abuse and neglect, children, family, foster care, hope, Inspiration, philanthropy, Uncategorized

The Working Title Is… Sole Searching

For me, most of my earliest Back to School memories start in the same place… Rochester Shoe Store on the east end of Kmart Plaza in Mattydale, New York.

I loved school, and new school shoe shopping meant that I would soon be sitting at a desk again. Oh, joy of joys! I would skip into the store excited to step on that Brannock device (made in Syracuse, btw) to see how much my foot had grown since the year before.

For the period of time that spanned purchasing the shoes and the actual start of school, those beauties would remain tucked inside the shoebox, and at least once a day, I would open it up and shove my whole face in there, deeply breathing in the delicious smell of new leather.

There was one year, however, that came with more than a twinge of anxiety. About to enter Fourth Grade, I was feeling pretty grown up. My classroom would be at the end of the hallway, meaning we’d walk past all those babies in K-3 to take our place as the leaders of our wing.

The talk at the pool that summer was all about Earth shoes, so as we headed to Rochester Shoe Store, I told my mom that’s what I wanted.

We walked out with the most fabulous pair of navy Earth shoes. They had a huge rounded toe and a crazy-cool wavy rubber sole. I’d never seen anything like it.

They also had shoelaces.

Oh boy.

You see, the entire time I was one of those K-3 babies, I wore Mary Janes. I honestly can’t remember how I handled sneakers, as Velcro wasn’t even a thing yet, but I do know that I was not adept at tying shoelaces. Truth be told, more than 40 years later, I’m still not great at it. The double knot is my savior and best friend.

So yes, my mom would tie my shoes every morning. You want to make something of it? And one day, tragedy struck and my shoelace untied midday. I acted like I didn’t notice and just kept walking. The shoe got looser and looser until it was almost falling off. We were coming in from recess, and Miss Crader told me to tie my shoe. I can remember being bent over in the hallway going through the motions, feeling the redness creep up my neck, my throat tighten and tears start to well up, all the while thinking, “You can do this, Katie.”

A boy looked my way and said, “Do you NOT know how to tie your shoes, Katie?” And with tears still pooling at the edge of my lower lid, an angel named Lisa Demperio said, “Of course she does, Philip, now get out of here,” and with just the two of us remaining in the hall, Lisa tied my shoe.

I went home and practiced and practiced and practiced tying until I could at least fake it well enough to keep Philip Cooper off my back.

That memory came back to me this week as I went through photos of a very different kind of Back to School new shoe shopping.

A group of remarkable staff and volunteers took the boys who call Christ Child House their home to the Nike Store in Detroit to pick out new sneakers. Because of the generosity of a number of donors, these boys will be able to walk confidently into a new school year. Some had never picked out their own shoes before. Some had only ever had shoes handed down to them and were never able to bask in the glory of that new shoe smell.

The boys’ pictures would melt the heart of even the crustiest of curmudgeons, and their stories could bring you to your knees.

To protect their identities, the boys’ faces are never fully photographed.

I was reluctant to rejoin the Board of Christ Child after a multi-year hiatus because I was worried my own heart, broken by loss and further weakened by my empty nest, couldn’t bear to hear the atrocities committed against these boys.

I’m still not sure I can. And if self-preservation moves you to live with your head in the sand like I did, you’ll probably want to skip the next two paragraphs.

There is a boy who lives in the Christ Child House who is the same age I was when my greatest struggle was shoelaces, although his struggle involves being a witness to his mother’s murder as she lay sleeping next to him in bed. Shot dead by his father. Waiting and wondering if he would be next.

There is a boy who lives in the Christ Child House who was the same age as those K-3 babies who watched me walk down the hall in my super cool, big kid Earth shoes. Although this boy watched as a policeman walked up to a car parked on the side of the highway as he sat strapped in his car seat with both parents slumped in the front seat, overdosed on heroin.

To face the reality of the horrors of our society can be daunting. To shield ourselves from them is tempting. But to do something…even the smallest of somethings…is imperative to bring change to our world. If one of our actions can create even the smallest ripple of positive change, we must act.

And, so, it all circles back to those laces. For decades, I have been inspired by the many women of Christ Child Society who embody the answer to Beyoncé’s question, “Who runs the world?”   And, this year, they have assembled multiple teams of women who will not only figuratively, but literally run the world (or at least two countries of it) as part of the Detroit Free Press/TCF Bank Marathon, of which Christ Child House is a recipient charity.

I’ve been assigned my team’s first leg of the marathon. I will run 6.3 miles that include a run across the Ambassador Bridge into Canada. I have yet to disclose to anyone that I am afraid to drive over that bridge much less run over it, but the voice in my head is saying, “You can do this, Katie.”

