17 January 2013

Loss…and peace, and love.

Two posts in one week? I know, wow.

The MISS Foundation had a Board meeting over lunch today. On the third Thursday of each month, we gather as a Board – sometimes in person but often over speakerphone – to discuss the minutiae of running a foundation that wouldn’t exist in a perfect world because there wouldn’t be dead children. Many of my fellow members are bereaved parents themselves, and there generally comes a point in the meeting when we lose our collective ability to speak in the abstract. Something as simple as hearing the words "car accident," or "stillbirth," or "miscarriage," or the spoken name of a child that has died, alters the tone of the meeting – not negatively, but in a way that makes us aware all over again of our purpose. Whatever the trigger, this realization recharges and reinvigorates, and perhaps more importantly reprioritizes the cluttered to-do list that gets filed away in my mental Rolodex, along with grocery shopping lists, chores, errands, emails, appointments, ad nauseum, ad infinitum.

Bereaved parents exist on a different plane than the rest of us, y’all. As surely as I’m learning anything from this experience, I am learning that parents who have lost children are just…broken. We use this word flippantly, so accustomed to throwaway commodities that we don’t think twice about pronouncing our belongings rubbish and disposing of them. People, though?  Not commodities.  Not throwaway; not disposable. These parents are still among us, navigating a life that is not only unfamiliar, but inconceivable. Pain and guilt punctuate every happy moment. They are passionate about preserving the memory of their babies, yet must live in a society that would really rather not discuss it.

Why is that? Why are we uncomfortable talking about a dead child, thereby acknowledging and celebrating the child’s life, brief as it might have been? Why do we insist that parents should “get over” their grief within a prescribed period, yet feel entitled to rehash every referee’s mistake in a bowl game played over a decade ago? Yes, I’m being hyperbolic. I’m being hyperbolic on purpose.

What, exactly, is a suitable period of mourning for a parent? Consider, for instance, a father who never, ever imagined that his child would predecease him. A mother who felt her daughter's kick less than 24 hours before being told that she had died, and who, instead of laying her sleeping baby in a brand new crib days after delivering her, laid her to rest instead. Just how long after these tragedies should this father, or this mother, be expected to move on, and never mention their child again outside a priest’s office or a therapist’s couch? How long before they should have to return to work, ability to concentrate intact?

Here’s your answer:  Most employers allow three to five days of bereavement leave; after that, an employee may or may not receive approval to take an extended leave period, but even in the best cases and with the most sympathetic and understanding supervisors, that length of the leave period is limited by the amount of vacation time the employee has accrued, if any. Though FMLA allows one to take extended leave following the birth or adoption of a child, or for a lengthy personal illness or that of a family member, it does not apply in cases of parental bereavement. We can agree to file that under "Things That Don't Make Sense," right?

I say all of that for a reason. MISS’s CEO, Barry Kluger, is the co-author of a bill that would extend coverage and existing benefits allowed by FMLA to employees that have experienced the death of a child.  Barry is visiting Washington, DC next month, and he’s meeting with lots and lots of really important people. The kind of people who can make life better for bereaved parents by ensuring that they have a humane period of mourning before being required to return to work. Please, please sign this petition.  Give these parents a voice.


15 January 2013

Who says you can't go home?

Almost exactly six months ago, I worked what I thought was my last day as a prosecutor. After weeks of weighing pros and cons, much hand-wringing, and so many prayers I bet God got tired of hearing from me, I decided to accept a position at the Legal Services Office. At the time, I thought I’d be handling mostly civil cases – divorce, custody, child support, maybe some estate planning, who knows – but very quickly, I was moved to Guardian ad Litem work, which afforded me the opportunity to work with children in a capacity wholly separate from my former role as a child crimes prosecutor. Dependent wards are appointed GALs to advocate for their best interests. Our only job is to advocate for the child – not for the Community or the parent or the Social Services caseworker, but for the child. It’s a unique perspective, especially for someone like me who started her career with a mindset toward prosecution. There are prosecutors in dependency cases, but I’m not her, a fact which can sometimes be as irritating as it is liberating.

