Wednesday, July 11, 2018

What Jake Does for a Living

In eleven years of encounters with individuals asking about my job, I have never once felt satisfied with my ability to answer the question.  Many are asking casually, but I am particularly frustrated on occasions where I sense that the inquiry is really genuine. I suspect this isn’t particularly unusual. I find myself taken by the fact that there are many people whom I also know VERY well, but really haven’t the slightest idea of what they do at work. (i.e. what they do with the MAJORITY of their waking lives). I still do not think my wife or parents have a great sense for what I do.  I finally decided to create something that I could point someone to, with genuine curiosity about my current career. 

I work as a Principal Planner for the Lane Council of Governments (LCOG), in Eugene, Oregon, the County Seat of Lane County.

What is a “Council of Governments?” 
A Council of Governments is exactly what it says: A "council" made up of different governing bodies. Any agency or organization in Lane County with an elected board can be a member of the Lane Council of Governments. For LCOG, this ranges from the County itself and its largest cities to utility districts, school districts and even library districts. The "Council" is essentially a Board of Directors made up of representatives from the "member" organizations (A County Commissioner, a Mayor, a City Councilor, library district chair, etc.).

At is most fundamental level, the Council of Governments exists to support its member agencies. This support comes in many forms, but those which I have had the most experience with, (and which serve as good examples), are 1) The benefit that small cities can gain by pooling resources with other small cities,  and 2) the frequent need for a third party entity to  facilitate significant regional efforts with neutrality, balance and sensitivity.

With very few exceptions, the Lane Council of Governments does not have a dedicated tax base. Our funding comes from our member agencies and/or state and federal grants. So, although there are not really tax "appropriations" for LCOG, we are indirectly funded by tax dollars (much the same way as a construction firm that contracts with a public agency is "funded" by tax dollars). The term often used to describe LCOG's dynamic is “quasi-governmental.” I bill my hours directly to contracts, and have to find and secure those contracts. In this way my work is similar to that of a private sector contractor. At the same time, LCOG is non-profit and I am eligible and enrolled in Oregon’s Public Employee Retirement System (PERS).  

What does a Planner do? 
The closest you'll come to generally defining my job is with the term "Urban Planner." An urban planner is someone who "develops plans and programs for the use of land. They use planning to create communities, accommodate growth, or revitalize physical facilities in towns, cities, counties, and metropolitan areas." This is a reasonable definition, but only explains about 30% of what I do.  Wikipedia’s definition is better: “An urban planner may focus on a specific area of practice and have a title such as city planner, town planner, regional planner, long-range planner, transportation planner, infrastructure planner, environmental planner, parks planner, physical planner, health planner, planning analyst, urban designer, community development director, economic development specialist or other similar combinations.” 

I have underlined above the planning roles that I have assumed at LCOG over the years.  The division I work in at LCOG is called "Government Services." I have found this to be a much more comprehensive (albeit terribly vague) description of my work.  In many ways, my job over the last decade has been to serve our members and other agencies with whatever planning (or other) needs they have. I have worked for the majority of our member agencies over the last decade. This is one reason why I have hard time responding to someone who asks –“So you work for the City of Eugene right?” or, “Jake works for Lane County.” I have to pause and figure out how to give an accurate, but not misleading, answer. “Yes I do... sort of.”

What qualifies me to do planning?
I have a Masters degree in Community and Regional Planning (University of Oregon, 2007) and a Bachelor’s of Science in “Recreation Resources Management” (USU, 2004). Like some of you, however, I have found that the primary thing that qualifies me to do planning is experience and an openness and willingness to continue learning.

What do I do?
Here are some key examples of work I have done and a brief summary of work I am doing:

Land Use:
Land use planners help establish the long and short term uses of land. This ranges from working with residents and public officials on broad and comprehensive ideas (like a general sense for where a City should expand, to working with property owners and developers to ensure that very specific decisions about land use are consistent with local policies and code (like how many feet your home can be from your front property line).

