Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Farewell and Thanks, SVMoms

"Change is the constant, the signal for rebirth,
the egg of the phoenix."Christina Baldwin

There are two kinds of people in the world: those who were lucky enough to be part of the Silicon Valley Moms Group and those who never had the opportunity. Even if you never contributed to the blogs, I hope you read and enjoyed many of our posts. For me, the SV Moms Group really meant the Chicago Moms Blog, but there were 13 other regional sites that, along with the Chicago Moms Blog, comprised the SV Moms Group.

My first post, Lousy Lice, went up on September 12, 2008, and in the intervening 22 months, I had 50 more posts. That's fifty one personal essays on topics ranging from bickering to O'Bama's Nobel Peace Prize; from exciting technical innovations for children with special needs to personal milestones. Fifty one opportunities the hone my writing skills. Fifty one spaces to share my opinions, joys, fears and experiences with a wide-ranging audience of local, national and international readers. Fifty one chances to get feedback on my words (comments people; I love comments). 

I also got to meet some really cool women (these are links to just a few of them; there are too many to count). Some I met in real life (IRL), some only online through this vibrant community. And it was and is a community. About 450 writers currently contribute to the SV Moms blogs, and there have been nearly 800 writers in all, not to mention the thousands of readers who have clicked on our posts. Until I joined the SV Moms, I didn't really understand the concept of an online community or how powerful it could be. 

Through SV Moms, I "met" Heather Spohr and learned about her amazing daughter, Maddie. I watched the online community's heart break over Maddie's loss and witnessed an unprecedented outpouring of love and support for the Spohr family. I marveled at what an incredible tool the Internet is and how it would have been so helpful to us during our own difficult days and months on the NICU. 

I also learned a lot about technology, as this group helped me through the growing pains of learning to blog, navigate Facebook and participate on Twitter. At every turn of a technological corner, they had my back and pushed me forward.

I belonged to the Chicago Moms Blog for just under two years, but the SV Moms community began a little more than four years ago — a blink of an eye IRL, but practically a lifetime online. It seems that lifetime has run its course, though, as a few weeks ago the powers that be decided to end this journey. It was a sudden decision, abrupt, at least to me. I was shaken by the news and surprised at how upset I felt. Perhaps it's all the other major changes going on in my life (kids graduating, going to college, getting married) that has me clinging to the familiar.

But life goes on. It should and it must, and I am learning (really slowly, but learning) that change brings opportunity. Not surprisingly, a group of women from the Chicago Moms Blog has stepped up to fill the void and will be launching The Chicago Moms, a regional online community, and many of us from the Chicago Moms Blog will be contributors. So stay tuned, there's more to come. 

In the meantime, while I have been told that the Chicago Moms Blog posts will stay up indefinitely, today is the last day of new posts. Over the next few days, I will be reposting my CMB entries here on Two Kinds of People (you'll forgive me if they don't all fit the two kinds of people profile). They'll be backdated to reflect their original posting date to keep them in context.

Thank you to all who made my experience on the Chicago Moms Blog one of growth and friendship. Thank you to those who are pushing us forward and creating a new community. Thank you to my readers, here and on CMB. You make it all worthwhile. If you have a thought to share about the CMB or have experienced an abrupt ending in your life, click here to leave a comment. (Comments people; I love comments.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Parenting Deadline — CMB Post

Originally posted on the now defunct Chicago Moms Blog.

As a writer, I justify my procrastination habit by claiming that I thrive under deadline pressure. But there is a pressing deadline looming large on my horizon that has me hyperventilating: my daughter is going off to college for the first time at the end of the summer.

That's right, I have fewer than 12 weeks to cram in all the parenting that I haven't managed to do in the last 18 years. First step, making appointments to get her wisdom teeth out, see the pediatrician one last time, and four or five other doctor visits so she can avoid the campus health clinic for as long as possible. (Done.)

Next, we definitely need to work on laundry. I taught her twin brother how to do laundry when he made noises about not going to college, but she has benefitted from my laundry largess for far too long. Then we have to work on making plane, train and shuttle arrangements for trips to and from Massachusetts. We also need to cover how to pack a ridiculously large bedroom that she has never had to share so that it fits into a dorm room with at least one roommate. (Not done.)

