Thursday, February 13, 2014


This morning I made Daniel a couple of peanut butter sandwiches. Haven't done that in a while.  But it got me thinking about the social dynamics around this simple act.

When Chris and I were dating, I was a little horrified that he made his kids' lunches. Usually breakfast too. And though his mother, who they lived with, often made dinner, Chris showed himself more than adequate to take care of that as well. On one hand, part of me secretly hoped that after we were married he would serve me (and the kids) in those same ways, and sometimes he has. But I knew it was more likely that those kind of responsibilities would shift to my shoulders. As that happened I've received it with mixed feelings. I enjoy many of the tasks of housekeeping, but I'm a professional with a full-time job, too, and it's hard to do both. 

In my family where I grew up, making your own lunch was like making your own bed - a sign that you were a responsible person - or deciding what to wear - not something you'd want to delegate to another. It was your lunch, not your mom's lunch, and you should make it.

Turns out, in the family I married into, making your kid's lunch was a way to say "I'm here for you. And I love you."

It's hard to let go of one story and accept another, or accept both of them as valid. I'm regularly surprised and disappointed how much my self-righteousness asserts itself to defend my preferences, my ways, my ideas about how things are done or what they mean.

But I love Daniel, and not just because I love Chris. And I've recognized one way of showing it is to feed him.

Family dynamics have shifted, and Daniel usually makes his own sandwiches now. But I've learned to make them the way he likes them, as I did today. A thin layer of peanut butter on both pieces of bread, carefully spread to the edges. Generous layer of jelly or honey on top of that. Some assembly required, but no slicing. (That surprised me: I remembered that my dad always sliced sandwiches on the diagonal, my mom on the horizontal. Yet here was another option!)

In her book, Loving Someone Else's Child, author Angela Hunt says that stepfamilies, despite their problems, can give kids some unexpected benefits. A larger/blended family includes "more people with diverse personalities and styles and backgrounds and so there are more sources of social and cognitive stimulation for kids. In the long run, kids in stepfamilies could be developing more effective ways of dealing with a greater variety of people..."

"Children with 'step-in' parents usually have multiple role models. They will observe different parenting techniques and will have more models from which to choose when they are parents someday... they learn that it pays to be flexible."

In the long run, set-in-their-ways stepmoms may experience the same benefits, too! 

Tuesday, February 04, 2014

2013 Santa Clara Fire Department's Volunteer of the Year

Serving with our local volunteer fire department costs Hubs - and costs our family - a lot. It can also be quite rewarding. Sometimes at the same time. We were dismayed when the pager went off just before a big family dinner Christmas Eve. Minutes later Chris was saving the life of someone else's wife, mother, and grandmother, not returning until she was in the capable hands of the ER doctors and staff. Somehow after that opening Christmas presents did not seem such a big deal. He came back reeling from the tsunami wave and trough of adrenaline that comes at such times. When we fell into bed after the candlelight service that night, we were both exhausted, thinking about and praying for the other family and wondering if they'd have a greater loss before morning.

This Saturday was the annual awards banquet for the fire department. Had a hunch Hubs would be honored. Indeed he was. There's a nice plaque to hang on the wall, with his name added to one that hangs in the station. There were pictures and lots of hugs. A shoot for promotional photos is scheduled for next week. Long, loud, standing ovation. Lots of people came up to us that night to say they thought the recognition was a long time coming.

Last year's Volunteer of the Year, a good friend, read the following kind and honoring comments before presenting the award to him [edited slightly for clarity and a more general audience]:
It is my honor and pleasure to announce the 2013 Santa Clara Fire Department's Volunteer of the Year. It is something we all look forward to each year as it represents why many of us do what we do as volunteer firefighters and EMTs in our community. We work hard, and this is a very special opportunity to thank and praise someone special for their dedication and hard work in department. The award represents a wonderful appreciation and honor from your colleagues and your peers.

Our Volunteer of the Year is decided upon by the three preceding Volunteers of the Year. When we sat down to decide who it was going to be, there was no conversation or doubt as to who it was.

This volunteer has been unwavering in their dedication to our department since [he] joined us in 2007. Statistics and numbers can mean a lot; and if you look at this volunteer's numbers, they speak for themselves.* [He has] been in the top five responders every year since he joined, and rarely misses a drill. [He] will come down for calls in the middle of the night, on the weekends, middle of family dinners, and early mornings.

This year's Volunteer of the Year does something very special for our department and our community that sets him apart: he serves as our department chaplain. He stays with family members after a difficult call where a patient dies or suffers traumatic injury. He offers a shoulder to cry on for wives who have just lost their husband or comforts a parent as we take care of their sick child. He prays with people when they need a prayer. These duties often leave him on the scene of a call long after us other responders leave and go back to our homes and our families; he stays.

He also offers support and friendship to all of us here at SCFD. He has a talent for keeping an eye out for our well being and offering an ear if we need to talk about a difficult call we have been on.

I should also mention that this year's Volunteer of the Year has done all of this all while working a full-time job, being a father to his children, and a husband to his wife. This person included a special part of his wedding ceremony to "turn in" his pager to our Chief so he could spend extra time with his new bride … But I remember pretty clearly that we had a house fire the next weekend [after he was back], and lo and behold, when we came out of the fire, there he was running our rehab unit. And to top it all off, he is also is nearly done with his Master’s Degree in Clinical Chaplaincy.

Now that I think we all know who I am talking about. It is my honor to announce Chris Wade as Santa Clara Fire Department's 2013 Volunteer of the Year.

Congratulations, Chris!

* In 2013 Chris responded to 244 9-1-1 calls.