Long range projects can include things like Housing Needs Assessments, Buildable Lands Assessments, Economic Opportunities Analysis, Expansion Analysis and myriad other analyses, all with the express goal of preparing for the future by better understanding existing conditions and future expectations.

More than anything else, this work puts me in front of local decision making bodies (I would estimate that I have presented at over 100 Planning Commission and City Council meetings). In the past 11 years I have worked with the following Cities on these tasks: Coburg, Roseburg, Canyonville, Yoncalla, Creswell, Lowell, Westfir, Drain, Oakland, Dunes City, Florence, Junction City, Monroe, Eugene, Curry County, Lane County, Brookings.

*You may be asking yourself why some of these cities are outside of Lane County. Though not members, we serve any government entity that has needs that we can support – which is the case with many Southern Oregon cities. 

I have, and continue to, staff a number of regional efforts. These are typically made up of managers from separate public agencies who need to, or simply recognize the benefits and importance of, coordination in their efforts. One example of this is the River Districts Group. It is made up of representatives from City of Springfield, City of Eugene, Lane Transit District, University of Oregon, Willamalane and Lane County. The group was organized around an established vision for the area between downtown Eugene and downtown Springfield along the Willamette River and Franklin Blvd. The group shares project information and tries to leverage opportunities for efficiency and synergy – both in funding, planning and execution of projects. This area is seeing significant development activity (redevelopment in Glenwood, U of O Knight Campus, EmX, Eugene Downtown Riverfront Development). A regional project I helped facilitate that underpins the River Districts group is the Lane Livability Consortium. This is a site I designed to support that effort.

In a way every project is a facilitation and coordination project because, ultimately, a planner’s job is to obtain, in whatever means possible, the will of the public and public officials in establishing fundamental direction for their work. It is, in many ways the great joy, the great headache, and the great challenge of the task.

Natural Resources:
I received my bachelors degree from Utah State’s College of Natural Resources. My entry point to planning was through consideration for our natural environment. As such I have provided support to and directed many natural resource oriented projects. This includes helping eight small cities work together to more efficiently (less expensively) pursue wetland inventories and protection policies. This included a lot of sensitive public outreach and decision maker meetings. Wetlands on your property can mean development hassle (at its best) or prohibition (at its worst). People skills have come in handy in these endeavors.

Other projects have included writing Natural Resource chapters for local Comprehensive Plans, helping communities and stakeholders (including farmers) monitor and manage groundwater quality issues, creating a website to help City’s recognize the functions and values of wetlands, and helping communities develop drinking water plans to ensure that the water they drink is safe (now and going forward). 

I know, weird right? Increasingly, telecommunications (or at least access to the internet), is being viewed more like a traditional public service, like roads or an airport. Some infrastructure becomes critical enough that there is a true public interest in ensuring that it is generally available and reasonably affordable.

I manage the Willamette Internet Exchange, which is, in part, a hub to the largest open access fiber optic network in Oregon.  A “fiber network” connects individual buildings to the internet via a central connection point  (the Willamette Internet Exchange) with fiber-optic cable.  “Open access” means that the fiber strands are managed by a public agency (i.e. are publicly owned), but open to all. In the same way that a private airline has a hub and at publicly owned airport, or freight trucks use publicly owned interstate highways and local streets, network communications occur on publicly owned/leased fiber infrastructure.
As the manager of the Willamette Internet Exchange, I manage our publicly owned fiber assets (including mapping, contracting, maintenance and splicing) and also manage the physical cabinets within which all of the connections are made. This does not require a depth of IT expertise, but it does require some basic knowledge of terminology and equipment.

A day in the life on this front includes writing contracts and leases, making sure our fiber is safe (and knowing where it is). I also need to make sure that the Consortium of agencies that collectively own fiber are kept aware of important matters, and that they have a functional arrangement for governance and decisions around the fiber.

EUGNet is one cool example of things that emerge from “open access” networks. This is a project I am on the partner team for and I am very proud of it. This is a site I designed and maintain for the project.  EUGNet’s increased speed and reduced cost is expanding in downtown Eugene and is a key enabling factor for growth in the City’s tech industry.

