Wednesday, October 31, 2012

You Are My Baby, Lauren

And Here's Why~

You're so cooperative when I want to take your picture.
You always have been.
 It's nice to see you're not outgrowing some of your better qualities.

You're all heart.

And no matter how you try to hide it, it shows.
You can be a little scary. I admire that in a person.

You can be a little bossy and controlling. I dig that, too.

You are an optimist! That'll serve you well in life, I promise.

You are a hugger!
 Mostly other people.

But I like it, nonetheless.

You are a good and kind daughter.

Don't ever underestimate what a great quality that is in a person. It matters immensely.

You are a nurturing person. That, too, will serve you well in life, so long as you remember to take as good care of yourself as you do others.

You are a thinker.

AND a doer.
Even helping to do what others need done.

I'm so grateful to have you in my life, not just because I love who you are, but I love the example you provide my (other) babies.

You're a bit of a goofball.

I am too.

And a sunshine girl.

(This is no reason to move to California. Ever.)

 You are a true and loyal friend.

And not just when it's easy.

And not just to some, but to all.

You wear a bang well.

Always have.

Not everyone can, so that's on the list.

Same goes for big sunglasses.  It's not always a good look, but you pull it off swimmingly. (Get it? Swimmingly? The picture is... Never mind.)

You puzzle. Standing up. Because you can't walk by without looking.

I do that too, and none of my (other) children do, so I'm so glad to have at least one child with this mania.

You've got talent and you're not afraid to put it on display. That puts you light years ahead of most people I know, adult or otherwise.

It makes me so proud!

You didn't become my baby overnight, of course.
 (Yes you did, because you were so stinkin' cute from the get-go.)

I have watched you grow up.

And I've been inspired by your strength.

And overjoyed at the (pretty in pink) person you have always been.
And thrilled at the whimsy that accompanies your gravitas. (Yes. I went there.)

And after all these years I am soul-satisfied to know that my voice of reason and good conscience will always, always be in your head.

I'm sure you're excited about that last part, too.

And if you aren't now, you will be some day, promise.

As you know, in our culture - a culture we've shared with you all these years - your fifteenth birthday marks your passage from a time of childhood into young adulthood. It's an old tradition and way back in the day would have meant you'd be good to go on marriage and children.  I'm NOT by any means suggesting we stick with the entire tradition. (In fact, it would be great with me if you would usher in an era of 'new cool' by not dating at all until college. Or after college. Whatever. I'm just saying.)

But, in keeping with the basic custom, I do wish you every blessing on your birthday, your 'quince'. The next years will bring greater adventures and challenges in life. Some won't be easy, and they won't be the ones you're expecting. That's o.k. You've got everything it takes to overcome any obstacle. And just know that if ever you are in doubt, or need an extra push -- or a HUG, even -- to get you through, you can count on me. I will always be there.

Because, lovely Lauren, you are my baby.

Happy Birthday.


Monday, October 15, 2012

Here's Where I'm At

44 years into this gig I still don't know how it all works. I'm unsure of myself sometimes and worry that I've proceeded confidently, sometmes arrogantly, into a position of no return from a place nowhere on any map.

That said, I know exactly what I'm doing because all the stuff that matters is going just fine. I have barrelled through all that insecurity and ill-preparation to make sure every time the path clears I'm taking my values and my priorities with me. They may deny me for their own sakes', but never I, them.

I do have a Sunday kind of love and in case you were wondering (and to borrow a phrase) it's real and it's fabulous.

My children look like they come with the frame and while, most times, I'm humbled by God's generosity in this respect, every once in a while I look at my chubby little self in the mirror and grin shamelessly. I made those babies and - they - are - awesome!

I work hard. I get up early like my grandfather, to give as much of the day my effort because that's what my family deserves. I am devoted to my family like nobody's business, but my family includes friends and neighbors and people who just need some love, because as mima would tell me, 'quien vale mas?' (who is worth more?). And I do my level best never to let anyone see how tired I am, because my mom always thought the effect of one's good work was dilluted if others felt the pain in your back or the swell of your feet.

