On Loss, Love, and Connections

standard January 23, 2012 5 responses

I went to a small high school. I had a handful of close friends and a handful of people I knew, but that was pretty much it. Other than the dude who would drink a 6-pack before homeroom and the guy with the drug problem, everyone was pretty much healthy and average.

I went to a huge university and attended two programs at once. Overnight the number of people I encountered on a daily basis grew exponentially. Suddenly I knew people, lots and lots of people. People with health issues, people with mental issues, people with family issues, and people who were absolutely totally average.

I finished school and went to work for a synagogue. Suddenly, I didn’t just know people, I was actively involved in their day to day lives. I was the front line for every health or family crisis. And it was a big synagogue, so there were many, many crises.

And then, because apparently, I can’t get enough of being in the thick of people’s lives, I got addicted to the internet, where millions of people share snippets of their lives every day, weaving webs that entangle you in their ups and downs.

It’s a wondrous thing being constantly surrounded by people. It means that you always have someone to pump you up when you’re down, or someone to chat with when you need a sounding board. It means that you have friends all over the world. It means that no matter what you’re going through, there’s someone out there who can relate.

What it also means is that you know a million more people who are going through tough times.

When I had a handful of friends my life was pretty sheltered. I knew about the usual, run of the mill challenges that people face. As my social and professional circles have grown I’ve seen more and more of the horrors that life can bring.

Most days I love being hyper connected. I thrive on all that connectedness.

Other days the weight of what my friends face makes me want to shut off the world, curl up under a blanket, and never come out.

It was easier when I hardly knew anyone.

My friend Susan is struggling today. I’ve known Susan, first virtually and finally in the flesh, for over 5 years now. She’s the only rocket scientist I can claim to actually know. She’s wise, funny, caring, and a pillar of strength. She’s fought not one, not two, not even three, but four cancers over the last four years. FOUR cancers. She has two little boys and loving husband. She has friends all over the globe. She’s changed how I see science and how I want my daughters to see it. She’s touched my life and improved it. And no matter what happens over the next few weeks, there will always be a little Susan shaped part of my heart. It’ll glow when I show my kids a cool science trick or help them learn about a woman who has changed the world of science.

I know a million people (give or take a couple thousand) and in putting myself out there I’ve opened up my heart to a million heartaches. My heart breaks daily, but if I weren’t putting myself out there, weren’t opening myself to the possibility of sadness and horror, I wouldn’t be opening myself to the possibility of meeting people like Susan.

And if I hadn’t met Susan? Well my life would most definitely be poorer for it.

(One of my favorite posts by Susan: http://toddlerplanet.wordpress.com/2011/09/23/its-not-fair/, demonstrating that strength and wisdom I mentioned above.)

The power of a network and of friends

standard February 9, 2011 5 responses

First there were the Twitter friends. The people I turned to when I was first freelancing and so lonely sitting in the crowded coffee shop day in and day out. I didn’t know the people around me, but I had friends in the computer.

Then there was the bloggers. Silicon Valley Moms bloggers, local and not. They were my friends online and my friends in real life. Not friends I had playdates with, just friends I saw regularly at blogger events.

After that came the more extended blog network. Bloggers I’d worked with, met at conferences, met online, or just gotten to know through their blogs.

Late to the game came the Facebook network – a hodgepodge of real life friends, old school friends, blog friends, twitter friends, and, here and there, family members scattered all over the world.

In the middle of all that virtual connection I discovered a craving for real life tangible friends who could share a cup of coffee, not just “java.” With trepidation I walked into a mother’s group meeting at my daughter’s preschool. A year and a half later I have a real network of local friends, real, amazing people, who do real amazing things, and who are there for me when I need them.

Two years ago I thought my online network was more than sufficient. Today I know that I was missing something. I needed that balance of virtual and real, of online and off, of “colleagues” and friends.

In my mind both of my communities were clear cut and had their own roles. The online people were essentially work relations, the real life ones were friends. But life isn’t ever that neat. Each has bled into the other. I have real friends online and my real life people have proven over and over again that they have my back when it comes to my work and my career.

Either way, I win. I have great people in my corner. Amazing people I’m proud to have in my network and even more proud to count as friends. Their friendship and their faith in me gives me wings. And sometimes, I get to relax, share a mocha or a glass of wine and just enjoy being a friend back.

Letting bygones be bygones

standard June 1, 2010 1 response

It was the place that welcomed me when I was lost with no idea what to do with my life. They gave me a job, a place in their community, their hearts, their space.

I worked hard for six years, spending day in and day out in that place. I cried there many, many times, laughed there equally often, and learned more about myself and human nature than I ever expected to learn in a 9-5 administrative assistant position.