Special Projects:
Downtown Plan in Lowell, Multi-Use Path Strategy in Oakland, Water Rate Study in Coburg, Development Code Updates in Oakland, Coburg and Yoncalla, UGB Expansion Study in Roseburg, Coburg and Canyonville.

Faculty at University of Oregon:
A dynamic that has caused considerable confusion among those who know me well is my relationship with the University of Oregon. “What do you mean your teaching a class? I thought you worked for the County.” In 2009, I accepted a position to teach a course in Geographic Information Systems at the University of Oregon (my Alma Mador). I have taught regular terms and summer terms, and am currently teaching my 14th term.

So there you go:
All of this work has strengthened my appreciation of varying perspectives. Recognizing the incredible risks that developers assume in pursuing projects that are often critical for moving a community forward. Relating better to the complexities of a neighborhood that really wants more affordable housing options in their community, but not right next to them. The exercise of managing the exchange between a property owner seeking to pursue their property rights by dividing their lot and their neighbor seeking adamantly to stop it in order preserve what they perceive to be their rights. Observing a community that is resistant to regulation of any kind, warm up to a wetland ordinance because they come to recognize how wetlands can manage their seasonal (and costly) flooding issues. The complexity of the world around us is highlighted and the exercise is consistently one of thoughtful observation and problem solving.

