurt, the wish you could take on their pain and the need to make it better at all costs. Instinctive parental Super Powers snapped in. As much as I hate blood, it wasn’t about me any more. To Josh, I was the rock. I had the power to make it all better. Instead of crying myself, I had to reassure, comfort and promise cookies for bravery.
This week, the parental super powers were on full display in suburban Detroit. A father was driving his two sons to football practice, when their car EXPLODED (The Feds think someone planted a bomb in the car). But this father, who was just BLOWN OUT OF HIS CAR, along with his 10 and 13 year-old sons, had the presence of mind to call 9-1-1. His voice is a little shaky, but he’s able to clearly state what happened and then describe the injuries to his boys as “deep tissue wounds”. (You can listen to the audio here) He knew he was in a life or death situation, but was able to keep it together, focused on getting help for his boys (who are expected to be okay). The Super Friends have nothing on this guy.
As for Josh, he’s okay too. After my husband and I spent two hours at Urgent Care, we discovered the toe wasn’t broken. Josh also admitted he picked up the hand weight, only to drop it on his foot. So, no renegade boulders.
Parental Super Powers. We have bionic hearing and built in lie detectors. And when anything happens to our children, we have the ability to do what it takes to make it better. It’s nice to know they’re there – now if only I had the super power to make dinner magically appear on the table.
“GET IN CAROLINE’S ROOM,” she bellows and shoves her stubby pointer finger at me.
“What? I’m getting someth-” I start to say.
“GO!” she points and marches by in her froggy tank top and bright green polka dotted pajama shorts.
Like the victim of an ancient Jedi mind trick (“These aren’t the droids you’re looking for”) I start walking towards Caroline’s room when suddenly I stop.
WAIT A MINUTE.
“You’re two,” I say to frog pjs. “You don’t get to tell me what to do.”
But oh yes, she does. You see, I live with a tiny Jack Bauer. She doesn’t look like the rugged, hard-nosed and beloved counter terrorism agent that saved the world in the TV show 24. She has strawberry hair, dimples, puppy dog eyes and chunky little legs. But like Jack, she shouts commands multiple times, wildly gestures, doesn’t take no for an answer and can make people cry.
Catherine, or “The Kitty” as we call her, is two and a half. She’s the third child. The baby. (And according to the Department of Agriculture, will cost me $286,050 to raise. But I digress) She wants to do everything her big siblings do, and then some – she’s got to be loud so she’s not left behind. She’s a room wrecker, a LEGO destroyer and can turn the Barbie Dream House into a scene from “Hoarders” in five minutes. She likes to do what she likes to do. I think that’s part of being two years old (or coming from a long line of control freaks)
She can change her mind at a moment’s notice – even getting an afternoon snack can be tricky.
“I want goldfishies in a bowl,” she mutters.
Ok, here’s a bowl of goldfish.
“No, put it in a bag. PUT IT IN A BAG!”
She never asks questions. Like Jack Bauer in an interrogation room, she demands until she gets the answer. And if she doesn’t like the answer, she’ll ask again only louder.
“Where’s Daddy?” she suddenly appears at my feet.
“Um, I’m not sure whe- “
“WHERE’S DADDY?! WHERE’S DADDY?!”
It makes me want to confess to something – like I really know where Daddy is and I’m just holding out on her. (Thank goodness I don’t know the secret location of nuclear weapons – I’d crack in a minute)
Kitty is also all about law and order. If her brother does something wrong, she’s the first person to pile on and yell “NO JOSH YOU CAN’T DO THAT!” while pointing forcefully at him. This can bring Josh to tears and he yells “You’re NOT the MOM!” (I say, if you want the job, it’s yours)
She sounds nutty, but most of the time Kitty is actually a silly, affectionate, happy and curious two-year old. Like Jack, she has many redeeming moments that make us root for her. Like when she volunteered to help Josh clean up his toys. And when Caroline fell down and hurt herself, Kitty rushed over, hugged her and said “That’s ok, Caroliney, you’ll be ok.”
