Sunday, December 21, 2014

Special Delivery

This is the second of three blogs from my trip to Baltimore.

"Graffney?"

The woman in a hospital uniform, pushing the mail cart, had said...mangled, actually...my daughter's last name. She stood in the doorway of the Birthing Center waiting room, pleasant smile inviting a look.

At the mail cart?

I was awaiting word on daughter Katy's c-section. It was supposed to begin around 9 AM, and take about an hour. Now past 11, the anxiety level had increased several fold. What was going on? No one knew.

"Do you want to see the baby?"

Why was my new granddaughter being wheeled around the hallway...wrapped in a blanket, little tuke covering her head. A button nose poked out, lips pursing. From time to time her mouth opened, a tiny little protestation emanating. She was fifteen minutes old, on the way to be weighed and....

Wait just a minute. You are walking her around in the hallway wrapped in a blanket? Where is the cover? Where is the hermetic seal? You're.... Like she's a normal person?!

In fact, Greta James Gaffney, five pounds nine ounces, born 12/18/2014 at 1109 hrs at the University of Maryland Hospital, Baltimore, daughter of Steve and Katy, was entirely, unremarkably, amazingly normal. There was no need to treat her any differently than any other healthy newborn. I burst into tears. Her mom had done the heavy lifting, endured enforced bed rest (more like confinement), had made the sacrifices necessary to give Greta the best chance at a good start. Mission most definitely accomplished.

She went home today, a tiny little person at the very beginning of her life. She passed the "car seat test" on the second try, met her big brother and took up residence in the Baltimore suburb Perry Hall.

A very special delivery.

Saturday, December 20, 2014

Cowards

I pause for just a moment before my second trip blog. 

Hey you! Yeah, you. You know who you are.

When the grand jury in Missouri returned its no bill you ran for the closest microphone. You questioned the decision and, in high dudgeon, suggested that there would be consequences. Did you do this because justice demanded it, because you knew the evidence pointed in the opposite direction? Of course not. You did it for you. Only for you.

When the grand jury in New York did not indict, you found a TV camera into which to rant. There would be repercussions, you bleated. Despite knowing none of the facts and little about law enforcement (which, frankly, would dilute your indignation) you demanded.... Something.

Today you got it. Two NYPD officers sitting in their car were ambushed and murdered. Instead of praying for peace, you demanded vengeance. Instead of pleading for cooler heads, you incited anger. Instead of praying for strength and understanding you plumbed the depths of baseless hostility. You branded police officers as a class of citizen unworthy of the legal protections afforded everyone else, preferring to stoke the fires of hatred for your own aggrandizement.

Tomorrow, should you need police officers to help you...we will. Not because you are worthy.

Because we are strong.

Friday, December 19, 2014

Bethsquire

The last four days - basically a weekend - has involved a cornucopia of achievement, emotion and tears. None of the acheivement was mine; all of it the product of tenacity, perseverance and guts on the part of our daughters. I offer the next blogs in order of their occurrence, so as not to advance, or minimize, any one moment.

Law school has been described as - a place for intellectuals who can't stand the sight of blood (or else they'd be MDs, not JDs), and an institution where they scare you to death (first year), work you to death (second year) and then bore you to death...until you graduate. Becoming a doctor of jurisprudence is a considerable achievement that is only a beginning.

Passing the bar exam takes hard work, focus and a single mindedness rivalling anything NASA can achieve. If a candidate panics failure isn't just an option, it's a certainty. Remain calm and the necessary feeling of phobic competitiveness vanishes. The fine middle ground is indescribable, except to lawyers.

Beth Mason presented herself two days ago in the august chambers of the Maryland Court of Appeals, to be sworn in as an attorney, and counselor at law. There was the usual harangue from bench and podium - the polysyllabic versions of "Don't fuck this up" presented by an attorney with cachet, and an old justice who'd seen it all.

Friends and family sat in prideful audience, smartphones and tablets extended. Amidst an abundance of Millers, our new lawyer stood, said her name aloud, and was sworn in as a member of the historic Maryland Bar.

I am going to, for once, allow my native arrogance out for a romp. Only lawyers understand the sacrifice, the deprivation, the difficulty and the awesome responsibility raising the right hand means. If a human being's freedom is granted by the Creator, it is safeguarded, defended and nurtured at the bar by lawyers. The men and women standing in the courtroom accepted more than just a title.

They hold in their hands the challenge of making a free society work.

That our daughter has accepted that challenge - is worthy of it - is a profound achievement that reflects not just her amazing intellect, or her single mindedness. It is her compassion calling out.

Congratulations, Beth Mason, esquire.


Friday, December 12, 2014

Going Somewhere?

"An MRAP isn't a military weapon. An MRAP is a truck that stops bullets." A friend.


Get in close, convince the bad guy of the futility of his actions and then be patient. A winning formula. Four kids safe, homicide suspect takes three steps and he's planted...er, assisted to the pavement.

That's what all of that equipment, training and discipline buys. You don't like the optics?

Sorry. I like the optics of four safe kids just fine.

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

They Also Serve Who Only Stand and Wait

Police spouses and partners - they are a diverse group. They are used to things commonly outside of the experiences of other spouses. While everyone else celebrates Christmas they sit at home, often with little ones around them, while Dad...or Mom...works. It is an intertwined profession, so that the gruesome injuries to a bike cop in Denver reverberates among those whose "cop" patrols their city on two wheels. The travails of Ferguson and Staten Island are not lost on them. Please join me in thanking my wife Pat for her insights into this closed world.