Sure, we've repeatedly discussed boys, drinking, smoking, drugs, partying, safe sex, and safe internet practices (you did not just see me patting myself on the back). We've even talked about the relative dangers of getting involved with older men and the pitfalls of falling for your professors. But what about the more subtle lessons of protecting yourself from users, being generous without giving away your soul, being open to new relationships while keeping your heart reasonably safe from unscrupulous manipulators. (Not done.)

What about all the stuff I need to teach her about men. Like how you should go for nice. Nice lasts. Good hair recedes and turns grey; tight abs turn into pot bellies; and you can buy your own damn car — but nice is a rare quality that should be sought and, if found, held dear. (Not done.)

How do I teach her to reach for the moon without forgetting her roots? To carry us with her without letting us weigh her down? To treasure every moment of the next four years as what will likely be the most exciting time of her life until she has children of her own? (Not done.)

How can I help her understand that the decisions she makes from here on out will have a lasting impact on her life, but that there is always time to change and grow? To be bold and brave, but not stupid? (Not done.)

How can I let her know how much she is loved and treasured, and how deeply she will be missed, without making her feel guilty or too frightened to move ahead? Most importantly, how can I send her forth with joy without letting her know that, inside, my heart is breaking? (Definitely not done.)

Clearly, this deadline is unrealistic. If anyone knows where I can file for an extension, please contact me.

When Susan Bearman isn't busy racing the clock, she can be found writing at Two Kinds of People and The Animal Store Blog and freelancing at www.bearman.us.

Sunday, June 13, 2010

Living Your Passion

There are two kinds of people in the world: those whose work lives and personal lives are two separate entities, and those who live, work, dream and breathe their passion.

I'm trying to make that work as a writer, which is my passion and haunts my dreams. There isn't much about writing that I don't love (although I wish the pay was better). Writing fulfills, renews and excites me like nothing else, and that passion seems to increase the more I do it.

Not everyone is lucky enough to discover his passion. I have high hopes for my son, who recently graduated from high school. I know in my soul that when he finds his own passion, he will know no limits. But finding that passion and convincing him to look for it have so far been elusive.

Our oldest girl, on the other hand, has known her passion at least as long as I've known her. When I me her dad, she was about six years old and already crazy about animals. When my husband bought The Animal Store, she was just 10, and she has logged many hours in the shop helping him. Even from afar, she continues to be a valuable contributor, writing the employee handbook, as well as much of the material for our soon-to-be-updated Website.

But it is the animals she truly loves. In high school and college, she participated in internships through the Shedd Aquarium in Chicago. She worked at the Dolphin Research Center in Marathon, FL. She studied marine biology at the University of Miami and received a masters degree in primate conservation from Oxford Brookes University.

Her master's thesis was on a study she did training select individual animals within a large group. She developed the protocol herself and conducted the study on a group of baboons at the Six Flags Wild Safari in New Jersey. That study will soon be published in a scientific journal. Her methods revolved around the concepts of positive reinforcement training, and her depth of understanding and commitment to these concepts are remarkable.

Her passion has taken her from Chicago to the Bahamas to Florida to England to New Jersey and back to Florida, where she is now working with birds of prey. It has also taken her to the hospital with three (count them!) monkey bites. Her passion sometimes makes us a nervous wreck, but not even those three monkey bites has dulled it for her.

Those who work with animals must do it for love, because it's certainly not for money. As I have mentioned, I'm a reluctant pet owner, but more and more I have come to appreciate other people's devotion to their animals. But Becky's passion goes beyond just loving her pets. She has developed a deep commitment to conservation and ecology, understanding the true ramifications of various efforts toward recycling and new energy technologies. She helps us decipher the sound bites we hear in the news, explaining how some things that sound good on the surface can actually be more hazardous to the environment.

I admire Becky's passion. I know it is deeply felt and affects all the decisions she makes in her life, not just her career choices. Today I learned she is vying for the opportunity to travel with Julie Scardina, the Animal Ambassador for Busch Gardens and SeaWorld. It's an outstanding opportunity to work with one of her idols, learn about Emperor penguins of Antarctica and further her education.

Becky's goal is to make a real impact on how we treat our home planet and all the creatures with which we share it. She believes education and understanding are the way to do that. I hope you will vote to make her dream come true. Just click here to vote for Becky Bearman.

Not all of us are lucky enough to know or recognize our passion from such a young age. Some of us are lucky enough to be inspired by the passion of our children, family or friends. Are you living your passion or does someone else's passion inspire you? If so, let us know in a comment by clicking here.

"Nothing great in the world has been 
accomplished without passion."
— Georg Wilhelm