But I know, I’ve got to rein in my little Jack, before she goes rogue and makes her occasional demands the norm.
“I want fishies,” she told me the other day.
“Please?” I say.
“PLEASE GET ME FISHIES!”
Ok. Not perfect. But a start.
When I woke up on September 11th, 2001 in Royal Oak, Michigan I had no idea I would go to sleep that night in New Jersey – with the cloud of smoke from lower Manhattan visible from my hotel window.
9/11 is my generation’s “Where were YOU?” We all have the stories. No, I didn’t run for my life, watch the towers crumble from blocks away or lose someone I loved. I instead had a front row seat to history as a reporter. And for a week, struggled to cover the story of my lifetime.
I was sleeping on 9/11. Until the phone woke me up. My new husband (married almost 4 months) called to tell me to turn on the TV. As I watched both towers in Manhattan burn, my call waiting beeped in. It was my boss at Channel 7 (WXYZ). He told me to start packing and come to the station because I was going to New York. This was 9:20am.
By 11 that morning, after the Pentagon was hit, the towers collapsed and Lord knows whatever else was going to happen, I was in a van and driving to New York with photographer Nate Penn (thankfully an easy-going, kind, hard-working and huggable man). Midway through Pennsylvania, electronic road signs warned that all bridges and tunnels to Manhattan were closed.
When we reached New Jersey that evening, we had to talk our way through turnpike check points, in order to reach our satellite truck at Liberty State Park (LSP is just south of lower Manhattan across the river). As we got closer, we could see the smoke, and hundreds of ambulances lining the waterfront waiting for the injured that would never come. Minutes before I went on the air, my newsroom told me of a breaking report of more explosives in New York. I was numb.
The next day was a blur. I had about four hours of sleep and we still couldn’t get into Manhattan. Instead we interviewed rescue workers who came in and out of Liberty State Park to dig in the pile. People started walking up to our truck, asking us to put their missing family member’s picture on the air, in hopes of getting information. The acrid smoke was foul-smelling, and there was the constant, thundering parade of fighter jets circling Manhattan. They were the only planes in the air. I did five live shots from New Jersey that day/night, standing alongside a line of reporters, all talking at once. We learned the bridges and tunnels to Manhattan would open the next day. I dreaded it.
Thursday morning we drove through the tunnel and into Manhattan. The traffic was terrible. Soldiers held rifles at the checkpoints. We parked near Chelsea off the West Side Highway in a public garage. I had a map in my pocket, several camera batteries in my backpack and carried the microphone. I was wearing blue tennis shoes. (blue. Who let me buy blue sneakers, let alone wear them??) Nate had the camera. We looked at each other and just started walking south. We wound our way through Greenwich Village, the streets were silent, which was just so bizarre. I remember at one point we saw garbage trucks packed with wreckage rumbling up the street. There was a mini shrine on the opposite corner, with candles and fliers of missing people. Sirens, I can’t explain the sirens. They were constant – whether chirping, or blaring, or beeping. The continued roar of fighter jets. The smoke. We stopped on Houston Street. I had to get my breath.
Where was I going? This was the hardest part. As a reporter, I’m usually sent somewhere to cover a story. A murder, a fire, a city council meeting. There’s only a certain amount of people who are a part of those stories – it narrows your focus.
But this. I was sent to the aftermath of a terrorist attack. IN NEW YORK CITY. The stories were everywhere, on every corner. Do I stop the woman crying on the sidewalk? The teen passing out water bottles to workers? The only guy I saw walking on his block? I froze. I was overwhelmed, anxious, scared and tired. Nate looked at me and said, “What do we do?”
For ten minutes we just stood there. Finally I saw sanitation workers walking in a group. Toward Ground Zero.
“We’re going to follow them,” I said to Nate.