Friday will be my last day at Legal Services, and next week, I will be a prosecutor again. Specifically, I will be Assistant Chief Prosecutor, which is a title that’s much fancier in theory than in practice. Mostly, it means that in addition to new supervisory duties, I’ll be back in a courtroom, back to working with victims of child abuse and neglect, back to doing the work that I love no matter how hard it sometimes is. It’s strange to think that I’ve reached the point in my career where I’m supposed to be able to lead and teach. I’m both eager and apprehensive about the change, but primarily just anxious to get started.

Since the summer, I’ve been drawn (probably divinely directed) to Psalms and Proverbs, more often Psalms. In reading Psalm 25:12-13, we see that God teaches prosperity, not failure. When we follow His instruction, success is the reward. Even the promise of success, though, isn’t always enough to keep away the doubts that occasionally creep into my subconscious. Thankfully, His grace is abundant and abiding, as are His blessings. In fact, the lesson that constantly boomerangs in my mind is how blessed I am. I am blessed with amazing mentors, and the rare ability to leave a job that I love for another that I hope to love more. I am blessed with a precious group of close family and friends who prayed for me six months ago, and then stepped right up when I asked for their prayers again. And I am blessed with something that we’re so often told we can’t have: a chance to go back to a place that I left.

Through the past year – with its challenges, its uncertainty, and its incredible gifts – God has answered my prayers. In spite of my fears, my anxiety, and my doubt, He has been as He promised:

a refuge and strength (Psalm 46, Psalm 59);
a strong tower (Proverbs 18, Psalm 61);
capable (Psalm 25);
gracious (Psalm 86);
forgiving (this is mentioned so many times in the Bible, but my favorite is Psalm 103).

I realized, somewhere in the middle of all this, that inasmuch as I’ve believed and trusted in Jeremiah 33:3 all my life, I’ve never been more aware of having lived that promise until now. Thankful, so thankful.

03 January 2013

Dear MAC, I'm sorry. xo, avb

I admit it: I’ve said some bad stuff about MAC cosmetics in the past. Yes, their stores are scary loud, and yes, their salespeople wear too much bright makeup, too much gel in their hair, and WAY too many fake eyelashes. But I’ll tell you something else: They’ve got this whole eye makeup thing figured out.

To start, I use their Paint Pots as eyeshadow primer. My favorites are Painterly and Soft Ochre, but if you like more shimmer, they’ve got lots of other colors. I’ve been using the same Painterly for about six months now, and there’s barely a divot; it’s a fantastic value. I apply with the tip of my ring finger, but I guess you could use a brush if you prefer.

Next, I line with Pro Longwear Eye Liner, which I requested in navy blue but didn’t discover until I got home that I’d been given black instead. That turns out to be pretty lucky because I discovered that my problem, all these years, with black eyeliner hasn’t been that I don’t like the way it looks. Instead, I don’t like how it looks when it runs and smudges under my eyes. THIS EYELINER DOESN’T SMUDGE. Not even a little bit. I know that you’re all gonna’ say that Urban Decay doesn’t smudge either, but it does. It just does. And so does Dior, and so does Tarte (which is unfortunate since I just bought four Tarte eyeliners), and so does Chanel.

Then I use Urban Decay’s Naked Basics palette for my shadow (because those MAC colors are still just too scary for me). I love this palette, and I hope I never have to live without it.

And last, I use MAC’s In Extreme Dimension Lash mascara. WOW. My favorite thing about this mascara is that it doesn’t dry as fast, so you can work with it on your lashes for a while without it getting flaky and clumpy. The brush is great, and really lengthens and separates my lashes without making me look like I have spiders on my eyes.

I may or may not have gone to sleep last night without taking of my makeup and discovered this morning that my makeup looked exactly like it did yesterday. Exactly. At which point I may or may not have just washed the makeup off my face, avoiding the eye area, and worn yesterday’s eye makeup to work. Don’t judge.