I feel fortunate to love my job! <![endif]-->

Saturday, May 5, 2018

Observations from one Father of Functional Triplets

You can’t know what you’re getting into when you have kids. You sort of think you can. You were a kid yourself. You have friends and siblings with kids. Surely those contribute meaningful insight, but not even close to an adequate amount. Like an eclipse, or a bad rash, kids are an experience you cannot have academically or second hand.
We started our family with twins. Henry and Charlotte arrived in January of 2011. What a happy time. Even after significant contemplation of how this would change my life, I never could have known the immensity of that life changing moment, overwhelmingly for the better, but also with some challenging collateral.
Annie and I had a fairly complex journey to get the twins into our lives and had had very little (at least recent) experience with contraception. The unexpected news of Caroline’s impending arrival was one of the most polarizing moments of my life. It was utter amazement and joy at the miracle of non-invasive pregnancy countered, in near equal measure, by pure horror at the thought of another baby in the fray. Keep in mind that Charlotte and Henry were 9 months old when we learned of Caroline’s impending arrival. We were in the throes of deep-sea, full-immersion parenting. We have a picture of Annie holding a pregnancy test next to the two kids in high chairs with food all over their faces. Annie’s smile is … telling.
We’ve never known parenting of one child. We have only the vaguest recollections of parenting two children.
By the time that Caroline was 2 and a half, the line between she and the twins was quickly blurring. Her drive to keep up had her walking well before she turned 1, and potty trained before one of the twins (I can’t remember which one). It was (is) often that Annie and I had to remind the other to cut Caroline some slack “remember, she is a year and half younger.” Oh yeah, that’s right ;).
In the last three years they have really become a collective organism. The “Chenroline.” When I have the chance, and as an ongoing experiment, I will quiz those asking if they can guess which ones are the twins. The answers are more often wrong than right. They each have very distinct personalities and independence, but Chenroline, in many ways, is our fourth child. Chenroline behaves differently than any of its three component parts. Often in unfortunate ways, but also in very impressive and inspiring ways.
I’ll give an example of each. The other day Chenroline completely saturated every surface, corner and nook of the main bathroom. It was an act of pure mob mentality—the subconscious math that instinctively calculates the distribution of guilt and concludes that, at a third the cost… its totally worth it! In contrast, Chenroline also perform acts of altruism and beauty that seem to transcend their individual potential – like when they get a wild hair and mutually motivate each other to clean or make something special for mom and dad. This phenomenon feels more rare, but still transcends the former, on balance.
But onto the potentially sensitive observations: Whenever I see a child alone with his parent or parents, two things happen. One is that I contemplate how wonderful that appears. I think of how rarely I am alone with one of my kids, and how heavenly that can be. How different they act, how pleasant they often are. How much I learn about their personalities. There is a real jealous desire to have more of that. At the same time, there is a bit of sadness. Mostly for the child. This is probably an obnoxious thought to some but, to me, the thought of hanging out with your parents all the time seems pretty, well, boring. At least in contrast to what my children are engaged in daily. They have a slumber party every night. I tell people that it is a party at my house every night. Then I follow up with an important clarification: This is not a tea, or even a birthday, party – it’s a rush-week frat party. I know Chenroline don’t fully appreciate it, but I think they sort of get that there is something unique happening in their lives. When their friends leave the house asking “why don’t Henry and Charlotte and Caroline have to go home?” I think it gives them slight pause.
Let me further crystalize the unique sibling dynamic. I am guessing that Henry and Charlotte have spent less than a tenth of a percent of their lives not being in the same room as each other. Read that again. They are in the same school and church classes, sleep in the same room and are super good buddies who like to play with each other. They’ve been together since they were 8-celled blastocysts! We have a picture to prove it;) Neither of these two will have any memory of a world without Caroline right there either.
As a parent you spend a lot of time paranoid about what you’re doing to your kids (or not doing in some cases). I imagine our children will come away from this unique experience with some positive things: deep solidarity with several other humans who have identical formative experiences, maybe a more powerful grasp on the idea of shared resources and the principle of compromise, and hopefully a broad built-in support web. They may also come away from the experience with some deep desire for autonomy and independence which may blow up in their teen years or just fester quietly in nuanced behaviors as they approach and/or live out their adult lives. They may lack the same relationship with us, their parents, that some of their friends and peers develop.
One thing is for sure, they will develop and they will likely continue to do it in this same proximity. We’ll keep trying to do our best. I am not a perfect Dad. I love my kids. They also drive me nuts. And not always in the “fists on the hips – gosh darn you little rascals” way, but also in the “Daddy is really sorry that he scared you by yelling at you and jerking your arm” way :(. I reflect on a bit by the comedian Sinbad about how people with kids cannot be cool anymore. “You think your parents aint cool? They used to be cool. Once you have kids you can’t. be. cool. no. more. They make you lose. your. mind!” – (this is so much funnier with Sinbad saying it (of course)). My kids have definitely made me “’lose my cool” a bit. I try hard to manage those feelings and its very important to me that I always apologize when I recognize my impatience and unkindness. Yeah, I know – wait till I have teenagers – I don’t want to think about it.
All of this has particular relevance as I consider an actual fourth child entering our home in August. My parents and oldest brother often reflect on the experience of him as the family's guinea pig. Annie and I have joked that we have three oldest children. Chenroline and the two of us have just been flying by the seat of our pants. We have expressed some frustration at the fact that no one will experience the iterative benefits of the lessons we may actually be learning as we go.
Perhaps someone will after all. Raising ‘quattro” (as I have come to know him) will be an interesting exercise in juxtaposition. I ‘ll follow up in 8 years -- - they’ll be so much to report!!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Farewell to the Stockdales

On my first day in Eugene, in the Fall of 2005, I found myself standing in front of the announcement board of Hendricks Hall on the University of Oregon Campus. It is there where I was browsing the profiles of numerous other members of my cohort for the school’s Community and Regional Planning and Public Administration Graduate degrees. I noticed that one of the students was a graduate of BYU Hawaii. As a Mormon, that meant that there was a good chance I already knew a lot about this guy. Though we had come to Eugene with full purpose of mind to be open to all sorts of new experiences and people, I must say that those first few weeks of adjustment were inclining me towards anything familiar. I met Dave Stockdale, my first week in Eugene and he and his wife Teresa were at our house for food and games our second weekend in Eugene.