Turns out they were sanitation workers that had been reassigned to clear wreckage at Ground Zero. We walked more, and ran into little stories everywhere. A cop gave us filter masks to wear. A woman pined a red, white and blue ribbon on my jacket. Each person I met, gave me the ammo to keep going. We stationed our live truck along the West Side Highway, near the staging area for work crews going in and out of Ground Zero. I had made it through the “What the hell am I going to see?” day. A few times the sirens were so loud and frantic, they made me want to burst into tears. After my 5pm live shot, I did.
On Friday, my toughest stop so far. A fire station in Midtown that lost 12 men. The Captain spoke with me on camera, but none of the guys did. I spoke with a few privately and one firefighter broke down while talking with me. There’s something about seeing a man cry, knowing he’s so emotionally and physically pushed to the limit, that he breaks down in front of a stranger. I won’t forget his piercing blue eyes.
The President arrived that day – and we talked to people about what he said, how they were coping. Much to our surprise, the President’s motorcade drove right past our live camera during the 5pm news. That night when we went to grab dinner, people started coming out to street corners with candles. Restaurants stopped, people stopped – as close to a moment of silence as you can get in New York. That night it all caught up to me – on the air I remarked that we had been there since Tuesday night. It was now Friday, and it felt like a lifetime had gone by. At this point I had traded in the TV reporter suits for a zip up jacket I bought at the Gap a few blocks away and jeans.
On Saturday we decided to find volunteers, loading food and supplies onto trucks for workers at Ground Zero. There were hundreds of skilled trades workers waiting to volunteer down at the pile. I managed to meet two men who were transporting those workers and asked if Nate and I could ride with them. The press wasn’t allowed within the Ground Zero boundaries. (There was even one reporter who impersonated a federal agent to get near the pile. He got arrested) We took a risk to even go that far, but I had this need to see it for myself. The guys agreed to take us, so Nate put his camera on the floor and covered it up. We didn’t touch it, but instead our volunteer drivers took pictures with their camera. And I finally got to see with my own eyes. It was as terrible as you can imagine, a smoking pile, so very high. The pictures on TV couldn’t capture it. Nate and I didn’t get out of the tow truck. We just looked. Later that night, we dashed into Midtown, begged a drug store film developer to turn the pictures around in an hour. (There were a lot of people getting film developed – showing their pictures of the World Trade Center in flames) We got them just in time for our 11pm story.
Two more days of reporting – finding people moving back downtown, the stock exchange opening back up- and then we went home. A full week after we left. I couldn’t watch much tv when I came home because I just found myself crying. I couldn’t fully react when I was in New York, because I was frantically trying to tell the story, setting up for 5 live shots a day, sleeping only a handful of hours a night and constantly thinking, “Ok, what’s next? Where do we go from here?” It came pouring out for weeks after.
That year I went back to Manhattan two more times, and did features on the viewing platform at Ground Zero and Fresh Kills Landfill, where they processed the remains. I was there for the first and second anniversaries. It felt better to be back those times – it was less frantic, there was rebuilding, life moved forward. I was able to be a part of a healing New York, which made me love the city even more.
This anniversary, I will be at home, with my three children and husband. I wonder when my kids will start to be aware of 9/11 or how I’ll explain it to them. I still have all the newspapers I saved from that week, and those silly blue sneakers. It has been difficult to look back at this old video. I have always been uncomfortable seeing myself on TV, I can’t help but be critical of everything: my voice, hair and gestures. I also feel bad for that girl from 10 years ago, in the middle of it all – sometimes talking too fast, talking too much or struggling to find the right word. I want to tell her, it’ll be ok. And it is, though military jet fly overs still make me shaky. But I find that many of the decisions I’ve made in my life have been influenced by what I did and what I saw that week in New York. Admiration for people who persevered, even after their lives changed in an instant. The knowledge that life is fragile. And faith – I felt that God watched out for me and helped put people in my path, so I could do the job I had to do.
As journalists, we all want to tell THE story. I got that chance. Ten years later, and it is still so clear. I will never forget. I hope we all never forget.
Dearly beloved… we are gathered here today to celebrate this thing called life..
