Wednesday, February 16, 2011

The Beauty of Part-Time

This morning Mark and I were in the bathroom together while Sadie was writing the grocery list (thank you St. Valentine, as I can't tell you how many times she has said "How do you spell cupcake? We need to get more of those so I am putting those on the list!... How do you spell chocolate?..."). I was wearing my Lululemon running pants and a sports bra top. Mark was in a suit.

"Casual day at the office dear?" says dear husband.
"No, its Wednesday, its my part time day so I am not working this morning." I reply.
"Lucky you!" he says.
"Well, I pretty much only get to drop Sadie off to school, get in my work out, get Sadie's bike tire fixed and maybe grab Daisy some more food at the store, and then I have to be at work. Its no vacation." I say.
"I would love to do that today. Sounds like a great morning to me!" he replies.

And as I sit here now, cooling down from a 6 mile run in the sunshine... I realize, it really is a great day. And I am lucky.

When I first went part time, I had these dreams that the house would have a whole new level of color coded organization. I would have these to-do lists on fancy modern looking post-its and I would check things off with red sharpie pens that would always be right where I left them.  I would write notes to friends and mail them off, letting them know how much they mean to me and apologizing for not keeping in touch so well as I worked my tail-end off as a lawyer for a decade, then insisted they all come play bridesmaid to me when I got married while most of them were popping out children and thus, popping out of the trim dresses I required them to wear, and then demanded their attention when I had my own child at 37 and couldn't figure out what to do with an infant. All these things were going to come together. I was going to have fresh flowers on the kitchen table instead of a glue stick, a tennis ball complete with Daisy slobber, and two sippie cups from who knows when. I was going to have both time and energy.

None of those things have happened. Though, thanks to Mark and Tyler, there are fresh flowers on the kitchen table, the island, and in the dining room!  But the house is still a mess. I still haven't reached out to my friends with notes, but instead have dialogues with them in my mind as I am going to bed, or going for a run.

But two things have happened, and as I sit here now, I know that they are far more important than an organized house. First, my daughter is spectacular. Yesterday the nanny left me a note about their great day, complete with Sadie singing a song that she made up with a refrain "Believe in the Lord, believe int he Lord."  The teacher told me this morning that Sadie has been singing it all week. I said "Is that a problem, I mean is she distracting others?"  "Absolutely not!" she said. They are all about singing, all about Joy, all about the Lord there.  My daughter appears to have been "zonked by the Holy Spirit" as my mother used to say. She is happy, she is well behaved, she is inquisitive, she is thoughtful.  She reflects the personality of her happy nanny, and her happy parents. I could want for nothing more.

And the second thing, I get some me-time. I get my exercise in. I get those endorphins. I am slowly losing the 10 pounds that I have wanted to lose for nearly 4 years. And I get some time with Daisy, who won't be with us forever.  And I call Mark a lot more to say "I love you sweetheart" onto his voicemail. And a lot less to say "I am so stressed and I hate my job and why can't I get anything done anymore."

Life is good.

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Things to Teach

When I decided to leave partnership at my old firm and become a part-time senior counsel at my current firm, I never made an actual list of pros and cons. This was a gut decision, not lending itself to effective list making exactly. After all, I left a job with a lot more money, a lot more friends, a lot more responsibility, to come to a job where hmmm... I would have less responsibility but more time off??? But my "time off morning" yesterday consisted of a brief workout and a walk in the 30 degrees with Daisy and then a rush to work to meet some very rushed deadlines that someone else dictated (a role that I used to enjoy and no longer get to do!). Some days, the visions of my extra teaching time with Sadie, or hours to organize the closets and get together with friend more... they just don't come to fruition. I kept thinking I was going to discover a new passion, a new calling maybe? Instead I feel like I am  largely stuck on number 2 of a 12 item to-do list for projects around the house. I guess the good thing is, generally now I have time to get the lists made, whereas before, I rarely even got that accomplished.

But I digress... one of the known cons to this job is not having an assigned parking space. Ever since I made partner at my old firm, I had an assigned parking space. Now I enter on the ground floor and I often don't find a space to park until the upper part of 3, so you can envision all the right turns I take to get up there (and left turns to leave). And since I drop Sadie to school in the mornings before work and leave to meet the nanny in the evening, I am always in a hurry.

Which brings me to the real point of this post... and that is how well I can drive in parking garages. I drive well. I am slick. I go fast, I make narrow and tight turns. I have never had a wreck. I cut around poles.  I do the things that the signs say not to do. And I despise following someone closely who rides his or her breaks all the way up and down, even pn the straight-aways. One might think I sound reckless, but I am not. Because I was taught exactly how to drive in parking garages.

My father taught me.