It was clear from the beginning that (for us at least) this was a couple that we were going to enjoy being around. They were laid back, loved to laugh and were in a very similar situation to our own. Over the next few years, our lives were deeply seasoned by a heavy dose of  “Stockdale.” They lived a few blocks from us and we found ourselves at their home nearly every night. The Stockdales quickly became the friends that we could be ourselves around. Their little condo became the living stage for two years of gut splitting laughter, commiserations about school, marriage, relationships, family planning. The soundtrack was 90s alternative, 70’s fluff, “Office” episodes, and generally non-critically acclaimed movies from the Stockdale’s DVD collection. The fare was always delicious, the games were often vicious. Several game playing dynamics that stand out include the following:
  • Someone (probably Teresa) Utters a fairly directed “Whose turn is it?.... Jake!?"
  • “Freak Dave,  leave me alone!!!” as Annie throws her Settlers of Catan cards at Dave and Dave laughs uncontrollably
  • Teresa, perturbed by some game move of Dave’s, glares at him with a look that makes her unapproving disposition very clear. Dave responds with a sort of “this had better be worth it” look on his face.
  • Jake turning any comment into a cue for a brief musical interlude.
The Stockdales really became our first experience with having a surrogate family. Annie and I both have a long history of deep friendships, but the combination of deep friendship and incredible distance from family created a new kind of friendship and reliance. I remember once I found myself contemplating a bit of a potential financial bind. Dave expressed his willingness to help us out if we needed it. I was deeply moved by that, because it felt like something only family would do. We didn’t end up needing the help, but the gesture was a powerful one that I have never forgotten. On another occasion Annie and I found ourselves stranded in Grants Pass, Oregon. Our vehicle had broken down and we had spent the night in a hotel. The car wouldn’t be repaired for days and we were pretty careworn. After relaying our circumstances the Stockdale’s insisted on driving the three hours down to Grants Pass to get us and take us back home. I am moved again by the very memory as I write it now.

A particularly spectacular highlight in those years was the rather bizarre alignment of European trips that we independently scheduled and yet serendipitously placed  us both in Florence, Italy together for about a day and a half. It felt bizarre when it happened and only seems to increase in its wonder each time we contemplate it.

Over the years our families have grown, our neighborhoods have changed, our priorities have evolved (and been added upon). I remember Annie and I screaming out loud in the middle of a blessing on a dinner, which Dave had used as a clever opportunity to announce Teresa’s pregnancy with their first child Bella (whom they had to wait too long for). They, in turn, mourned with us in our family-starting struggles and celebrated with us when things finally came together.

We don’t see the Stockdales as much as we used to and not as much as we’d like to.  Still on occasion we have gotten together for some good food and conversation and to let our kids become better acquainted, and to always pause for reflection and gratitude on a room now brimming with screaming kids. Most of these get-togethers also result in a card or board game or two. The most recent permutation of this involves the Callisters sleeping over so that we can play into the night like we used to.

Also memorably, Dave and I recently had the opportunity to do something that we had long wanted to do: work on something together professionally. As public servants in the same (relatively small) town, it seemed possible that it would happen at some point. It finally did last year and it was a pleasure to see Dave at work and realize how good he is at his job.

Which brings us to now. Dave recently accepted a job as the City Manager of Prosser, Washington. We are so proud of him and know that Prosser is lucky to have him. Still it is with sadness that we say goodbye. We continue to slowly close the door on a special chapter in our lives. Surely we will always remain close with the Stockdales, but we will have fewer chances to enjoy their company. As they say, the more things change, the more they stay the same. Good luck to the Stockdales in their adventures to come. They will always have a dedicated chapter in the story of our lives and a place at the Callister family table.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Snoasis: Frozen in Salt Lake Valley Pop-Cultural History

With a healthy workforce of six children ranging in ages from 10 to 20, my parents decided to purchase a snow cone shack in the mid-1990s. I was 16 (probably about to turn 17). With our family friends, the Clements, we were the first to bring the Snoasis franchise to Utah (from Idaho). Business those first few years was mediocre and I remember some long days looking out that small window. The Snoasis grew in popularity every year and by the time I was working summers or weekends as a college student, it was quite commonplace to literally shave ice for an entire 5 hour shift (and well into the night). The line would stretch fifty yards sometimes. We jokingly referred to it as “Club Snoasis,” but there was no joke about it, it was the weekend meeting place in Cottonwood Heights (Highland and Fort Union). The place was still hopping at 10 O’Clock on any Saturday night.