My clients think I care about them as people. In fact, I do. And I rejoice quite personally in handing over those keys and knowing I've sent someone else home. There is, indeed, no place like it.

My home is beautiful on the outside and in, even if she could use a little work here and there. She is tired and worn in places, but she's open and loving and generous with her gifts. I like to think she reflects me very honestly.

I'm not done yet so I can totally relate to the 'miles to go before I rest' feeling. I've got lots to do yet and some of it is daunting from my current vantage point. I don't let that deter me.

I'm satisfied with myself, if not always pleased, and there's great comfort in knowing I am who I am.

Some twenty-five years ago I dreamed I'd be right here. Maybe I didn't envision the bag of troubles I carry with me, but who sullies dreams with troubles? And how does one expect to get anywhere without a few pebbles in the path? My back is, in fact, sore and my feet swell and my hands show the number of times I've plunged them into hot and cold water. That's o.k. I can still carry a few bags on my way to where I'm going.

For now, this is where I'm at. And it's mighty good.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

The Thing About Gavin

I love this picture. I think it captures the true personalities of this group so well. Lauren's fussing over the children - she's such a mom, and always so Alpha. Bailey's being a goof, and pandering shamelessly to Lauren's fussing. Sara's sneaking in, leaning on Bay - seeking a little cover in case she chooses to hide at the last minute. Sean? Sean's so delicious. He makes more of complaining about whatever the thing is than the thing actually requires in time or effort. But he always intends to do it anyway and he knows you know that. Sam's a hunk when he's not trying, and a total cheeseball when he is. This picture grabs both of those pieces. Lucy's on the end, trying to be above it all but as close as she can be to everyone because she knows she belongs right here. And then there's Gavin.

The thing about Gavin is he gives off this sense of being at ease, which he likely is in this pic, surrounded by all these people who love him so much, but he's way more intense than you'd ever imagine by just looking at him. He's got ambitious dreams, and whether he shows it or chooses to hide it from you, he's working hard to make those dreams reachable.

He doesn't always trust that his hard work is worth it, not sure it earns him the benefits he's seeking. That, even if it requires some urging, makes him work harder. It is paying off and it does matter, of course.

The thing about Gavin is that even when he's not trying to be the center of attention (rare, but it happens) he still draws you in with his easy grin and innate warmth. He's got teenage swag and bravado well in hand, but still bends his ever lengthening frame to give you a real hug and get a real one in return.

He doesn't look up to many, but he'll look directly at you - and when he's supposed to - he looks down just enough to let you know he knows you're right. (He'll never tell you you're right, you just have to know you both know and then eat cookies and move on.)

If Gavin's mad, he acts like an errant two-year-old, stomping and huffing. He blusters and boasts in absolutes. He glowers. It's ridiculous, and I treat it that way, because I know that usually when he's mad he's just covering that he's hurt. He's a softie, a sweetie and a sentimental fool.

The thing about Gavin is that you don't even realize that what is so genuine and good about him is seeping into your consciousness, until it has, and then you've no remedy but to accept it and move on - he's a part of your family now.

Gavin's turning 16 today. This is the only place you'll see me acknowledge that. Hereafter, I'll continue to refer to him as a baby and remind myself that he was once only tall enough to serve as a good armrest for me as I walked that same group up there home from elementary school. Four of the seven are now teenagers - the other three will succumb next year. I blame Sean. (He was first.)

Gavin doesn't live near me anymore or we'd be celebrating our birthdays together, as we have for the past several years, with double cakes and a huge feast prepared by our families. In lieu of that I hope his birthday is filled with good fun and a fine celebration and a super-duper cake.  I'll look forward to the time I can see him and his family again so I can give him a hard time about getting older and taller. I'll look forward to whatever teasing he offers about my stature and coiff in return. I'll look forward to sitting in the backyard with his mom and dad and our extended group, laughing to tears over something his older brother has said or done - sorry Brendan - it's your lot in life. And I'll look forward to congratulating him on whatever successes he has had since I've last seen him, on his way to becoming whatever his heart can dream him to be.

