Wednesday, July 13, 2016

Be the Neighbor You Wish You Had

Be the change you want to see in the world.
Write the book you want to read.
Build the company you want to work for.
Be the neighborhood you wish you had.

Last time we got together with our neighbors, I told them how I’d been bragging about how awesome they are. We frequently have happy hour on my driveway, cookouts in our adjoining backyards, and cornhole games that get a little too competitive.

Last Friday I was talking about the camaraderie in our neighborhood with a colleague in New York City and she said, “I wish we had that.”

My book club ladies all echo the same sentiment. We all know people who won’t let their kids play outside unsupervised.

Then it occurred to me: I built this.

It started with me sitting outside with Hollie and beckoning my next-door neighbors over whenever they were outside. Then we started inviting people who walked by up on to the driveway for a game. When the kids found a new friend, I walked over to the friend’s house and invited the mom over for wine.

When it was time to go home, the neighbor parents walked over and collected their children and we chatted for a few minutes.

It seems obvious to me now that you would introduce yourself to the people your kid knows but, really, how many people do that? I don’t know any of the moms at the dance studio. Admittedly I haven’t invested in them at all.

But I did invest in my neighbors. I got to know them: which ones are Clemson fans and which ones are Gamecocks, which kid belongs to what adult, where the house is, what they do for a living, if and when they’re home in the afternoon or over the weekend.

Knowing my neighbors keeps my kid safer.

Not safe. She’s safe because she’s been taught how to spot danger, how to stay with others, and how to find help when she needs it.

But knowing the neighbors makes her safer because she knows she can ask them for help.

It's probably the influence of the tireless networking I've been doing for Clemson Road Creative. I'm not afraid to reach my hand out and say my name. I'm not afraid to drink wine with strangers. They're only strangers for a few minutes usually.

If you wish your neighbors hung out together and that you did more than wave as you drove past on your way to work, take yourself outside and sit. Watch. Wait. Wave. Wine.

Encourage them to stop on their dog walk or to meander over for a cocktail. We keep the fridge stocked just for giving away booze. And water and soda of course.

We have so many of those sayings about how you can enact change. Be the change you wish to see. Live the story you want to write. Toni Morrison said write the book you want to read.

I built the business I wanted to work for.

The neighborhood isn’t any different. If you put yourself out there, show you’re willing to make friends and learn about them… If you show you’re a safe place for children to play and a fun place to drink wine…

If you show yourself, you might just create the friendly neighborhood you’ve been wishing you had.

Thursday, June 2, 2016

So Long, Brando

I loved my Miata.

It was little, sporty, quick, and an obvious declaration that it was just me and Charlie against the world. So in 2007 when we found out we were expecting Hollie, the first thing that had to go was the Miata. It was no longer just us.

Most newly-pregnant families will recognize that alien feeling of knowing someone else is going to show up and be around for a while. Those of us who’ve been parents for a while might forget what it felt like to be “expecting.”

It felt miserable.

I put off selling the Miata for four months after we found out. Denial, certainly.

Charlie even sent me pictures of Miatas that came to Discount Tire with baby seats in the front seat. As much as we knew expansion was upon us, the confines of our duality were very hard to break.

Enter Brando. The 2008 Honda CRV had a stubborn under bite look to it. I liked the leather seats, the sunroof, and the gas mileage. I hated the mini-van feel of the arm rests, the windshield, and the tailgate.

Even so, Brando was a good car. 

We called him Marlon Brando as a nod to the underbite and he took Hollie and me over 180,000 miles. Our most recent road trip was to Florida and try as he might, Brando couldn’t get the A/C to work more than 30% of the time.

So it was time. The guy at Carmax said, “This is a good car. Why are you selling?”

I took a long look at Brando — 180,000 miles to Clemson for ball games, to Northern Virginia to visit family, to Florence to see my Nana every week until she died. The Clemson Love sticker with the tiger paw “o” and the orange palmetto tree sticker in the back windshield. The fray on the passenger armrest, the middle console compartment that had been stuffed with crap for so long I hadn’t opened it in years.

Eight years with Brando.

“Call it a mid life crisis,” I said.