My younger siblings, especially Daniel and Deborah (the youngest), have a particularly intimate story to tell. Daniel once reckoned (through a fairly sophisticated mathematical equation) that he had shaved a quarter of a million snowcones  (and this was a few years before it closed mind you).
With just over a decade of operation, by essentially the same staff, the Snoasis became a bit of a folk-standard in the area. But it was not just southeastern Salt Lake County. People would come from all over the Valley, and even Davis and Utah Counties. It was not rocket science but there was something to it. Was it love? Was it skill? Was it dedication? It was probably a mix of these things, but I think it was mostly the beastly, loud and temperamental “old school” shaver machines we used. There was some art to it for sure.
We watched couples date, marry and have children. We watched children go from kindergarten through high school graduation, we saw mothers through multiple pregnancies, smokers through several attempts to quit and cancer patients through their treatments (many, though not all, with successful outcomes).  
Even in Oregon I will occasionally run into someone who has a “Snoasis Story” to tell. A few years back David Archuleta was being interviewed by a local television station and when asked if he had been back to his old favorite haunts while in town, he noted that he had been back to Snoasis! I think only then did some of us reflect on that young dark haired, smiley kid who frequented the shack.

Ma and Pa Callister paid their employees a bit beyond the prevailing wage for folks our age. For this reason, high school summer Snoasis jobs turned into College summer Snoasis jobs. Many a joke was cracked about the tractor beam of the Snoasis which WOULD NOT LET YOU GO. A chance to live at home, spend your days with family and make a reasonable income were too much for most. For a time it was possible to stop by the Snoasis and have your snow cone prepared by two or more individuals with advanced degrees.
A stint at Snoasis became a right-of-passage for recent (or courting) in-laws. Many (Annie, Angie and Deena in particular) contributed more than just a stint. Only one Callister in-law was not an official employee, but Stephen’s credentials lay in the fact that he had been a steady customer for almost the entire decade of the shack’s existence.

Snoasis paid for many a Callister’s (or Callister cousin’s) college tuition, it paid for weddings, it paid for band equipment, it paid for vacations to Europe, to South America, to Southern Utah. It became a thread that was woven between the members of the family, from shaving ice and squirting juice, to shaking sugar water and counting money at the end of the day.
Dad had a respectable full time job elsewhere, so Mom was the boss. She shared these responsibilities as time went on, but there was never a time when she wasn’t the “Sugar Momma!” She filled in for many an otherwise occupied employee and could shave and fill as fast as anyone.
In the Snoasis’ later years the staff started to consist of fewer and fewer family members. Employees remained close friends and acquaintances but was definitely a changing dynamic. Developments at the Dan’s Grocery store (where Snoasis was located) had made the annual permitting process increasingly difficult. Nothing that couldn’t be overcome, but with the family dynamic waning, Mom was losing her Snoasis steam. It just wasn’t filling the same niche that it had. The shack was still at its prime, still had very long lines and a huge following, but Mom and Dad weren’t feeling it anymore.
People were hesitant to believe it, when they were told that summer would be the last. On the  last day people showed up (as they always did on the last day in September) with coolers to purchase their “winter stores.” When the following summer rolled around again, the Snoasis building sat in my parent’s back yard.  
For the next few years my mother refused to entertain the thought of selling it. The building had too many memories and had really become a sort of mascot for our family. I am still impressed by my Dad’s patience with this, considering that the business had ENORMOUS goodwill and they were constantly receiving attractive offers. But there the Snoasis sat. Mom needed time.
A few years later, the time came. Mom sent out a picture to all of us of the backyard WITHOUT the Snoasis. I am not sure how my siblings felt but I doubt that they could have avoided the immediate sense of absence and loss that I felt. It was the right thing to do for sure, but it was the final seal on an era that will forever fill evenings of storytelling and reminiscing: The funny regulars, everyone’s weird work corks, the times we got robbed, the times we were on the news, fear that we would have to show the inspector how to run the hot water (mom was the only who knew .. I think…), my old car, Sheldon hauling sugar water down to the masses, ice and juice floating in Cream, Dan and Jake’s music, Rachel yelling at the high school thugs, and just hours of sibling association.
I don’t know where that Snoasis is now but I imagine it is satisfying a new generation of pregnant woman, keeping a new generation of cavities going and hopefully creating memories and bringing people together again.