Because whatever his challenges or troubles, he's an achiever, a worker, a doer, a long-haul thinker and an optimist. He's a baker and an eater, an obsessive shoe-shopper and a sports-a-holic, he's good but not above a little deviance, smart but not stuffy, fun, funny and serious when he needs to be. He's intentional and clumsy and silly and oddly intuitive. And if you're looking for the unexpected, he's your guy. Because, actually, that's the thing about Gavin.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

A Shopping List, Of Sorts

I know it's a little early to holiday shop, and it's certainly too early to shop for a new mayor, but I thought maybe if I posted this the mayor might see what we were looking for and shore up a bit. I know I don't have to, but I'm helpful like that. This is my job description to recruit the ideal candidate for Mayor of the City of Chicago. I originally wrote it for a TribNation contest to attend a mayoral debate. (I did get selected to attend, and DelValle was the most impressive of the candidates, but for a million reasons, he was the least likely to succeed.)

Position Title: Mayor, City of Chicago SVP: 9

Objective:  to manage the city’s resources, human and financial, to the benefit of its residents both now and in the future, with an appreciation for and ambition about Chicago’s rightful place as a leader in the region, the nation and the world.


 assess the resources and debts of the city and establish a proposed budget to address shortfalls, efficiently provide services, and develop reserves for future development

 work closely with city council members to reach consensus on budget priorities, a timeline for addressing lower priorities, and an honest appraisal of items that must be tabled

 recruit a world-class team of city planners to develop a comprehensive city plan; employ city council members in a push to establish honest, reasonable and worthwhile priorities for the plan (the mayor must also be honest, reasonable and worthwhile)

 develop a task-force of city stakeholders from private and public sectors to review the plan, recommend the best one, and then work to sell the plan to the city council and, more importantly, the city in personal presentations (the mayor must be personally accessible)

 continuously address the key factors that determine a baseline quality of life for all city residents that is in keeping with the standards of a world class city of the future: safe city streets and neighborhoods; aggressive, ambitious and thoughtful education both child and adult; robust, engaged and forward-thinking commerce; and city services that lead by example in the areas of technology, service, efficiency, and environmental consciousness (the mayor must have and adhere to high standards)

 ensure that leaders in each of the city’s key departments are aligned with these priorities – responsible budgeting, planning, high standards for quality of life concerns; monitor progress as measured against deliverable objectives in each of these areas; serve as a mentor and support for key department leaders to ensure success

 beyond budgeting, planning, pursuing improved standards of education, public safety, commerce, health and well-being, and managing city departments to greatest effect, the mayor must love the city.


 The qualified candidate will be able to demonstrate how in his/her exercise of every mayoral privilege and responsibility he/she will show him/herself to be the greatest advocate for and protector of the city. Prior experience preferred.

 He/she must be a student of the city and know its history in order to know its future place in the history yet to be written.

 He/she must have a preferred city newspaper and be able to tell why it is what it is.

 He/she must embody Chicago – all of it – from the polished and pretty on Michigan Avenue to the tired and true on the Southwest Side. A demonstrated record is essential.

 He/she must have a baseball team affiliation that is near bone-deep in its seriousness, and he/she must know why and be able to articulate it unintelligibly because baseball loyalty is not logical, it is emotional. And if a Chicago team is playing another team, no matter the affiliation, the mayor must unabashedly root for the Chicago team. If his/her most beloved team fails to reach a playoff or championship but another Chicago team does, he must cheer with his/her whole heart and the city must be able to hear it from one end to the other.

 The qualified candidate for mayor must be proud of the city, even when she fails, and must defend her as one would a sibling or spouse against any attack from anyone not a member of the family.

 The candidate cannot be mealy-mouthed, even if he/she is soft-spoken. Chicagoans are firm, not wishy-washy, and must be led by someone smart, but not necessarily an academic.

 The ideal mayor will be equally comfortable with white table linens and finger bowls as with mustard running down his/her arm outside a favored hot-dog stand.

 Qualified candidates must have a favored Chicago hot-dog stand.


 Salary and benefits commensurate with responsibilities. And if you do this job correctly, you’ll be beloved by a city of people who don’t love unless they mean it. No other city offers that.