I got Brando because I was having a baby. I don’t have a baby anymore. I have a kid. So we now have a Jeep.
Bragging about the weather in S.C. in April

When I polled my friends as to whether they thought I could pull off a Jeep Wrangler (“Am I too old?”) it spurred a discussion about car purchasing, selling, trading, etc.

My recently married friend who drives a cute Volkswagen convertible she inherited from her Nana mused she’d need to think about selling Patsy Jean (yes, we all name our cars). She said the car doesn’t fit her step son’s car seat and she’s planning to have another baby soon, so she needed to think about a change.

“No!” I shouted into the group text. “Do NOT mom up before you have to.”

Eight years with Brando. Eight years in which I felt like “Mom.” A sort of generic entity that described more my daily required caloric intake than it did my personality, ambition, or talents.

Hollie wept when we sold Brando. Turns out naming your car makes him part of the family and he was the only car she’d ever known.
A tearful goodbye to Brando in the driveway before school.

But not me. I remembered the Miata. I remembered who I was before Brando.

And now the Jeep. We’re calling her Brandi as a nod to our boy blue. She’s white and fun and topless and rough-and-tumble.

She makes me feel unfuckwithable. 

I’m not Miata Kasie anymore. Charlie and I are not a duality and never will be again. But Brandi has a back seat (albeit a chilly one with the top down). And Hollie’s pretty much recovered from the shock of loss and has decided she likes Brandi.

I can’t imagine she recognizes the significance of her. I didn’t recognize the significance of my own mother moving from Colony Park station wagon to Bronco II in 1990. 

Even so, I recognize it  in myself and it feels amazing. I’m still a mom. I’m just having more fun than other moms.

So long, Brando. You did what you were meant to do and now it’s time to move on.

Monday, May 16, 2016

Love Builds Confidence

For Mother’s Day, Hollie gave me a picture card she’d drawn in school. It said: 

You like to read and write with me, write and read, write and read, write and read. You work every day, work, work, work, work. You watch movies and shows with me, watch, watch, watch, watch, watch, watch. You eat lunch with me on Saturday, eat, eat, eat. I love u!

Beneath it was a picture of two equally-sized people wearing orange, holding books, and standing near a restaurant booth. On the table was a hot dog (hers) and a glass of wine (mine).

My first thought was, “Way to hit that word count, girl!”

My second was, “Hollie really knows me.”

I’ve not been hiding myself from her. She knows I love to read and write. She knows I love to watch movies and Animaniacs. She knows Saturdays are our date days and that during lunch she can have sweet tea and I’ll be drinking wine.

I am who I am.

Being myself with Hollie is how I’m showing her that it’s okay for her to be herself, too.

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Worst Day of Someone Else's Life

The first thought I had when I woke was “Today is going to be the worst day of someone’s life. But it’s not mine.”

We buried a man that day. I knew from the minute I woke that the depth of suffering I would witness would astonish me. I’d truthfully never seen anything like that.

The only funeral I had attended before that was the one for Charlie’s grandmother. It was a modest affair, she was an old woman with few friends and a very small family.

I missed my own grandmother’s funeral. I was in Hawaii.

But here I was, at the service of a man I’d known only by association, a good friend to my father-in-law. Through the service I thought mostly about his daughter who is not much older than me. I thought about losing your father. About losing my own father.

This is the worst day of her life so far, I kept thinking.

I have a friend whose kid has neuroblastoma and my friend writes frequently of the worst days as he experiences them. When they go in for treatments, he knows they’ll be tough and the poor boy will suffer and watching your kid suffer is the worst kind of Hell.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Redefining what it means to Lean In

My iPhone makes me crazy. For days now it’s been warning me I’m close to full storage. That means going through and sending to the cloud anything I want to keep and deleting anything I don’t want to keep.

I use the Voice Notes app for my research interviews and so it’s an easy clean-out. I upload all the recordings to the Dropbox folder for research and delete the file from the phone. This usually buys me about 1GB of space.

Today I found a recording I made back in August that talks about Leaning In having consequences. We’re not taking up less space, it says, we’re pushing something else out of the way.

When we Lean In, something has to bend.

In 2014 and 2015, while I traveled about 30% of the time, Charlie had to bend. He also had to accept occupancy by alternate caregivers for Hollie.