Monday, June 17, 2013

Hello world will THIS IS US!!

Maybe someone does it more than we do. I will not claim to be an expert on the subject. But I will clearly assert that I have some breadth and depth in flying with children (though not as much as my wife). The topic has floated rather naturally to the surface because this week myself, my wife and our three little ones will embark on yet another cross-country flight. My palms are already a little clammy, my thoughts a little anxious and my blood pressure already slightly elevated.  

If you’re an anxious person, you know that sometimes it’s helpful to take the issue that preoccupies you and “break it down.” What’s the real issue here? OK, let’s break it down:
·         Pain: There will be pain for sure. I will be carrying a tremendous amount of stuff, without question. I will most likely be sitting in some uncomfortable position for numerous hours, and though I am always sitting in an uncomfortable position on a flight, one or more of my children will make it that much less comfortable.
·         Fatigue: I will be exhausted. The hours we are flying are ridiculous. That aside, any trip with the children, even to the store or park, is exhausting.
·         Inconvenience: Everything about the children makes traveling an inconvenience. Dirty diapers, awkward meals, toys, spills, stains, temperaments, etc.

Ok these are rough, BUT they are ENTIRELY manageable, and frankly, just components of our EVERY-DAY lives.

So what is it really? Why the anxiety?
I think this is it: IT’S ALL OF YOU! By that, I mean the rest of society. It’s my inability to turn-off that part of me that allows someone to cut in line, that hurries across a cross-walk when a car is waiting for me, that asks before putting the seat back on a plane, that apologizes for having a lot of stuff in the check-out line.

My anxiety is the combination of knowing what I am about to subject everyone on that plane to, and knowing that my sweet, innocent, albeit rambunctious, children will be the subject of gazes, eye rolls, hushed conversation, sneers, etc. This makes me feel about as vulnerable as anything that I do with any sort of regulatory. I DO NOT LIKE IT.

Imagine its 3 am, your daughter has been screaming for two hours, you are nowhere even close to your destination, things like dirty diapers or even throw-up permeate the air. Though admittedly entirely horrible, imagine how different that situation is when you are in your own car as opposed to sitting on a plane, 30,000 feet in the air with 300 people who don’t know you.

One gift that some mothers are endowed with is the gift to NOT CARE. They say, “Hello world this is my offspring in raw form! We are going to see my family on the other side of the country, and though I am not an insensitive person, and will try my best to bridle their infant and toddler passions, THIS IS US! We bought tickets like you did. I do not take pleasure in your inconvenience, but please recognize that your (frankly moderate) inconvenience on this leg of your trip is not sufficient in my eyes to prevent me from seeing my family, to prevent my children from seeing their grandparents. If your feeling sorry for yourself just remember that they will be accompanying ME for the rest of my trip….. and life.” Incidentally my wife have this gift :)

I don’t have to tell current parents of small children this: but the rest of you: please know that MOST parents are subjecting themselves and their poor children to long flights NOT for recreation entertainment, and not in an effort to ruin your day. In truth it is almost always an incredibly difficult necessity in their efforts to remain connected to family and loved ones. Do them a TREMENDOUS favor and just smile at them. Give them your temporary waiver of etiquette so they can focus on their kids and each other.  It will mean a lot in helping them get through one of the hardest things they frequently have to do.