If the shoe fits as part of your ability to give, Christ Child House would welcome your financial support by clicking here as we continue to move forward, one step at a time, to bring truth to the motto, “It’s never too late for a happy childhood.”

kmp

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children, faith, family, grief and loss, hope, Inspiration, Uncategorized

The Working Title Is…. Where’s Mom Now That I Need Her?

I had held my new job title for less than 24 hours when I sat alone, staring into the face of a tiny baby as her coloring turned a frightening shade of red. Certain she was choking, I jumped up, nearly shredding the mesh panties a nurse delicately handed me a few hours earlier. Just as I pulled the baby into my arms, this tiny angel let out the most explosive sound that allowed her face to regain normal coloring.

“Oh dear,” I said, returning her to the bassinette. And then, much like one might ring the hotel concierge to assist with dinner reservations, I pushed the nurse call button and reported, “She pooped.” After a few seconds of silence, the nurse replied, “Time to go to work, Mom.”

Mom. I was someone’s mother. What the hell was I thinking? I am not prepared for this. In the midnight darkness of the maternity ward, my heart raced, my stomach flipped and I felt lightheaded. I’m someone’s mother.

(Editors note: If the phrase “mesh panties” made you at all uncomfortable, you certainly won’t be able to handle the next few thoughts, so I suggest you skip the following two paragraphs.)

Sensing my anxiousness, the kind nurse came in to help me through my inaugural diaper change. And, thank God she did because I was not prepared for what I saw in there. Was it tar? Or black licorice? Why is it so sticky? It was unlike anything I had ever seen before, and the nurse explained that this would change within a few days. I should have asked for more detail instead of just trying to conceal my expression of disgust and raw fear.

A few days later at our first pediatrician’s office visit, another diaper had to be changed, and thank God I was again in the company of a medical professional. This time it looked like she had somehow swallowed a packet of seeds. My eyes grew wide as only one thought blazed a path through my brain. “Holy crap. My mom was right to yell at me as a kid for eating watermelon seeds, but instead of growing in my belly, somehow one must be growing in the belly of my child. Please, God, no, please save my baby from watermelon belly.” But before having to confess my sin, the reassuring doctor said, “This is all normal.”

I used to think I was somewhat smart, but becoming a Mom put all of that into question. I had read all the books, done all the research, but this was the first time I became keenly aware that for many of life’s lessons, there is no manual and you simply learn by doing.

Five years earlier, this three-ring bound survival guide was a Christmas gift from my future in-laws. A year out of college and having just moved to Michigan with very limited homemaking skills, I was grateful to receive something touted as “a cookbook with a difference” featuring not only recipes and blank pages to save your own, but also an extensive stain removal guide, a succinct first aid section and even car maintenance instruction.

Now, almost 30 years later, the cover is torn a bit, but it still bears an inventory tag from the beloved retailer Jacobson’s, a whole bunch of added recipes and, upon deeper examination, a ridiculously gross amount of food splatter stains.

In those early years, I would use it quite often in conjunction with a phone call to my Mom, as chronicled by notes in the margins like the one next to the Chicken Divan recipe, “Do NOT substitute Miracle Whip for Mayo.” Maybe I was never as smart as I thought I was.

While the contents of this book were a great resource, I always knew the answer to the question the title asked. My Mom was either on the other end of the phone or beside me…always available, always accessible. But that all changed in 1995, when I was six months pregnant and my Mom died suddenly and unexpectedly.

My first Mother’s Day as a mom was also my first Mother’s Day without my Mom. As a result, the second Sunday in May has always been bittersweet for me. I have also learned there is no manual for learning how to live without your Mom either. The loss is as individual as the love you shared.

On Sunday, I will say a prayer of thanksgiving for the two remarkable young women who call me Mom. No handbook could ever describe the feeling of joy these girls give me through their kindness, humility and courage. No manual could have helped us become a family that savors a good laugh, a good meal, a good cry and the promise of each new day.

On Sunday, I will say a prayer of thanksgiving for my Mom and the imprint she has made on the lives of two girls who she never held in her arms, and yet, they hold a piece of her in their hearts.   Although my Mom was not there for any it, she was somehow there for all of it through the gift of faith she imparted upon me that led me to a wonderful man and brought us these fabulous girls.

On Sunday, I will pray for my dear friend and her sisters who, only this week, held their mom in their arms as she drew her last breath. I will pray for all those I love who feel that hole in one’s heart that comes from being a motherless daughter or son. And I will pray, most especially, for my friends who have experienced the most agonizing grief imaginable through the death of a child.

On Sunday, as every day, I will give thanks for my Mom who always told me to put my trust in God. That while my life path may be steep or rugged and shrouded in uncertainty, we are told to look neither forward or behind, but to focus on our faith, trusting that God will equip us for whatever awaits on this journey.

Thanks, Mom. That’s the only recipe I ever really needed.

kmp xoxo

 

My favorite picture of me and my girls. Mother’s Day 2000.

June 1995. The last picture I took with my Mom who died the next month. 

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