My father grow up one of five boys in Pittsburgh. He is as close to all of his brothers now in friendship as he was to them in age growing up (typical Catholic family, these children were born one immediately after the other). They get together at least once every couple of years and we, their 13 descendants, sit in rapt attention listening to them telling the stories of their youth.  In fact, if you don't listen very closely, you won't hear the story, for they often break out in laughter and struggle to tell the end, just slapping each other on the shoulder as they tell the tale, which probably has grown taller through the years. Weddings of my cousins have always been great as everyone attends, and the reminiscing goes late into the night before and after the wedding. In fact, I will confess, that as the bride, I really did miss out on the rituals of hanging out with everyone in one hotel room and sharing stories (though being the bride was fun in so many other respects!).

Here they are at someone's wedding comparing their bald spots for the photographer!  I also have several pictures from different functions where they are comparing their backsides (clothed). They are rarely serious, always laughing, always happy.

My Uncle Jim, who is the third in age (my Dad being the second), loved cars. So the brothers somehow managed to pool some funds together (coming from a middle class family, they were all working at young ages) and bought a car, probably before Uncle Jim could legally drive. Needing to keep this a secret from their very strict father, they hid the car for years by parking it on a neighboring street. They worked on this car though to keep it operational, and drove it all over town. Can you imagine now, in the day of "helicopter parenting," how 5 brothers could keep this secret effectively?  They did. And they sold that car and bought others. These boys were banded. They would never snitch on each other to one of their parents. They were a troop that would do anything to support the others. I believe they still would.

So my Dad and his brothers, some of them worked in downtown Pittsburgh's parking garages. And they have stories to tell on how the joys of this job. Those days, as I understand it, people didn't park their own cars but instead, the attendant (and his assistants, like my father in his younger days) parked them, often like sardines in a can. And when it came time to move one car and others were in the way, well it was an art how they did this effectively and quickly, worthy of a tip! The stories of others' mishaps parking cars made us all laugh.

So my father,  he knows how to drive in a garage. And he taught us to do the same thing. Quick but safe. Confident... but fun.

This morning I was behind a poky person (on his cell phone) and I was exasperated. I needed to get to work and was already running late. For a minute I contemplated passing him on the straight away, but instead I got lost in a few minutes envisioning how my dad must have felt. A teenager, with a job on a Saturday night parking cars for all the movie goers heading to the theatre. Getting behind cars then that were expensive, luxurious, ones that he could only dreaming of owning one day. Driving them up and down the ramps, safely but confidently. Veering around poles to find the right space, backing into tight spots for ease of pulling out or moving later.

It makes me a little sad that he won't be able to teach Sadie the art of driving in a parking garage.

I love the relationship that Sadie has with my Dad (to her, he is Papa). Like the nieces and nephews before her, she views him as a very calming influence to the firestorm that is often my mother (said only in the nicest of ways). As babies, Papa could hold his infant grandchildren safely swaddled in their blankets and get the fussiest babies to calm down. My mother says he did it to us too, as children, and I watched with awe as he did it to my own child. He would come visit Sadie on the early days of my maternity leave when I couldn't fathom a shower or load of laundry and he would pick her up and wrap her in some blankets and say "I am taking her outside, she needs sunshine and a walk." And I would watch from the window as he would walk with her slowly up the block on the sunny side of the street. Sometimes he would put her in the baby stroller but a lot of the time he would just hold her up on his shoulder, so she could look out at the world around her, and yet feel the pressure of his shoulder on her tummy and his hand on her back. He would talk to her the whole way, about things that he was seeing, cars that were passing, houses that looked nice or flowers that were blooming (this was March, most likely, or early April). In a soft and calming voice. He was magic.

This is a picture of when we told my parents that were expecting Sadie.

He won't be able to teach her to drive in a parking garage in all likelihood. But one day, I will. And I will tell her how he taught me to do it. And I will tell her as many of the stories I know from my dad and his brothers growing up. And the joy and friendship that they all had with each other. And how it is that positive outlook, that sense of brotherhood, that keeps you alive and happy. As it has for them.

We have had a tough few weeks with relatives growing older and decisions needing to be made. My parents, God bless them, seem to be in a window of good health. But it doesn't last, we know that. One of the prices that I have learned must be paid for having a child late in life as we did with Sadie, is that you deal with caring for your parents at the same time you are caring for your toddler. My own parents didn't face these things until their own children were largely grown.  This will not be us. And the more I watch and learn how to deal with these difficult issues, the more I fear that one day my own child will face them. And that she won't be as old as I am!

So we are grateful for what we have right now. I am grateful for the memories. Even as I find myself going through them as I drive around the parking garage. After all, my father taught me how to dream and drive at the same time. I, on one hand, am reliving some memories. He, on the other hand, he would look to his future. He probably had the better approach, even then!