Cop Arrested Oval Decal  The last few days have been tough. My husband and son are cops; I have many friends who are cops, and I worked in 2 different police departments (not as a cop). The tirade from the press has been difficult because my experience has not contained racist cops. Any cop who was rude, racist, or heavy-handed was politely, or firmly left go. As the wife and Mom of a cop, I have experienced having my loved ones deal with shift work (what day are we celebrating Christmas, Thanksgiving... plus the sleep deprivation), emotional and physical stress, and second-guessing decisions they made in a nanosecond. It is a challenging job in a system where it is hard to know what the community they serve will accept, and what is taken today may change overnight. Courts may decide 10 years or more after the incident that the decision made in the nanosecond was not reasonable, even if it was a standard practice or was included in their training. There is unbelievable stress connected with providing safety in our communities, not only to the men and women who provide it daily, but also to their friends and family who support them.

Should there be some system-wide changes? There is always room to provide better service to the community, be clearer about boundaries, or be better partnerships. These types of changes take communication, understanding, conflict resolution, and time - not vilification. My hope is for productive and authentic partnerships between the community members and those men and women protect them. Let us begin those conversations. 

Distinguished, Everyone

Please welcome Amy Shoemaker, principal at Amy Shoemaker Partnerships. Amy has a quarter century of experience in Business, in the highest levels of HR and executive coaching. Her blog - "Lead Forward" - is an advanced course in all things leadership. The "Distinguished Clown Brigade" is a collection of leaders in Denver who don gaudy outfits, face paint and often brave plummeting temperatures to raise money, enjoy the company of the like-minded and give a little bit back to our community. 
You would not expect a middle-age, middle-class, executive to be a clown. It doesn't seem like an “executive” or “middle” thing to do. Yet I have relished the experience several times in community parades. For one evening a year, I have the opportunity to be someone else and interact with my community in a completely different way. As a Human Resource Executive, my passion has been to hire and develop a diverse workforce. I've redesigned recruitment and promotion strategies to attract a more diverse candidate pool and won Business Diversity Awards from The Urban League of Wichita and the National Conference for Community and Justice (NCCJ).
2012 Parade of Lights Group Photo 50 by 50Yet I have the stigma of being a professional white woman. I have read the studies that professional white women tend to hold their purses tighter or move them to the other side of their bodies when a minority man approaches. I am ashamed to admit that I have modeled this behavior. So I tried an experiment, instead of moving my purse, I look teenage boys or gentlemen in the eye, smile, and say “hi”. Not everyone responds, some look away and pretend not to hear me; however many smile and say “hi” back. My experience has been positive or neutral; it is never negative.
So with this perspective, I transform into a clown. Our parade audience includes all races, genders, ages, disabilities, socio-economic status, and experience. We “high-5” the kids in the crowd and people smile, wave and laugh. A 4 year old girl holds her arms out and announces “I want a hug!” I knelt down to her level and held out my arms, expecting her to change her mind once she saw me at her level. She ran into my arms and gave me a big hug as cell phone cameras flashed. I danced with a couple of teenagers, whose friends exclaimed “How cool! You got to dance with a clown!” I held hands, smiled, and looked into the eyes of people with a variety of disabilities and really saw and honored them as people. It was so fun to interact with people in a way that I seldom could as myself. As myself, the teenagers would have said “Ugh, that creepy old lady tried to dance with you” and the mom would have yelled “What are you doing?” if I tried to hug her child instead of smiling and mouthing “Thank You.” How often do you get to spread so much joy to so many people in such a short time frame? Did I mention that the 4 year old girl and her mom are African American, the dancing teenagers are Hispanic and Caucasian, and the 3rd grade girls who asked what it was like to be a clown are American Indian? Does it matter?
I got to glimpse at a world that celebrated inclusion and for a few hours, no one cared about my age, gender, the color of my skin, or how much money I made. They enjoyed a fun evening with their family and laughed at the joy of a silly clown.
I have been wondering; what changes would occur in our community if we judged people by their positive intent and the joy they bring into our life?

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cute As a Bug

Please welcome my friend, coworker and fellow author John Hinterreiter. His book, Hugs for Bugs, is simply one of the best children's books I've seen in years. As he pointed out recently, Christmas is approaching....

Earlier this year I wrote, illustrated, and self published a children's book titled "Hugs For Bugs." Many of you have shown generous support for this book and I appreciate your kind words. For those of you who are finding out about this for the first time... meet your child's new favorite book.

With the holiday season rapidly approaching I wanted to give everyone an opportunity to purchase an author autographed hardcover copy for you to round out your own personal library, or give as a gift for a child who will surely love you for it.  Be warned... your child may ask you to read this book to them every night before bed.  There is a hardcover copy of the book in my mail box and another one in the roll-call room, please feel free to peruse those puppies at your leisure and then return them.

The book is currently listed for retail at $23.95, which I believe is high for an unknown author. Prices are set by the publishing company which I have no control over. If you are interested there are a few cheaper ways to get your hands on a book.

-For $20.00, I will hand deliver a signed hardcover copy to you, and sign it to any person of your choosing.
-If you would prefer to purchase a copy online please visit www.outskirtspress.com/hugsforbugsbook. This page contains links to the books purchase pages on Amazon.com and BarnesandNoble.com. There is also an e-book in PDF format available for only $5.00.  The book is available in hardcover format at Amazon and Barnes and Noble online stores for $21.56 plus shipping.

However the book is purchased, I would be happy to sign and personalize it with a dedication to any person of your choosing if you wish. If you are interested in ordering a copy form me, just reply to this e-mail with your name, the number of copies you want, and the name of the person who you want each book signed to.  I will order the books and you can pay me on delivery.