I hear this while sitting at the pool, and think:
- I know every word to this song
- I burned up the gym floor in middle school dancing to this song (wearing ankle pegged stonewashed jeans)
- I would scream like a Beiber-loving tween if Prince walked up to me
And a goofy smile comes to my face. Then I see two 10-year-olds look at each other and say: “Omigod. What IS this song??”
WHAT?! How can they not know… oh no… I’m sounding really old. I have just realized I am stuck in a musical time warp. I turn to my Ipod for proof of any solid recent music. Not much. But I am swimming in Pearl Jam, Live, Blues Traveler, Toad the Wet Sprocket, Counting Crows. And a few solid songs from my Time Life discs called “Livin’ In The 90’s”. (Rico Suave, anyone?)
For some reason my musical progression in life stopped around 2000. But why? Do we only connect to music at certain times? When we reach our 30’s, is our musical heart already full? (Is it something to do with kids – because we have to listen to annoying children’s tunes all the time and can’t stay current with the top 40 charts?) Sure, I listen to new music and like it. But I always seem to turn back to my comfort music.
When I hear Beyonce’s “Single Ladies” (which is a fantastic tune), I can’t remember anything in my life linked with that song. There’s no gut reaction. When I hear “Use Somebody” by Kings of Leon I don’t say, “Oh, that’s when we….” Nope. Nothing. Even with artists that have spanned the generations. I love old school Madonna and Beastie Boys. But their newer stuff doesn’t hold that same pull for me.
So for my husband’s 40th birthday party last week, we kind of used the theme “Party like we’re 25 again”. I started making a list of all the great songs we listened to in our twenties and it turned into this nostalgic jam session at our computer.
Just hear the beginning notes of “Alive” by Pearl Jam and I’m instantly transported to a college bar (wearing a flannel shirt, of course) I hear Dave Matthews, and I’m hanging out at the house I live at in Royal Oak with two other friends, talking about politics, life and possibilities. Rob Base and DJ EZ Rock “It Takes Two” brings me to a house party where I rapped while standing on a couch (I know you’re sad you missed that) Fiona Apple’s “Criminal” takes me to Chicago, where friends and I celebrated a promotion.
I thought that maybe I was the only crazy one. But I just went to a birthday party for a friend turning 60 and the DJ was spinning only classic rock. My parents are still partial to Chuck Berry. My oldest sister still dreamily recounts the time she met the band Dead Milkmen and talked her way backstage at a Depeche Mode Concert.
So, I thought, being trapped in the 90’s isn’t so bad. If I start pulling out old flannel shirts, well, that’s when you’ll have to stop me.
Tell me… what era are YOU stuck in?
Here’s my 90’s playlist: how did I do?
Still Haven’t Found What I’m Looking For, One – U2
Into The Great Wide Open, Learning to Fly – Tom Petty
Walk on the Ocean – Toad the Wet Sprocket
Interstate Love Song – Stone Temple Pilots
Up the Junction – Squeeze
Two Princes, Little Miss Can’t Be Wrong – Spin Doctors
Baby Got Back – Sir Mix-a-lot
Crazy – Seal
Possession – Sarah McLachlan
Give It Away – Red Hot Chili Peppers
Jeremy, Alive – Pearl Jam
Smells Like Teen Spirit – Nirvana
You Get What You Give – New Radicals
All Over You – Live
Jump – Kris Kross
Right Here, Right Now – Jesus Jones
Closer To Fine – Indigo Girls
Bed Of Roses – Indians
Time, Hold My Hand – Hootie & the Blowfish
When I Come Around, Welcome to Paradise – Green Day
Found Out About You, Hey Jealousy – Gin Blossoms
Freedom – George Michael
Criminal – Fiona Apple
Unbelievable – EMF
Tripping Billies – Dave Matthews
Round Here – Counting Crows
Closer to Free – BoDeans
100 Years, But Anyway – Blues Traveler
So What’cha Want – Beastie Boys
You Oughta Know, All I Really Want – Alanis Morissette
Gangsta’s Paradise – Coolio
Whoomp! – Tag Team