I met the most amazing people, some of whom will be my friends for life. I also met some who defy explanation and understanding so complex are their issues and personalities – in a not good way. (Still boggles the mind years later.)

That place was my home away from home for so long that it took me way too long to realize that the dream had become a nightmare, and that I needed to get out.

I stayed on long after realization finally dawned, sticking it out because it was right for my family if not for me. Everything that had been promised, everything I had been led to hope for had long ago been ripped away and all that was left was a stack of shattered dreams, my destroyed self-esteem, and the community that still supported and carried me.

Smiling faces and kind words made it possible to endure the less savory moments of the last couple years. It was tolerable as long as I knew I was connecting with these people, possibly making a difference in their lives. I never stopped believing that these people cared for me, that they’d be happy for me if I ever found a way to leave, that they would remain my community, my extended family.

Friday night I returned to that place after a two year absence, dreading the moment I would be spotted. What would they say, these people who never reached out? Not an email, not a call, and barely a nod in my direction when we’d cross paths in town. Would they act delighted? Would they hug me? Ask me how things were? Or would they still ignore me? Reject me for having turned my back on their place of worship?

I snuck in late, Little L on my hip, wearing her as a disguise, as a shield – look at the blond curls! not at me! Eyes widened as they looked beyond her cuteness and saw me, recognized me. Smiles blossomed, then slight confusion crossed their faces.

I thought I would be hurt either way. I thought I would be sad if they were happy, wondering where they’d been the last two years, but the hurt and anger thawed in my chest as their smiles grew and people nodded silent hellos. The thaw spread as the familiar music washed over me.

My heart was broken there long ago, but it was also filled there at one time. It’s a place of love that was disrupted by some unfortunate people. Voices rose in prayer around me and I sent my own prayer up to the sky.

“Help me be strong enough to forgive. Help me have the wisdom to let bygones be bygones. Help me not spread the blame to the wrong people. Help me find the strength to come home.”

I’m not home yet, but I have my hand on the door and I’m not as scared to push it open as I was last week. It’s a start at least.

A rally, a giveaway, and a trip to Wisteria Lane (for realz)

standard April 1, 2010 9 responses

I was originally thinking BIG. A fair. A race. A massive rummage sale. Something splashy that would draw huge crowds.

Then I realized that a) I just didn’t have the bandwidth or budget and b) it just wasn’t the point and it would detract from the true purpose of this project.

So I toned it down.

There are still a few details to be hammered out (Such as a location. Oops.), but my hope is to bring my “neighborhood” – the one that spreads all the way up the Bay Area from San Francisco to the South Bay – together on May 8th for a fun bake sale/park playdate/canned food drive.

Why May 8th? Easy. It’s the day before Mother’s Day and I want the mothers of the Bay Area to come together to feed the children of the Bay Area.

Why a bake sale? Because we all love sweets, but also because we want to bring some sweetness to kids who don’t get enough to eat.

Why a canned food drive? Well, that one is pretty self explanatory. But also because I have in my mind a vision of a mountain of cans. A mountain, because to fix this hunger issue in American we need to move some serious mountains.

I need to get all the details hammered out this week because next Tuesday I’m heading to LA for two days.

Why, you ask? Well, that’s easy. ConAgra Foods wants to kick off this massive Neighborhood Rally campaign in America’s most famous neighborhood – Wisteria Lane.

Squeeee.

Ahem.

Yes. I’m heading to LA to go on the set of Desperate Housewives, which would admittedly be more exciting if I ever watched the show. (Insert avid TV watching blogger hanging head in shame here.) The other Child Hunger Ends Here campaign bloggers and I are also going to the LA Food bank to volunteer for a few hours and visit the facility.  (Is it weird that I’m almost more excited about that?)

OK, I can’t take you with me, but I do have something for you my dear readers!

Leave me a comment here cheering me on, telling me how you are doing your part to end child hunger, or just to say hi and you will be entered to win a ConAgra Foods Gift Basket, containing among other things, a Desperate Housewives DVD (Just like being there with me!), a reusable grocery bag, ConAgra Foods coupons, and other goodies.

So go forth and comment! (Oh, and if you wanted to give me some Desperate Housewives key points I’d be eternally grateful. Thanks.) Giveaway winner will be chosen at random and announced on April 26th.

In the interest of full disclosure I have to tell you that I have been hired by ConAgra to spread the word about the Child Hunger Ends Here Neighborhood Rally campaign. I am being compensated for this work, but trust me, I’m going to earn every dime and feed as many children as possible doing it.